Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mexican farmers protest NAFTA


Mexico, Feb 1 (Prensa Latina) As columns of farmers march with their tractors to downtown Mexico City, protests were reported against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in several Mexican states.
More than 1,000 farmers from 20 municipalities seized the offices of the Secretariat of Agriculture in Nuevo Leon and blocked roads, while corn producers took the main square in Toluca, the capital of the state of Mexico.
In Zacatecas, farmers' organizations and bean traders also took the branch of the Secretariat of Agriculture and burned tires in front of the offices, blocking the traffic.
In this capital, groups of rural workers assaulted the main office of the Secretariat of Agriculture to demand a renegotiation of the NAFTA, and blocked the traffic as well.
A contingent of farmers from the states of Chihuahua and Guanajuato burned a tractor by the Monument to the Revolution, and hundreds of tractors marched to the Zocalo square.
Meanwhile, a dairy corral with cows was built on the busy Reforma Avenue as an expression of dairy workers' discontent with the NAFTA.
Nerdified link. Hat tip to InteligentaIndigena Novajoservo.

The protest makes sense, given what NAFTA has meant to Mexico's farmers and workers. Folks tend to not appreciate the miraculous profits awaiting Monsanto, etc., as a result of "free" trade when their livelihoods are essentially annihilated. NAFTA has been displacing and killing people since it started taking effect in 1994, as this blog has attempted to make clear over the last few months. Whether it's flooding Mexico's markets with imported produce (thus forcing at least 1.5 million family farmers to abandon their farms), to the outsourcing of factory work from Mexico to China, to the on-going efforts to force those remaining farmers to rely on some conglomerate's hybrid corn seeds, the human cost has been enormous. Of course the resulting border walls and militarized patrols (along with the periodic vigilantes) have had the effect only of making the trek to El Norte in order to find work more deadly.

Another take on Bu$hCo's derision of the "reality-based community"

Ron Suskind from 2004:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

At the time, the standard approach was to interpret that comment in light of the apparent religious zeal that characterized the White House and its various apologists. Although there is undoubtedly a Dominionist element to the rhetoric and behavior, it's been increasingly occurring to me that that quote above needs to be interpreted a bit differently. As I've been reading through Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, what is jumping out at me is that Bu$hCo's "faith" is more in the profits that Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Blackwater, Gilead Sciences, and a host of others can rake in as a consequences of natural or politically/economically/militarily created disasters, and the faith that these "shocks" will enable those corporations to do so swiftly, before anyone has time to notice. The "reality-based community" as it were, is simply the journalists, social scientists, pundits, activists, etc., who have been trying to get their heads around the various atrocities that have occurred over the last few years. By the time we gain our bearings, the damage is done, and the rape of others' natural resources and massive impoverishment and displacement of countless human beings is already well-underway - be it the continued plunder of Iraq, the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans, or the displacement of traditional fishers from their homes in the aftermath of the tsunami that decimated Sri Lanka. What's more, these corporations - at the behest of the US government - have actually created plans for how to go in quickly and loot all the goodies in the event of natural disasters, as well as in the aftermath of any of a number of potential invasions and occupations of sovereign nations from Venezuela to Iran. The faith in the almighty profit margin from these disasters is so great as it turns out that companies such as Halliburton, Carlyle Group, and Lockheed Martin not only are involved in the deliberate destruction but also the reconstruction (in the form of some Disneyfied utopia for a select few) of their various targets. So far, their faith in being able to get away with this racket has been well-placed.

In the meantime, it seems urgent to prepare those who may be targeted next for what our current wave of disaster capitalists have in mind for their futures.

Well, imagine that!

Turns out a new natural gas reserve has been discovered off Iran's coast:
A gas field with huge reserves has been discovered in the Gulf off the coast of Iran, Gholam Hossein Nozari, the Iranian oil minister has said.

"A gas field with an estimated reserve of 11 trillion cubic feet (311 billion cubic metres) was found by an Indian company in the Persian Gulf," Nozari said on Saturday.

Nozari declined to reveal the name of the company but said "there will be talks with the discovering company for [the field's] development if they are interested".

Iran has the world's second-largest proven gas reserves after Russia and it has ambitions to export gas to a host of countries including Armenia, Pakistan and Syria.
I'm sure the execs at Chevron, BP, etc. would love to get their claws on the revenue that could potentially come from those reserves - better to fill up the corporate coffers than go to the Iranian infrastructure (isn't that the neoliberal motto?). If one is wondering some of the reasoning behind all the war talk aimed at Iran in the recent past, just ask yourself who would cash in.

Hat tip to Ten Percent.

Green Party Intrigue

John V. Walsh his the skinny on the behind the scenes efforts by a faction of the GP to keep Ralph Nader from becoming the party's nominee. The good news is that Cynthia McKinney, who's been a class act all the way, has not been involved in the shenanigans. Personally, I'd love to see McKinney get the nod in large part because she not only has something worthwhile to say, but also because she is a fresh face for the Green Party who could break the Greens away from their stereotyped image as a largely white middle class movement. That said, the Greens could do far worse than Nader, who has been increasingly unwilling to enable the Dems with that idiotic "safe state" strategy. When all the Dems will offer as their standard bearers are the DLC (the neoliberal Disaster Loving Capitalists) anointed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, there are no safe states.

For those who wish to avoid the upcoming Stupor Tuesday, Walsh does offer some food for thought (although focused primarily on Massachusetts, is still applicable elsewhere):
In any event on Super Tuesday in MA there will be genuine antiwar candidates in both the GRP and Republican primaries. Cerainly worth going to the polls for. Pity that the Democrat Party, as usual, will only have hawks to offer us.
The eventual Green Party nominee will NOT be a war hawk. There is still one Republican candidate, Ron Paul, who has a solid antiwar record (although some policy positions on other issues that I find quite repugnant). Aside from the quixotic Mike Gravel, the Dems offer nothing for those of us who've had it with all the warmongering. For that reason alone, I will strongly suggest boycotting the Dems this November.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Correcting Hillary Clinton on MLK and Social Change

This gem, courtesy of A Tiny Revolution, is too good to pass up:

Several weeks ago this statement of Hillary Clinton got lots of attention:

I would point to the fact that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the president before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality. The power of that dream became real in people's lives because we had a president who said, "We are going to do it," and actually got it accomplished.

What's gotten less attention is what Martin Luther King himself thought on this subject. Chris Rabb has the bad taste to point out that King wrote this in an article published in January, 1969 after his death:

The past record of the federal government, however, has not been encouraging. No president has really done very much for the American Negro, though the past two presidents have received much undeserved credit for helping us. This credit has accrued to Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy only because it was during their administrations that Negroes began doing more for themselves. Kennedy didn't voluntarily submit a civil rights bill, nor did Lyndon Johnson. In fact, both told us at one time that such legislation was impossible. President Johnson did respond realistically to the signs of the times and used his skills as a legislator to get bills through Congress that other men might not have gotten through. I must point out, in all honesty, however, that President Johnson has not been nearly so diligent in implementing the bills he has helped shepherd through Congress.

It would be fun to live in the kind of world where people remembered enough history to ask Hillary Clinton about this.

It would be equally fun to live in the kind of world where people not only remembered enough history ask Ms. Clinton about her misleading statement (without fear of being tasered for doing so), but where so-called "journalists" would dare to ask such questions in highly public settings rather than blithely commenting on Britney Spears' latest crisis. Regrettably, that appears too much to ask.

No wonder the DLC loves this guy

Between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we've got arguably two of the more right-wing members of the Democrat party as not only the front-runners, but aside from Mike Gravel's quixotic run, the only runners left. Since I've already taken my potshots at Hillary (which I will continue for as long as necessary), Obama deserves a few rounds:
It was January 17, 2001, and Illinois state senator Barack Obama was on WTTW11's "Chicago Tonight."
Discussing his opposition to Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft, Obama praised newly-elected President Bush's new nominee for Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
"The proof in the pudding is looking at the treatment of the other Bush nominees," Obama said. "I mean for the most part, I for example do not agree with a missile defense system, but I don't think that soon-to-be-Secretary Rumsfeld is in any way out of the mainstream of American political life. And I would argue that the same would be true for the vast majority of the Bush nominees, and I give him credit for that."
My emphasis added. And here's the video clip of the above quote:

Just to give you some idea of just what a lovely human Rumsfeld (a Milton Friedman protégé) is, here's a few words from Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine (pp. 290-291):
Rumsfeld sat on the board of the aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream and was also paid $190,000 a year as a board member of ASEA Brown Boveri (ABB), the Swiss engineering giant that gained unwanted attention when it was revealed to have sold nuclear technology to North Korea, including the capacity to produce plutonium. The nuclear reactor sale went through in 2000, and at the time Rumsfeld was the only North American on the ABB board. He claims to have no memory of the reactor sale coming before the board, though the company insists that "board members were informed about the project."

It was in 1997, when Rumsfeld was named chairman of the board of the biotech firm Gilead Sciences, that he would firmly establish himself as a proto disaster capitalist. The company had registered the patent for Tamiflu, a treatment for many kinds of influenza and the preferred drug for avian flu. If there was ever an outbreak of the highly contagious virus (or the threat of one), governments would be forced to buy billions of dollars' worth of treatment from Gilead Sciences.

[snip]

It's safe to say that if you could patent the sun, Donald Rumsfeld would have long since put in an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. His former company Gilead Sciences, which also owns the patents on four AIDS treatments, spends a great deal of energy trying to block the distribution of cheaper generic versions of its lifesaving drugs in the developing world. It has been targeted for these activities by public health activists in the U.S., who point out that some of Gilead's key medicines were developed on grants funded by taxpayers. Gilead, for its part, sees epidemics as a growth market, and it has an aggressive marketing campaign to encourage businesses and individuals to stockpile Tamiflu, just in case. Before he reentered government, Rumsfeld was so convinced that he was on to a hot new industry that he helped found several private investment funds specializing in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. These companies are banking on an apocalyptic future of rampant disease, one in which governments are forced to buy, at top dollar, whatever lifesaving products the private sector has under patent.
There's also a brief discussion of the ethics of patenting lifesaving medicines (including Jonas Salk's refusal to do so with the medicine that proved effective in preventing polio back in the mid-20th century), as well as some pretty unwanted side effects that have occurred in people taking Tamiflu.

But I digress. If Rumsfeld is within the mainstream of American political thought, we've got some serious problems. I suppose it depends on how one defines the mainstream - perhaps a case could be made that Rumsfeld is mainstream by Beltway standards, but outside the beltway where the rest of us struggle for existence I sincerely have my doubts (even taking into consideration the usual American Exceptionalist mythology that most of my peers take as a given).

As for Obama, he may be the new darling among Donkle "progressives," but he's got some serious baggage when it comes to utilizing right-wing frames whenever he speaks. Those thinking that he'll somehow miraculously rescue the party from Hillary are in for a very rude awakening.

Calling things by their true names: Homeland Insecurity edition

Brenda Norrell on the continuing struggle to resist the Apartheid Wall being built along the US/Mexico border:
EL CALABOZ, Texas -- Lipan Apache resisting the seizure of their land for construction of the United States’ border wall in Texas said Homeland Security is repeating the actions of the Nazis, as it seeks to seize land in the systematic genocide of indigenous and impoverished peoples.

Homeland Security filed suit against Eloisa Garcia Tamez on Jan. 29, who has been leading the resistance to the seizures of private lands in Texas. However, Homeland Security did not notify Tamez or other family members, who found out through the media.

Tamez’ daughter Margo Tamez said, “When they listed our relatives in public newspapers, without serving papers to them in person, or through the mail, they repeat the actions of other hate-filled regimes of the past who purged out the 'unwanteds' and 'undesirables' from their societies -- such as the Nazi expulsion of the Jews in Germany, France and Italy.

“These daily 'hit lists' of DHS in our community are sending clear messages to our people that again, we are the targets of genocidal thoughts and actions.”
My emphasis added.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Culture of Corruption: Jay Rockefeller

Found over at After Downing Street:

Truthout's Matt Renner reports: "a think tank with close ties to the telecommunication industry has been working with a key Democrat in the Senate on a domestic surveillance bill that would provide telecommunications companies with retroactive immunity for possibly violating federal law by spying on American citizens at the behest of the Bush administration. Third Way, a non-profit [so-called] 'progressive' think tank that is funded and controlled by hedge fund managers, corporate lawyers and business executives has advised Sen. Jay Rockefeller on a domestic surveillance bill that includes immunity for telecommunications companies with which Third Way board members have close ties."

[snip]

Jay Rockefeller should be investigated for quid pro quo deals with telecom companies. Why is he working so feverishly to let major criminals off the hook?

Same shit, different party.

Anniversary: Tet Offensive



As Lenin's Tomb notes, it started 40 years ago today.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another one for the ABC files

Clinton Irks Immigrants' Advocates
In the public remarks reviewed by The New York Sun, Mrs. Clinton seemed to propose mandatory deportation for any crime. In several instances, she did not say explicitly whether she was referring to all foreigners in America or only to illegal aliens seeking to be legalized. However, she made the comments while outlining her position on the immigration overhaul which failed in Congress last year.
Hat tip to Jay.

Iraq Conflict Has Killed A Million Iraqis

That's the conclusion from the follow-up research conducted by ORB, which has managed to narrow its margin of error from the previous study. Hat tip to A Tiny Revolution.

At this time, I thought it would be useful to provide a compendium of resources on the topic of genocide, since what's happened in Iraq really is nothing short of genocidal.

Raphael Lemkin's seminal chapter, Genocide, from his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.

Jean-Paul Sartre's classic essay, On Genocide, originally presented at the International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam in 1967.

Gregory H. Stanton's The 8 Stages of Genocide. See also a list of genocides since 1945 in chart form.

See also from this blog: Urbicide in Iraq: Another Way to Say Genocide; 4.2 million Iraqi refugees and displaced; genocide: look for the early warning signs.

By the way, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had some insight into the psychology of those who would perpetrate genocide.

Time to leave a sinking ship: APA and torture

A fellow psychologist who has a blog, Invictus, recently submitted his resignation letter to the American Psychological Association. An excerpt:
Unlike some others who have left APA, my resignation is not based solely on the stance APA has taken regarding the participation of psychologists in national security interrogations. Rather, I view APA’s shifting position on interrogations to spring from a decades-long commitment to serve uncritically the national security apparatus of the United States. Recent publications and both public and closed professional events sponsored by APA have made it clear that this organization is dedicated to serving the national security interests of the American government and military, to the extent of ignoring basic human rights practice and law. The influence of the Pentagon and the CIA in APA activities is overt and pervasive, if often hidden. The revelations over the constitution and behavior of the 2005 Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) panel are a case in point. While charged with investigating the dilemmas for psychologists involved in military interrogations in the light of the scandals surrounding Guanatamo’s Camp Delta and Abu Ghraib prison, it was stacked with military and governmental personnel, and closely monitored and pressured by APA staff.

I strongly disagree with APA’s current position on interrogations, and am unimpressed with recent clarifications to that position that allows for voluntary non-participation in specifically defined cases where torture and abuse of prisoners is proved to exist. I have discussed my reasoning for this elsewhere, both blogging on the Internet and in public. In 2007, I was a panelist in the “mini-convention,” which examined the dispute over interrogations held at the APA Convention in San Francisco, presenting my findings on secret and non-secret psychologist research into isolation, sensory deprivation and sensory overload.

[snip]

The sordid history of American psychology when it comes to collaboration with governmental agencies in the research and implementation of techniques of psychological torture is one that our field will have to confront sooner or later. In a larger sense, the problems I have presented here are inherent in a larger societal dilemma regarding the uses of knowledge. This problem was recognized by the first critics of untrammeled scientific advance, and represented powerfully by Goethe’s Faust, and Mary Shelley’s Doctor Frankenstein. Human knowledge is capable of producing both good and evil. The scientist, the scholar, and the doctor hold tremendous responsibility in their hands. That they have not shown themselves, in a tragic number of instances, to ethically wield or control this responsibility has meant that the 21st century opens under the awful prospect of worldwide nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, while a sinister, behaviorally-designed torture apparatus operates as the servant of nation-states wielding these awful weapons of mass destruction.
Of course, I suggest reading it all, and check out all the links.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

If you're not cheerful and obedient, you must be nuts

As I read this article, How Teenage Rebellion Has Become a Mental Illness, by Bruce Levine, I keep asking myself, "where even to begin?" Maybe I'll just start with a few passages that jumped right out at me:
For a generation now, disruptive young Americans who rebel against authority figures have been increasingly diagnosed with mental illnesses and medicated with psychiatric (psychotropic) drugs.
Disruptive young people who are medicated with Ritalin, Adderall and other amphetamines routinely report that these drugs make them "care less" about their boredom, resentments and other negative emotions, thus making them more compliant and manageable. And so-called atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Zyprexa -- powerful tranquilizing drugs -- are increasingly prescribed to disruptive young Americans, even though in most cases they are not displaying any psychotic symptoms.
Many talk show hosts think I'm kidding when I mention oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). After I assure them that ODD is in fact an official mental illness -- an increasingly popular diagnosis for children and teenagers -- they often guess that ODD is simply a new term for juvenile delinquency. But that is not the case.
Young people diagnosed with ODD, by definition, are doing nothing illegal (illegal behaviors are a symptom of another mental illness called conduct disorder). In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created oppositional defiant disorder, defining it as "a pattern of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior." The official symptoms of ODD include "often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules" and "often argues with adults." While ODD-diagnosed young people are obnoxious with adults they don't respect, these kids can be a delight with adults they do respect; yet many of them are medicated with psychotropic drugs.
An even more common reaction to oppressive authorities than overt defiance is some type of passive defiance.
I'd like to think that I was a nice-ish teen, for the most part, and that I've been a nice-ish adult (again, for the most part); however I can see how I could easily have found myself stuck with a label like oppositional defiant disorder (I wonder how coincidental it is that the acronym for the "disorder" is ODD. I suppose nonconformists and anti-authoritarians in an authoritarian situation are perceived of as "odd.") due to a persistently stubborn contrarian streak and a tendency to ignore or refuse to follow the demands of those whom I've grown to disrespect. I see a bit of that in my kids as they continue to grow and mature. Personally, I wouldn't want to change that in them - I consider it part of becoming an autonomous adult. As a parent, that means periodically dealing with those inconvenient moments when I have to deal with one or more argumentative kids. That inconvenience of course is only to me of course - for them it is a matter of struggling to learn some of the critical thinking and argumentation skills that they will need later on in life when I'm no longer around to fend for them.

The article goes on to discuss at least one type of passive defiance that often gets titled ADHD. I remember someone with a four year old child whose preschool teacher was saying should be tested for ADHD. I asked a bit about the kid's behavior, and quite honestly, the kid seemed like a regular four year old: full of energy, precocious, short-ish attention span (which would describe practically any small child). My suggestion to her was to wait a few years and see if there really was a problem - in all likelihood her kid was just a normal kid who was probably bored while at school. Kids who are bored tend to get into mischief. Last I heard, the kid was just fine. Fancy that. As you can imagine, my opinion is that our society over-medicates both kids and adults. Why? It's about maintaining control. Sedated individuals don't make waves.

As I've become more and more influenced by the writings of psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, and some of Fanon's followers like Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, I've increasingly asked myself what is going on in the environment; rather than pathologize the individual, I'm more prone to look toward the dysfunction in one's social and physical environment. Certainly that's a bit of a different outlook than how I was trained (many in my field tend to be primarily focused on the individual, and often in ways that decontextualize their behavioral responses). It seems, if Levine is right, that we also need to look at the environment in which mental health professionals are trained - to the extent that we become conditioned to be good, obedient worker bees (hate to say it, but most of what I learned in grad school amounted to how to jump through hoops, ingratiate myself with those more powerful than myself, and complete paperwork), we become conditioned to see behavior that falls out of a certain set of bounds as aberrant. Maybe we need to radically transform our means of professional training, as the current tradition merely encourages a sort of authoritarianism of thought and action.

Levine also points out that there is a historical precedent for psychiatry to pathologize rebellious behavior:
Two ways of subduing defiance are to criminalize it and to pathologize it, and U.S. history is replete with examples of both. In the same era that John Adams' Sedition Act criminalized criticism of U.S. governmental policy, Dr. Benjamin Rush, the father of American psychiatry (his image adorns the APA seal), pathologized anti-authoritarianism. Rush diagnosed those rebelling against a centralized federal authority as having an "excess of the passion for liberty" that "constituted a form of insanity." He labeled this illness "anarchia."
Throughout American history, both direct and indirect resistance to authority has been diseased. In an 1851 article in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, Louisiana physician Samuel Cartwright reported his discovery of "drapetomania," the disease that caused slaves to flee captivity. Cartwright also reported his discovery of "dysaesthesia aethiopis," the disease that caused slaves to pay insufficient attention to the master's needs. Early versions of ODD and ADHD?
In Rush's lifetime, few Americans took anarchia seriously, nor was drapetomania or dysaesthesia aethiopis taken seriously in Cartwright's lifetime. But these were eras before the diseasing of defiance had a powerful financial ally in Big Pharma.
I think it is useful to make note of Cartwright's attempt to turn the resistance to being enslaved into a mental illness (it gets mentioned in Guthrie's Even the Rat Was White). These days, the slaves would be administered some form of "happy pill" or sedated in some other form. In a way, we're really not that far from some sort of THX-1138 style society, in which individuals are routinely medicated, and those refusing are detained until they can be "reeducated."

That last paragraph is a must-read:
It would certainly be a dream of Big Pharma and those who favor an authoritarian society if every would-be Tom Paine -- or Crazy Horse, Tecumseh, Emma Goldman or Malcolm X -- were diagnosed as a youngster with mental illness and quieted with a lifelong regimen of chill pills. The question is: Has this dream become reality?
Food for thought.

As a side note, my experience with message boards (e.g., the old Usenet newsgroups and bbs) and more recently blogs is for those who fail or refuse to conform to receive armchair diagnoses from those who are responsible for site moderation. One reason I have mostly left the gated community blogs run by even the so-called "tolerant" progressives was my disgust at seeing others be told to seek psychiatric help over some minor blog-related disagreement, as well as the tendency for quite a number of folks on these same blogs to pathologize dissident politicians and activists such as Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, and Ralph Nader. That simply does not sit well with me.

"Fight the war on greed"



Video from War on Greed. Hat tip to Aware and Conscious.

Along the border

Homeland Insecurity continues to escalate its war against the people who make their lives and livelihoods along the US-Mexico border:
CAMERON COUNTY, Texas -- Homeland Security filed suit against Eloisa Garcia Tamez, Lipan Apache, today to seize her land for the border wall in Texas. Tamez has been leading the resistance to the border wall in Apache communities. Tamez said she only has three acres, but it is all she has.

All across South Texas, mayors and legislators have united to fight the border wall. Since towns on both sides of the border rely on their neighbors' shopping, eating in restaurants and other commerce, business owners in South Texas say the already financially-strapped communities will suffer economically.

Say Hello To

Laughing as I go...

The blog itself is relatively newish, but the person behind the blog (kraant) has been a regular at such haunts as Political Fleshfeast and Never In Our Names (which unfortunately seems to still be on hiatus) for some time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Just remember: It's as easy as ABC

That is, Anyone But Clinton, of course!
I remember the explosion in prisons, and the clearcutting of civil liberties. I remember Clinton’s awesome slavishness to corporate interests. Most of all, however, I remember the continuous, systematic bombing of Iraqi infrastructure and the imposition of sanctions known to have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.
Bush policy ain’t anomalous. It ain’t even a fucking deviation from the norm. Overthrowing sovereign governments and the application of military force in violation of international law is business as usual, and has been since the Mystic massacre of 1637.
And, to my mind, nothing is so emblematic of business as usual as the Clintonites.
Nerdified link.

See also at Notes From Underground: Bill Clinton as Autobiographical Revisionist (as well as the follow-up to that post); Hillary as the new Maggie Thatcher, Christopher Hitchens flip-flops, and other festiveness; We might as well get this out of the way... (a prediction of just how dirty the Clintonistas would get once the rubber met the road); Shorter Hillary Clinton; Yet another reason I wouldn't vote for Hillary in a million years; Back to the future; Remember the days of ABB? Howzabout ABC?; Picture of the day; ABC: Remembering the "Good Old Days"; The apple didn't fall far from the tree; and Why Pelosi Took Impeachment off the Table, Common Sense? (which touches briefly on the Clinton genocide of Iraqis; also see the postscript to Common Sense?); Quotable (which in the process of grooving on the words of a fellow blogger, I manage to touch on Iraq during the Clinton regime); Things to Read; The Democratic Party: R.I.P.; and Footnote to "Prison Industrial Complex".

I'm pretty sure I'm leaving out a few things - probably anything blogged here about NAFTA, as just one example, would of course have Clintons written all over it. When it comes to war, torture, civil liberties, civil rights, and economic policies both Bill and Hillary have time and time again proven their worthlessness to any genuine leftist or progressive movement. With their fetish for neoliberal predatory capitalism, I still find right-wingers' accusations of communism or socialism aimed at those two to be little more than inadequate halfway house rantings. Yet again, I would implore any American thinking of voting for the likely Dem and GOP standard bearers in this year's election to think twice. I still think an election-day boycott of the polls coupled with a general strike would be a great idea - although one highly unlikely given our current political reality (at least during this election cycle - a few years down the road might be a different story).

Looks like I'll soon need to start up an ABC Dossier, especially if the Dems get Sen. Clinton as their standard bearer.

Quotable: Wendell Phillips

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty—power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermitted Agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.

-- Wendell Phillips, Boston, MA, January 28, 1852
Apparently the above quote is from a speech given to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. I added a bit of emphasis to the first sentence, but the whole quote is right on!

Why does the SOTU have to come on my birthday?

Feh.

Five years ago today, on what was then my 37th birthday, George Bush told lie after lie during the SOTU address in order to justify his war against Iraq. A reminder:

Let's take a look back at George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech.
Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons -- not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.
Actually, he totally and completely disarmed. He did so all the way back at the very beginning of the sanctions regime. There is no evidence that he pursued chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons at any point between the two wars. None.

Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct -- were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.
Saddam Hussein did not have any weapons to lay on the table, and he told us as much.
The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
Actually, the UN concluded that Iraq could have created this anthrax back in 1991, and then failed to account for it. It was not asserted that Saddam currently had the ability to create this anthrax. Moreover, Iraq did provide some evidence that they destroyed all their anthrax, and no anthrax was ever found.
The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
The United Nations did not conclude this. Their conlusion? "It seems unlikely that significant undeclared quantities of botulinum toxin could have been produced, based on the quantity of media unaccounted for."
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
These are again accounts of what Saddam could have produced before the 1991 war. But as for the lethality of these weapons?
The assessment by Professor Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is as follows:
"The shelf-life and lethality of Iraq's weapons is unknown, but it seems likely that the shelf-life was limited. In balance, it seems probable that any agents Iraq retained after the Gulf War now have very limited lethality, if any."
"Iraq's Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities" (1998), p.13, at: link .pdf.
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
This is also highly misleading:
"A Commission of Inquiry has been set up by Iraq to investigate why these warheads were stored at these sites or whether any more such warheads or other proscribed munitions are stored at other locations in Iraq. According to a document from the Commission, which was handed over to UNMOVIC in February 2003, the 12 warheads were part of a batch of less than 20 warheads received by Al Muthana in 1989 for training and reverse engineering purposes."
UNMOVIC, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.54.
From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
This evidence was supplied by the notorious drunkard and liar, codenamed: Curveball. German intelligence had issued a burn notice on Curveball's reliability.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.
We know about the aluminum tubes and the Niger forgeries.
The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses.
This appears to be false and misleading. They did not have any weapons to sanitize or hide.
Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.
To my knowledge, no evidence to support this has been forthcoming.
Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.
He didn't have any weapons of mass destruction. So this whole paragraph is meaningless.
With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.
The intelligence community told Bush that Saddam would not share these weapons with al-Qaeda because he could not control al-Qaeda. They also told the administration that an al-Qaeda defector who had claimed Iraq was assisting them was probably lying.
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes. (Applause.)
Once again, the intelligence community put zero credence in this scenario, unless we invaded Iraq and Saddam wanted to punish us in the only way left to him.
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)
It appears that trusting Bush's sanity and restraint was not a strategy.
The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages -- leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained -- by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. (Applause.)
We have now catelogued Americans torturing detainees (in over two dozen case, to death), filming rapes, and using chemical weapons on civilian populations. Fortunately we have no evidence of American forces using drills or cutting out tongues.
And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country -- your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)
The liberation of Iraq was justified by nothing but lies, distortions, and exaggerations. In actual practice, the lives of most Iraqis has not improved. Bush and Cheney should be impeached.
I'm sure that this year's will be used to cheerlead for the so-called stimulus package that will miraculously prevent (or end) a recession, spew plenty of happy-talk about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and probably to demonize the Iranian government as a pretext for the next war. I don't plan to be watching - I'm sure I'll get enough of an idea from the usual news and blog sources later tonight.

My one hope is that this day is a bit less damning than the one of five years ago. Peace.

ABC: Remembering the "Good Old Days"

Some of us have pretty long memories, and recall all too painfully well what the last Clinton regime was like. For those needing a few reminders, here's yet another one by Ralph Nader. If you like vicious campaigners who are self-indulgent narcissists, the Clintons are the ticket. Otherwise, just remember NAFTA, WTO, welfare "reform", the war against the Iraqi children, the Balkans wars, the explosion of the prison-industrial complex, the initial dismantling of habeas corpus, and on it goes. Maybe the first (and hopefully last) Clinton regime was not as bad as the current Bush regime, but that's really not saying very much.

Anti-Torture Resources: MKULTRA

Saw this by kraant at Political Fleshfeast and thought it was well-worth passing along for those unfamiliar with MKULTRA:

Here's a quick summary from wikipedia...

Project MKULTRA:

Project MKULTRA, or MK-ULTRA, was the code name for a CIA mind-control research program that began in 1950, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence.[1][2][3]. There is much published evidence that the project involved the use of many types of drugs, as well as other methodology, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function.[4]

Here are some primary sources:

Entire CIA MKULTRA Collection

Declassified MK-Ultra Project Documents:

When the whole thing was originally brought to light:

Start reading from this page of the Church Committee Report and keep reading:

XVII. TESTING AND USE OF CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL AGENTS BY THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY (p. 385)

The first mention of MKULTRA itself would be on page 389:

http://www.aarclibrary.org/...

You'll also want to look at:

PROJECT MKULTRA, THE CIA'S PROGRAM OF RESEARCH IN BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATION

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3, 1977<

U.S. SENATE,
SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE,
AND SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH
AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
OF THE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
Washington, D.C.

Prepared Statement of Admiral Stansfield Turner, Director of Central Intelligence

Since I've mentioned CIA involvement in the research and perpetration of torture since the post WWII era, it's useful to know the source material that folks like me would draw upon. Knowledge is power.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

the field negro sez:

Oh wait, they already tore that one down. This one is in A-merry-ca!
More on the border wall at this blog: Great Wall of China, Part Dieux; Defending your homeland from Homeland "Security"; Solidaridad Americano; Homeland Insecurity strikes again; and Legacies.

See also Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras. Some blogs that cover the border wall situation on a regular basis include, No Border Wall - Take Action!, No Border Wall, Brenda Norrell's consistently excellent CENSORED NEWS, Citizen Orange, Man Eegee, Migra Matters (also check that blog's sidebar for a decent roundup of border wall and related news);¡Para Justicia y Libertad!; and The Unapologetic Mexican. I'm sure to be missing someone.

Some commentary on the Israeli equivalent of an Apartheid Wall on this blog, see Tear down the wall!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Classic

Click the pic for a full-sized image. Pretty well sums up the sorry-ass 2008 electoral season. Hat tip to After Downing Street.

Good Riddance

Former Indonesian dictator Suharto dies. For those who are aware of his human rights record, there was much rejoicing. Just a bit of what Suharto was all about:
... General Suharto, backed by the CIA, began the process of seizing power and eradicating the left. The CIA had been quietly compiling a list of the country's leading leftists, a document that fell into Suharto's hands, while the Pentagon helped out by supplying extra weapons and field radios so Indonesian forces could communicate in the remotest parts of the archipelago. Suharto then sent out his soldiers to hunt down the four to five thousand leftists on his "shooting lists," as the CIA referred to them; the U.S. embassy received regular reports on their progress. As the information came in, the CIA crossed names off their lists until they were satisfied that the Indonesian left had been annihilated.

[snip]

The shooting lists covered the targeted killing; the more indiscriminate massacres for which Suharto is infamous were, for the most part, delegated to religious students. They were quickly trained by the military and then sent into villages on instructions from the chief of the navy to "sweep" the countryside for Communists. "With relish," wrote one reporter, "they called out their followers stuck their knives and pistols in their waistbands, swung their clubs over their shoulders, and embarked on the assignment for which they had long been hoping." In just over a month, at least half a million and possibly as many as 1 million people were killed, "massacred by the thousands," according to Time. In East Java, "Travelers from those areas, tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies; river transportation has at places been impeded."

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, pp. 67-68.
One thing that particular shock allowed was for a veritable giveaway of Indonesia's natural resources:
They passed laws allowing foreign companies to own 100 percent of theise resources, handed out "tax holidays," and within two years, Indonesia's natural wealth - copper, nickel, hardwood, rubber and oil - was being divided up among the largest mining and energy companies in the world.

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, pp. 69.
As John Pilger notes (in his column, Our Model Dictator):

Here lies a clue as to why Suharto, unlike Saddam Hussein, died not on the gallows but surrounded by the finest medical team his secret billions could buy. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s, describes the terror of Suharto's takeover in 1965-6 as "the model operation" for the US-backed coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. "The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders," he wrote, "[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965." The US embassy in Jakarta supplied Suharto with a "zap list" of Indonesian Communist party members and crossed off the names when they were killed or captured. Roland Challis, BBC south-east Asia correspondent at the time, told me how the British government was secretly involved in this slaughter. "British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so they could take part in the terrible holocaust," he said. "I and other correspondents were unaware of this at the time ... There was a deal, you see."

The deal was that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard Nixon had called "the richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in south-east Asia". In November 1967 the greatest prize was handed out at a remarkable three-day conference sponsored by the Time-Life Corporation in Geneva. Led by David Rockefeller, all the corporate giants were represented: the major oil companies and banks, General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British American Tobacco, Siemens, US Steel and many others. Across the table sat Suharto's US-trained economists who agreed to the corporate takeover of their country, sector by sector. The Freeport company got a mountain of copper in West Papua. A US/European consortium got the nickel. The giant Alcoa company got the biggest slice of Indonesia's bauxite. America, Japanese and French companies got the tropical forests of Sumatra. When the plunder was complete, President Lyndon Johnson sent his congratulations on "a magnificent story of opportunity seen and promise awakened". Thirty years later, with the genocide in East Timor also complete, the World Bank described the Suharto dictatorship as a "model pupil".

More can be found at Ten Percent. To give more perspective of the genocidal nature of the Suharto regime, consider the raw numbers of humans slaughtered. I already noted the massacres early on during Suharto's regime. We must also consider:
Another 200,000 were killed in East Timor from the mid-1970s to 1999, another 100,000 in West Papua, and an estimated 15,000 in Aceh. Throughout it all, the support of the United States, Britain, Australia, and other countries was unbending.
This is all well worth keeping in mind when our dear leaders crow about the US spreading "freedom" - their idea of "freedom" is freedom for conglomerates to rape other nations' natural resources in the name of the almighty Dollar, regardless of the human costs. That certainly cuts to the chase much more than New Pravda's:
President Suharto restored order to the country and presided over an era of substantial development. Many Indonesians benefited from his programs, but none more so than members of his family, who became billionaires many times over.
Blood money.

Good riddance.

Talk about overkill

5-year-old boy handcuffed in school, taken to hospital for misbehaving:

A 5-year-old boy was handcuffed and hauled off to a psych ward for misbehaving in kindergarten - but the tot's parents say NYPD school safety agents are the ones who need their heads examined.

"He's 5 years old. He was scared to death," Dennis Rivera's mother, Jasmina Vasquez, told the Daily News. "You cannot imagine what it's done to him."

Dennis - who suffers from speech problems, asthma and attention deficit disorder - never went back to class at Public School 81 in Queens after the traumatic incident.

His mom and a school source said Dennis threw a tantrum inside the Ridgewood school at 11 a.m. on Jan. 17.

Dennis was taken to the principal's office, where he apparently knocked items off a desk.

Rather than calling the boy's parents, a school safety agent cuffed the boy's small hands behind his back using metal restraints, the school source said.

The agent and school officials then called an ambulance to take the tot to Elmhurst Hospital Center for a mental evaluation.

[snip]

When baby-sitter Sandy Ortiz arrived, Dennis was still handcuffed, she said. School safety agents also were holding his elbows even though the boy was calm, Ortiz said. Dennis is about 4-feet-3 and weighs 68 pounds.

"I hugged him. I said, 'OK, release the cuffs, I'm taking him,'" she recalled. "They told me, 'No, Miss. You're not taking him anywhere.'"

Ortiz routinely picks up Dennis from class. She said she's never seen him behave in a way that would require him to be restrained.

Whatever disturbance a kindergartener might cause, handcuffing the kid and hauling him off to a psych ward is ridiculous. The Road to Abu Ghraib, indeed.

Yet more food for thought

The Still Small Voice of a Jewish Blog, by Richard Silverstein. Hat tip to mattes of Political Fleshfeast.

More food for thought

What is likely to stop the rise of the American empire dead in its tracks isn't a sudden upsurge in the antiwar movement, the election of a rational President, and/or a sudden radical reversal by the policymaking elite after more than half a century of folly – it's bankruptcy that will do it, long before any of these possibilities have a chance to take shape.
Nerdified link. See also, from American Leftist, Is the US Economy in Free Fall?

What political prisoners can expect in the Padilla aftermath

Ralph Lopez sez:

The Bush administration has managed to carve out an illegal authority to pick anyone up off the street, lock us up incommunicado for at least a few years, and send us to trial knowing that, after what they did, we'd be pretty much useless in our own defense. Today's sentencing of Jose Padilla is not about Padilla. This is about you. After the next terror attack, it will be easy to include any bothersome political diarists, who keep raising inconvenient facts or whose words manage to rile people up against the gummint, when they sweep a few hundred American citizens suspected of harboring sympathies for the Taliban. If they're against the US goverment in time of war, who knows what else they did? Better lock them up.

Of course they'll be able to lie about you. You don't even have the right to see a lawyer, never mind defend yourself in the press. As long as the allegations are related to terrorism, and the gummint invokes Bush's doctrine of wartime powers in a war defined as having "no end," they can waterboard you, make you stand for days with a hood on, and all the things they might have done to Padilla.

Which we'll never know. Oh yes, by the way, you know those CIA tapes they are arguing about in the papers, with the interrogations of two Qaeda suspects? One of those suspects, al Zabayda, was the guy whose testimony linked Padilla to Al Qaeda and put Padilla away. Pretty important since even the JUDGE who sentenced Padilla said they didn't have any, like, real evidence.

This link between the lost CIA tapes and Padilla is one even the blogoshere has been remiss to make. The government said no one can prove Zabayda was tortured into linking Padilla. Guess not.

And by not making the link, we miss the real story. Not only did Bush assert the authority to make a vegetable out of you before you ever get a real trial. Not only was Padilla denied his Sixth Amendment rights for nearly four years. Now once you get your trial, it consists of a railroad job, with the charges having nothing to do with the original "dirty bomb"-type stuff.

Think it can't happen? Think of how people were looking at each other right after 9/11. On the subway no one could meet anyone else's eyes; that person could be a terrorist. We were afraid of each other. Think of the attacks on the mosques, the beatings-up of foreign-looking people reported in the newspapers every day. Not only will Americans tolerate your leftie dissident ass going off to Guantanamo. They'll cheer it.

The 17 Padilla was just sentenced to plus the 3 1/2 he did in military custody makes about 20. About the same is you'd get in a Gulag in communist Russia, and you'd never have half a chance to defend yourself. It's here. George Bush is still making speeches and talking happy talk about the economy, as if nothing had just happened.

The only answer: impeachment, to restore to rule of law and the Constitution. Forward this post and this newly revised website to every Republican relative or friend you know: "Impeachment is a Non-partisan Issue." Your life may depend on it.

Hat tip to kraant at Political Fleshfeast.

Wherein Nancy Pelosi invokes The Books of Bokonon, 1:1

"All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies."