Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stop traffic

Stopping traffic. Something I love when put into practice. Check this out (h/t Madman in the Marketplace over at Marisacat's place):
The intermittent blare of car horns cut through the silence on George Street yesterday afternoon as hundreds sat quietly in the middle of an intersection. Traffic lights flashed yellow to red to green as protesters commemorating the five-year war in Iraq laid down their banners and megaphones for five minutes in hushed repose while dozens gazed at the impasse from sidewalks and downtown high-rises.

Protesters held up peace signs to impatient drivers as they waited out the minutes, each one symbolic of one year the U.S. has spent in Iraq.

The sit-in was part of an anti-war demonstration by University students and faculty as well as New Brunswick community members. The crowd took to the streets following a rally organized by the Walk Out Coalition.

Approximately 300 people marched in support of peace in the Middle East and ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

The crowd carried colorful signs, waved flags, held banners, chanted and sang for their cause all under the watchful eyes of the New Brunswick police, as well as media on both a local and national level.

As a rally comprised of several speakers came to an end, organizers urged the crowd to participate in an approximately 4 mile march in which students took control of city streets, forcing cars and buses to a standstill. The only exception the crowd made was allowing a lone ambulance passage through the masses.

[snip]

Members of Rutgers Against the War and Tent State University led the protest with a front banner that read, "End Campus Complicity! Divest!" as part of RAW's campaign to end to University spending that indirectly aids the war effort.

[snip]

Kristofer Goldsmith a member of the New York City chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, addressed the crowd amid the interruptions.

"I'm an American soldier, okay?" he said. "I'm a combat vet. I have friends that are [in Iraq] right now. I'm speaking for the guys that don't want to be there and members of Iraq Veterans Against the War." Goldsmith asked everyone in the crowd to please stop calling the conflict in Iraq a war.

"It's not a war it's an occupation," he said. "When Congress votes in support of the War, they are not supporting the troops. I never got a pay raise when I was there."

After leaving the Marine Corps Recruiting Station, the march continued down George Street to the Exxon Mobil gas station.

"Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, take your war and go to hell!" protesters shouted as they sat in the street once again, blocking traffic at the intersection where the gas station is located.

"We are going to Exxon to protest their involvement in the war and their profiting from the war." TSU organizer and Rutgers College alumna Amanda Troeder said.

Demonstrators marched to Douglass campus at which point, TSU organizer and Rutgers College junior Erik Straub offered the crowd two options: the first, a speak-in at Voorhees Chapel, and the second, an extended march onto Route 18.

At the mention of taking over a major highway, the crowd cheered with approval.

As demonstrators approached the entranceway to the highway's southbound side, police scrambled to catch up to the front of the procession where they learned of the impromptu course decision.

"We are unstoppable, another world is possible!" the crowd chanted.

A year ago from Stop Me Before I Vote Again:

Real politics doesn't necessarily imply hanging “investment bankers” from lampposts – though that would be fun as well as salutary. It is not, however, essential, at the moment, and perhaps not ever. The elites know they are greatly outnumbered by the rest of us, and they are fundamentally frightened of us. All you have to do is stop traffic.

Stopping traffic is, in fact, the minimum precondition for real politics, and thus of real democracy, just as the touch of skin on skin is the minimum precondition of real sex.

Interestingly, it has never been easier to stop traffic. Those Merry Pranksters in Boston a few weeks ago did it with a handful of blinking LEDs. Self-imposed “War on Terror” hysteria and police frenzy have made the armorbound, overgunned Talus of the enforcement state frightened of its own shadow – or, more accurately, of any point of light, no matter how transient and faint, that isn't its shadow. Anything Caliban sees in the mirror that isn't Caliban will have Caliban on the floor, chewing the carpet.

Buy a cheap knapsack or duffle bag every week. Stuff it with rags or old underwear and leave it in a subway station, or an airport, or just on a sidewalk. Tune in to the evening news and watch the fun.

They hate crowds. Go to Gawker Stalker and report Britney Spears running bare-tit down the street in front of the Israeli Consulate. Be sure to provide the address.

Carry a small can of black spray paint and use it on the lens of every surveillance camera you see. I know, it won't stop traffic, but it'll drive 'em crazy.

Drive really, really slow. In fact, get a couple of co-conspirators to drive really, really slow alongside you. When news radio reports a mysterious slowdown on the Whatever Expressway, take credit in the name of the Asphalt Liberation Front.

Create a dozen or so bogus accounts on some Web site that annoys you – may I suggest Daily Kos? -- and keep the troll-hunters wakeful and strung out. It doesn't stop physical traffic, but it stops, or at least impedes, the ideological traffic in exploded notions.

Don't allow your kids to do homework.

The main thing, though, is to stop being constructive. Don't waste a moment thinking about what “policies” might be better than the ones we have. The fact is that the institutions we have absolutely guarantee insane policies, and unless the balance of power between the elites and the rest of us is changed, then those institutions will continue to manufacture insanity day in and day out.

And there is, needless to say, no institutional way to change the balance of power. The institutions exist to maintain the balance of power – or, more accurately, to tip the balance of power ever more toward the elites. Changing the balance of power requires interfering with the institutions, and impairing or impeding their operation.

In short: stop traffic.

Stopping traffic, either in the physical or non-physical sense is about trying to wake people up by interrupting routines. Protests that literally stop traffic are good. A bit of monkey-wrenching here and there? Why not. The main thing is not to be "constructive" at least as defined within the current system. Something I said last year:
Of course that's just the punchline. Check out the rest while you're at it. Certainly we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that if we elect one party or the other to office that suddenly everything will be peachy keen. It's safe to say that it hasn't worked out that way in my lifetime, nor do I foresee that happening any time too soon. There might be some superficial differences between Democrats and Republicans on some issues, but that's just the window dressing. As long as even the self-styled progressives are committed to the same imperialist agenda (as another blogger has noticed) as their more right-wing counterparts, we will continue to see a state of perpetual war and the continued justification for the 700 or so military bases around the world in the name of "national defense." We will also continue to see an escalation of the government's war against its own citizens in the form of draconian drug laws, PATRIOT Act-style legislation, "free trade" policies that impoverish an increasing number of Americans, and yes the condemnation of vast parcels of farm and ranch lands (along with the towns that exist in the vicinity) in order to build gargantuan military facilities. To expect any sort of substantial change in practice to correspond to a change in the fortunes of the two official political parties is folly.

The sane thing to do when faced with an insane system is to screw with it. That may well be the one tangible bit of power we ordinary folks possess given that the current political game is so badly rigged to the elites' advantage. Stop traffic. Wean yourself away from the prevailing consumer culture. Don't do anything that contributes to strengthening the system as it currently exists. Obviously I am not advocating giving up the fight for the causes one holds dear. I have no intention of doing so myself or to stop writing as time permits. I guess what it comes down to is taking a different perspective in light of the realities of our current situation, and to find a healthy detachment from the American political scene. That reality necessitates a certain amount of jadedness along the lines of Arthur Silber and Billmon's now defunct Whiskey Bar.
I see the possibilities regarding "stopping traffic" to be practically endless - whether it's weaning away from consumerism to boycotting elections. It's quite liberating to not feel the need to pay attention to all the sniping between the Clintonistas and Obamistas, or at least to see it for what it is rather than to get caught up emotionally in something that is little more than a reality show for wannabe wonks.

Another world is indeed possible - heck, since the Seattle WTO protests as 1999 (that even continue to manifest themselves in my dreams from time to time), I think we're seeing the faint outlines of what that world might look like. It won't be paradise - just humanity making use of the remnants of what had been and moving on to something else. The potential for that "something else" to be mostly good is what keeps me going. It's still winter in America (as Gil Scott-Heron once wrote) - actully winter all over the globe - but spring will come. Those first tentative signs of new life are already there if one merely stops for a second and takes a good look. Until then...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Of course Homeland Insecurity consists of a great deal of privatization

Check the video from Frontline USA:

h/t Firedoglake, which adds:
Now that Iraq is drying up as a cash cow for contractors, they're all shifting focus to the privatization of border security and high tech enforcement. When I read the bill over, almost more troubling than the lack of any kind of pathway to citizenship -- or the bounties it offered to government employees -- were the provisions giving the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense the authorization to work together to "shock doctrine" the border and provide massive boondoggles to private contractors.
You want to know what Blackwater is planning for an encore? See Avi's piece, and wonder no more.
And once again -- thank you, Rahm Emanuel.
More on the Apartheid Wall struggle in Texas is presented in the comments to that post (see here, here, and here). Also, here's a link to something blogged on the DHS "Detention and Removal Strategy." I've written briefly on the electronic surveillance towers boondoggle before:
It's not as good as burning money directly (to paraphrase Dmitry Orlov), but I have to hand it to the US government - building spy towers along the US/Mexico border that simply fail to work is almost a stroke of genius. When historians write about the decline of the imperial US, stories like the one below (courtesy of Brenda Norrell, who's been tracking this boondoggle for a while) are ones that should be included as textbook case studies on how to speed up that decline: make something that doesn't work, spend more money on making it not work, and continue repeating the process in the hopes that no one ever gets wise to the scam.

SBInet hits software snag By Alice Lipowicz
Published on February 5, 2008

Following testing that was supposed to be final, the Homeland Security Department has determined that it needs to develop better software and perform additional tests on the initial 28-mile segment of the SBInet border surveillance system, a department spokeswoman said.
On Dec. 10, the department’s Customs and Border Protection agency conditionally accepted from prime contractor Boeing Co. the “Project 28” initial segment of the Secure Border Initiative Network at the Arizona-Mexico border. Also on that date, agency officials said they would conduct 45 days of operational testing before final acceptance of that section.

But 57 days later, a department official has confirmed a second round of tests is being conducted ... The additional round of testing is the most recent glitch in getting the potentially $30 billion U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada border surveillance system up and running. Boeing was awarded the prime contract in September 2006 and began work on the $20 million initial task order for Project 28, installing towers, cameras, sensors and communications equipment ...

On Monday, Secretary Michael Chertoff said he is requesting $775 million for SBInet in fiscal 2009. The department also recently awarded a $64 million task order to Boeing to develop a common operational picture for SBInet. A common operational picture is a single, relevant display of information that can be used by more than one group.
Along with the border wall boondoggle, that spy tower boondoggle is something else. Just in case you ever wondered how your tax dollars were spent (or more properly, how that borrowed money from China and other semi-willing lenders was being spent).
I've also mentioned Blackwater's rather bloody reputation on occasion, and would strongly suggest that one read up on what Blackwater has done in Iraq, as it has implications for what would happen along the US-Mexico border. To learn more about the ICE deportation centers (let's just call them what they really are - concentration camps), see the blog T Don Hutto - America's Family Prison, and on the expansion of the prison-industrial complex in general in Texas, check out Texas Prison Bid'ness. There's something seriously wrong with this country. I'm not sure what one will be able to do to right what's wrong at this point (I'd suggest electing more Democrats isn't helping, nor will it help). All the same, knowledge is power.

Defending your homeland from Homeland Insecurity

Image caption: from the blog Unidos Contra El Muro - United Against the Wall

This is something of an update to some news items that I've pointed y'all to over the last few months regarding the DHS attempt to use imminent domain as a tactic to build The Apartheid Wall along the Texas-Mexico border. From the No Border Wall blog I found two recent articles. First, regarding the imminent domain case of Dr. Eloisa Tamez:
In a 32-page decision issued today, a federal judge in Brownsville ruled that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff violated federal law in his rush to build several hundred miles of border fencing in Southern Texas.

In a lawsuit filed by Secretary Chertoff in January against Dr. Eloisa Tamez, the Department of Homeland Security requested an expedited court order condemning Dr. Tamez's land so it could immediately commence a survey for the planned border fence. Dr. Tamez is an indigenous land-grant property owner in South Texas who refused to voluntarily give the U.S. Government a six month right to enter her land to survey for the border wall.

About twenty cases filed by Secretary Chertoff to condemn land along the border have been consolidated before federal judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, and delayed pending the outcome of Dr. Tamez's case.

In response to the government's suit, the court held a lengthy hearing on February 7 at which Dr. Tamez's lawyers with the Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law argued that Secretary Chertoff had violated federal law by failing to negotiate with Dr. Tamez to arrive at a "fixed price" for the six month access it sought before suing to condemn the land to allow the survey to proceed.

In the decision issued today, judge Hanen ruled that "Dr. Tamez correctly asserts that negotiations are a prerequisite to the exercise of the power of eminent domain" under federal law. The court further concluded that Secretary Chertoff had presented "insufficient evidence ... as to whether there has been bona fide efforts to negotiate with Dr. Tamez." As it has done for over a month now, the court refused to sign an expedited order condemning Dr. Tamez's land so that the Department of Homeland Security can start a survey for its planned border wall.

The court also decided that a clause in the 2008 Appropriations Act for the Department of Homeland Security enacted in December 2007 that requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to consult with property owners to minimize the adverse impacts of any border activity is not a defense to the temporary access the Department seeks to conduct a survey, "but that it still may be a defense to later activity by the Government" when it seeks to enter her property: "Given the mandatory language of the consultation clause, that 'the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consult . . .,' this Court may find it proper to require compliance with the consultation clause, when appropriate, as a condition prior to entry onto the property after the taking has been completed ... Dr. Tamez's objections concerning the failure of the Government to abide by the consultation clause are denied without prejudice to her ability to reassert those objections at a later point in time" if the Government actually seeks to enter her property.
Looks like a mixed, but hopeful decision in Dr. Tamez's favor. Next, see Chertoff's Real ID Act Power to Waive U.S. Law Challenged:
WASHINGTON – Today, Defenders of Wildlife and The Sierra Club filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its argument that the REAL ID Act, which grants Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff unprecedented and sweeping authority to waive any and all laws to expedite the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, is unconstitutional besides being harmful to the environment and border communities. The two conservation groups charge that such unbounded authority to the executive branch is a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers provisions.

“By granting one government official the absolute power to pick and choose which laws apply to border wall construction, the REAL ID Act proves itself to be both inherently dangerous and profoundly un-American. The issue here is not security vs. wildlife, but whether wildlife, sensitive environmental values and communities along the border will be given fair consideration in the decisions the government makes,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will take up this case in order to protect the fundamental separation of powers principles enshrined in the United States Constitution”

“Laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act are part of America's enduring legal framework, and no agency or public official should be allowed to ignore them,” said Carl Pope, executive director of Sierra Club. “Our laws have provided Americans a voice in the decision-making process that affects their lives, their human rights and the protection of wildlife; our government must not exempt itself from obeying those laws.”

The groups’ petition is the latest chapter in their legal efforts dating back to October, 2007 to safeguard the borderlands in the face of aggressive border wall construction. At that time, Defenders and The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit challenging DHS and Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) approval of border wall construction within the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona. After a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia found that the groups would likely prevail on their claims and issued an injunction blocking further construction of the wall, Secretary Chertoff waived 19 laws intended to protect public health, wildlife and endangered species, clean air and water, and historic and archeological sites to move forward with construction.

In their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Defenders and The Sierra Club contend that the REAL ID Act’s waiver provision unconstitutionally allows the DHS secretary unilaterally to repeal laws, threatening the system of checks and balances assured in the Constitution.
If you want some of the back story to these more recent developments, check the following:
Great Wall of China, Part Dieux
Defending your homeland from Homeland "Security"
Solidaridad Americano
Homeland Insecurity Strikes Again
Legacies
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Along the border
Calling things by their true names: Homeland Insecurity edition

Recent developments on trojan horse initiative

Since I've mentioned the misleadingly titled Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative before (see Vichy Dem blog misrepresents video and The Civil Rights Initiative That Wasn't), an update seems to be in order.

Here's what I can dredge up - as the story receives minimal coverage - on the latest surrounding the initiative, including legal challenge based on issues surrounding the validity of the signature gathering process used by the petition's sponsors. First, from late February in Fired Up! Missouri:
Today in The Oklahoman newspaper there's a story that sheds more light on the devious lengths to which anti-progress petition circulators are going in order to advance their agendas. In this specific case, the supporters of an Oklahoma petition that would ban affirmative action --an initiative identical to one advanced by the same proponents here in Missouri-- have been engaging in fraudulent practices in the course of circulating their petition.
One group trying to defend the state against the petition spoke out yesterday about rampant fraud:
The group alleges the petition included unregistered voters and duplicate signatures. There are some pages where all the signatures were in the same handwriting. Other pages show multiple signers used the same mailing address, Driver said. Driver also said there is evidence petition-gatherers collected names at homeless shelters.
Underhanded circulation tactics by out of state circulators are nothing new. Professional circulators who pushed a TABOR petition both here in Missouri and in Oklahoma in 2006 were actually indicted for fraudulent practices last year in the Sooner State.
Making this doubly worrisome is the fact that --once again with the Klan-backed anti-affirmative action petition as with the TABOR petition last cycle-- essentially the same band of mercenary circulators are moving petitions in both Missouri and Oklahoma.
How do we know the same folks allegedly engaging in fraud in Oklahoma are also moving petitions here in Missouri? They themselves admit as much. Consider the testimony of professional circulator Mary Edith (Edee) Baggett from a deposition on January 29 of this year (questions from the deposing attorney, answers from Ms. Baggett):
Q. And so what are you doing in Missouri?

A. The Oklahoma -- the Missouri Civil Rights initiative. And I'm consulting with the eminent domain proponent. I'm sure there's more.

Q. Have you started collecting signatures on either the Missouri Civil Rights initiative or the eminent domain proposal?

A. Missouri Civil Rights initiative is being corrected presently. Just into it a few days, actually. And then the eminent domain issue is being circulated by volunteers.
The Oklahoma and Missouri anti-affirmative action efforts are so intertwined --even in the mind of the person responsible for the collection effort-- that she conflates them as she begins to answer the first question above by talking about the "Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative" before catching herself and correcting her statement.
Can there be any real doubt, given that petitioners can't keep the two states straight, that whatever tactics and strategies were used by Baggett to collect signatures in Oklahoma are also being used here in Missouri?
Now, on to news of the legal challenge from earlier this month:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Ten Oklahoma voters, including two lawmakers, filed a legal protest in the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday challenging the so-called Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative.

There was no immediate comment Friday afternoon from petition sponsors at their Tulsa headquarters.

Chuck Thornton, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, said the signature-gathering process for the petition is rife with errors.

State Reps. Mike Shelton of Oklahoma City and Jabar Shumate of Tulsa are among those challenging the validity of the petition in the state high court.

They argue the petition is an attempt to trick voters into ending equal opportunity programs, such as affirmative action.

"When equal opportunity and the civil rights of our residents are at stake, it is critically important that the electoral process is fair, transparent and honest," Thornton said.

He expressed confidence the petition would be thrown out of court because of faulty signature-gathering.

The legal challenge comes after the petition's signatures were found to be sufficient in number by the secretary
of state and sent to the Supreme Court for certification.

Last month, Secretary of State Susan Savage sent a letter to the court saying the petition contained a large number of duplicate names and addresses.

Savage also said signature counting was complicated "due to the scope and number of irregularities noted among the signature pages," including multiple signatures by petition circulators.

Opponents of the petition say it is similar to petitions sponsored in other states by California businessman Ward Connerly, head of the American Civil Rights Institute.

They say a similar ballot initiative in California reduced the participation of women and minorities in higher education, contracting and employment.

"It is well known that Connerly and his front groups have repeatedly misappropriated the language of the civil rights movement to trick voters into ending equal opportunity programs in states across the country.

"But we the voters of Oklahoma must not be fooled," Shelton said.

"Although we are strongly opposed to the content of this ballot measure, today's challenge is about protecting the integrity of the electoral process in the state of Oklahoma," he said.

Besides Shelton and Shumate, others challenging the petition are Fannie Bates, Randall T. Coyne, Bob Darcy, Bernadette Huber, Rey Madrid, Bernice Mitchell, Earl D. Mitchell Jr., and Juanita Vasquez Sykes.
As the saying goes, stay tuned...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Seriously...is this a terrorist weapon?

Every time that I think that TSA can't possibly get any dumber, its employees top themselves. Case in point, Woman told to remove nipple rings for SoCal flight:
A TSA agent told a woman she would have to remove her nipple rings if she wanted to pass the security checkpoint. The woman has retained Gloria Allred as her attorney.
A woman was forced by the Transportation Security Administration to remove her nipple rings before she was allowed to board a flight, an attorney said on Thursday.
"The woman was given a pair of pliers in order to remove the rings in her nipples," said Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred. "The rings had been in her nipples for many years."
Link
Tip o' the hat to Madman in the Marketplace over at Marisacat's place. His comment of course is priceless:
I feel sorry for someone wearing a Prince Albert.
Indeed. By the way, the image above will give you an idea of what nipple rings would look like, on the off chance that you hadn't seen any before. Nipple rings look like a real threat, eh? Do you feel safer knowing that TSA agents would require passengers to remove nipple rings prior to boarding your next flight? I have never had any kind words for the US approach to airport "security" and consider TSA to be at best a very bad joke. Its only real purpose is to make the government look like it's "doing something" when in reality it only serves to keep up a climate of paranoia in order to presumably keep the "great unwashed masses" submissive. Reminds me of an essay by Bruce Schneier on the war on the unexpected:
We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats.

This isn't the way counterterrorism is supposed to work, but it's happening everywhere. It's a result of our relentless campaign to convince ordinary citizens that they're the front line of terrorism defense. "If you see something, say something" is how the ads read in the New York City subways. "If you suspect something, report it" urges another ad campaign in Manchester, UK. The Michigan State Police have a seven-minute video. Administration officials from then-attorney general John Ashcroft to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to President Bush have asked us all to report any suspicious activity.
[snip]
Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to -- a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant -- now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it's a false alarm, it's not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he's wrong, it'll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he'll be praised for "doing his job" and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we're done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted.
The war on the unexpected has been going on for a while, of course, but has certainly escalated a good deal over the last few years. The latest front on that war, as it turns out, apparently is body piercing. Land of the free, my ass.

Update: More if you want to read Ms. Hamlin's side of the story:
Mandi Hamlin, 37, is demanding a civil rights investigation, as well as an apology from federal security agents after being forced to remove a nipple ring before boarding a flight from Lubbock to Dallas in Texas.
During a press conference today, Ms Hamlin said she was scanned by a female Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent using a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of her chest.
Ms Hamlin told the agent she had nipple piercings. The female agent then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the body piercings.
Ms Hamlin said she asked if she could display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent but several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewellery was removed.
Curtain call
She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped nipple piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.
“Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her,” Ms Hamlin's lawyer, Gloria Allred, told the director of the TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties.
Ms Allred, who also represents Paul McCartney's ex-wife Heather Mills, used a nipple ring on a mannequin at the press conference to show what happened.
“After nipple rings are inserted, the skin can often heal around the piercing, and the rings can be extremely difficult and painful to remove,” said Ms Allred.
Ms Hamlin said she heard the male security agents snickering as she took out the ring, before being scanned again and eventually allowed on the plane.
Ms Allred said Ms Hamlin had filed a complaint to the TSA's customer service manager at Lubbock airport, who said the screening was handled properly.
What the woman had in her nipples
The lawyer said Ms Hamlin was “publicly humiliated and has undergone an enormous amount of physical pain to have the nipple rings reinserted' because of scar tissue”.
“The conduct of TSA was cruel and unnecessary,” said Ms Allred. “The last time that I checked a nipple was not a dangerous weapon.”
[snip]
“I wouldn't wish this experience upon anyone,” said Ms Hamlin.
“My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way.”
Ms Allred said the incident followed a similar claim by reality TV star Nicole Richie, who said she had her breasts inspected by security at an airport because of her nipple rings.
As I said, this goes beyond ridiculous.

Helter Skelter

Shorter Pat Buchanan:
"I want to show Blackie how to do it."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

You are at war with Iran and didn't even know it

First, let's check this article found via The Angry Indian:
This comes in from our UK correspondent CEM: The March 20, 2008 US Declaration of War on Iran By John McGlynn

March 20, 2008, destined to be another day of infamy. On this date the US officially declared war on Iran. But it’s not going to be the kind of war many have been expecting.

No, there was no dramatic televised announcement by President George W. Bush from the White House oval office. In fact on this day, reports the Washington Post, Bush spent some time communicating directly with Iranians, telling them via Radio Farda (the US-financed broadcaster that transmits to Iran in Farsi, Iran’s native language) that their government has "declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people." But not to worry, he told his listeners in Farsi-translated Bushspeak: Tehran would not get the bomb because the US would be “firm.”

Over at the US Congress, no war resolution was passed, no debate transpired, no last-minute hearing on the Iran “threat” was held. The Pentagon did not put its forces on red alert and cancel all leave. The top story on the Pentagon’s website (on March 20) was: “Bush Lauds Military’s Performance in Terror War,” a feel-good piece about the president’s appearance on the US military’s TV channel to praise “the performance and courage of U.S. troops engaged in the global war on terrorism.” Bush discussed Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa but not Iran.

But make no mistake. As of Thursday, March 20 the US is at war with Iran.

So who made it official?

A unit within the US Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which issued a March 20 advisory to the world's financial institutions under the title: “Guidance to Financial Institutions on the Continuing Money Laundering Threat Involving Illicit Iranian Activity.”

FinCEN, though part of the chain of command, is better known to bankers and lawyers than to students of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, when the history of this newly declared war is someday written (assuming the war is allowed to proceed) FinCEN’s role will be as important as that played by US Central Command (Centcom) in directing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
My emphasis added. Next, Chris Floyd discusses what this all means:
McGlynn's article, in Japan Focus, is long and complex – necessarily so, in order to detail the intricate punitive mechanisms involved, and their earlier test run against North Korea in 2005. You should read the article in full, but to put it briefly, last week the U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), set in motion a process that could make any bank or financial institution in the world that does business with Iran subject to an economic death sentence: complete exclusion from the U.S. financial system. McGlynn, speaking plainly and with no addition, calls the move "a declaration of war on Iran."

The move is part of a steady escalation that has seen Washington move from urging sanctions against any firm or bank connected to Iran's nuclear program to its current, highly belligerent stance: seeking to strangle all financial investment or dealing with Iran, nuclear-related or not. As McGlynn notes:
During a daily press meeting with reporters on March 19, the State Department’s spokesperson was asked about a deal recently signed between Switzerland and Iran to supply Iranian natural gas to Europe. After condemning the deal, the spokesperson explained that the US is opposed to any “investing in Iran, not only in its petroleum or natural gas area but in any sector of its economy.”
All of this, McGlynn says, is an extension of the "Shock and Awe" doctrine formulated by Harlan Ullman and James Wade for the National Defense University in 1995. The strategy became famous after the Pentagon adopted it for the military invasion of Iraq – but as McGlynn points out, the doctrine has always had an economic side too. In fact, the authors believed that the economic ruin visited upon a target nation might be more effective than bombs and bullets – largely because they are more invisible, more politically palatable than big-bang extravaganzas. McGlynn notes:
But Shock and Awe’s authors (apparently with something like Vietnam or the 1993-1994 Somalia fiasco in mind) also envisioned that “[i]n certain circumstances, the costs of having to resort to lethal force may be too politically expensive in terms of local support as well as support in the U.S. and internationally." Consequently, they wrote:
"Economic sanctions are likely to continue to be a preferable political alternative or a necessary political prelude to an offensive military step… In a world in which nonlethal sanctions are a political imperative, we will continue to need the ability to shut down all commerce into and out of any country from shipping, air, rail, and roads. We ought to be able to do this in a much more thorough, decisive, and shocking way than we have in the past… Weapons that shock and awe, stun and paralyze, but do not kill in significant numbers may be the only ones that are politically acceptable in the future."
It was only a matter of finding a sanctions strategy systematic enough to make this more obscure portion of the Shock and Awe doctrine operational. What Ullman and Wade could not have imagined was that Washington's global planners would use extraterritorial legal powers and its financial clout to coerce the global banking industry into accepting US foreign policy diktat.
McGlynn notes that even the Chinese – Iran's biggest trading partner – is feeling the heat from the Patriot Act's "nuclear option" of banishment from the U.S. financial system:
In December 2007 ArabianBusiness.com reported that Chinese banks were starting to decline to open letters of credit for Iranian traders. Asadollah Asgaroladi, head of the Iran-China chamber of commerce, was quoted as saying that China’s banks did not explain the refusal but “if this trend continues it will harm the two countries' economic cooperation and trade exchange." In February, ArabianBusiness.com found that China's cutbacks in its banking business with Iran was affecting a joint automobile production arrangement.
Now the screws are growing even tighter. And the effects will be devastating – not to the leaders of Iran, of course, but, as with the genocidal sanctions against Iraq, to Iran's general population – a population, as we noted recently, made up overwhelmingly of young people and children: almost 70 percent of Iranians are under 30. As McGlynn puts it:
If the US succeeds, an international quarantine on Iran's banks would disrupt Iran’s financial linkages with the world by blocking its ability to process cross-border payments for goods and services exported and imported. Without those linkages, Iran is unlikely to be able to engage in global trade and commerce. As 30% of Iran’s GDP in 2005 was imports of goods and services and 20% was non-oil exports, a large chunk of Iran's economy would shrivel up. The repercussions will be painful and extend well beyond lost business and profits. For example, treating curable illnesses will become difficult. According to an Iranian health ministry official, Iran produces 95% of its own medicines but most pharmaceutical-related raw materials are imported.
The American people are told nothing about this, of course. The presidential candidates will say nothing about it – or about any of the other flashing danger signals as we careen toward another murderous catastrophe. The "progressive" movement, now consumed with the minutiae of the squabble between Clinton and Obama – both of whom have repeatedly declared their bellicosity toward Iran, and their fierce insistence that all options, including the use of nuclear weapons, remain "on the table" – will no doubt continue its long inaction and avoidance of the subject, as Arthur Silber notes so powerfully here, while also providing active, practical steps that could be taken to head off another war -- something no one else is bothering to do.
The groundwork for an Iran war has been laid. The use of ever-more draconian economic sanctions (which will never be enough to satisfy the Empire's lust for blood - as we learned all-too-well during the 1990s as such an approach was beta-tested on the Iraqis) will, contra the assertions of the authors of Shock and Awe, lead to large-scale casualties for reasons that should be duly noted above in Floyd's essay. Lest we forget, the organizational violence and structural violence inherent in the US-imposed sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s through the start of the current sorry decade was quite deadly:
Structural violence refers to physical harm (including death) suffered by a particular group of people who do not have access to the same services and benefits as the rest of society. Internally displaced Iraqis would be considered victims of structural violence - in this case due to the collapse of their baseline socio-economic situation as a result of the US invasion. Structural violence is often the most deadly and insidious forms of violence. To take a few words from the book, Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression by Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan (1985):
Structural violence is a feature of social structures. This form of violence is inherent in the established modes of social relations, distribution of goods and services, and legal practices of dispensing justice. Structural violence involves more than the violation of fairness and justice. [p. 136]

Structural violence is the most lethal form of violence because it is the least discernible; it causes premature deaths in the largest number of persons; and it presents itself as the natural order of things. A situation of oppression rests primarily on structural violence which in turn fosters institutional, interpersonal, and intrapersonal violence. Structural violence pervades the prevailing values, the environment, social relations, and individual psyches. The most visible indicators of structural violence are differential rates of mortality, morbidity, and incarceration among groups in the same society. In particular, a situation of oppression increases the infant mortality rate and lowers the life expectancy for the oppressed. [p. 155]
The displaced are systematically deprived of the basics for survival, resulting in poverty, malnutrition, premature death. That's what structural violence is. The physical harm suffered in this case usually falls underneath the mass-media radar because it is less salient, less spectacular than deaths due to IEDs or aerial bombing raids. The structural violence in this case (as is true of various colonial genocides of the past) will also fall underneath the radar because it is built into the very fabric of the oppressors' worldview. Starvation and malnutrition for example are simply written off as "those savages cannot take care of themselves." The more liberal of the oppressors might even acknowledge such phenomena as partially their responsibility, but cheerfully contend that in the end "it was worth it" as Madeleine Albright said of the half million Iraqi children under five who had died as a result of economic sanctions during the 1990s.
The large-scale casualties caused by the Iraq sanction regime were massive, and the sanctions exacted their lethal toll much more slowly, painfully, cruelly than even the abominable military "shock and awe" that the US inflicted upon the Iraqis on a fateful night in Iraq. Whereas deaths due to gunfire tend to draw attention, the deaths caused by sanctions are considerably less visible. To characterize the financial version of "shock and awe" as non-lethal is, to say the least, dead wrong. To characterize the sort of financial warfare as "preferable" when it causes massive loss of life due to malnutrition, disease, lack of sanitation, etc. is nothing short of evil.

Here's what the occupation has done to Iraqi Christians

Chris Floyd sez:
My, isn't it wonderful that the American invasion – and the million deaths it has spawned – have allowed people to hold services giving praise to Jesus Christ….in a land where services giving praise to Jesus Christ have been held uninterruptedly for almost 2,000 years.

Yes, back when the good major's European forbears were practicing human sacrifice and looking at goose entrails for divine guidance, strong Christian communities were thriving in what is now Iraq, most of them speaking Aramaic, the language of Jesus – as some Iraqi Christians still do. Major Stockeland, a chaplain for the holy-rolling, tongue-speaking Assemblies of God, is not only ignorant of the culture he is helping to destroy – and ignorant of the history of his own religion – he is oblivious to what is actually happening to the Christians of the "liberated" land.

The reality, of course, is that Iraqi Christians were far freer to practice their religion before the American invasion. In fact, the illegal attack launched by the oh-so-Christian Coalition of George "Jews Are Going to Hell" Bush and Tony "I'm a Fervent Catholic, When It's Politically Convenient" Blair has been one of the greatest disasters to befall Iraqi Christians in two millenia. The Anglo-American bible-thumpers have empowered – and armed – religious extremists and violent sectarians throughout the conquered land, while destroying the infrastructure of secular, civic society. The draconian sanctions inflicted on the Iraqi people before the war – not only by Jews-in-Hell George and Convenient Catholic Tony but also by born-again Baptist Bill "Forgive Me, Lord, For This Here Blowjob" Clinton – had already brought Iraqi society to the breaking point, clearing the way for sectarians to step in with the solace of religion – and the public services that many of them still provide in the shattered state.

The result has been the relentless persecution of Iraqi Christians, who had once been protected from attack by Bush's own personal jihadis. Before the war, there were approximately 800,000 Christians in Iraq; now, many religious organizations estimate that at least half that number have been forced to flee the country. The Christian churches of Iraq – which have survived since the 1st century AD – are now dying out, as a direct result of the brutality, ruin, deceit – and ignorance – of the occupying forces. But Pastor Major Chaplain Stockeland can't see that -- not even when he's standing in the middle of it.

Truly, a parable for our times.
Not only are Iraqi Christians being forced to flee, but the Mandaeans (an indigenous Gnostic community that had lived and practiced their faith for about as long as the Christians) have almost completely fled. There are numerous reasons why I find avowed Christians who have been the most rabid of Iraq War proponents revolting: the destruction of the lives, livelihoods, and communities of fellow Christians is among those reasons.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Huh?

Image caption: 'Red Herring' by Urban Envy

Okay, this is just plain dumb (h/t The Sideshow):
What I am saying is that no one can run away from the choice every American with the franchise will face in November. The next president will either be John McCain or the Democratic nominee. That's an immovable fact. Not voting or voting for some protest candidate doesn't allow anyone to wash their hands of that choice.
Both the Dems and their GOP counterparts will be saying this all the way til November. That much we can count on. It's also wrong. Let's try this again, shall we?

I identify myself as antipartisan. Now what is that again? I'm glad you asked:
Antipartisanship (n)
1. A chronic aversion to professional politicians and their handlers, based on the belief that they are all cynical and unprincipled. 2. An unwillingness to identify with either major political party based on said beliefs.
Mimus Pauly at skippy's place adds a third definition that seems reasonably sensible:
a cynicism borne of the betrayal of trust by either or both major political parties, resulting in the belief that all politicians and political operatives are unprincipled.
Both of these bloggers are tapping into something that I think I've tried to express before.
Here's an excerpt from my essay titled, American Solidarity- A Beginning:
For more years than I would want to count at this point in my life I have been questioning the direction and purpose of the Democratic party. I've made no secret of my general uneasiness within what has become of the Dems whose leadership has generally underwhelmed me over the last quarter century. Truth is I really don't fit in with a party that seems to favor its corporate cronies over its purported commitment to basic progressive and populist values and policies. The GOP was never and will never be an alternative for me. The unholy alliance of theocons and neocons is one with which I simply would never wish to associate. Genocidal wars, draconian laws that decimate the letter and spirit of The Bill of Rights, looting the nation's treasury and generally pissing away the nation's future for the sake of feathering a few cronies' nests under the aegis of God and Country are the halmarks of the GOP. The best I've been able to say about the Dems is that they are "less bad."

The question that I can never leave far behind is this: "is less bad good enough?" When lives and quality of life are at stake, the answer is no. As of late I have given the words of the late Malcom X a fresh read, and I have a couple observations. One is that in many respects, when we're talking about civil rights and human rights in America things really haven't changed much since Malcom's day. The images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina of the dire poverty that has consigned so many of our fellow Americans to a lifetime of marginal existence (what the Marxists would call the lumpenproletariat) and neglect by the very government that is supposed to serve them, will haunt me for as long as I can still draw a breath. Those images should haunt all of us. The specter of racism and classism continues to plague our political and social landscape, just as it has all of my life. The second observation: politicians from one party or another haved talked a good game when it comes to promoting progressive ideas and policies - but with few exceptions they don't walk the talk. That was a problem that Malcom confronted with the issues that were salient to him, and is a problem that we on the left continue to confront. The Dems have assumed for so long that they have the leftists, the women, the ethnic minorities in their back pockets because presumably we have "nowhere else to go." The result is, as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, a not-so-benign neglect of our issues and values from the powers that be. And as long as we keep registering Democrat and periodically show up to vote when expected, nothing changes, except maybe for the worse. We have a party where its members say the right things more often than not, but then by and large approve laws like The Patriot Act, the bankruptcy bill that will end up burying working families who've encountered exhorbitant medical expenses; they've been silent when the White House nominated an architect of the current pro-torture policy to the office of AG; when it comes to the illegal war being fought against the Iraqis, many of the Dems want to send more troops and kill of even more people; they've been largely silent on the issue of voting irregularities both in Ohio and Florida; and we know that privacy rights are also no longer sacred in Dem circles.

What to do? In Malcom's last year on this planet he offered up some simple advice that I think we can all use: be organized, and don't affiliate with either the Dems or the GOP. That's the general idea behind American Solidarity: organize physically, financially, intellectually. Many of us come from varying backgrounds and have varying pet causes, but let's face it - those of us who are living paycheck to paycheck, those of us who value liberty, who value equality, who value justice, who value privacy have a hell of a lot in common. Technological advances in the last decade or so make it easier for us to coordinate and to exchange ideas and information than ever before. It's way past time to start using those tools to our advantage. Blogs are one of our tools, playing the same role that zines played in the 1980s and pamphlets such as Paine's played during the Revolution some 230 years ago. Blogging is only part of that picture. Cernig fills in some of the details elsewhere. Clearly, unions, thinktanks, civil liberties organizations are going to be salient as well.
Further, I'd strongly suggest reading Arthur Silber's The Tale That Might Be Told. The false choice that Josh Marshall is presenting us is one of selecting which one is "less bad." Continuing to make such "choices" only encourages the rulers to believe they are legitimate. If you try out Silber's gedanken experiment, you can imagine just how tenuous the elites' hold on legitimacy really is: after all, they're only legit to the extent that the people tolerate them, and withholding one's support is not a particularly difficult thing to do really. Psychologically, a small turnout (and by small, let's say less than ten percent of the electorate) would change things considerably. It's hard enough for a president to claim a mandate when less than a quarter of the registered voters support them (although they usually do somehow with a straight face). Once you start talking less than five percent of the registered voters supporting the eventual "victor", any remaining pretense of a "mandate" is taken away. One might also take away from Silber's essay the idea that the elites need us much, much more than we "need" them.

Said it before, and I'll say it again: ideally we'd have not only a mass boycott of the polls in November, but also a general strike to drive the point home that a very large number of Americans are plain and simply fed up with the status quo. I don't hold out much hope for something that organized to happen here as of yet, but perhaps I might one day be pleasantly surprised.

There's no running away involved: Not only am I refusing to vote for either the of the evils (be it in Donkey or Elephant form), but I have stated so publicly on many an occasion and no doubt will continue to do so for as long as I can draw a breath and find anyone who will listen. In other words, I've simply stood up and said "no" to evils, no matter how much "lesser" their supporters claim them to be.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Light a candle

Check out Oklahoma Candles for 4000. The mission statement:

We created this site to give our fellow Oklahomans an opportunity to express their sorrow upon our nation reaching the milistone of 4000 U.S. combat casualties.

We represent a diversity of religious faiths, ages, backgrounds, military experience and political affiliations, but we are united by our desire for a lasting peace and for an end to suffering by all sides in the Iraq conflict.

Those who participate in this online action do not necessarily endorse the same political policies, but do share a wish for the lives of our troops and their families and loved ones.

Don't forget to light up the darkness.

Once more, with spirit: What was so controversial?

Since I'd mentioned an excerpt of Jeremiah Wright's now-legendary post 9-11 sermon (see, What was so controversial about this?), a follow-up seemed in order. Andrew Sullivan did us the favor of posting a more complete transcript of the sermon, and also linked to a you-tube video of the sermon. Here's the video:



And here's the transcript:
"Every public service of worship I have heard about so far in the wake of the American tragedy has had in its prayers and in its preachments, sympathy and compassion for those who were killed and for their families, and God's guidance upon the selected Presidents and upon our war machine, as they do what they do and what they gotta do -- paybacks.

There's a move in Psalm 137 from thoughts of paying tithes to thoughts of paying back, A move, if you will from worship to war, a move in other words from the worship of th God of creation to war against those whom God Created. And I want you to notice very carefully this next move. One of the reasons this Psalm is rarely read, in its entirety, because it is a move that spotlights the insanity of the cycle of violence and the cycle of hatred.

Look at the verse; Look at the verse; Look at verse nine: [rising voice] "Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rocks."[lower voice] The people of faith are the rivers of Babylon. How shall we sing the Lord's song? If I forget the order ... The people of faith, have moved from the hatred of armed enemies [rising voice]--these soldiers who captured the king; those soldiers who slaughtered his son, that put his eyes out; those soldiers who sacked the city, burned, burned the towns, the burned the temple, burned the towers, they have moved from the hatred of [loudest voice] armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents -- [low voice] the babies, the babies.

Blessed are they who dash your baby’s brains against a rock. And that, my beloved, is a dangerous place to be, yet that is where the people of faith are in the 551BC, and that is where far too many people of faith are in 2001 AD. We have moved from the hatred of armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents. We want revenge, we want paybacks, and we don't care who gets hurt in the process.

Now I asked the Lord, what should our response be in light of such an unthinkable act, but before I share with you what the Lord shared with me I want to give you one of my little faith footnotes.

Visitors, I often give little faith footnotes, so that our members don't lose sight of the big picture, let me give you a faith footnote. Turn to your neighbor and say, "Faith footnote." [Voices: "Faith footnote"]

[Begin faith footnote]

I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see him or hear him, he was on Fox News. This is a white man, and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out, (Did you see him, John?) --a white man-- he pointed out-- an ambassador-- that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, America's chickens are coming home to roost.

We took this country, by terror, away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arrowak (phonetic) the Comanche, the Arapajo, the Navajo. Terrorism--we took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism. We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians -- babies, non-military personnel. We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with Stealth Bombers and killed unarmed teenagers, and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working father. [fullest voice] We bombed Khadafi, his home and killed his child. Blessed be they who bash your children's head agains the rocks.

[fullest voice] We bombed Iraq, we killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed the plant in Sudan to payback for the attack on our embassy -- killed hundreds of hard working people --mothers and fathers, who left home to go that day, not knowing they'd never get back home. [Even fuller voice] We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye. Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school -- civilians not soldiers. People just trying to make it day by day. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and South Africa and now we are indignant? Because the stuff we have done overseas is brought back into our own front yard.

America's chickens are coming home, to roost. Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism.

[lower voice] A White ambassador said that, y'all, not a black militant. Not a Reverend who preaches about racism, an ambassador whose eyes are wide open, and whose trying to get us to wake up, and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said that the people we have wounded don't have the military capability we have, but they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them, and we need to come to grips with that.

Let me stop my faith footnote right there, and ask you to think about that over the next few weeks if God grants us that many days. Turn back to your neighbor, and say, "Footnote is over." [Voices: "Footnote is over."]

[End Faith Footnote]

[Gentle voice] Now, now. C'mon back to my question to the Lord, "What should our response be right now. In light of such an unthinkable act. I asked the Lord that question Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

I was stuck in Newark, New Jersey. No flights were leaving La Guardia, JFK, or Newark Airport. On the day tht the FAA opened up the airports to bring into the destinations of cities those flights that had been diverted because of the hijacking, a scare in New York close all three regional airports and I couldn't even get her for Mr. Radford's father's funeral. And I asked God, "What should our response be?

I saw pictures of the incredible. People jumping from the 110th floor; people jumping from the roof because the stair wells and elevators above the 89th floor were gone-- no more. Black people, jumping to a certain death; people holding hands jumping; people on fire jumping. [plaintiff high voice] And I asked the Lord, "What should our response be?" I read what the people of faith felt in 551BC. But this is a different time, this is a different enemy, a different world, a different terror. This is a different reality. What should our response be, and the Lord showed me three things. Let me share them with you quickly and I'm gonna leave you alone to think about the faith footnote.

Number one: The Lord showed me that this is a time for self-examination. [cheers] As I sat 900 miles away from my family and my community of faith, two months after my own father's death, God showed me that this was a time for me to examine my relationship with God. MY own relationship with God-- personal relationship with God.

I submit to you that it is the same for you. Folk flocked to the church in New Jersey last week, you know that foxhole-religion syndrome kicked in, that emergency chord religion, you know that little red box you pull in emergency? It showed up in full force. Folk who aint thought about coming to church in years, were in church last week. I heard that mid-week prayer services all over this country which are poorly attended fifty-one week a year were jam packed all over the nation the week of the hijacking the 52nd week. [inaudible]

But the Lord said, this aint the time for you to be examining other folks relationship this is a time of self examination. But the Lord said, "How is "our" relationship doing Jeremiah? How often do you talked to me personally, how often do you let me talk to you privately? How much time do you spend trying to get right with me, or do you spend all your time trying to get other folk right?

This is a time for me to examine my own relationship with God. Is it real or is it fake? Is it forever or is it for show? Is is something that you do for the sake of the public or is it something that you do for the sake of eternity? [voice rising] This is a time for me to examine my own, and a time for you to examine your own relationship with God -- self examination.
I find Sullivan's protestations that the content of the sermon was somehow "inappropriate" to be a bit hokey, but otherwise will gladly give him props for at least placing a sound-bite into its fuller context.

On a related note: via Marisacat, here's a transcript of a Bill Moyers interview with James Cone that touches on the topic of lynching. Something Arthur Silber recently wrote seems especially resonant:
A viciously ignorant and murderous racism lies at the core of American history. This racism is built into our major institutions in complex ways; it was obviously a foundation of the U.S. Public Health Service before, during and after this vile episode. This racism is deeply embedded in and carried throughout such bureaucracies: ignorance and prejudice determine which actions are taken, which are not, how decisions are made and implemented, and many other aspects of the functioning of these government agencies.

[snip]

Study history, remember Tuskegee and the many other instances of unforgivable barbarity inflicted on black Americans. Think very, very carefully before you offer your easy condemnations. Then think again. The fact that most others will join you in those condemnations does not make any of you right. It is entirely possible that all of you are grievously, terribly wrong.
Be aware, as ignorance will not make any of us safe from the justice of roosting chickens.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What Congress wants you to swallow

Where are the Dems when it comes to impeachment?

Based on the reports from last week’s Take Back America conference, it appears that John Conyers has turned back the clock two years. It’s all about winning the elections.

One blogger writes that the reason Conyers gave for not pursuing impeachment now is that "it would jeopardize the chance of a young, excellent man running for the White House," referring to Senator Barack Obama. Sam Stein reports that "Conyers offered a strong suggestion that he intends to consider legal action against Bush and Company once they leave office." Stein quotes Conyers as saying "We can win this thing and go get these guys after [they leave office]."

Conyers, like Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), offered that if Bush attacks Iran he should be impeached.

To which I call:

By the time the cruise missiles are flying over Tehran, it'll be just too goddamn late. There won't be any impeachment then either, as impeaching a "war preznit" would appear "unpatriotic" and might (as the saying goes) affect the 2008 election outcome. Excuses, excuses. By then, I expect that particular charade to be the least of our concerns.