Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Mouse That Roared

No, I'm not talking about a funny movie starring Peter Sellers, but rather of the rejection of the EU "Lisbon Treaty" by voters in Ireland. My guess is that if the various elites in Europe are going to get their way on imposing an EU constitution, they're going to do so by taking those pesky, inconvenient voters out of the equation. Although the usual knee-jerk impulse is to reduce the Irish voters' "no" vote to a matter of provincialism (with the usual implication that the Irish are culturally "backward"), perhaps there is something else going on:
Perhaps seeing early weakness in the yes vote, Cowen lashed out at opposition parties for not working hard enough on behalf of the treaty. In the end, he made a personal appeal to voters to trust him, and by extension the political, business and media elite, about a treaty that few claimed even to have read, much less to have understood.
My emphasis added. I don't know about you, but I for one do not trust folks who themselves are unclear about what's in treaties that they are advocating.

McCain's relied upon the Dolchstoßlegende before,

so what's to stop him from doing it again? In a rare fit of usefulness, New Pravda gives some hints as to McCain's mindset by reporting and making available his 1974 National War College thesis. A couple paragraphs from the article:
“The biggest factor in a man’s ability to perform credibly as a prisoner of war is a strong belief in the correctness of his nation’s foreign policy,” Mr. McCain wrote in a 1974 essay submitted to the National War College and never released to the public. Prisoners who questioned “the legality of the war” were “extremely easy marks for Communist propaganda,” he wrote.
Americans captured after 1968 had proven to be more susceptible to North Vietnamese pressure, he argued, because they “had been exposed to the divisive forces which had come into focus as a result of the antiwar movement in the United States.”
I've discussed the Dolchstoßlegende before over the last few years. To summarize, let's visit a quick description of Dolchstoßlegende in Wikipedia that I dug up a few years ago:
The Dolchstoßlegende or Dolchstosslegende, (German "dagger-thrust legend", often translated in English as "stab-in-the-back legend") refers to a social mythos and persecution-propaganda and belief among bitter post-World War I German nationalists, that lay blame for the loss of the war upon non-Germans and non-nationalists.

Many Germans who supported, fought in, or had otherwise known people lost in the enormously costly war, believed the causes for the German/Austrian involvement in the war were justified. They had hoped it would bring a restoration of past glory and a unified German nation-state. Instead, the war caused the deaths of 1,770,000 German soldiers and 760,000 German civilians, devastated the economy, and brought losses in both territory and national sovereignty.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders sought others to blame. The common scapegoats were Weimar Republic politicians, socialists, communists, and "international Jewry" — a term referring to Jews with a perceived excess of wealth and influence. These "November criminals", nationalists alleged, had "stabbed them in the back" on the "home front," by either criticizing the cause of German nationalism, or by simply not being zealous-enough supporters of it. In essence the accusation was that the accused committed treason against the benevolent and righteous common cause.

[snip]

Nevertheless, this social mythos of domestic betrayal resonated among its audience, and its claims would codify the basis for public support for the emerging Nazi Party, under a severely racialist-based form of nationalism. The anti-Semitism latent in Germany society was intensified by the Bavarian Soviet Republic, a Communist government which ruled the city of Munich for two weeks before being crushed by the Freikorps militia. Most of the Bavarian Soviet Republic's leaders were Jewish, a fact exploited by anti-Semitic propagandists to tar all Jews with the brush of Communist treason.

[snip]

Due to the highly potent imagery of a "stab in the back", and the common perception amongst political conservatives that politically hostile homefronts defeat otherwise winnable wars, the stab in the back legend is a common legend in a number of modern societies. In particular, the stab in the back legend is often used by conservatives to explain the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam war. In the context of the US involvement in the Vietnam War the stab in the back legend is part of the Vietnam Syndrome complex.
Based on that brief characterization, I noted about three years ago that:
Not only did the Nazis utilize the "stab in the back" legend to its advantage during its rise to power and of course in maintaining its grip on power, but our own right-wingers have been relying on the same basic approach since the Vietnam war ended. I'm sure if I had a nickel for every GOP politician who has used that strategy since the early 1970s, I could retire in style. The "stab in the back" legend has been most recently utilized by our own hardline nationalists in order to silence dissent regarding the Iraq debacle. These folks are bound and determined to spread the myth that shining a light on Bu$hCo's lies to get our military sucked into what is now Mess o'Potamia as well as shining a light on the debacle that the war has truly become is somehow a "stab in the back" to those unfortunate souls who got shipped over there. The true stab in the back to these men and women was committed by the very White House and Congress critters who had that jones comin' down for a war in the first place.
Eric Alterman made an observation last September that I think bears repeating:
Having exposed their country to the ignominy of certain defeat in Iraq, the Bush Administration and its neoconservative allies are seeking to salvage their crumbling reputations by blaming their critics for the catastrophe their policies have wrought. We are witnessing the foundation for a post-Iraq "stab in the back" campaign.

The tactic--Dolchstoßlegende, which means, literally, "dagger stab legend"--is associated with attacks by German anti-Semites on Jews in the aftermath of World War I and is a familiar response for frustrated American right-wingers when reality fails to live up to their ideological fantasies.

[snip]

The coming campaign's foundations are already in place. They rest on three building blocks: an attack on the loyalty of those willing to recognize reality; the construction of an alternative reality in which victory is deemed to be imminent; and, finally, a shifting of blame for a supposedly premature withdrawal to those who refuse to play along.

Matthew Yglesias, in the Center for American Progress's "Think Again" column, noticed preparations for such a campaign as early as May 2004. Roll Call's Morton Kondracke pretended that "the media and politicians" were "in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq," while Tony Blankley of the Washington Times added, "the president's political and media opposition want the president's defeat more than America's victory." Two years later, when most Americans had turned against the war, Spencer Ackerman, writing in The New Republic, noticed that not a single contributor to a National Review symposium advocated withdrawal. Typical were comments like those of former Bush Pentagon analyst Michael Rubin, who announced, "The US is losing in Iraq because American politicians and the general public have not decided they want or need to win."

George W. Bush has both feet firmly planted in the "stab" camp, and offered it aid and comfort when he tried to link the "unmistakable legacy of Vietnam"--"boat people," "re-education camps" and "killing fields"--to calls for withdrawal from Iraq. Podhoretz's recent entry into the sweepstakes is, appropriately, a retread of his 1982 attack on his ex-friends and former self. In his clinically delusional book World War IV, Podhoretz paints Bush as a "great president" and professes to see in Iraq "enormous strides that had been made in democratizing and unifying the country under a workable federal system." No less implausibly, he compares war opponents, like former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, to a "domestic insurgency" with a "life-and-death stake" in America's defeat. Podhoretz flatters himself and his fellow armchair generals with his claim that his screeds in Commentary and the Wall Street Journal editorial pages represent a "war of ideas...no less bloody than the one being fought by our troops in the Middle East."

Podhoretz's paranoid ravings notwithstanding, it is likely that he has been less effective in laying the groundwork for the post-Iraq stab campaign than second-generation neocon generalissimo William Kristol, who despite mountains of contrary evidence professes to detect an "astoundingly" successful surge and a military situation that is "better than anyone expected." Kristol's Weekly Standard recently ran a cover drawing of an American soldier viewed from behind within the sights of an unseen weapon, beneath the headline Does Washington Have His Back? Another Standard headline reads: They Don't Really Support the Troops.

Such visual, visceral propaganda attacks would have fit in perfectly with those employed against Jews by right-wing anti-Semites in the days before Hitler. One might have imagined that American neocons would have pulled back before crossing that line.

The campaign is coming; forewarned is forearmed.
A candidate already on record as favoring perpetuating the current occupation phase of the Iraq War for about another century is someone who will readily resort to Dolchstoßlegende when forces such as economic collapse (which may well be around the corner) require a retreat. The campaign is here. Be vigilant.

Obama's pick for economic advisor is one of the Chicago Boyz

You know, the purveyors of Friedmanesque orthodoxy that has had genocidal consequences wherever it has been applied. Chile during the Pinochet regime's rule would be one of the more notoriously brutal exemplars - those first years of the regime (1973-1976) merit its inclusion in Genocide Watch's list of genocides since 1945 to the present. That said, the more insidious genocidal features of neoliberalism have largely been organizational and structural in nature: violent in their effects, but not as salient in public discourse as massacres. Subcomandante Marcos referred to NAFTA in a 1994 interview as a "death sentence" for the campesinos in his nation1. In fact, Marcos went on to say,
"NAFTA sets up competition among farmers, but how can our campesinos - who are mostly illiterate - compete with US and Canadian farmers? And look at this rocky land we have here. How can we compete with the land in California, or in Canada? So the people of Chiapas, as well as the people of Oaxaca, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Guerrero, and Sonora were the sacrificial lambs of NAFTA."
Indeed, the subsequent 14 years have borne out his concerns, as imported produce flooded the markets, forcing campesinos to abandon their plots and become among the mass numbers of displaced people (many of whom then risk life and limb attempting to cross the border into the US). Similarly, as I've noted, manufacturing laborers also took a severe hit as jobs were outsourced to China. Although the effects of neoliberal orthodoxy have been far less visible in the US, we can note its effects here in the land of milk and honey as well - increased poverty, homelessness, decreased quality of life for all but a relative few multimillionaires and billionaires. Although Obama talks a good game when it comes to "change" - given his choices in Congress and on the current campaign trail, it's just talk. He's certainly not about to change nearly three decades of neoliberal orthodoxy that has governed the US in its domestic programs and international relations. Rather, expect more of the same, merely with a happier facade.

1. Benjamin, Medea (1995). Interview: Subcomandante Marcos. In E. Katzenberger (Ed.), First World, Ha Ha Ha! The Zapatista Challenge. San Francisco: City Lights.

Plan Mexico is not a done deal,

but it is dangerously close to becoming one. There are a couple worthwhile articles that lay down the situation that you should check out. Maya Schenwar looks at some of the likely effects of Plan Mexico - expect more corruption, more oppression, more violence. Kristen Bricker (whose blog My Word is My Weapon should be a regular read) looks at the obstacles ahead in terms of making Plan Mexico a reality, and notes that there is still time to stop it. Of course, Mexican lawmakers are not happy with whatever minimal human rights provisions would be included in the bill. There's plenty of opposition in Latino America and in small communities in Mexico to what is essentially an update of Plan Colombia.

As neoliberalism continues to take its toll on workers and campesinos in Mexico (NAFTA has been described by the Zapatistas and their allies as genocidal), more and more oppressive measures will be employed by rulers on the North American continent in order to shield themselves from increasingly hungry and angry citizens.

A cartoon that seems quite timely

Ted Rall's latest.

This is not freedom

If a protest is held and the target audience is shielded from it, does it really even matter? If the Democrats really wanted to demonstrate themselves as an alternative to the Republicans, they'd set the example and ditch the whole "free" speech zone concept at their convention. They'd face their protesters, and if nothing else have to listen. Nah, the DemocRATs don't want to do that any more than the ReTHUGs. The precedent goes back to at least 1988 when the Dem National Convention utilized what they called "free speech areas" in order to avoid the potential of actually facing disgruntled potential voters. Here's the latest on the Dem convention (h/t The Try-Works):

Protesters who want to march to the site of the Democratic National Convention will have to end their processions several blocks short of the Pepsi Center, according to the route released Thursday by Denver city officials.

The special parade route, put together by the city to balance the desires of protest groups with the needs of downtown businesses, angered the protesters, who had hoped to be able to end their marches within sight and sound of the convention hall

"This is not an appropriate parade route," said Re-create 68's Glenn Spagnuolo. "I'm not being able to march in front of the event site at the Pepsi Center. That's the target audience. Your political protest is completely ineffective if ... you're not even allowed to march to where your intended audience is."

The route begins at Civic Center park and runs down West Colfax Avenue to the southbound lanes of Speer Boulevard until it reaches Larimer Street and ends. A wide divide separates the end point from the Pepsi Center, which will hold the delegates from 4 to 9 p.m. nightly Aug. 25-28. The U.S. Secret Service, responsible for protecting the convention, has yet to release its security perimeter.

City attorney David Fine said it was possible the end point could change. He said the city is working on pedestrian access from Speer and Larimer to the Pepsi Center's Lot A, where a demonstration zone is to be established.

Colorado American Civil Liberties Union director Mark Silverstein, who has filed a lawsuit on behalf of protest groups, said he was disappointed by the lack of sight and sound access. He said he will meet with his clients to determine their next step.

Tent State University's Denver organizer, Adam Jung, also expressed disappointment, saying he hoped the group could negotiate a change.

In solidarity with Re-create 68 I say, "¡Ya Basta!"

Today's electoral silliness edition

Thanks to Okiedoke, we have a comparison between Obama and McCain's income tax plans:
It should be remembered that what presidential candidates want isn’t what they always get. Thank goodness. But what they want does send a signal about who they are.

Here’s how the average tax bill could change in 2009 if either John McCain’s or Barack Obama’s tax proposals were fully in place.

MCCAIN OBAMA
Income Avg. tax bill Avg. tax bill
$227K-$603K -$7,871 +$12
$161K-$227K -$4,380 -$2,789
$112K-$161K -$2,614 -$2,204
$66K-$112K -$1,009 -$1,290
$38K-$66K -$319 -$1,042
$19K-$38K -$113 -$892
Under $19K -$19 -$567
Source:The Tax Policy Center
And the kicker:

Under both plans, all American taxpayers could pay a price for their tax cuts: a bigger deficit. The Tax Policy Center estimates that over 10 years, McCain’s tax proposals could increase the national debt by as much as $4.5 trillion with interest, while Obama’s could add as much as $3.3 trillion.
Which in today’s politics, makes Obama a fiscal conservative.
Of course, let's also keep in mind all the deficit spending that will be associated to the multi-front War on Terra, War on Drugs, outsourcing basic government services to private contractors, etc. If you're an actual fiscal conservative, the numbers will make you just about choke. If you're simply a deficit hawk (that's me) who otherwise is as left as they come, the numbers still just about make you want to choke.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nell Lancaster asks

how are you observing Torture Awareness Month?

Mercenary company breaks into the spy biz

What could prove to be one of Blackwater's most profitable and enduring enterprises is one of the company's most secretive initiatives -- a move into the world of privatized intelligence services. In April 2006, Prince quietly began building Total Intelligence Solutions, which boasts that it "brings CIA-style" services to the open market for Fortune 500 companies. Among its offerings are "surveillance and countersurveillance, deployed intelligence collection, and rapid safeguarding of employees or other key assets."

As the United States finds itself in the midst of the most radical privatization agenda in its history, few areas have seen as dramatic a transformation to privatized services as the world of intelligence. "This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and functions that were normally done by the intelligence community," says former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin Goodman. "My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of control. It's outrageous."

Last year R.J. Hillhouse, a blogger who investigates the clandestine world of private contractors and US intelligence, obtained documents from the office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.5 billion in 2000. That means 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is going to private companies. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the head of DNI is Mike McConnell, the former chair of the board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the private intelligence industry's trade association.

Total Intelligence, which opened for business in February 2007, is a fusion of three entities bought up by Prince: the Terrorism Research Center, Technical Defense and The Black Group -- Blackwater vice chair Cofer Black's consulting agency. The company's leadership reads like a Who's Who of the CIA's "war on terror" operations after 9/11. In addition to the twenty-eight-year CIA veteran Black, who is chair of Total Intelligence, the company's executives include CEO Robert Richer, the former associate deputy director of the agency's Directorate of Operations and the second-ranking official in charge of clandestine operations. From 1999 to 2004, Richer was head of the CIA's Near East and South Asia Division, where he ran clandestine operations throughout the Middle East and South Asia. As part of his duties, he was the CIA liaison with Jordan's King Abdullah, a key US ally and Blackwater client, and briefed George W. Bush on the burgeoning Iraqi resistance in its early stages.

Total Intelligence's chief operating officer is Enrique "Ric" Prado, a twenty-four-year CIA veteran and former senior executive officer in the Directorate of Operations. He spent more than a decade working in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center and ten years with the CIA's "paramilitary" Special Operations Group. Prado and Black worked closely at the CIA. Prado also served in Latin America with Jose Rodriguez, who gained infamy late last year after it was revealed that as director of the National Clandestine Service at the CIA he was allegedly responsible for destroying videotapes of interrogations of prisoners, during which "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, were reportedly used. Richer told the New York Times he recalled many conversations with Rodriguez, about the tapes. "He would always say, 'I'm not going to let my people get nailed for something they were ordered to do,'" Richer said of his former boss. Before the scandal, there were reports that Blackwater had been "aggressively recruiting" Rodriguez. He has since retired from the CIA.
Found over at Coffee House Studio. Call it "your tax dollars at work." Blackwater already has an ugly reputation due to the behavior of its hired goons in Iraq. One can imagine what it will be like as a CIA/KGB for hire.

West Bank attack filmed

Here's the link for the YouTube version. The caption:
The BBC has obtained footage of Palestinians being attacked in the West Bank by men wielding bats.
The scene is reminiscent of the sort of thing one would expect of the KKK, Minutemen and other white supremacist groups in the US. The efforts by Israel to displace Palestinian Christians and Muslims have gone on for far too long. My hope is that more and more videotapes filter their way into the collective conscious of civil society.

No dummkopf! We "sieg heil" with the right arm!

Found the pic at Lenin's Tomb.

Another sign of the times

Fury at Soaring Fuel Costs Spreads Around the World: Gridlocked cities, empty shelves and bloodshed as fury at soaring costs spreads around the world.

Just imagine what will be happening if oil starts hovering around $200 per barrel.

In his own words: Adel Hamad

From an article entitled Former Gitmo Prisoners: "You Should Struggle Against Any Government That Abuses Human Rights" (h/t After Downing Street):
Hamad's experience

Hamad said he was arrested by Pakistani forces and by a man he believes was an American.

The men said he would come with them for an hour or two, the Pakistani officers looked at his visa, asked the American if they should arrest him, and he said "yes."

"They told me not to move, put their weapons in my face and cuffed me," Hamad said.

They put a black hood over his head and took him to a jail, putting him in solitary confinement.

"I cannot even describe it. Very dirty. Hot -- it was summertime. The food was really bad," Hamad said.

They took his photo and fingerprints and the American interrogated him with a translator. Hamad said he was jailed there for six months and lost about 65 pounds.

Hamad said he was eventually taken with others to a prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. He said their hands and feet were tied and their hands covered with heavy gloves. They were tied to the airplane floor, he said.

When they arrived at the prison, "they hit us and kicked us and took off all our clothes and left us naked and then they gave us red clothing. They tied our eyes and deprived us of sleep for three days. We were standing up for three days," he said.

Hamad said he passed out, was taken to the hospital, and then to a room where he and other prisoners slept on the floor.

"I would hear the cries and screaming of other prisoners and we were like this for two months. Then they took us to Guantánamo," Hamad said.

He said their heads and beards were shaved along with some men's eyebrows. They were given new prison clothing and numbers. Hamad became No. 940.

Hamad said they were deprived of sleep and at dawn, their arms and legs were tied and they were made to wear heavy earphones, black goggles and heavy gloves. They were left sitting on the cold ground until night and given only a dry piece of bread and some water, he said.

Then the prisoners were tied together. Anyone who moved was kicked, he said. Hamad said they were taken on a plane trip that lasted many hours and he was given a pill that made him fall in and out of sleep.

Once they arrived at Guantánamo, Hamad said he was interrogated for three to four hours and then left in a very cold iron cage -- where he could not see or hear anything -- for about two weeks. Later, soldiers interrogated him about the organization for which he worked.

Hamad said he and fellow prisoners kept their spirits up by reading the Koran, supporting each other and organizing entertainment gatherings. Letters from family and unknown Americans also helped.

"Some would send me letters and this would make me patient," Hamad said.

Finally a guard came and told Hamad that we would be leaving soon. After a final interrogation and medical exam, he was sent back to Khartoum, Sudan.

"I was extremely happy," Hamad said. "At the same time, I was sad because I left many brothers behind who were like me. Now I spend my time on the issue of Guantánamo and working towards (helping) the ones left and their families."

Hamad said he was saddened that the United States "would raise beautiful slogans of democracy, equality, justice and freedom, but unfortunately those values no longer exist."

Hamad said some guards were humane, but most treated the prisoners badly. Yet, he said, "they are soldiers and they were just obeying what they were told."

He said, "You should struggle against any government that abuses human rights and we are with you hand in hand in this struggle.

We want a government in the United States that will be an example for the world. We want you to be happy. We want everyone to be happy and peaceful," Hamad said.
This post is part of an on-going series, The Human Face of Torture. Please also note that June is Torture Awareness Month. Also check out the website Project Hamad.

Make sure to check out "The Guantánamo Testimonials Project"

The Guantánamo Testimonials Project is housed by the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas. It's an invaluable online resource.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In his own words: Antonio Hernández Cruz

Here's a 1994 interview of Antonio Hernández Cruz, then-secretary general of the State Indigenous and Campesino Council of Chiapas, from the book, First World, Ha Ha Ha! The Zapatista Challenge (pp. 120-121):

Please note that the interviewer's questions will be in italics:
Can you tell me what happened to you when you were detained by the military; what did they accuse you of?

We were detained on January 5 until 2:00 P.M. the following day ... They accused us of being the Zapatistas' political leaders ... They took us from the car we were riding in, put hoods over our heads and tied them very tightly around our necks. We were like this for twenty-four hours. Then they interrogated us heavily, trying to force us to say that we sympathized or were active in the Zapatista Army. When we said no, they hit us. I received blows in the stomach, chest, back, and head, about twenty hard blows.

Did you denounce this occurrence?

To the national and international press, to the television, but television doesn't report anything. The press didn't report everything that occurred. I have publicly denounced the detention in meetings but the only thing which remains is the message, no actions have been taken. After being freed, I vomited blood for two days, because the beatings were severe. The hoods they put on us had ground chili pepper and our eyes were stinging. The powder would fall in our eyes with the slightest movements, and also we were tied up.

Do you think torture has become common?

What was done to us was humanitarian compared to what they did to other compañeros. People are tortured simply because they do not speak Spanish very well, and do not understand orders they are given. From the maximum security cell where they held us, you could hear the beatings and continuous screams.
This post is part of an on-going series, The Human Face of Torture. Please also note that June is Torture Awareness Month.

I'll take good news where I can find it (Part 2)

I still don't expect too much to come of the latest effort by Kucinich to get Bush impeached. This is a start though:
June 11, 2008, 3:15 p.m. ET: Congress has just voted overwhelmingly (251-166) to send the articles of impeachment (H Res 1258) to the House Judiciary Committee to be acted upon there. 24 Republicans voted Yes along with all the Democrats. Kucinich released this statement.
Also:
June 11, 2008, evening: Dennis says he's giving the Judiciary Committee 30 days to act before he comes back with more articles of impeachment. Put July 9, 2008, on your calendar! Dennis did 13 media interviews so far today - it's moving, but needs to move farther. Call the media!! And REMEMBER: you can't say "we have no time" AND "if he attacks Iran then we'll impeach him" WITHOUT your head exploding.
There's always time, assuming, of course that Congress is actually motivated to make the time. Ay, there's the rub.

If you were curious as to the 35 articles of impeachment, here they are:

Article I
Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq

Article II
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of
Aggression

Article III
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War

Article IV
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States

Article V
Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression

Article VI
Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114

Article VII
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.

Article VIII
Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter

Article IX
Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor

Article X
Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes

Article XI
Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq

Article XII
Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation's Natural Resources

Article XIIII
Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries

Article XIV
Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency

Article XV
Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq

Article XVI
Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors

Article XVII
Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives

Article XVIII
Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy

Article XIX
Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to "Black Sites" Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture

Article XX
Imprisoning Children

Article XXI
Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government

Article XXII
Creating Secret Laws

Article XXIII
Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act

Article XXIV
Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment

Article XXV
Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens

Article XXVI
Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements

Article XXVII
Failing to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas and Instructing Former Employees Not to Comply

Article XXVIII
Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice

Article XXIX
Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Article XXX
Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare

Article XXXI
Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency

Article XXXII
Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change

Article XXXIII
Repeatedly Ignored and Failed to Respond to High Level Intelligence Warnings of Planned Terrorist Attacks in the US, Prior to 911.

Article XXXIV
Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001

Article XXXV
Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders

There's plenty of meat there. Hell, if impeachment proceedings can be held for a president who lied about being sucked off by an intern, then surely the charges here would suffice for impeachment proceedings. I don't hold high hopes that the Congressional "leadership" will do the right thing, but I will say this: a Congress that fails to impeach Bush/Cheney deserves for its members to be impeached. They certainly don't deserve the trust of the voters.

I'll take good news where I can find it

In Boumediene v. Bush, the White House loses - at least for now. A couple clips:
In a harsh rebuke of the Bush administration, the justices rejected the administration’s argument that the individual protections provided by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 were more than adequate.

“The costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody,” Justice Kennedy wrote, assuming the pivotal role that some court-watchers had foreseen.

The issues that were weighed in Thursday’s ruling went to the very heart of the separation-of-powers foundation of the United States Constitution. “To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this court, say ‘what the law is,’ ” Justice Kennedy wrote, citing language in the 1803 ruling in Marbury v. Madison, in which the Supreme Court articulated its power to review acts of Congress.

Joining Justice Kennedy’s opinion were Justices John Paul Stevens, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter. Writing separately, Justice Souter said the dissenters did not sufficiently appreciate “the length of the disputed imprisonments, some of the prisoners represented here today having been locked up for six years.”

The dissenters were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, generally considered the conservative wing on the high court.
To give you some idea of the mindset of the court's more fascist elements:

Reflecting how the case divided the court not only on legal but, perhaps, emotional lines, Justice Scalia said that the United States was “at war with radical Islamists,” and that the ruling “will almost certainly cause more Americans to get killed.”

“The nation will live to regret what the court has done today,” Justice Scalia said.
Shorter Scalia: "The sky is falling."
And Chief Justice Roberts said the majority had struck down “the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants,” and in doing so had left itself open to accusations of “judicial activism.”
It seems the height of arrogance to refer to the treatment of those locked up in US gulags as "generous."

Fighting smears: A damn good idea

I remember when the rumor mill was going full tilt about the Clintons in 1992, and thinking that as unsavory as I found them (even before I had a grasp as to what neoliberalism was, I could tell there was something wrong about the policies that the "New Democrats" and the DLC were pushing), the smears against them were worse than worthless. Fast forward 16 years and I can say practically the same thing with regard to the Obamas and the smear campaign that has been going on in earnest. I'm hoping that the tide is turning with regard to the legitimacy of the smear campaign, given that even folks who would ordinarily be hostile to Obama's candidacy are debunking the outright lies that have been spread by the pinche puercos at No Quarter and elsewhere. The latest has to do with the Barack Obama's birth certificate.

There's probably no ideal way to deal with smears. From my standpoint, smear campaigns are a form of bullying, and over the years I've become convinced that the best bet is to simply fight the bullies - in this case by debunking the lies as proactively as possible. Obama probably should have done this a bit sooner, but so it goes. It won't stop the smear-mongers entirely, of course, as the folks who are prone to smear others seem to enjoy wallowing in their own filth. What can be accomplished is to eliminate the credibility of those attempting to spread vicious lies, leaving them isolated in their own ever-shrinking echo chambers. As a public services, I'd also suggest consulting Snopes.com's urban legend dossiers for Barack Obama and John McCain before writing or saying anything stupid. There is plenty of ammunition out there for those wishing to challenge both of those candidates based upon the positions they've taken, their voting records, and so on without resorting to smears.

Why am I not surprised?

Oklahoma 43rd in national child health report

Associated Press - June 12, 2008 1:55 AM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A national report that examines the well-being of children has ranked Oklahoma 43rd for key child-health factors.

The 2008 Kids Count Data Book released today measures states in 10 categories. It is produced annually by the Maryland-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Oklahoma's ranking in the report has dropped from 38th in 2003. The state ranked 42nd last year.

According to the report, the percentage of Oklahoma children in poverty increased by 26% in 2006. Poverty is defined in the report as an annual income of $20,444 for a family that includes two adults and two children.

The state's rankings also dropped in categories including the percentage of children in single-parent families, teen and child death rates, percentage of low birth weight babies and percentage of children living in families with no parent having a full-time, year-round job.
It's not all bad news though:
Oklahoma's rankings improved in teen birth rate, infant mortality rate, the percentage of teens not going to school or working and the teen dropout rate.
Given the current economy, I'm expecting the percentage of kids in poverty in our state to continue increasing.

Cactus Blogging: The Final Installment


The top photo was taken by my son Tuesday while I was out of town. Although he also found the new camera initially vexing, he seemed to get the hang of it. The bottom photo was one of several that I took early this afternoon, and represents the last of the buds to bloom. As you can tell from this particular shot, it was very windy today, with sustained SW winds of around 30-40 mph around the region fairly common. Needless to say, we really warmed up - 107 degrees Fahrenheit was the high for Guymon, just to our northeast. Both the wind and the temp were pretty unusual for this time of year.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another grim anniversary

June 10 marked the 2nd anniversary of the first suicides at the Guantánamo Bay gulag - which the US officials dissed as an "act of war." What I said in passing two years ago:
I don't even want to know what kind of mental gymnastics are required to draw such a conclusion.
Andy Worthington's Book, The Guantánamo Files, is on my list of must-reads.

the beginning of the end

of outer suburbia.

Update: See also the piece over at American Leftist.

How governments prevent revolution

Dave Pollard shows the ten steps bad governments use to prevent mass uprisings. Knowledge is power, folks.

Zapatistas Update

There are good reasons why I think the "war on drugs" is about repressing dissidents and maintaining the power of corporate elites. The Zapatista autonomous communities are probably about as straight-edge as one could get, and yet they get hassled on the pretext of growing marijuana:
A group of 200 Mexican soldiers and federal and municipal police tried to enter a Zapatista community last Wednesday, June 4, under the pretext of searching for marijuana plants.

According to a recent communique from the Good Government Council, which you can find below, when the military convoy arrived the community told them to “Go back to where you came from, you aren’t needed here. We want freedom, justice, and democracy – not soldiers.”

The soldiers replied by accusing them of growing marijuana, saying “we’re going on ahead come hell or high water.” (It was a false accusation though, since all Zapatiata maintain a “dry law,” prohibiting drugs and alcohol within their territories.)

At that point, the Zapatista took hold of “machetes, shovels, rocks, slingshots, ropes and whatever else was at hand,” and successfully drove them back.

While they were leaving, the military convoy said, “Well, this time we’re not going any further, but we’ll be back in two weeks and we’re going in there come hell or high water.” Then they trampled the cornfield, the community’s only food source.

For over a year now the Mexican State has been running a desperate campaign against the Zapatista. Starting around the Intercontinental Encuentro, which took place in Yaqui territory last September, the campaign has been getting more and more intense.

Today the Zapatista are faced with almost daily aggressions, as John Gibler points out:

On May 19, federal agents and soldiers, arriving in helicopters and military convoy, entered the community of San Jerónimo Tuliljá, in the Caracol of La Garrucha, breaking into houses and pushing people around without explanation.

On May 22, a large group of armed men from the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) invaded the Zapatista Caracol of Morelia, cutting off the community’s electricity and attacking people in their homes throughout the night. The gunmen wounded over 20 Zapatistas, six of whom were taken to the hospital in serious condition.

But the aggressions are almost daily: kidnapping Zapatista supporters and taking them to local jails on invented charges, contaminating local wells, invading lands, cutting corn plants, leaving death threats for the community.

“It is as if we are seeing the preparations for what will be another Acteal,” said Subcomandante Marcos in a recent interview published in book form in Mexico, referring to the December 22, 1997 paramilitary massacre of 45 indigenous men, women, and children gathered in a church in the community of Acteal.

“But now they are not looking for a conflict between aggressors and defenseless people, but really a confrontation,” he said.

Zapatista autonomy is not only a threat to the perceived legitimacy of the state, but it is the structure of resistance that maintains and protects Zapatista territories, land recuperated through the 1994 uprising and cared for and cultivated since.
H/t Inteligentaindigena Indigenismo Novajoservo

Oh yes, let's race to the bottom!

As I was trolling the No Quarter blog, where so many of its proponents are just doe-eyed in their support of Hillary "Back to the Future" Clinton and John "100 Years of War" McCain, and most of the remaining troublemakers are doe-eyed in the support of Barack "Let There Be Hope" Obama, I managed to reprise a quote of Hillary's in which she made it clear that she'd vaporize Iran in a second if Iran so much as sneezed in the direction of the sacred state of Israel. Trolling of course would be entirely unsuccessful if it did not evoke a reaction, and I hit paydirt. Sure enough, some individual started using such fancy terms as "deterrence" and as part of her incantation unleashed the image of the mythical Cold War. That showed me, she though, except for one thing: I never bought the Cold War hype.

To be able to buy into the hype, one has to be able to believe that the "enemy," capital of the International Communist Conspiracy, the USSR, was an "Evil Empire" (as Saint Ronald Raygun once characterized it) hell-bent on destroying all that was true and beautiful about the American Way of Life™. What if instead, something else was going on? What if instead there was no evil intent (at least in the way we usually think of it) on the part of the Kremlin's leaders toward the US; there was instead a lack of trust? What if we said the same with regard to US leaders' intentions toward the USSR? A lack of trust of the USSR led to the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which in turn led to the Kremlin developing its own nuke, which in turn led to a gargantuan arms race between the two empires (or superpowers if one feels the need to be more pc about things). Once one party began to crow about its advantage, the other party, feeling threatened, had to do something to erase the advantage, causing the first party to escalate its expenditures in order momentarily regain its perceived advantage. As in any positive feedback loop, any action by one component stimulates action by the other component. With both empires expending larger and larger proportions of their treasure on building more and more weapons, playing a game of "chicken" that won't end until someone finally pulls away from the precipice, one must ask, cui bono? The average Russians certainly didn't benefit; instead they were beset by shortages, poor infrastructure, etc. Nor did average Americans fare so well. The vast natural resource advantages and industrial advantages were essentially wasted on large stockpiles of highly destructive weapons that no-one wanted and that would in all likelihood would never be used (we hoped). By the time the Cold War was ended (basically when Gorbachev said "enough is enough"), the Soviet Union was bankrupt and about to collapse in on itself. The US was rapidly transitioning from a creditor nation to a debtor nation, after having already transitioned from being a producer nation to a consumer nation. Rather, the beneficiaries were a handful of war profiteers (the term "Military Industrial Complex" should give you a hint as to who the "winners" were) and powermongers. The rest of us have nothing useful to show for it. The "deterrent" was a complete waste.

With the Cold War now history, the replacement war has the same basic mindset - The War On Terra™ operates on a deterrence model. Presumably, the vast military might still possessed by the US serves as a deterrent to potential "terrorists" (i.e., any nation or stateless organization that opposes US hegemony). If need be, as it goes, the US merely need threaten to unleash Armageddon on the enemy du joir, and the "enemy" will cave to US demands. What happens instead, is rather than simply trusting the US to not do anything bad, the "enemy" will do what it can to defend itself. That effort of self-defense becomes perceived as a threat to US leaders, who then escalate the situation by making more threats - either directly, or through proxy client states such as Israel, leading to even more self-defense which gets spun as "evil" and so on. Again, a classic race to the bottom ensues until one of these parties finally opts out (usually due to bankruptcy). Certainly the CEOs of "defense" corporations (Halliburton, Blackwater, etc.) and oil corporations are making out like bandits. Wannabe powermongers seek high offices by promising to "protect" us from the "evil terrorists" by further escalating the rhetoric of The War On Terra™, as well as materially escalating things via more and more military expenditures. The rest of us increasingly suffer, as our ability to afford basics for survival is compromised by inflation and shortages, our infrastructures deteriorate, our education and social services are increasingly underfunded or cut out altogether.

I wish I could believe that it would be a simple matter of some enlightened leader opting out of war of words and deeds, but alas that is unlikely. Rather it will take the equivalent of bankruptcy to end it. If we're "lucky" we'll find a Gorbachev-like figure who will see the writing on the wall and belatedly prepare for the collapse. I wouldn't count on luck - although if you wish to improve the odds, vocally challenge the prevailing rhetoric and ask the simple question: what if "they" (e.g., Iranians, etc.) don't trust the US government rather than being inherently "evil"? What if the government stopped doing things that fostered distrust? And if you don't feel like asking those questions now, I'd ask if not now, when?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Speaking of fuego

Nothing gets that fire burning than reading or hearing about young life snuffed out by wretched work conditions. WOC has the lowdown. Go. Check it out. You'll find that the young woman in question, Maria Isabel Vazquez, sacrificed her life so that you could enjoy cheap wine at Trader Joe's. That does remind me: I know a lot of well-meaning folks frequent places like Trader Joe's because of its reputation for selling natural foods and whatnot. It's foolish to assume that all products sold there (or via similar outlets) is kosher. In this case, steer clear of "Two Buck Chuck" - I'm no wine person (I'll stick to Guinness, thank you), but just the name alone would be a turn-off.

Also, before I forget my manners: good to see you back to blogging, WOC!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Late Monday Night Cactus Blogging

I'll share several tonight. Sunday's flower was still looking good, and there was a brand new blossom. I'm pretty satisfied with the camera settings now. This afternoon I decided to play around with some different angles. Without further ado, the first photo tonight is of the flower that bloomed yesterday. It's faded a bit, but that seems to be typical with plains pricklypear flowers if they last more than one day.

Our second photo captures the brand new flower that just bloomed this morning.

From the same basic angle, here again is the older of the flowers.

From another angle, here's the new blossom.

Finally, from the same basic angle, here's the older blossom.

That's it for Monday's installment. I'll be out of town most of the day Tuesday, so if I get some time in the morning to take a few more photos, I'll post what I can later. That presupposes, of course, that either flower has survived to that point, and/or that one of the remaining buds produces a flower at that time. There was a hint of resignation in Madame's voice this afternoon as I went out to take the requisite photos. Of course she issued the usual protest, but alas, she knew I would continue on my quest undaunted. There was the usual discussion of the aesthetics of flower photography, along with the debate over what constituted a photo-worthy flower. Although I found her case for roses to be quite convincing, I was ultimately unpersuaded - in large part because as of the moment we have no rose bushes. I also made sure to retort with a few words about how cacti have thorns, much as rose bushes, and we also had a rather tedious (for the kids) discussion of the finer points of flower colors. All of this concluded with Madame's insistence that the flowers I was recording for posterity simply were just not the same as roses. True enough, but...beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and one can counter by noting that my subjects of choice were merely different but not inherently inferior (or superior) to Madame's preferred subject. She was not to be persuaded. An impasse was reached, and the photos were subsequently uploaded to the family computer hard drive.

I realize there will be some sort of Karmic payback before too long - especially if her screen saver becomes flooded with cacti, which admittedly will be all my fault - and for which I take full responsibility. I'm guessing the long drive to California next month will be made longer by a double dose of country music along the way, or some equally egregious torture. That is a story for another time.

Kucinich found his cojones

I don't expect anything to come of it, but if nothing else, a record has been kept. Something on the order of 35 articles of impeachment. And Kucinich is on the money when he says that "the House is not in order."

The View of Earth from Mars

Found over at Boing Boing (h/t Madman in the Marketplace). The lower left-hand object is obviously our home planet, and the upper right-hand image is of the Moon. It sure puts things in perspective a bit. Apparently, I was quite fascinated with the Apollo missions during the late 1960s & very early 1970s, and somehow manage to still have in memory images of astronauts walking on the moon, the Earth's distant image reflecting from their helmets.

As usual, the poor get the worst of it

When it comes to rising gas prices, rural areas in the US seem to have been hit the hardest. Looks like the US southeast, the western plains states, and New Mexico seem to be getting the worst of it. Combine low median incomes with long driving distances and of course you're going to end up with plenty of folks who are spending around 10% of their income just filling up their gas tanks.

Looking at the interactive maps accompanying the article, it appears that the southeast and southwest corners of Oklahoma have been hit the hardest. In the panhandles and northwest Oklahoma, gas prices are eating up between seven and ten percent of residents' income. Since I happen to be at around the median income for my area, I can say that the graphic seemed pretty accurate - I'm spending about seven or eight percent of my income on gasoline.

One consequence of these rising prices for the US southeast? According the the NYT article:
...Sociologists and economists who study rural poverty say the gasoline crisis in the rural South, if it persists, could accelerate population loss and decrease the tax base in some areas as more people move closer to urban manufacturing jobs.
Jim Kunstler notices a little problem with that analysis:
Is it possible, nobody informed the reporters (and editors!) that A.) America has already hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs; and B.) That much of the little manufacturing that remains is not located in any cities per se?
Much more likely is that we end up with more displaced people left to drift in and out of homeless shelters, etc. The neoliberal birds are coming home to roost.

Consider us some of the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to economic hard times.

Stuff you should read

Annie at Home of the Brave has done quite the public service by compiling links to numerous stories on the Iraq War Propaganda scandal.

Arthur Silber is back at long last, with plenty of fuego. Let's just say his latest essay serves as a useful anecdote to the whole "change we can believe in" nonsense.

Similarly, Chris Floyd asks some hard questions about what Obama would actually do if elected.

Moday Morning Cactus Blogging


Early Sunday afternoon, I snapped these two shots. The top photo is of the newest flower to blossom. The bottom photo is of the flower that bloomed on Saturday. As I said, those flowers don't last long, so they are appreciated while they last. There are several more poised to blossom fairly soon. I'm sure I'll hear from Madame if these start to show up on the computer's screen saver. Perhaps she'll take cold comfort in knowing that I have become more comfortable with the new camera. If I could afford the film, I'd still say that nothing beats a good 35mm camera, though.

Adrienne Rich sez

When we do and think and feel certain things privately and in secret, even when thousands of people are doing, thinking, whispering these things privately and in secret, there is still no general, collective understanding from which to move. Each takes her or his own risks in isolation. We may think of ourselves as individual rebels, and individual rebels can easily be shot down. The relationship among so many feelings remains unclear. But these thoughts and feelings, suppressed and stored-up and whispered, have an incendiary component. You cannot tell how they will connect, spreading underground from rootlet to rootlet till every grass blade is afire from every other. This is that "spontaneity" that party "leaders," secret governments, and closed systems dread.
From First World, Ha Ha Ha! The Zapatista Challenge, edited by Elaine Katzenberger.