Friday, June 24, 2005

A Quick Review of the Durbin Flap...

Just so we're clear:

Torture as official policy: A source of national pride; no apology necessary.

Condemning torture: A "heinous slander" against America; you must apologize or resign.

The apologists for torture need never apologize. But those who reject it -- reject it on the basis that it is fundamentally un-American -- are condemned.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"Nuff Said..."


"Cuz if we in Congress see a hole, we fill it with a problem, then fix it with an amendment. It's just what we do. Posted by Hello

WHAT ABE FOXMAN DOESN'T SAY ABOUT FASCISM

[From a piece that ran during the last Giuliani mayoral campaign]

SAM SMITH - Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has accused artist Hans Haacke of "trivializing the Holocaust" by creating analogies between Mayor Giuliani and Adolph Hitler. Said Foxman, the work "denigrates the memory of six million Jews and others who were killed by the Nazis."

Foxman's contribution to the Giuliani campaign illustrates the growing confusion over the nature of fascism, spurred in no small part by a form of historical revisionism that essentially reduces the Second World War to a matter of anti-Semitism. In some ways this revisionism is more dangerous than the claim that the Holocaust never happened, since the denials are safely on the fringe while the myth that fascism is
inexorably linked to anti-Semitism is widely held.

One of the reasons we have such difficulty perceiving our current conditions is our aversion to this single word: fascism. While there is no hesitation by politicians to draw parallels with the Holocaust to justify whatever foreign adventure appeals to them, or for the media to make similar analogies at the drop of swastika on a wall, we seem only able to understand -- or even mention -- the climax of fascism rather
than its genesis. Why this reluctance? Perhaps it is because we are much closer to the latter than to the former.

In any case, it is one of the most dangerous forms of political myopia in which to indulge. Italians, who invented the term fascism, also called it the estato corporativo: the corporatist state. Orwell rightly described fascism as being an extension of capitalism. It is an economy in which the government serves the interests of oligopolies, a state in which large corporations have the powers that in a democracy devolve to the citizen. Today, it is no exaggeration to call our economy
corporatist, which has been described by British academics R.E. Pahl and J. T. Winkler as a system in which the government guides privately owned businesses towards order, unity, nationalism and success."

"Let us not mince words, they said. "Corporatism is fascism with a human face." The Nazis had their own word for it: wehrwirtschaft, semantically linking wehr (for defense, bulwark, weapon) with wirtshaft (for housekeeping, domestic economy, husbandry) to describe an economy based on the assumption of warfare. The concept was not new, however. William Shirer points out in The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich that 18th and 19th century Prussia devoted 70% of its revenue to the army and
"that nation's whole economy was always regarded as primarily an instrument not of the people's welfare but of military policy." In Hitler's Germany even the pogroms were part of national economic planning, seizing Jewish shops and companies and replacing Jewish workers with the Ayrian unemployed.

Hitler argued that "private enterprise cannot be maintained in a democracy," and denounced "the freedom to starve," in a country which had known as many as six million without jobs. Wrote William Shirer, "In taking away that last freedom, Hitler assured himself of the support of the working class."

The link between business and fascism was clear to German corporatists. Auschwitz was not just a way to get rid of Jews, it was also a major source of cheap labor. As Richard Rubenstein points out in The Cunning of History, "I.G. Farben's decision to locate at Auschwitz was based upon the very same criteria by which contemporary multinational corporations relocate their plants in utter indifference to the social
consequences of such moves." I.G. Farben invested over a billion dollars in today's money at Auschwitz and, thanks to the endless supply of labor, adopted a policy of deliberately working the Jewish slaves to death. In such ways do economics and freedom become intertwined.

Those who think it can't happen here should consider that four days before Mussolini became premier, he met with a group of industrialists and assured them that his aim "was to reestablish discipline within the factories and that no outlandish experiments .... would be carried out." In Friendly Fascism, Bertram Gross notes that Mussolini also won "the friendship, support or qualified approval" of the American ambassador, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Thomas Lamont, many newspapers and magazine
publishers, the majority of business journals, and quite a sprinkling of liberals, including some associated with both the Nation and The New Republic. "

Orwell understood fascism. One of the characteristics of his inner party, the ten percent who controlled the rest, was that there was no sexual or racial discrimination. He understood that ethnic eradication, while characteristic of Nazism, was not required for fascism. Even earlier, Aldous Huxley set up a similar non-discriminatory dystopia in Brave New World.

In fact, one of the characteristics of the modern propaganda state is the use of ethnic and sexual iconography to cover its tracks. Thus Richard Nixon was slurring Jews in Oval Office conversations even as he set a new record in their high-level appointments. And W.J. Clinton was called our first black president by Toni Morrison even as the government was sending young black males to prison in unprecedented numbers.

There is something else about fascism that we miss: it requires a modern, technocratic society. John Ralston Saul has written:

::: The Holocaust was the result of a perfectly rational argument -- given what reason had become -- that was self-justifying and hermetically sealed. There is, therefore, nothing surprising about the fact that the meeting called to decide on "the final solution" was a gathering mainly of senior ministerial representatives. Technocrats. Nor is it surprising that [the] Wansee Conference lasted only an hour -- one meeting among many for those present -- and turned entirely on the modalities for administering the solutions .... The massacre was indeed 'managed,' even 'well managed.' It had the clean efficiency of a Harvard case study :::


Marshall Rosenberg, who teaches non-violent communication, says that in reading psychological interviews with Nazi war criminals what struck him was not their abnormality, but that they used a language that denied choice: "should," "one must," "have to." For example, Adolph Eichmann was asked, "Was it difficult for you to send these tens of thousands of people their death?" Eichmann replied, "To tell you the truth, it was easy. Our language made it easy."

Asked to explain, Eichmann said, "My fellow officers and I coined our own name for our language. We called it amtssprache -- 'office talk.'" In office talk "you deny responsibility for your actions. So if anybody says, 'Why did you do it?' you say, 'I had to.' 'Why did you have to?' 'Superiors' orders. Company policy. It's the law.'"

Yet for all the words we have devoted to the Holocaust, go into almost any bookstore and you'll find far more works on how to manage, manipulate and control others - and how to use "office talk" -- than you will on how to practice the skills of a free citizen.

The most important lessons of the Holocaust are simply missed. Among these, as Richard Rubenstein has pointed out, is that it could only have been carried out by "an advanced political community with a highly trained, tightly disciplined police and civil service bureaucracy." In The Cunning of History, Rubenstein also finds uncomfortable parallels between the Nazis and their opponents, of which we are being now reminded with recent questions about the role of the Vatican and the Swiss during WWII. For example, a Hungarian Jewish emissary meets with Lord Moyne, the British High Commissioner in Egypt in 1944 and suggests that the Nazis might be willing to save one million Hungarian Jews in return for military supplies. Lord Moyne's reply: "What shall I do with those million Jews? Where shall I put them?"

Writes Rubenstein: "The British government was by no means adverse to the 'final solution' as long as the Germans did most of the work." For both countries, it had become a bureaucratic problem, one that Rubenstein suggests we understand "as the expression of some of the most profound tendencies of Western civilization in the 20th century."How many school children are taught that, worldwide, wars in the past
century killed somewhere between 100 and 150 million people? In World War I alone the death toll was around ten million. All this, including the Holocaust, was driven by a culture of modernity that so changed the power of institutions over the individual that the latter would become what Erich Fromm called homo mechanicus, "attracted to all that is mechanical and inclined against all that is alive." Becoming, in fact, a
part of the machinery -- willing to kill or to die just to keep it running.

Thus, with Auschwitz-like efficiency, over 6,000 people perished every day during World War I for 1,500 days. Rubenstein recounts that on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the British lost 60,000 men and half of the officers assigned to them. But the bureaucratic internal logic of the war did not falter at all; over the next six months, more than a million British, French and German soldiers would lose their
lives. The total British advance: six miles. No one in that war was a person anymore.

Milton Mayer, a Jewish journalist, who wrote a book about ordinary
Nazis, They Thought They Were Free, concluded:

::: Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany ~ It was what most Germans wanted -- or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it. I came back home a little afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under pressure of combined reality and illusions. I felt -- and feel -- that it was not German Man that I had
met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here, under certain conditions. He might, under certain conditions, be I. :::

OPEN LETTER TO KANSAS SCHOOL BOARD

I am writing you with much concern after I read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design to be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design..

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I'm writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I'm sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don't understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease. . .

We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Sincerely Yours,

Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen.

http://www.venganza.org/

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer

Cities may bulldoze people's homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development, a divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday, giving local governments broad power to seize private property to generate tax revenue.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the decision bowed to the rich and powerful at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The 5-4 decision means that homeowners will have more limited rights. Still, legal experts said they didn't expect a rush to claim homes.

"The message of the case to cities is yes, you can use eminent domain, but you better be careful and conduct hearings," said Thomas Merrill, a Columbia law professor specializing in property rights.

The closely watched case involving New London, Conn., homeowners was one of six decisions issued Thursday as the court neared the end of its term. The justices are scheduled to release their final six rulings, including one on the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on public property, on Monday.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said New London could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use, since the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government," Stevens wrote, adding that local officials are better positioned than federal judges to decide what's best for a community.

He was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing — David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, as well as Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy, in noting that states are free to pass additional protections if they see fit.

The four-member liberal bloc typically has favored greater deference to cities, which historically have used the takings power for urban renewal projects.

At least eight states — Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington — forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development unless it is to eliminate blight. Other states either expressly allow a taking for private economic purposes or have not spoken clearly to the question.

In dissent, O'Connor criticized the majority for abandoning the conservative principle of individual property rights and handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled.

"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," O'Connor wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

Connecticut resident Susette Kelo and others in the lawsuit pledged to continue their fight. Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned in recent years, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would keep fighting the bulldozers in his working-class neighborhood. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

But Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett, who as a city council member approved the development, said, "I am charged with doing what's best for the 26,000 people that live in New London. That to me was enacting the eminent domain process designed to revitalize a city ... with nowhere to go."

New London once was a center for the whaling industry and later became a manufacturing hub. More recently the city has suffered the kind of economic woes afflicting urban areas across the country, with losses of residents and jobs.

City officials envision a commercial development including a riverfront hotel, health club and offices that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum.

New London was backed in its appeal by the National League of Cities, which argued that a city's eminent domain power was critical to spurring urban renewal with development projects such Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Kansas City's Kansas Speedway.

Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment. However, Kelo and the other homeowners had refused to move at any price, calling it an unjustified taking of their property.

The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.
___

Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo in New London, Conn. and Susan Haigh in Hartford, Conn. contributed to this report.
___

On the Net:

The ruling in Kelo v. New London is available at:
http://wid.ap.org/documents/scotus/050623kelo.pdf

The World Can't Wait

Thoughts on Driving Out the Bush Regime
by Sunsara Taylor

Revolution #007, June 26, 2005, posted at revcom.us

Every day I think of Dilawar. I picture his 22-year-old body chained to the ceiling of a U.S. military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan as the seconds stretched on into days until finally he couldn't wait any longer. Neither can we.

As men are blindfolded and dragged from their homes in Iraq, as Arabs and Muslims are rounded up and detained in the U.S. without charges, and as youth from South Central to the South Bronx are imprisoned in record numbers, brutalized by police, and targetted for correction by Laura Bush: the world can't wait.

As villages are emptied of people by AIDS in Africa and China, as families in the ghettos and farmlands of the U.S. lose children in a war based on lies, and as immigrants are hunted by racist vigilantes on the Mexican border: the world can't wait.

As religious fundamentalism threatens to enslave women, treating them like incubators and denying them the right to make the most intimate and profound decisions about whether or not to have a child, as gay couples are denied marriage and their children are harassed, as the rule of law is replaced by religious dogma and the rule of the Bush regime, and as science itself is suppressed at great risk to the planet: the world can't wait.

The world can't wait. The people need to drive out the Bush Regime

Now I know a lot of readers are thinking 'if only we could.' and I can just see some people shaking their heads and saying 'that communist girl has really gone over the edge this time.' But being a reality-based girl— who is coming from a scientific place in terms of how we are going to emancipate all of humanity—I have some reality-based ideas on how this could be possible.

And one of the most important things people need to do in order to even imagine the possibility of accomplishing such a monumental task is to break out of the confines of the political-process-as-usual.

Everyone who does not want to live in the "world according to Bush" needs to break out of the dynamic where the terms and the issues and the leaders are defined and limited by various representatives and defenders of this bloodsucking system. And progressive people and oppressed people really need to break out of the confines of the institutions, organizations, and political thinking dominated by the Democratic
Party.

Frankly, too many people are suffering from the disease of looking-for-leadership-in-all-the-wrong-places. And as a result, too many people who want to change the world remain locked in a dynamic that stifles their ability to really see a whole different world, squanders their energies, and channels imagination into dead-end paths of conciliation with intolerable injustices.

(Article here...)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This article is posted in English and Spanish on
Revolution Online
http://revcom.us
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497

Final Session of the WTI

The Istanbul session of the WTI will summarize and present further
testimony on the illegality and criminal violations in the U.S. pretexts
for and conduct of this war.

"The World Tribunal on Iraq is collecting a definitive body of evidence on the illegality of the invasion and occupation that will be indispensable to the global anti-war movement, to conscientious objectors, and to students of history for years to come. Americans who oppose the war have a duty to support and participate in this crucial international effort to stand up to U.S. government lawlessness and impunity."

-- Naomi Klein


Expert opinion, witness testimony, video and image evidence will address:

- The torture of prisoners
- The unlawful imprisonment of Iraqi civilians without charges or
legal defense;
- The use and health risks of depleted uranium weapons;
- The effects of the war on Iraq's infrastructure, including U.S.
mandated privatization and sale of Iraq's industries.
- The destruction of Iraqi cultural institutions and the liability of
the invaders in international law for failing to protect these
treasures of humanity.


Historical Broadcasts
----------------------
Four hour-long programs from the final WTI session will broadcast on Free Speech TV via a satellite uplink provided by longtime partner Deep Dish TV. Don't miss this unique programming.

Program One:
Friday June 24, 8 PM - 9 PM (ET)
Saturday June 25, Midnight - 1 AM (ET)

Program Two:
Saturday June 25, 8 PM - 9 PM (ET)
Sunday June 26, Midnight - 1 AM (ET)

Program Three:
Sunday June 26, 10 PM - 11 PM (ET)
Monday June 27, Midnight - 1 AM (ET)

Program Four:
Monday June 27, 8 PM - 9 PM (ET)
Tuesday June 28, 2 AM - 3 AM (ET)


** Programs will also stream on the Internet @
http://www.worldtribunal.org and http://www.deepdishtv.org

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Deoxy Is Back!

Dmitri has finally gotten the Deoxy.org servers back up and running! Link at the right.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Mark Danner on Smoking Signposts to Nowhere

http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?emx=x&pid=3602

Imagine that the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had broken out all over the press -- no, not in the New York Times or the Washington Post, but in newspapers in Australia or Canada. And that, facing their own terrible record of reportage, of years of being cowed by the Nixon administration, major American papers had decided that this was not a story worthy of being covered. Imagine that, initially, they dismissed the revelatory documents and information that came out of the heart of administration policy-making; then almost willfully misread them, insisting that evidence of Pentagon planning for escalation in Vietnam or of Nixon administration planning to destroy its opponents was at best ambiguous or even nonexistent; finally, when they found that the documents wouldn't go away, they acknowledged them more formally with a tired ho-hum, a knowing nod on editorial pages or in news stories. Actually, they claimed, these documents didn't add up to much because they had run stories just like this back then themselves. Yawn.

This is, of course, something like the crude pattern that coverage in the American press has followed on the Downing Street memo, then memos. As of late last week, four of our five major papers (the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and USA Today) hadn't even commented on them in their editorial pages. In my hometown paper, the New York Times, complete lack of interest was followed last Monday by a page 11 David Sanger piece (Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made) that focused on the second of the Downing Street memos, a briefing paper for Tony Blair's "inner circle," and began: "A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made ‘no political decisions' to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for the possibility was advanced."

Compare that to the front-page lead written a day earlier by Michael Smith of the British Sunday Times, who revealed the existence of the document and has been the Woodstein of England on this issue (Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse'):

"Ministers were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal. The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier."

The headlines the two papers chose more or less tell it all. It's hard to believe that they are even reporting on the same document. Sanger was obviously capable of reading Smith's piece and yet his report makes no mention of the April meeting of the two leaders in Crawford explicitly noted in the memo and offers a completely tendentious reading of those supposedly unmade "political decisions." Read the document yourself. It's clear, when the Brits write, for instance, "[L]ittle thought has been given [in Washington] to creating the political conditions for military action," that they are talking about tactics, about how to move the rest of the world toward an already agreed-upon war. After all, though it's seldom commented on, this document was entitled, "Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action," and along with the previously released memo was essentially a war-planning document. Both, for instance, discuss the American need for British bases in Cyprus and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. It was, as well, focused on the creation of "an information campaign" and suggested that "[t]ime will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein."

We are talking here about creating the right political preconditions for moving populations toward a war, quite a different matter from not having decided on the war. To write as if this piece reflected a situation in which no "political decisions" had been made (taking that phrase out of all context), without even a single caveat, a single mention of any alternative possible explanation, was bizarre, to say the least.

Article...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Drug Hypocrisy Revealed

AN EX POLICE CHIEF SPEAKS OUT AGAINST THE WAR ON DRUGS

NORM STAMPER, FORMER CHIEF OF POLICE, SEATTLE, WA - Historically, the criminalization of drugs was a revenue-producing public policy. It was, 'If we're going to make money off these drugs, we've got to regulate them.' It began as taxation, and then we started moralizing the behavior -- attaching moral judgments to the use of drugs, and demonizing the drug users. If we were an honest nation, consistent and with any integrity, we would do the same thing with caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, but we don't.

While there are restrictions, certainly, on the use of nicotine and alcohol, both of those substances and the behaviors around them are perfectly legal for adults, yet we know that cigarette addiction is the most egregious form of addiction.

But we're fundamentally dishonest, and in demonizing illicit drug users, we deny medical attention for those who choose to get off drugs. We under-invest in smart education and prevention programs; we deny IV drug users clean syringes in many, many cities. We deny them methadone when it has been clearly established that that's a healthier alternative to heroin.

You have to start with the premise that if tobacco and alcohol, with all of their harms and enormous social and financial costs, are lawful substances, then how can we, in good conscience, deny somebody the right to smoke a joint -- or to snort coke or shoot heroin? I don't do those things, but I believe I ought to have a right to do those things.

>From very early on, we teach children that the people who use drugs are monsters and fiends. Well, excuse me, but they're not. Some of them manage to handle it successfully, and many do not. Many abuse the drugs and wind up very ill psychologically, physiologically, mentally, emotionally. But rather than demonizing them, we ought to be reaching out to help them. If we spent far less money on the supply side of the supply/demand equation, we'd be able to spend much more money on prevention, education, medication and rehabilitation and the like. . .

I was really impressed, during my days as Seattle's police chief, with a visit to representatives of The Hague. These are judges, prosecutors and high-ranking police officers -- about a dozen of them. We started talking about drug enforcement. They made clear that they continue to go after organized-crime drug dealers, which is terrific and I would never advocate stopping.

But they recognized that drug use is a social problem, and if adults take drugs and behave responsibly under their influence -- i.e., don't drive, don't batter, don't furnish the kids -- they'll leave them alone. If they've got a problem of abuse -- which is fundamentally a medical problem -- then they get help, and the cops are on board with that. That's also true in Canada, where the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police advocated decriminalization of marijuana.

All of this has to do with the obscene level of profit associated with illicit drug dealing. The reason illicit drugs cost so much money is because they are illicit. If government would enter the regulation picture as it has with tobacco and alcohol, it could easily transform a pretty miserable picture into a better one. It will never be rosy, but it can be a much healthier and more sensible picture.

http://www.alternet.org/story/22196/

Torture, American Style!

Dick Durbin Tells It Like It Is

SENATOR DICK DURBIN, CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . .
On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.(italics mine--Pete)

CORPORADOS WORRIED OVER LEFT'S ADVANCES IN EUROPE

[This article appeared under the headline: "A Specter Is Haunting Europe: The Left"

BUSINESS WEEK - Anti-capitalist, anti-globalization activists played a key role in defeating referendums on the European Union constitution in France on May 29 and the Netherlands on June 1. Relentless sniping from left-wingers in Germany's Social Democratic Party helped drive Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to call for elections this fall, a year ahead of time. The left wing of Schroeder's party has sabotaged his reforms, contributing to defeats in regional elections that all but eliminated his support base.

So can Europe's long-splintered traditional left come back as a real political movement? . . . While few observers believe traditional leftists can win power outright, a loose coalition of left-wing Greens, militant unionists, and old-school socialists is preparing to play the spoiler as European leaders try to salvage the constitution and revive the economy. Already, leftist groups in France, Germany, and the Netherlands are informally coordinating with each other.

These new old leftists could have a polarizing effect on voters and complicate efforts by mainstream leaders to get the continent back on track. Leftists may also win seats in national parliaments, becoming power brokers should the major parties lack a majority

(Article here...)

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Meaningless Apology on Lynching

By Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, The Black Commentator
Posted on June 17, 2005, Printed on June 17, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/22248/

Why are some black folks so happy to hear an apology from people who don't mean it?

There are nearly a million African-Americans in prison - one out of eight inmates on the planet - a gulag of monstrous proportions, clearly designed to perpetuate the social relations that began with slavery. We demand an end to those relations, not an insincere, risk-free "apology" that sets not one prisoner free.

It is appropriate that the great anti-lynching leader, Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), who documented the murder of nearly 5,000 blacks at the hands of white mobs in the terror-filled years that followed the death of Reconstruction, be verbally honored by Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Virginia Republican Senator George Allen. Yet both senators supported laws that will impose draconian equivalents of post-Civil War "black codes" on inner city youth, who will now be designated as criminal conspirators if they congregate in groups of three or more.

No thank you, Senators Landrieu and Allen - the crime you committed against us in May vastly outweighs your weak apology in June. You have guaranteed that hundreds of thousands more young black people will be interned in your gulag - a crime against humanity. And both of you are determined to commit more crimes. Should we ask for an apology in advance?

There can be no absolution for those who continue to profit from past crimes, and plot new ones. Lynch law was the effective law of the South - and, truth be told, the rest of the United States - and the "lawful" authorities sanctioned it by refusing to pass 200 anti-lynching bills. The terror of lynching created the social relationships that resulted in white households accumulating ten to twenty times as much wealth as black households - our collective national inheritance. An apology will not do.

If China (or aliens) had invaded the US, would you join the invader's army?

By Jay Bookman
Republished from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If you want to understand why it’s so difficult to build a new Iraqi army that is willing to fight and die for a new Iraq, a little imagination is a very helpful thing.

More specifically, it helps if you can imagine what is unimaginable. Imagine that some foreign power – say, China – has invaded and occupied the United States, imposed a form of government similar to that of China and is now recruiting Americans to serve in a new American army, to be trained by and to fight alongside the Chinese military that is now occupying our country.

That, in a rough sense, is what we’re trying to accomplish in Iraq.

Given that situation, what sort of Americans do you think would volunteer to serve in this Chinese-sponsored army? Hardly the cream of the crop.

And would those volunteers have the respect and support of their fellow Americans? No. They would probably have to hide their faces from the rest of us when they went on patrol alongside Chinese troops in American neighborhoods, just as Iraqi troops do now.

Furthermore, would such men take pride in their service, or would it be a source of inner shame? Would such troops be willing to fight and die for each other, and for their Chinese sponsors, or would they melt away when things got hard?

Who would fight harder under those circumstances – those drawn to serve in this new army by the promise of a paycheck, or those Americans who were fighting to drive the Chinese invaders out of our country?

The analogy is far from perfect, of course. Whatever the motivation for our invasion of Iraq, it did have the beneficial effect of removing Saddam Hussein from power, and that still counts for something among many Iraqis.

Furthermore, the new Iraqi government, however ineffective it might be, was at least elected by the Iraqi people. And many of the insurgents have targeted innocent Iraqi civilians in a horrifically brutal terrorist campaign, making it much easier to argue that a new Iraqi army is protecting Iraqis rather than aiding in the American occupation.

All of those are mitigating factors. But there’s still something deep in the gut of any human being – something that crosses all cultural lines – that resents the occupation of one’s country by foreigners. That sentiment is as certain as sunrise, and it is unforgivable that American officials did not account for it in claiming that our troops would be greeted by Iraqis with flowers and candy.

Today, we can preach to the Iraqis all we want about individual rights and the rule of law and democratic self-government. We can tell them that they now have sovereignty, that we’re remaining in Iraq just to help them.

But all that fine talk goes for naught when uniformed Americans stop and search Iraqis at gunpoint, humiliating them before their wives and daughters. The relationship then is not about equality, it’s about power: We have it, they don’t, not even in their own country, not even in their own homes.

In the immediate wake of our invasion, experts talked of having a window of opportunity, a brief period of time in which U.S. officials had to get control of the security situation, surrender day-to-day control of Iraq and withdraw the bulk of our troops. If we stayed beyond that window, they warned, Iraqi resentment would grow so great that our presence would become more of an obstacle than a benefit.

Most such estimates put that window at roughly three months. When those initial three months passed and it became clear that withdrawal was not yet an option, a team of five experts assembled by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld traveled to Iraq to assess the situation.

While the panel reported “rising anti-Americanism in parts of the country,” it also held out hope that the window might be held open slightly longer. To do so, however, “the entire effort [must] be immediately turbo-charged.”

“The next three months are crucial to turning around the security situation, which is volatile in key parts of the country,” the panel reported to Rumsfeld.

That was almost two years ago.

Jay Bookman is the deputy editorial page editor. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Debating Downing Street

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on June 15, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/22235/

Tomorrow (today as you read this) in Washington, Congressmember John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, will convene a public hearing on the so-called Downing Street Memo and other newly released documents that Conyers says show the administration's "efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence."

Conyers also says that he plans to raise new documents that back up the accuracy of the Downing Street memo, which is actually the classified minutes of a July 2002 meeting of Tony Blair and his senior advisers.

The minutes, which were published May 1 by the Sunday Times of London, paint a picture of an administration that had already committed to attacking Iraq, was manipulating intelligence and had already begun intense bombing of Iraq to prepare for the ground invasion. This was almost a year before the actual invasion officially began.

The minutes are from a July 23, 2002 briefing of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security advisers by British intelligence chief Richard Dearlove. The minutes contain an account of Dearlove's report that President George W. Bush had decided to bring about "regime change" in Iraq by military action; that the attack would be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD" (weapons of mass destruction); and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Meanwhile, this past weekend, the Sunday Times of London had another expose, showing that British cabinet members were warned that the UK was committed to taking part in a US-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal. The memo was written in advance of the Downing Street meeting that produced the Downing Street Minutes.

Despite the explosive information in these documents, they have received very little attention in the corporate media in this country and Bush administration officials have only been asked about it a handful of times.

On June 7, after more than a month of media silence, a reporter for the Reuters news agency finally questioned President Bush and Tony Blair on the Downing Street Memo.

The Conyers hearing is scheduled for tomorrow on Capitol Hill, but only today did Conyers announce that they would be inside of the Capitol. Until this morning, they were scheduled to take place at the Democratic National Committee because the Republicans controlling the House Judiciary Committee refused to permit the ranking Democratic Member, John Conyers, to hold official hearings. Conyers now says he has managed to get an official room.

Among those scheduled to testify tomorrow are former US ambassador to Iraq, Joe Wilson, attorney John Bonifaz and parents of soldiers killed in Iraq. The hearings will be followed by a rally outside the White House tomorrow evening and a petition with some half a million signatures will be delivered to the White House, calling on Bush to answer questions on the memo.

REPORTER: On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street Memo from July 2002 says, "Intelligence and facts remain fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action." Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?

TONY BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations. Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me.

And the fact is, we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn't do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action. But, you know, all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict.

As it happened, we weren't able to do that because, as I think was very clear, there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked or the way that he acted.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I, you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I'm not sure who they dropped it out is, but I'm not suggesting you all dropped it out there. And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There is nothing farther from the truth. My conversations with the Prime Minister was how can we do this peacefully, what could we do, and this meeting, you know, evidently that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations or I went to the United Nations, and so it's - look, both of us didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option.


Well, that settles that, eh?--Pete


Read on...

When Is an Election Not an Election?

Iranian farce.
http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200506160752.asp

This is an interesting article from The National Review's Michael Ledeen, for reasons that he most surely didn't intend. Mr. Ledeen is discussing the upcoming elections in Iran and condemning them as staged before the fact. While that may be so, some of the terminology he uses can be applied to recent (and past) U.S. presidential elections.

I have always maintained, since becoming politically aware in my teens, that it seems that our "choice" of candidates is dictated by the cultural elite, culled from the herd for us by interested parties and presented as the most worthy of the lot, and therefore the only ones deserving of our attention. While we may have the much-vaunted one man/woman, one vote system (which also has come into serious question of late), those votes go to the pre-selected candidates. Our democracy is only polyarchal at best.

In his NRO piece, Michael Ledeen asks:

Does the president of Iran hold any real power? Has any "candidate" (of which there are eight) been chosen by anyone other than the supreme leader and his cronies?


These are questions that I've asked for decades, albeit about the U.S. system. While many may roll their eyes and suspect that I've gone off the deep end, the results of the election investigation in Ohio so far, while suppressed by the corporate media, has indicated that all is not as it seems here in River City, campers.

Mr. Ledeen goes on to say:

No, and no. Whoever is "elected" (and you can be sure that the outcome is already known, millions of "officially cast" ballots having been manufactured weeks ago, to ensure the right guy wins and that enough votes will have been cast) will be an instrument of the mullahcracy.


One of my favorite George Orwell quotations reads, "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them". The above quote from the NRO article indicates that peculiar sort of blindness, especially when there is (or very well should be!) remaining questions over the legitimacy of the 2000 and 2004 elections, the former plainly decided by a majority decision of the Supreme Court.

In any case, go ahead and read the piece. It is always best to be aware of the mindset of the ruling class and its dissemination through its public relations/ consensus-manufacturing instruments, such as The National Review, FoxNews, etc. Forewarned is forearmed.--Pete


http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200506160752.asp

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

U.S. Blocks Independent Inquiry into Uzbek Massacre

I told y'all things were gonna get empirical up in this bitch!--Pete

By Matthew Clark, Christian Science Monitor

Posted on June 15, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/22226/

A report that U.S. defense officials helped block a NATO demand for an international probe into last month's killing of protesters in Uzbekistan is proving an air base there to be one of the more diplomatically costly "lilly pads" in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's new lean, mean restructuring of the U.S. global military presence.

Located in southeastern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan, the Khanabad base is seen as key to the U.S. war on terror, as a Q&A on the website of the Council of Foriegn Relations, a prominent Washington-based think-tank, explains.

Officially, the role of the troops in Uzbekistan is limited to humanitarian relief and search-and-rescue missions inside Afghanistan, but a joint U.S. Special Forces command center at Khanabad reportedly played a key role in directing the activities of US Special Forces personnel during the early phase of the fall 2001 U.S. attacks on the Taliban [in Afghanistan]. Information about current day-to-day activities of U.S. forces remains shrouded in secrecy.

But continued access to the base means the U.S. must tread carefully in its criticism of Uzbekistan's leader Islam Karimov, who has routinely been accused of brutally stifling dissent, including allegedly covering up the government's shooting of hundreds of protesters last month.

The Uzbek government has admitted that 173 people were killed on May 13 in Andijan but independent witnesses and human rights organizations put the number of victims at between 500 and 1,000. Human Rights Watch, for instance, has called the incident a "massacre." Karimov has portrayed the killings as a necessary response to a revolt by Islamic extremists.

Many countries and organizations, including the U.S., have called for an independent investigation. But The Washington Post reports that US defense officials – together with their Russian counterparts – "helped block a new demand for an international probe" last week. British and other European officials had pushed to include language calling for an independent investigation in a communique issued by defense ministers of NATO countries and Russia after a daylong meeting in Brussels on Thursday. But the joint communique merely stated that "issues of security and stability in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan," had been discussed.

The Mediacracy

PLENTY OF ADULTS LEFT BEHIND

WILL LESTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS - About 40 percent of Americans say they consider talk show host Bill O'Reilly a journalist - more than would define famed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward the same way, according to a poll conducted this spring. . . Only 30 percent of those polled said Woodward was a journalist, while 53 percent said they didn't know. . . More than a quarter said talk show host Rush Limbaugh was one, while one in five said they considered newspaper columnist George Will to be a journalist.

(Article Here)

TORTURE

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS AMERICAN GULAGS

USA TODAY - The Supreme Court unanimously upheld an Ohio corrections policy that allows the most dangerous criminals to be locked up in isolated super-maximum-security prison cells. But the justices also found that prisoners have a constitutional interest in avoiding assignment to such cells. As a result, prison officials must ensure that there are several levels of review when a prisoner is transferred to a cell designed to deprive an inmate of almost all human contact and which, in Ohio, eliminates the chance of parole.

Not Quite Capitalist Enough

VANCOUVER'S CAR CO-OP

But what about The Ownership Society, huh?--Pete

Vancouver's car co-op hit an important milestone this week when it added the 100th vehicle to its fleet. The co-op has nearly 2,000 members that pay monthly and usage fees for access to cars, trucks and vans parked across the Lower Mainland. Members say they save money on gas, insurance and maintenance because they don't own the cars. They say they don't sacrifice convenience, either.

"There are about five cars within easy walking distance of where I live," says Tom Durrie a member of the Co-operative Auto Network. "They are all over the city, so it's not as if you need to go great distances to get one."

(Article here)

WORDS

JAMES MCBRIDE, PRATT UNIVERSITY COMMENCEMENT SPEECH

If I were 21 I would walk the earth. I would go barefoot longer; I'd learn how to throw a Frisbee, I'd go braless if I were a woman and I would wear no underwear if I were a man. I'd play cards and wear the same pair of jeans until they were so stiff they could get up and strut around the room by themselves. ... So don't take the short road. Fool around. Have fun. ... You're not going to get this time back. Don't panic and go to graduate school and law school. This nation has enough frightened, dissatisfied yuppies living in gated communities, driving S.U.V.'s and wondering where their youth went.

We need you to walk the earth, so that other nations can see the beauty of American youth, rather than seeing our young in combat fatigues behind the barrel of an M-16.

http://world.std.com/~emg/followme.html

WAR DEPARTMENT

WHERE OUR HEAD TORTURER GETS HIS INSPIRATION
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/military/jan-june02/rumsfeld_2-4.html

JIM LEHRER: But if somebody were to look at this budget - forget the money for a while - just look at what it buys, does it buy anything that different than what we already have?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I think when you say "that different," it's important to understand that you can - when the Germans transformed their armed forces into the Blitzkrieg, they transformed only about 5 or 10 percent of their force. Everything else was the same, but they transformed the way they used it, the connectivity between aircraft and forces on the ground, the concentration of it in a specific portion of the line, and it - one would not want to transform 100 percent of your forces. You only need to transform a portion.

The Third Reich being the standard, of course.--Pete

Something Rotten in Ohio

By Gore Vidal, The Nation
Posted on June 14, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/22222/

Outside the oil and gas junta that controls two and a half branches of our government (the half soon to be whole is the judiciary), there was a good deal of envy at the late British election among those Americans who are serious about politics. Little money was spent by the three parties and none for TV advertising. Results were achieved swiftly and cheaply. Best of all, the three party leaders were quizzed sharply and intelligently by ordinary citizens known quaintly as subjects, thanks to the ubiquitous phantom crown so unlike our nuclear-taloned predatory eagle. Although news of foreign countries seldom appears in our tightly censored media (and good news, never), those of us who are addicted to C-SPAN and find it the one truly, if unconsciously, subversive media outlet in these United States are able to observe British politics in full cry.

I say "subversive" not only because C-SPAN is apt to take interesting books seriously but also because its live coverage of the Senate and the House of Representatives is the only look we are ever allowed at the mouthpieces of our masters up close and is, at times, most reflective of a government more and more remote from us, unaccountable and repressive. To watch the righteous old prophet Byrd of West Virginia, the sunny hypocrisy of Biden of Delaware -- as I write these hallowed names, I summon up their faces, hear their voices, and I am covered with C-SPAN goose bumps.

At any rate, wondrous C-SPAN has another string to its bow. While some executive was nodding, C-SPAN started showing us Britain's House of Commons during Question Time. This is the only glimpse that most Americans will ever get of how democracy is supposed to work.

These party leaders are pitted against one another in often savage debate on subjects of war and peace, health and education. Then some 600 Members of Parliament are allowed to ask questions of their great chieftains. Years ago the incomparable Dwight Macdonald wrote that any letter to the London Times (the Brits are inveterate letter writers on substantive issues) is better written than any editorial in the New York Times.

In addition to Question Time, which allows Americans to see how political democracy works, as opposed to our two chambers of lobbyists for corporate America, C-SPAN also showed the three party leaders being interrogated by a cross section of, for the most part, youthful subjects of the phantom crown and presided over by an experienced political journalist. Blair was roughly accused of lying about the legal advice he had received apropos Britain's right to go to war in Iraq for the US oil and gas junta. This BBC live audience asked far more informed and informative questions than the entire US press corps was allowed to ask Bush et al. in our recent election. But Americans are not used to challenging authority in what has been called wartime by a President who has ordered invasions of two countries that have done us no harm and is now planning future wars despite dwindling manpower and lack of money. Blair, for just going along, had to deal with savage, informed questions of a sort that Bush would never answer even if he were competent to do so.

So we have seen what democracy across the water can do. All in all a jarring experience for anyone foolish enough to believe that America is democratic in anything except furiously imprisoning the innocent and joyously electing the guilty. What to do? As a first step, I invite the radicals at C-SPAN who take seriously our Constitution and Bill of Rights to address their attention to the corruption of the presidential election of 2004, particularly in the state of Ohio.

One of the most useful members of the House -- currently the most useful -- is John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who, in his capacity as ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, led the committee's Democratic Congressmen and their staffers into the heart of the American heartland, the Western Reserve; specifically, into the not-so-red state of Ohio, once known as "the mother of Presidents."

He had come to answer the question that the minority of Americans who care about the Republic have been asking since November 2004: "What went wrong in Ohio?" He is too modest to note the difficulties he must have undergone even to assemble this team in the face of the triumphalist Republican Congressional majority, not to mention the unlikely heir to himself, George W. Bush, whose original selection by the Supreme Court brought forth many reports on what went wrong in Florida in 2000.

Read More...

Monday, June 13, 2005

AMERICAN GENERAL ADMITS 'GOOD, HONEST' IRAQIS AMONG THOSE FIGHTING

http://www.gulfnews.com/Articles/RegionNF.asp?ArticleID=168406

PHIL SANDS, GULF NEWS - A senior US military chief has admitted "good, honest" Iraqis are fighting American forces. Major General Joseph Taluto said he could understand why some ordinary people would take up arms against the US military because "they're offended by our presence".

In an interview with Gulf News, he said: "If a good, honest person feels having all these Humvees driving on the road, having us moving people out of the way, having us patrol the streets, having car bombs going off, you can understand how they could [want to fight us]."

General Taluto, head of the US 42nd Infantry Division which covers key trouble spots, including Baquba and Samarra, also said some Iraqis not involved in fighting did support insurgents who avoided hurting civilians.

He said: "There is a sense of a good resistance, or an accepted resistance. They say 'okay, if you shoot a coalition soldier, that's okay, it's not a bad thing but you shouldn't kill other Iraqis.'"

However General Taluto insisted the US and other foreign forces would not be driven out of Iraq by violence. "If the goal is to have the coalition leave, attacking them isn't the way," he said. "The way to make it happen is to enter the political process cooperate and the coalition will be less aggressive and less visible and eventually it'll go away."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Anti-Christ and I

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 08 June 2005
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/060805A.shtml#

Satan rules, at least according to many of my fellow Americans. In recent surveys, over two-thirds of those polled said they believed the devil to be real, whether with or without horns and a tail.

Call him Lucifer, Mephistopheles, or the Evil One, his existence plays a major role in the way Americans see the world. Right-wingers, in particular, have found him extremely useful in attacking their political foes.

Racial segregationists, union-busters, and John Birchers historically pursued their own agendas by attacking opponents as devilish collaborators of "Godless communism." Far-right evangelicals still blast the United Nations as a Satanic force run by his End Time agent the anti-Christ, while Christian Reconstructionists tar-brush every intellectual current from humanism to modern science as the work of a diabolical hand. The Enlightenment was, after all, the devil's assault on faith.

Satan sells in the USA. That's why Ronald Reagan battled "the Evil Empire," and how George W. Bush uses "the Axis of Evil."

All of which boggles my mind. I don't know why, but even in my high school years I never believed in anything supernatural, good or bad, and I've long agreed with historians who view America's unending urge to hunt witches and other fiendish conspirators as a self-destructive defect in our national character. I don't even see the present occupant of the White House and his incubi as some singularly evil force, which often puts me at odds with others on my side of the political divide.

Still, let me suggest a leap of faith - not one that I can personally take, but one that many of my religious readers say they have already taken.

What if rational thought misses the cosmic plot? What if our prayerful president, his oil-soaked pre-emptive wars, and his amen chorus of religious reactionaries have come together to do the devil's work? What if Satan - and not just the demonic Dick Cheney - now drives the global train wreck?

For many believers, the evidence seems overwhelming.

A huge number of Americans call themselves born-again or Reconstructionist Christians but have turned their back on most of what their own Bible tells them that Christ taught. "Turn the other cheek" now inspires a worldwide gulag of CIA and Pentagon torture centers from Guantánamo to the Indian Ocean, while the Golden Rule has become "Do unto others before they do unto you."

Our Constitution tells us to keep God and government separate, but a new Supreme Court will likely overrule what the words plainly say and permit increasing application of "Biblical law." What better way to fuel ungodly religious strife?

The deficit and trade gap keep growing. The economy won't grow fast enough. High rollers and holy rollers buy and sell government favors. The dollar drops. And hard-nosed economists now predict a worldwide crash made worse by American leadership that the rest of the world does not trust.

Despite years of disingenuous denial by Mr. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and self-interested corporate leaders, global warming grows dramatically worse. The threat has become so severe that serious environmentalists wonder aloud whether nuclear power - even with all its unsolved problems - might prove less hellacious than burning more fossil fuel.

We face a small number of radical Islamic terrorists, whom American troops are systematically turning into heroes for hundreds of millions of Muslims, from the Southern Philippines to Africa.

The Pentagon failed to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan because Mr. Bush could not wait to start his war in Iraq, which he has now turned into a breeding ground for far more terrorists than there ever were before.

Beyond the terrorists, Bush is losing in Iraq because nationalistic Iraqis increasingly see Americans as foreign occupiers, yet he digs us in even deeper and refuses to consider getting out. Possibly worse, he is setting us up for more of the same in Uzbekistan and across Central Asia.

Scattered reports suggest that he currently has small groups of American troops operating covertly within Iran, along with Iranian collaborators, and that he and his advisors are now considering whether to bomb the country's nuclear facilities or support an Israeli attack.

Pleased with what he sees, the president plunges ahead, turning what could have been a significant but manageable policing problem after 9/11 into a disastrous clash of civilizations. Welcome to the worst of times, as an increasingly disrupted "Christian nation" takes on a rapidly embittered Muslim world.

Cui bono? Who but the Evil One stands to gain? Who but Ha-Shatan could be the voice Mr. Bush hears in his head as the sage advice of his "higher father?"

Believe me, I would never pose such an other-worldly set of questions. But, many serious Christians tell me they have, and their answer scares even an unsaved wretch like me.

Canada’s Supreme Court sanctions drive to dismantle public health care

By Keith Jones 11 June 2005

Canada’s Supreme Court has provided big business and the political right with the battering-ram they have long sought to dismantle the country’s universal public health-care system, Medicare.

By a margin of 4 to 3, the country’s highest court has struck down a Quebec law that prohibits private health insurers from providing coverage for medically necessary services available through the state-funded public health insurance system.

The plaintiffs, anti-Medicare activist Dr. Jacques Chaoulli and his patient, George Zeliotis, argued that the prohibition on private insurance violated Zeliotis’s constitutional right to security of person because he was forced to endure a painful, nearly year-long wait before undergoing hip surgery.

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling overturned two lower court judgments. The lower courts had found that while Zelliotis’s individual rights were curtailed, this was acceptable because the prohibition helped ensure a greater collective good—the viability of a public health care system that provides health care to all, not just those with the means to pay for private health care.

The Supreme Court majority justified their decision by pointing to the lengthy waiting lists that now exist in Quebec and most parts of Canada for necessary and even potentially life-saving medical procedures and to the failure of governments to address this problem, although it has persisted for years.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and two other of the four judges who voted to strike down the Quebec law declared: “The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health-care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.”

Read more...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Only happy to be of assistance...


...matter of priorities, you see. Posted by Hello

Good news from Iraq: skylights installed in Fallujah schools!

From Needlenose


Fallujah, June 09, 2005 - In the latest Good News From Iraq (TM), the U.S. military, with the assistance of Halliburton, today announce the completion of an infrastructure rebuilding project in Fallujah, the creation of skylights in all public schools.

"Now all our children can enjoy clean air and natural lighting," said I. Bin Sukar'd, U.S.-appointed mayor of Fallujah. "Before, the children had to rely on power-intensive artificial lighting and air conditioning in their studies, but thanks to you, they are now enjoying healthier conditions at a fraction of the utility cost!"

This Good News has been brought to you by the Right-Wing Noise Machine. Don't forget to enlist so that you too can help ventilate Iraqi schools! Posted by Hello

Pocket Paradigm

The mega-media is out to get Howard Dean again. Dean is a fascinating target since he stands, in the media's collective mind, at the dividing line between acceptable acquiescence to the status quo and unacceptable criticism of that status quo. There are, of course, many people to the left of Dean, which is precisely the point: if Dean gets away with it, who knows who will successfully follow in his footsteps?

Consider this fascinating fact: a majority of the American people do not think the Iraq war was a good idea yet the media - even NPR - does not reflect this truth in any substantial way. The media's coverage is as pro-war as it ever was. Thus it is not enough to have the backing of the American people. In fact, it's not even important. What's important is that one's coverage coincide with the collective and heavily bipartisan judgment of the political and economic elite. The devil take the rest of us, including the head of the Democratic National Committee if he is foolish enough to speak out of turn. - Sam Smith

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

$1000 To Any Reporter Who Shows Signs Of An Actual Backbone

From Speakspeak News

Salon reports that Democrats.com is offering $1,000 to any White House reporter who will be brave enough to ask President Bush about the infamous Downing Street memo — and elicit a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

Fat chance.

They’re also offering a consolation prize of $100, however, for simply asking the question (and then presumably being blacklisted).

Asking the president — the First Amendment Guy! — an important, public-has-a-right-to-know question: $1,000.

Losing your White House press pass: Priceless!

From Salon.com.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Well I Guess That Genocide In Sudan Must Have Worked Itself Out On Its Own

From The Onion.com

I was pretty worried a year or so ago when the news came out that thousands of people had been indiscriminately slaughtered in Darfur. It was unsettling to hear that citizens of one ethnicity (Arab, maybe?) were systematically mass-murdering the population of some other ethnicity (Was it the Ganjaweeds? It's been so long since I've read their names!) But lately, the main stories in the news seem to be about Deep Throat, the new summer blockbusters, and something about stem cells. Since I'm sure I would have remembered if the U.S. had intervened in some way to stop it, I can only assume that the whole genocide-in-Darfur thing has somehow worked itself out.

Well, that's good news then, isn't it?

I also seem to recall that this genocide was causing a massive exodus of displaced refugees, with millions starving to death while attempting to flee to neighboring nations. Since I haven't seen any petitions or heard any emotional entreaties for somebody—anybody—to please, for God's sake, do something... Well, I'm gonna guess that the major humanitarian crisis must be over. And thank God, too! The whole situation sounded really awful.

Not that I wanted to be an alarmist, but when I first heard about the Darfur conflict, I thought to myself, "Uh oh! Sounds like another massive ethnic cleansing, not unlike Bosnia and Rwanda!" Those genocides sure were unfathomable! And not only because of the inhumanity of the acts, either—the blind indifference with which the world allowed the killings to continue unchecked was upsetting, too.

Well, someone must've invaded or overthrown a corrupt government or something like that. I know it wasn't the U.S., though. I may not be all that up on current events, but I do follow the news enough to know when my own country attacks another country. Maybe it was one of those genocides that solves itself without substantive international intervention. Well, that's one less horrific reality of modern geopolitics hanging over our heads!

Good thing, 'cause for a while there, it seemed like the Sudan situation was pretty serious, especially when both President Bush and Sen. Kerry talked about it in the presidential debates. Heck, that the Darfur conflict qualified as genocide was practically the only thing they agreed on! So, if both presidential candidates acknowledged on TV that genocide was taking place, it's pretty safe to assume that someone stepped in before more innocent victims were systematically butchered. Right?

What a great turn of events! Frankly, I'm relieved that all the horror, death, and human agony is over. I mean, after all those reports of ongoing murder, rape, and looting, I confess I was a little surprised when I didn't hear much more about it, beyond some international sanctions and aid packages. Ah, but what's the point in belaboring the grisly details? Why go on and on about which paramilitary militias were killing and raping which women and children? The important thing is that the conflict's apparently over.

Evidently, the hatred has been healed, peace has been restored, and the perpetrators of this unimaginable crime have been brought to justice. It sure is good to know it all must've turned out all right. It's like they say: No news is good news!

Right?

Supreme Court Ruling On Compassionate Marijuana Use Unjust, But Probably Won't Affect Users

Since 99% of all Marijuana arrests are local, the ruling doesn't have much teeth unless you encounter a DEA agent or a federal prosecutor. The odds of that happening are miniscule in California, where the laws supporting medical use of the herb will still stand. These laws have very practical safeguards, since they dictate that local law enforcement shouldn't be arresting or prosecuting users for whom a doctor has written a recommendation.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Witchfynder General Gonzales. Then blow it out your ass.

Un-Housing the Poor

By Dan Frosch, AlterNet
Posted on June 6, 2005, Printed on June 7, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/22106/

Hey, man, I got my tax cut. How'd y'all make out, huh?--Pete


In December 1998, Tarrah Leach's life finally hit rock bottom. She was barely 17 years old, already a mother of two small infant daughters, and hiding out in a domestic shelter. She'd been married only a year, a difficult year that the teenage couple spent first in a homeless shelter and then in a small public housing apartment in Lancaster, Ohio, a town some 32 miles southeast of Columbus. And though Leach still loved her childhood sweetheart, she could no longer tolerate his abuse and beatings. So she took her kids and walked out the door without a dollar to her name.

"By the time, I’d left him, I had this new family with no money and no home to help me raise them," Leach says.

Help, however, was around the corner. Leach received a fresh start in life courtesy of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. The federal assistance program enabled Leach to rent an affordable apartment in a safe neighborhood, a decision that she says saved her life. After waiting for two months, her family was able to move into a quiet two-bedroom trailer, which she rented for a reasonable $100 a month thanks to the HUD voucher, as opposed to the market rate of $425.

The Section 8 program, created in 1974 during the Nixon years, offers poor families a housing voucher to rent an apartment or home put on the market by participating landlords. With the voucher, a family only has to pay 30 percent of their adjusted income toward the rent, with the local housing authority paying for the balance with HUD money. Under HUD regulations, 75 percent of a housing authority’s vouchers must go to families making 30 percent or less of the median income in their area.

The program represents a vital lifeline for families with extremely low incomes who get the opportunity to move their family out of public housing in poor and often dangerous neighborhoods. Currently, more than two million families use Section 8 vouchers to pay a subsidized rent.

The Department of Housing, however, is planning to cut that lifeline.

Last month, Congress began hearings on two bills -- one each in the House and Senate -- that threaten to reorient federal assistance away from the families that need it most. Specifically, the legislation would double Section 8’s existing median income cap to 60 percent, thereby allowing families who earn more to qualify for these vouchers.

It also removes rules which ensure that families in serious need receive the most assistance. Under the new measure, local housing authorities are free to award up to 90 percent of their vouchers to applicants that qualify under the raised income cap -- allowing them to dole out the majority of vouchers to families who earn more and therefore pay more of the rent.

HUD, which drafted both pieces of legislation, is framing this reorientation as a response to the rising costs of a program that has jumped from $11 to $15 billion over the past three years. Last year, HUD cut millions in Section 8 funding but restored some of it after an outcry from housing authorities who said they were being asked operate the program but deprived of the funding required to do it.

If HUD is successful in its latest bid, success stories like Tarrah Leach will likely become a faraway memory. Thanks to Section 8, Leach was able to get her GED even as she worked at WalMart, and later attended nursing school on her days off. She eventually graduated with honors and got her nursing license.

"I still would have been struggling, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school, to get the nursing job I have now—not to mention paying rent, the bills and taking care of my kids," she says. "It wouldn’t have happened without that voucher."

Low-income housing advocacy groups and some members of Congress say that HUD’s proposals will essentially decimate its own program and unduly target the very people it’s supposed to help most. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the impacts of the changes would be enormous: low income families in need of vouchers will invariably be passed over by cash-strapped housing authorities who will tend to horde their funds by giving the vouchers to families who make more money. Housing authorities have lost $2 billion in HUD funding over the past four fiscal years and are in the midst of a serious budget crunch.

"It’s as if HUD figured out the worst possible solutions to low income housing problems and crammed them into one bill," says Linda Couch, NLIHC’s deputy director. "The administration’s goal here is clearly to save cash. And it’s at the expense of the people who need housing the most."

The people most in need of HUD's assistance are often black and Hispanic families, who account for 53 percent of all vouchers a year, according to a recent Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) study. Executive Director Philip Tegeler says the proposed legislation could create a scenario where housing authorities are denying vouchers to poor minorities while giving them to slightly better off white families in order to preserve their already depleted coffers. If the legislation moves forward, PRRAC predicts that the 131,000 families of color served by Section 8 could quickly be cut in half, and over the next decade, hundreds of thousands of vouchers would be shifted away from poor black and Hispanic applicants to less impoverished whites.

"This lifting of the current income targeting is not race neutral. And so the bill ends up having serious civil rights consequences," Tegeler says. He also points to the serious implications of another aspect of HUD’s proposal which would give housing authorities more power in determining whether Section 8 families can move out of a particular neighborhood -- a process called "portability." The proposed restrictions will make it much harder for black and Hispanic families to move from ghettoes into areas with more opportunity, further entrenching segregation in cities that are already carved up by color lines.

HUD spokeswoman Donna White does not agree that the proposal will push lower-income folks out of the program.

"The bottom line is now they have options. If you make 32 percent of the median income in your area, why should you be cut out of the program?" she says. "We think that by giving the housing authorities more options, more flexibility, as opposed to having follow strict guidelines," housing authorities will be better able to help the families in their area. White also claims that this increased flexibility could help cut down on waiting lists for vouchers, which can last up to five years in major cities according to HUD.

HUD's argument, however, does not impress a number of members of Congress who are opposed to the bill. A May 17 Congressional hearing before the House Financial Services Committee provoked decided and bipartisan opposition from numerous members, including Barbara Lee (D-California), Julia Carson (D-Indiana) and Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut). Shays was one of 20 members of Congress who wrote a letter on Apr. 29 urging the House Appropriations Committee to boost funding for Section 8.

"While it is clear we need to take steps to reform the Section 8, we can’t forget how successful the program has been," Shays said in an email response to AlterNet. "I’m eager to work with the Financial Services Committee to craft responsible legislation, but am concerned [the bill] simply passes the buck to the local housing authorities."

Among those testifying in front of Congress was Leach, now 24 and a nurse at a convalescent home. She came all the way from Ohio because she couldn’t stand the thought of another single mother having to endure what she went through without any help.

"If it had not been for the Housing Assistance, I, as a single mother, would not have been able to put a roof over my children’s heads. My children would have suffered because I would have had to work all of the time just to make ends meet to pay rent and utilities," she told the committee. "I ask that you consider my story."

Dan Frosch is a New York-based journalist whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Source and the Santa Fe Reporter.

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/22106/

Monday, June 06, 2005

It's Not Just Eskimos in Bikinis

Climate Helter-Skelter in the Lower 48
By Chip Ward, from TomDispatch.com

When we hear the term "global warming," we usually imagine collapsing Antarctic ice shelves, melting Alaskan glaciers, or perhaps starving polar bears wandering bewildered across an ice-free, alien landscape. Warnings about climate change tend to focus on the Earth's polar regions, in part because they are warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet and the dramatic changes underway there can be easily captured and conveyed. We may not be able to see the 80% decline in the Antarctic krill population -- the tiny, shrimp-like creatures that are a critical food source for whales, seals, and sea birds -- but we can easily see satellite photos of state-sized chunks of ice shields separating from the continent. We can grasp the enormity of planetary glacial melting simply by comparing photos of glaciers taken just a decade apart. But as long as we're talking about ice in distant climes, global warming seems like something that's happening elsewhere and to somebody else -- or some other set of creatures.

So when you hear about global warming, the odds are good that you never think of the yellow-bellied marmot. Probably, you've never even heard of the critters, but the big rodents, common not to the distant Arctic but to Rocky Mountain meadows, have been acting like so many canaries lately -- coal-mine canaries, that is. They may be the first among many species in the Lower 48 to die off, thanks to close-to-home global warming effects that we hear little about. They are dying of confusion.

As a term, global warming is so benign-sounding -- we all like "warmth," after all -- that it masks what's actually going on. Yes, temperatures overall are rising, low-lying islands are disappearing under the sea, and epic wildfires are becoming more routine. But some places like Europe could get much colder in a globally "warmed" world, if warm ocean currents shift away from them; while across the planet, however counterintuitive this might seem, floods are likely to be as commonplace as drought. "Climate disruption" is probably a more accurate description of what we are experiencing than mere "warming." Although the radical break in climate patterns now underway will lead to rising oceans and expanding deserts, the most insidious changes may be more subtle -- and as unnoticed as the disappearance of the marmots may be.

Read More...

Click for larger image Posted by Hello

Just Another Day In Hell...

Here is a rap video from a group of American warriors on the ground in besieged Iraq.

I find the warning about graphic language and violent images ridiculous coming from MSNBC. If they and the other corporate media were actually doing their jobs, the warning would be redundant, since graphic language and violent images would be constant fixtures in our newspapers and on our televisions.--Pete

BTW...

Fox News is the Pravda of the Bush Administration.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Wear Sunscreen

by Mary Schmich
Printed in the The Chicago Tribune, June 1, 1997

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ‘97:

Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

News from the Homefront

PARENTS TELLING KIDS NOT TO ENLIST
New York Times Article Here


NY TIMES - No Child Left Behind, which was passed by Congress in 2001, requires schools to turn over students' home phone numbers and addresses unless parents opt out. That is often the spark that ignites parental resistance. Recruiters, in interviews over the past six months, said that opposition can be fierce. Three years ago, perhaps 1 or 2 of 10 parents would hang up immediately on a cold call to a potential recruit's home, said a recruiter in New York who, like most others interviewed, insisted on anonymity to protect his career. "Now," he said, "in the past year or two, people hang up all the time.

WHY THE E.U. CONSTITUTION DESERVED A NO VOTE

http://www.laweekly.com/ink/05/28/news-ireland.php

Via The Progressive Review Undernews

[If you woke up to NPR telling you ever so objectively what a terrible thing the Dutch rejection of the E.U. constitution was, you might find the following useful]

DOUG IRELAND, LA WEEKLY - The new European Constitution was not a step toward a stronger Europe, and would have actually lessened European influence on the world stage. In it, subordination of European security and military policy (and thus foreign policy) to NATO was set in concrete. And, as the former socialist defense minister of France, Jean-Pierre Chevenement (who resigned in protest over France's support for the first Gulf War), repeatedly pointed out during the referendum
campaign, under the Constitution the crucial role France played at the United Nations in opposing the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq would no longer have been possible. The Constitution would have restricted the ability of any member of the U.N. Security Council that is also an EU country (like France — or, as in proposals for Security Council enlargement now being considered, Germany) to take a position contrary to that adopted by the European Commission. And any single EU country could veto a position contrary to Washington's. Thus, one would only need to buy a corrupt little country — like, say, Bulgaria — to block any EU action that would counter the American imperium.

Moreover, the constitution was anti-democratic, for it kept real power in the hands of the unelected European Commission (whose members are appointed by their national governments) rather than giving it to the elected Europarliament in Strasbourg. The EU's presidency, currently a rotating one, was given a longer term - but the president, too, would have been appointed by the commission. The 300-page constitution - the longest ever in the world's history, and written in obscure legalese incomprehensible to the average voter - would have irremovably enshrined matters of policy, including conservative economic policies, that would normally be decided by democratically elected governments. And it could only have been amended by a unanimous vote of all 25 EU countries — another boon to the multinationals, which also easily could have purchased a veto from a small country's government-for-sale.