I honest to God believe Obama was planned. The nasty neocons got together at some Skull and Bones meeting and decided to find some desperate, power hungry guy who would look good to liberals and get him to run for President on a platform of change, tell them everything they wanted to hear, knowing full well they would embrace him and ignore the signs that were there all along. In public, the neocons fought him, created the tea party to hate him, riled up everyone to think they were against him, then laughed all the way to the bank. He’s been worse than Bush on just about everything except maybe gay marriage, but because of issues like gay marriage and the fact he told us all what we wanted to hear, we let him get away with it. This is what choosing the lesser of two evils looks like, folks. Get used to it. We were played and from this vantage point, they won.
This article has been published at the Huffington Post and can be seen here.
What I realized yesterday after I saw the cover of a newspaper filled with cheering American faces at the capture of the Boston suspect is that the reason these crimes are ignored and expanded is that Americans as a whole (for the most part, minus some small dissent) agree with the policies. Ours is a bloodthirsty, punitive, and judgmental nation. Full of hypocrisy, we pound our chests in glory at the murder of those we feel have sinned against us, while concurrently seeking to murder ourselves, using revenge as justification, regardless whether there is accuracy in those beliefs, and in spite of our own atrocities against other nations. Our leaders are simply symbols for all of us.
If Americans cared that we torture, kill, and destroy on a global scale, we would object. There is no objection because the bulk of our countrymen agree.
The United States is an abusive bully. We are the bastard child of bully imperialist Britain, itself a sibling of bully imperialist Europe. We are the product of a collection of nations that scoured the world to take what they wanted, using militaries to steal the resources and destroy what had been, and religion as justification (It’s our Manifest Destiny!).
Bullies are born of abuse and the United States is no exception. Its people fought their oppressor and won, while simultaneously oppressing those whose resources we wanted for ourselves. “How dare you steal our freedom!” was our cry, while at once stealing the freedom and lives of native Americans.
Once its mission was complete, the United States spread its might across the world. We are now the most militarized nation on the planet. We push our agenda under the guise of “democracy,” which really means forcing our version of capitalism and power on any people that has something we want. We use labels and propaganda to achieve our aims. If a country doesn’t behave as we want it to, we create justifications so that we can take what we want. We ignore human rights. We destroy the planet and anything in our way. As is often the case with bullies, we destroy anyone who questions us. We seek to control, to be the most powerful, and above all, to win.
I have long been shocked by Americans’ willingness to tolerate the abuses of our country. This shock was born of the belief that most people agreed with me that such abuses were an anomaly and something we did not want. How naive I have been.
Yesterday, I spied a photo on the cover of a newspaper of Americans cheering the murder of one Boston bombing suspect and the capture of another. I saw in their eyes the desire for revenge, for blood, for glory. How sickening, I thought. After all the self-congratulation for those who selflessly assisted the victims of the bombing, how quickly Americans turned into vengeful, bloodthirsty bullies.
In a moment of epiphany, I understood. I understood why the people who so vehemently decried the abuses of the Bush administration stand idly by at the expansion of these abuses by Obama. I understood why those who now hate Obama, made excuses for Bush when he did the same things. It isn’t a belief in human rights and dignity for all. It is the desire to win. It isn’t about what is right, it is about being on the right team.
I am increasingly dismayed to discover that most of the people I consider my friends willingly accept the murder and destruction of others if it is done by the person they perceive to be on the side they have chosen. They want to win.
The Right’s supporters decry the Left. The Left’s supporters decry the Right. Each will use the same aims to win and hypocritically criticize the other for an identical action. It has nothing to do with doing the right thing. Our entire nation wants to win at all costs. Events like the Boston bombing simply bring this to the fore. Suddenly, Left and Right didn’t matter, it was Us versus Them.
You attacked our team so we will destroy you. No matter if human rights or due process are lost along the way. Such is the mentality and justification of bully America.
Evil is evil, regardless of which team you’re on. Cheering the death of another is evil. Choosing to ignore the fact that your team tortures and murders is evil. Refusing to admit that you participate and thereby incur responsibility is the utmost hypocrisy, and ultimately, the most evil of all.
Shared from Truth-Out, by William Rivers Pitt.
It’s hard to say grace and to sit in the place
Of someone missing at the table
Mom’s hair sprayed tight
And her face in her hands
Watching TV for answers to me
After all she’s only human
And she’s trying to find her own way home, boys
She’s trying to find her own way home
My legs ache
My heart is sore
The well is full of pennies
- Tom Waits
Ten years ago on this day, my life was a blur of frantic activity. The week before, tens of millions of people had taken to the streets in more than 600 cities around the world to protest the looming invasion of Iraq, an attack that had been pursued with single-minded ferocity by the administration of George W. Bush. As the author of the book “War on Iraq”, which had been published in October and argued Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or al Qaeda connections to the September 11 attacks, I was one of the voices crying out in the wilderness of the “mainstream” news media trying to make it clear that the whole thing was a sham, and a disaster in the making. I did as many television, radio and print interviews as I could – at one point, CNN interviewed me in the gymnasium of the high school where I was still teaching, because that was the only time I had available – in an attempt to halt the calamity in its tracks.
One month later, I and every other person who tried to stop it encompassed the totality of our collective failure as we watched huge swaths of Baghdad be incinerated by the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign that heralded the opening festivities of America’s nine-year debacle in Iraq.
As the ten-year anniversary of the invasion approaches, all the news networks will carve out some time to report on the decade of war endured by the people of Iraq and the people of America. Rachel Maddow recently broadcast an hour-long documentary on the selling of the war by the Bush administration. Maddow’s program began with the attacks of September 11 as the reason for the Iraq invasion, a starting point that in all probability will be repeated by the other networks, but that starting point is not factually correct. The roots of the Iraq war trace back to the founding in 1997 of a Washington DC think-tank called The Project for a New American Century (PNAC).
The core mission of PNAC was to establish what they called “Pax Americana” across the globe. Essentially, their goal was to transform America, the sole remaining superpower, into a planetary empire by force of arms. A report released by PNAC in September of 2000 entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” codified this plan. Author Norman Podhoretz, a PNAC signatory, quantified the other aspect of the PNAC plan in the September 2002 issue of his journal, “Commentary.” In it, Podhoretz noted that the Mideast regimes “that richly deserve to be overthrown and replaced, are not confined to the three singled-out members of the axis of evil. At a minimum, the axis should extend to Syria and Lebanon and Libya, as well as ‘friends’ of America like the Saudi royal family and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority, whether headed by Arafat or one of his henchmen.” At bottom, according to Podhoretz, war against Iraq was about “the long-overdue internal reform and modernization of Islam.”
PNAC was the driving force behind the drafting and passage of the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998, a bill that essentially turned their desire for war into American law. PNAC funneled millions of taxpayer dollars to a group called the Iraqi National Congress, and to the man they intended to be Iraq’s heir-apparent, Ahmed Chalabi, despite the fact that Chalabi was sentenced in absentia by a Jordanian court to 22 years in prison on 31 counts of bank fraud. Chalabi and the INC gathered support for their cause by promising oil contracts to anyone who would help overthrow Saddam Hussein and put them into power in Iraq.
After the Supreme Court gifted the presidency to George W. Bush in December of 2000, the members of PNAC – once on the outside looking in – soon found themselves walking the halls of power and holding positions of enormous influence. Among these members were Vice President Dick Cheney; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; National Security Council member Eliot Abrams; Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who also served as America’s ambassador to the UN; and Richard Perle, chairman of the powerful Defense Policy Board.
On September 11, 2001, as America and the world watched in horror, these men went to work implementing their plans for war against Iraq. That day presented, for them, the opportunity of a lifetime, and they wasted not a moment. Within a year after the 9/11 attacks, Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith had established the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the Pentagon, ostensibly to deal with raw intelligence on the state of Iraq’s armaments. In truth, OSP’s main task was to manipulate that evidence to exacerbate the threat posed by Iraq, and to quash any information that augured against the necessity for war. Those who spoke out against this manipulation of evidence were dealt with harshly; former ambassador Joseph Wilson penned an editorial in the New York Times trashing the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq had sought “yellow cake” uranium from Niger. Soon after, the Bush administration retaliated by blowing the cover of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA operative tasked with tracking weapons of mass destruction, ending her career.
George W. Bush, during his State of the Union address in January of 2003, looked solemnly into the television cameras and told the American people that Iraq was most assuredly in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, and uranium from Niger for use in their “robust” nuclear weapons programs. One month later, Colin Powell stood before the United Nations and fleshed out these claims in an address that will go down in history as one of the biggest bag-jobs ever perpetrated by anyone, ever.
A year after the attacks of September 11, Osama bin Laden had gone from being enemy #1 to being Mr. Who Cares About Him, and six months after that, “Shock and Awe” was unleashed. Maddow and her friends in the “news” media will, in the coming weeks, give us their various interpretations on how it came to happen, but none of them will bother to delve into the question of why it happened. The answer to that is too simple, and cuts too close to the bone: the war in Iraq cost more than three trillion dollars ($3,000,000,000,000.00) to execute. Every bullet fired, every bomb dropped, every MRE eaten, every helicopter shot down, every missile fired, every truck destroyed by an IED, every oil well guarded, every uniform worn, and every body bag filled translated into a slice of that money going to a company connected to the PNAC members of the Bush administration, who lied us into that war as an expression of their personal principles and in fulfillment of their dreams. Halliburton, KBR, United Defense, the Carlyle Group, independent military contractors like Blackwater and a crowd of American oil companies are still counting the riches they earned from their participation in the carnage.
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The profit motive behind why the war happened is not limited to the corporations that directly cashed in on the conflict. The “mainstream” media went along for the Bush administration ride with a bull-throated roar, pitching everything the administration was selling with graphics and music, gleefully aware of the money they were making thanks to increased viewership, and be damned to contrarian voices. Phil Donahue’s show on MSNBC came and went like a summer storm entirely because his pre-war contrarian views cut against the network’s martial grain. I summarized the reality of America’s pre-war media landscape in an October 2002 article titled, “I See Four Lights”:
One of the main reasons the dismal truths of business and economy in present-day America go unreported is the fact that we have us a war coming on. CNN, MSNBC and Fox have crafted various permutations of a ‘SHOWDOWN WITH IRAQ’ graphic, coupled with suitably dramatic music. This is a boon to the media – stories of financial ruin and stock schemes that bilked investors of billions are complicated. Compared to grainy images of explosions, fluttering American flags, and stalwart American troops preparing to step into harm’s way, the economic news is plain boring. People were changing the channel back in July and August because it was too painful, and because it was not sexy. Now, with the war graphics in full cry, they are back. CNN’s viewership increased by 500% after September 11th, and you can bet the executives down in Atlanta noted that well. War is good for the media business.
Over the last few years, MSNBC refashioned itself as the progressive news alternative to networks like Fox and CNN by giving Keith Olbermann an opportunity to do actual journalism on television for a few years, and by putting people like Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz front and center. Even Chris Matthews, the human weathervane, appears to have gotten the memo. But I remember a phone call I got from an MSNBC producer in February of 2003. Hans Blix and his weapons inspectors had not been in Iraq for 100 hours when this woman called me on my cell, told me she’d read my book, and asked me to appear on the network. There was, however, one caveat: she told me I was expected to argue that Blix and the inspectors were doing a terrible job and should be ignored, which just happened to be the exact line being peddled at the time by the Bush administration. I told the producer that I did not agree, that the inspectors needed to be given time to do their jobs, and that undermining them might lead to a devastating war. The MSNBC producer chuffed a cigarette-roughened laugh into my phone and hung up on me.
That happened – I remember the details not only because of how gruesome the conversation was, but because when she hung up on me, I almost lost control of my car and nearly wound up in the Charles River – and the fact of it tells you everything you need to know about MSNBC and the rest of the alphabet-soup cohort that is America’s “mainstream” news media. I did not do what that MSNBC producer asked me to, but you can bet all the money you have that she found someone who would a few phone calls later. You might have even seen it on TV.
MSNBC and the rest of the “news” networks can level a finger of blame at the Bush administration until the sun burns out, but the rock-bottom fact of the matter is that every one of those networks are equally to blame for the catastrophe that was, and remains, the war. No questions were asked, no push-back was offered; when the war cry went up, they made that cry their own, and they have as much blood on their hands as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of that PNAC crew.
The war against Iraq, in the end, was nothing more or less than a massive money-laundering operation that took American taxpayer dollars, soaked them in blood, and redirected them to Certain Friends In High Places. It was, as I said years ago, a smash-and-grab robbery writ large, aided and abetted by an American “news” media which had its own profit motive, and which made a nifty sum off the whole deal. Even better for them, today they get to enjoy the ratings and advertising dollars to come when they broadcast their somber “documentaries” about how terrible it all was, how many lies were told, how many mistakes were made, and all without ever looking inward at their own enormous complicity.
They say the war is over now, but Halliburton is still getting paid to “rebuild” Iraq, the military contractors are still there, bombs are still going off all over the country, the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were killed are still dead, the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were wounded and maimed are still scarred, and many of the millions who were displaced are still not home. Almost 5,000 American soldiers are still dead, nearly 40,000 more are still scarred, and the VA is utterly incapable of dealing with the aftermath.
Three trillion dollars of taxpayer money was laundered away, and today we have squadrons of politicians who voted for the war and made sure it happened now talking about cutting Medicare, about cutting Social Security, about how we can’t afford decent health care or the United States Post Office, without even a blink of acknowledgement toward their own overwhelming share of blame for what has happened to the nation.
Ten years ago, they used 9/11 against us, with the happy help of the “news” media, to unleash butchery for a payday, and broke the country in the process.
So you remember, so you never, ever forget, this is how they did it.
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”
- Dick Cheney, Vice President
Speech to VFW National Convention
“There is already a mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein is gathering weapons for the purpose of using them. And adding additional information is like adding a foot to Mount Everest.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Response to Question From the Press
“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
- Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser
CNN Late Edition
“Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.”
- George W. Bush, President
Speech to the UN General Assembly
“Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons – the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.”
- George W. Bush, President
“The Iraqi regime … possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas.”
- George W. Bush, President
Cincinnati, Ohio, Speech
“And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons.”
- George W. Bush, President
Cincinnati, Ohio, Speech
“After 11 years during which we have tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon.”
- George W. Bush, President
Cincinnati, Ohio, Speech
“We’ve also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.”
- George W. Bush, President
Cincinnati, Ohio, Speech
“Iraq, despite UN sanctions, maintains an aggressive program to rebuild the infrastructure for its nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile programs. In each instance, Iraq’s procurement agents are actively working to obtain both weapons-specific and dual-use materials and technologies critical to their rebuilding and expansion efforts, using front companies and whatever illicit means are at hand.”
- John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control
Speech to the Hudson Institute
“Iraq could decide on any given day to provide biological or chemical weapons to a terrorist group or to individual terrorists … The war on terror will not be won until Iraq is completely and verifiably deprived of weapons of mass destruction.”
- Dick Cheney, Vice President
Denver, Address to the Air National Guard
“If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
“The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Response to Question From the Press
“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.”
- George W. Bush, President
State of the Union Address
“Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.”
- George W. Bush, President
State of the Union Address
“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.”
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Remarks to the UN Security Council
“There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. And he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction. If biological weapons seem too terrible to contemplate, chemical weapons are equally chilling.”
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Address to the UN Security Council
“In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world – and we will not allow it.”
- George W. Bush, President
Speech to the American Enterprise Institute
“So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? I think our judgment has to be clearly not.”
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Remarks to the UN Security Council
“Let’s talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We know that, based on intelligence, that has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”
- Dick Cheney, Vice President
“Meet the Press”
“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
- George W. Bush, President
Address to the Nation
“Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly … all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
“One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.”
- Victoria Clark, Pentagon Spokeswoman
“I have no doubt we’re going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.”
- Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board Member
Washington Post, p. A27
“We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
“We still need to find and secure Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities and secure Iraq’s borders so we can prevent the flow of weapons of mass destruction materials and senior regime officials out of the country.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
“You bet we’re concerned about it. And one of the reasons it’s important is because the nexus between terrorist states with weapons of mass destruction … and terrorist groups – networks – is a critical link. And the thought that … some of those materials could leave the country and in the hands of terrorist networks would be a very unhappy prospect. So it is important to us to see that that doesn’t happen.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
“But make no mistake – as I said earlier – we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
“Were not going to find anything until we find people who tell us where the things are. And we have that very high on our priority list, to find the people who know. And when we do, then well learn precisely where things were and what was done.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
“Meet the Press”
“We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them.”
- George W. Bush, President
“We’ll find them. It’ll be a matter of time to do so.”
- George W. Bush, President
Remarks to Reporters
“I’m absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We’re just getting it just now.”
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Remarks to Reporters
“We never believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
Fox News Interview
“I’m not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein – because he had a weapons program.”
- George W. Bush, President
Remarks to Reporters
“U.S. officials never expected that ‘we were going to open garages and find’ weapons of mass destruction.”
- Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser
“We said all along that we will never get to the bottom of the Iraqi WMD program simply by going and searching specific sites, that you’d have to be able to get people who know about the programs to talk to you.”
- Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Interview with Australian Broadcasting
“It’s going to take time to find them, but we know he had them. And whether he destroyed them, moved them or hid them, we’re going to find out the truth. One thing is for certain: Saddam Hussein no longer threatens America with weapons of mass destruction.”
- George W. Bush, President
Speech at a Weapons Factory in Ohio
“They may have had time to destroy them, and I don’t know the answer.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
Remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations
“For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”
- Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Vanity Fair Interview
“The President is indeed satisfied with the intelligence that he received. And I think that’s borne out by the fact that, just as Secretary Powell described at the United Nations, we have found the bio trucks that can be used only for the purpose of producing biological weapons. That’s proof-perfect that the intelligence in that regard was right on target.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
“We have teams of people that are out looking. They’ve investigated a number of sites. And within the last week or two, they have in fact captured and have in custody two of the mobile trailers that Secretary Powell talked about at the United Nations as being biological weapons laboratories.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
Infinity Radio Interview
“But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.”
- George W. Bush, President
Interview With TVP Poland
“You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons … They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two … And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on.”
- George W. Bush, President
“This wasn’t material I was making up, it came from the intelligence community.”
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State
“We recently found two mobile biological weapons facilities which were capable of producing biological agents. This is the man who spent decades hiding tools of mass murder. He knew the inspectors were looking for them. You know better than me he’s got a big country in which to hide them. We’re on the look. We’ll reveal the truth.”
- George W. Bush, President
Camp Sayliya, Qatar
“I would put before you Exhibit A, the mobile biological labs that we have found. People are saying, ‘Well, are they truly mobile biological labs?’ Yes, they are. And the DCI, George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence, stands behind that assessment.”
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Fox News Interview
“No one ever said that we knew precisely where all of these agents were, where they were stored.”
- Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser
“Meet the Press”
“What the president has said is because it’s been the long-standing view of numerous people, not only in this country, not only in this administration, but around the world, including at the United Nations, who came to those conclusions … And the president is not going to engage in the rewriting of history that others may be trying to engage in.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Response to Question From the Press
“Iraq had a weapons program … Intelligence throughout the decade showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we’ll find out they did have a weapons program.”
- George W. Bush, President
Comment to Reporters
“The biological weapons labs that we believe strongly are biological weapons labs, we didn’t find any biological weapons with those labs. But should that give us any comfort? Not at all. Those were labs that could produce biological weapons whenever Saddam Hussein might have wanted to have a biological weapons inventory.”
- Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Associated Press Interview
“My personal view is that their intelligence has been, I’m sure, imperfect, but good. In other words, I think the intelligence was correct in general, and that you always will find out precisely what it was once you get on the ground and have a chance to talk to people and explore it, and I think that will happen.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
“I have reason, every reason, to believe that the intelligence that we were operating off was correct and that we will, in fact, find weapons or evidence of weapons, programs, that are conclusive. But that’s just a matter of time … It’s now less than eight weeks since the end of major combat in Iraq and I believe that patience will prove to be a virtue.”
- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
Pentagon Media Briefing
“I think the burden is on those people who think he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are.”
- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
This article has been published on Huffington Post. See it here.
I’ve read multiple articles since the shootings last week, both in my hometown and the deadly assault on school children in Connecticut. I’ve read a sadly moving article on mental health, articles on angry young men, articles on angry white men, articles on angry men of every color, articles on why the second amendment allows us to bear arms, and articles on why it doesn’t. I’ve read articles lamenting the deaths of children overseas because of US military violence, crying out against the hypocrisy of the president’s tears for US children, while seemingly ignoring those of the countries we invade. It seems all I have done this entire weekend is read about this tragedy, its victims, its causes, and why these tragedies continue.
Nowhere in any of it have I seen anyone addressing the issue of profits. Every time a mass shooting takes place, gun manufacturers make a massive profit. Citizens, afraid for their lives, go out and buy a glock. The point of the gun lobby is not to ensure that every person in the US has a gun; it’s to ensure that every person in the US buys a gun (or two, or three…). This is the real reason we haven’t been able to succeed at gun control in this country. The gun lobby pours massive amounts into ensuring their right to sell weapons is completely unfettered. In this, they have succeeded more than any manufacturer of any other product.
It’s about profits above lives, whether it’s healthcare or guns. Guns just result in deaths faster. The second amendment is a straw man. It’s the excuse used by the gun lobby to keep us from reining in the massive profits enjoyed by gun and weapon manufacturers and to keep our eyes off the ball, which is that the manufacture of these products has only one purpose: to make money. If it is children in the line of fire, so be it. Gun manufacturers make a killing (pun intended) every time a mass shooting takes place.
If we want real gun control, we need to face the reality that it is profits over lives we are discussing here. Safety is a straw man. The gun lobby doesn’t want teachers carrying guns to protect their classes. Just imagine the budget for arming schools. That’s the real issue. It’s time to start calling a spade a spade, and make lives our priorities, instead of the almighty dollar.
I have been studying, trying to come to an answer that may not exist, thinking about psychopaths/sociopaths, and further, about those surrounding psychopaths/sociopaths, and why it is these people support those who carry out evil, both on the micro and macro level. Ultimately, it seems to me that the danger of these people is greatly increased by these people who support them, the people who take action on their behalf, the people who stand blindly by and allow them to destroy.
This led to my wanting to know more about the citizens of Germany who allowed the Holocaust to happen. I keep thinking about average citizens walking down the street, passing internment camps where children were being gassed, their bodies burned in smoking ovens as the smoke rose into the sky, where people were being used as slaves or medical experiments and then murdered. This led to more reading. I spent a term at the University of Munich after a semester of intense study on the rise of Hitler and the NSDAP (Nazi) party, so I have some frame of reference. We spent hours watching the videos of camp liberation. We studied the party’s propaganda videos, and learned of the history in the decades leading up to the second world war.
In researching the participation of ordinary people, or the ignoring of atrocities by ordinary people, I found a book by a man named Daniel Goldhagen that posits the theory that the German population simply harbored a massive hatred of the Jews, and therefore they were more than happy to participate, either directly or indirectly, in their extermination. There is much debate about Mr. Goldhagen’s perspective. He became an instant celebrity in a certain community and was hailed by those who want this simple answer, for whatever reason. I also read the primary criticisms of his perspective, and while they made some very good arguments against Mr. Goldhagen’s thesis, I did not find any satisfactory alternate response. I concluded that I do not agree with Mr. Goldhagen’s theory; while German antisemitism certainly played a part in the population’s participation and consent, implied or otherwise, it is not a complete answer. Ironically, Mr. Goldhagen came off as anti-German; is this somehow acceptable because of what happened to the Jews? But this is beside the point.
The world has experienced many genocides since that perpetrated against the Jews by the Germans, and the explanation that they are all singularly driven by the hatred of one population against another does not satisfy. There is more to it than this, and there can be no one answer as to why. However, it is important to consider why it is that seemingly ordinary people go along with murder, mass or otherwise. Why go along with any destructive behavior? Fear is an obvious culprit, and cowardice, but there is definitely more.
Recently I posted a story on Facebook originally published on Truthout about the crimes (both moral and actual) of the Obama administration. A Facebook “friend” (a person I have never actually met, but we were friends in the land of social networking because of some political similarity or other) attacked my post, stating his support of Obama, and pointing out my delusions. I countered, stating that I could not support someone who murders children with drones. He stated that Obama had not “murdered children” and that I was silly for even considering such a thing. I then posted for him two photos, one of a specific named, dead child, and a collection of several dead and injured children, all murdered or injured by American drones. The “friend” then unfriended me. I can only speculate at his reasons for doing this, but it seemed to me that in showing him what he did not want to see, he simply cut off the conversation. This led to my further rumination on those who would stand by as evil occurs. This man was not in any manner obviously fearful or even cowardly, but he supports Obama and he therefore did not want to hear any contradictions of this position, even if it meant ignoring the murder of children. To some extent, I was not surprised by his response. He was dismissive of what I was saying, and in some of his comments, sarcastic towards me, both critical and superior in his responses, as if I was just being a dolt who didn’t know any better.
More recently, while conversing intimately with a person who is quite thoughtful about the causes and effects of human behavior, I was surprised at her unilateral defense of Obama. She has been critical of him in the past, but it was always cautiously critical. Now that he has won the election, she is sure that he has changed, that things will be different, that he will go against his own words and make different choices. Without being sarcastic or nasty, she was unwilling to accept that this might not be the case. She was not supportive of him out of fear or cowardice, but she was supportive in spite of any abhorrent actions of this administration. She wanted to believe in him and was therefore supportive, in spite of what has been.
Somewhere in this is part of the answer to why we support those who harm others, from small abuses to genocide, why we as humans allow atrocities to occur. It’s not a simple answer. We participate, and through our participation, evil occurs. It isn’t only that we must examine the extremes, the angry man watching FOX News and ranting ignorantly against false birth certificates and making incongruous spelling errors about the socialist government while cashing his unemployment checks. Good people turn away too because they do not want to see or because they want to believe we are better than the worst of us. It is towards those living in this grey area that we need to turn our attention, because it is they who must see the damage that is done by standing idly by if we are ever going to stop abuse and human destruction.
Regardless how you feel about Obama or the voting process itself, I cannot put myself in the place of someone who would willingly endorse a man who strapped a dog to the top of his car and let it shit in fear across five states for several hours. There is something chillingly wrong with this man, and to ignore this is to reveal something of oneself.
There has been quite a bit of speculation about who is going to win the election next month. Since I already know who the winners and losers will be, I thought I’d do the responsible thing and share this information with you.
The Winners: Goldman Sachs, CitiBank, Chase, Bank of America and the defense contractors manufacturing drones and bombs. They will continue to get trillions of dollars in no-bid, cost-plus defense contracts and bailouts.
The wealthiest 1% of the population, whose incomes will continue to rise disproportionately while everyone else’s income drops and the cost of living continues to rise.
The big corporate donors to the major parties who will continue to be invited to write legislation favoring themselves.
The big pharmaceutical companies who will be able to continue to market deadly drugs with no more than a slap on the wrist, that is, a fine equal to only a tiny fraction of their profits, when their drugs have to be recalled due to too many deaths from side effects.
The people in the present and past administrations who violated their oaths of office to uphold and defend the Constitution by legalizing cruel and unusual punishment (torture), eliminating due process, waging wars of aggression, and even killing their own citizens–a crime so horrendous that when we think some foreign dictator might be doing it we feel justified in invading their country and overthrowing their regime. These criminals will continue to be immune from prosecution.
The Losers: The elderly and chronically ill who are bracing for the expected cuts (tweaks) to Social Security and Medicare that both candidates agree upon.
Education and transportation infrastructure, which will continue to be shortchanged in order to finance foreign wars.
The middle class, who are in many cases working two jobs, no longer receiving middle class pay, and having to simultaneously support their aging parents who can’t afford nursing homes and their grown children who can’t earn enough to move out and can barely make the payments on their student loans. These are the most productive and competent workers in the world, yet many cannot know from one day to the next if their job will be outsourced and if they’ll be able to find another.
The planet, which will continue to be raped and pillaged so a few can have their cake now and eat it too.
The voters, because no matter how they vote or who they vote for, nothing will change and their best interests will not be served.
As you may have deduced by now, I don’t believe that a choice between two people funded by the same corporations, is really a choice. I’m tired of having an uncounted vote for people we can’t hold accountable. I am no longer going to settle for a vote–I want a real voice in government, the sine qua non of any democracy. I have voted for the same party all my life only to find out that both parties reward loyalty with contempt. If this government wants to have the consent of the governed, it is going to have to start from scratch and learn that you can’t buy consent–you have to earn it.
We are the people. We can make a real change, and choose how to govern ourselves. But first, the system as we know it has to end.
by W.E.B. Dubois
On October 20, 1956, W.E.B. Dubois delivered this eloquent indictment of US politics and why he would not vote in the upcoming Presidential election. Dubois condemns both Democrats and Republicans for their indifferent positions on the influence of corporate wealth, racial inequality, arms proliferation and unaffordable health care. The article appeared in The Nation. This article is absolutely fitting today and sums up my feelings pretty much exactly.
Why I Won’t Vote, by W.E.B. Dubois
This article was republished in Hartford Web Publishing.
Since I was twenty-one in 1889, I have in theory followed the voting plan strongly advocated by Sidney Lens in The Nation of August 4, i.e., voting for a third party even when its chances were hopeless, if the main parties were unsatisfactory; or, in absence of a third choice, voting for the lesser of two evils. My action, however, had to be limited by the candidates’ attitude toward Negroes. Of my adult life, I have spent twenty-three years living and teaching in the South, where my voting choice was not asked. I was disfranchised by law or administration. In the North I lived in all thirty-two years, covering eight Presidential elections. In 1912 I wanted to support Theodore Roosevelt, but his Bull Moose convention dodged the Negro problem and I tried to help elect Wilson as a liberal Southerner. Under Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War. In 1916 I took Hughes as the lesser of two evils. He promised Negroes nothing and kept his word. In 1920, I supported Harding because of his promise to liberate Haiti. In 1924, I voted for La Follette, although I knew he could not be elected. In 1928, Negroes faced absolute dilemma. Neither Hoover nor Smith wanted the Negro vote and both publicly insulted us. I voted for Norman Thomas and the Socialists, although the Socialists had attempted to Jim Crow Negro members in the South. In 1932 I voted for Franklin Roosevelt, since Hoover was unthinkable and Roosevelt’s attitude toward workers most realistic. I was again in the South from 1934 until 1944. Technically I could vote, but the election in which I could vote was a farce. The real election was the White Primary.
Retired “for age” in 1944, I returned to the North and found a party to my liking. In 1948, I voted the Progressive ticket for Henry Wallace and in 1952 for Vincent Hallinan.
In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party. On the Presidential ballot in a few states (seventeen in 1952), a “Socialist” Party will appear. Few will hear its appeal because it will have almost no opportunity to take part in the campaign and explain its platform. If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by “force and violence.” Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called “Communist” and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing his job, surrendering his social status and perhaps landing in jail. The witnesses against him may be liars or insane or criminals. These witnesses need give no proof for their charges and may not even be known or appear in person. They may be in the pay of the United States Government. A.D.A.’s and “Liberals” are not third parties; they seek to act as tails to kites. But since the kites are self-propelled and radar-controlled, tails are quite superfluous and rather silly.
The present Administration is carrying on the greatest preparation for war in the history of mankind. Stevenson promises to maintain or increase this effort. The weight of our taxation is unbearable and rests mainly and deliberately on the poor. This Administration is dominated and directed by wealth and for the accumulation of wealth. It runs smoothly like a well-organized industry and should do so because industry runs it for the benefit of industry. Corporate wealth profits as never before in history. We turn over the national resources to private profit and have few funds left for education, health or housing. Our crime, especially juvenile crime, is increasing. Its increase is perfectly logical; for a generation we have been teaching our youth to kill, destroy, steal and rape in war; what can we expect in peace? We let men take wealth which is not theirs; if the seizure is “legal” we call it high profits and the profiteers help decide what is legal. If the theft is “illegal” the thief can fight it out in court, with excellent chances to win if he receives the accolade of the right newspapers. Gambling in home, church and on the stock market is increasing and all prices are rising. It costs three times his salary to elect a Senator and many millions to elect a President. This money comes from the very corporations which today are the government. This in a real democracy would be enough to turn the party responsible out of power. Yet this we cannot do.
The “other” party has surrendered all party differences in foreign affairs, and foreign affairs are our most important affairs today and take most of our taxes. Even in domestic affairs how does Stevenson differ from Eisenhower? He uses better English than Dulles, thank God! He has a sly humor, where Eisenhower has none. Beyond this Stevenson stands on the race question in the South not far from where his godfather Adlai stood sixty-three years ago, which reconciles him to the South. He has no clear policy on war or preparation for war; on water and flood control; on reduction of taxation; on the welfare state. He wavers on civil rights and his party blocked civil rights in the Senate until Douglas of Illinois admitted that the Democratic Senate would and could stop even the right of Senators to vote. Douglas had a right to complain. Three million voters sent him to the Senate to speak for them. His voice was drowned and his vote nullified by Eastland, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was elected by 151,000 voters. This is the democracy in the United States which we peddle abroad.
Negroes hope to muster 400,000 votes in 1956. Where will they cast them? What have the Republicans done to enforce the education decision of the Supreme Court? What they advertised as fair employment was exactly nothing, and Nixon was just the man to explain it. What has the Administration done to rescue Negro workers, the most impoverished group in the nation, half of whom receive less than half the median wage of the nation, while the nation sends billions abroad to protect oil investments and help employ slave labor in the Union of South Africa and the Rhodesias? Very well, and will the party of Talmadge, Eastland and Ellender do better than the Republicans if the Negroes return them to office?
I have no advice for others in this election. Are you voting Democratic? Well and good; all I ask is why? Are you voting for Eisenhower and his smooth team of bright ghost writers? Again, why? Will your helpless vote either way support or restore democracy to America?
Is the refusal to vote in this phony election a counsel of despair? No, it is dogged hope. It is hope that if twenty-five million voters refrain from voting in 1956 because of their own accord and not because of a sly wink from Khrushchev, this might make the American people ask how much longer this dumb farce can proceed without even a whimper of protest. Yet if we protest, off the nation goes to Russia and China. Fifty-five American ministers and philanthropists are asking the Soviet Union “to face manfully the doubts and promptings of their conscience.” Can not these do-gooders face their own consciences? Can they not see that American culture is rotting away: our honesty, our human sympathy; our literature, save what we import from abroad? Our only “review” of literature has wisely dropped “literature” from its name. Our manners are gone and the one thing we want is to be rich – to show off. Success is measured by income. University education is for income, not culture, and is partially supported by private industry. We are not training poets or musicians, but atomic engineers. Business is built on successful lying called advertising. We want money in vast amount, no matter how we get it. So we have it, and what then?
Is the answer the election of 1956? We can make a sick man President and set him to a job which would strain a man in robust health. So he dies, and what do we get to lead us? With Stevenson and Nixon, with Eisenhower and Eastland, we remain in the same mess. I will be no party to it and that will make little difference. You will take large part and bravely march to the polls, and that also will make no difference. Stop running Russia and giving Chinese advice when we cannot rule ourselves decently. Stop yelling about a democracy we do not have. Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln, and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let’s vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible.
102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes
This post can be found HERE.
So, you’re a Republican that hates taxes? Well, since you do not like taxes or government, please kindly do the following.
1. Do not use Medicare.
2. Do not use Social Security
3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.
4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.
5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
9. Do not use public restrooms.
10. Do not send your kids to public schools.
11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.
12. Do not live in areas with clean air.
13. Do not drink clean water.
14. Do not visit National Parks.
15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.
16. Do not eat or use FDA inspected food and medicines.
17. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.
18. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.
19. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.
20. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.
21. Do not apply for educational or job training assistance when you lose your job.
22. Do not apply for food stamps when you can’t feed your children.
23. Do not use the judiciary system for any reason.
24. Do not ask for an attorney when you are arrested and do not ask for one to be assigned to you by the court.
25. Do not apply for any Pell Grants.
26. Do not use cures that were discovered by labs using federal dollars.
27. Do not fly on federally regulated airplanes.
28. Do not use any product that can trace its development back to NASA.
29. Do not watch the weather provided by the National Weather Service.
30. Do not listen to severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service.
31. Do not listen to tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake alert systems.
32. Do not apply for federal housing.
33. Do not use the internet, which was developed by the military.
34. Do not swim in clean rivers.
35. Do not allow your child to eat school lunches or breakfasts.
36. Do not ask for FEMA assistance when everything you own gets wiped out by disaster.
37. Do not ask the military to defend your life and home in the event of a foreign invasion.
38. Do not use your cell phone or home telephone.
39. Do not buy firearms that wouldn’t have been developed without the support of the US Government and military. That includes most of them.
40. Do not eat USDA inspected produce and meat.
41. Do not apply for government grants to start your own business.
42. Do not apply to win a government contract.
43. Do not buy any vehicle that has been inspected by government safety agencies.
44. Do not buy any product that is protected from poisons, toxins, etc…by the Consumer Protection Agency.
45. Do not save your money in a bank that is FDIC insured.
46. Do not use Veterans benefits or military health care.
47. Do not use the G.I. Bill to go to college.
48. Do not apply for unemployment benefits.
49. Do not use any electricity from companies regulated by the Department of Energy.
50. Do not live in homes that are built to code.
51. Do not run for public office. Politicians are paid with taxpayer dollars.
52. Do not ask for help from the FBI, S.W.A.T, the bomb squad, Homeland Security, State troopers, etc…
53. Do not apply for any government job whatsoever as all state and federal employees are paid with tax dollars.
54. Do not use public libraries.
55. Do not use the US Postal Service.
56. Do not visit the National Archives.
57. Do not visit Presidential Libraries.
58. Do not use airports that are secured by the federal government.
59. Do not apply for loans from any bank that is FDIC insured.
60. Do not ask the government to help you clean up after a tornado.
61. Do not ask the Department of Agriculture to provide a subsidy to help you run your farm.
62. Do not take walks in National Forests.
63. Do not ask for taxpayer dollars for your oil company.
64. Do not ask the federal government to bail your company out during recessions.
65. Do not seek medical care from places that use federal dollars.
66. Do not use Medicaid.
67. Do not use WIC.
68. Do not use electricity generated by Hoover Dam.
69. Do not use electricity or any service provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
70. Do not ask the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild levees when they break.
71. Do not let the Coast Guard save you from drowning when your boat capsizes at sea.
72. Do not ask the government to help evacuate you when all hell breaks loose in the country you are in.
73. Do not visit historic landmarks.
74. Do not visit fisheries.
75. Do not expect to see animals that are federally protected because of the Endangered Species List.
76. Do not expect plows to clear roads of snow and ice so your kids can go to school and so you can get to work.
77. Do not hunt or camp on federal land.
78. Do not work anywhere that has a safe workplace because of government regulations.
79. Do not use public transportation.
80. Do not drink water from public water fountains.
81. Do not whine when someone copies your work and sells it as their own. Government enforces copyright laws.
82. Do not expect to own your home, car, or boat. Government organizes and keeps all titles.
83. Do not expect convicted felons to remain off the streets.
84. Do not eat in restaurants that are regulated by food quality and safety standards.
85. Do not seek help from the US Embassy if you need assistance in a foreign nation.
86. Do not apply for a passport to travel outside of the United States.
87. Do not apply for a patent when you invent something.
88. Do not adopt a child through your local, state, or federal governments.
89.Do not use elevators that have been inspected by federal or state safety regulators.
90. Do not use any resource that was discovered by the USGS.
91. Do not ask for energy assistance from the government.
92. Do not move to any other developed nation, because the taxes are much higher.
93. Do not go to a beach that is kept clean by the state.
94. Do not use money printed by the US Treasury.
95. Do not complain when millions more illegal immigrants cross the border because there are no more border patrol agents.
96. Do not attend a state university.
97. Do not see any doctor that is licensed through the state.
98. Do not use any water from municipal water systems.
99. Do not complain when diseases and viruses, that were once fought around the globe by the US government and CDC, reach your house.
100. Do not work for any company that is required to pay its workers a livable wage, provide them sick days, vacation days, and benefits.
101. Do not expect to be able to vote on election days. Government provides voting booths, election day officials, and voting machines which are paid for with taxes.
102. Do not ride trains. The railroad was built with government financial assistance.
The fact is, we pay for the lifestyle we expect. Without taxes, our lifestyles would be totally different and much harder. America would be a third world country. The less we pay, the less we get in return. Americans pay less taxes today since 1958 and is ranked 32nd out of 34 of the top tax paying countries. Chile and Mexico are 33rd and 34th. The Republicans are lying when they say that we pay the highest taxes in the world and are only attacking taxes to reward corporations and the wealthy and to weaken our infrastructure and way of life. So next time you object to paying taxes or fight to abolish taxes for corporations and the wealthy, keep this quote in mind…
“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
This is an article by Paul Krugman from the NY Times. It can be seen here. Please read and share. Groups like ALEC are ruining our country. Their power and influence must be stopped.
Lobbyists, Guns and Money
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.
Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.
What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.
Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.
What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.
And in case you were wondering, no, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn’t in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we’re getting is a series of scandals. Private charter schools, for example, appear to deliver a lot of profits but little in the way of educational achievement.
But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture? In part it’s the same old story — the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It’s neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.
And ALEC, even more than other movement-conservative organizations, is clearly playing a long game. Its legislative templates aren’t just about generating immediate benefits to the organization’s corporate sponsors; they’re about creating a political climate that will favor even more corporation-friendly legislation in the future.
Did I mention that ALEC has played a key role in promoting bills that make it hard for the poor and ethnic minorities to vote?
Yet that’s not all; you have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex — prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its “life preserver.”) This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it’s exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona’s draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim.
Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.
Now, ALEC isn’t single-handedly responsible for the corporatization of our political life; its influence is as much a symptom as a cause. But shining a light on ALEC and its supporters — a roster that includes many companies, from AT&T and Coca-Cola to UPS, that have so far managed to avoid being publicly associated with the hard-right agenda — is one good way to highlight what’s going on. And that kind of knowledge is what we need to start taking our country back.
I sat down to work on my book and took a couple of minutes first to look at Facebook. First I saw a photo of a dead child in Afghanistan whose body was badly burned. Then I saw the story about the person who went on a murderous rampage there, killing women and children, mostly girls under six. Now I can’t write. I’m sickened and horrified. My heart hurts for these people. All we do in the name of our imperialistic superiority makes me completely ill. I can do nothing except object, and this is not enough. When the fuck are humans going to stop allowing this to happen, all in the name of greed and power? We need to LEAVE this country! We do not belong there, at least in the capacity as a marauding military. We can’t even take care of our own. Every day when I walk through my city, even to the grocery store, I am confronted with the consequences of allowing greed and power to destroy our race and this planet. Women and children. Men and children. Women and men. Homeless. Living on the streets. Begging for food. It’s obscene. There is enough to go around if we stop allowing the greedy and powerful to steal it from us, if we stop killing and maiming and destroying and robbing our world blind. Enough already! Do we have to destroy ourselves to get it to end?
Fighting the tea party, fighting other religions or non-religions, fighting anyone who doesn’t agree with our views just keeps us all form pointing to the real causes of our collective global crises. Follow the money, and in every case you’ll end up at the big bankers, who seek global domination. They are succeeding and we help them when we are polarized against each other.
Get informed, speak up, and connect with others.
Buy and invest responsibly and locally.
Audit the federal reserve.
Keep the internet fair and open.
Support independent media.
Support organic, non GMO farming.
Require election and campaign finance reform.
Advocate for renewable and free energy.
Bring integrity and healing to our current condition. Limit government control to the protection of individual rights and the commons. Live solely by voluntary cooperation: Rules, but no rulers.
The US Government hands over OUR tax money to the banks who have driven us to this desperate economic situation that is hurting so many people. This should cause serious concern. Regardless of what you think of the Occupy movement, you should care that the government hands off your money to crooks, money that is supposed to be used for our schools, keeping our air and water clean, functional highway systems, and taking care of the needy. There isn’t any money for any of these things because it has been given away to rich thieves.
See this transcript from the documentation proving these massive bailout transfers. The original document can be seen here.
Federal Bailouts: Money for Nothing
~ by Alan Grayson
I think it’s fair to say that Congressman Ron Paul and I are the parents of the GAO’s audit of the Federal Reserve. And I say that knowing full well that Dr. Paul has somewhat complicated views regarding gay marriage.
Anyway, one of our love children is a massive 251-page GAO report technocratically entitled “Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Policies and Processes for Managing Emergency Assistance.” It is almost as weighty as that 13-lb. baby born in Germany last week, named Jihad. It also is the first independent audit of the Federal Reserve in the Fed’s 99-year history.
Feel free to take a look at it yourself, it’s right here. It documents Wall Street bailouts by the Fed that dwarf the $700 billion TARP, and everything else you’ve heard about.
I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I’m dramatizing or amplifying what this GAO report says, so I’m just going to list some of my favorite parts, by page number.
Page 131 – The total lending for the Fed’s “broad-based emergency programs” was $16,115,000,000,000. That’s right, more than $16 trillion. The four largest recipients, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, received more than a trillion dollars each. The 5th largest recipient was Barclays PLC. The 8th was the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, PLC. The 9th was Deutsche Bank AG. The 10th was UBS AG. These four institutions each got between a quarter of a trillion and a trillion dollars. None of them is an American bank.
Pages 133 & 137 – Some of these “broad-based emergency program” loans were long-term, and some were short-term. But the “term-adjusted borrowing” was equivalent to a total of $1,139,000,000,000 more than one year. That’s more than $1 trillion out the door. Lending for these programs in fact peaked at more than $1 trillion.
Pages 135 & 196 – Sixty percent of the $738 billion “Commercial Paper Funding Facility” went to the subsidiaries of foreign banks. 36% of the $71 billion Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility also went to subsidiaries of foreign banks.
Page 205 – Separate and apart from these “broad-based emergency program” loans were another $10,057,000,000,000 in “currency swaps.” In the “currency swaps,” the Fed handed dollars to foreign central banks, no strings attached, to fund bailouts in other countries. The Fed’s only “collateral” was a corresponding amount of foreign currency, which never left the Fed’s books (even to be deposited to earn interest), plus a promise to repay. But the Fed agreed to give back the foreign currency at the original exchange rate, even if the foreign currency appreciated in value during the period of the swap. These currency swaps and the “broad-based emergency program” loans, together, totaled more than $26 trillion. That’s almost $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in America. That’s an amount equal to more than seven years of federal spending — on the military, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt, and everything else. And around twice American’s total GNP.
Page 201 – Here again, these “swaps” were of varying length, but on Dec. 4, 2008, there were $588,000,000,000 outstanding. That’s almost $2,000 for every American. All sent to foreign countries. That’s more than twenty times as much as our foreign aid budget.
Page 129 – In October 2008, the Fed gave $60,000,000,000 to the Swiss National Bank with the specific understanding that the money would be used to bail out UBS, a Swiss bank. Not an American bank. A Swiss bank.
Pages 3 & 4 – In addition to the “broad-based programs,” and in addition to the “currency swaps,” there have been hundreds of billions of dollars in Fed loans called “assistance to individual institutions.” This has included Bear Stearns, AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, and “some primary dealers.” The Fed decided unilaterally who received this “assistance,” and who didn’t.
Pages 101 & 173 – You may have heard somewhere that these were riskless transactions, where the Fed always had enough collateral to avoid losses. Not true. The “Maiden Lane I” bailout fund was in the hole for almost two years.
Page 4 – You also may have heard somewhere that all this money was paid back. Not true. The GAO lists five Fed bailout programs that still have amounts outstanding, including $909,000,000,000 (just under a trillion dollars) for the Fed’s Agency Mortgage-Backed Securities Purchase Program alone. That’s almost $3,000 for every American.
Page 126 – In contemporaneous documents, the Fed apparently did not even take a stab at explaining why it helped some banks (like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) and not others. After the fact, the Fed referred vaguely to “strains in the financial markets,” “transitional credit,” and the Fed’s all-time favorite rationale for everything it does, “increasing liquidity.”
81 different places in the GAO report – The Fed applied nothing even resembling a consistent policy toward valuing the assets that it acquired. Sometimes it asked its counterparty to take a “haircut” (discount), sometimes it didn’t. Having read the whole report, I see no rhyme or reason to those decisions, with billions upon billions of dollars at stake.
Page 2 – As massive as these enumerated Fed bailouts were, there were yet more. The GAO did not even endeavor to analyze the Fed’s discount window lending, or its single-tranche term repurchase agreements.
Pages 13 & 14 – And the Fed wasn’t the only one bailing out Wall Street, of course. On top of what the Fed did, there was the $700,000,000,000 TARP program authorized by Congress (which I voted against). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) also provided a federal guarantee for $600,000,000,000 in bonds issued by Wall Street.
There is one thing that I’d like to add to this, which isn’t in the GAO’s report. All this is something new, very new. For the first 96 years of the Fed’s existence, the Fed’s primary market activities were to buy or sell U.S. Treasury bonds (to change the money supply), and to lend at the “discount window.” Neither of these activities permitted the Fed to play favorites. But the programs that the GAO audited are fundamentally different. They allowed the Fed to choose winners and losers.
So what does all this mean? Here are some short observations:
(1) In the case of TARP, at least The People’s representatives got a vote. In the case of the Fed’s bailouts, which were roughly 20 times as substantial, there was never any vote. Unelected functionaries, with all sorts of ties to Wall Street, handed out trillions of dollars to Wall Street. That’s now how a democracy should function, or even can function.
(2) The notion that this was all without risk, just because the Fed can keep printing money, is both laughable and cryable (if that were a word). Leaving aside the example of Germany’s hyperinflation in 1923, we have the more recent examples of Iceland (75% of GNP gone when the central bank took over three failed banks) and Ireland (100% of GNP gone when the central bank tried to rescue property firms).
(3) In the same way that American troops cannot act as police officers for the world, our central bank cannot act as piggy bank for the world. If the European Central Bank wants to bail out UBS, fine. But there is no reason why our money should be involved in that.
(4) For the Fed to pick and choose among aid recipients, and then pick and choose who takes a “haircut” and who doesn’t, is both corporate welfare and socialism. The Fed is a central bank, not a barber shop.
(5) The main, if not the sole, qualification for getting help from the Fed was to have lost huge amounts of money. The Fed bailouts rewarded failure, and penalized success. (If you don’t believe me, ask Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan.) The Fed helped the losers to squander and destroy even more capital.
(6) During all the time that the Fed was stuffing money into the pockets of failed banks, many Americans couldn’t borrow a dime for a home, a car, or anything else. If the Fed had extended $26 trillion in credit to the American people instead of Wall Street, would there be 24 million Americans today who can’t find a full-time job?
And here’s what bothers me most about all this: it can happen again. I’ve called the GAO report a bailout autopsy. But it’s an autopsy of the undead.
The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality.
– by Naomi Wolf
This post is a reprint and can be found here.
US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.
But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, andpenned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.
To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.
I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.
Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.
That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.
The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.
The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.
No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.
For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).
In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.
But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.
Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.
So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.
This article can be seen on Truthout here.
Free Bradley Manning
(Photo: thaths )
It is dangerous to be right in matters on which established authorities are wrong.
I have a confession to make: I have been on the fence about Bradley Manning as the drama of his detention and the Wikileaks documents have unfolded. While I believe deeply that those who leak classified materials are acting out of conscience and for the good of the people, I also believe criminal acts – even ones of conscience – must be met with punishment as required in any society that wishes to live by the rule of law. Arrest and detention are part of any illegal act of civil disobedience, and are to be expected as the natural consequence of such an act.
Chain yourself to a fence, and expect to be arrested for trespassing. Pour blood on the nose cone of a nuclear missile, and expect to be arrested for destruction of property. The threat of arrest, detention and possible conviction is part of the package that is civil disobedience, and those who take part in it must accept the consequences as part of their act of conscience. Indeed, it is the acceptance of punishment that lies at the heart of that conscience: they are breaking a law to highlight a wrong, are willing to be punished to underscore that wrong, and in doing so, demonstrate how far they are personally willing to go in order to end that wrong and inspire others in the process.
That’s where I’ve been with Bradley Manning – his was an act of conscience that broke the law, and the consequences of that act must be accepted – until now.
How wrong I was.
This situation goes far beyond such a simplistic cut-and-dried viewpoint. It cuts to the core of what we are as a nation, what we wish to be, and what must be done to honor the values we pay so much lip service to, even as we fail time and again to practice what we preach. What Manning has been charged with goes far beyond an act of conscience; they were, in fact, an attempt to save the very soul of these United States.
It is widely considered facile and weak to make Nazi comparisons in any argument, but unfortunately for every citizen of this country, the comparison here is all too apt. During the Nuremberg trials in the aftermath of World War II, accused war criminals were often heard to claim, “I was only following orders,” as a means of justifying their savage and barbaric activities. The excuse was rejected out of hand, further enshrining the idea that soldiers and officers are more than mere automatons who are expected only to do as they are told. Criminal acts, even in a military situation, are not to be condoned, coddled or tolerated. Men were hanged by the judges at Nuremberg to emphasize the point.
And here is Bradley Manning, who like every enlisted American soldier, swore an oath to support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against enemies both foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That same oath requires the oath-taker to follow the orders of the president and superior officers, but if those hanged men at Nuremberg prove anything, it is that unlawful orders are by definition void, and should not be followed if the oath sworn to the Constitution is to mean anything at all.
Make no mistake: the documents Bradley Manning has been accused of leaking are prima facie evidence of illegal orders being given and executed all along the chain of command. This has been made even more abundantly clear with the recent revelation of some 700 pages of documents detailing the ongoing travesty that is America’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to various reports :
The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim.
A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members. One Briton, Jamal al-Harith, was rendered to Guantánamo simply because he had been held in a Taliban prison and was thought to have knowledge of their interrogation techniques. The US military tried to hang on to another Briton, Binyam Mohamed, even after charges had been dropped and evidence emerged he had been tortured.
The files also detail how many innocents or marginal figures swept up by the Guantánamo dragnet because US forces thought they might be of some intelligence value.
One man was transferred to the facility “because he was a mullah, who led prayers at Manu mosque in Kandahar province, Afghanistan … which placed him in a position to have special knowledge of the Taliban”. US authorities eventually released him after more than a year’s captivity, deciding he had no intelligence value.
Another prisoner was shipped to the base “because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khowst and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver“.
The files also reveal that an al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years, partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network.
Also illuminated in these leaked documents is the shameful use of torture, described through the cruel euphemism of “enhanced interrogation,” that was rampant at Guantanamo Bay. Thanks to such disgraceful practices, the prisoners currently detained there now find themselves in a ridiculous legal limbo; they may be innocent or guilty, but because they were tortured, they cannot be brought to trial because evidence obtained against them was gathered illegally. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before, refuses to let the legal process do its work, nor are they willing to release these prisoners, so there they sit.
In a filthy irony, Bradley Manning was exposed to a number of grotesquely similar “stress tactics” used against Guantanamo prisoners while detained at Quantico. He was deprived of sleep, humiliated and berated by his captors, isolated, exposed to cold, and made to stand naked for extended periods of time. Such acts are straight out of the War on Terror handbook, and like the prisoners at Guantanamo, were used against a man who has yet to be convicted of anything. The mistreatment tactics against prisoners that Manning allegedly exposed have been used against him, one more crime in a symphony of crimes.
Bradley Manning sits today in Leavenworth prison awaiting a hearing to determine whether or not he will face a court martial. The case against him seems as disorganized and specious as the cases against many of the prisoners at Guantanamo, but let us accept for the moment that he did, in fact, release those classified documents. If so, he should be thanked for his actions. As Glenn Greenwald so eloquently argued , “WikiLeaks is responsible for more newsworthy scoops over the last year than all media outlets combined: it’s not even a close call. And if Bradley Manning is the leaker, he has done more than any other human being in our lifetime to bring about transparency and shine a light on what military and government power is doing.”
Moreover, if there is actually justice to be found in this morally crippled nation, Bradley Manning should be cleared of all charges and released. His was not some casual act of disobedience, nor was it an attack against his country. Bradley Manning was fulfilling the oath he swore to protect and defend the Constitution. He exposed serial criminal acts perpetrated by his superiors, which is a moral necessity for anyone who has taken such an oath.
We know the truth of the acts made by both the Bush and Obama administrations in Guantanamo, and they are illegal on their face. We are a better nation today because we know this, and we have Bradley Manning to thank for it. By exposing war crimes, he has been labeled a criminal even before any hearings have been held. He has been mistreated in a way you would not treat a dog. He showed us the war crimes committed in our name, and has been crushed for it.
Justice demands his release. Furthermore, justice demands a wide inquiry into the criminal acts of both the Bush and Obama administrations as pertaining to the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Justice demands prosecution for those acts against the real criminals responsible for them. They have driven our nation into the gutter, and to punish Bradley Manning for attempting to haul us back from that abyss is to admit, in broad daylight and with no shame, that justice has no meaning anymore.
If Huckabee is to be believed, I am causing more damage to the world than bombs because I’m a GASP! single mother!! I’m uneducated (except for that doctorate–oops, don’t tell!), I’m poor (except for my decent income–better keep quiet on that one!), I am stealing money from the state in the form of welfare (okay, I have to concede on this–I get Oregon Health Plan because I had breast cancer. What a loser!), and I’m raising damaged children born out of wedlock who will fill the prisons because I alone ruined them since no man was around to keep me in line. My lovely, well-behaved, HAPPY daughters are destined for hell. What can I say? I should just lie on the floor and waste away because I’m so worthless and so are my babies. C’est la vie. I love them anyway.
My article Mexico: The House the US Has Set on Fire was published on Huffington Post. You can see it here. If you like it, please pass it on or buzz it up. Thank you.
Mexico is a house the US has set on fire, then covered its doors and windows with bars, allowing the people inside to burn alive. Fueled by easy access to weapons from their neighbors to the north, drug lords have infiltrated all sectors of society, and now Mexico is arguably the most dangerous country in North America and one of the most dangerous in the world. Deregulation, privatization of government services, liberalized trade, and the “war on drugs” have made life and poverty in Mexico so unbearable that Mexican citizens risk their lives to try and escape the burning conflagration and come to the United States. The US created this mess, and, through “border reform,” seeks to keep Mexican citizens from attempting to escape.
Even more so than in the US, the rich have gotten richer on the backs of the Mexican poor. Thanks to corporate America’s demand for low wages, Mexicans confront American sweatshops, pollution, congestion, horrible living conditions, and no resources to deal with the increasing violence. As in the United States, agribusiness has destroyed the family farm. Wal-mart has put thousands of small, local businesses out of business. Free trade was sold as a means to improve the lives of Mexicans and Americans. It has led only to greater exploitation. American jobs were sent to Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor with little or no safety or environmental oversight. The “war on drugs” has made outlaws wealthy and created a dangerous and corrupt police state where no one is safe. Mexicans want to escape–how can we blame them?
Immigration reform is constantly on the US agenda, yet it isn’t really about reform; it is about racism, ignorance, and fear. Americans, suffering from decades of the same economic policies that are leading to greater poverty in Mexico, blame their woes on Mexico’s victims of those policies. The smoke and mirrors illusion that the rising level of poverty in the US is caused by liberal systems, government socialism, and immigrants is part of the same lie that keeps Americans blaming and fighting one another. As long as everyone is fighting each other, the bulk of the population won’t focus on the true causes of economic disparity taking over the planet.
While it is highly unlikely that this approach will happen, Americans need to reach out and support Mexicans and Mexico. Rather than turning immigration reform into a battle at the border, the US must eliminate trade policies that benefit only the wealthy. The US also needs to help Mexico build its infrastructure, providing access to basic services such as clean water and functional sewer systems, decent transportation, and a healthy environment. We must help it form a strong education system so its citizens can achieve their dreams. We need stronger gun regulations of our own so drug dealers on both sides of the border cannot get cheap and easy access to weapons. Finally, we must end the failed “war on drugs” that has made outlaws unimaginably wealthy and forces millions to live in fear for their lives every day.
Unless the US is willing to embrace difficult solutions to a complex problem, there will be no true immigration reform. Killing, jailing, or sending back those who seek refuge here is not any answer. Real reform is formidable and ambitious, but it is also possible. True immigration reform would make the citizens of Mexico want to stay in their homeland rather than escaping to a place where our worst is still the best they can hope for.
This was published on Huffington Post. If you like it, repost or buzz it up. Thank you.
It can be seen here.
Progressives Must Change
Ah, elections. Of course the mainstream media presumes that the House takeover is evidence of a sea change. I disagree. Things really haven’t changed as much as everyone would like to think. The Democratic majority wasn’t accomplishing much; a Republican House isn’t going to cause anything much different. If progressives don’t want President Boehner and Vice-President Palin in 2012, we are going to have to do something very different. Preaching to the choir isn’t helping — we get it. What really needs altering is that Progressives have got to reach the other side’s voters.
The voters on the other side are angry and want someone to blame. They have lost their jobs. They have had their unemployment benefits cut and their homes foreclosed upon. They have seen costs skyrocket. The right fans the flames by focusing the blame on liberals, immigrants, and gays. Yet Progressives either ignore these voters, or keep trying to reach them in the wrong way by telling people how stupid they are for believing these lies, and shoving reason-based evidence in their face to prove it.
This does not work.
The voters who elected Tea Party and Republican candidates listen to the drumbeat of FOX News and the mainstream media because no one else is giving them answers that make sense. Trying to reach them from a reason- and evidence-based place while simultaneously telling them how stupid they are is not going to work. The right has capitalized on their fear and lack of knowledge. If we want these voters, we have got to help them understand just how much worse the right will be (and has been) for them.
Such education may take going to go door to door, informing people without arguing, asking them questions like, “What does small government mean to you and why do you think it will help?” I suspect the answer would be that these people do not want to pay as many taxes because they are already broke and can’t make ends meet, not that they want their unemployment benefits cut or their home to foreclose because the banking industry has no regulations. If we get them to understand the progressive side is theirs too, rather than telling them how stupid they are and why they should listen to us, the results might be different in 2012.
Right now, these voters aren’t getting answers from us and the media will not help. We have to reach them some other way because they distrust knowledge and reason. This education has to come from an emotional place, from compassion rather than pity or self-righteousness. We have to get them to trust the progressive movement, and see that the Republicans vote against their economic interests every time. If we can show them that Republican decisions that allow corporations to put the dollar above them are what cause their problems, and that unfettered capitalism will only make their lives worse, perhaps we can turn things around.
If not, the president elected in 2012 will be someone worse than George W. Bush. I guarantee it.
Dear Mr. Tim Wise, You are a genius. You are so dead-on correct, I had to repost this for anyone who stumbles across what I write here. Readers if you find me, please read this, then pass it on.
The link to this story can be found here.
“Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black” — Tim Wise
Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure – the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.
So let’s begin.
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.
Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.
Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.
Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.
Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.
Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.
Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.
Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.
Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”
Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.
In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?
To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.
And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.
Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.
I’m so frustrated with this country. I wish I had never heard the results of the Massachusetts election. I can’t stand the stupid, short-sightedness in this country. If anyone thinks Republicans are going to do anything to fix anything, they are fucking crazy. This country would not be in this mess if it weren’t for decades of conservative thinking. It never works. People think the middle of the road Democrats need to fix things immediately or they will just vote in the bastards who created the mess in the first place, and things only get worse. Problems take years to accumulate and they want changes to happen in minutes.
Conservative thinking has made a concerted effort to make Americans believe government is the problem, then they set out to gut government in order to back up their goals, getting people to believe that laissez-faire, market-driven capitalism is in their interests. After their jobs have been sent overseas, their homes taken from them, no healthcare, no food, gutted schools, and no social programs to speak of, Americans blame government for the problem, rather than blaming the tiny elite who manipulated them in the first place using issues like abortion and same-sex marriage to get people to vote against their economic interests. It’s terrifying. In reality, governments work well in many countries, countries that let governments run effectively and don’t let big money run loose to do as it pleases.
I find it ironic that the same people who lament the giant banks and their big bonuses and corrupt business practices vote in the same people who ensure these policies stay in place and their actions will become even more blatant. It makes me crazy. People listen to uneducated fools like Sarah Palin, think she’s “like them,” in spite of the fact her bank account is nothing like theirs and she makes our nation look like a country of fools. They get caught up in the hateful ire of Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, without considering the motivations of these very wealthy, very hateful men. They blame Obama for the bailouts, and he wasn’t even president when it happened! I’m so sick of the ignorance, I can barely manage to follow politics in this country anymore.
I know the people I admire urge me to continue to try and make the world a better place, that in giving up hope, those hateful bastards win. But seriously, how is one supposed to cope knowing things are only going to get worse and knowing I have two children for whom I want the world to be a better place, and for whom I want a planet for them to live on and prosper? It almost makes me ashamed for having brought them into this place. I love them more than life itself. I only hope there is a planet for them to live on that isn’t as bleak and horrible as it seems doomed to be.
This article can be seen here on Huffington Post. If you like it, Digg It or Buzz it Up.
Pat Robertson has been getting a lot of attention for his hateful, insensitive remarks about the victims of the earthquake in Haiti (and the victims of 9/11, and the Christmas Day tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina). This is understandable. Those of us with anything resembling a moral compass are shocked that he could believe such things and that he has the audacity to spew them in the wake of such tragedies.
Yet as horrendously mean-spirited as Robertson’s statements are, we should also be upset that his opinions receive national attention. Why? Because broadcasters choose to air his program. If broadcasters refused to air his nastiness, no one would have to hear about it. The way to keep him from getting national attention is to get broadcasters to stop airing his show.
Viewers can control what is shown by boycotting advertisers who fund his offensive program. If we want to stop hearing Pat Robertson, we need to make sure the broadcasters who air his program are not paid for it, thereby removing their incentive to air him.
The primary network airing The 700 Club is the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Call the CBN and tell them to stop airing this show. Call networks and tell them to stop airing the show. Tell them if they do not pull the show, you will boycott their advertisers. Then call their advertisers and tell them you will not buy their products if they advertise on networks that air The 700 Club, or if they advertise on the CBN until the network pulls the show.
The CBN should drop Pat Robertson and The 700 Club. He does not espouse Christian values (or any values at all), such as compassion, kindness, generosity, humility, or selflessness. Let’s all do our part to ensure the next time tragedy strikes, Pat Robertson’s ugliness receives zero attention because none of us have to hear it.
I was published on Huffington Post last week. To see the original story, click here. If you like it, please share on Facebook or twitter, and feel free to buzz me up.
I’m the Poster Child for Public Healthcare
by Lara M. Gardner
I am a poster child for public health. Why do I say this? Because I live in a state where there is a low-income, public healthcare option. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was able to utilize this option for my treatment. It worked, and it worked extremely well.
Uninsured and unemployed after job-hunting for over a year in late 2006, I discovered a lump in my breast. The lump turned out to be benign, but the mammogram of that lump showed early breast cancer. The nurse-practitioner who ordered the mammogram knew about a federal program for treatment of breast and cervical cancers in low-income women. I applied for the program and was accepted for my mammogram and subsequent biopsy. Once the biopsy showed that I indeed had cancer, the Oregon Health Plan kicked in, along with the federal program, to treat my cancer.
The care I received was phenomenal. I was able to choose my doctors. My surgeon and oncologists were all brilliant, amazing physicians. All of the staff in every facility treated me with kindness and respect. Throughout the process I was a partner in my care, everyone explaining procedures at a level commensurate with my education and understanding. Never once was I made to feel like a second-class citizen because of my public health status. I completed radiation treatments and, because I take an estrogen-blocking drug, have continued on the public-health program.
As part of my care, I was required to pay $3 for doctor visits. I had two surgeries for a biopsy and lumpectomy, a needle biopsy, radiation, multiple mammograms, and attended countless doctor appointments with various practitioners. The only bills I ever received were for the $3 fees. Not once did I suffer through multiple bills, trying to sort out which my insurance company had paid, who had been billed, who was owed what. I was spared all of this thanks to public healthcare.
Since the healthcare debate has come to the fore over the last year, I have read and heard story after story of women with cancers like mine who were “covered” by private health insurance. Over and over, I have heard of the trauma and stress these women experienced at the hands of their insurance companies at the same time they were dealing with the pain, fear, and exhaustion of their illness. Each time I heard these stories, I felt grateful that I was covered by a public health plan.
Part of the health care debate has included the old canards about the Canadian and British health systems. “You can’t choose your doctor.” “You have to wait for months to get treated.” These claims have been widely discredited, and I saw nothing in my experience with American public healthcare that was lacking. I chose all of my doctors. I was served immediately.
I sincerely hope our legislators can get their act together and create a health plan that provides health care for every American so all of us can experience true and complete care, as I did. It can work. It does work. We all deserve nothing less.
This article has been published on Huffington Post and can be seen here.
I saw several articles on 9/11 debating whether the US is safer, particularly since we went to Iraq. That 9/11 is even connected to Iraq as somehow making us safer as laughable, especially considering the only relation between the two is that 9/11 was used as an excuse to get into Iraq. Any suggestion that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 has been roundly proven to be non-existent. Yet the myth remains.
Ironically (or not considering the climate of this country since the year 2000), in the so many “arguments” against healthcare reform, the reason most often posited against any public option by those purporting to be reasonable is the cost. This is ironic mainly considering these same naysayers have not been arguing against the obscene cost of the Iraq war. Even if the government took over 100% of healthcare, owned every medical facility, hired every medical professional, and owned all of the equipment, the cost still would come nowhere near what we have spent and continue to spend on the Iraq war.
Supporters of the Iraq war have long used the argument that being there keeps us safe from terrorists. This of course is in spite of evidence against any connection between Iraq and terrorism, at least before we got there. We may now have created more terrorists in the way we have handled and treated the citizens in Iraq. But to the supporters of the war, spending money in Iraq is spending money to combat terrorism.
Yet let’s be realistic here. Suppose we actually were doing something to fight terrorism by being in Iraq. Would the cost still be justified?
Ask the average American how their life or the lives of their family members have been touched by terrorism. It is more likely that this person has been struck by lightening five times than it is they have been personally affected by a terrorist attack. Yes, it can be scary for some people to contemplate. But seriously, it is extremely rare any of us will endure anything terrorist related that affects us personally.
Ask the same average American how their life or the lives of their family members have been affected by the healthcare crisis in this country. It is more likely that they or a family member have been affected personally by the healthcare crisis than not. Nearly everyone has some story to tell. And even if a citizen hasn’t yet been affected, the possibility they will be affected if they lose their job (a much higher possibility even in a good economy than being affected by terrorism), then the lack of affordable healthcare will affect them.
We have spent billions and continue to spend billions in Iraq based on the dubious possibility we might be fighting terrorism, something that affects so few people, yet most of us cannot point to anyone who has been personally affected by it. At the same time, we have politicians and citizens arguing against a public option because they claim we can’t afford it, even though most of us are affected by it every day.
We need a reality check. The next time a politician claims we can’t afford public healthcare, ask them to stop spending money in Iraq and spend it here on healthcare instead. Even if we could afford Iraq (we can’t), and even if being in Iraq protected us (it doesn’t), the reality is we should stop spending that money there and spend it here at home on something that affects all of us every day.
Any republican, talk show idiot, or anyone else for that matter, who suggests that public health care will result in euthanasia should be ashamed. Abominable, sickening, horrible fools. People DIE DAILY in this country because we do not have health care and they have the nerve to try and scare people off with this shit? So some scumbag insurance company can make more money? Fuck I am sick of this stupid country and everything that is wrong with it. Someone should just take these lying assholes out and shove them off a cliff.
The following article is taken from The New York Times and can be located here.
by Stanley Fish
Henry Louis Gates: Déjà Vu All Over Again
I’m Skip Gates’s friend, too. That’s probably the only thing I share with President Obama, so when he ended his press conference last Wednesday by answering a question about Gates’s arrest after he was seen trying to get into his own house, my ears perked up.
As the story unfolded in the press and on the Internet, I flashed back 20 years or so to the time when Gates arrived in Durham, N.C., to take up the position I had offered him in my capacity as chairman of the English department of Duke University. One of the first things Gates did was buy the grandest house in town (owned previously by a movie director) and renovate it. During the renovation workers would often take Gates for a servant and ask to be pointed to the house’s owner. The drivers of delivery trucks made the same mistake.
The message was unmistakable: What was a black man doing living in a place like this?
At the university (which in a past not distant at all did not admit African-Americans ), Gates’s reception was in some ways no different. Doubts were expressed in letters written by senior professors about his scholarly credentials, which were vastly superior to those of his detractors. (He was already a recipient of a MacArthur fellowship, the so called “genius award.”) There were wild speculations (again in print) about his salary, which in fact was quite respectable but not inordinate; when a list of the highest-paid members of the Duke faculty was published, he was nowhere on it.
The unkindest cut of all was delivered by some members of the black faculty who had made their peace with Duke traditions and did not want an over-visible newcomer and upstart to trouble waters that had long been still. (The great historian John Hope Franklin was an exception.) When an offer came from Harvard, there wasn’t much I could do. Gates accepted it, and when he left he was pursued by false reports about his tenure at what he had come to call “the plantation.” (I became aware of his feelings when he and I and his father watched the N.C.A.A. championship game between Duke and U.N.L.V. at my house; they were rooting for U.N.L.V.)
Now, in 2009, it’s a version of the same story. Gates is once again regarded with suspicion because, as the cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson put it in an interview, he has committed the crime of being H.W.B., Housed While Black.
He isn’t the only one thought to be guilty of that crime. TV commentators, laboring to explain the unusual candor and vigor of Obama’s initial comments on the Gates incident, speculated that he had probably been the victim of racial profiling himself. Speculation was unnecessary, for they didn’t have to look any further than the story they were reporting in another segment, the story of the “birthers” — the “wing-nuts,” in Chris Matthews’s phrase — who insist that Obama was born in Kenya and cite as “proof” his failure to come up with an authenticated birth certificate. For several nights running, Matthews displayed a copy of the birth certificate and asked, What do you guys want? How can you keep saying these things in the face of all evidence?
He missed the point. No evidence would be sufficient, just as no evidence would have convinced some of my Duke colleagues that Gates was anything but a charlatan and a fraud. It isn’t the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate that’s the problem for the birthers. The problem is again the legitimacy of a black man living in a big house, especially when it’s the White House. Just as some in Durham and Cambridge couldn’t believe that Gates belonged in the neighborhood, so does a vocal minority find it hard to believe that an African-American could possibly be the real president of the United States.
Gates and Obama are not only friends; they are in the same position, suspected of occupying a majestic residence under false pretenses. And Obama is a double offender. Not only is he guilty of being Housed While Black; he is the first in American history guilty of being P.W.B., President While Black.
I absolutely agree with the premise of this article, that if we are going to define a judge’s decisions as activist, it should be based on the numbers of times the judge went against the laws designed by congress and signed into law by the president. It certainly should not be based on the holdings in certain cases. Most people on both sides of the fence have no idea what goes into a judicial decision and make the assumption that a judge is activist just because they don’t like the result in a case without really having any idea what the core issue was or how the ruling was reached. They just pick the party they like and if that party doesn’t win, call the result activism. This article argues from a more coherent, critical thinking perspective.
The link to this article can be found here.
So Who Are the Activists?
By PAUL GEWIRTZ and CHAD GOLDER
WHEN Democrats or Republicans seek to criticize judges or judicial nominees, they often resort to the same language. They say that the judge is “activist.” But the word “activist” is rarely defined. Often it simply means that the judge makes decisions with which the critic disagrees.
In order to move beyond this labeling game, we’ve identified one reasonably objective and quantifiable measure of a judge’s activism, and we’ve used it to assess the records of the justices on the current Supreme Court.
Here is the question we asked: How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress?
Declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional is the boldest thing a judge can do. That’s because Congress, as an elected legislative body representing the entire nation, makes decisions that can be presumed to possess a high degree of democratic legitimacy. In an 1867 decision, the Supreme Court itself described striking down Congressional legislation as an act “of great delicacy, and only to be performed where the repugnancy is clear.” Until 1991, the court struck down an average of about one Congressional statute every two years. Between 1791 and 1858, only two such invalidations occurred.
Of course, calling Congressional legislation into question is not necessarily a bad thing. If a law is unconstitutional, the court has a responsibility to strike it down. But a marked pattern of invalidating Congressional laws certainly seems like one reasonable definition of judicial activism.
Since the Supreme Court assumed its current composition in 1994, by our count it has upheld or struck down 64 Congressional provisions. That legislation has concerned Social Security, church and state, and campaign finance, among many other issues. We examined the court’s decisions in these cases and looked at how each justice voted, regardless of whether he or she concurred with the majority or dissented.
We found that justices vary widely in their inclination to strike down Congressional laws. Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, was the most inclined, voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws; Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was the least, voting to invalidate 28.13 percent. The tally for all the justices appears below.
Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O’Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %
One conclusion our data suggests is that those justices often considered more “liberal” – Justices Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens – vote least frequently to overturn Congressional statutes, while those often labeled “conservative” vote more frequently to do so. At least by this measure (others are possible, of course), the latter group is the most activist.
To say that a justice is activist under this definition is not itself negative. Because striking down Congressional legislation is sometimes justified, some activism is necessary and proper. We can decide whether a particular degree of activism is appropriate only by assessing the merits of a judge’s particular decisions and the judge’s underlying constitutional views, which may inspire more or fewer invalidations.
Our data no doubt reflects such differences among the justices’ constitutional views. But it even more clearly illustrates the varying degrees to which justices would actually intervene in the democratic work of Congress. And in so doing, the data probably demonstrates differences in temperament regarding intervention or restraint.
These differences in the degree of intervention and in temperament tell us far more about “judicial activism” than we commonly understand from the term’s use as a mere epithet. As the discussion of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement begins, we hope that debates about “activist judges” will include indicators like these.
Because of an editing error, this article misstated the date the court started. Its first official business began in 1790, not 1791.
Paul Gewirtz is a professor at Yale Law School. Chad Golder graduated from Yale Law School in May.
Ever since I heard about NASA’s intention to bomb the moon (see the story here), thoughts and reactions to the news have been flittering in and out of my head. There are so many, I have had difficulty articulating what one definitive thing bothers me the most about it. Yet conclusively, my overall sense is that it is WRONG.
Cost: Why is it we spend billions on crap like this, chasing water on the moon, when we can’t (or won’t) spend the same amount here to conserve water? Senseless stupidity. I won’t even get into the waste of money when unemployment numbers are higher than ever and we are in two wars…
No Choice: NASA does what it wants. We might vote in a mostly new Congress every two years, but we have such little control over how they spend our money, ultimately, what difference does it make? Legislators on both sides of the aisle are unwilling to underfund NASA. I’ve heard all the arguments about how NASA research benefits us all, and I’m sure there are aspects of their research that do, but this is just silly. There might be the claim they are looking for water, but it’s really a bunch of grown kids who think it’s cool to go bomb the moon and there isn’t a damn thing any of us can do about it. If they really wanted to conserve water, just as much would be spent on the very real climate and water problems we are experiencing right here on earth. Plus, as silly as it sounds, the moon belongs to all of us, collectively. What right do a few have to go and harm that which isn’t theirs? They don’t.
The Unknown: Scientists can conduct all the earth bound tests they want to. The simple fact is there is no way of knowing what ramifications this will have on the moon and the earth. These planets are inextricably linked. The earth and moon are connected gravitationally and energetically. Messing with these forces could alter our tidal patterns, weather patterns, and who knows what else. It’s just foolishness. And dangerous.
I don’t know. If enough people feel about this as I do, then perhaps we could turn public opinion against it enough to get the government to stop it. My inclination is though, that a bunch of idiots who like movies by Michael Bay would think it’s “AWESOME” and think that naysayers like myself are just a bunch of fuddy duddies. American ignorance is so prevalent on so much else, I would not be surprised. On most issues, I consider myself very forward thinking. I’m willing to try most things. But not this. Bombing the moon isn’t only silly, it is scary and wrong.
I don’t always agree with Jesse Jackson, but on some things, I absolutely do. The article he wrote for Huffington Post May 30th makes some pretty salient points. To read it, go here.
Liz Cheney is as big a fucking hate-mongering idiot as her devil father. Spawn of the devil keeps his evil going…
I may have been followed this morning. A woman I had seen on the train got onto the elevator with me and did not choose a floor while I was on the elevator. I do have to say though, that she did not get off at the 6th floor as I did.
When I go to businesses that ask my name, I make one up. Your name? Aristophanes. Spell that one. Then pronounce it.
We are losing. Here is my prediction of what is going to happen: The ginormous corporations will continue to get bigger and proliferate. The masses, increasingly ignorant and sedated with fast food, television, noise, sports, and religion will become even stupider, turning back into the peasants of the middle ages. The power elite are going to win and the poor are going to help them. The poor want to be rich and if they were given the means, they would act the same way so they don’t question being constantly sold and mollified with product, trying so hard, kissing vacations goodbye and futilely trying to shovel their toddlers into Harvard. Since they will not become a part of that which they seek, they go along and buy their lottery tickets, stuffing their faces, plugging earphones into their heads and turning up the music so they can drown out their own oblivion. They believe it when they are told there is a magnificent being in the sky who cares about them and will take care of them after death so they don’t have to concern themselves with the fact that the place in which they are actually living right here and right now carries other possibilities. Numbed and choking on corn and petroleum, they will let the power class continue to take them and take the planet. In time, those of us who are in the minority and see the damage and want change may rise up and revolt, but success is an unlikely prospect.
And a thought from my friend Carin: Something that’s been bugging me. Self righteous boobs claiming to be upstanding and moral whilst they are posing half nude with photographers, getting boob jobs and participating in a meat, sorry, “beauty” pageant. Or teenage twits who claim they are the voice of abstinence-only sex ed while holding their baby that they conceived obviously not through abstinence.
As I walk to the subway, ride the subway, and walk to my office, I’m filled with thoughts and observations. The moment I walk through the door and sit down under the flourescent lights, the thoughts fritter away into the ether. I wonder as I’m walking if I should stop and write some of the thoughts into my notebook, but I don’t do it. My notebook used to be full of thoughts, but right now the only words there are a note I took to remind myself to contact my daughter’s school about an art teacher who smashes art pieces she deems unworthy of her almighty judgment. Other than that, nothing. Is it the flourescent lights? Maybe it’s the air-conditioning. Maybe it blows the thoughts from my brain.
This piece was published on Huffington Post. To see it there, go here. If you like it Buzz me up.
The human rights abuse in torture is inherent and obvious, but its implications to our society are ultimately worse. In the context of terror, when our country tortures those accused of terrorist crimes, we create a climate where others sympathize with the torture victim, taking the focus away from the victims of the terrorist act. Whether the tortured committed the crime or not becomes secondary to the sympathy felt for the torture victim. In addition, the fact alone that someone was tortured, even if the confession is coincidentally true, harms any reputation we have of democracy or rule of law and motivates others to retaliation. Worse, torture confounds the state’s ability to prosecute those who have harmed it. If we end up freeing someone because they confessed to a crime under torture, it is possible we are allowing someone guilty, someone who genuinely sought to harm us, to go free. If we prosecute them based on the elicited confessions, we could be punishing the innocent. We never really know the truth. In the end, torture makes the original crime against us secondary.
I followed the Daniel Pearl case, then I watched the movie of his wife’s story, A Mighty Heart. It was brilliantly done. The filmmakers managed to capture the complexity of the various agencies, organizations, and governments working to find Daniel Pearl. After Pearl’s death, several people were arrested and one man, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, has been sentenced to death, although with his multiple appeals, it is questionable whether he will ever suffer his sentence. One aspect of his appeals has been the confession by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the actual killings. Seems a reasonable explanation.
Except what is true? Did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed really kill Daniel Pearl? How could we ever know considering we now have the torture memos released by the CIA detailing the atrocities against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others, including his being waterboarded 183 times in one month (see story here). It leaves me wondering whether he really committed any of the crimes and whether his confessions were valid. Maybe he did it. Maybe he didn’t. We can’t know because the confessions were tortured out of him.
Daniel Pearl’s murder wasn’t the only crime to which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed. He also apparently oversaw the 9/11 attacks, the shoe bomb attack, the Bali nightclub attack, the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, as well as others. His under-torture confessions to such a long list of infamous crimes make the likelihood seem even more dubious. Yet the possibility is there–it is the torture that causes interference. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s case is a brilliant example of the dangers of torture to a free and just society. Not only does it call into question just how free and just we really are, it leaves us wondering who really did what. We can’t trust anyone, least of all ourselves.
I have heard the primary arguments on both sides regarding whether or not to convict the agents and members of the Bush administration responsible for carrying out the torture. All of these arguments have centered on whether the actions were justified, as well as on the repugnance of the acts themselves. I would argue we need to take the discussion a step further. While torture clearly constitutes human rights abuse, I would argue that it is also a form of treason.
In the United States, treason is the giving of aid and comfort to our enemies. If torture keeps us from fully prosecuting those enemies, then the torturers themselves are in conspiracy with them, thereby giving them aid and comfort. Torture policies as a whole put our entire country in jeopardy. It is a form of disloyalty to us inasmuch as we are left even more unsafe, not only from those who would harm us, but also from our inability to discover the truth and prosecute the criminals. It creates a disintegration of our most fundamental values. If a person actually commits an act of terror and is then tortured to extract a confession, his guilt will be questioned because of the torture and he may be allowed free. This person is then free to terrorize us again, but this time he is likely angrier because of the torture he has suffered, leaving us in even greater danger. Torture, those who ordered it and those who carried it out, caused this. Allowing torture as an accepted policy of the United States and our failure to prosecute those responsible for it renders our democracy and our rule of law meaningless.
Milla, Boyfriend, and I watched the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie Charade tonight. Good flick. Milla really liked it. Some things were kind of dated, but it was still enjoyable. And Audrey Hepburn’s outfits were fantastic. It’s like the child of Duplicity, keeps you guessing. Anyway, I recommend it.
On another note, I avoid the news lately. In my current mental state, I simply can’t handle all the negativity. However, I peruse a few pages including Huffington Post. Today there was a story (see it here) regarding a Republican moron, er, congressman, who has created a, shhhhhh! Secret list of socialists!! Oooooh! Can you BELIEVE this? I was so upset, I could hardly stand it. No wonder I don’t read the news anymore. The one time I do and I discover socialists are creeping into our guvment.
Well, we’re just gonna have to root them dang socialites out, I’m telling you. Get rid of anyone who thinks the guvment should pay for schools or roads or hell, social security (see that horrible word social in there? It’s like herpes, you can’t get rid of it). Big bad socialites, wanting the guvment to help pay for things like healthcare, education, transportation, and the like. Hell, we should let people who can’t afford it DIE if they can’t go to the doctor. And what’s the point of paying for schools? They all teach the wrong stuff anyway. And don’t even get me started on transportation. All roads should be toll roads. That way the people who can afford it will drive and the rest can just stay home. And if they can’t afford a home, well too bad for them! Shit. What is this world coming to people? I swear, the anti-American bastards, we should just line them up and shoot them.
I gave a hungry man an apple yesterday and I keep thinking about it. I don’t want to trivialize it, but I wanted to write about him. I keep seeing him at the other end of the subway car gnawing the apple as if his life depended on it. And maybe it did. I thought of him this morning in my insomniac hours. I thought about the homeless families I read about in the New York Times and I wanted to write and comment about what homelessness is, but that seems so boring and unlikely to change anything. People read me, but no one is going to read what I have to say about homelessness and change anything. I don’t know what would remove the image of that man from my brain. I don’t know that I should remove that image. I just keep thinking about it. So many times I have sat on the subway car and a person comes on and says, Excuse me, Ladies and Gentlemen, apologizes, and then proceeds with their spiel. So many times I have been slightly annoyed by the interruption, yet felt guilty at the same time. I simultaneously realize how close to precarious is my own financial situation, yet I acknowledge that we are nowhere near completely homeless and there are people in our lives who would ensure true homelessness is a most unlikely possibility. I know also how pitiful and useless would be the change in my pocket. And honestly, I am slightly resentful at being asked even though it isn’t fair to feel this way. So I do nothing. But there have been times when I have had food, times before moving to New York, when I would give food to people asking for it. This time I had an apple, he asked for food, why not? He told his sad story and I handed him my apple, then thought nothing more of it until I looked up minutes later to see him devouring that apple like he hadn’t eaten in days. It was ginormous and red and beautifully ripe, a sort of dream apple. It makes me weep to think of his hunger, swallowing the pieces so quickly he could not have had time to enjoy much of its fragrant sweetness. It makes me wonder what would happen if I ever gave into the urge I have had in the past to ask the person to sit down and talk to me. Sometimes I am afraid because the person seems to be mentally ill. I don’t want to be screamed at. Other times I just don’t do it. I’ve never done it. But the urge has been there over and over. I have wanted to stop my car (back when I had and drove a car) and ask the person holding the sign What happened? How did you get here? But I haven’t done it. I wonder if I ever will.
I read a story on the BBC website today. The story is repeated in its entirety below. What struck me after reading the story was the BBC’s willingness to relate the torture described by Mr. Binyam Mohamed, a man held by the US for just under 7 years and released last February, all charges against him dropped. US mainstream media is completely unwilling to tell it like it is, preferring instead to describe the fringes, keeping the hard truth from reaching our eyes. Chickens.
Americans need to read and see what torture means. The word torture isn’t horrific anymore. We hear a bit about waterboarding, or see the most sanitized photos from Abu Ghraib, but unless we’re looking for it, we’re not hearing what our country did to people. It’s appalling.
Last week I read an article on Mr. Marri, the man who has been held without charges or trial for years. It was an online article, which meant anyone could comment. Some guy commented that “torture works.” Really? How is that? Does that mean that if I hold a lighter to your balls while you are tied to a fence in neither a sitting or standing position and ask you whether you raped my mother you will continue to deny it, even if I set your balls on fire? Is that evidence of torture’s “success”?
Read this BBC story and judge for yourself. Ask whether you could hold out under such conditions. Ask whether you would say anything to get someone to stop drowning you, or cutting you, or leaving you hanging by chains in the dark with music so loud you cannot hear. Then tell me whether torture works.
The link to this story can be found here.
Demands for MI5 ‘torture’ inquiry
Mr Mohamed arrived back at RAF Northolt in London in February
MPs have demanded a judicial inquiry into a Guantanamo Bay prisoner’s claims that MI5 was complicit in his torture.
In a Mail on Sunday interview, UK resident Binyam Mohamed claims MI5 fed his US captors questions which led him to make a false confession.
His allegations are being investigated by the government, but the Foreign Office said it did not condone torture.
Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said the “extremely serious” claims should also be referred to the police.
Mr Mohamed told the paper he was held in continual darkness for weeks on end in a prison in Kabul, Afghanistan.
He has claimed that while in US custody in 2002, he was rendered to Morocco for interrogation and torture.
Now he has released what he said were two telegrams sent from British intelligence to the CIA in November 2002.
In the first memo, the writer asks for a name to be put to him and then for him to be questioned further about that person.
The longest was when they chained me for eight days on end, in a position that meant I couldn’t stand straight nor sit
The second telegram asks about a timescale for further interrogation.
The legal organisation Reprive, which represents Mr Mohamed, said its client was shown the telegrams in Guantanamo Bay by his military lawyer Lieutenant Col Yvonne Bradley.
Mr Mohamed claimed he acquired the telegrams through the US legal process when he was fighting to be freed from Guantanamo Bay.
Daniel Sandford, BBC Home Affairs correspondent, said Mr Mohamed’s claims would be relatively simple to substantiate.
“As time progresses it will probably become quite apparent whether indeed these are true telegrams and I think it’s unlikely they’d be put into the public domain if they couldn’t eventually be checked back.”
The Conservatives have called for a police inquiry into his allegations of British collusion.
Mr Grieve called for a judicial inquiry into the allegations.
“And if the evidence is sufficient to bring a prosecution then the police ought to investigate it,” he added.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said there was a “rock solid” case for an independent judicial inquiry.
Labour MP Andrew Dismore, who chairs the joint committee on human rights, said he would asking the home and foreign secretaries to explain how Britain’s policy against torture is being implemented and monitored.
Shami Chakrabati, director of campaign group Liberty said: “These are more than allegations – these are pieces of a puzzle that are being put together.
“It makes an immediate criminal investigation absolutely inescapable.”
Former Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis accused the government of “stonewalling” by referring the claims to the Attorney General rather than the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“What appears to have happened is they have been turning blind eyes,” he added.
Mr Mohamed told the paper the worst part of this captivity was in Kabul’s “dark prison”.
“The toilet in the cell was a bucket,” he told the paper.
“There were loudspeakers in the cell, pumping out what felt like about 160 watts, a deafening volume, non-stop, 24 hours a day.
We abhor torture and never order it or condone it
Foreign Office spokesman
He added: “They chained me for eight days on end, in a position that meant I couldn’t stand straight nor sit.
“I couldn’t sleep. I had no idea whether it was day or night.”
Mr Mohamed spent just under seven years in custody, four of those in Guantanamo – the US’s camp in Cuba.
He was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 as US authorities considered him a would-be bomber who fought alongside the Taleban in Afghanistan.
But last year the US dropped all charges against him, and he was released in February.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We abhor torture and never order it or condone it.
“We take allegations of mistreatment seriously and investigate them when they are made.
“In the case of Binyam Mohamed, an allegation of possible criminal wrong-doing has been referred to the Attorney General.
“We need now to wait for her report.”
I received a comment from a reader of my post yesterday. I have posted the writer’s comment here and responded individually to specifics.
“You might think that the fact that you use words as “vilify” makes you an authority on something which you obviously know nothing about.”
By phrasing your opening line with the words that I “might think” something, you limit logical denial. However, while I “might think” using the word vilify makes me an authority on something, I don’t. My use of the word is as a verb to describe behavior of certain people. How is it you prove I have no “obvious” knowledge, because I did not give a history of religious bigotry in an opinion piece? I need not give such a history; your own letter proves my point in its last line.
“You vilify Christians in the same breath you claim we vilify you.”
Show me where I say anything about Christians and show me where I vilify anything. I am making a valid criticism of organized religion. You jump to conclusions and take it further, ascribing my criticism to Christianity, then claim I am vilifying, all in the same breath.
“You don’t understand us, but yet we are supposed to understand you.”
Again, this comes from nowhere. My fundamental thesis requests that we look hard at religion, that we seek understanding. You miss this point entirely and as you do in your entire letter, making assumptions and jumping to unjustified conclusions. You state I want “you” to understand me; does this mean you think I am in a minority and want religions to understand me? Is it something else? I offered an opinion, I did not ask for religious tolerance of what I had to say.
“It seems that whenever any group of people creates a movement with the same rhetoric you espouse, you want to play with a different set of rules and on a different playing field. Your attitude and language mirrors that which you abhor in Christians.”
What rhetoric is it that I espouse, that we should look at religion’s place in furthering intolerance and bigotry? I suppose you are right that I want to play with a different set of rules on a different playing field because I am not arguing we use intolerance and bigotry in making this examination. And again, where in anything do I specifically mention Christians? Where do I show abhorrence? In asking we stop intolerance and bigotry? Is that abhorrence? It seems you are the one with the attitude, as well the one who is jumping to conclusions and making assumptions.
“Have you thought about that?”
Why yes. See my previous response.
“You make leaps and bounds and speak with hyperbole, and use circular reasoning to prove your point.”
Ironic, considering this exactly what you have done through this entire diatribe. Making leaps and bounds? You have done so by assuming I speak only of Christians. I said religion. Does this mean only Christianity qualifies in your narrow mind? And where exactly is my hyperbole, in claiming religion is used as an excuse in most bigotry? This is not overstatement; it is truth.
“I don’t think you’re going see people give up on religion.”
Did I make such a request? No. I said we need to look at religion honestly to see its place in bigotry. I did not say do away with it. Read my words, don’t jump “leaps and bounds.”
“After all, religion is a word that people don’t understand. What we really focus on is a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
As is typical with those of your ilk, you think the only religion is yours. There is no response to your narrow-mindedness.
“You don’t have to understand us or believe the way we believe, especially with regard to sin and our own sinfulness. But, then again, we don’t have to understand you or believe the way you believe, either–even if you don’t want to believe that there is such a thing as sin.”
Again, as with this entire pointless rant, you make assumptions based on your own beliefs, not based on anything I have said. And again, there really isn’t much one can do to respond to your own imaginings.
“So, I will respect you and let you live the life you want to live; but, please, respect me and let me live the life I want to live without the name-calling and generalizations.”
Name calling? Where in what I said did I call anyone any names? You are deluded. And if this entire letter is your being respectful, I would hate to see what you consider disrespect.
“The proposition was voted, and unfortunately for you, you are in the minority.”
Yes, thanks to religion and the hatefulness of most people like you, bigotry is alive and well. Thank you for proving my point.
This piece can be seen here on Huffington Post. If you like it, buzz me up.
Isn’t it ironic that as we’re congratulating ourselves on our ability to elect a black president we are simultaneously lamenting the passage of Proposition 8? We Americans have been quite pleased with ourselves because we were able to elect a black man to the highest office in the land. I would argue that we may have overcome something, but it is not bigotry. The day we will really know we have overcome bigotry is the day we elect a black, Atheist, lesbian–THAT would be a feat.
Inherent in the post-election discussions of race and politics is the conclusion that because large segments of our population have moved away from open racism, we are beyond bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth; we have simply traded one for another, or several others, as the case may be. And these latest forms of intolerance and discrimination are often made more palatable through religion, as open racism against blacks used to be.
Because of religion and its ever-encroaching move into the political spectrum, Americans were forced to live through an administration that would not allow medical research on single cells to help find cures for diseases in people who are alive right now. Because of religion, pro-life politicians gain support from citizens whose actual interests are ignored in favor of policies that benefit the extremely wealthy. Because of religion, all over the country laws like Proposition 8 proliferate.
In spite of Obama’s election, what America has not given up and seems loathe to give up, regardless how far backward we move socially, morally, and legally, is religion. Why should it? Religion allows people to vilify those they don’t understand. Simply claim that anything different from you is against your religion and you are protected by your God-given, inalienable right to believe.
It is truly a significant step in the right direction that a black man will be our president. It is evidence that progress is possible and that society is able to make changes that seemed impossible only decades earlier. Yet is seems to me that if we are ever able to really end bigotry, if we are ever able to end all forms of discrimination, we are going to have to take a cold, hard, honest look at religion and its role in the promulgation of hate and intolerance. Only then will we truly overcome.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell stood on the senate floor and basically just made up a new history. The New Deal didn’t work, he said. Unemployment was at 15% in 1940. The programs couldn’t have worked.
Um. Considering unemployment was at 25% in 1933, a 15% unemployment rate seven years later is a significant reduction. If one examines an economic graph, improvements and growth are seen throughout the 1930s (except for one small blip in 1937 when President Roosevelt took Republican advice and started cutting rather than spending, causing a downturn in economic growth. Thank goodness he paid attention and ignored their clamoring a year later).
We as American citizens need to start taking responsibility for what is going on in this country. We can blame government all we want, but we get the government we deserve. If we do not know history, if we cannot argue against outright changes to history because we don’t know what happened, and we can be manipulated and controlled in any manner by those in power. Mitch McConnell wants to claim the New Deal didn’t work, even though it has been accepted history for nearly 8 decades that it did? If we don’t know any better because we aren’t educated, than how can we refute him?
Democracy requires responsiblity. It requires an effort on the part of citizens, an effort beyond watching screaming heads on Fox News, or anywhere else for that matter. If we don’t start taking this responsibility, it doesn’t matter who is President, the United States as we know it will be over. History is clear on that.
Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary committee, John Conyers, is planning to introduce a bill called HR 676. This simple plan would create a version of Medicare where every US citizen is eligible for healthcare. The plan, if passed, would effectively put private insurers out of business. Considering I believe private insurance companies are largely responsible for the healthcare mess in this country, I think such a system would be a boon.
Naysayers claim such a system would put all those insurance employees out of business. Not necessarily. Their experience can be transferred to the new US system. The bill creates such a provision. Specifically, “The Program shall provide that clerical, administrative, and billing personnel in insurance companies, doctors offices, hospitals, nursing facilities, and other facilities whose jobs are eliminated due to reduced administration (1) should have first priority in retraining and job placement in the new system; and (2) shall be eligible to receive 2 years of unemployment benefits.”
The bill has been introduced before. It went to die in committee. We have a new group in Congress today and a new president. Let’s hope this bill will receive the consideration it deserves.
To see the bill in its entirety, click here.
I support the Iraqi shoe thrower. I know shoe throwing isn’t protected speech, but I still support his action as an expression of distaste, disgust, and despair, and whatever else he was expressing. It was perfect.
FREE THE SHOE THROWING JOURNALIST!
I have seen this bumper sticker quite a lot. I saw it again tonight and kept ruminating on it, wondering about it, asking the same question, “Who would Jesus bomb?” Over and over, the answer that came to mind was everyone, if certain fundamentalist Christians have their way. Those asking this question are under the false assumption that fundamentalists are framing their religion on the behavior of Jesus Christ. Such an assumption is erroneous, and in the long run could contribute to the Armageddon so many fundamentalists of Abrahamic religions hope will occur.
A frightening number of persons are focused heavily on this prophecy (ever hear of the “Left Behind” series?) and support global policies that seem geared to ensure its occurrence. Why is this? It’s simple: Armageddon offers “evidence” to back up these belief systems. See, what did we tell you? Our prophets foretold the world would come to an end, and therefore we were right. The disheartening aspect of this is that it doesn’t seem to matter whether this prophecy is self-fulfilling or not. For whatever reason, there is a need for vindication to prove to non-believers that they were right all along. Never mind if the world ends if you get to be right.
I can hear it now: it isn’t evidence that is desired, but rather an entry into heaven. This is a baseless explanation. If one is theoretically good enough to get into heaven at all, what difference does it make if it is through Armageddon or at the time of death? Why the need to get there sooner? Why the need to get there through the destruction of mankind? Is it simply a matter of the inability to delay gratification, a wretched impatience more important than the lives of others or the planet? I certainly hope not.
Logic is not part of the equation when thinking like a fundamentalist. If it were, there would be no focus on Armageddon at all. According to the Bible, humans are not supposed to know when it will happen; how therefore could they engineer its manifestation? And if divine interference is a given, it will occur without human intervention.
Fundamentalists are called fundamentalists because they claim to follow a literal interpretation of whichever text they profess to follow (although of late Christian fundamentalists prefer the term “evangelical” as a descriptor because of the negative connotations associated with the word fundamentalist). But let’s be honest. Fundamentalism is only a literal interpretation of whatever rules the fundamentalist is interested in following. It is picking and choosing. It has to be because many of the rules in these ancient, many times translated and transcribed texts are in diametric opposition to one another.
Ultimately, fundamentalism has little to do with trying to live a moral and honorable life. Rather, it is giving authority and responsibility to a book and abdicating such for the self. It is based on fear, guilt, control, manipulation, and hypocrisy. It gives an excuse to inexcusable behavior. It allows one to judge others while simultaneously claiming not to do so, to control how women use their bodies, to decide for others who they can marry, and on and on. It is a way to include and exclude–junior high on a global scale. Worst of all, it provides an excuse to justify horrific actions, including the use of bombs. Fundamentalism is so popular because it requires such little effort and no imagination. It isn’t moving beyond fear, but into it. At its heart it is a cowardly system of belief.
As Martin Luther said, “Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding.” For all these reasons, we should work to eliminate fundamentalism. Any benefits it offers are vastly outweighed by its risks. Allowing our society and our world to be ruled by fundamentalism could very well be our undoing. This would not be evidence of anything except the end of humanity.
Turgid turkeys, strained into rickety
wooden coffins, exit four-by-four from
a ten-ton hearse. Into the turkey mill:
Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with
one cold eye at a crumbling chimney tower
belching death in putrid smoke, blackening
holiday skies. Annihilating light.
Bodies, bones. None remain unfrozen. With
elaborate precision he’s taken apart;
neck, gizzards tied in a bag between his
ribs, head ground neatly into pink hot dog slabs.
Holiday skies are crowded with turkey souls,
ascending to heaven like deflated balloons.
I have been in Portland now for a week. I head to Boulder on Monday. I will be there for five weeks. Then I return to Portland where Boyfriend and I will be packing for our trip to New York. We get our truck on January 5. We plan to pack up that day and leave on the 6th. I can’t wait.
Milla called me today from Boulder to ask if she could have a party with a limousine. I told her she could if she wanted to. I am not sure why she is so enamored of limos, but she is. I guess it is a nine-year-old thing. I hope that’s all it is. I hope by the time she is twelve, limos will be passe’.
Election night was fun for us. Boyfriend and I went to a party. We ate food and chatted with people. The television was on keeping everyone updated. At one point I decided to call Milla. I went to my purse to retrieve my phone only to discover she was calling me at the exact same time. Sweetheart. She answered my hello with a yell, Obama is winning! She then said that he had 195 electoral votes.
He is up to 333 I informed her. NO WAY! I will have to go and see. She ran off to the television to check for herself. I love it. I have been trying to educate her on the issues. I have been trying to explain things in a manner she can understand. She is very interested. Maybe having a politically active mom helps. She has watched youtubes of political stuff with me. She has heard me talking about the issues with friends. I am pleased she knows what electoral votes are. I know of other children who are taking an active interest. Perhaps we are helping contribute to budding democratic citizens. Who says they don’t care? A number of children I know are very interested.
I’m in a chocolate cafe listening to Boyfriend play the piano. I am still intrigued that places like this hire live musicians, but whatever works. Boyfriend gets paid. That’s what counts. Plus he’s playing music he likes, so it is even better. He gets kind of cranky when he plays music he does not like or when he plays with bad musicians. Sometimes he is cranky for hours after. I would love for him to reach the place of financial security where he can say no to a gig that would make him cranky.
As a response to the profound and distributed ignorance in this country on the basic definitions of forms of government and common economic systems, as well as the widespread interchangeable use of terms describing aspects of each, I have decided to post a mini civics lesson. I am so fed up with the way words are tossed around by politicians, pundits, and citizens, with no respect for their actual meaning. Frankly, I’m sick to death of it. Apparently in America, ignorance remains sublime.
Forms of government describe the ways societies govern themselves. Economic systems describe the ways societies produce, distribute, and consume goods and services. Of course, it would be too simplistic to say that these two are not intimately intertwined, but they are different things.
Herein lies the problem. Because political leaders and pundits use the terms interchangeably, most citizens haven’t a clue that the two are not the same. For instance, the US claims it wants to “bring democracy” to a certain country. However, the US has helped to topple democratically elected governments that were not capitalist. The truth wasn’t that the US wanted democracy, but that the US wanted capitalism. Two different things, but to most people, democracy equals capitalism, and that is okay.
Another word that is bandied about with little regard for what it really means is socialism. This is the bad buzzword today, along with terrorist. People use this word with no knowledge whatsoever of its meaning. This one particularly irritates me, along with the misuse of communist. Socialist and communist are used pretty interchangeably by people who don’t know what they are talking about. They just heard on television that socialism and communism are bad things, so they go along with it.
I wonder if any of these people who think socialism is so bad realize that public education is a form of socialism. Public roads? Socialism. Want the government to help you with health care? Socialism. All socialism means is that we, as society and through our government, pay for certain things so that all of us benefit. Each society gets to decide which of the things it pays for. In the US we have decided to let the government manage road systems and public education. We haven’t yet figured out it might be better to get profit out of health care, but that is because everyone is so afraid they might have to pay taxes, and the capitalists in our country do their damndest to make sure citizens stay afraid so they can continue to profit. The irony is that people will scream and yell and have a fit about spending .25c of each dollar on taxes, yet these same people fork over .65c of the same dollar to a private company who skims .40c off the top before applying the other .25c to the actual cost of the good or service received. It’s inane.
Do you hate it that your HMO makes a profit off your heart attack? Does it bug you that insurance companies make a profit off your illnesses, or that children go without basic health care because their parents can’t afford it? Can you stand it that energy companies, phone companies, airlines, and banks can all mostly govern themselves and profit off of you, regardless how fundamental some of their services are to your survival? Well, you can thank capitalism, the economic system based on supply and demand, for all that profit. Capitalism is not democracy. It is not a form of government. It is an economic system, as is socialism. It describes the exchange of goods and services. It is not the way a government runs (although a government may partake in a capitalist system). Governments are intrinsically linked to economic systems, but the two are not synonymous.
Forms of government are the institutions societies, as states, use to govern themselves. Democracies and dictatorships are forms of government. A dictatorship is an autocratic form of government where the leader enjoys absolute rule, free of laws or other political factors within the state. Democracies are forms of government in which citizens govern themselves. There is no hard and fast definition of the term, but democracies invariably include two principles. First, all members of the society have equal access to power. Second, all members enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.
It would be nice if Americans were educated as to the real meanings behind all these words they so carelessly spew, democracy, socialism, communism, et al. Sound bites are easy; they can make you sound like you have a clue when you really don’t know what you are talking about. Dictatorships (a form of government, not an economic system) are easy too. The dictator tells you what to do and you do it. No thought required.
Democracy, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult. It requires citizens educate themselves on things in order to make wise choices. The problem is that many Americans don’t actually partake in the education process, they partake in the sound-bite process. They hear a word and react to it without any idea what the hell it is they are talking about. Because of this, I fear we are headed for disaster.
Or so I have been informed by my boyfriend. I can’t really disagree. He’s right. I am a dork. We were chatting about a friend working in the garden. I said He’s probably hoeing, digging up potatoes. Boyfriend said He’s off being a pimp? I said Huh? Then got it and laughed and laughed. In response to my laughter he informed me that I am a giant dork.
He’s good for me, this boyfriend. Earlier we were on the phone (we talk on the phone a LOT because we are currently 2700 miles apart). I saw one of the top WordPress posts claiming Obama was not born in the US. I started grumbling and cussing and generally getting irritated. Boyfriend said Stop reading that. All it does is make you mad and you can’t change it. Unless you’re going to write about it, don’t read it. He knows me. He is right. I am on a mini news fast because I was getting so worked up at the general decline of the election. One can only become appalled so much before turning into a giant blob, eyes glazed, staring into space, drool dribbling onto the floor.
My daughter figured out how to use Skype. We chatted together this morning. Oh I miss her so much. Seeing her just made me want her even more. So close yet so far. She got some new clothes. I sent her a dress and some leggings and her dad took her shopping as well. She is growing like a weed, that girl. She’s happy to be with her dad and all his pets, but she misses me. I miss her too. We’ll be together soon.
My heart goes out to Jennifer Hudson. What a horrible tragedy. She is an inspiring young woman. I hope she has a lot of support to help her through this. If anything good can come from having the whole world in on her grief, I hope it is that people can provide some measure of support.
Regardless of your politics, having a black man running for president has been good for one thing: it has sussed out all the secret racism that has been seething under the surface in this country for years. People who felt unable to express their nasty views publicly seem galvanized by the knowledge there are others just like them and are now willing to put their racism out there on display. Terrorist attacks too have brought the issue to the fore, letting racists vent their hatred against people from the middle east all in the name of supposed fear of terrorism.
Obvious loathing for Mexicans isn’t even a secret. Public officials and citizens claim to want immigration reform to “protect American workers.” They tout limited Spanish instruction in southwestern schools and propose English-only referendums sold under the patronizing aegis of wanting to help Mexican children assimilate into American culture. It’s all just racism.
I have often suggested it has not been publicly okay to be racist against blacks, but a person can get away with being racist towards Mexicans and Arabs. Hating blacks is moving back out of the closet. Perhaps the acknowledgment that it is going on will help kill it once and for all, although I don’t expect this to happen overnight.
Racism is the epitome of ignorance. It is the Parable of the Cave come to life. It is the philosophy of The Other. It brings some sort of pitiful security to the hater who feels some protection in perceived superiority, unwilling to admit base and immoral fears. I personally cannot fathom why someone’s skin color should scare someone enough to hate them, but it happens. It happens all the time.
Racism is confusing. There are members of my family who are blatantly racist. My mother was the oldest of seven children. When my mom was six, my grandmother divorced my biological grandfather. With three children in tow, she married a Navy man and had four more children. When the youngest child was 8, my grandmother developed cancer. Over the next four years, she lived and died a harrowing death, her body completely eaten by the disease.
By the time my grandmother died, my mom had moved out, married my father, and had two little girls. The rest of the children were in various phases of growing up. My mom’s step-father was the man I called Grampa. He was the generous person we visited on every holiday. When my biological father physically abused my mother, my Grampa helped her out, offering financial and emotional assistance. He did not date or remarry until his youngest child was in her early twenties and married. He was a Navy man who fought in World War II. He was a good man who worked hard and took amazing care of his family. And he was a racist. He is still a racist.
I know others with similar family members, the grandparents who give them everything yet hate black people, the step-father who was kind, but rails against Mexicans in restaurants. It is such a complex problem. Interestingly, in all of the cases I know of good people with loving family members who happen to be racists, none of us are willing to do much about it except to sit silently, thinking these people are old and will never change, that they have good in them too. Perhaps in our complicity we are perpetuating the problem. I don’t know. It is truly a conundrum.
This is the hebetudinous guy who thinks there is some vast conspiracty theory regarding Obama’s birth certificate. If Mr. Martin is to be believed, the newspapers in Hawaii predicted Obama would run for president in 2008, and therefore printed birth announcements of a baby born in another country in order to ensure he could run for office over four decades later. See article here.
Mr. Martin? Get a grip. I’m sick of seeing your annoying face on the top of the most read posts when I log in to my blog each day. You’re obtuse and you are wasting your time. Obama was born in the United States. Get over it already.
I went and saw the movie W tonight and had the same feeling I have every time I see a movie like this. I wish to hell I could do something big and profound to help change things and then I end up feeling more pathetic and helpless than ever before. All I’m good at is writing things, but I don’t know what to write that hasn’t been said that could actually make a difference. I wish I could inspire people to want to help our world. I wish I could help to heal the rifts between people.
A week ago I wrote an article on Huffington Post trying to get people to recognize our common humanity. The result was more than my share of ugly emails and quite a few angry comments from people who missed the point entirely that we can be mad and want to change things without turning into them, the Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs of the world. We don’t have to be ugly to be angry.
I also realized that if I’m feeling this frustrated and unable to change, what must it be like for someone who has no artistic or other outlet? I feel small and insignificant, like I can do so little, but at least I can write. At least I do write. But there are millions who don’t. How are their voices heard? I try to effect change in how I’m raising my child; I suppose others can do that too. But what do we do in the short term? How do we get our spirits back? How do we all stop hating each other and being so polarized? I don’t know the answer to that one.
This piece can be seen on Huffington Post. If you like it, buzz me up. Thanks.
A couple of days ago I received several emails forwarding the video of Sarah Palin being booed at the hockey game. I watched as she stepped onto the ice with her children, boos resounding from the highest bleachers, fans waving thumbs down signs in her direction. While I shared their sentiment, I also felt sad and sort of sorry for her, standing there with her daughters at her side, the one child so small, tossed into a giant mess of which she can have no understanding.
A few days before I received as many emails forwarding the video of the angry mobs outside the McCain rally. I felt a similar discomfort at the sight, a vague sense of unease and knowing that even though I disagreed with their views, it felt wrong to display these people in all their rage and ignorance.
Today a friend sent me an email containing the photo of a man above. I asked myself, What kind of fear leads a man to become this person? What has happened in his life that this is what he believes?
This photo is being sent around to horrified liberals, an excellent representative of the trainwreck display this election has become, but I see no one asking these simple questions, trying to understand the minds of the humans on the other side.
Every day I open my email to dozens of new notices from well-meaning friends pointing out the obvious level of new lows in this campaign. We have gotten to the point where we take hideous and superior delight in the stumbles on the other side, react in anger at the latest new lies, and laugh and point fingers at angry right-wingers screaming and acting like lunatics. We do this, seeming to miss the hypocrisy in our own schadenfreude.
The level of simply bad behavior is evident on both sides. I certainly do not advocate bending over and taking it in the backside, but what about our own fundamental human decency? Are any of us on either side able to see where the other is coming from? Are any of us able to have some compassion?
I am especially disturbed by the videos of McCain supporters screaming hateful obscenities and photos of men like the one described above, not only because of the behavior of the people in them, but because decent people I know are forwarding them on to laugh at and criticize. This election has turned into so much us versus them. Each side is demonizing the other. None of this will get us anywhere that solves any of our very large, very real problems.
We receive and pass on videos of the candidates. See our candidate? See how good he is? Then we get a video from the other side. See their candidate? See how horrible he is? And while I absolutely might agree with what is being shown, I keep coming back to the belief that all this bickering and finger-pointing is doing absolutely nothing to elevate the common good. In fact I am afraid that all of this fighting is going to lead to an all-out war among ourselves regardless which candidate is elected. Unless and until we actually do start seeing ourselves as part of one country in this together, until we start to recognize all our humanity, we are going to dissolve in destruction and violence. This is a very real and frightening possibility.
I know it sounds simplistic, but it is possible to focus on the issues and get this country back on track if we all start acting with a bit more civility and stop making of fun of people who must be experiencing real inner turmoil and fear to act the way they do. We just have to take the initiative, stop passing around hate mail, and focus on what really matters.
This morning I watched a video of Obama giving a speech at a rally in Ohio. When he mentioned John McCain, members of the audience started to boo. “We don’t need that,” Obama said calmly. “We just need to vote, that’s what we need to do.”
Barack Obama is right. We don’t need that. Regardless who wins this election, we all have the very real job of putting this country back together again. We simply cannot do it if we’re all fighting each other.