Time Passing in the USA

I was driving through Springfield. I saw the sign for Thurston High School. It reminded me of the shooting there. I struggled to remember the boy’s name. Kit? Kid? Kip. Kip Kinkel. I was driving. I asked my 18 year old to look up the date Kip Kinkel shot up Thurston High School. It was May 20, 1998, nearly twenty years ago. He only killed two, and wounded 25. Then came Columbine with its bloodbath of deaths and it is used as the yardstick against which we measure, and Springfield and Thurston High are largely forgotten, as are so many where only a handful are killed. Shortly after the shooting in Florida, an article was going around on social media challenging the allegation that there have been 18 shootings since the first of the year because in some cases no one died, or in others, the shooting was a suicide. I guess if lots of people don’t die or there isn’t outward hate then it doesn’t matter. What a fucking joke.

After Sandy Hook I wrote Safety is a Straw Man. In it I argued that the reason gun control legislation has nothing to do with safety or infringing on rights really, but the profits of the gun industry. Since I wrote that, a few others have said the same thing, but this topic never really comes to the fore. Those who don’t want control put out their memes on social media claiming guns don’t kill people, people do. Those who want gun control put out their memes about how fucking useless are the platitudes on thoughts and prayers. Meanwhile, the politicians and power mongers do nothing because ultimately they know there isn’t a damn thing the population can do about it. If we could, we would have. They keep their place of power, the gun manufacturers keep making their fortunes, and they all laugh at us fighting with one another on their way to the bank.

Yeah, I’m cynical.

I was in my twenties when a mentally ill 15 year old, white, male killed two children and wounded 25 other people in Springfield. I did not have children yet. Now my oldest daughter is 18 and in college and my youngest in school. I have acquired my teaching degree and license, and I have spent hours learning how to react if a school shooting occurs, all the procedures and codes and charts that are essentially about how not to get murdered and to know how and when to hide. A lot of damn time has passed and still nothing has been done. Calls for action. Horrible, heart-wrenching speeches. Hand wringing. Thoughts and prayers (which, if this shit worked, would have by now, one would think). Nothing changes.

To me all of these mass shootings are just another symptom of the brutal dysfunction of the United States. Everything this country stands for is a lie. Our military bases populate the world because the US is the world’s biggest warmonger (Are there German military bases in the US? Are there Japanese military bases in the US? Then why are our military bases there?). It is the bastard child of the almighty imperialist abusers, and it took the lessons of its forebears to heart. Still to this day if those in power want something they take it. The average citizen might not agree with stealing native American burial grounds for oil, but so what? If those in power want it, they take it, and they have the police and enough citizens to agree with them to get it done. The average citizen might know they are suffering under enormous medical debt, but those in power refuse to give up their profits so we can medically take care of ourselves. Average citizens might not want to blow off the tops of mountains or reroute rivers or kill wolves and polar bears, but those in power want what is under the mountain or the water in the river or the land where the wolves and polar bears live, and they take it. Rugged individualism is the lie that one by one, sitting in our bunkers with our guns, we can thrive. On an individual basis, most people in this country are decent and good, but also damaged and traumatized, and victims of damage and trauma have to spend their time taking care of themselves as best they can. They don’t have the ability or confidence that they can stop the almighty US of A and its narcissistic bullying. They know, have been taught since birth, have been brought up and propagandized to believe there is nothing they can do.

So here we sit, twenty years after a damaged boy damaged countless other lives, and it will happen again and again because hand wringing, thinking, and praying doesn’t stop those in power who take what they want when they want it. Guns make a profit. Controlling those guns will slow that profit and those in power will make sure this never happens. This way of being is a cancer on the soul of an ugly nation and an even uglier civilization with a long, ugly history of taking what it wants when it wants it. That we have a “leader” who symbolizes this isn’t an accident. The individual traumas that go unhealed, the wounds we carry and pass on, have created a collective that has metastasized into a place where children are shot up in schools every week, where children are stolen from their parents because they are brown and then shipped to countries they have never been to, where going to have a broken arm fixed costs a month’s wages, where a month’s wages won’t buy shelter and food, where mountaintops are blown off, where oil is sucked and spilled on the ground, where rivers are rerouted, where men can beat and rape their wives and children, but if those women or children kill them in defense, they will spend their lives in prison, where police murder black people just because they are black and suffer no consequences, where…

I could go on and on. The list is so long, the dysfunction of this culture and this country is so pervasive and complete that it is the norm. It shuts people down. It creates more of the same: rampant, hideous narcissism and the consequential dysfunction and trauma. We can only address it if we bring it down to a much smaller level.

Yesterday I saw an article that told the story of one teacher who is stopping gun violence in schools. She isn’t packing a pistol or learning how to better hide. She isn’t doing anything that is a band aid to the problem created by this sort of violence. Daily, she pays attention to her students. She asks the students who they want to sit with and has them write it down. She also asks the students to write little excerpts about how they are feeling. She then analyzes the information on a regular basis to determine which children are being left out, which children are likely the lonely ones, and she addresses these issues individually. One by one, she is trying to find the children who are hurting or lonely, and then goes to them individually to try and assuage their pain. She is bringing down these problems to an individual level to help and heal pain. It isn’t easy, but why should this kind of work be easy?

All of us can do this. In each moment, we can react to that moment, and work not to react to previous moments of pain. Anyone who isn’t so stuck in their own pain and trauma can help those who are. Those who are stuck in pain and trauma can try to heal themselves so that they don’t create pain and trauma for others. We can resist the tyranny of this culture in every way possible. I’m not trying to offer platitudes and comfort for the downtrodden in a single blog post, but I do believe that if enough people stopped hand wringing and blaming and participating in a culture that creates isolation, rage, and damage, we can make some small difference, and this has to be better than what we have now.

All of this is a Tragedy

This essay can also be found here on Huffington Post.

I woke up too early and made the mistake of looking at Facebook. I had disabled the account for years, but reinstated it because it was how the boarders at my barn communicated, and I needed to be able to communicate with them. The timing couldn’t be worse. The election was right around the corner and everyone was doing that dance. I figured out pretty quickly that I could “hide” a post, so that made it more tolerable when I would go online. The thing about Facebook is that it can be easy to turn to it in times of boredom or whatever. I went for years without doing that, but picked it right back up again when I turned the thing back on. What a mistake.

Since the election is over, most of my feed is filled with people literally freaking out and losing their minds over this election. They are so upset that Trump won, and they’re so fearful of the outcome, they are ruining every moment they are in being upset. Yet some of the people in my feed were posting stuff I agree with, describing just how wretched things would have been with Clinton, too. Scrolling through my feed, I came upon one of these posts and read through it. In this post I discovered something I had not known. I knew the US murdered Gaddafi. I knew the politics surrounding this murder. I knew about Clinton laughing about it.

What I didn’t know was that the man had been sodomized and tortured before he was murdered.

Seriously. This human being. This person. He was SODOMIZED and murdered, and then Clinton laughed about it!! This person took pleasure in the torture and murder of another person. And these people, my “friends,” are all upset about this person not being the president? How could any of these people want this person to be their leader? What is wrong with people? She is just as bad as he is. They are BOTH evil! Why can’t people get this?

I can hear the arguments in support of this murder. He was a dictator! He killed people! He tortured too! My response to them? So what? It doesn’t matter. It DOESN’T matter! He could have been as evil as her, but does this justify and make what was done to him okay? It does not. It simply does not. What he did does not justify doing what was done to him. Just because someone was horrible does not give you a free pass to be horrible, too. To do so is pure hypocrisy.

After sharing the post on Facebook I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. I kept thinking about this sodomization of Gaddafi and it made me horribly, horribly sad. I finally called my night owl friend, Debbie. I knew she would be awake. I said to her, “I read that they did something to Gaddafi’s anus. Is this true?” She told me that it was, that he was sodomized and murdered.

Gaddafi was a human being. Clinton was a huge part of this. She laughed about it, and my friends are upset she didn’t win? She is just as bad as Trump. In fact, she is worse. If she were the President-elect, all my friends would be celebrating and back to business as usual, and more murder would go on in our names.

Trump winning isn’t something to mourn. It’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to look in the mirror and see what responsibility we bear in creating this mess, because we all bear some responsibility. Turning our backs on the actions of our so-called leaders is our responsibility. Ignoring the actions of those who murder in our name is our responsibility. Everything that this country does that we make no effort to know about, the way that the poor are stigmatized and ignored, or kicked to the curb because their tents are in our way is our responsibility. The way this planet is being raped and pillaged and destroyed for the gains of a few is our responsibility. So much and more is our responsibility.

Feeling sad about the “pretty” Obama family leaving the White House? Feeling sentimental and worrying that your new President isn’t “Presidential” enough? Here is a snapshot of what was done in your name by the pretty President while you were busy choosing what car to buy or where to send your kid to preschool:

* Put boots on the ground in Syria , despite 16 times saying “no boots on the ground.”
* Despite campaign pledges, planned a $1 trillion program to add more nuclear weapons to the US arsenal in the next 30 years.
* Started a new war on terror – this one on ISIS.
* Dropped bombs in 7 Muslim countries; and then bragged about it.
* Said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”
* Bragged about his use of drones: I’m “really good at killing people.”
* Deported a modern-record 2 million immigrants.
* Signed the Monsanto Protection Act into law.
* Started a new war in Iraq.
* Initiated, and personally oversees a ‘Secret Kill List’.
* Pushed for war on Syria while siding with al-Qaeda .
* Backed neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
* Supported Israel’s wars and occupation of Palestine.
* Deployed Special Ops to 134 countries, compared to 60 under Bush.
* Did a TV commercial promoting “clean coal.”
* Drastically escalated the NSA spying program.
* Signed the NDAA into law, making it legal to assassinate Americans without charge or trial.
* Given Bush absolute immunity for everything.
* Pushed for a TPP Trade Pact.
* Signed more executive memorandums than any other president in history.
* Sold $30 billion of weapons to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.
* Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia.
* Opened a military base in Chile.
* Touted nuclear power, even after the disaster in Japan.
* Opened up deepwater oil drilling, even after the BP disaster.
* Mandated the Insider Threat Program which orders federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues.
* Defended body scans and pat-downs at airports.
* Signed the Patriot Act extension into law.
* Launched 20,000 Airstrikes in his first term.
* Continued Bush’s rendition program.
* Said the U.S. is the “one indispensable nation” in the world.
* Waged war on Libya without congressional approval.
* Started a covert, drone war in Yemen.
* Escalated the proxy war in Somalia.
* Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan.
* Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan.
* Repealed the Propaganda ban, making it legal to spread government propaganda via news outlets.
* Assassinated 4 US citizens with drone strikes.

Source:-
https://www.stpete4peace.org/obama-fact-sheet

One they missed was failing to close Guantanamo.

Cry and whine and go lick your perceived wounds, or try to do something different. There is the challenge. Good luck with it.

Why I’m not Voting and Counterpunch

I was apparently a part of a whirlwind of discussion, and didn’t even know about it. I submitted my essay on Why I’m not Voting to Counterpunch. The next day or the day after I started getting emails through my work website and on this site discussing the article. Someone mentioned it was on Counterpunch. I still never heard from them. Then a couple of days after that, someone told me it was gone. Weird. I searched the internets and it was taken down.

Then a close friend of mine explained the issue. These are her words describing the situation:

They pulled it because of some vitriolic allegations made on Facebook by a couple of overzealous people claiming to be champions for the fight against plagiarism.

CounterPunch has refused to publish Mark E. Smith’s writing in the past (apparently election boycotting wasn’t as popular to them a few years ago and has grown in popularity because of the current candidates). Most of what Mark writes on this subject he considers “copyleft” material, meaning he wants the information disseminated and he doesn’t care if people use the concepts he’s developed over the years as their own, as long as they truly understand them. The message is far more important to him than who gets credit. Actually, in many cases when writers have cited him as their source, their articles have not been published because Mark has been blacklisted by pro-voting publishers (including many who consider themselves to be radical left publications).

Here is what Mark had to say about the charge of plagiarism regarding my essay:

“Truth is, I’m sure I didn’t originate the idea of voting as consent. Anarchists have been opposed to voting for ages and have many valid reasons, but I hadn’t been aware of all of them because I wasn’t an anarchist. But that is one of their reasons, because if they oppose the state, they don’t participate in the state’s rituals as it would indicate acceptance of the state. I don’t think I had any really new ideas, I just put things together that I had learned. Mostly I put together many of the arguments I had used against political operatives over the years.

Anyway, the whole thing about plagiarism, copyrights, and property rights is part of the disease of capitalism. It doesn’t work. I remember when writers would submit their books to publishers and collect hundreds of rejection slips before getting published, if they ever did. Now people just publish themselves on Kindle and there’s no heartache involved.”

In addition, Mark Smith posted this on his website:

“Lara read my article “You’ve Got to Stop Voting,” and discussed it at length with a friend of mine. She decided to write an article herself and I think she has done a good job of propagating, updating, and clarifying my ideas, and adding her own thoughts and experiences. I hope her article is widely read, as I believe it will appeal to people who wouldn’t read Fubar. Although Lara sometimes uses my words, this is not plagiarism or theft. I have expressly granted blanket permission for anyone to repost my writing with or without attribution. It is impossible to steal what was given to you.”

So for those of you have asked, that’s the story as I know it. To date, Counterpunch has not contacted me. It never told me it published the piece. It never told me it took it down. It never responded to my inquiry asking what was up or explaining my side of things. Essentially, I guess in the world of Counterpunch, I’m just the person who wrote it and therefore require no participation in the matter.

I agree with Mark. I think the ideas need to be out there and we should not worry about who they belong to. Yes, this blog has a Creative Commons license, so I ask that people link back to me if I’m quoted, but as far as the ideas in this or other essays I’ve posted here, spread the word. I wouldn’t mind at all if more people agreed.

Why I’m Not Voting

My essay got published on Huffington Post. However, I must admit that since they changed their platform, it is much easier to do. All of my prior articles were approved by editors. This time they just published it, so maybe it’s not such a big deal. In any case, I wrote it.

Why I’m Not Voting
by Lara M. Gardner

I used to be a good little Progressive. I was out stumping for the vote, actively pursuing participation by everyone, doing my best to get everyone to work for change. After the 2008 elections, I partied for Barack Obama, I cheered in the streets with millions, certain his election promises would be just what everyone had been waiting for. In spite of some obvious problems staring me right in the face, I believed.

You may continue reading here.

Mass Shootings and Profit

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I wrote this article for Huffington Post about the reason we can’t get changes in gun legislation is profit. The profiteers exploit the fear of citizens to ensure legislation never passes and the deaths continue. Here we are again over three years later! and STILL no changes. Every time one of these shootings happen, the weapon profiteers make a killing.

I get the fear of our government. I understand the anger and frustration Americans feel as those in power take from all of us, but gun protection legislation needs to happen. Stopping it just keeps the wealthy coffers full and decent people end up dead.

To read the article, go here…

Thanksgiving Sonnet

Here again, my annual posting of the sonnet I wrote in college about turkey murder on our holiday. I’ve gone back and tried again and again to get the exact syllabic format for a completely proper sonnet, but could not find words to replace those here that would maintain the imagery and metaphoric content that I want, and so it stays the same.

Thanksgiving Sonnet
Turgid turkeys, strained into rickety wooden coffins, exit four-by-four from a ten-ton hearse. Into the turkey mill: mutilation, holocaust.

Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with one sad 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.

ChickensTurkeys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lovely film that all should watch is My Life as a Turkey. Watch it online here.

There was only one time in US history when refugees actually did wipe everyone out—and we’ll be celebrating it on Thursday.” — John Oliver

A Nation of Toddlers

America is perhaps the most infantile culture in the world. We are a nation of toddlers shouting “Me first,” and “Mine, mine, mine!” Americans are some of the most spoiled, entitled, selfish humans on the planet. Patience seems not to exist. Sharing, taking turns, putting others in front of the self, these are behaviors of maturity, and our culture regards them with disdain.

Nowhere is this more immediately evident than on the road. Someone inadvertently cuts in front another driver and the person whom they displaced acts as if they grabbed their toy from the sand box and ran with it. You turn on your turn signal to change lanes and the cars beside you speed up to ensure you don’t get in. Everyone is in a race to be first, to be in front, and any action that thwarts this desire is seen as a personal affront.

Rationality is the ability to make rational choices, thinking through the consequences and taking actions that make rational sense. Adults are able to distinguish between the feeling process and the intellectual process and have the ability to choose between having one’s functioning guided by feelings or by thoughts.

People living within a child’s frame of reference often overreact emotionally to events that are insignificant in the overall scheme of their lives, and fail to respond to events that are important or crucial to their well-being.

The life of a child is helpless and powerless. It is a place of inequality, fear, and paranoia. As a child, anyone can control and overrun you. As an adult you own your life and destiny. If you remain a child in your adult life, you look at the world around you as dominating, controlling, and dangerous. America views the world from this childlike view. We are the most militarized nation in the history of the world, seeing everything and everyone as a possible enemy, and every action as a possible threat. (Or at the very least this is the excuse offered to the nation of children by the totalitarian toddlers who seek to amass the greatest pile of toys in the sandbox.)

It is evident in gun culture: I don’t like the way you looked at me, I think you threatened me, I’ll pull out my gun and shoot you, and in many places in the country, this is acceptable.

It is evident in America’s level of debt: I want what I want when I want it, even if I can’t afford it, and the nation itself wants what it wants when it wants it, even if it can’t afford it. It will also spend to maximize the profits of a few while ignoring the needs of the majority.

It is evident in the media that will only tell us the story the tellers want us to hear, like paternalistic parents ensuring we get the story that will not result in a tantrum.

It is evident in our approach to politics. We believe what we want to hear, and accept the tropes of the politicians, believing the speeches and ignoring the actions, constantly seeking that which instantly gratifies us and makes us believe everything is okay even when it is not.

It is evident even in our approach to art and culture. Spectacle wins; quality is meaningless. Americans are like small children witnessing fireworks, completely unable to comprehend an exquisite work of literature or art.

It is evident in our unwillingness to see what is happening across the world as the oceans are acidifying, the poles are melting, the trees are dying, the coral reefs are withering, creatures are becoming extinct at an unparalleled rate, and human populations are increasing to untenable levels. The end is near, but damn, we don’t want to know about it. Turn on the Avengers, the American version of Barney, pull the blanket over your head, stick your thumb in your mouth, and just pretend everything is a-ok.

I could go on and on.

It is as if in gradually finding ways to make life “easier,” in giving up the ability to learn to find and store food, to house and clothe ourselves, to learn to keep warm in the outdoors, and to coexist with the planet on which we were created, we have given up the ability to be fully adult and actually, fully human.

 

Bully Nation

Bully Nation  (Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission)
by By Yale Magrass and Charles Derber, Truthout | Op-Ed

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has appropriately been called a bully. This has implications well beyond Christie. His calling out has the potential to shift the growing public conversation about bullying from a psychological narrative about abusive individuals to a new discourse on institutionalized bullying, carried out by ruling institutions and elites.

The current focus on bullying – like much of the discussion about guns and gun violence – has tended to focus on individuals and mental health. It is a therapeutic narrative. Bullying is seen primarily as a psychological problem of individuals. The victim needs therapy, better communication or adaptation skills. Bullies are characterologically flawed and need therapy or perhaps legal punishment.

But there is little or no discussion of larger social or cultural forces in the United States and the American institutions or leaders who bully other countries or workers and citizens at home. Institutionalized bullying is endemic to a capitalist hegemonic nation like the United States and creates death and suffering on a far greater scale than personal, everyday bullying, as important and toxic as the latter might be.

Moreover, much of the everyday bullying that is the current media focus must be understood as the inevitable consequence of a militarized corporate system that requires a popular mind-set of bullying to produce profit and power. The individual bully is the creation of the bully nation.

The United States openly views itself as the world police force, a benign hegemon morally ordained to impose its interests and values on the rest of the world and justified in the name of freedom, human rights and antiterrorism to do to weaker countries what it wants. It spends more on weapons than its next 20 largest competitors combined. President Obama proclaimed “[S]o long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.” To peasants living in small countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia – where the United States has sent armed forces, used drones to bomb, and often overthrown the government – polls show that a majority of people see the United States as the greatest threat to their security, and fear it. Hegemony here seamlessly unfolds as morally sanctioned, institutionalized bullying.

America makes heroes of bomber pilots like John McCain and offers them as role models for children and adolescents to emulate. They see the media applaud the bullying behavior of their own government that dispatches police, soldiers, FBI and CIA agents into foreign nations to kill and wreak havoc – from Afghanistan to Somalia to Columbia. If you kill enough, whether in a just war or not, you may win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

If bullying brings esteem to a nation, then surely that is a behavior to strive for. Potential recruits for an aggressive military need to be immunized against scruples over violence and bullying. This becomes an implicit part of their education, whether or not it is ever publicly admitted. Accordingly, schools and adult authorities often turn a blind eye toward bullying. After two world wars, the Army lamented that a majority of combat soldiers never fired a weapon. They called for a change in the training of soldiers and the education and upbringing of children to correct that. By that measure, they have been successful. In Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, the majority of combat soldiers killed.

Sports has played a vital part in preparing children for institutionalized aggression, bullying and combat. In football, the goal is to attack the opponent and knock them down, a hard hit that keeps the opponent dazed on the ground is sometimes encouraged by coaches and cheered by the crowd. In schools and campuses, the athletes are often the popular heroes and also the bullies, involved too often in sexual violence or drinking binges in bars that lead to fights or crimes.

Only recently would they expect sanctions against bullying. Indeed, the more they bullied, the more popular they would be. Even before World War I, President Theodore Roosevelt insisted that elite universities like Harvard would have to enhance their football teams if America were to dominate the world. He declared: “We cannot afford to turn out college men who shrink from physical effort or a little physical pain.” For the nation needed men with “the courage that will fight valiantly against the foes of the soul and the foes of the body.”

The aggression and competitiveness of bullying pervades civilian life as well as military. As the beacon for the rest of the world to emulate, the culture the United States wishes to export is capitalism. Capitalism’s staunchest defenders proclaim competition to be its fundamental operating principle. The monopolistic corporations and the wealthiest 1% have been the most aggressive, bullying anyone who stood in their way by outsourcing their jobs, lowering wages, stripping away benefits and firing those seeking to organize unions.

The bully demonizes their victim. In American capitalism, elites have long defined the losers in the competitive struggle with the words used by Mitt Romney to defame the 47%: undeserving “moochers.” They are weak and lazy and don’t have the stuff to prevail. As victims, they deserve their fate and must submit to the triumphant. Those, like the wolves on Wall Street who bully their way to the top, should be there; those who couldn’t or don’t, belong where they are.

Bullying is the means through which the corporate empires were built. Carnegie and Rockefeller intimidated and threatened their rival capitalists to cede them an ever-larger share of the market. They brought in Pinkerton goons to beat striking workers into submission. Workers were forced to either sign “yellow dog” contracts and pledge not to join unions, or be thrown into the street. Similar bullying practices continue today. Corporations warn entire communities they will shut down factories and undermine the local economy if they do not accept low wages and minimal regulations. Banks entice consumers to borrow through predatory loans and then raise interest rates and threaten foreclosure. The corporations are clear they have the power and will not tolerate challenges from weaklings who fail to know their place.

Bullying enhances the ideology that the strong are strong and the weak are weak, and each deserves to be where they are. This attitude pervades America’s culture, government, military, corporations, media, schools, entertainment, athletics and everyday life. The first step to a solution is shifting the conversation to institutional bullying, moving beyond simply a therapeutic narrative to a political one aiming toward transformative social change. As long as the United States embraces militarism and aggressive capitalism, systemic bullying and all its impacts – abroad and at home – will persist as a major crisis.

It’s About Winning

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.

To keep reading, click here.

America’s Grave Double Standard

If 3 Americans are killed in a sporting event, it is an act of terrorism. The US kills children with drones, and it is collateral damage. Our country MURDERS CHILDREN! I am not a wingnut conspiracy theorist. This is a fact. We, the unholy abusers, scream so foul when anyone dares harm an American, but we have no problem killing the children of brown people in nations where we have the holier than thou audacity to decide it is okay to MURDER CHILDREN, claiming somehow it is justified in our “war on terror.” WE are the terrorists!

How would you feel if some country came and killed your child? Some country that doesn’t even have the guts to allow an actual human to place that child in its sights? Instead we let some “soldier” sit in an air-conditioned room and murder children from afar, kind of like a video game. How would you feel? No wonder people in these countries want to terrorize us. I understand their sentiments. It isn’t Islam, it’s humanity. If someone killed my child for some fucked up, power grab, political reason, I would want to destroy them. Let’s just maintain the war machine. Killing their children ensures their rage, ensures new terrorists, keeps the war machine growing.

I admit it. I don’t want to be a part of this country, the greatest abusers on earth. We should be ashamed. We should all be ashamed of the terror we inflict on innocent people so that a few plutocrats can buy some more yachts. In our complicity, we are responsible. Letting this happen and refusing to speak out makes us accomplices.

If you can stand to look at the sad picture of a toddler lying dead in the sand, read THIS ARTICLE. I have taken from it the names, ages, and genders of children killed by the United States. It should turn your stomach. Is it okay to kill a child of 2 if her last name is Mohammed, is that it? Is it okay because she is brown? What is your justification? I don’t have a justification, you might say. It isn’t me! But if you support our military, if you support our government, if you support OBAMA, you must somehow justify this murder. Read these names. Read their ages. Then ask yourself if any of it is okay. If your answer is yes, at least be honest and admit it that you support murder.

PAKISTAN

Noor Aziz, age 8, male
Abdul Wasit, age 17, male
Noor Syed, age 8, male
Wajid Noor, age 9, male
Syed Wali Shah, age 7, male
Ayeesha, age 3, female
Qari Alamzeb, age 14, male
Shoaib, age 8, male
Hayatullah KhaMohammad, age 16, male
Tariq Aziz, age 16, male
Sanaullah Jan, age 17, male
Maezol Khan, age 8, female
Nasir Khan, male
Naeem Khan, male
Naeemullah, male
Mohammad Tahir, age 16, male
Azizul Wahab, age 15, male
Fazal Wahab, age 16, male
Ziauddin, age 16, male
Mohammad Yunus, age 16, male
Fazal Hakim, age 19, male
Ilyas, age 13, male
Sohail, age 7, male
Asadullah, age 9, male
khalilullah, age 9, male
Noor Mohammad, age 8, male
Khalid, age 12, male
Saifullah, age 9, male
Mashooq Jan, age 15, male
Nawab, age 17, male
Sultanat Khan, age 16, male
Ziaur Rahman, age 13, male
Noor Mohammad, age 15, male
Mohammad Yaas Khan, age 16, male
Qari Alamzeb, age 14, male
Ziaur Rahman, age 17, male
Abdullah, age 18, male
Ikramullah Zada, age 17, male
Inayatur Rehman, age 16, male
Shahbuddin, age 15, male
Yahya Khan, age 16 |male
Rahatullah, age 17, male
Mohammad Salim, age 11, male
Shahjehan, age 15, male
Gul Sher Khan, age 15, male
Bakht Muneer, age 14, male
Numair, age 14, male
Mashooq Khan, age 16, male
Ihsanullah, age 16, male
Luqman, age 12, male
Jannatullah, age 13, male
Ismail, age 12, male
Taseel Khan, age 18, male
Zaheeruddin, age 16, male
Qari Ishaq, age 19, male
Jamshed Khan, age 14, male
Alam Nabi, age 11, male
Qari Abdul Karim, age 19, male
Rahmatullah, age 14, male
Abdus Samad, age 17, male
Siraj, age 16, male
Saeedullah, age 17, male
Abdul Waris, age 16, male
Darvesh, age 13, male
Ameer Said, age 15, male
Shaukat, age 14, male
Inayatur Rahman, age 17, male
Salman, age 12, male
Fazal Wahab, age 18, male
Baacha Rahman, age 13, male
Wali-ur-Rahman, age 17, male
Iftikhar, age 17, male
Inayatullah, age 15, male
Mashooq Khan, age 16, male
Ihsanullah, age 16, male
Luqman, age 12, male
Jannatullah, age 13, male
Ismail, age 12, male
Abdul Waris, age 16, male
Darvesh, age 13, male
Ameer Said, age 15, male
Shaukat, age 14, male
Inayatur Rahman, age 17, male
Adnan, age 16, male
Najibullah, age 13, male
Naeemullah, age 17, male
Hizbullah, age 10, male
Kitab Gul, age 12, male
Wilayat Khan, age 11, male
Zabihullah, age 16, male
Shehzad Gul, age 11, male
Shabir, age 15, male
Qari Sharifullah, age 17, male
Shafiullah, age 16, male
Nimatullah, age 14, male
Shakirullah, age 16, male
Talha, age 8, male

YEMEN

Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser, age 9, female
Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser, age 7, female
Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser, age 5, female
Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser, age 4, female
Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, age 13, male
Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, age 9, male
Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, age 4, female
Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, age 3, female
Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye, age 1, female
Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye, age 6, female
Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye, age 4, male
Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye, age 15, female
Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad, age 2, female
Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad, age 1, female
Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh, age 3, female
Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, age 12, male
Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, age 9, female
Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, age 4, female
Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, age 2, male
Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari, age 13, male
Daolah Nasser 10 years, age 10, female
AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout, age 12, male
Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki, age 16, male
Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki, age 17, male
Nasser Salim, age 19

Global tax dodgers exposed — Salon.com

Shared post from Salon.com can be seen here.

Global tax dodgers exposed

UPDATED: Tax havens of oligarchs, politicians and the wealthy unveiled by largest file leak ever

BY 

Updated, 12:15 p.m.: ICIJ pointed out that many of the world’s major banks – including UBS, Clariden and Deutsche Bank – have aggressively worked to provide their customers with secrecy-cloaked companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore hideaways:

Documents obtained by ICIJ show how two top Swiss banks, UBS and Clariden, worked with TrustNet to provide their customers with secrecy-shielded companies in the BVI and other offshore centers.

Clariden, owned by Credit Suisse, sought such high levels of confidentiality for some clients, the records show, that a TrustNet official described the bank’s request as “the Holy Grail” of offshore entities — a company so anonymous that police and regulators would be “met with a blank wall” if they tried to discover the owners’ identities.

Clariden declined to answer questions about its relationship with TrustNet.

“Because of Swiss banking secrecy laws, we are not allowed to provide any information about existing or supposed accountholders,” the bank said. “As a general rule, Credit Suisse and its related companies respect all the laws and regulations in the countries in which they are involved.”

A spokesperson for UBS said the bank applies “the highest international standards” to fight money laundering, and that TrustNet “is one of over 800 service providers globally which UBS clients choose to work with to provide for their wealth and succession planning needs. These service providers are also used by clients of other banks.”

Updated, 11: 40 a.m.: And here are some more notable individuals found by theGuardian/ICIJ investigation to be hiding funds in offshore accounts:

  • Jean-Jacques Augier, France’s François Hollande’s 2012 election campaign co-treasurer, launched a Caymans-based distributor in China with a 25 percent partner in a BVI company. Augier says his partner was Xi Shu, a Chinese businessman.
  • Mongolia’s former finance minister. Bayartsogt Sangajav set up “Legend Plus Capital Ltd” with a Swiss bank account, while he served as finance minister of the impoverished state from 2008 to 2012. He says it was “a mistake” not to declare it, and says “I probably should consider resigning from my position”.
  • The president of Azerbaijan and his family. A local construction magnate, Hassan Gozal, controls entities set up in the names of President Ilham Aliyev’s two daughters.
  • A senator’s husband in Canada. Lawyer Tony Merchant deposited more than US$800,000 into an offshore trust.
  • Spain’s wealthiest art collector, Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, a former beauty queen and widow of a Thyssen steel billionaire, who uses offshore entities to buy art.

Updated, 11: 20 a.m.: Nominee directors, military and intelligence links: As was original highlighted by the Guardian/ICIJ last year, a number of so-called nominee directors of companies registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) have connections to military or intelligence activities.

Notably Gamma Group — the firm that develops surveillance software that (as noted here) has been used by oppressive regimes against activists including in Bahrain — was found to have offshore funds in the BVI:

Louthean Nelson owns the Gamma Group, a controversial computer surveillance firmemploying ex-military personnel. It sells bugging technology to Middle East and south-east Asian governments.

Nelson owns a BVI offshore arm, Gamma Group International Ltd.

Martin Muench, who has a 15 per cent share in the company’s German subsidiary, said he was the group’s sole press spokesman, and told us: “Louthean Nelson is not associated with any company by the name of Gamma Group International Ltd. If by chance you are referring to any other Gamma company, then the explanation is the same for each and every one of them.”

After he was confronted with evidence obtained by the ICIJ/Guardian investigation, Muench changed his position. He told us: “You are absolutely right, apparently there is a Gamma Group International Ltd.”

The ICIJ also notes a “sham” director who is U.K.-based operative working to hide money for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line –  a firm the E.U., the U.N. and the U.S. have accused IRISL of aiding Iran’s nuclear-development program. Under the front name “Tamalaris Consolidated Limited,” the company registered in the BVI with the British-based operative named as director.

Updated, 10.50 a.m.: Sham directors: The Guardian, whose investigative journalists collaborated with ICIJ in the tax haven project, highlights a list of “sham directors” uncovered in the leaked files. These individuals “appear on official records as directors of companies while acting only on the instructions of its real owners, who stay invisible and off-the-books.”

Over 22,000 companies use this network of 0nly 28 sham directors — some with over 700 companies to their names with offshore account holdings. See here for a full table of these sham directors.

Original post: A trove of leaked documents 160 times the size of Wikileaks’ cache reveals the vast global web of tax havens in which the world’s wealthiest hide their fortunes. A 15-month investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which involved dozens of reporters sifting through thousands of leaked files from offshore companies and trusts, highlights the dirty dealings between politicians and the mega-rich involved in tax evasion.

“The leaked files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how offshore financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe, allowing the wealthy and the well-connected to dodge taxes and fueling corruption and economic woes in rich and poor nations alike,” noted ICIJ on the investigation’s publication.

The trove of data — believed to be the largest leak in history — exposes some 120,000 letterbox entities, offshore accounts and other nefarious deals in more than 170 countries, alongside the names of 140,000 individuals alleged to have placed their money in known tax havens.

The investigation found high profile individuals from around the world — from oligarchs to the family members of dictators, to wealthy American financiers and professionals — engaged in efforts to dodge fiscal authorities. Individuals and groups found to be part of the tax evasion web include (via ICIJ):

  • Individuals and companies linked to Russia’s Magnitsky Affair, a tax fraud scandal that has strained U.S.-Russia relations and led to a ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans.
  • A Venezuelan deal maker accused of using offshore entities to bankroll a U.S.-based Ponzi scheme and funneling millions of dollars in bribes to a Venezuelan government official.
  • A corporate mogul who won billions of dollars in contracts amid Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s massive construction boom even as he served as a director of secrecy-shrouded offshore companies owned by the president’s daughters.
  • Indonesian billionaires with ties to the late dictator Suharto, who enriched a circle of elites during his decades in power.
  • The eldest daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Maria Imelda Marcos Manotoc, found to be a beneficiary of a British Virgin Islands (BVI) trust. (Philippine officials said they were eager to find out whether any assets in the trust are part of the estimated $5 billion her father amassed through corruption.)
  • The wife of Russia’s deputy prime minister, Igor Shuvalov, and two top executives with Gazprom, the Russian government-owned corporate behemoth that is the world’s largest extractor of natural gas, identified in offshore data.
  • Among nearly 4,000 American names is Denise Rich, a Grammy-nominated songwriter whose ex-husband was at the center of an American pardon scandal that erupted as President Bill Clinton left office.

We will continue to update this post once more details from the extensive tax evasion leaks emerge.

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

The United States of Aftermath

The United States of Aftermath.

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
8/26/2002

“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
9/6/2002

“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
– Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser
CNN Late Edition
9/8/2002

“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
9/12/2002

“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
Radio Address
10/5/2002

“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
10/7/2002

“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
10/7/2002

“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
10/7/2002

“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
10/7/2002

“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
11/1/2002

“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
12/1/2002

“If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.”
– Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Press Briefing
12/2/2002

“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
12/4/2002

“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”
– Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Press Briefing
1/9/2003

“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
1/28/2003

“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
1/28/2003

“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
2/5/2003

“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
2/5/2003

“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
2/26/2003

“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
3/7/2003

“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”
3/16/2003

“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
3/17/2003

“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
Press Briefing
3/21/2003

“One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.”
– Victoria Clark, Pentagon Spokeswoman
Press Briefing
3/22/2003

“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
3/23/2003

“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
ABC Interview
3/30/2003

“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
Press Conference
4/9/2003

“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
Press Conference
4/9/2003

“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
Press Briefing
4/10/2003

“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”
4/13/2003

“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
NBC Interview
4/24/2003

“We’ll find them. It’ll be a matter of time to do so.”
– George W. Bush, President
Remarks to Reporters
5/3/2003

“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
5/4/2003

“We never believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.”
– Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
Fox News Interview
5/4/2003

“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
5/6/2003

“U.S. officials never expected that ‘we were going to open garages and find’ weapons of mass destruction.”
– Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser
Reuters Interview
5/12/2003

“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
5/13/2003

“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
5/25/2003

“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
5/27/2003

“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
5/28/2003

“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
Press Briefing
5/29/2003

“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
5/30/2003

“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
5/30/2003

“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
Press Briefing
5/30/2003

“This wasn’t material I was making up, it came from the intelligence community.”
– Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Press Briefing
6/2/2003

“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
6/5/2003

“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
6/8/2003

“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”
6/8/2003

“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
6/9/2003

“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
6/12/2003

“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
Press Briefing
6/18/2003

“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
6/24/2003

“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
Press Briefing
7/9/2003

Safety is a Straw Man

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 am a writer and bankruptcy attorney living Portland, Oregon.

Do we Have to Destroy Ourselves?

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?

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

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.

America Has Met the Enabler, and He is Us

America Has Met the Enabler, and He is Us
–by Mary Sanchez

To see this story in its original form, go here.

President Barack Obama is carefully creating the illusion that he’s serious about immigration reform. In a major speech in El Paso, Texas, this month, he pitched the idea that reform will strengthen the middle class by undercutting an underground economy of cheap labor, and will make the U.S. more competitive globally.

But what can Obama do to advance this reform? Some would say not much, given a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. He could be presidential, beginning with setting new policy priorities. He could halt further hefty contracts with the prison-building industry to erect more detention facilities. He could ensure that true criminals — violent offenders — will be deported, not the immigrant caught rolling through a stop sign or the hundreds of young people enrolled in college, the so-called Dream Act students.

Is Obama just covering himself? Making all the necessary talking points about “putting politics aside” and lamenting the pain of people “just trying to get by” so he can later claim, “I tried?”

If so, I don’t entirely fault him for it. Truth is, the Hispanic Congressional Caucus has been chewing Obama’s backside for months, reminding him that as a presidential candidate he promised a pathway to legal status and full U.S. citizenship for those among the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants who can prove themselves worthy.

But caucus members are saving face, too. Later, they can say to their constituents, “We tried.” As anyone paying attention to politics knows, the illegal-immigrant issue has been demagogued to the point of caricature. If you’re an elected official and you say anything the least pragmatic about the issue — much less show any compassion — your words can and will be used against you in the next election. Especially in a primary if you’re a moderate Republican.

One promising sign is that the administration has begun calling conservatives’ bluffs on the “border must be secured before reforms make sense” fallacy. In El Paso, Obama said his administration increased the number of border agents to the highest ever, deported the most undocumented immigrants ever, worked closely with Mexico on drug violence and screened 100 percent of rail shipments entering Mexico for guns and money.

And yet, he predicted, Republicans will probably “move the goalposts.” “Maybe they’ll say we need a moat,” he quipped. “Or alligators in the moat.” Yet we’ll know the day this administration or any in the future is serious about immigration reform when it unequivocally speaks the truth: Powerful interests in this country demand low-wage labor to do jobs Americans won’t submit to. Those interests include agribusiness and meat processors and the like, but they also include U.S. consumers — you and me. Yes, “those people” who have crossed our borders illegally are helping keep our cost of living low. You don’t need to employ an illegal landscaper or nanny to reap the benefits.

If we as a nation want to keep those costs low and also want to see our laws respected, we need comprehensive immigration reform. That means new policies to allow legal entry to guest workers, and a path to citizenship for many qualified illegal immigrants already here.

Instead, we have a bureaucracy, massively backlogged, meeting neither humanitarian needs of immigrants nor our own economic and security needs for low- or highly skilled labor. Americans also need to understand that we cannot deport our way out of this mess. The Center for American Progress estimated that the costs of a mass deportation would be $206 billion over five years, and possibly as high as $230 billion. That’s not going to happen, on fiscal grounds alone.

In El Paso, Obama’s prepared remarks included this, intended as a slight to Republicans: “When an issue is this complex and raises such strong feelings, it’s easier for politicians to defer the problem until after the next election.” Yes, and it would be very easy for Obama to keep tossing rhetorical platitudes in both directions with talk of “a nation of laws” and “that first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.” Or he can set aside the flourishes and lead firmly, changing the policies and priorities within his administration.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

Corporate Tax Dodgers

Go to this link to sign a petition to congress requesting that they stop all corporate tax havens.  I doubt they will care (I’m a cynic in that regard), but hey, it can’t hurt, right?

HuckaBOO

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.

Mexico: The House the US has Set on Fire

This article has been published on OpEd News.   If you like it, rate it and share it.  You can see it here.

Mexico: The House the US has Set on Fire

By Lara Gardner

opednews.com

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.

Progressives Must Change

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.

Imagine if the Tea Party was Black, by Tim Wise

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.

Game Over.

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 Just Can’t Stand It

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.

Reality Check

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.

Mini Healthcare Rant

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.

Racism is Alive and Well in America

The following article is taken from The New York Times and can be located here.

Think Again
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 Associated Press Henry Louis Gates, Jr., during a book signing in 2006.

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.

Who are the Real “Activists”?

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.

July 6, 2005
So Who Are the Activists?
By PAUL GEWIRTZ and CHAD GOLDER

Correction Appended

New Haven

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.

Correction

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.

Bombing the Moon

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. s_full-moon

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.

And Then

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.

Charade and Socialists

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.

Tell it Like it Is: Torture

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

Binyam Mohamed getting off his plane

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.

‘Dark prison’

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
Binyam Mohamed

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.

‘Wrong-doing’

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.”

My Response to a Comment

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.

Have We Overcome?

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.

Let’s Just Change History

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.

Please Pass Conyers’ Bill

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.

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

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.

Thanksgiving Sonnet

Turgid turkeys, strained into rickety
wooden coffins, exit four-by-four from
a ten-ton hearse. Into the turkey mill:
mutilation, holocaust.

Perspiring hormones, Tom Turkey stares with
one sad 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.

Ignorance Remains Sublime

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.

1242

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.

Andy Martin is a Beetle-Headed Idiot

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.

Um.  Yeah.

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.

Wishing for Change

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.

We Don’t Need That

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.

Mad Dog Palin

The brilliance in the article I’m going to share below is its truth.  I have been screaming for years now that democracy requires a level of personal responsibility that certain individuals are not willing to accept.  The Bush administration has upped the ante over and over and over, becoming more audacious and arrogant at every turn.  No one should be surprised that Sarah Palin is the choice as running mate for John McCain.  She is their cherry on the icing on the top of the giant ram shoved up all our asses.  Those of us who wish to debate the issues intelligently, think about our choices, and make our political choices from an informed standpoint are not thinking like the people who consider Palin a fabulous choice.  They aren’t thinking at all.  This is the crux of the problem and the point of divergence.  I just hope someone figures it out before it is too late.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/23318320/mad_dog_palin

Mad Dog Palin
by Matt Taibbi

I’m standing outside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Sarah Palin has just finished her speech to the Republican National Convention, accepting the party’s nomination for vice president. If I hadn’t quit my two-packs-a-day habit earlier this year, I’d be chain-smoking now. So the only thing left is to stand mute against th fit-for-a-cheap-dog-kennel crowd-control fencing you see everywhere at these idiotic conventions and gnaw on weird new feelings of shock and anarchist rage as one would a rawhide chew toy.

All around me, a million cops in their absurd post-9/11 space-combat get-ups stand guard as assholes in papier-mâché puppet heads scramble around for one last moment of network face time before the coverage goes dark. Four-chinned delegates from places like Arkansas and Georgia are pouring joyously out the gates in search of bars where they can load up on Zombies and Scorpion Bowls and other “wild” drinks and extramaritally grope their turkey-necked female companions in bathroom stalls as part of the “unbelievable time” they will inevitably report to their pals back home. Only 21st-century Americans can pass through a metal detector six times in an hour and still think they’re at a party.

The defining moment for me came shortly after Palin and her family stepped down from the stage to uproarious applause, looking happy enough to throw a whole library full of books into a sewer. In the crush to exit the stadium, a middle-aged woman wearing a cowboy hat, a red-white-and-blue shirt and an obvious eye job gushed to a male colleague — they were both wearing badges identifying them as members of the Colorado delegation — at the Xcel gates.

“She totally reminds me of my cousin!” the delegate screeched. “She’s a real woman! The real thing!”

I stared at her open-mouthed. In that moment, the rank cynicism of the whole sorry deal was laid bare. Here’s the thing about Americans. You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt year after congressional year while they spend their winters cheerfully watching game shows and football, pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to China and Bangalore.

And none of it matters, so long as you remember a few months before Election Day to offer them a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne as part of your presidential ticket. And if she’s a good enough likeness of a loudmouthed Middle American archetype, as Sarah Palin is, John Q. Public will drop his giant-size bag of Doritos in gratitude, wipe the Sizzlin’ Picante dust from his lips and rush to the booth to vote for her. Not because it makes sense, or because it has a chance of improving his life or anyone else’s, but simply because it appeals to the low-humming narcissism that substitutes for his personality, because the image on TV reminds him of the mean, brainless slob he sees in the mirror every morning.

Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she’s a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power. Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she’s the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV — and this country is going to eat her up, cheering her every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.

The Palin speech was a political masterpiece, one of the most ingenious pieces of electoral theater this country has ever seen. Never before has a single televised image turned a party’s fortunes around faster.

Until the Alaska governor actually ascended to the podium that night, I was convinced that John McCain had made one of the all-time campaign-season blunders, that he had acted impulsively and out of utter desperation in choosing a cross-eyed political neophyte just two years removed from running a town smaller than the bleacher section at Fenway Park. It even crossed my mind that there was an element of weirdly self-destructive pique in McCain’s decision to cave in to his party’s right-wing base in this fashion, that perhaps he was responding to being ordered by party elders away from a tepid, ideologically promiscuous hack like Joe Lieberman — reportedly his real preference — by picking the most obviously unqualified, doomed-to-fail joke of a Bible-thumping buffoon. As in: You want me to rally the base? Fine, I’ll rally the base. Here, I’ll choose this rifle-toting, serially pregnant moose killer who thinks God lobbies for oil pipelines. Happy now?

But watching Palin’s speech, I had no doubt that I was witnessing a historic, iconic performance. The candidate sauntered to the lectern with the assurance of a sleepwalker — and immediately launched into a symphony of snorting and sneering remarks, taking time out in between the superior invective to present herself as just a humble gal with a beefcake husband and a brood of healthy, combat-ready spawn who just happened to be the innocent targets of a communist and probably also homosexual media conspiracy. She appeared to be completely without shame and utterly full of shit, awing a room full of hardened reporters with her sickly-sweet line about the high-school-flame-turned-hubby who, “five children later,” is “still my guy.” It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag.

Within minutes, Palin had given TV audiences a character infinitely recognizable to virtually every American: the small-town girl with just enough looks and a defiantly incurious mind who thinks the PTA minutes are Holy Writ, and to whom injustice means the woman next door owning a slightly nicer set of drapes or flatware. Or the governorship, as it were.

Right-wingers of the Bush-Rove ilk have had a tough time finding a human face to put on their failed, inhuman, mean-as-hell policies. But it was hard not to recognize the genius of wedding that faltering brand of institutionalized greed to the image of the suburban-American supermom. It’s the perfect cover, for there is almost nothing in the world meaner than this species of provincial tyrant.

Palin herself burned this political symbiosis into the pages of history with her seminal crack about the “difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick,” blurring once and for all the lines between meanness on the grand political scale as understood by the Roves and Bushes of the world, and meanness of the small-town variety as understood by pretty much anyone who has ever sat around in his ranch-house den dreaming of a fourth plasma-screen TV or an extra set of KC HiLites for his truck, while some ghetto family a few miles away shares a husk of government cheese.

In her speech, Palin presented herself as a raging baby-making furnace of middle-class ambition next to whom the yuppies of the Obama set — who never want anything all that badly except maybe a few afternoons with someone else’s wife, or a few kind words in The New York Times Book Review — seem like weak, self-doubting celibates, the kind of people who certainly cannot be trusted to believe in the right God or to defend a nation. We’re used to seeing such blatant cultural caricaturing in our politicians. But Sarah Palin is something new. She’s all caricature. As the candidate of a party whose positions on individual issues are poll losers almost across the board, her shtick is not even designed to sell a line of policies. It’s just designed to sell her. The thing was as much as admitted in the on-air gaffe by former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who was inadvertently caught saying on MSNBC that Palin wasn’t the most qualified candidate, that the party “went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives.”

The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters. Hicks root for hicks, moms for moms, born-agains for born-agains. Sure, there was politics in the Palin speech, but it was all either silly lies or merely incidental fluffery buttressing the theatrical performance. A classic example of what was at work here came when Palin proudly introduced her Down-syndrome baby, Trig, then stared into the camera and somberly promised parents of special-needs kids that they would “have a friend and advocate in the White House.” This was about a half-hour before she raised her hands in triumph with McCain, a man who voted against increasing funding for special-needs education.

Palin’s charge that “government is too big” and that Obama “wants to grow it” was similarly preposterous. Not only did her party just preside over the largest government expansion since LBJ, but Palin herself has been a typical Bush-era Republican, borrowing and spending beyond her means. Her great legacy as mayor of Wasilla was the construction of a $15 million hockey arena in a city with an annual budget of $20 million; Palin OK’d a bond issue for the project before the land had been secured, leading to a protracted legal mess that ultimately forced taxpayers to pay more than six times the original market price for property the city ended up having to seize from a private citizen using eminent domain. Better yet, Palin ended up paying for the fucking thing with a 25 percent increase in the city sales tax. But in her speech, of course, Palin presented herself as the enemy of tax increases, righteously bemoaning that “taxes are too high” and Obama “wants to raise them.”

Palin hasn’t been too worried about federal taxes as governor of a state that ranks number one in the nation in federal spending per resident ($13,950), even as it sits just 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434). That means all us taxpaying non-Alaskans spend $8,500 a year on each and every resident of Palin’s paradise of rugged self-sufficiency. Not that this sworn enemy of taxes doesn’t collect from her own: Alaska currently collects the most taxes per resident of any state in the nation.

The rest of Palin’s speech was the same dog-whistle crap Republicans have been railing about for decades. Palin’s crack about a mayor being “like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities” testified to the Republicans’ apparent belief that they can win elections till the end of time running against the Sixties. (They’re probably right.) The incessant grousing about the media was likewise par for the course, red meat for those tens of millions of patriotic flag-waving Americans whose first instinct when things get rough is to whine like bitches and blame other people — reporters, the French, those ungrateful blacks soaking up tax money eating big prison meals, whomever — for their failures.

Add to this the usual lies about Democrats wanting to “forfeit” to our enemies abroad and coddle terrorists, and you had a very run-of-the-mill, almost boring Republican speech from a substance standpoint. What made it exceptional was its utter hypocrisy, its total disregard for reality, its absolute unrelation to the facts of our current political situation. After eight years of unprecedented corruption, incompetence, waste and greed, the party of Karl Rove understood that 50 million Americans would not demand solutions to any of these problems so long as they were given a new, new thing to beat their meat over.

Sarah Palin is that new, new thing, and in the end it won’t matter that she’s got an unmarried teenage kid with a bun in the oven. Of course, if the daughter of a black candidate like Barack Obama showed up at his convention with a five-month bump and some sideways-cap-wearing, junior-grade Curtis Jackson holding her hand, the defenders of Traditional Morality would be up in arms. But the thing about being in the reality-making business is that you don’t need to worry much about vetting; there are no facts in your candidate’s bio that cannot be ignored or overcome.

One of the most amusing things about the Palin nomination has been the reaction of horrified progressives. The Internet has been buzzing at full volume as would-be defenders of sanity and reason pore over the governor’s record in search of the Damning Facts. My own telephone began ringing off the hook with calls from ex-Alaskans and friends of Alaskans determined to help get the “truth” about Sarah Palin into the major media. Pretty much anyone with an Internet connection knows by now that Palin was originally for the “Bridge to Nowhere” before she opposed it (she actually endorsed the plan in her 2006 gubernatorial campaign), that even after the project was defeated she kept the money, that she didn’t actually sell the Alaska governor’s state luxury jet on eBay but instead sold it at a $600,000 loss to a campaign contributor (who is reportedly now seeking $50,000 in taxpayer money to pay maintenance costs).

Then there are the salacious tales of Palin’s swinging-meat-cleaver management style, many of which seem to have a common thread: In addition to being ensconced in a messy ethics investigation over her firing of the chief of the Alaska state troopers (dismissed after refusing to sack her sister’s ex-husband), Palin also fired a key campaign aide who had an affair with a friend’s wife. More ominously, as mayor of Wasilla, Palin tried to fire the town librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, who had resisted pressure to censor books Palin found objectionable.

Then there’s the God stuff: Palin belongs to a church whose pastor, Ed Kalnins, believes that all criticisms of George Bush “come from hell,” and wondered aloud if people who voted for John Kerry could be saved. Kalnins, looming as the answer to Obama’s Jeremiah Wright, claims that Alaska is going to be a “refuge state” for Christians in the last days, last days which he sometimes speaks of in the present tense. Palin herself has been captured on video mouthing the inevitable born-again idiocies, such as the idea that a recent oil-pipeline deal was “God’s will.” She also described the Iraq War as a “task that is from God” and part of a heavenly “plan.” She supports teaching creationism and “abstinence only” in public schools, opposes abortion even for victims of rape, has denied the science behind global warming and attends a church that seeks to convert Jews and cure homosexuals.

All of which tells you about what you’d expect from a raise-the-base choice like Palin: She’s a puffed-up dimwit with primitive religious beliefs who had to be educated as to the fact that the Constitution did not exactly envision government executives firing librarians. Judging from the importance progressive critics seem to attach to these revelations, you’d think that these were actually negatives in modern American politics. But Americans like politicians who hate books and see the face of Jesus in every tree stump. They like them stupid and mean and ignorant of the rules. Which is why Palin has only seemed to grow in popularity as more and more of these revelations have come out.

The same goes for the most damning aspect of her biography, her total lack of big-game experience. As governor of Alaska, Palin presides over a state whose entire population is barely the size of Memphis. This kind of thing might matter in a country that actually worried about whether its leader was prepared for his job — but not in America. In America, it takes about two weeks in the limelight for the whole country to think you’ve been around for years. To a certain extent, this is why Obama is getting a pass on the same issue. He’s been on TV every day for two years, and according to the standards of our instant-ramen culture, that’s a lifetime of hands-on experience.

It is worth noting that the same criticisms of Palin also hold true for two other candidates in this race, John McCain and Barack Obama. As politicians, both men are more narrative than substance, with McCain rising to prominence on the back of his bio as a suffering war hero and Obama mostly playing the part of the long-lost, future-embracing liberal dreamboat not seen on the national stage since Bobby Kennedy died. If your stomach turns to read how Palin’s Kawasaki 704 glasses are flying off the shelves in Middle America, you have to accept that Middle America probably feels the same way when it hears that Donatella Versace dedicated her collection to Obama during Milan Fashion Week. Or sees the throwing-panties-onstage-“I love you, Obama!” ritual at the Democratic nominee’s town-hall appearances.

So, sure, Barack Obama might be every bit as much a slick piece of imageering as Sarah Palin. The difference is in what the image represents. The Obama image represents tolerance, intelligence, education, patience with the notion of compromise and negotiation, and a willingness to stare ugly facts right in the face, all qualities we’re actually going to need in government if we’re going to get out of this huge mess we’re in.

Here’s what Sarah Palin represents: being a fat fucking pig who pins “Country First” buttons on his man titties and chants “U-S-A! U-S-A!” at the top of his lungs while his kids live off credit cards and Saudis buy up all the mortgages in Kansas.

The truly disgusting thing about Sarah Palin isn’t that she’s totally unqualified, or a religious zealot, or married to a secessionist, or unable to educate her own daughter about sex, or a fake conservative who raised taxes and horked up earmark millions every chance she got. No, the most disgusting thing about her is what she says about us: that you can ram us in the ass for eight solid years, and we’ll not only thank you for your trouble, we’ll sign you up for eight more years, if only you promise to stroke us in the right spot for a few hours around election time.

Democracy doesn’t require a whole lot of work of its citizens, but it requires some: It requires taking a good look outside once in a while, and considering the bad news and what it might mean, and making the occasional tough choice, and soberly taking stock of what your real interests are.

This is a very different thing from shopping, which involves passively letting sitcoms melt your brain all day long and then jumping straight into the TV screen to buy a Southern Style Chicken Sandwich because the slob singing “I’m Lovin’ It!” during the commercial break looks just like you. The joy of being a consumer is that it doesn’t require thought, responsibility, self-awareness or shame: All you have to do is obey the first urge that gurgles up from your stomach. And then obey the next. And the next. And the next.

And when it comes time to vote, all you have to do is put your Country First — just like that lady on TV who reminds you of your cousin. U-S-A, baby. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Drive Your Car, McCain

This piece can be seen on Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lara-m-gardner/a-leader-should-be-able-t_b_129341.html

Out of curiosity, I made a small survey of job postings just to see what kinds of skills employers are requiring of potential employees. Among other things, one of the primary requirements of job seekers is that they possess the ability to multitask. Multitasking is a simple concept really. It means doing more than one thing at a time. Quite a lot of jobs require it. I did this because of all of the discussion yesterday on McCain’s desire to cancel the debate, as well as his temporary cessation of campaigning, both in order to “focus on the economy.”

How does this “focusing on the economy” work exactly? Does one sit and stare at numbers for a while in order to create this focus? Perhaps it means getting together with other people to talk about the economy. Maybe it means actual participation as a senator, an activity he was rightly allowed to place on hold while running for president.

What I find confusing is why McCain’s focus on the economy cannot take place concurrent with running his campaign or why it impacts his ability to debate. If he knows the issues, if he is prepared to lead this country, then he should be able to think on his feet and debate as necessary. He should be able to throw out a sound bite or two or answer some questions on talk shows for his campaign. Basically, he should be able to multitask. While debating may require some skill, certainly campaigning does not require as much. All he has to do is show up.

The man has been a senator for what, twenty-six years? Based on the number of years McCain has spent in public office, debating and campaigning should both be skills in which he is quite adept. These activities should be the sorts of things he can do without a whole heck of a lot of effort, the sorts of things at which he should be able to multitask quite well. It should be easy for him to focus on the economy.

For McCain, debating and campaigning should theoretically operate like driving a car. At first, steering and braking and shifting all at once is overwhelming, requiring our complete attention After a few years, these actions become so automatic we do not even realize we’re doing them. We can focus on other things while we’re driving, even stressful things like driving someone to the hospital or navigating through bad weather. Although our basic skills may be diminished, requiring greater attention so we do not end up in an accident, we do not suddenly stop being able to drive at all just because something bigger is happening at the same time.

I find it puzzling and distressing that rather than using the economic meltdown to display his prowess at multitasking, in order to focus McCain must stop performing skills that should be as automatic to him as driving a car. When older drivers reach the point where they cannot perform these basic functions we take away their driver’s license. If McCain has reached this point, should we really allow him to drive the country? I don’t think so.

There Oughta be a Law…

How many times has something really catastrophic happened followed by people scratching their heads and saying, “There ought to be a law.”  I wonder how many of these same people would call such laws “regulation” because that’s exactly what they are.  Deregulation?  Deregulation is the removal of laws, including laws that protect us from harm.  In all the talk and rhetoric about less government and deregulation, this point is lost.

This morning I opened the newspaper to read about babies sick and dying in China because of tainted milk.  I searched for articles from all over the world about the scandal.  All of them contained the same refrain:  tighter regulations.  What does this say to me?  There were not enough laws to protect these people from milk that could kill or harm their children.

When it comes right down to it, deregulation is only a good thing to people who are only concerned with making more money.  Deregulation means letting the market (e.g., greed) determine entirely what should happen and what should not happen.  Here in the US, we are experiencing firsthand what it means to let the market make decisions.  It means letting greed make moral choices.  It means letting corporations balance a baby’s life versus the cost to make its milk safer.  Unfortunately, in many cases it is cheaper to let the child die than it is to fix the milk.  There are profits to be made by putting someone into a house they can’t afford.  Who cares if a family ends up on the street in three years?  We made our money. The market made the decision for us.

When we use sanitized terms to describe real, human, moral conditions, when these terms become buzzwords, it is so easy to forget that real people with real lives are involved and affected.  Deregulation means there are no laws to protect us from harm.  Letting the market regulate itself means letting money and profit determine what decisions are made.  Too often, these decisions have nothing to do with humanity and morality and instead focus entirely on making a profit.

Published!

So how cool is this?  I submitted an article to Huffington Post and they accepted it!  It is a piece I wrote here on this blog about Sarah Palin.  If you’re interested in viewing it, go to the link here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lara-m-gardner/lowering-the-glass-ceilin_b_128346.html

If you like what I wrote, feel free to hit the buzz up button.  The more hits I get on that, the more likely the post will make it to a more visible page.

Enough Already

Every time I open up my blog or look at my web-based email or go anywhere I like to go on the web there is another article another analysis another something looking at Sarah Palin and John McCain and on and on and on.  I’m so tired of it.  She’s a disaster.  He’s a disaster.  This does not stop him from being about equal to Obama in the polls.  If ANYONE who would vote for McCain gave a shit we wouldn’t be in this mess. We’re all yammering on and on about it but it isn’t changing anything.  Guess what?  Those of us who get it get it.  Those of us who don’t never will.  What’s the point of pointing out the obvious to people who DON’T FUCKING CARE?  I just can’t see it.

I would love to be able to go back to the time before Sarah Palin, back when we pointed out the pitifulness of McCain’s positions on various things, back before every day brought a new low to the discourse.  I am normally not that sort of person, the one longing for the past.  I like change.  But this change, this is ridiculous, and frankly I’m tired of it all.  I wish we could stop being red and blue and fighting all the time.  I wish there wasn’t a cultural battle being waged.  I hate this.  It makes me want to go bury my head in the sand or run off to somewhere where none of this matters on an everyday level.  I’m not naive enough to believe what happens here won’t affect the rest of the world, because it does–unfortunately it does to a frightening degree.  But I would love to find a place where it wasn’t so corporeal, somewhere it wasn’t in my face every day.  Enough already.  Really, I’ve had just enough.

Deregulate Insurance Like We Deregulated Wall Street

Good one, McCain.  You’re on top of things.  You obviously know your stuff.  I cannot believe there are people out there who would make this man president…

http://thinkprogress.org/2008/09/20/mccain-deregulate-insurance/

Paul Krugman notes that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) published an article on his health care plan in the current issue of Contingencies — the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries. In his article, McCain attempts to make his case for deregulating the health insurance industry by extolling the benefits of the last decade of deregulation in the banking sector. He writes:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

As Yglesias writes, McCain is “such an enthusiast about financial market deregulation that he was bragging about his plan to make the health care system as awesome as the financial system.”

Obama and the Palin Effect by Deepak Chopra

I just had to post this here because it is so well written:

Obama and the Palin Effect
by Deepak Chopra
http://www.chopra.com/node/1064

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin’s pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.

She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of “the other.” For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don’t want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.) I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin’s message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision

Look at what she stands for:
•    Small town values — a nostaligic return to simpler times disguises a denial of America’s global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.
•    Ignorance of world affairs — a repudiation of the need to repair America’s image abroad.
•    Family values — a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don’t need to be needed.
•    Rigid stands on guns and abortion — a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.
•    Patriotism — the usual fallback in a failed war.
•    “Reform” — an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn’t fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from “us” pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of “I’m all right, Jack,” and “Why change? Everything’s OK as it is.” The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness

Obama’s call for higher ideals in politics can’t be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow — we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.