Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Dia De Los Muertos
Though the subject matter may be considered morbid from the Anglo Saxon perspective, Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead joyfully, and though it occurs at the same time as Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day, the traditional mood is much brighter with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the deceased, and celebrating the continuation of life; the belief is not that death is the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage in life. - Wikipedia entry
These are dark days, with worshippers of death and fear ascendant. It’s easy to believe their cries of hatred, their warnings of disaster. After all, everywhere you look they highlight signs of decay, of destruction, of division and hatred. Perhaps no mask is more frightful that the rictus distorting the face of our Commander in Chief, head Evangelical of the so-called free world. If you want, you can easily believe that this America we live in now is all we’ll be, the historical cancers of slavery, racism, genocide and warlordism have metastisized and overwhelmed the healthy civic body, leaving only an undead creature in search of new victims to devour.
Today, in the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos, let us look away from all of that. Today, lets celebrate instead those who’ve fought dark times before, survived dark times before, PREVAILED in times that were much like what we face now.
I don’t mean just the leaders, not just Elizabeth Cady Stanton, more than Joe Hill, not just Chief Joseph, not merely Martin Luther King Jr. or William Lloyd Garrison or Cesar Chavez. The authoritarians are the ones who have no choice but to elevate “great men” for them to FOLLOW. These are only examples who’ve impacted on my memory, but your spiritual ancestors may be completely different. Our luminaries are only representatives of vast numbers of people most of us might never know by name, unless they were the grandfather who told you stories of old strikes, of meals of crusty toast with chipped beef gravy on top while sitting at his knee. Perhaps another who sat at an old formica kitchen table with tales of the struggle against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the mission schools, or stories related at family get-togethers of sitting at the back of the bus, grandmothers who remembered having no opportunity to pursue their own dreams because of their gender. Maybe your forebearers told stories of shame and having to hide who they loved, or the pressure to hide the fruits of having loved, of being spirited away to give birth in shame.
THIS Dia De Los Muertos, remember their struggles, but remember their COMMUNITY. Remember that unlike the right, unlike the worshippers of division and death, we can look back with joy and fondness at people who sang and danced and loved and communed DESPITE their struggles, despite the exploitation, the hatred, the discrimination and fear. They formed communities, they formed unions, they formed sewing circles and barn raisings and volunteer organizations. They rallied with their neighbors, mended fences, found common ground with NEW neighbors different from themselves. It’s easy to remember the nativists, the klansmen, the misogynists and gay bashers and jingoists and bundists ... but also remember that there were ALWAYS good people opposing them, forging bonds, talking and working together to build a brighter, broader, more inclusive future. While there were slavers, there were abolitionists. When other men jeered and sniped, remember there were women who reminded others that a woman was every bit the equal of a man and should have a voice, and there were sons who listened to them.
Celebrate the artists, the writers, the musicians and performers who forged bonds between different groups of people, who showed us all that it’s okay to be different, that different can be wonderful and exciting. Remember that every time that culture tried to expand our ties, broaden our conversations, help us see the world anew, the authoritarian minded tried to silence them, ban them, attack them, but over time the artists prevailed. From the churches and the juke joints, the beer halls and the smokey bars, from the salons to the corner table at the Algonquin, from coffee houses to underground clubs ... we can remember fondly those who found beauty and strength in the everyday and in the sublime and IN EACH OTHER. THIS Dia De Los Muertos, read their words, sing their songs, dance to their tunes, enjoy their paintings and sculptures and their videos. Remember that no matter how loudly, how violently, how insistently those afraid of openness and sharing and difference and change tried to stop it, the songs got sung, the rugs got cut, the words got read.
Politics is merely the way change is eventually ratified and made the new status quo, and we’re sadly in a period where the easily frightened and the weak of spirit have waged a vociferous campaign to try to beat back those of us who want to love and live and grow. They’re winning right now, but that is temporary. Remember on this Dia De Los Muertos that they’ve tried this before, that they’ve even prevailed before, but only for a time. Now it’s time to honor the eventual victors, the activists and workers and creators and mothers and fathers and daughters and sons who slowly fought back, who’ve moved us closer together. The tide of history was on their side, and if only we would remember them, treasure them, take heart from their memories and stories, if only we would hear the whispers of their spirits in these next few days, we’ll remember that we can and will prevail. Turn away from lying fearmongers and fake saviors promising salvation in a broken political party, a party that is actively helping the authoritarians. They too truck in fear, and those of us who love life have no real desire to wallow in fear. Stop giving in. Remember those who fought before, and fight now for what you believe. Stop making compromises with the lesser of two very terrible evils.
We can and will prevail, we will find a way to become a font for peace again. It doesn’t matter how you add to the struggle, it not necessary for all of us to become politicians or full-time activists. You can help those who do that vital work by volunteering for them, or donating to them, or by merely talking to your neighbors, chatting with the frightened and cowed who you encounter in your daily life. Smile and quietly talk back to those who spread hate and fear. We are where we are because those with no faith in humanity TALKED TO EACH OTHER, and refused to compromise. We can do the same, because we believe in community, not division, and in community there comes strength. The fight, the struggle, the great human show continues, and throughout history given time and perserverance it has been the cultivators, not the extractors, who have brought beauty, peace and prosperity to the world. Over the next couple of days, remember them fondly, and let those memories inform your choices as we face the struggles ahead.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Why Electing a Republican Always Backfires on You
First Bloomberg, our NYC Republican mayor plays host to the disgusting Republican 2004 convention here, using Republican owned piers to house protesters. Now he’s at it again by not only raising money for Joementum himself but traveling to Connecticut today to openly endorse Lieberman.
Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s independent approach Monday, saying the three-term incumbent is willing to work across party lines to get results in an era of partisan gridlock.
“I think the voters of Connecticut understand they need proven independent leadership. Joe Lieberman provides that,” Bloomberg said at a news conference after greeting commuters with Lieberman at the Stamford train station. “I think people of all parties are just tired of the political bickering."
No Bloomie, what we are really tired of is Lieberman’s ceaseless support for the Iraq War, a stand that shows him not only out of touch with Americans but totally out of touch with reality.
Friday, October 27, 2006
fri rdm 10
Nuthin’ to say, for a change. Here’s some things you SHOULD read:
I’m left with few words, and only some music that keeps me going:
- "Keep Yourself Alive” - Queen
- "Free Bird” - Lynyrd Skynyrd
- "Good Feeling” - Violent Femmes
- "Sunset Strip” - Roger Waters
- "Wild Thing” - The Troggs
- "When A Man Loves A Woman” - Percy Sledge
- "It Ain’t Easy” - David Bowie
- "Point of No Return” - Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys
- "She’s Out There Somewhere” - Buddy Guy
- "Day For Night” - Matthew Sweet
- "Dream Some” - Shelby Lynne
The NY Times piece:
Recent polls have found record levels of outrage from Democrats about the current political leadership, which may offset the effect of black disillusion.
But Saleemah Affoul of Milwaukee, for one, is not so sure. Like many other black people in her neighborhood, Ms. Affoul said she was convinced that no matter how she voted, it would not be counted fairly.
“I do think the system is rigged,” she said. “I vote anyway because my forefathers worked too hard to win me that right. But not everyone feels that responsibility around here.”
Walking along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in the gritty and mostly black section of Brewers Hill on the North Side of Milwaukee, Ms. Affoul said that cynicism in her neighborhood was on the rise.
She traced her own skepticism to one afternoon two months before the last presidential election when she overheard several young black men saying they were not going to vote because they feared being arrested at the polling station for their unpaid parking tickets. The neighborhood had been flooded with fliers from the Milwaukee Black Voters League, a fictitious group, saying that even minor infractions like parking tickets disqualified people from voting.
Ms. Affoul, 66, said she argued with the men but failed to convince them that they had been misinformed.
“I realized that maybe the poll tax isn’t gone after all, and that if people were willing to try that trick, they might be willing to do a lot more that I don’t even know about,” she said.
Black voters are expected to play crucial roles in races for governor and the Senate in Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.
In Maryland, where blacks make up about 30 percent of the electorate, the Democratic candidate for governor, Martin O’Malley, who is white, is leading the Republican incumbent, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., in polls. Mr. O’Malley needs a large turnout among blacks in Baltimore to win, and he has mobilized more than 2,000 get-out-the-vote workers in black neighborhoods. He also helped his chances of attracting the black vote by selecting Anthony G. Brown, a black lawyer, as his running mate.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Limp-Wristed-Gay-Baited Dems Quiver in Fear
It’s never the Democrats’ fault, those repeated losses. Nope, it’s the unfair media or shrill, shrieking women or uppity blacks or troublemaking gays who are to blame. This time, it’s a bunch of old guys sitting on a bench, wearing
dresses robes who are going to be to blame for all the losses this time:
These widely-broadcast canards from the religious conservatives, the incautious equation of Foley’s stupid predatory cruising with pedophilia in too much of the media, coupled with the New Jersey ruling, may well create an ugly anti-gay backlash among the electorate. It could be just like the one following the U.S. Supreme Court’s striking down of the so-called “sodomy” laws and the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, which laid the groundwork for the success of the 2004 anti-gay marriage referendums in hyping conservative voter turnout.
No one has specifically polled attitudes toward homosexuality since the Foley scandal broke. But if there is a new backlash, the New Jersey court decision, coming just 13 days before the midterm elections, may well unintentionally have helped deliver November victories to the most vigorous opponents of gay rights—without even having given gays a second state free of second-class citizenship for their loving couples. One step forward, two steps back?
There are variations on this theme spouted over and over again. Some group of people, sick of their second-class status, getting NO relief for the discrimination they face every day of their lives, finally get their day in court. The Republicans scream “the liberals and their judges want to defoul your wife/child/husband” followed closely by the Democrats running away from the charge, like a gay-baited coward abandoning his recently-outed best friend.
The problem, you see, is the HUMAN BEINGS who have the temerity to ask that they be treated equally under the law. HOW DARE THEY? How could that EVER be as important as getting more Dempublicans elected? It’s a pattern repeated over and over again. Instead of confronting the real problem, a political party that panders to prejudice and fear, the Democrats turn on the Republicans’ targets themselves. Harold Ford Jr. can’t get to a microphone fast enough to repeat that he too, based on his faith, looks down upon gays as second-class citizens.
This never works, this aping of Republican talking points, homophobia and hatred. Marisacat points out the pathetic nature of their continued spinelessness as they slide to the right as they try to fend off Republican gay-baiting, hate-mongering and jingoism:
There is NOTHING across three congresses that the Republicans cannot point to and say, “it was a bi-partisan vote”.
Those Republicans!, they can ferret out a stray drop of soft liberal sheep’s blood hiding under the conservative wolf’s still bloody dripping skin.
Do a search for “gay marriage” and “Harold Ford Jr.” and you’ll find right-wing sites that will STILL insist that he secretly wants big-city queers to punk your teenage son (and Republican Congressmen don’t appreciate the competition). Even if he does everything he can to help the right make their fascist, homophobic dreams come true, Ford will STILL be gay-baited (when they aren’t race-baiting him).
Yet the Democrats keep recruiting their very own rightwingers:
An influx of new blood from the party’s right wing could test party leaders’ ability to maintain the remarkable unity they have forged during their years in the minority. Among the party’s House challengers, 33 are conservative enough to be endorsed by either the Blue Dogs or the political arm of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Nearly all are on the Cook Political Report’s latest list of Democrats most likely to win seats now held by Republicans. The party needs to pick up 15 seats to win a majority in the House.
With more conservative Democrats in the House, President Bush could have a new opening to reach across the aisle. But so far, he shows no signs of preparing to do so. One of the few issues he cites as a priority for next year is his plan to overhaul Social Security — a nonstarter among Democrats of all political stripes.
When are they going to learn? The right has turned the Republican Party into an oppressive machine by doing two things: pandering very hard to their hardcore base while they GO AFTER THE DEMOCRAT’S STRENGTHS. That is the pattern, over and over again. “The Democrat’s strengths”, you ask? The Democrat’s strength, if they ever shook themselves lose of the idea that only white, middle-class suburban voters matter, could be found in the great, diverse, wonderful variety of Americans who ask only to be treated fairly, to be given justice, to find a place in the public square where they aren’t treated as second-class citizens. They’ve failed to recognize this strength themselves, except for VERY brief periods, and many of the leaders who tried to build this coalition, to realize this potential, have fallen to assassin’s bullets or resistance from within the party itself.
The ONLY way to turn things around is to go after the Republican’s strengths. Their strength is the ability to appeal to people’s fears, hatreds, prejudices and resentments. They ONLY way to beat them at it is to confront them with it. Hold a mirror up to them. Broadcast for all the world to see how ugly and hateful the Republican worldview is, regardless of their constant repetition of one or two lines from the Bible. Stand up strong for inclusiveness and justice. The right wouldn’t attack those qualities so hard if they weren’t so afraid of them. The Democrats only hope to become a strong party is to embrace gays, embrace the poor, embrace women ... embrace the multitudinous wonderful variety of Americans just waiting for a voice in the policies of this nation. The Dems need to embrace the until now empty words in their platform, the ones like “freedom” and “justice”. They need to turn their back on Clintonian pandering and triangulating to prejudice and fear, religious bigotry and corporate exploitation.
Or, the Dems could continue their usual pattern, prancing in lockstep like stereotypical nancy boys, marching to the Republican’s hate-filled beat. Judging by their recent behavior, it’s pretty clear that they will continue to sashay along, empty charicatures of leaders, punked out by the relentless Republican gay-baiting.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Pigs in Slop
Yup, the Clintons are looking out for the American people, and not just for themselves and their own enormous egos:
This weekend, the former President will be dining and drinking to 60 years with some of world’s deepest-pocketed donors at a series of glamorous events around Manhattan, beginning Friday evening and ending with a cocktail party on Gramercy Park in the wee hours Sunday night.
The price of entry for the weekend’s festivities is a gaudy reminder of slushier times in the 1990’s. With money going toward a growing endowment for the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, donors will have to cough up $60,000 if they want to want to see Mick Jagger sing at the Beacon Theatre and at least $100,000 for poached eggs and mimosas with Bill and Hillary at Pastis.
The exclusive list of event “hosts” includes the names of historically top-ranked Democratic donors like longtime Clinton contributor Ron Burkle and S. Daniel Abraham, the former owner of Slim Fast Foods, who was ranked in 2000 as the No. 1 donor to the Democratic Party.
So, here we are, less than two weeks before an important election, and “major Democratic donors” are being hit up to sell-a-brate Bubba’s sixtieth birthday, which actually happened back on August 19th.
Don’t worry folks, it’s for Billy’s “charity”, so that makes this wanton excess just peachy keen.
All of the weekend’s invitees received letters from either Chelsea Clinton or Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The wording of the two invitations is largely the same, with small tweaks. In Chelsea’s version, the party honors a “very special person” who needs donations to “advance the work he has done throughout his life—solving problems, empowering people and even saving lives.” Mr. McAuliffe’s letter says that Mr. Clinton is a “truly extraordinary person” and that a donation is needed to “advance the principles he has stood for all his life—solving problems, saving lives and empowering people.”
Exactly who is taking credit for the weekend?. Mr. McAuliffe says the weekend-long celebration will be co-hosted by “Chelsea and I”; Chelsea wrote, “My mother and I are planning” the events.
Chelsea’s invite is heavy on policy and statistics, while Mr. McAuliffe’s tone is more emotive, writing that the weekend will celebrate all baby boomers and the two “greatest products of that generation: Bill Clinton and the legendary Rolling Stones.”
Sling that slop Terry.
Never mind that there is a war on. Never mind that Bill & Hill’s good war criminal patrons are provoking peacekeepers off the coast of Lebanon. In this nation where the poor, sick and desperate are so easily disgarded, there is every reason in the world to throw a lavish party! While Bill’s sycophantic fans browbeat other Democrats to give their money to those warhawk, corporatist hacks Schumer and Emmanuel, the rich and connected are going to a big shakedown so they can shake and get down with the Rolling Stones. Good thing that their priorities are straight.
And then, Sunday night, the biggest party of all: the Rolling Stones concert at the 2,800-seat Beacon Theater. All donors will be invited to the concert, but a gift of more than $500,000 includes a “backstage pass” for dinner and a photograph with Mr. Clinton.
In addition, as advertised in Chelsea’s invitation, donors should “please note that this performance will be taped for an upcoming Martin Scorsese film.” The film is reportedly a documentary on the Rolling Stones, and Mr. Scorsese will be filming the band all weekend.
After the concert, sometime past midnight, the whirlwind weekend will conclude with an after-party at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
Don’t worry you little plebians, the money really will go to a wonderful foundation that will help lots of people who need it, though they’ll wait until they cover expenses, overhead, administrative costs, travel, marketing, glossy publications, big shindigs, fancy conferences ...
The Donks have no hunger to win, so they will feed at the trough of big money and bigger egos. Why devote any time or energy to actual politics? After all, they continually count on victory falling into their laps.
Boom, that’s it, easy victory, just like they won back in 2004. They could fight, they could actually go to the people, find a populist message, do the hard work of politics, but no ... better to whimper and bow their heads, then find a way to cash in. The Clintonistas and their buddies at the top of the Democratic Party will fight for you and address the real problems of this country when ...
... well, you know.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Leading With Her Chin
She has pledged that as Speaker she would give the Republicans rights they’ve denied the Democrats, like allowing them to introduce amendments to bills. But she may have trouble reining in the Democrats’ appetite for revenge. There’s already talk of multiple investigations and impeachment of the president.
"No, impeachment is off the table,” she says.
“And that’s a pledge?” Stahl asks.
"Well, it’s a pledge in the – yes, I mean, it’s a pledge. Of course it is. It is a waste of time,” she replies.
“Wouldn’t they just love it, if we came in and our record as Democrats coming forth in 12 years, is to talk about George Bush and Dick Cheney? This election is about them. This is a referendum on them,” Pelosi says. “Making them lame ducks is good enough for me."
It would have been better if she said something like:
If you need some help with your speeches Ms. Pelosi, drop a comment below, would you please?
Sadly, though, she didn’t do that. She won’t do that. Democrats running all over this country, when asked about the possibility of Pelosi rising to speaker, spew Republican talking points, reinforcing the right’s defining of the national debate. With her statement on 60 Minutes, Pelosi just rewarded that kind of behavior, and has herself REINFORCED THE REPUBLICAN DEFINITION of what is important in this country. Many argue that this is smart tactics, but all it does is reinforce the very thing that has moved this country steadily to the right for over thirty years ... Democrats are weak and stand for nothing. Charles Pierce chimes in:
Impeachment should never be the first club out of the bag, god knows, and it shouldn’t be swung around for political purposes. (Ann Coulter, you’ll be amazed to learn, is wrong about that.) However, if a new Democratic majority doesn’t vigorously revive the oversight function of the Congress, and if it doesn’t do so regardless of where the investigations may lead, then it will not deserve to survive the next election cycle. (My choice? Extended televised hearings into war-profiteering.) If it were up to me, I’d put an armed guard around every paper-shredder in the West Wing about 30 seconds after the polls closed on Nov. 7. I don’t think impeachment hearings are remotely close to a good idea right now—but there is absolutely no way anyone can say that in perpetuity, given what we know about this administration’s penchant for secrecy and chicanery. And, let us face facts. The president has admitted violating FISA, hanging his reasons on a very dubious interpretation of his constitutional functions.
The template, if there is one, is the way Speaker Tip O’Neill handled his fractious caucus as Watergate gathered steam. (You can read about it either in Jimmy Breslin’s How The Good Guys Finally Won, or in Jack Farrell’s definitive biography of O’Neill.) He hedged. He temporized. He cut premature resolutions—like Robert Drinan’s attempt to impeach Richard Nixon over the bombing of Cambodia—off at the pass. He chewed his cud and told people he really didn’t know how impeachment should be undertaken. But he never, ever, took any option off the table.
What they DID do back then is let the attack dogs on the left run, do their thing, building the case, gaining momentum. This will not happen with Pelosi as Speaker, IF she becomes Speaker. The chances of a run from the right to prevent her from becoming third in line to the Presidency are high, and even if it fails she has made it clear she will capitulate to the center-right in the party, a number which may increase thanks to the zeal that Rep. Emmanuel has for recruiting former Republicans and warhawks.
The Democratic leadership, which Pelosi may, or may not, head come January, reinforces the rightwing, pro-corporate, pro-war Republican narrative at every turn, a problem that is reinforced by their subsidiary blogs:
Smith doesn’t come right out and say it, but there’s a name for a political ideology based on a projected, utopian past that can only be reacquired through political acts whereby the cultural radicals are ousted and an imaginary old order restored: conservative.
Kos and his followers imagine themselves bolsheviks of Democratic liberalism, but their political ideology, such as it is, is deeply conservative. It serves up a unidentifiable, unspecified time of general well-being and social harmony, a status quo in which the only change that occured was “progress” in an exceedingly vague sense of a general improvement to the social and economic wellbeing of the society as a whole. It locates the rupture with that vision in certain political triumphs of its opponents, whom it accuses of revolutionarism. It dedicates its political actions to the recapture of such a past, which was taken away, and which must now be taken back. Things were better before, and once we go back, they’ll be better in the future again.
In that confusion of verb tenses you find the abject failure of the dreaming insurgents of the Democratic party.
Pelosi has made it clear that she is part of the problem. She has made it clear that she will hamstring any true liberal who becomes a committee chairperson. She winces and ducks before the right even throws a punch, keeping her left hand carefully tied behind her back. Given the current state of politics in this country, one should be under no illusions that lefties will roar to power and bring about utopia, but with the center-right party completely freezing them out, the Donks are left with no way to fight. Hell, as anybody who’s boxed knows, or even anybody who’s played Rock’em Sock’em Robots knows, you have to jab with the left to set up the undercut or overhand from the right. A healthy political party that actually fought for something, believed in something, wanted to be more than a rubber stamp, would realize and use this simple fact of conflict. It’s not enough to float like a butterfly, not if you’re not willing to sting like a bee, and it’s only outraged lefties like Conyers and Waxman who have the stingers and are willing to use them. Ms. Pelosi has made it clear that she will keep them locked away and unable to fight.
Lefties, leftists, labor activists, GBLT fighters, feminists, humanists, peace activists ... the Democratic Party is not on your side. They take you for granted. We hear over and over again that Pelosi is one of the most liberal members of Congress, but she abandons the left, denigrates the left, betrays the left. It’s time, PAST time, to walk away. Be willing to vote for a third party if you can, or leave the Dem line blank, if you’re confronted in the voting booth with a former Republican, a crypto-Republican or a wimpy status-quo worshipping centrist, then WALK AWAY. It’s time to face facts ... the center-right of the party is driving because they did did just that, the Reagan Republicans, the Dixiecrats ... you know, the Blue Dog Dempublicans. They stayed home or abandoned the Party and McGovern and backed George Wallace. They backed Ronald Reagan. They backed George HW Bush. They hooted with delight when Clinton betrayed the party’s constituents and helped to expand the police state and wage war. They did the very thing they scream at you that you shouldn’t do. When their racism, their jingoism, their bloodlust, their greed and selfishness and worship of the growing power of the Corporation wasn’t kowtowed to, they bolted.
FAR past time to return the favor, to work locally and build from the bottom. Yes, support the few left in the party who share your values, but quit enabling the descendents of Scoop Jackson and their psuedo-liberal lapdogs like Pelosi. NEITHER party is willing to do what may be one of the most important functions of Congress:
The Powers of Congress include:
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
No, neither party, especially when it is US practicing piracies and felonies, US committing offenses against the law of nations. They enabled Bush, they enabled Clinton, they enabled Bush 41, they enabled Reagan and Nixon and Johnson. Decades of bloody imperial wars, and nearly our entire political establishment feast on the blood and carnage, cheering through their blood-encrusted mouths. Fear, greed and envy are the tools of our politicians. The brief victories in our history where we did actually expand justice for humanity are flickering glimmers spread out widely between broad periods of darkness, and the current leadership of the Democratic Party is part of the problem. Don’t capitulate lefties if your opposition starts to sting. Simple creatures like Vichy Dems only learn when they get burned ... to back off right when the heat becomes uncomfortable only gives them quarter to wave you off after they’ve won. BE WILLING TO LET THEM LOSE. Better to build local movements, foster community-tied leaders who can offer real alternatives when the top-heavy indebted mess in Washington comes crashing down. Quit compromising yourselves, quit accepting their cash and access in return for shutting your mouths.
Ms. Pelosi has made it clear that she’s not a fighter, that she’s a coward who cares nothing for her constituents’ beliefs ... no, she cares about what REPUBLICAN constituents, and the chattering class in DC, want. More of the same, only done “better” somehow. The endless fight for the “center” continues, while more and more Americans sink beneath the waves of a storm of rising corporate profits, as the bloodshed continues and the narrow constituency of comfortable suburbia and the rich are coddled.
Walk away ... she’s just going to hit the canvas anyway. Walk away, and start working to build real fighters, new fighters, PEOPLE’S fighters.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The Flickering Shadows
I sat on the bus yesterday, on my way home after enjoying The Prestige. "Are you watching closely?" is the core question at the heart of this tale of obsession, misdirection and layers of lies piled over truths. The two magicians count on people’s willingness to suspend disbelief to pursue their craft. They count on each other’s obsessions to play out their plots pursued for the sake of rivalry and revenge.
The willingness of people to be deceived while having their worship of shallow beliefs has been much on my mind lately. Convince us, and we’ll go along, as long as you spin a good performance. We’re in our current mess because a scary number of Americans seem to actually believe that God is an American, the His general is doing the Lord’s work slaughtering countless numbers of human beings, and it’s better if we don’t see what results God’s general’s decisions have produced.
Too many of us don’t want to know how the illusions played out before us are done. Like our shallow religious beliefs, enough of us have turned away from the trickery and lies underlying our politics, content that we can do little more than sit in the seats and clap or boo, depending on how we think the trick played out. Too many of us unhappy with current trends hope for a knight in shining armor to ride in and save the day. Give us a new performer, we beg, rather than get up and question what is being played out before us.
In an interview over at Book Slut, Neil Gaiman observes:
Given that we’re living in a universe in which religions and mythologies and semi-imaginary things, depending on where you’re standing, the level of imaginariness…. There are definitely people who look at the entirety of what’s going on the world today as a couple of people fighting over whose imaginary friend likes them better. And then you’ve got people who say, “No, no, this isn’t an imaginary friend, he’s actually the real thing. But that guy over there, he’s an imaginary friend.” And it’s huge and it’s responsible for an enormous amount of worry and difficulty and it’s why I’m not allowed to travel with eight ounces of shampoo. I’m allowed four ounces. I’m going to have to pour away half of my shampoo before I can put it in my quart bag and put it in my carryon. Which is really bizarre.
And that’s because of people arguing over things that many people regard as imaginary. Chiefly, gods, religions, and national boundaries, which are absolutely imaginary. They’re completely notional. They don’t tend to exist. As soon as you pull back half a mile and look down at the Earth there are no national boundaries. There aren’t even any national boundaries when you get down and walk around. They’re just imaginary lines we draw on maps.
Many use their imaginations to convince themselves to believe that what the Pope or the President or Pat Robertson says, that nice words like “peace”, “freedom” actually represent some REAL things that would make the world a nicer place. Don’t look too closely, don’t ask too many questions ... it’ll ruin the magic. We want to take their words at face value, that their explanations of the scary dangers lurking out in the dark, just out of range of the light cast by the shadows of our shared flame, are reliable and that they will protect us.
After all, we’re consumed by our obsessions as a people. We keep insisting that there is an American Dream, even though most of us can see that it’s been dying for a long time. We like our piles of stuff, even though keeping it all cheap and “affordable” with our shrinking incomes depends on enslaved and forced labor. More, better, bigger ... oh, and FAIR, even though by “fair” we actually seem to mean that those who have keep and anybody else desperately wanting a chance must be kept from threatening that status quo.
We’ve been here before, and many of us cling to the idea that the pendulum of politics will swing back, but how far, how bad, must the current system become before more people realize that the illusion being played out for us by the kleptocracy has gone too far?
As I made my way home, there was an interesting interview on Weekend All Things Considered with Esther Schor, poet and professor of English at Princeton University, who wrote a biography about Emma Lazarus, a poet and activist most remembered for the poem The New Colossus inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. She fought many of the same attitudes and imprecations that many of us oppose now, and was especially active fighting for the rights of immigrants and the poor. The poem that leapt out at me was Progress and Poverty:
Progress and Poverty
(After reading Mr. Henry George’s book.)
Oh splendid age when Science lights her lamp
At the brief lightning’s momentarty flame.
Fixing it steadfast as a star, man’s name
Upon the very brow of heaven to stamp,
Launched on a ship whose iron-cuirassed sides
Mock storm and wave. Humanity sails free;
Gayly upon a vast untraveled sea,
O’er pathless wastes, to ports undreamed she rides.
Richer than Cleopatra’s barge of gold,
This vessel, manned by demi-gods, with freight
Of priceless marvels. But where yawns the hold
In that deep, reeking hell, what slaves be they
Who feed the ravenous monster, pant and sweat,
Nor know if overhead reign night and day?
If fairness or peace or justice ACTUALLY mattered to us, why are those words still so applicable to this country today, 125 years after it was published?
Too many of us don’t want to confront the truth of Lazarus’ words, far too many of us we prefer the pretty lies, waved before our eyes like fluttering doves by pandering politicians and dissembling clergymen. We clap at the empty illusions they represent, happy for the warmth they make us feel inside, reassuring us that our obsessive belief in American exceptionalism is still justified, and that the damage we do to others and ourselves is justified because we are “good”, God’s favorites.
There will always be mysteries just outside the light, boundaries to what we as flawed and mortal human beings can know. Once, not that long ago, many believed that by finding common ground through conversation, diplomacy, art and the fostering of scientific exploration, that we could make sense of the world. Many believed that upholding shared taxonomies and speaking across the cultural divide with the language of mathematics ... these were the ways we could bring more of the universe to light, make it more understandable and less scary. This country built on scientific progress and the technologies it produced has sadly turned its back on those beliefs. PR firms flacking for industries try to undermine the process, screaming JUNK SCIENCE to obfuscate and undermine carefully developed, peer reviewed work. A population given to simplistic explanations and raised in a dying educational system throw their hands up, settling for superstition and lies because they’re easier to understand. Better to retreat to the old campfires than find new lighted paths to broaden our understanding.
As the movie made clear, obsession and blindness will lead only to self-destruction. Other empires, other peoples have stumbled down this road before. Is this really the way we want to go out, blinded by our own delusions and clapping at the arrival of our own destruction?
Friday, October 20, 2006
fri rdm 10 - Slippery Slope Edition
Kennedy did not give his opinion of the war or its effect on U.S.-Islamic relations. But he appeared to refer to a bill that President Bush signed earlier in the day legalizing the administration’s rules for the imprisonment and interrogation of foreign captives, and overturning key portions of a Supreme Court ruling in June.
One provision of the bill would eliminate the right of habeas corpus for most foreign prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other U.S. installations, barring them from going to federal court to challenge their confinement. Kennedy did not mention that provision—which is likely to come before the Supreme Court—but referred admiringly to a friend who was a judge on Fiji’s high court during a period of insurrection.
"He refused to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and was taken away by the military,’’ Kennedy said.
Would OUR judges be so principled? It’s an important question, given that our Congress would rather a dictator did their job.
A report like this might make you think twice about what you type:
Mr. Brahm surrendered to F.B.I. agents in Milwaukee this morning and later appeared in shackles in federal court there. United States Magistrate Patricia J. Gorence released him in his father’s custody on the condition that he restrict his travel outside the town of 48,000 people where he lives and that he make no use of the Internet or any computer that has access to the Internet.
Federal officials said he first posted the threats in September and said he reposted them 40 times. In addition, they said, other people passed them on to other sites on the Internet.
If Mr. Brahm actually had the ability to carry out the threatened attacks, he could have faced life in prison, the officials said.
Patrick Knight, Mr. Brahm’s attorney, would not speculate on any motive or on F.B.I. reports that his client had admitted to them that he had originated the message. But he denied any malicious motive on his client’s part, saying:
“It’s the curse of the Internet. I think there is a whole class of folks who post a variety of things to get comments back and in 2006 I don’t think anyone is sure what is a private communication and what is intended for public consumption. I think in the end we will find that this was something that just spiraled out of control.”
Which is, of course, the whole point. Is a prankster blogger an “enemy combatant”? Maybe not this one, but how about the NEXT?
So watch what you say and always remember this:
The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. - Steven Biko
For me, some tunes, some solace:
- "Unfinished Sweet” - Alice Cooper
- "The House is Rockin’” - Stevie Ray Vaughn
- "The One That Got Away” - Allison Moorer
- "Humpty Dumpty” - Aimee Mann
- "All Aboard” - Allison Moorer
- "Everybody Knows” - Dixie Chicks
- "Eighteen With A Bullet” - Paul Wingfield
- "Snakes of Christ” - Danzig
- "Dear Friends” - Queen
- "Weary Blues From Waitin’” - The The
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Little Water Boy
You can see him there on the right, little Jimmy Sensenbrenner, before he became an embarrassment for the state of Wisconsin in the House of Representatives:
But let’s hand it to the underfunded and virtually unknown other opponent, Green Party candidate Bob Levis of Brookfield.
He’s been passing around an amusing picture from the 1959 Milwaukee Country Day School yearbook that features both him and onetime schoolmate Sensenbrenner on the same page - which might be the only time you’ll witness that phenomenon.
Pictured is the ‘59 Country Day basketball team that Levis has subtitled: “Bob Levis Team Captain; Sensenbrenner water boy."
The tallest guy in the picture - by a head or more - is sophomore “Jamie” Sensenbrenner, but he’s the only one in loafers, bowtie and suit. He’s the “ball boy” or “water boy” if you’re asking Levis, or the “team manager,” perhaps, if you ask Sensenbrenner, which I would’ve done had his staff not told me he wasn’t interested in talking about the picture.[...]
Since the congressman wasn’t talking, I asked Levis why the tallest kid in the shot wasn’t a shooter, or at least a rebounder.
“It takes awhile to develop your coordination,” he said tactfully, explaining Sensenbrenner never played sports but was the football team’s manager, as well. Then not-so-tactfully, “he was a little “gawky."
He grew up to become one of the one of the biggest bullies in Washington, as Matt Taibbi reminds us in the latest Rolling Stone:
The GOP’s “take that, bitch” approach to governing has been taken to the greatest heights by the House Judiciary Committee. The committee is chaired by the legendary Republican monster James Sensenbrenner Jr., an ever-sweating, fat-fingered beast who wields his gavel in a way that makes you think he might have used one before in some other arena, perhaps to beat prostitutes to death. Last year, Sensenbrenner became apoplectic when Democrats who wanted to hold a hearing on the Patriot Act invoked a little-known rule that required him to let them have one.
“Naturally, he scheduled it for something like 9 a.m. on a Friday when Congress wasn’t in session, hoping that no one would show,” recalls a Democratic staffer who attended the hearing. “But we got a pretty good turnout anyway.”
Sensenbrenner kept trying to gavel the hearing to a close, but Democrats again pointed to the rules, which said they had a certain amount of time to examine their witnesses. When they refused to stop the proceedings, the chairman did something unprecedented: He simply picked up his gavel and walked out.
“He was like a kid at the playground,” the staffer says. And just in case anyone missed the point, Sensenbrenner shut off the lights and cut the microphones on his way out of the room.
He’s come a long way, that nativist, racist windbag. If you’re as sickened by his record as I am, you might want to go give some support to Bryan Kennedy, making his second run as the Democratic nominee.
Personally, I’m glad I don’t have to vote in that district (being lucky enough to be represented by a true-blue liberal, Gwen Moore in the 4th District), as Kennedy’s wishy-washy position on abortion pisses me off ...
In my view, the issue is not whether abortions should happen – I think nearly all Americans can agree that we want fewer abortions and unintended pregnancies. The question remains, though, under what circumstances is it acceptable to criminalize women that seek abortion and doctors who treat them?
Most agree abortion should be an option for victims of rape and incest, and when continuation of a pregnancy could imperil the life or health of the mother.
In other situations, however, some people are more ambivalent about abortion. Zealous advocates on each side seem bent on making it a partisan political issue. They insist it’s a black and white matter: one must either be PRO-CHOICE or PRO-LIFE.
Real life decisions are rarely so sharply defined. The opinions and needs of real people are far more nuanced and thoughtful. I see it as an issue of “RESPONSIBLE CHOICE” – starting with policies that actually reduce the need for abortion and support healthy childbearing, rather than seeking to make it more difficult and dangerous for women who feel desperate. Let me explain:
There is nothing more beautiful and sacred than a child – who represents our hopes and dreams for the future. As a parent, I know the joy of making the responsible choice – the commitment – to raise children.
... but at least he doesn’t come out and say he wants to pass laws to limit them. I wish him luck against the terrible Sensenbrenner. Sad that Jimmy couldn’t just continue to carry water for a basketball team, instead of carrying water for our new dictator.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Condoleeza Rice has arrived with her six-shooters at her side and veiled threats on her tongue. HERE is the scoop:
The New York Times reports that Rice assured Japan of continuing U.S. military support, during a joint press conference with Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Aso.
“The United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range - and I underscore full range - of its deterrent and security commitments to Japan,” Rice said.
The US dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese 60 years ago and now we imply we will drop nuclear bombs for the Japanese.
Don’t you just feel safer already?
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Bill Joins Hillary on the Torture Bandwagon
We are ruled by evil, venal human beings, brought to our attention by none other than pro-barbarity Alan M. Dershowitz:
I see that former President Clinton has offered a similar proposal. In a recent interview on National Public Radio, Clinton was asked, as someone “who’s been there,” whether the president needs “the option of authorizing torture in an extreme case.”
This is what he said in response: “Look, if the president needed an option, there’s all sorts of things they can do. Let’s take the best case, OK. You picked up someone you know is the No. 2 aide to Osama bin Laden. And you know they have an operation planned for the United States or some European capital in the next … three days. And you know this guy knows it. Right, that’s the clearest example. And you think you can only get it out of this guy by shooting him full of some drugs or water-boarding him or otherwise working him over. If they really believed that that scenario is likely to occur, let them come forward with an alternate proposal.
Slick Willie wants his successors to be able to do what Bush is doing, only he wants a bureaucracy to be in place to put a nice, legal bow around it. He goes on:
"We have a system of laws here where nobody should be above the law, and you don’t need blanket advance approval for blanket torture. They can draw a statute much more narrowly, which would permit the president to make a finding in a case like I just outlined, and then that finding could be submitted even if after the fact to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”
Clinton was then asked whether he was saying there “would be more responsibility afterward for what was done.” He replied: “Yeah, well, the president could take personal responsibility for it. But you do it on a case-by-case basis, and there’d be some review of it.” Clinton quickly added that he doesn’t know whether this ticking bomb scenario “is likely or not,” but he did know that “we have erred in who was a real suspect or not.”
Clinton summarized his views in the following terms: “If they really believe the time comes when the only way they can get a reliable piece of information is to beat it out of someone or put a drug in their body to talk it out of ‘em, then they can present it to the Foreign Intelligence Court, or some other court, just under the same circumstances we do with wiretaps. Post facto….
“But I think if you go around passing laws that legitimize a violation of the Geneva Convention and institutionalize what happened at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, we’re gonna be in real trouble."
I guess we should be thankful for the reminder this far ahead of the 2008 elections ... the Clintons are in favor of many of the ruinous policies pursued by the Bush Administration. Given Bill’s love for an expanded police state, one might ask him if perhaps there are times when our police would be justified to use extreme measures. After all, maybe a drug dealer knows where a major shootout is going to happen, down the street from a school. Would it be okay if a governor made a similar calculation? If not, then why? When you give someone this much power to suspend the last vestiges of the most basic standards of morality, how do you tell them when they’re going too far? Is it really any protection to set up a Star Chamber for authoritarians to get their crimes rubber stamped before they commit them?
This is part of how a civilized nation becomes barbaric. When the supposed opposition goes along with the far right, offering bi-partisan cover for monstrous policies, they help to move us closer and closer to fascism, to a system where ONLY the ends matter, and any means go as long as the empire is served, as Stan Goff points out:
The American economy has been using the military contracting system during decades of “deindustrialization” (moving offshore to exploit cheap labor) to create a surrogate export market for key industries. The military has also long been used as a research and development subsidy vehicle for private corporations. What the Bush administration has done that is unique is to prioritize unilateral military action in foreign policy at the expense of diplomatic maneuvering and consensus-building among the core capitalist metropoles, and to centralize population control measures at home under a more militarized system ... though the with “tactical” units has been in progress for decades and the Clinton administration paved the way for the exponential expansion of the domestic prison population.
President Clinton, and would-be-President Clinton, are helping to normalize the far right’s distortions of this country’s laws. As they offer their softer versions of the same dismissals of decency, violence and degradation become more acceptable, as Arthur Silbur points out:
Nothing reveals more starkly the boundless and unforgivable stupidity of our national debate about torture—except for the monstrous fact that we have had such a debate in the first place—than the fact that the “ticking-bomb” fiction is still regularly deployed. And as I mentioned earlier, I draw your attention to the fact that it is this entirely false scenario that Hillary Clinton uses to “justify” her “limited” endorsement of torture (note her recourse to the scene of “imminent” danger—which she, like everyone else, gets from movies and television, and not from life). Nothing about this screenwriter’s fantasy conforms to what actually happens in reality, as I discussed in detail here and here. Moreover, as pointed out in the second of those posts, it is precisely when time is very short that torture is of least conceivable value. I continue to be astonished that these points must be made repeatedly. Our appetite for vengeance and violence is now so insatiable that we insist on brutalizing others, and ourselves as well—even when such violence is entirely futile and pointless, and when it achieves nothing other than the destruction of our humanity, of liberty, and of civilization itself.
The Clintons should be ashamed of themselves, and those of us who want this country to return to a lawful path must repudiate them.
Update [2006-10-17 20:28:13 by Madman in the Marketplace]:
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a letter to the editor from House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), arguing that the Military Commissions Act is “not tough enough on terrorists because there is no certainty the act will withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. If the act is tied up in litigation and eventually struck down, convicted terrorists could have a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card."
That Steny sure is one tough hombre.
Monday, October 16, 2006
A Pox on Bill & Hill's House
"We’ve got to go out there and look for all the Republicans and all the independents who are troubled,” he said. “They know something is wrong, and they want to change.”
Clinton said Democrats should not blame the whole of the Republican Party for the problems of the country.
“The entire government of the United States—the Congress, the White House and increasingly the courts—for the last six years has been in the control not of the Republican Party but the most ideological, the most extreme, the most right-wing sliver of the Republican Party,” Clinton said at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, the Iowa Democratic Party’s biggest annual fundraising event.
He said Republicans have three governing priorities: concentration of wealth among the nation’s richest individuals and biggest corporations; unlimited and unaccountable executive power; and painting opponents of their agenda as morally and politically inferior.
While attacking the Republican record, Clinton stressed that Democrats “believe in evidence and argument, not assertion and attack."
Hey, Mr. Philanderer, how about the damned party DO SOMETHING TO APPEAL TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS?!?!?
Mr. President, what about all of the minority’s votes that your friend George’s party suppresses and destroys? Did it occur to you that THEY may be “troubled”?
Mr. President, what about all of those women and their children that you and your buddy Newt kicked off the welfare rolls? Did it occur to you that THEY may be “troubled”?
Mr. President, what about the grieving wives, mothers, fathers, husbands and children who’s lives have been torn asunder by a criminal war? Did it occur to you that THEY may be “troubled”?
Mr. President, what about the increasing number of children suffering in poverty, without healthcare, confronting increasing incidences of asthma and autism? Did it occur to you that THEY may be “troubled”?
Mr. President, what about the American citizens, treated as refugees IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY, those people scattered to the winds by the Katrina Diaspora, did it occur to you that THEY may be “troubled”?
Mr. President, what about those proud men and women, who’ve worked their whole lives, who’ve followed the rules, who are having their rights to join and receive union representation taken away? Did it occur to you that THEY may be “troubled”?
Mr. President, what about those who’ve served this country with life and limb, those who receive little or nothing now that they’ve left limbs, minds and souls ripped apart on foreign sands? Did it occur to you that THEY may be “troubled”?
The Clintons and the Bushs, old money and nouveau riche, jovially striding across the greens of exclusive country clubs ... the only people who matter to you people are the upper middle class and the rich in the suburbs and exurbs. Those are the only people who’s troubled brows seem to attract your attention. After all, they’re far more likely to dole out a few bucks to your vanity charity, isn’t that right, Mr. President?
There are a HUGE number of people who suffer without representation. You bitch and moan that they don’t go to the polls, but you do NOTHING to speak to their needs, address their concerns, offer solutions to their troubles. NO, you’d rather have your little tug-of-war over this one, small group, this population of the stressed but fairly comfortable, these overwhelmingly white, mega-church-going, self-satisfied, resentful class of ladder climbers, cubicle dwellers, minivan and SUV driving people. No doing the real, hard work of politics, the dirty work of going out and seeing what needs fixing, who really needs help. Nope, better to put on your nice suit and have a war of empty slogans and talking points, easy to sum up nostrums that can be “discussed” on talk radio and on Chris Matthews hour of group-masturbation-masquerading-as-debate.
Go away, please, and take your odious wife with you. I’m sad to say that I used to fall for your act, but enough is enough. I’m sure there are plenty of nice corporate boards and foundations that will keep you in expensive dinners and all-expenses-paid trips for years to come, or until that black hole you call a heart finally collapses in on itself.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Clinton Triangulates Her Humanity
... at yesterday’s Daily News editorial board meeting, it emerged that she’s not actually against torture in all instances, and that her dispute with McCain and Bush is largely procedural.
She was asked about the “ticking time bomb” scenario, in which you’ve captured the terrorist and don’t have time for a normal interrogation, and said that there is a place for what she called “severity,” in a conversation that included mentioning waterboarding, hypothermia, and other techniques commonly described as torture.
“I have said that those are very rare but if they occur there has to be some lawful authority for pursuing that," she responded. “Again, I think the President has to take responsibilty. There has to be some check and balance, some reporting. I don’t mind if it’s reporting in a top secret context. But that shouldn’t be the tail that wags the dog, that should be the exception to the rule.”
Asked again about these methods, she said:
“In those instances where we have sufficient basis to believe that there is something imminent, yeah, but then we’ve got to have a check and balance."
Well, now THERE is a suprise. Hot on the heels of a strong anti-torture statement on the floor of the Senate, the would-be President talks out of the other side of her mouth. Now what other issue have we seen her play THIS game with before?
The Senator from New York is so emblematic of how pathetic and lost the Democratic Party has become. Handmaidens to the far right, to the military-industrial complex, for the parasitic investor class, the Democratic Party is interested only in gaining power. There is little or no thought about what power should be held FOR, other than maintaining some vauguely more “responsible” application of empire, death-dealing and greed. For every heinous, monstrous policy or action the Republicans pursue, the Donk leadership seems only able to say, “well, it’s all sadly necessary, but WE’D do it better!”
How paltry the debate about vital issues has become. Hell, WHY IS THERE EVEN A DEBATE ABOUT TORTURE? The Democrats, spineless courtiers eager only to maintain access to money and power, are unwilling, unable or DISBELIEVING that a civilized nation should hold itself to higher standards. Nope, better to pander, better to go all mealy-mouthed over fake dilemmas like the ticking time bomb scenario (hat tip to Schneier on Security for the link):
In a democracy, I do not think we should ask our fellow citizens to sacrifice themselves or their principles for the public good unless we are, at least in principle, prepared to do the same. We may not be capable of serving in the military, but we should understand what that means before we ask our fellow citizens to fight for us. One of the signal characteristics of the TTB is that it treats the interrogators and their agency, their principles, as a black box. Who they are is unknown. But we should not assume “democracy for us, dictatorship for the interrogators.” The interrogators are our fellow citizens, part of our democracy, and it would be wrong to ask them to do something we were not prepared to do ourselves. Thus the democratic implication of the TTB is that we must steel ourselves to do something that is very unpleasant, but necessary.
So let us imagine ourselves in the interrogation room with the suspect. Evidence collected from his apartment certainly seems to indicate that he has knowledge of a looming terrorist attack, but he is begging for mercy. Too bad, isn’t it? All we have done is deprive him of sleep and clothing. And it is a bit cold. Unfortunately, he may be scared and cold, but he hasn’t given us one scrap of useful information. And we’re under some time pressure. Your superior has an idea. For better cover, the suspect was living with his family, a wife and young daughter. We’re detaining them in another room. The evidence seems to show the suspect cares for them. Perhaps if we brought them into the room? Your superior warns you to steel yourself for what comes next. Perhaps the suspect will respond to mere threats that they might be put to death in front of him. If threats are not enough, however, we must be prepared to do the worst. Of course, in some cultures there are acts regarded as worse than death. Your superior looks at you. Do you understand what he is talking about? Of course you do. You are experienced in the ways of the TTB, of doing what is necessary to elicit information under the terrible pressure of a deadline.
I really hope I don’t have to elaborate further this fantastic scenario of moral corruption. Our popular culture is full of faux scenarios of torture and cruelty. Just check out your local video rental store. What’s amazing about the TTB is that it is taken to be “real,” a serious matter for public debate. But it’s no more real than my scenario, a Tom Clancy novel of military adventure or a superhero comic.
The TTB counts on eliciting a certain sort of response. Of course, “the president would have to authorize torture” to prevent millions from dying. But surely it puts a slightly different spin on the situation to imagine that you are the one responsible for making sure the interrogation is effective. And you will have to live with the consequences if you turn out to be wrong. What wouldn’t you do to prevent millions from dying? Well, I wouldn’t engage in torture, child abuse, murder, rape and a whole long list of morally corrupt acts. And I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t either. Scenarios like the TTB are well designed to cloud our reason and judgment. For that reason, we should avoid them and concentrate on the ways in which we can realistically prevent terrorist attacks.
We in this country seem EAGER to ask others to do things we’d never do ourselves. We cheer on soldiers as they are put into situations where they kill journalists, slaughter large numbers of civilians and even other soldiers and marines. After they provide this “service”, we often abandon them when they return from the slaughter, a crime we’ve repeated throughout this country’s history. We depend upon cheap and slave labor for our piles of stuff, we expect children to pay for the failings of their parents. Why not demand our spooks ape Joseph Mengele if it gets us what we want, the illusion of safety?
There is a scary question we must ask ourselves. What if Senator Clinton and her fellow righties at the top of the Democratic Party are RIGHT? What if America really is an out-of-control Sparta, a feudal state occupied by an ignorant, immense pool of economic and martial cannon fodder supporting a bloated and greedy landed class? Is their course, only slightly-less-pandering to fear, bigotry and hatred than the Republicans, driven by what kind of nation we’ve become? One could argue, looking at the long history of genocide, human bondage and economic exploitation the fundamental truth of us as a people, that perhaps the Bush and Clinton families DO represent what and who we are. This is a question we must face, will we continue to submit to these venal “leaders” who stir up our darkest urges, or will we find a path back to the halting course that we’ve followed at time to ameliorate our past crimes ... back to expanding suffrage, economic opportunity, HOPE? For all of our atrocities, we’ve also built better things as well: our Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Civil Rights Acts, Voting Rights Acts, leading the way on the development of the modern Rules of War, including the Geneva Conventions. Will we be a nation of bridge builders or berserkers?
The left in this country needs to stop enabling a center-right Democratic Party leadership that produces and promotes characters like Senator Clinton if we want to return this nation to a more humanist course. This nation has no chance to follow the angels of its higher nature when the debate is dominated by the rabid right and enabled by pandering creatures of ambition like Clinton and her cohorts. If you believe that we will have a better nation if we COOPERATE than if we destroy, if you want full and reasoned debate to replace shallow talking points, if you want this country to be a force for good, both within our borders and without, if you’re a leftist who despairs at the monstrous acts being committed in our names, it is VITAL that you not support shameless equivocators like Senator Clinton.
Friday, October 13, 2006
fri rdm 10 - Legacy edition
Why, oh why, are the nerdroots suprised?
After the primary, DC Democrats dissuaded Lamont from attacking Lieberman, essentially promising him that they would talk Joe out of running. This was of course a lie, but it worked. They lied not only to Lamont, but to us, and to regular activist Democrats who work for the party and play by the rules.
Face it. The corporate-teat-suckling Donks don’t like voters. They don’t like you newfangled activists. They’ll USE you, but when they’re done you’re flushed like a used condom. They’ll pour some Zima down your throats, pass you around and then drop you off in front of your dorm all sticky and degraded. In the big frat row that is this country’s government, unless challengers are either legacies or is actively rushed, the brothers in the big-domed frat house don’t want them.
It was a lie, just another lie. Funny, though, how people keep falling for it. Want to crash the gates, you morons? Go Bluto on their asses.
Today’s random tunes after you hit “more” ...
- "Baby Please Don’t Go” - Muddy Waters
- “Tristessa" - Smashing Pumpkins
- "I Wanna Be Sedated” - The Ramones
- "Adult Books” - X
- "People Who Died” - Jim Carroll Band
- “Burn" - Nine Inch Nails
- "Wean Me - (The Battle)” - George Jones
- "No You Don’t” - Sweet
- "Pilate and Christ” - Original Cast, Jesus Christ Superstar
- "Love You To Death” - Type O Negative
Thursday, October 12, 2006
The Dead Are Finally Being Counted: 600,000 and More Every Day
I have always maintained that the Iraqi death toll is woefully undercounted. Now it seems someone finally is doing it. From USA Today:
More than 600,000 Iraqis have died by violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to a study released Wednesday by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The figure is based on surveys of households throughout most of the country. It vastly exceeds estimates cited by the Iraqi government, the United Nations, aid and anti-war groups, and President Bush.
The new estimate was immediately challenged by the Pentagon. Lt. Col. Mark Bellesteros, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Iraqi government “would be in a better position ... to provide more accurate information on deaths in Iraq."
Well shock of shocks the Pentagon has it wrong, yet again.