Sunday, April 29, 2007
No Help Needed, We Have the Holy Free Market!
Another day, another story about another example of deliberate incompetence on the part of our federal government:
Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.
In addition, valuable supplies and services—such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships—were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.
The struggle to apply foreign aid in the aftermath of the hurricane, which has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 billion so far, is another reminder of the federal government’s difficulty leading the recovery. Reports of government waste and delays or denials of assistance have surfaced repeatedly since hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.
Administration officials acknowledged in February 2006 that they were ill prepared to coordinate and distribute foreign aid and that only about half the $126 million received had been put to use. Now, 20 months after Katrina, newly released documents and interviews make clear the magnitude of the troubles.
More than 10,000 pages of cables, telegraphs and e-mails from U.S. diplomats around the globe—released piecemeal since last fall under the Freedom of Information Act—provide a fuller account of problems that, at times, mystified generous allies and left U.S. representatives at a loss for an explanation. The documents were obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a public interest group, which provided them to The Washington Post.
In one exchange, State Department officials anguished over whether to tell Italy that its shipments of medicine, gauze and other medical supplies spoiled in the elements for weeks after Katrina’s landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, and were destroyed. "Tell them we blew it,” one disgusted official wrote. But she hedged: “The flip side is just to dispose of it and not come clean. I could be persuaded."
This is what you get when you hand over a government to small-government zealots, MBAs and other middle-management style drones and religious nuts. Nothing gets done right, nothing is accomplished competently and like in most businesses, they lie and cover-up to protect their asses. More importantly, this all happens BY DESIGN.
Overall, the United States declined 54 of 77 recorded aid offers from three of its staunchest allies: Canada, Britain and Israel, according to a 40-page State Department table of the offers that had been received as of January 2006.
“There is a lack of accountability in where the money comes in and where it goes,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the public interest group, which called for an investigation into the fate of foreign aid offers. She added: “It’s clear that they’re trying to hide their ineptitude, incompetence and malfeasance."
Congratulations Americans, you’ve gotten what you said you wanted ... a government run not by public servants, but rather one that runs like your workplace, governance by Peter Principle, hacks buoyed up by syncophantic staff and protected by an aggressive PR campaign, the one area that the Bushies try hard to get right.
As the winds and water of Hurricane Katrina were receding, presidential confidante Karen Hughes sent a cable from her State Department office to U.S. ambassadors worldwide.
Titled “Echo-Chamber Message”—a public relations term for talking points designed to be repeated again and again—the Sept. 7, 2005, directive was unmistakable: Assure the scores of countries that had pledged or donated aid at the height of the disaster that their largesse had provided Americans “practical help and moral support” and “highlight the concrete benefits hurricane victims are receiving."
I repeat, none of this is a mistake, the Republicans, with the eager help of the corporate-teat-suckling Donklephants, run the government poorly on purpose, to help reinforce the idea that government doesn’t work, and it should be dismantled and sold off for pennies on the dollar:
Business Week writes about how private companies such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Carlysle Groupo are buying up private infrastructure such as key roads, airports and bridges (Golden Gate for $3.4 billion and Brooklyn Bridge for $3.5 billion, for example. Cities supposedly think this is a great idea because they get money they can spend on other things.
Who needs the world’s help when there are federal dollars to dole out to connected corporations and “faith-based” organizations? If you accept that help, you invite more prying eyes, foreign media who aren’t docile stenographers ... in other words, people who actually believe governments are both necessary AND must be held accountable.
No way to line pockets, harder to hide malfeasance ... OF COURSE these offers of aid were “mishandled”. Who needs help when there is blood money to be made?
Friday, April 27, 2007
Too Little, Far Too Late
"There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Tenet writes, adding that there was never “a significant discussion” about containing Iraq without an invasion.
Why now, you coward? Is that Medal of Freedom hanging heavy around your spineless neck? Why now?
As part of a media tour to promote the book, Tenet has been interviewed by the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes,” which on Thursday released excerpts of a broadcast scheduled for Sunday in which he contends that his now-infamous phrase “slam dunk” was taken out of context.
Uttered during a 2002 White House meeting, “slam dunk” was referring broadly to the case that could be made against Saddam Hussein, according to Tenet, not the dictator’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.
“We can put a better case together for a public case. That’s what I meant,” Tenet said, explaining his remark for the first time in the CBS interview.
The phrase “slam dunk” was associated with Tenet after it was leaked by a senior administration official to author and journalist Bob Woodward. According to Woodward’s book “Plan of Attack,” Bush turned to Tenet during the meeting and asked if the information he had just presented on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was the best Tenet had.
“It’s a slam dunk case,” Tenet replied, according to Woodward.
Cheney repeatedly used Tenet’s “slam dunk” line to show that U.S. spy agencies had intelligence to support the main facet of the administration’s argument for invading — that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, Tenet said the administration misrepresented his comment and used it to shift blame as the debate heated up about the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion. Tenet, who served as CIA chief from 1997 to 2004, called the leak to Woodward “the most despicable thing that ever happened” to him.
Oh, a PAYCHECK, like everyone else in this increasingly corrupt country, it’s CASH that pries loose Tenet’s forked tongue. Enabler, coward, hack ... TRAITOR. Your juicy “tell all” speakers fees and book contract dollars are coated in gore, sir. How do you sleep, how dare you say this, cash in on this, NOW?
Another one who played the game of “too little, too fucking late” this week is Senator Durbin from Illinois:
U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said on the floor of the Senate that he knew the American public was being misled in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
Durbin said he kept quiet because of his position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, The Washington Times reported.
“The information we had in the Intelligence Committee was not the same information being given to the American people. I couldn’t believe it,” Durbin said Wednesday.
“I was angry about it. (But) frankly, I couldn’t do much about it because, in the Intelligence Committee, we are sworn to secrecy. We can’t walk outside the door and say the statement made yesterday by the White House is in direct contradiction to classified information that is being given to this Congress."
You’re sworn not to give details, Senator, but couldn’t you find it in your terrified politicians heart to just say something simple, like, “I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS LYING.” Raise the point, stop the headlong rush to disaster, but no, like the rest of your worthless, enabling gang of rich, corrupt, careerist frauds, you couldn’t, you WOULDN’T do that, would you Senator? The consultants said NO, your collegues said NO, the polls said RISKY ... so you kept mum as the dry-drunk cokehound put the keys into the machinery of war and drove us straight to disaster. Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, who knows how many thousands of dead Americans (no one is counting all of the mercs, truck drivers and others hoping to cash in on the carnage) later, NOW you let us know? Of course, most of us who were paying attention knew, knew Bush and Cheney were lying, knew YOU and the rest of the donks were HELPING them lie.
So why now? To ramp up the pressure behind your toothless resolution to suggest that Bush maybe-pretty-please think about ending the war someday? To appease your conscience now that you feel a little safer, with polls behind ending the war? Yes, I know you voted against the IWR, but can’t you see that you might have woken some people up, given weight to those voices yelling STOP?!?! No, I guess not, but you’re safe to say so now. You knew, and you kept it quite. Blood is on your hands, Senator.
I’m sick of how lost in dishonesty and fake propriety this country is.
Monday, April 23, 2007
As we enter once again an age of sacrifice, where women must pay for the self-righteous superstitions of judgemental fools, it’s important to remember that when women face a dangerous pregnancy, they often have a family that needs them:
When Monday came, I called my doctor for the results of my quadruple screen blood test from the past week, nothing I really sweated because a CVS test a couple months before had told us that our baby’s chromosomes were completely normal. This time though, the doctor said that one of the screening tests concerned him and asked me to go to the hospital right away.
The ultrasound technician’s silence told David and I that something was very wrong. The doctor explained that the baby had anencephaly, a neural tube defect. Large parts of the brain were missing. Babies who survive birth may live days or weeks or months, but they perceive nothing, not even a mother’s touch. There was no mistake, and nothing to be done. I scheduled an abortion. On Wednesday, May 14, 2003, in the early morning, 17 weeks into the pregnancy, David drove me to the operating room and I had my abortion. That night we told Toby and Simone that the baby did not grow all the parts that a baby needs to live, and had died. We hugged and cried.
On Wednesday, April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court suggested that women do not fully comprehend the abortion procedure, and thus may come to regret it. Not this woman. Four years ago, I asked my doctor whether the Federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act, which was then being considered by Congress, would outlaw the dilation and evacuation procedure he intended to use. Yes, he told me, it would.
Before I became a mother, I’d had two uterine fibroid surgeries that weakened the walls of my uterus. After the second surgery, my obstetrician-gynecologist advised that my children would have to be delivered weeks before my due date by cesarean section to minimize the risk of uterine rupture. Toby was born by early cesarean in 1997, and Simone in 1999 also by early cesarean. Before my abortion, my surgeon knew that my uterus had undergone four prior surgeries, and he also knew that I ached for a third child. I pleaded with him not to do anything in the operating room that could possibly compromise my ability to have another child. My surgeon promised me he would do everything he could to preserve my fertility, and he kept his word. I am forever grateful. And one day my 2 ½-year-old daughter will be too.
Would Ms. Jaroslaw end up infertile, dead or disabled if she was facing this choice NOW? Make no mistake, other women will be:
My health and future fertility depended on the best available medical care, which in this case meant that I needed the intact dilation and evacuation procedure, or “partial-birth abortion” to use the non-medical, ideological term. This wrongly politicized, legitimate and standard medical procedure results in the removal of the fetus with the least probing and instrumentation, greatly reducing the risk to the woman of bleeding, infection and uterine rupture, all of which may lead to infertility.
Last Wednesday was a dark day for women, and for the men in their lives who care about the health, autonomy, freedom and equality of women in 21st-century America. The high court took a giant step backward when it upheld the federal abortion ban, sweeping aside decades of its own constitutional precedent protecting women’s health, in favor of ideology.
The Supreme Court decision means that judges and lawmakers may now dictate to doctors what they can and cannot do in the operating room. It means that surgeons who want to do what’s best for their patients do so now at the risk of criminal prosecution. And it means that thousands of women will undergo second-best procedures carrying greater risk; many will face dire health consequences, as well as the loss of future fertility. We are now in a country where judges and lawmakers are allowed to tell doctors how best to care for their patients. This cannot stand.
For my daughters Naomi and Simone, for my son Toby’s future wife, and for all girls and women in the United States, today the hard work of repealing the federal abortion ban must begin.
Women burned on the pyre of theofascist dogma ... to preserve fetuses which will be born into a country where children are left increasingly to the vagaries of a brutal economic system.
Not that the zealots and authoritarians care.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The Loner, The USA & Mass Murder
It’s just another page in the Mad Libs-style stenography that passes for modern journalism: an angry “loner” goes beserk/amok/copies a film/copies a recording/copies a book, and said loner commits some terrible act of mass murder. Each time we’re told that the latest horror is somehow unique, or the “biggest”, or “bloodiest” or most ... well, like this:
Mass murder certainly wasn’t invented with the 1966 Texas Tower shootings.
For as long as there has been history, there has been murder - including horrific mass murder. Certainly, in the first half of the 20th century, there were examples, such as the case of Howard Unruh, a war veteran with mental illness who killed 13 people in 13 minutes with a Luger pistol on the streets of Camden, N.J., in 1949.
But 1966 was a dramatic turning point. On Aug. 1, Charles Whitman, a student at the University of Texas in Austin, climbed a 27-story tower and killed 14 people, wounding 31 others, before being shot dead by the police.
After the Whitman killings, the incidents started to climb.
Mass murders (and, especially, mass shootings) became increasingly common - George Hennard in Killeen, Texas; Patrick Edward Purdy in Stockton, Calif.; James Huberty in San Ysidro, Calif.; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., to name just a few - and the body counts began to grow as well.
Seven of the eight largest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have occurred in the past 25 years.
The murder of 32 people at Virginia Tech on Monday by Cho Seung-Hui may have been the worst, but it was only one of about 20 mass shootings that occur each year in the United States, a subset of the two dozen or so mass murders. A mass murder is defined as an event in which four or more people are killed in the same episode. Serial killings, by contrast, occur over an extended time.
So much focus on individual killers committing mass murder, and so much attention on them being “loners” and “angry”. There is an almost pornographic fixation on killers like Cho, Klebold & Harris, Whitman ... it is killers acting alone that draws much of the harsh light, much of the anger, much of the chestbeating and calls for censorship or gun control or restricted civil liberties/expanded powers for authority.
They were dangerous BECAUSE they were loners. They were angry because they weren’t accepted by the group, ostracized for being “different”. This same story, repeated over and over again.
Is all of this so, really? Are single individuals, angry outcasts, REALLY the sort who most frequently commit mass murder?
The greatest mass murders in this country most often weren’t committed by individuals, but by mobs, by posses, by militia acting under the color of authority. They were committed by leg-breakers for Robber Barons. They were committed by generals who later became President, they happened in places like Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, at Rosewood, Fl, in Tulsa, on the streets of Bay View, WI, in the streets of Chicago, New York, New Orleans ... the list is long, and most of the mass slaughter in this country was carried out by “good people” against some group of outsiders or agitators or “trouble makers”, against niggers and fags and red savages and spics and slanteyes and sluts and whores and commies and bomb-throwing anarchists, against people who didn’t fit or who were demanding an end to their mistreatment.
Interestingly, much of our popular culture (and the popular culture of other countries that demand conformity like Japan and Korea), is built around loner-killers who fight FOR the victimized.
Deep down we know that mass murder is generally committed by the many, not the few; by the company, not the strikers; by the rest of the boys, not by Simon; by the state, not the broken people ready to surrender. The cognitive dissonance is contributing to the increasing belligerence and hatefulness of this country both to others and ourselves. We comfort ourselves that it is angry individual monsters who are the killers, not us and our insanely huge military, our aggressive and growing arms industry, our rapacious business community and the politicians they own, our expanding and brutal prison industrial complex.
Deep down, no matter how much we refuse to face it, no matter how much we deny it, we know that it is the many who do the most killing, and it’s done to maintain the status quo. The loners who strike out often feel left out of the status quo, but they may sense that at least they can echo the underlying truth of how this country was settled, how it was built, how it grew and how it maintains it’s advantages against others.
Still, as it spins out of control, as we worry and feel that we’re heading into dark times, in our fear of outsiders, our fear of angry loners and different people, still we wait for some savior to come along, wielding a sword of rightousness and willingness to murder for us, if necessary, or to lead us into righteous battle.
It’s not the loners who will commit the greatest crimes, it is US, the mob, the polity, the State. Be afraid of that weirdo one cube over, but know that it is one-third of your check that is turned into the bombs and bullets that kill the many to maintain what we’ve already stolen. The angry loners, after all, are merely shadows of what we’ve allowed our country to remain.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Mourning While You Facilitate the Next One
I think my country borders on insanity sometimes. This is certainly one of them. I watch the weeping and candlelight vigils, see the tributes and hear the anchorpeople use their solemn voices and yet it rings hollow to me.
Can you really mourn these deaths if you do nothing to stop the next round of killings? There are so many articles that have been written in other countries about this and they generally say the same thing, why do we do this to ourselves here in America? Good question. The only article I have seen here in the US was the wonderful piece by Elayne Boosler at HuffPo yesterday. Here is a piece but i highly recommend the entire article:
The number of children under the age of 17 shot by guns in America every year is greater than the gun-related deaths of children in all the industrialized nations of the world COMBINED.
Here is the population of Japan: 127,463,611.
Here is the number of children killed by guns in Japan every year: 0.
A 2001 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that in homicides among intimate partners, women are murdered more with guns than with all other means COMBINED.
In 2004, guns were most commonly used by males to murder their female partners.
A 2003 study found women living with a gun in the home were almost three times more likely to be murdered than women with no gun in the home.
“If we ban handguns only criminals will have guns.” Well then let’s not have any laws in America at all. No drug laws, no traffic laws, no laws at all, right? Duh.
“Cars kill people!!” Yes, cars kill people when something goes wrong. Guns are MADE to kill people. Handguns have one purpose, to kill people.
If we had the gun laws so many western nations have this might never have happened.
I was told today on the news that the family of the shooter is being shuttled by the government from one house to another because of the amount of death threats. Any guesses as to what item would be used if these death threats were carried out?
A saying keeps playing over and over every day this week: Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. America needs to wake up, and pronto.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Women's Blood Will Be On THEIR Hands
One voted for the ban:
“I would only say that this is the only decision a lot of us wish that Alito weren’t there and O’Connor were there."
The other voted against it:
Clinton said Wednesday’s ruling “blatantly defies” the high court’s decision in 2000 to strike down a state partial-birth abortion law because it failed to provide an exemption for a woman’s health.
“As the Supreme Court recognized in Roe v. Wade in 1973, this issue is complex and highly personal; the rights and lives of women must be taken into account,” she said. “It is precisely this erosion of our constitutional rights that I warned against when I opposed the nominations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito."
What NEITHER of them did was work to really defeat those judges. No filibusters, no use of the Senate’s rules to block the rightwing’s slide (they only use that for when they feel the perogatives of their offices threatened) to total control. They tell us that we need to welcome religious zealots into a “big tent” party in order to “win”. Just what the children who will be motherless, the husbands and wives left without their lovers, the parents left without their daughters will “win” with such a party one can’t say.
What they do have is a ban on a medical procedure, and a Supreme Court that has effectively ruled abortion illegal for nearly every woman in this country. Marisacat posts the whole statute, with some helpful highlighting of the more frightening language provided by moiv.
To the right you will see the picture of Gerraldine Santoro. Marisacat has that story up too, including the famous, heartbreaking, graphic photo of her kneeling in death, bled out from a failed illegal abortion on the floor of a cheap motel.
In desperation, Gerri and her lover had gone to a motel to induce an abortion, things went horribly wrong, Clyde panicked and left her to die alone.I would feel better to think it was sudden and that she didn’t have to lay there and be alone. But I don’t believe that’s what happened.
I believe she had some time to think. Because the way the rags were in her hands, you know what I mean, this was a woman who wasn’t just sitting about and suddenly collapsed.
This was a woman who was in the throws of dying and was doing what she could to stop bleeding and stop, you know. From that picture, that’s what it looks like.
Gerri Santoro’s deadly induced abortion was pre Roe and she was pre Griswold as well, the forerunner that found for privacy rights for married couples to buy and use birth control.
I can’t believe we’ve slid back to those days again. No, wait, that’s a lie. I know that for many women in the major parts of this increasingly backward, hateful, misogynist country, that we slid back there years ago. Those days started coming back when that hack Senator Casey’s father’s name was enshrined on another terrible Supreme Court decision, a decision that proscribed women’s minds and bodies and decisions as LESS THAN the bigotries and superstitions of politicians and hateful clerics.
Make no mistake, with the language in that terrible law, and the language in today’s decision, abortion has been effectively banned, unless you’re very rich or very connected or very lucky to live in one of the few places where there are doctors and hospitals able and WILLING to risk criminal charges and liability to save a woman’s life or health.
Abortion has been effectively banned, and those two careerist hacks above are just fine with it. They are fine with this decision like they are fine with the slaughter in Iraq, like they are fine with Israel invading Lebanon and bleeding Gaza and the West Bank. They don’t care about women’s lives, their families lives, because they plainly don’t care about ANY life, though Reid gets to have it both ways that he is “pro-life” but not TOO pro-life, or something. He’s so damned doddering and incoherent it’s hard to tell what he stands for, other than more money for corporations and crony Washington.
Those quotes above are empty, meaningless, a little shuck-and-jive to pretend they care, when they really couldn’t give a fuck. If they had, they would have fought harder over these last couple of decades. If human rights (and anybody who doesn’t understand that feminism is nothing more than human rights is an idiot, or a person who deep inside looks at women as less human) really mattered to them, they wouldn’t be cutting deals with Senators Nelson and Casey. They wouldn’t mealy-mouth about finding “middle ground” on a “difficult issue”, because it’s only difficult if you think women’s choices, women’s bodies, are somehow up for negotiation, somehow the property of the state or some imaginary friend in the sky or a big building full of chanting cultists worshipping statues and their own self-righteousness and the Holy Fetus, which remains important and holy only until it’s outside the worthless vessel that carries it to term. After that it is on its own, especially if it is poor or brown.
More will die after this decision today. More families will be broken. This nation is at war on humanity, on many fronts, and this is just one more. It’s not just foreigners, or terrorists, or “illegal immigrants” or criminals or drug dealers or pedophiles who we war upon, it’s the woman next door, it’s your lover, your sister, your daughter, your mother and your friend. Bodies are grist for the war machine’s mill. The Democrats help fund that war, expand that war, celebrate that war. This country’s war on humanity isn’t just fought with guns and bombs and missiles, it’s fought with bigotry and withheld funding and skimmed corporate profits and graft and lessened opportunties and overweening self-righteous superstition. We have turned our back on humanity, turned our back on individual liberty, turned our back on the future and reason. Don’t look to the likes of Reid, Clinton or the rest of that ponzi scheme called the Democratic Party for help ... they run a protection racket, nothing more, nothing less, and they care only for the payoffs and bribes.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
A Song You Need To Hear
Madman sent me the link to the latest single by my favorite new artist of this decade, Rufus Wainwright. The song is called Going To A Town and it is on his forthcoming album which will be out in May.
The Song and Video are incredible so just click that link.
By the way, in case you aren’t familiar with Rufus, he was born in the US and raised in the US and Canada and is the son of musicians Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. As far as I’m concerned he is the songwriter of his generation. I have all 4 of his CD’s and have seen him in concert twice (plus a Move-On gig here in NY) and he is the real friggin’ deal.
Can’t wait to hear your comments.
Friday, April 13, 2007
"Ho" Will Get You Fired But "Faggot" is A-OK
So the Imus thing has played out quickly and he has been exiled from the airwaves. As a gay man it tells me yet again that i’m not an equal citizen of this country even though my gay brethren and i pay higher taxes (without the marriage deduction) than everyone else.
Ann Coulter can call John Edwards (or anyone she likes for that matter) a faggot and only lose 4% of her newspaper outlets. Don Imus doesn’t even use the N word and loses his livelihood so I can only surmise that all people as well as all minorities are not equal in America.
You can still be fired in 33 states in the USA just for being gay, we have no job protection and most states either have anti-gay legislation on their books or are drafting some this session. It’s a good day for one minority but for me it is still the back of the bus.
Ms. Coulter and her homophobic coterie won’t be run out of town soon enough to suit me but for the moment there isn’t much of a posse chasing them. Instead they are cashing in some mighty big checks from the powers that be for spreading their hate-filled manure.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
The Meat Grinder is now a Mobius Strip
While the media circle-jerks over Imus and a dead stripper’s baby daddy and now again the Duke clusterfuck, the Pentagon has decided that military isn’t quite broken enough, so it’s time for to make sure that soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines being used in our criminal wars stay there even longer.
The Pentagon will lengthen tours of duty for all active-duty Army units in Iraq to 15 months from the current 12 months as the military struggles to supply enough troops for the conflict, two defense officials said Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates planned to announce the decision Wednesday afternoon, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
This means more casualties: dead, maimed, spiritually crushed, more divorces, more broken homes, another generation of homeless vets, more hatred and fear and needless blood and waste. The meat grinder is fed back into itself, no escape.
The Democrats have made it clear they will continue to keep feeding fresh meat into Butcher Bush’s slaughterhouse, as it becomes increasingly clear that his escalation is more than twice as big as the initial numbers promised by the Liar in Chief.
The military, after all, is merely a toy to be played with, disgarded ... after all, daddy and his friends have always bought more after the sociopath princeling blew them up with firecrackers. He’s decided for all of us that his megalomaniacal crusade will proceed apace, and no one is going to say otherwise, not that the so-called opposition will stand in the way of the current wars, let alone the next one.
We’re stuck in a feedback loop, a deadly game that twists back on itself, leading always back to the same bloody beginning, ‘round and ‘round we go. Our Constitution, our civil discourse, our social safety nets, our treaty obligations are all fillers to be fed in with the beef, adding perhaps a little color and flavor to the mess extruded out the other side. Our government is like some giant beast that scarfes down meat, shits it out, then buries its face in the steaming pile, over and over again, gluttonously, slowly killing itself as it chews up anything and anyone in its path.
I wish I could say that I see some light at the end of this diseased alimentary canal, but sadly I see only more blood and guts and whirling blades, and a hungry maw eager to choke down more, shit it out, then back down the gullet again.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Moderation IS a Vice - A Blog Against Theocracy
- Sam Harris
A little Blogging Against Theocracy today on this day when the Xtian’s mythical Holy Sacrifice moldered in His tomb before He pushed back a rock to rise and shine. Being a good liberal, I’m supposed to be tolerant, which I try to do. Unfortunately, given the way many Americans demand that you “tolerate” them by letting them spew their nonsense in your face while you desperately hold onto a fixed smile, most of my “toleration” consists of walking away. Cowardly, yes, but giving it back to a fundie will often result in being surrounded, caught in a crossfire, as “moderate” Xtians leap to the nutjob’s defense when I can’t take his superstitious babbling anymore.
To be frank, the so-called “moderate” or “mainline” religionists drive me almost as nuts as the fundies do. They are descendents of the same “good people” who have enabled theocrats and religious bullies throughout history. They made those evils possible, more concerned with maintaining their comfortable lives, their cozy little social networks, than with real justice for ALL of their fellows.
They are apologists, protectors and shields for the intolerant people more devout than themselves, and history has shown time and again that they too feel the wrath of the extremist believers once the targeted “heathen” and “others” are dealt with. It is a pattern repeated over and over throughout history.
The problem is that wherever one stands on this continuum, one inadvertently shelters those who are more fanatical than oneself from criticism. Ordinary fundamentalist Christians, by maintaining that the Bible is the perfect word of God, inadvertently support the Dominionists—men and women who, by the millions, are quietly working to turn our country into a totalitarian theocracy reminiscent of John Calvin’s Geneva. Christian moderates, by their lingering attachment to the unique divinity of Jesus, protect the faith of fundamentalists from public scorn. Christian liberals—who aren’t sure what they believe but just love the experience of going to church occasionally—deny the moderates a proper collision with scientific rationality. And in this way centuries have come and gone without an honest word being spoken about God in our society. - Sam Harris
Take that nut Bill Donohue, selective in his outrage, vomiting hatred and bigotry in the name of his God, yet from other Christians, for the most part, one hears only deafening silence. He appears before eager cameras, and time and again his threats and bluster result in him getting what he wants. I found one example this past week of a Christian willing to call him what he was, over at Crooks & Liars:
"As a Christian, a Catholic Priest, I stand in opposition to any and all hateful speech used by anyone, especially when they do so in the name of Jesus. I do not believe that one can claim to be a disciple of Jesus and at the same time deride, mock, insult, or threaten violence against another person. Mr. Donohue clearly makes hateful remarks as well as violent comments towards Mr. Cavallaro and as such he insults God, his fellow Catholics and humanity for that point.
Proclaiming the Salvation of Jesus means that we are to refrain from such vile speech. One cannot preach the love of Jesus while cursing one’s neighbor. The two cannot co-exist. To continually use hateful, crude, violent language is indicative of what dwells within one’s heart. Mr. Donohue speaks only for himself and not the Catholic Church.”
Would that quote be okay? I am a pretty low key person and I strive to be a force of unity and healing in the parishes I serve. I just do not want to become yet another screaming voice like Mr. Donohue.
Such a mild denunciation, especially considering that Donohue enjoys overt support from other extremist Catholics and figures on the American right. Guys like Donohue keep the coffers full, keep politicians on the religious bandwagon, keep anybody who fights back or questions on their heels. For every priest like Father Gatlain who actually seem to have read the Sermon on the Mount and other Scriptures that call for sacrifice and servitude, there are countless others who revel in the gilt and ermine, who care little for the poor, who revel in the political power of a church that worships Mammon and power more than the fairy tale it purportedly presents.
To protect their privilege and comfort, moderates enable and protect zealots like Donohue and other extremists far more dangerous than he. This is true in all cultures with religious extremists.
First, on my frustration with religious moderates, to which you alluded: It is true that your colleagues in the religious middle have taught me to appreciate the candor and the one-note coherence of religious fanatics. I have found that whenever someone like me or Richard Dawkins criticizes Christians for believing in the imminent return of Christ, or Muslims for believing in martyrdom, religious moderates claim that we have caricatured Christianity and Islam, taken “extremists” to be representative of these “great” faiths, or otherwise overlooked a shimmering ocean of nuance. We are invariably told that a mature understanding of the historical and literary contexts of scripture renders faith perfectly compatible with reason, and our attack upon religion is, therefore, “simplistic,” “dogmatic,” or even “fundamentalist.” As a frequent target of such profundities, I can attest that they generally come moistened to a sickening pablum by great sighs of condescension. Present company excluded.
But there are several problems with such a defense of moderate religion. First, many moderates assume that religious “extremism” is rare and therefore not all that consequential. Happily, you are not in this camp, but I would venture that you are in a minority among religious moderates. As you and I both know, religious extremism is not rare, and it is hugely consequential. Forty-four percent of Americans believe that Jesus will return to earth to judge the living and the dead sometime in the next fifty years. This idea is extreme in almost every sense—extremely silly, extremely dangerous, extremely worthy of denigration—but it is not extreme in the sense of being rare. The problem, as I see it, is that moderates don’t tend to know what it is like to be truly convinced that death is an illusion and that an eternity of happiness awaits the faithful beyond the grave. They have, as you say, “integrated doubt” into their faith. Another way of putting it is that they have less faith—and for good reason. The result, however, is that your fellow moderates tend to doubt that anybody ever really is motivated to sacrifice his life, or the lives of others, on the basis his heartfelt religious beliefs. Moderate doubt—which I agree is an improvement over fundamentalist certitude in most respects—often blinds its host to the reality and consequences of full-tilt religious lunacy. Such blindness is now particularly unhelpful, given the hideous collision with Islamic certainty that is unfolding all around us.
Second, many religious moderates imagine, as you do, that there is some clear line of separation between extremist and moderate religion. But there isn’t. Scripture itself remains a perpetual engine of extremism: because, while He may be many things, the God of the Bible and the Qur’an is not a moderate. Read scripture more closely and you do not find reasons for religious moderation; you find reasons to live like a proper religious maniac—to fear the fires of hell, to despise nonbelievers, to persecute homosexuals, etc. Of course, one can cherry-pick scripture and find reasons to love your neighbor and turn the other cheek, but the truth is, the pickings are pretty slim, and the more fully one grants credence to these books, the more fully one will be committed to the view that infidels, heretics, and apostates are destined to be ground up in God’s loving machinery of justice. - Sam Harris
The fake certitude of religion periodically pulls societies toward extremism, toward abandoning the very things which more moderate believers claim to support. This culture, awash in greed, a violent nation within and without, lacking in forgiveness or redemption, a nation of torturers and bullies and brutes. This “Christian” nation worships power and death. This sad truth, this terrible flower, has sprouted from the manure of belief, and moderates have watered its growth by stopping the rest of us from washing it away.
If a person gets comfort from some faith or superstition, that is an understandable support system for those who just can’t contemplate the fact that our understanding and control of this vast universe is limited. If a person’s faith informs their life, helps them to codify how to act humanely with people different than themselves, then I suppose that is a Good Thing. While I personally have embraced the uncertainty, love the glimpses of the workings of the universe revealed by reason and science, take comfort from the understanding offered by art and philosophy, I certainly don’t begrudge others finding their way through life however they can. What I do reject is people using their faith and superstition to bully OTHERS into acting in accordance with the believers’ comfort and demands, and I strenuously reject the mollycoddling of those extremists by so-called moderates more concerned with their own tenuous beliefs than in fairness and justice. Moderates grease the skids in the slide toward theocracy, and it’s far-past time for them to understand that.
The first freedom we need if this nation is to live up to what it says it believes in its founding documents is:
The founders of our nation believed that all Americans should have the right to worship according to their own beliefs, or not to worship at all. So strong was their commitment to religious freedom that they enshrined it in the first sentence of the Bill of Rights.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”
This constitutional guarantee is often known as the “first freedom.”
Religion is a deeply personal matter. Americans must be free to practice their religion without coercion. Government exists to provide for the general well-being of all people, and its workings must be independent of specific religious doctrines. Simply put, there must be a separation of church and state. - First Freedom First
THAT is the battle “moderates” should be fighting, for if the extremists they protect win, the moderates will be next on their list.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Reaping the Whirlwind
(AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
I can be glad at the release of the British sailors while also being disgusted by the rampant hypocrisy demonstrated by the US, UK and the western media:
British sailors, who spent 13 days in Iranian custody, said today they confessed to entering Iran’s territory only after their captors kept them blindfolded in isolation and threatened them with seven years in prison.
Blindfolded ... what, no black hoods?
"We were interrogated most nights, and presented with two options,” he said. “If we admitted we had strayed, we would be on a plane back to the U.K. soon. If we didn’t, we faced up to seven years in prison.
“We all at one time or another made a conscious decision to make a controlled release of nonoperational information,” he said.
It seems to me they were offered far more options than thousands of other poor souls. THIS is why the Geneva Conventions are important ... and why the selective attention paid to them by the US and UK is so dangerous, so damaging. Do a google search for sailors, geneva, conventions and you’ll be treated to a long list of links to mostly winger websites beating their chests about Geneva Convention violations during this standoff, yet actual legal experts say it’s not that clear. Still, considering the western aggressors frequent parading of detainies before cameras, filming Saddam getting checked over like a horse at a vet, this complaint stinks of double standards. The west, of course, argues that THOSE people aren’t subject to the Conventions because they aren’t members of an uniformed army, or whatever other justification they’re using these days, but the Iranians make the same argument, claiming that the Brits were trespassing in territorial waters. This is the ground that has been laid before us by the Bush and Blair governments.
The sailors were held for two weeks. Detainees at Gitmo and other western prisons, secret and otherwise, have been held for years, been tortured, denied access to family and legal counsel, subjected to interogation techniques that make the “mind games” played by the Iranians look like a children’s game. As the Iraq War continues to spin out of control, as widening conflict is threatened by a sociopath with his finger hovering over the button, these types of conflicts are only going to increase, the danger of other countries adopting OUR inhumane and unjust conduct to advance their own agendas. The modern rules of war were developed to try to slow down just this sort of escalation, to try and cajole belligerants to NOT trade tit or monstrous tat.
I am glad these young men and woman are back to their families, and more glad that they weren’t waterboarded, locked away under bright lights, subjected to a continuous din of loud music, forced to watch their religious objects defiled, led around with blacked-out goggles over their eyes and sound-dampening earphones. Lucky for them, it wasn’t the US government holding them.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
40 Years Today ... We Still Haven't Learned
Forty years ago someone Americans claim as a hero gave an important speech, a speech with which Dr. King tried to save us from ourselves:
"A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
The American people all-but ignored that speech. The government ramped up its pressure on Dr. King and his movement. He tried to warn us, tried to tell us that it’s not just racism, not just classism, but rather an entire structure of exploitation, death and war. An imperial system, a parasitic system, where the few suckle on the life’s blood and the resources of the many.
Forty years ago today, he tried to warn us, to wake us up, to make us take responsibility for a government that we are supposedly sovereign over.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
We didn’t listen to his lesson. WE launched more wars, robbed more people on their journey down life’s highway. We continue to suck more out of the Earth we depend upon while demanding that others conserve. We humiliate and torture and kill while demanding that others treat our lives, our wants as sacred.
Forty years ago today, he tried as a fellow to warn us, to coax us down a better path, to call to the angels of our natures, not our demons. Thirty-nine years ago yesterday, he gave his final speech:
Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee—the cry is always the same: “We want to be free."
Thirty-nine years ago yesterday he asked us to respond to those pleas for freedom. For every year since we’ve continued to pour out our weaponry onto the world’s markets, trained torturers, funded dictatorial regimes, bombed and sanctioned and lectured and attacked the world’s peoples.
We haven’t listened, and over the last several years we’ve become even more criminal, more brutal, more hypocritical. Instead of learning from Dr. King’s teachings, we’ve merely transformed him into some soft and easy-to-"respect" Magic Negro, and ever since supposed liberals in this country have paid only lip service to his words, settling for the easy while continuing to enable our arms dealers, arm our War Department, to support blindly the imprecations of Israel, of the dictators of Guatamala and Iraq and Panama and El Salvador.
Forty years ago today he pleaded with us to choose a better path. Thirty-nine years ago today one of us murdered him. You might want to claim that James Earl Ray wasn’t “one of us”, but if you’re honest, if you turn on Fox “News” or talk radio or listen to that guy raving the next cube over, you KNOW that he is. We have moved even further right than we were on that fateful day. Far too many of us have moved past the betrayal of our silence and joined in with the mob’s cries for blood and destruction. The rest of us seem powerless to stop it.
I hope, forty years from now, that we will have learned those lessons. I hope that somehow those words from the past will finally break through, finally wake us up. I wish I was more optimistic.