OBAMONSANTO AND OTHER INCONVENIENT TRUTHS

7 07 2012

A few months back, President Obama announced a three billion dollar  U.S. initiative “to help Africa feed itself, “which is a noble goal, but the devil was all over his details.  The first detail to note is that three billion dollars is a third of one percent of our country’s military budget.  About one day of our military spending to help the starving Africans.  Whoopee!

There were two major prongs to this plan. Two-thirds of the money,  (That’s about sixteen hours worth of military spending.)will be given to a European chemical company to build a fertilizer factory in Africa, which would use natural gas to create massive quantities of ammonium nitrate, which is a powerful explosive as well as a fertilizer.  (Remember the Oklahoma City Federal Building?  The first attempt on the World Trade Center?).  The second prong will introduce Monsatan’s GMO seeds to African farmers, “to increase their yields.”     This from the guy whose wife scored big publicity points by putting an organic vegetable garden at the White House.

Both these prongs are going to do a lot more harm than good.  The manufacture of ammonium nitrate fertilizer is an energy-intensive, CO2-producing process whose result is a bag of white crystals that, not unlike cocaine, provide a short-term boost, but, in the long-term, have a deleterious effect–in the case of ammonium nitrate, the impoverishment of the soil to which it is applied.  The high levels of ammonia in ammonium nitrate burn out soil micro-organisms, leading to depletion of organic matter and a decrease in the soil’s fertility and ability to hold water.  The short-term solution, as with cocaine, is to apply a bigger dose of white crystals.  Sooner or later, the excess nitrogen starts leaching into the water supply, which exacerbates the problem by polluting the water and making people sick.

.  Then, too, the fertilizer must be purchased, a financial demand that can have disastrous consequences for small farmers in the third world.  We’ll look more deeply at that soon.  For now, let’s just point out that placing  increased financial pressure on cash-strapped, subsistence farmers in the name of “improving their lives” is either cynical or naive.  Time and time again, there have been demonstration projects and studies showing that the best way to improve the lives of subsistence farmers and the communities they feed is to help them find ways to increase the “circularity” of their farming, by increasing their use of local, organic inputs such as plant, animal, and human waste, and by returning to non-mechanized farming methods that require more labor and less machinery and fossil fuels.  Neither the fact that we are running out of inexpensive ways to create those white crystals, nor the fact that producing the white crystals is destroying the soil and the atmosphere, seems to enter into the calculations of those who proclaim the superiority of white-crystal style farming–f’rinstance, President Obama, or Presidential wanna-be Romney.

The second prong of the fork with which our corporatocracy wishes to stick the people of Africa is the introduction of GMO seeds.  There’s two really bad things about GMO seeds.  The first is their toll on the humans who use them, and the second is the way their use destroys the land in which they are planted.  We have only to look to India to see what the President and his cronies are promising to deliver to Africa.  What we see in India is over 200,000 small farmers driven to suicide, often by the debts they incurred to buy GMO seeds and the chemical inputs necessary to grow them–not just the aforementioned fertilizer, but herbicides and pesticides that they lack the technology to apply “safely,” even in the manufacturer’s loose terms.   Third-world farmers have traditionally saved their own seed, but it is illegal to save the patented GMO seeds, and frequently impractical as well, for, if the seed is a hybrid, it will either fail to produce fertile seed,  or fail to produce a uniform variety–but you’re not supposed to even try planting them, because they’re patented.  Intellectual property rights must be respected, y’know!   So, when Obama talks about “helping” African farmers with chemical inputs, he’s talking about inducing a rash of debt-driven suicides.  Hey, that’ll clear the playing field and help solve the overpopulation problem, right?!  More on that perverse idea later.  Back to GMO crops.

Herbicide use itself is highly problematic.  Roundup, the go-to herbicide for GMO crops, is very nonspecific in its effects.  It kills soil microflora just as readily as it kills broadleaf weeds and grasses, and thus is highly detrimental to soil.  And, just as with ammonium nitrate, its production is energy-intensive and carbon-expensive.

So, to sum up, when we strip the facade from the President’s feel-good call to help foster agriculture in Africa, we find a plan that is likely to further impoverish the continent’s vast majority of smallholders, drive them from their land, and wreak havoc with the land’s ability to support plant life.  So, who does benefit from this kind of “help”?

One group that is helped by alienating traditional people from their land base is foreign investors, both private and national, who are increasingly looking to Africa as a place to grow food to export, rather than to feed the hungry close at hand.  China and other countries are making deals with debt-pressed, cash-starved governments, deals that involve the displacement of thousands of people from millions of acres in order to grow crops that will not feed Africans.

The other big beneficiary of Obama’s policy is the Monsanto Corporation.  It is relevant to note, at this point, the “revolving door” nature of Monsanto’s relationship with the government. At least 35 individuals, representing both of the US’s major political parties, have been both on Monsanto’s payroll and the government’s, albeit not at the same time, as far as we know.  We’re talking about some big fish here–Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Hillary Clinton both worked for Monsanto when they were private practice lawyers.  Searle Chemical Company-CEO Donald Rumsfeld  (remember him?) was paid a twelve million dollar bonus by Monsanto when it acquired Searle, giving Monsanto the right to produce the carcinogenic artificial sweetener aspartame  (“Nutrasweet”). after Rummy pulled strings to get it approved for human use, but that’s another story.

The Africa deal is not the only example of  Obama’s–and our whole government’s– apparent willingness to go to bat for Monsanto.    Attempts to pass laws allowing labeling of GMO foods, dairy products containing bovine growth hormones, and limiting the spread of GMO seeds have been shot down, and research suggesting that their widespread use might have serious negative effects has been suppressed., both in the current administration and the last several governments, no matter who was supposedly in charge.

Monsanto’s willingness to play with both major US political parties leads to another question.  Should we really blame Barack Obama for all this?  Or is he a genuinely well-intentioned guy, who thought he could make change happen by being elected President, but found, when he arrived, that his real role was to play spokesman for an unelected shadow government?  As Robert Anton Wilson put it, “was the new President shown a video of the Kennedy assassination from an angle he’d never seen it from before, and told ‘you’ve got a nice family.  Play along with us and nobody gets hurt.’”?  Perhaps.  A friend of mine who is an old smoking buddy of Al Gore’s tells me that Al told him in 1992 that Al and Bill knew the office they were running for was more ceremonial than executive, but they hoped to be able to make a slight difference in the direction of things.  We all know how that turned out.   (And remember, Gore had already written and become somewhat famous for  Earth in the Balance, which, along with Albert Bates’ Climate in Crisis was one of the first books to call popular attention to the mess we are tangled in now.)  Perhaps frustration with his figurehead status accounts for Gore’s lackluster run for President in 2000 and his subsequent flowering, at a convenient distance from politics.

So, maybe Barack Obama regrets his decision to become a kinder, gentler  face for the corporatocracy than Dick Cheney and that guy he was with, but we may never know, because, like Clinton and Gore before him, he fears for his safety and his family’s safety far too much to ever spill those beans.

But, whatever the unspeakable truth may be about Barack Obama’s motivations and intentions, the inconvenient truth is that the African policy for which he is at the very least serving as a charming mouthpiece is not a policy that will benefit Africa.  It is just another corporate iron hand in another velvet glove, grabbing for what’s left of the wealth of the continent that gave birth to us all, a corporate iron hand that doesn’t care who or what it crushes as long as it ends up with a fistful of dollars.  And that’s the inconvenient truth about the Obama administration’s “African initiative.”

music:  Terry Allen, “Big Ol’ White Boys





IT TAKES THE LACK OF A VILLAGE TO RAISE A JARED LOUGHNER

12 02 2011

Well, I suppose I owe Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly and all those guys an apology.  When I first heard the news about Jared Loughner’s shooting spree, it seemed natural to blame the hysterical gaggle of right-wing rabble-rousers who have come to dominate our national discourse.  So, sorry, guys, for my knee-jerk reaction.  Jared is not one of yours.  In fact, it seems to me he could just as easily have shot John McCain.

After all, when you get beyond the blustering rhetoric,  tea partiers and neo-liberal Democrats are both part of the problem, not part of the solution, and I think Jared Loughner’s perception of the problem–the meaninglessness and irrelevance of government–was, in some ways, 20-20.  It’s his solution that was deeply flawed.  His “logic” was pretty schizophrenic, and violence? Violence, like mainstream politics, is part of the problem and not part of the solution.  But nobody was close enough to Jared to convince him of either the flaws in his logic or the futility of violence.

Several fingers have been pointed in the search for the answer to how this young man came to shoot 18 people.  Some say it means Arizona’s gun laws are too loose.  Some say it means the “mental health safety net” is stretched too thin.  And some say the fact that he smoked marijuana means that we need to tighten up our drug laws.  I think all of these miss the point.

Tighter gun laws?  As long as firearms are being manufactured, there will be a market for them.  If it becomes more difficult to buy guns legally, there will be a bigger black market, and they will be even more out of control than they are now.  Look at the war on drugs, for an example.

“Better mental health care” is another non-solution.  Mental health care in America has become largely a way for the pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs and make more profits.  Judging by the record, hese pharmaceuticals don’t seem to be very effective in keeping people from going on shooting sprees, nor have so-called “mental health professionals” been able to spot those with the potential to run amok.

Jared’s use of marijuana, likewise, is no reason to tighten up marijuana laws.  After all, President Obama, ex-President Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, and Clarence Thomas all used marijuana when they were more or less Jared’s age.  If marijuana helped make Jared what he is, it also helped make them what they are–for better or for worse.

But the mental health and marijuana issues do intertwine to point to how Jared Loughner ended up going off the deep end.

Jared and his entire generation are staring into the void.  There is no imaginable decent future for them, and many, many of them are painfully aware of that.  The American dream of a house in the suburbs, a plethora of consumer goods and high-end vacations, and a no-sweat job that pays the bills is increasingly hollow and unattainable.  The college education our youth are urged into as “preparation for life” is a debt trap, which cannot even be shed by bankruptcy.   Politicians, including Gabrielle Giffords, do not address this; they spout meaningless platitudes and dodge the real issues.  Jared is not alone in noticing this, by any means.

So, how does this relate to mental health and marijuana?

Several ways.  First, unless Jared was growing his own, he was getting his marijuana from a dealer.  If you are engaged in the illegal business of selling marijuana, in order to protect your own ass, you need to make sure that all your customers are sane and responsible enough that they will not get you in trouble.  Clearly, whoever was selling herb to Jared Loughner was being far too “whatever” about his customers.

The dealer’s responsibility to vouch for his customers’ state of mind is about the only shred of the wisdom tradition that is still attached to marijuana culture in this country.

You’re probably wondering what I mean by talking about “wisdom tradition” with reference to marijuana.  Here it is:  in cultures in which cannabis is historically embedded, marijuana use occurs in certain contexts.  In India, for example, many people only use cannabis when they are visiting their spiritual teacher, to make their minds more open to his influence.  However it is used, a tradition of thought, belief, and certain standards of behavior is passed on along with the chillum or hookah.

That is not the case in America.  Due to our restrictive, punitive drug laws and attitudes, parents and children hide their marijuana use from each other, and the wisdom chain is broken.  If Jared Loughner had lived in a culture with a better understanding of the proper use of marijuana, he would have been more likely to sort out his saner thoughts from his crazier ones, and learned not to believe everything he thinks, through the simple mechanism of long, marijuana-inspired talks with not just his peers, but his parents and other elders.

Of course, if he were in a saner culture, he wouldn’t share with most of his contemporaries the uncomfortable feeling of having nothing to grow up for.  It took the lack of a village to raise a Jared Loughner–and thousands more just like him, who have yet to bring themselves to our attention.

music: Tom Robinson, “End of the Rainbow” (written by Richard Thompson)





TRUTH IN STRANGE PLACES

10 04 2010

It’s been a while since I made any “Truth in Strange Places” awards, so I’ll make up for that by giving out three of them this month, to Nashville’s Congressman Jim Cooper, former President Bill Clinton, and current “Drug Czar” Gil Kerlikowske.

Cooper gets his award for this quote:

But when you look at TN Blue CrossBlue Shield you see a company that claims to be non-profit but just built a brand-new $400 million headquarters in Chattanooga, and they leveled a small hill to build their headquarters. And I’ve discovered the Blues(BCBS) nationwide get a billion dollars every year from the federal government. You see those sort of abuses and you think, ‘Can’t we do better than this?’ There are countless tens of thousands of people in our area and millions across Tennessee who need a fairer, better deal. Why can’t we do that? Truth is, the insurance lobby has the most powerful lobby in all of American history. They’re so powerful there really isn’t an oversight committee in Congress. They got in 1946 a provision that basically banned congressional oversight, which is the catbird seat if you’re an industry. Very few industries if any have had that sort of privilege. Plus they get exemption from antitrust laws. I think they should be competitive, private businesses — not favored with all these government perks, and that’s the way they’ve been for a long time.

Thanks for coming so  close to telling like it is, Jim, even if you don’t agree with me that these corporate persons deserve capital punishment for contributing to the death and suffering of so many  real human beings.

And Bill Clinton?

He called U.S. free trade policies in Haiti, which helped destroy the country’s ability to feed itself and pushed hundreds of thousands of people out of the countryside and into the cities, as well as into illegal immigration to the U.S., “a devil’s bargain,” and said

Since 1981, the United States has followed a policy, until the last year or so when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food, so, thank goodness, they can leap directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else.

Of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as this country’s interference in Haiti, not to mention all the other blowback from NAFTA, which he campaigned against as a candidate but then supported as President.  (Barack Obama is not the first Democrat who ran to the left and governed to the right!)  NAFTA, after all, had the same consequences in Mexico and the rest of Latin America as it did in Haiti, collapsing self-sufficient local economies and displacing millions of people, who went streaming to the big cities of their own countries and across borders to this country, where the Faux News approach has been to blame these refugees for what our government did to them. Blame the vicitim….right.

And lastly, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, when interviewed, of all places, on Faux News, about the possibility that California might legalize and tax not just medical but all marijuana use, responded

Why would anybody pay taxes on a substance you can grow in your back yard?

Good point, Gil.  Let’s hear it for the local option!  That’s all for tonight!

Greg Brown–Spring Wind






HANK AND BILL’S EXCELLENT BLACKMAIL SCHEME

12 10 2008

It was a blackmail scheme, for sure.  “THIS IS A SERIOUS CRISIS!  Give us what we want or we’ll trash the economy, (and maybe declare martial law)  THIS IS A SERIOUS CRISIS,” was the mantra of all the talking heads in the Bush junta–hardly the way to calm a serious crisis, more like the way to fan the flames.   Congress blinked, and gave them the money, and agreed to overlook the fact that Paulson and Bernanke (and their godfather, Alan Greenspan) were the ones who ran the economy into the ground in the first place.

If Bernanke and Paulson had a shred of integrity, they would have offered their resignations.  If they were traditional Japanese, they would have committed seppuku….(hey, I can dream, can’t I?) but no, they’re neocon men from Wall Street, aka American Fascists, so they just asked for more money. That’s a fundamental rule in the neocon playbook–never, ever, ever admit that you screwed up.  No way anything they did could have been what trashed the economy, nossir.

They admitted that $700 billion was a number they pretty much pulled out of their asses. They even admitted that this was something they’d seen coming for a while.  But somehow that didn’t matter when they said, “pay up NOW, on THESE TERMS or we’re all screwed!”  (even though they’re not actually going to start handing the money out until mid-November!)  They had America by the short hairs and everybody knew it, and so the Senate and ultimately the House  squawked and grumbled and grew the proposal from three pages to over four hundred, with a few half-assed conditions thrown in, plus a lot of bribes to get people to feel a little better about the whole ugly mess–a hundred and fifty billion dollars worth of tax breaks for everything from toy wooden arrows to solar panels.  Talk about perversion!

But hey, if they didn’t, Bush might declare martial law–after all, Congress gave him the power, since he was gracious enough to ask for it, and a brigade of US Army regulars has recently been reassigned to the US from Iraq, and are busy training in “non-lethal crowd control”–rubber bullets and tasers, which have proved lethal to plenty of people in their time. Uhh..anybody seen the Posse Comitatus act lately? Hmmm……but there’s no significance to that, no, none at all….just give us the money in small, unmarked bills, like what you gave us for Iraq…..

And what did these neo-con artists propose to buy with our seven hundred billion dollars?  Worthless assets that banks created and got stuck with in the course of the Ponzi scheme that has been the American economy ever since Bill Clinton crammed NAFTA down our throats and America’s manufacturing economy literally went south.

Seven hundred billion dollars worth of bad mortgages.  Seven hundred billion dollars for overvalued, trashed-out, abandoned houses, many of which would not sell for a dollar at public auction.  Houses that it will cost money just to tear down.  Actually, the financial instruments are so Byzantine that owning the debt on the house may not convey title to the house, so that means we’re not even getting the lot under a trashed-out house, we’re just getting a piece of paper, and good luck ever selling it for anything besides making “Save your CDO certificates/The United States Will Rise Again!” posters.

Hank and Bill will be generous with our money, giving the poor bankers whatever price they claim those mortgages are worth, but basically, Congress voted to spend seven hundred billion dollars on–nothing.  We couldn’t afford thirty-five billion for childrens’ health care.  We can’t afford to take proper care of Iraq war veterans.  We can’t afford to rebuild our country’s infrastructure in a way that will mute the effects of climate change.  We can’t afford health coverage for all.  None of those things we really need will cost seven hundred billion dollars, all would have a clear payback, and in fact will save not only our money but our asses to the tune of far more than seven hundred billion dollars, but we can’t afford them.

Seven hundred billion dollars is what we spend every year on imported oil, and we can afford that.  Seven hundred billion dollars is about a quarter of what the war in Iraq is likely to cost us, maybe less than a quarter. The tax cuts for the wealthy that the Bush junta pushed through have cost the government about four hundred billion dollars a year since 2003, for a total of two trillion dollars and counting, but none of the high muckamucks in our government seem to have any qualms about the cost of any of that.  Hey, that’s all money into (or at least not out of) their pockets, and besides, they own the presses, they can print more dollars if they need ‘em.  Sure, they’ll be worth less (worthless?  or just worth less?  who knows!), and foreign governments and other investors may be a lot less interested in taking them, but the asses of the wealthy have been covered, and that’s what counts to the neo con-men.  They will all be going off to someplace safe, leaving you and me to go down with the ship–and the bills.

Oh, and just in case Obama gets elected and has any ideas about doing anything creative, this will tie his hands, just like his pledge to continue the “war on terror” by escalating in Afghanistan will tie his feet.  Smooth move, Mr. Rove!

There are a few sops thrown into this bill.  Some of them could mitigate the chilling effect this bill will have on our national budget, if Obama’s government is progressive and courageous and not just a replay of the Democratic Leadership Council-led Clinton years that set us up for this mess.  Now, maybe I’m crazy to expect courage from the Democrats at this point, but if Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury has the nerve, he can, instead of buying bad bank assets at high prices, buy preferred stock in the banks, so that the government will then own them in exchange for bailing them out.  As bank owners, the government can change bank policy–and fire the scheming, selfish jerks–I mean executives–who got us into this mess.  Paulson has this option, too, but you can bet he won’t take it.  He’s not gonna sell his banker buddies down the river.  From all indications, Obama is going to feel the same way–his main economic adviser is Jason Furman, who thinks Walmart has been great for the economy and free trade is a wonderful thing.  La-la land stuff, y’know?

The bill also suggests that banks could renegotiate their nonperforming loans and mark them down to the real value of the homes involved, but that’s like asking Dracula to pretty please quit sucking the blood out of people.  He ain’t gonna do it.

If they wanted to provide some real relief, they could have outlawed eviction, directing banks to negotiate a reasonable rent with folks who can’t make their mortgage payments.  They didn’t do that.  They could have loosened up our country’s newly draconian bankruptcy laws, which Joe Biden championed and which make it all but impossible for individuals to get out of debt,  but they didn’t.  Individuals need to take responsibility for their actions, but big rich banks can count on having the government to fall back on.  That seems to be the lesson here.

Oh, by the way, one of the main reasons people fall behind on their house payments, besides losing their jobs due to corporate downsizing, is falling into debt and out of work due to serious illness or injury and consequent serious medical debts, even with insurance.  But we are not going there, people, we can’t afford to do anything about that, no way–we got rich bankers to bail out–they’re more important than you common folk, dontcha know?

Congress capped the income and bonus payments to the top five executives in companies that accept a certain level of federal help, but you can bet there are loopholes in that provision.  They also kept in most of Paulson’s original bid for dictatorial powers, saying that he could only be challenged legally if Constitutional grounds are involved.

What the bill does not admit is that home prices in this country are seriously inflated, and need to come down to reflect reality.  The other thing this bill does not admit is that there are going to be more economic crises after this one, and the government has just used its last ammunition.  In fact, as I write this, the headlines tell me the Down Joe average is, yep, down seriously, and that more economies around the world are in trouble.

Whatever comes next, we as a nation are now too strapped to do anything about it.  Make sure you’re stocked up on food and have a way to cook it, and get set for some real fun.

music:  James McMurtry, “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore





LIARS’ CLUB

5 10 2006

It’s been quite a month for lies…but what else can you expect from a government that sets itself apart from “the reality based community”?

For openers, there was historical fiction in the form of ABC’s “docudrama” on 9-11, which made it look like Bill Clinton was too distracted by his infatuation with Monica Lewinsky to do anything about 9-11. Bill rightly defended himself on Fox news, of all places, by pointing out that all the Republicans who are now excoriating him for letting Osama get away are the ones who were making all the fuss about Monica and pooh-poohing his attempts to kill Bin Laden, and that the Bush administration totally dropped the ball on all those efforts until after 9-11 “took them by surprise,” if indeed it was a surprise to them.

Another lie about 9-11 that surfaced was the EPA’s claim that air quality at ground zero after the blast was good enough to allow most people to work without respiratory protection. Now we find that the vast majority of those who helped clean up the twin towers are suffering from serious lung problems. What was the “Support the Troops” crew’s response to this? They killed Hillary Clinton’s move to earmark two billion dollars to help these people with their health problems. Some support. And, speaking of supporting the troops, they’ve been cutting soldiers’ access to body armor (by outlawing private body armor) and shrinking the Veterans’ Administration’s health programs. Support our troops, right. War is peace. Freedom is slavery.

The lies they told about Iraq—threat to the region, weapons of mass destruction, involvement with international terrorism, repressive government that needs to be toppled so democracy can flourish—have resulted in the deaths of as many Americans as died at the twin towers, the deaths of at least as many Iraqis as Saddam took out, a recruiting bonanza for terrorists, and a failing state in Iraq, a country where now, no one is safe. As one Iraqi commented, “Under Saddam, you knew that if you minded your own business, you wouldn’t be bothered. Now, death can come to anyone at any time.”

Lies….the facts in the Valerie Plame case are still not entirely clear, but it is possible that those who exposed her as an undercover CIA agent weren’t even well enough acquainted with the CIA’s operations to know that she was, in fact, the point person for uncovering Iraq’s secret weapons programs, if there were any—and, apparently, there were not. And this is the place where I say, “America had as much right to invade Iraq as the Nazis had to invade Poland.”

The gang that was so eager to dump Bill Clinton for a blow job sees nothing wrong with Presidential lies that have cost hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. And they see nothing wrong with protecting one of their own who’s a pedophile, if only they can get away with it ’till after the election. Boy, they’re really gonna hafta fix them voting machines good now that Representative Foley’s little indiscretions have come to light. They say incumbents can’t lose unless they’re caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, and he’s been caught with a live boy. Chairman of the Missing and Exploited Childrens’ Caucus. Family values, yeah yeah yeah.

Now, I think some people may be going too far in not trusting the junta. There are many who question whether the twin towers were planted with demolition charges, whether the Pentagon was hit by an airliner or missile,what NORAD was doing, and so on. I think getting hung up in these kinds of details is a distraction. If there was government collusion or acquiescence in the attack, they didn’t need to be concerned about whether buildings went down, didn’t need to complicate the plot and risk exposure that way—just needed to let it happen—maybe they didn’t think the buildings would come down, maybe that part of the tragedy genuinely surprised and saddened them—things got out of hand. Certainly the continuing exposure of how many warnings were willfully ignored (the CIA’s counterterrorism chief saying “we held a gun to Condi Rice’s head and did everything but pull the trigger”) suggests that they could have known about it and wanted it to happen—or were they just too preoccupied to notice? In either case, they should be criminally liable.

And of course their response since the attack has been nothing short of bizarre. Banning toothpaste from airliners? Seriously, evidence continues to mount regarding the number of individuals kidnapped, tortured, detained, and even killed who had nothing to do with any terrorism. For example, a number of the detainees at Guantanamo are ethnic Uigurs from northwestern China, who had to leave China for their own safety after unsuccessfully opposing the Chinese takeover of their homeland. They saw themselves as fighting for an American kind of freedom—but they were strangers in Pakistan where the US was offering bounties for terrorists, and somebody saw them as easy money and turned them in for the bounty. They didn’t have families who would seek revenge, y’know? And so now they’re in Guantanamo, and the American government they once admired wants to make sure they don’t get out.

Through all this, Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, et al have insisted that there are important secrets that must be kept and that is why none of their policies can be challenged. I think the most important secret they are trying to keep is what a bunch of incompetent, selfish, lying traitors they are. Let’s put them in Guantanamo and see how they like it!

Well, gee whiz (there I go again!), that’s a dangerous statement to make—because their response to the mounting criticism of their incompetence and venality has been to pass a law that essentially makes it illegal to criticize them. While the recent bill was promoted for its provisions stripping non-citizens of their rights, it also allows the President, or anyone he designates, to deem American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” and detain us without any rights, subject us to torture, including detaining our children and torturing them in front of us. I’m not making that up, folks. John Yoo, one of the chief framers of the junta’s torture polices, admitted as much in a public debate.

It looks to me like we are dealing with people who read 1984 and decided Big Brother was cool and Winston Smith was a dumb sucker who should have kept his head down.

The way this bill is written, Cindy Sheehan is subject to indefinite detention. Congressman John Murtha is subject to indefinite detention. Shame on the Democrats who voted for this bill. Shame on the ones who didn’t, but traded the possibility of a filibuster away for the chance to try to amend the bill to soften its impact. They’re making such noble, outraged noises. They should have rushed the podium or set fire to the furniture or at least demanded to be the first ones detained. Let’s get something clear—the junta doesn’t need torture provisions to get info from Middle Easterners—they know you don’t get reliable information from people by torturing them– they need the threat of torture to intimidate Americans. Everybody knows what weenies we are.

Gonzalez says that the 9-11 attacks constitute an invasion and therefore the government has the right to suspend habeus corpus. That statement is so fantastic that I hardly need to say anything about it except that if this guy wasn’t rich and in the government, he’d be on court-ordered meds.

I HAVE PLEDGED ALLEGIANCE TO THE REPUBLIC—NOT THE REPUBLICANS!!!

They have abrogated this country’s obligations under the Geneva conventions, which makes America an outlaw country. We are just as hijacked as the people in those jets five years ago, just as hijacked as the good citizens of Germany when Hitler pushed though a similar law in 1933.

Will there be a “Night of the Long Knives” to purge the GOP of Foley, Log Cabin Republicans, and anyone else antithetical to the “family values” crowd?

How many shopping days ’till Kristallnacht?

And what about Stalingrad and the Battle of Berlin?

music: REM, “Welcome to the Occupation





KENNEDY SWINGS FOR THE FENCES

15 07 2006

Last month, Robert Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and scion of the Massachusetts Kennedy clan, created quite a stir by publishing, in Rolling Stone magazine, an article meticulously detailing the ways in which he thought the Republican party had illegally altered the outcome of our most recent Presidential election. This is a subject that has generated a lot of conspiracy theory; but Kennedy, a lawyer, included in his article only the material that, as he put it, might “convince a jury.” Going further, in an online interview with PR magazine, he said “I’ve been meeting with attorneys … to devise a litigation strategy. And I would say that very soon we’ll be announcing lawsuits against some of the individuals and companies involved.” Of course, he declined to identify just who the objects of those suits might be.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of his chances of actually prevailing in such a lawsuit, I’d like to speculate on just what kind of relief he could ask for. If the Bush junta stole the election, what then?

Is the next move impeachment?

I don’t think so. Only a legitimately elected president can be impeached, and if Bobby Kennedy prevails, that would mean that George Bush is not the legitimate President of the United States. And that’s where it gets both extremely sticky and very, very exciting, because if he is not and has not been the legitimate President of the United States, then it seems to me that none of his acts—wars, laws, signing statements, judicial appointments—from the Supreme Court on down—nothing the executive branch of the United States government has done in the last four or possibly eight years—has any legal standing. We step back to the laws, regulations, and appointees of January 19, 2001, the last day of the Clinton Administration. That’s what I think.

Now, I don’t have a great opinion of Bill Clinton, though for different reasons than a lot of people. In fact, I think having a few orgasms in the Oval Office was probably one of the best things he did for the country. I agree with the wag who said, “Bill Clinton was the best Republican President this country has ever had.” He kept the lid on Al Gore, for openers. He escalated the drug wars, which resulted in the disenfranchisement of enough Florida voters to cost Al the 2000 election. Bill was a knavish politician who danced, as Lyndon Johnson put it, with them that brung him. This country dozed through the nineties when we could have moved forward.

But it’s someplace to start from. It’s a way to slice through the Gordian knot the Republifacists have tied this country in over the last eight years—let’s face it, if we don’t find a way to undo at one stroke everything Bush, Incorporated has screwed up, it will take another eight years of hard Congressional action to undo it all, with denial and rearguard actions coming from the Republifascist minority all the way, and a hostile Supreme Court—remember, abortion was just a smokescreen to distract everybody’s attention from Roberts and Mussalito’s pro-corporate and unitary executive views.

And that would put us another eight years behind, when the planet is in such crisis that there is scarcely a moment to lose. And I’m being an optimist, I suspect, to think the Demopublicans would have the spine, stomach, and attention for that kind of work. Merely letting bygones be bygones and carrying on as if it was just a minor unpleasant episode that we can put behind us will not work, though this is the path favored by most Democrats, who found Kennedy’s story as welcome as the Downing Street Memos or Ned Lamont, an act of denial as neurotic as the whole Republican lifestyle that Mr. Cheney has declared to be non-negotiable.

Listen up—I’m going to say a four-letter word on the air. Are you ready? Here it comes: COUP.

C-O-U-P—COUP. How long ’till the FCC bans that one for indecency? Coup—do you get it? We had a COUP in this country in the year 2000. I believe Al Gore looked at the idea of fighting it, realized he’d have a thoroughly antagonistic Congress to wrestle with even if he made his claim on the Presidency, and just figured, “screw it, give ‘em enough rope and they’ll hang themselves.” Besides, he knew he had skeletons in his closet that a Republicfascist dominated Congress would totally obsess on.

How hostile would Congress have been? I’m willing to bet the people who brought us Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky would have launched a full-scale investigation of Gore’s marihuana use in the 70′s—hey, if it kept Bork off the Supreme Court it should keep Al out of the Presidency, right? Aren’t we a nation of laws, not men? They had ya by the balls, Al, didn’t they? No wonder he wants to stay out of politics!

But I digress. It boils down to that there was a coup in this country in 2000 (and a Reichstag fire at the twin towers the next year to seal the deal), and the only way to undo it is to recognize it for what it was and take the appropriate, if drastic, steps. We have to get rid of the whole mess at one stroke.

So, as I was saying, what are Bobby Kennedy’s chances of finding a court that will open this can of worms? I don’t think they’re very good, but maybe he can. The U.S. Supreme Court, as hand-picked as Bush, his daddy, and uncle Ron could make it, has just surprised everyone by ruling that the Bush junta has to play by Geneva rules. In effect that makes George, Dick, and Don prosecutable as war criminals, if anyone has the cojones to follow through. Hey, they had as much right to invade Iraq as Hitler had to invade Poland. But making the junta play fair with its captives is a far cry from calling it out on a technical foul. I don’t believe the Supremes will be willing to rock that boat.

Where could Kennedy’s suit get a fair hearing? The International Court of Justice in the Hague has had brave and outspoken things to say about America’s conduct on a number of occasions, but they do not have a police force, let alone an army, to back up their decisions, rendering them, alas, moot.

So, I wish Bobby Kennedy Jr. and his lawsuit well. I hope he does not meet the fate of his illustrious, ill-starred, psychedelic uncles. (WHAT did I just say!? never mind…I’ll tell you that story some other time…) This is a complex and mysterious world, especially when we are seeking to right massive injustice. Things do not always proceed according to the plans of the powerful, but sometimes we must speak the truth whether we think it will change the world or not. Bobby, I’m with you. I’m putting my weird shoulder to the wheel.

music:  Joan Baez–”Carry It On








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 608 other followers

%d bloggers like this: