BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME

8 08 2015

In some ways, our government’s shift to the use of drones for a lot of the “dirty work” of the “War on Terror” has been a publicity godsend.  Sure, the U.S. is still committing war crimes, but look at the up side: because “our boys” (and girls, now, too) don’t have to go out on so many missions that put them in harm’s way, a lot few soldiers are coming back seriously traumatized, wounded or in body bags.  Because these robot war crimes are being committed by soldiers sitting in front of video game consoles in Nevada, who kill from thousands of miles away and never have to actually experience the live reality of the deaths they cause, and because they are not subject to suicide revenge attacks by the relatives of those they have killed, fewer American troops are getting their brains twisted up by PTSD.  Because the deaths from drone strikes happen far away from the protection of American troops, American photographers are not on hand to record the atrocities created by our drone strikes.  The graphic images and horrific experiences that helped turn the American public against the Vietnam war and our full-on invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan are being neatly avoided, leaving the corporatocracy a freer hand to pursue their plan, which seems to involve killing enough Muslims to intimidate the rest into doing things our way.

 bad p.r.!

bad p.r.!

worse  P.R.!

worse P.R.!

I often wonder how long it will be until somebody who doesn’t like what our government is doing to “Islamic extremists” gets some drones of their own and uses them against us, or figures out how to hack our drones and turn our own weapons against us.  I’m sure it’s only a question of time.

hiroshimavictim

Really, really terrible p.r.!

And, speaking of time, this week we are observing the 70th anniversaries of those ultimate terrorist attacks, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Unlike Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, they were part of a great military victory for the United States, but the public relations “fallout” was awful:  the brutality of those attacks inspired a worldwide peace movement that has helped restrain the U.S. or any other country from using a nuclear weapon in warfare ever since.  What a waste of money to spend billions of dollars on weapons that public opinion won’t let our military use!

This worldwide peace movement has, unfortunately, been at its weakest here in America, where we have not had a major conflict since the middle of the 19th century.  Here in America, we have long been insulated from direct experience of the horrors of war.  Is that photo of a corpse real, or CGI?

What if there were some way to bring the consequences of war back home, back into the lives, yards, and closets of every neighborhood in America?  With that thought in mind, here’s a macabrely comic monologue, written by Joanne Forman and delivered by Ruth Fahrbach.





U.S. GOVERNMENT DROWNED IN BATHTUB!

13 08 2011

Nashville’s municipal elections are over, and to nobody’s surprise, there were few surprises.  All incumbents save one were handily re-elected,including Jason Holleman,  and the measure to obstruct sale of the Fairgrounds to a private developer was passed by a truly impressive margin.  There will be five runoff elections in September, with participation likely to be even lower than the 20% turnout for this election.  May I point out that instant runoff voting,” a system in which people get to indicate a second choice as well as a first, ends the expense and bother of delayed runoff elections?  Just sayin’, as they say.

The one incumbent who failed to make the cut was Anna Page, a fairgrounds privatization advocate whose district just happens to include the fairgrounds.  She lost by twelve votes to Tony Tenpenny, who opposed redeveloping the fairgrounds but is, alas, a political conservative.  It’s funny how people can be in touch with reality in some ways, and out of touch in others–and I’m sure there are people who say that about me–or worse.  But….losing by only twelve votes.  Think about that.  I’m sure Ms. Page is.

I actually voted against the Fairgrounds amendment, but only because it seemed to require that auto racing continue at the Fairgrounds. I view automobile racing as one of the many modern equivalents of gladiator sports, as well as a prodigious waste of precious fossil fuels and a nasty source of pollution, so, while I was in sympathy with the overall aim of the preservationists, I couldn’t see voting for something that dumb.  But I don’t mind a bit that the measure passed.  The will of the people–to keep public property public–prevailed, at least in this case.

Nationally, we were not so lucky.  In spite of overwhelming popular sentiment for higher taxes on both wealthy corporations and wealthy real people, and growing questions about the wisdom of massive military spending, the debt ceiling deal our so-called government agreed to is a complete reverse-Robin Hood measure that shifts even more of this country’s dwindling wealth from the poor and middle class to the obscenely wealthy.

Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wants to “shrink the government down to the point where we can drown it in the bathtub.”  Well, folks, that’s what happened, and we didn’t even have to elect a Republican President to do it.  Mr. Hope and Change wrung his hands and tsk-tsked, but ultimately did nothing to stop it, like an abused wife who doesn’t like it when her husband beats the kids, but isn’t going to call the police on him.  After all, he says he’s sorry and gives the kids candy, doesn’t he?

In fact, you might be excused for thinking that Obama, deep down, wouldn’t mind getting rid of that pesky kid known as “government spending for the public good.”  Not so long ago, he appointed a commission to review Social Security and Medicare, and even his supporters complained that it seemed strangely stacked against our country’s already tattered social safety net.

But, before we get into the messy details, let’s back up and remember that Democrats and Republicans unquestioningly raised the debt ceiling for the Cheney/Bush junta seven times during the eight years of the junta’s rule, nearly doubling US debt–which stood at just under $6 trillion when Bill Clinton left office, and had ballooned to $11.3T by the time Cheney left office.  And did the Republicans insist on “fiscal responsibility” in exchange for those raises?

No.  Cheney cut taxes (mostly on the wealthy) twice, floated an unfunded, enormously expensive subsidy to the prescription drug industry disguised as a way to help Medicare recipients buy the drugs they are told they need, and burned nearly a trillion dollars in the bonfires called Iraq and Afghanistan, fires that the Obama administration has cheerfully continued to feed with our tax dollars and loans from the Chinese.

The Nobel Committee must be wondering if they can revoke a Nobel Peace Prize.

I digress–like every other real solution to America’s problems, ending our spending on foreign military adventures is “off the table.”

Back to the debt ceiling/budget cuts question–the point is, that it was completely disingenuous, if not outright hypocritical, of the Republicans to suddenly stand up for “fiscal responsibility” around the issue of raising the debt ceiling.  It has never been tied to budget cuts before–and we’re talking 74 raises in the debt ceiling since 1962–that’s quite a precedent, so it’s no wonder  many of Obama’s liberal supporters were flabbergasted when he failed to challenge the Republicans on this, and instead played right into their hands.  You start to suspect he’s secretly one of them.

Look at his record.  He didn’t prosecute anybody on Wall Street for the crash–in fact, the Wall Street firms that triggered the crash are among his strongest supporters, and their executives became his closest advisers.  By contrast,  when the Savings and Loan bubble burst twenty years ago, thousands of bankers went to jail, over a financial peccadillo that was a fraction the size of the 2008 mess–$160 billion for the S&L’s,  $7.7 trillion for the subprime bubble.  Do the math–the 2008 crash was 48 times bigger than the S&L crash, and nobody went to jail.   Can’t say the bankers didn’t learn a thing or two in twenty years!  To cap it off, not only did Obama continue Bush’s policy of bailouts for the Wall Street firms who milked the economy, his program to help individuals who were losing their homes because they had been suckered into unrepayable mortgages turned out to be a useless piece of window dressing.

There’s the war crimes issue.  Obama not only took a pass on prosecuting Bush officials for atrocities they were clearly responsible for under international law, he continued and expanded those policies, including the assassination of American citizens who might be terrorists–but only ones who are out of the country, so far, so far as we know-.  What part of “innocent until proven guilty” and “right to a fair trial” does our government not understand?

When Bradley Manning tried to blow the whistle on our government’s criminal behavior, the Obama administration just put him in jail and tortured him.   Trial?  Manana.  What part of “a right to a speedy trial” does our government not understand?   And of course, Manning is only one of many who have been persecuted by this “hope and change” guy for the thoughtcrime of hoping to change questionable government behavior.

But it’s not like Obama has changed.  In one of his first Senate speeches, on the question of whether to investigate voting irregularities in Ohio that cost John Kerry the election, Obama asserted that he believed Bush had won the election fair and square and there was no need for the Senate to look into the matter, thus stiffing the Congressional Black Caucus.  That should have been enough to sink him right there, but no……

Obama wasted no time in putting GMO-pusher Monsatan–excuse me, Monsanto–in charge of the nation’s food supply by appointing Monsanto shill Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture.  Again, a totally Republican move–let the corporations run the government–“what’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”  Right.  But gee, Michelle has an organic garden at the White House–say it again, boys and girls:  “Window dressing.”

Our increasingly erratic climate is another crucial issue on which Obama’s approach has been to continue Republican policy, but with a kinder, gentler spin.  In spite of the Deepwater Horizon mess, his administration has approved the even more dangerous step of offshore drilling north of Alaska. In spite of Fukushima (not to mention Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island!), he remains committed to serious expansion of nuclear power.  After acting like he was going to slow down coal mining, which every responsible environmental scientist agrees needs to happen to keep the planet from going completely haywire, his administration has kept on approving mountain top removal mining, just like Bush (and Clinton) before him.  At Copenhagen, according to Albert Bates, who was there, Obama sabotaged the possibility of a real agreement and spun it like he had accomplished something.  This stands in sharp contrast to the Cheney-Bush approach, of course–they just sneered and hoisted the bird.  Some people loved it and some people hated it–but you know, the same is true of the public’s reaction to Obama–it’s just that the demographics of the lovers and haters has flipped.

It’s ironic–Obama is giving the Republicans everything they want, but can’t get when they’re in power.  Well, OK, abortion is still relatively legal and they said they weren’t going to defend the Defense of (Heterosexual-exclusive) Marriage Act–but ultimately, that’s just more window-dressing–and besides, they’re deporting  an Australian man who’s legally married to another man and citing DOMA as the reason.  Oh gee, they’ve declared that health insurance has to cover women’s’ birth control?  Great, if you can afford insurance–and, by the way, another subsidy for the pill-pushers.

Let’s take a music break–here’s a little James McMurtry for ya…a song called “God Bless America.”

So, the Republicans are on a roll.  They’re going to make sure that we don’t levy any taxes on wealthy Americans, whom they have renamed “job creators,” even though these so-called “job creators” haven’t created any jobs to speak of, lately, and in fact have been abolishing every American job they can possibly outsource for the last twenty-five years.  Rich people are “job creators”?  Can you say “big lie,” boys and girls?  How about “doublespeak”?

And reducing the debt by reducing taxes is another kind of double speak–the rate at which the government taxes the wealthy and big corporations has effectively declined by two-thirds over the last fifty years. Instead of raising money from taxation, the government generates income by selling treasury bonds, often to the rich people it used to tax.  This has the effect of reversing the cash flow–instead of corporate/high earner taxes going to help fund government operations, taxes from the middle class go to pay off the government’s debt to the wealthy.  In other words,cutting taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans drives the government deeper into debt–debt that will have to be paid off by the middle class, under the tax regime that has been imposed on us.

The Republicans have made it clear, and the Obama administration has pretty much agreed, that cuts to the military portion of our budget–which is about half of it–are off the table.  But, somehow, in spite of the fact that it’s supposed to be funded independently of the main part of the government’s budget, Social Security is on the table.  Services offered by Medicare and Medicaid are likely to be cut–without any attempt to limit the profits of the pharmaceutical and illness care industries, even though that’s a major factor in increased medical costs.  The Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Education, and all Health and Human Services programs will likely be given a serious trimming.  Bottom line:  if you’re poor or middle class, and need help, there’s going to be a lot less help available–medically, educationally, and environmentally.

I have often been, and continue to be, sharply critical of the conduct of many of these government agencies.  They tend to be corporate-friendly, heavy-handed, and resistant to radical innovation–but they need to be reformed, not abolished or hamstrung.  Simply shutting them down will result in a tidal wave of corporate abuse of the environment, shoddy treatment of American citizens–the latest food contamination news is that Cargill has had to recall 36 million pounds of ground turkey, while the FDA was busy sending in armed storm troopers to arrest the head of a small raw-food co-op whose products hadn’t made anyone sick.  In a better world, it would be the head of Cargill who was getting perp-walked, and those who wish to produce or drink raw milk would be free to do so without fear of arrest.  And, of course, in an even better world, there would be no Cargill and we would all live within a few miles of a producing dairy cow and some free-range turkeys.  But we’re not there yet.  I hope I live to see the day!

That last paragraph reminds me of one of my pet peeves–the fact that Americans are far more often referred to as “consumers” than as “citizens.”  We need to change that meme.  “Consumers” implies a level of passivity–a “consumer” brings to mind the image of an overgrown baby suckling at a corporate bottle.  (Corporate persons do not have teats, after all!) and periodically needing to have its poop taken care of.  “Citizens,” on the other hand, participate actively in civic life, take care of their own poop and take care not to take any poop from the government OR private industry.  I would have a lot less problem with the Tea Party if they were as hard on corporations as they are on the government.  But, at this point, the Tea Party is a puppet of corporations who want to use populist outrage to smash the only thing standing in the way of corporate domination of America.  Barack Obama, alas, is not enough of a David to stand up to this Goliath.

And that gets us back to–what can we do about the orgy of destruction that the Republicans and their Democrat enablers have unleashed on the country?  One thing we can do is to challenge it, every step of the way–politically, legally, and by where we spend our money and how we spend our time.

Politically, there has been a noticeable uptick in interest in the Green Party, as the illusion of difference between Democrats and Republicans becomes plainer to more people.  Legally, the situation is somewhat daunting, due to Democratic complicity in the Republicans’ appointment of outright fascists to the courts and the Republicans’ unhesitating blockage of any even slightly-liberal-leaning Democrats to those positions, but some legal redress of grievances is still possible.

We need to remember the example of Vaclav Havel, who started out as a beatnik-hippie poet, courageously defending his right to own Velvet Underground records and publish weird poetry against the Monolithic, All-Powerful, Communist State, and, who, over the course of twenty years, sparked a revolutionary change in the outlook of the people of the former Communist bloc that ultimately toppled a once-monolithic, all-powerful state.  If they could do it, so can we.

At the personal level, the level of our own time and our own money, it’s important to cultivate skills of self-reliance, to simplify our lives, and help our friends do the same.  Everybody has different innate talents and developed skills, and, just as “it takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a couple of hundred real, live, fully-present people to make a village.  That looks to me like where we’re headed.  I’m not sure how we’ll get there.  But that’s what makes life interesting, isn’t it?

music:  Velvet Underground, “White Light/White Heat”





FOOD FIGHT

7 08 2010

When 20 federal agents show up at a farm and seize farm products and computers, the first thing most people would think is, “marijuana.”  All too often, these days, it’s a different m-word:  milk, and also, sometimes, meat.

In response to demand for better-quality dairy and meat, farmers and local food activists across the country have set up private buying clubs, similar to  fruit-and-vegetable-oriented “Community-Sponsored Agriculture” groups.  Under this arrangement, which is a private agreement among consenting adults and not an open store, raw dairy products and freshly butchered meat move directly from farm to home, with no middleman, resulting in increased returns to the farmers, who need all the returns they can get.

State and federal regulatory agencies are starting to raise hell about this.  It’s hard to say how many farms and co-ops have been raided for “illegal” milk and meat, but the frequency of these raids seems to be increasing.

Illegal milk and meat–who woulda thunk it?  This is the latest bump in the road for the local food movement, and provides a prime example of two things:  first, laws passed because of a certain kind of dangerous behavior are being used to suppress a different, far more benign activity; and, second, big food’s use of the government to enforce its monopoly when other methods fail.

The rise of mass civilization over the last three or four centuries produced many unintended consequences–for that matter, the whole thing was an unintended consequence of unbridled selfishness as an organizing principle for society, but let’s keep it to the milk and meat department for now.

Not so long ago, the main way people had access to dairy products was from owning a milk cow, or knowing somebody who did.  Without refrigeration, fresh milk was a rare and transient treat, and ice cream an even rarer treat for the very wealthy.   Most milk became  yogurt and cheese, which store much better than milk.  Not so long ago, too, people had no clue about the germ theory of disease, and so contamination of fresh, raw milk was easy, unintended, and all too common.

A little more recently, dairy went from being a farm product to being an industry. As with any large capitalist enterprise, it involved underpaid, alienated workers who were not concerned about the quality of what they produced, and management looking for any corner it could get away with cutting.  Not surprisingly, this resulted in frequent contamination of the milk supply, widespread public illness and outcry, and, ultimately, regulation requiring refrigeration and pasteurization in an attempt to  insure safety.

The same thing happened in the meat-packing industry, with Upton Sinclair‘s famous novel “The Jungle” galvanizing public and legislative support in an attempt to clean up the business of keeping America supplied with meat.

But none of this changed the fundamental dynamic.  Workers remain underpaid and alienated, management still cuts every corner it can get away with, and the result is repeated episodes of contaminated products reaching the market, and widespread public doubt about the safety of officially approved practices, such as the use of  the hormone rBST to increase milk production.

Creating alternatives to mainstream meat and dairy products is not as simple as growing your own fruit and vegetables. XX Legally, meat and milk that are sold must be processed in government approved facilities–but the practices in those facilities, and indeed to some extent, their very existence, is the problem for many seeking local, healthier food.  To compound the problem, the regulations have been designed to favor large production facilities, and place onerous, unnecessary burdens on small producers–such as the detail that slaughterhouses have to provide a separate bathroom for the inspectors.

And so, people have formed private buying clubs to circumvent this.  They buy a portion of a milk or dairy cow from a farmer, so that when the cow is milked or slaughtered, it is already “theirs” and the farmer is merely performing a service for them.  This situation is far removed from the alienated, profit-seeking “industry” model that prompted the need for regulation.  There is a bond of trust between farmer and eater, and the farmer wants to give his customers the best quality he can, not the least he can get away with.

The law in many states, however, does not recognize this, and we have the spectacle of state attorneys and department of agriculture personnel roaring self-righteously about shutting down dangerous operations–which may be perfectly legal in a neighboring state.  In fact, some level of raw milk sales is legal in most states–but the federal government prohibits interstate commerce in raw milk, and has actively worked with law enforcement to shut down raw milk sales whenever it could.

There’s an eerie resemblance to the current patchwork state of medical marijuana here.  Another parallel with marijuana is health benefits.  Just as marijuana advocates propound its health benefits, which are vigorously denied by the DEA and some uptight academics and conservative social critics, so advocates of raw milk say that, overall, it’s much healthier for you than processed milk, claims strenuously contested by  many of the same people who oppose marijuana legalization.

But I’m a vegan.  Why do I care about this issue?  They’re not restricting my right to raw beans!  Well, actually, they’ve restricted my right to eat raw almonds.

And that’s where the wider implications of this food fight come in.  The blanket ban on raw almonds was instituted because of a salmonella outbreak that occurred in the almond crop of a large-scale, “factory” almond farm, and this is the same pattern we are seeing all over the “food industry.”  Factory-farmed foods have contamination problems, but the regulation that is introduced in response to these problems makes it much more difficult and expensive for small-scale operators, who are not the source of the problem.

Moreover, this continues the precedent, again, set through the drug laws,  that the government can control what we choose to put into our bodies, for reasons that have more to do with who controls the government than with human health. There are lines that can be drawn, but prohibiting private transactions among consenting adults is not the place. Banning commercial tobacco sales, for example, would be a good idea.  Prohibiting individuals from growing tobacco and giving, or even informally selling it, to their friends, outside a commercial framework, would not be a good idea.  But I digress.

Is it perhaps mere paranoia to think that the government would persecute the raw milk/fresh meat movement at the behest of Big Ag, rather than to protect innocent, misguided citizens from poisoning themselves?

Consider that Obama’s appointments to Ag Department posts look like he did his recruiting almost exclusively at Monsanto, the Fox News of agriculture. Consider that big agriculture, although it would be bad PR to admit it publicly, is concerned about having their market monopoly undermined by local food.  Consider the way corporate policy tends to become government policy, through the irresistible attraction of campaign funding arrangements.  The interwoven media-government-big business cabal will take advantage of every illness that can possibly be attributed to local food to make it seem dangerous, and use every mass release of contaminated food by a multinational food producer to create regulations that are full of loopholes for the big guys and hurdles for the little guys.

It’s about scale.  Raw milk is distinctly local.  It is not a mass-marketable product.  It cannot be transported cross-country, or across a continent, like pasteurized milk. (Most of the store-sold milk in Mongolia, traditionally a big dairy country, is now imported from Europe–but I digress.)  If a batch of raw milk is contaminated,  a few dozen people may be affected. But when the industrial food complex fouls up a batch, tens or even hundreds of thousands of people are poisoned.  Cargill, one of the companies concerned about the dangers of local foods, recently had to recall a million pounds of beef tainted with an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella.  How many people got sick from this?  Who knows?  Most of the  people who ate it were ignorant of its origin.  And of course, the resistant salmonella developed because factory-farmed cows are routinely fed antibiotics.  But that’s another story.

Factory-farmed eggs have had a long history of salmonella contamination.  The FDA has put new rules in place that will not eliminate contamination, but cut it by 60%.  Looking on the bright side, the official announcement says

79,000 illnesses and 30 deaths due to consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella Enteritidis may be avoided each year with new food safety requirements for large-scale egg producers.

So…that means that there will still be 52,000 illnesses and 20 deaths every year due to salmonella-contaminated eggs, and that’s OK.  But raw milk!?  Send in the tac squad!

And don’t get me started on all the lawbreakers who are getting away with it while the government packs heat to bust people with milk cows.  OK, I’ll start a little:  Alberto Gonzalez will not be prosecuted for pushing US Attorney Generals to start cases just to make the Democrats look bad, or for helping John Yoo blow a lot of hot air about why it’s OK for the US to violate the Geneva Conventions and torture people, or just kill them outright.  John Yoo’s not getting prosecuted for that, either.  And not only are the boys at Goldman-Sachs not getting prosecuted for ripping off the rest of us, they’re getting to run the government.

I’m going to close with a quote from farmer and local food activist Joel Salatin:

“This food safety is a very subjective thing. If there’s one thing that stands between freedom and tyranny it’s the choice of being able to decide what to feed our own bodies. If that isn’t the most basic human freedom I don’t know what is.  By what extreme notion has it been decided that it’s perfectly safe to feed our kids Coco Puffs, Twinkies and Mountain Dew but it’s not safe to feed them compost-grown tomatoes and raw milk?”

music:  Greg Brown:  “Canned Goods





THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES

7 08 2010

President Obama gets our truth in strange places award this month for his comment on Wikileaks’ release of tens of thousands of “secret” documents relating to the US war on Afghanistan:  “these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan.”

Unfortunately, that’s where his truth train left the track.   Well, not exactly…he also said the document release  “could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations,” and it could, but not because it released inside knowledge to the Taliban.  The information released by Wikileaks “jeopardizes” the war effort by revealing its rickety nature, and by  showing the American empire’s naked ass flapping in the Afghan breeze.  The emperor has no clothes.

One of the most embarrassing facts to be confirmed by the Wikileaks release is the level of co-operation between Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and the Taliban.  This makes perfect sense, from the Pakistani point of view:  the US is just passing through, but the Taliban are going to be Pakistan’s neighbors for a long time to come.  Other embarrassments validated by the Wiki release are the total corruption of the Afghan “government” the US is trying to install, and the way US money keeps ending up in Taliban hands.

What the leak reveals is often evidence of war crimes:  civilian deaths,whether  by “accident” or by deliberate assassination of selected civilians, or, as with the Iraq helicopter video that prefaced the full release, the random, intentional slaughter of obviously unarmed civilians.

Considering the exposure of such tactics, it is hypocritical, if not downright schizophrenic, for various US government spokespeople and conservative talking heads to say that Wikileaks “has blood on its hands.”  Wikileaks did not set up the Taliban–America’s CIA and Pakistan’s ISI did that, to defeat the Soviets when they attempted to occupy Afghanistan.  Wikileaks does not conduct assassinations of reputed resistance leaders.  It has no drones, no jet fighters, no tanks, no artillery.  Wikileaks is not the source of hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In fact, Wikileaks has been careful to censor the documents it is releasing so that they do not give away the identities of any Afghans who might be put further in harm’s way by disclosure of their collaboration with US forces.

But the government spin machine, like the right-wing spin machine that hopes to replace it in the next couple of elections, has never let facts stand in the way of putting its point across, and the parrots are squawking “Arwak–blood on his hands–blood on his hands.”  The precedent has long been set in this administration, like the Bush administration before it:  whistle blowers will be punished, but the crimes they blow the whistle on will be ignored, or even rewarded.  You know, Tim Geithner….

Meanwhile, the right-wing spin machine is doing its best to out-spin the government with its storm of indignation.  GOP Congressman Mike Rogers, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called for execution of the alleged leaker, Bradley Manning, for “treason during time of war.”  One problem, Congressman:  the US never declared war on Afghanistan, and “The Global War on Terror” has no legal standing as a “declared war.”  Not that that will necessarily stop anybody.

Marc Thiessen, a former speech writer for George W. Bush, claimed recently in the Washington Post that Wikileaks is “a criminal enterprise” and said, further

the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.

The first step is for the Justice Department to indict Assange. Such an indictment could be sealed to prevent him from knowing that the United States is seeking his arrest. The United States should then work with its international law enforcement partners to apprehend and extradite him.

In other words, “shoot the messenger.”

Talk about hypocrisy and schizophrenia…conservatives were not nearly so concerned when Dick Cheney and Karl Rove outed Valerie Plame, an “act of treason” that didn’t just confirm what everybody knew already, but destroyed the US’s clandestine efforts to keep tabs on nuclear weapons proliferation–how’s that for “treason,” Congressman Rogers and Mr. Thiessen?  Are you ready to hang Dick Cheney?

I didn’t think so.  Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, eh?

As our President said, Wikileaks publication of the US government’s “top-secret” Afghan war log didn’t really tell us anything we hadn’t suspected, but it certainly does confirm our worst suspicions.  The leak does make one thing very clear:   Afghanistan is just as much a “quagmire” as Vietnam ever was.  Attempts to “surge” and “win” will just kill more people, create more animosity, and waste more money and other resources that would be better spent fixing real problems like climate change, hunger, and the destruction of the natural world.  Bradley Manning deserves a medal, not a trial.  It’s time to grow up as a country, drop our fantasies of world domination,  and re-direct our national attention to what’s really important.

music:  Richard Thompson, “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me”





BUGSPLAT

12 03 2010

I learned a new word recently, but I kind of wish I hadn’t, because the more I consider its meaning, application, and implications, the sadder and angrier I feel.  It’s a word like “raghead”  “gook,”  “nappy-headed ho,” or the unspeakable n-word.  The word is “bugsplat,” which sounds like it’s just a way to refer to the unfortunate insects who end up pasted to your car’s windshield.  Not very appetizing, but what makes it really revolting for me is the fact that it is a word our government uses to refer to human beings.

Yes, our government refers to some human beings (dark-skinned ones, so far) as “bugsplat.”  How would you like it if the U.S. government’s official term for you was “bugsplat”?  I mean, would it piss you off, or what?  Wouldn’t you feel…dehumanized?

OK, you’re wondering, where did this designation come from,  what does it mean, and why should I care?

Here goes….”bugsplat” began as the name of a computer program the Pentagon has used since the Iraq invasion to calculate the effect bombs will have on their intended targets INC the number of “incidental” civilian deaths. aka “collateral damage,”  that will occur as a result.  For example,the Pentagon estimated that between six and seven hundred civilians would be killed on just the first day of the U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq–about a third of the number of Americans who died in the World Trade Center attack (or demolition). The name of the computer program has become a way to label these civilians–they are just “bugsplat.”  No big deal.

To answer my own question, you wouldn’t feel pissed off or dehumanized or anything if you were bugsplat, because you’d be dead.  But yes, you would have been dehumanized before you were killed, so your murderers wouldn’t need to get their undies in a bunch about offing you.  You were just bugsplat.  “Oops, sorry ’bout that.  Scrape it off the bottom of my shoe…”.

Our government and media have demonized the  “terrorists” who  flew airplanes into the Pentagon (maybe) and World Trade Center–but the government has had no hesitation, and the mainstream media have had no outrage, about U.S. air strikes that, through the years, have been responsible for the deaths of far more innocent civilians  than the September 11 attack.  Who’s the bigger terrorist?

Indeed, the complete illegitimacy of America’s war of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan has been largely swept under the rug.  Hey, who wants to admit they’re a war criminal?  War crimes trials are for losers, right?  Besides, Obama and his legal crew know full well that any prosecution of John Yoo or any other high-ranking Bush juntoids will lead straight back to Dimocratic complicity in every criminal decision, and only underline the fact that, in essence, the Obama administration is following the same policies.  So, to” combat terrorism,”  the U.S. will to fight to the last angry Muslim, or the last dollar the Chinese will loan us,which ever comes first, in our attempt to prevail in this struggle against the enemy we have created for ourselves.

Yeah, just wade into a culture that’s big on family ties and avenging the wrongs done to members of your family, start killing people right and left, and wonder why they don’t like you.  Or maybe it’s “act like you wonder why they don’t like you.” Yeah, act innocent, but, not so very deep down, the corporate/military/government complex doesn’t care who or how many end up as “bugsplat.” It’s about the money.

I recently heard Medea Benjamin speak about her experiences in Afghanistan. (on Rose’s edition of this radio show, actually) Ms. Benjamin described meeting with Afghan women and asking them why they thought the U.S. was in their country.  “Because it’s making some people in the U.S. a lot of money” was their basic answer.  Smart enough, eh?

And, let’s face it, what enraged Muslims long before the U.S. invasion was the obvious lack of respect for their culture shown by the multinationals, to whom they were  just another market to be penetrated in the never-ending drive to concentrate the world’s wealth in a few corporate pockets.  When our government talks about “introducing freedom and democracy in the Middle East,” it’s just code for creating a market economy where Exxon, Monsanto,Walmart, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and their ilk are free to operate, an environment in which  “freedom of choice” ain’t about your culture or economic system, it’s about  “Coke or Pepsi?”

To date, the U.S. has spent about $711 billion on the war in Iraq, and about 258 billion on the war in Afghanistan.   That’s about $8,000 for every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan, and about $24,000 for every Iraqi.  These people would have been much better off, and much more kindly disposed to us, if we had just given them the money, or at least spent it on projects that benefitted them directly, like reforestation, water conservation, sustainable agriculture, sanitation, and health and education projects (and this is the most important part) driven by local input.

But NOOO….we spent it all on military hardware and private contractors and all kinds of things that make Americans rich, and who cares if we rip off the dark-skinned people–hey, it doesn’t matter, they’re not us…..they’re just “bugsplat” if they get in our way, so get out of our way, ’cause it’s our way or the highway, and we own the highway, so get out of our way there, too….as long as the gasoline lasts.  And when the gas runs dry and the lights flicker out, the remaining relatives of all that “bugsplat” our leaders so arrogantly dismissed will take to the newly level playing field and visit their long-awaited vengeance on whatever Westerners they can get their hands on, and it won’t be pretty….not that it’s pretty now.

“Bugsplat.”  Have mercy on them, Mother, for they are proud, greedy, and willfully ignorant, and they know all too well what they do….and have mercy, too, on those of us who see this but lack wit and wisdom to show them the error of their ways.

Jackson Browne, Soldier of Plenty





A GOVERNMENT OF WAR CRIMINALS

5 10 2005

I said last month that the United States has as much right to invade Iraq as the Germans had to invade Poland. I would like to expand on that theme a bit. The United States invaded Iraq without the sanction of the UN, although the spin Herr Bush and his junta put on it convinced a lot of Americans that the UN did approve our invasion. Here’s the skinny: UN resolution 1441 ordered Saddam Hussein to “disclose or destroy” his weapons of mass destruction. He, as everyone knows by now, played by the rules: he didn’t have any, he said he didn’t have any, and he invited the UN inspection team in to prove it. He knew full well his army couldn’t stand up to the US army—what was he going to push his luck for?

Bush and co. claimed that there were weapons hidden, told the UN inspectors to get out, and invaded—only to find that there were, in fact, no weapons of mass destruction—and the evidence that has emerged since, from the Downing Street memo to Joseph Wilson, points to the probability that the Neocon cabal knew they were lying all along—”fixing the intelligence and the facts to fit the policy” is a, um…diplomatic way to say THEY LIED.

So, the United States Government–Bush, Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Karl Rove, Don Rumsfield, et al, launched a war of aggression against a country that was fully in compliance with the UN resolution the US said it was violating. If a smaller country did that, there would have been serious, immediate consequences—look at what happened to the Serbs, for instance–but since the US really is the only military superpower on the planet, we’re a little hard to take on.

Satisfying as it is to fantasize, we’re not likely to see Bush and Cheney in chains before the Court of International Justice in the Hague, where the Serbs ended up—much as the Bushies deserve it, for killing thousands of innocent civilians—bombing a restaurant in Bagdad, for just one example, because it was rumored that Saddam was going to be there—now doesn’t that sound like a terrorist act? Just because it was done by a government with a missile instead of an angry man with a backpack full of explosives, it’s no less of an act of terrorism. But, I digress.

Nobody is going to take on the United States with brute force, and win, at least nobody from this solar system. What other countries can do, however, is undermine us, or rather help us undermine ourselves, since the Bush junta’s economic policies effectively do that.
Alan Greenspan, the high priest of the American Church of Economics, recently admitted to England’s finance minister that debt in America is “out of control,” and this while everyone’s still being nice to us. Well, almost everyone. Hugo Chavez recently announced plans to take all of Venezuela’s money out of the US financial system and start taking Euros rather than dollars for oil. Now, Venezuela’s 30 billion in assets in American markets is a drop in the bucket—tho for me personally, it’s hard to think of 30 billion dollars as a drop in the bucket—but he could start something—an avalanche that leaves the US economy out of the world loop, and in ruins.

Of course, the last person to try that was Saddam Hussein, and we all know what happened to him. But, I digress.

So, if the Bush Junta invaded Iraq in contravention of international law, that not only makes them criminals in the eyes of international law, it makes them criminals in the eyes of the laws of the United States. We’re talking a much more unimpeachably impeachable offence than a come stain on a dress here, folks. We are talking high crimes and misdemeanors. Maybe even treason. No wonder he wants to put his personal lawyer on the Supreme Court!

And all those congresspeople who go along with Bush, Democrats and Republicans alike, are complicit and criminally liable. This means you, John Kerry. This means you, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. I am simply aghast that the alleged opposition party in the US congress isn’t raising hell—they’re politely debating the merits of Bush’s proposals and nominees. If they had any spine, they’d have walked out of congress and refused to play along. At this point, they might as well be the German Reichstag in 1942, debating the merits of SS appointees and drawing up regulations for the proper conduct of concentration camps. Let me say it again: the United States has as much right to invade Iraq as the Germans had to invade Poland.

I think this whole ponderous mess is collapsing of its own stupid weight—but I’d like to think there’s something positive I can do. That’s one of the reasons I’m involved with the Green Party. It’s a party for people whose moral standards are too high for conventional politics in this country. When the smoke clears and the dust settles, we will need some kind of overarching political philosophy to guide us, and for me the Green Party is an excellent way to discuss, develop, and propagate that philosophy. Can we talk?








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