Friday, September 28, 2007

Whaddaya Know?

Who knew? Today, September 28 is International Right to Know Day, and the beginning of International Right to know WEEK. Here's the skinny, from the Office of the Canadian Information Commissioner:
Around the world, September 28th is celebrated as International Right to Know Day. This began in Sofia, Bulgaria at an international meeting of access to information advocates who proposed that September 28th be dedicated to the promotion of freedom of information worldwide.

The goal is to raise citizens’ awareness level about their right of access to information under the control of government institutions. These celebrations are aimed towards the citizenry, a non specialized clientele.

“…to collaborate in promotion of the individual right of access to information and open, transparent governance. The group of FOI Advocates also proposed that 28 September be nominated as international “Right to Know Day” in order to symbolize the global movement for promotion of the right to information. The aim of having a Right to Know Day is to raise awareness of the right to information. It is a day on which freedom of information activists from around the world can use further to promote this fundamental human right and to campaign for open, democratic societies in which there is full citizen empowerment and participation in government.” (
The RTK week is celebrated in Canada to promote the right to information as a fundamental human right and to campaign for citizen participation in open, democratic societies.
Sounds like something bloggers should be getting behind, especially those of us on the left who have been complaining about;
  1. the Bush administration, the most secretive government in America's entire history,
  2. the Mainstream Media (MSM, aka the Corporate Owned Media (COM)) spewing administration talking points 24/7, distracting us with celebrity trivia, and downplaying the real stories when possible,
  3. the decline of the education system, due to everything from government idiocy like NLCB to local schoolboards being taken over by those who want your kids as well as theirs to be taught 'intelligent design' instead of how to think intelligently.
The scope of the issue as I see it goes well beyond just the Freedom of Information Act - it also encompasses such things as rules governing the ownership and use of media outlets and the right to know what multinational corporations - some of them more powerful than the majority of governments - are doing that affect you, your community, and your planet. "The Business and Human Rights Program is working with coalition partners such as Friends of the Earth to increase pressure on the US Government to disclose corporate behavior around human rights and environmental issues through the introduction of International Right to Know (IRTK) legislation in Congress." (Amnesty International)

Another way of looking at it is as the flip side of the first amendment right of free speech - the right to hear the truth is just as important. Too many people are caught in the trap of believing the gross propaganda spewed daily by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, etc., etc., etc... because that's what the multinational corporations that own the media want them to hear. The fine citizens of Greater Left Blogsylvania provide some balance, but reach too few people without the billions of dollars available to the major networks and cable channels. Even that voice is in jeopardy of being silenced with the fall of the principle of internet neutrality.

I think the truth-based community should grab hold of this idea and give it a big boost. Maybe a blogswarm or something, we have a whole WEEK to put together some good posts. Here are the ten principles on the right to know, from the justice initiative organization. Let's get started.

Whaddaya think?

Cross-posted to Ice Station Tango and The Unconventional Conventionist

Les Enragés homepage.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Left Behind.

NEW YORK (New York Times) Sept. 26 - As a candidate, George W. Bush once asked, “Is our children learning?”

Now he has an answer.

“Childrens do learn,” he said Wednesday.

The setting was, yes, an education event where the president was taking credit for rising test scores and promoting congressional renewal of his signature education law. To create the right image, the White House summoned the city’s chancellor of schools, a principal, some teachers and about 20 eager students from P.S. 76.

The visual worked fine. The oral? Not so much. For Bush, it was a classic malapropism, the sort of verbal miscue that occasionally bedevils him in public speaking and provides critics and the media easy fodder for ridicule. Subject-verb agreement actually is taught at Andover [legacy admission], Yale [legacy
] and Harvard, the president’s alma maters, but in an unforgiving job that requires him to speak hundreds of thousands of words with cameras rolling, the tongue sometimes veers off in mysterious ways — and someone always seems to notice.

His latest misstatement masked a serious issue, of course. As Bush’s first-term No Child Left Behind law comes up for reauthorization, many in Congress are attacking it from both the left and the right. The president is trying to preserve what he sees as one of his most significant domestic achievements, an effort to increase accountability through rigorous standardized testing. The latest report card released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress gave him some ammunition.

"The No Child Left Behind Act is working,” Bush said with first lady Laura Bush, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein [the man who wants to pay kids cash for grades: sheesh] at his side. “I say that because the nation’s report card says it’s working. Scores are improving, in some instances hitting all-time highs.”

Bush said that lawmakers should pay attention and not mess with success. “My call to the Congress is: Don’t water down this good law,” he said. “Don’t go backwards when it comes to educational excellence. Don’t roll back accountability. We've come too far to turn back."

Others offered a more measured assessment. “Unfortunately, this administration has dropped the ball on education reform by shortchanging this law to the tune of $56 billion since its enactment,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy [who helped to write and co-sponsored this mess] (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate education committee. He vowed “to provide the solutions and the resources needed to ensure that students and schools can succeed.”

The test results released Tuesday are not the ones used under No Child Left Behind, but the administration said that they show the progress since the law was passed with bipartisan support. Math scores improved among fourth- and eighth-graders, and black and Hispanic students made gains, although they still trailed their white counterparts. Eighth-grade reading scores, on the other hand, have not changed much since 1998.

Education specialists are divided on whether the federal law has succeeded in raising achievement for all students or in narrowing the historic achievement gaps between demographic groups. Passage rates are rising on many tests given to satisfy the law, including those in Maryland, Virginia and the District. The gap between white and black students is shrinking in some places.

But some scholars do not credit the education law. NAEP scores, for example, rose in some states and fell in others, and the general upward trend began well before No Child Left Behind. “My general view of this is that the president has been serially dishonest in claiming that No Child is accomplishing its mission,” said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. [Snide asides mine.]

The rest of this article is here. NCLB is not helping our childrens learn. NCLB is a massive federally unfunded mandate that is killing public education and driving good teachers out of the profession. The more cynical teachers among us will tell you that, way back when this monster was in its formative years, that was the idea: slap a bunch of random and redundant regulations and arbitrary “standards” on public schools districts, demand unrealistic and frankly absurd “goals,” and then punish districts which cannot comply. The original plan was to give money to local parents whose schools had “failed” so that they could send their kids to private schools; in other words, vouchers. That’s already part of some of the existing legislation. More of that is coming, no matter who wins the White House next year, because most of the front-runners think that most of NCLB is just peachy.

It isn’t. It should be thrown into the circular file bin of history. I just returned from my younger son's high school "Back to School Night." He's a freshman. We followed his crazy schedule and visited each class for fifteen minutes. I have yet to see a set of more enthusiastic, better well-trained, more fired up teachers than my son is blessed with this year. Not a one on cruise control. Ramped up like mad. All using the latest technology. Excited. Upbeat. And in not one of their presentations did I hear the word "state testing." I did hear a lot about education and real learning, though. No, NCLB needs to go. Because it isn’t helping our childrens to learn. Gotcher Exhibit A right here. Look what his apparently mediocre education has done for us.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pink Floyd University, Part V - Learning To Fly

There's a ton of bad news out there. But there's some great news. It doesn't play well, because it's not neccessarily easy, sexy, or otherwise well taken. The news is this:

You Can Fly. Yup. And so can your congresscritter. There's only one ingredient required; bravery! Look at what my beloved Thomas Jefferson wrote to a professor in Edinburgh in 1824.
"[The] mind [of suffering man] has been opening and advancing, a sentiment of his wrongs has been spreading, and it will end in the ultimate establishment of his rights. To effect this nothing is wanting but a general concurrence of will, and some fortunate accident will produce that." --Thomas Jefferson to Dugald Stewart (Professor in Edinburgh Scotland), 1824
TJ wrote this 48 years AFTER the Declaration of Independance. The irony here is that a mere 2 years before his death, this genius patriot still understood the value of this; that he was still Learning To Fly. Still, after the establishment of the Republic, his genius just KNEW we had to keep on keeping on, as we must still do today, as is so nakedly witnessed to us, day after day.

I find Jefferson's letter to Dugald Stewart devoid of depression. I find it full of hope and exhortation. As I find these lyrics of Pink Floyd:

A soul in tension, that's learning to fly
Condition grounded, but determined to try
Here's the whole set of lyrics;
Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reeled
A fatal attraction is holding me fast
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?

Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything
No navigator to find my way home
Unladen, empty and turned to stone

A soul in tension that's learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

There's no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss
Can't keep my mind from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I

Regardless of today's shitty conditions, I am DETERMINED TO FLY. Because I believe we can. Fascists be damned. Pink Floyd still informs me of all I need to know about politics I do believe. And it is this:

You don't fly without risk. Take a stand, a fly. Or just sit down and shut up.

Cross posted at The Unconventional Conventionist

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I See The Future

Another Dirty Election and a Long Stay in Iraq

It's a lazy Tuesday in the empire. Not much shaking the tree today. Of course, everyone has their eyes on Iraq and Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited from our future colony of Iran. They're not a full fledged client state yet, but you know Connecticut's Joe Lieberman won't rest until that regime is changed. Oh, and Bill O'Reilly is pulling a Jerry McGuire--"I love black pee-pole!"

All of this is in fact, quite riveting--except for the O'Reilly thing, that's just political candy--but in order to stay awake after a long, fitful night (a lingering cold kept me up), I need to look beyond the events of the day. I feel the need to look at the entrails of the news cycle and divine where we, as a society, are going. I'm not talking about long term prognostication, but rather predictions about relatively near-term developments that may shift Jeffersonian Democracy from its stagnant and precarious position on the global stage, or push it off.

I'm talking about the 2008 election.

George W. Bush is talking about it too, by the way. The reason for that is because he knows what the rest of the country recently figured out, like a year or two ago. The troops ain't coming home from Iraq while he's in office. Furthermore, he wants his successor in the White House to keep the war going.

From The Examiner:
President Bush is quietly providing back-channel advice to Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging her to modulate her rhetoric so she can effectively prosecute the war in Iraq if elected president.

In an interview for the new book “The Evangelical President,” White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said Bush has “been urging candidates: ‘Don’t get yourself too locked in where you stand right now. If you end up sitting where I sit, things could change dramatically.’ ”

Bush even went so far as to talk a little smack about the 2008 race.

From AFP:
US President George W. Bush, breaking a self-imposed silence on the 2008 race to succeed him, now says Senator Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, according to a new book.

"She's got a national presence and this is becoming a national primary," Bush said in an interview with political journalist Bill Sammon for his tome "The Evangelical President."

"And therefore the person with the national presence, who has got the ability to raise enough money to sustain an effort in a multiplicity of sites, has got a good chance to be nominated," Bush told Sammon.

Bush went on to add: "Heh, heh, meh, heh."

He also wouldn't go out on a limb and predict the winner of the GOP's nomination but predicts that any of the candidates would come through and beat Hillary Clinton. They have a good idea of how to do it too--by staying far away from Bush.

That's a good start, but are there other, more nefarious aces up the sleeves of the dirtiest players in the game? Does the GOP plan to steal the 2008 election as they did 2000 and 2004?

Well, Greg Palast has meticulously documented the old tricks of the trade--like egregious tampering with the voter rolls. Bob Herbert of The New York Times updates us on the latest in GOP tricks, the heinous petition drive to launch a ballot initiative that would split the electoral votes of the state of California. A brutally diabolical maneuver that could net them 20 electoral votes, or, as Herbert points out, about the electoral mass of Ohio.

If Bush is right and Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, then it may not matter who wins the election because we may just stay right there in Iraq. It's not that I don't trust Senator Clinton it's just that... Okay, I don't trust Senator Clinton. Figure this one out: She just will not commit to withdrawal while also refusing to fund the war without a withdrawal plan. Huh?

That's enough forward looking. I can't take it. The future looks as bad as the present. I have to get back in the now, for I have more immediate concerns. I'm thirsty, but before I go get my beverage of choice, I have to go consult with Bill O'Reilly on the proper way to ask for an iced tea in a black restaurant.

Cross-posted from: Ice Station Tango

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Monday, September 24, 2007

We Should Start A New Feature Series

..Called 'Why Does Anybody Take This Guy Seriously?'

Because, damn! - there are so many people on the right whose opinions DOMINATE the Corporate Owned Media, even though they have been shamefully proven wrong time and time again. We could start it off as a weekly feature, then expand to daily when the elections get closer. The woods are full of these know-nothing professional meat puppets.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Who Are The Enemy?

...A Rant in Three Parts

OK, full disclosure. I am still not over the repeated failure of the United States to fully restore the Great Writ of habeas corpus, allegedly suspended with the odious enactment of the Military Commissions Act (aka Torture Bill, I call it the War Criminals' Protection Bill.) I've been Beyond Outrage since long before it was even passed - it represents the greatest threat to freedom America has ever faced, including both World Wars and the USA PATRIOT Act, also an abomination. It just makes me want to hurl, but I can't deal with the mess, so I'll just rant.

Part One:
So, I was over at Matthew's blog (The Pansy Bastard) and he was trying to elicit some thoughts on how to go about the restoration of Constitutional rule of law in America, and something twigged. The larger context was a lament about the lackadaisical pace towards the impeachment proceedings that the majority of Americans long for, but it was this quote that got me thinking,
If I recall, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus,
and the SCOTUS later shot it down.
It's important to remember that SCOTUS did indeed rule against Lincoln's suspension of habeas. In consideration of that, I came up with this (hopefully) interesting (perhaps) legal argument:
  • The legislature's attempt to suspend the Great Writ through the Military Commissions Act was unconstitutional on its face - defying Article I, section 9. There is a procedure for amending the constitution, (Article V), and it was never attempted. BTW, are the Senators and Congresspersons sent to Washington content with having NO familiarity with the document defining their responsibilities? (and limiting their authority, BTW) Are their constituents?
  • The Supreme Court shirked its duty when they shamefully declined to even hear a case testing the law back in April, simultaneously giving the finger to the Constitution, their oath of office, and the American public.
  • Normally when a law is passed, if it hasn't yet been ruled unconstitutional it still has legal weight until it is considered by the Supremes. IOW, it is in the interim period 'the law of the land.' You can't be brought to court later for having followed the law prior to the high court's ruling because you were acting in good faith, and the fact that the law is stricken from the books later shouldn't put you in jeopardy. I think this is as it should be. † - (see footnote)
  • But what if the Supreme court has already ruled on constitutionality, prior even to the passage of the bill? Shouldn't that change things? In the instance of the suspension of habeas, there is a standing ruling of its unconstitutionality, from Lincoln's time. The alleged suspension is therefore a legal nullity, a bit of shadow-puppet theater, a farce. It is "a tale told by an idiot, all full of wind and fury and signifying NOTHING." I know that quote is well out of its original Shakespearian context, but you get my point.
  • It seems to me that in this particular instance there are a number of federal officials, in the military, the Justice Department, and even in the White House who could be facing multiple kidnapping charges. The idea that they were acting in good faith is absurd on its face.
I think a forceful lawyer could make a damn good case of it anyway. (more in comments) But it is not likely to happen.

Part Two:
Even assuming that the Democrats regain control of the government next year - White House, House and Senate - no-one is likely ever to be charged with willfully depriving people of their rights. It will probably take months, maybe years to even begin to restore the functionality of the Department of Justice. The damnably partisan and ideological Department of Just-Us. It will take DECADES, and a number of deaths or resignations to restore the Supreme Court. The damnably partisan and ideological and appointed-for-life Supreme Court. And there would be cries of "Ooooh - Political Witch-hunt!" from the army of flying monkeys in the damnably complicit Corporate Media, which may never be restored.

But that is not the greatest obstacle to the restoration of the Constitution. Ironically, it is the Constitution itself. That's right, in Article III, Section 3:
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."
The framers should have done a better job of writing this article so that the Constitution protected itself from the kind of conspiracy that led to the USA PATRIOT Act and the Military Commissions Act. Because the United States isn't just a piece of geography, and it certainly isn't defined by whatever idiots, goons, or thugs happen to be in office at any given time. It is defined by what George the Execrable has called, "that damned piece of paper." Acts against that piece of paper should be construed as acts against the country itself, IMO. That would clearly and unequivocably answer the question, "Who Are The Enemy?" The enemy are George Bush and his hideous minions. Especially his partisan SCOTUS appointees.

In my mind it is treason, but in law not so much. It is a criminal conspiracy, but one that involves the President and his loathsome Vice, the legislature (especially but not exclusively the Republican side of the aisle), and the President's (and his father's) Supreme Court appointees. How are you ever going to justify going after them all? What kind of conniption fits are the flying monkeys of FOX "news" and The Washington Times, etc. going to have over it? *envisions Bill-O's head literally exploding all over Coultergeist's little black cocktail dress* HA!

Part Three:
I really love the US Constitution, but it has its flaws. Beyond the specific lacuna mentioned above, there is a general flaw that permeates the whole document as I see it. Its great strength is that, unlike most legal systems that concentrate on limiting what the people can do, it limits what the government can do. As an advocate of unruliness I like that - the more limits there are on government, the fewer rules there need be on the people. But here's the thing - while laws written to limit ordinary citizens' actions invariably contain pre-defined penalties, laws limiting government seldom if ever do. Take a quick look at the Bill of Rights. Where does it ever mention any penalties?

Let's illustrate with an example, beefing up the first amendment just a tad. My additions in red (as if you needed to have them pointed out.)

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." And if you even try, you're clearly not fit for any public office in this country. You got your position through fraud and swore an oath under false pretenses. Give back every cent you ever received in government service, forfeit any pension you were promised and begone. BEGONE, I say! And don't you DARE try to slink back. And while you're at it, wipe that silly smirk off your face. SHAME ON YOU!

It might just smarten them up a bit. I doubt it, but it's at least worth a try.

† - footnote: Further research reveals my assumption about US law to be incorrect. The presumption of constitutionality is not nearly so strong as I thought. Here's the scoop from Wikipedia:
The legal encyclopedia American Jurisprudence says the following in regard to constitutionality:

The general rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and the name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void and ineffective for any purpose since unconstitutionality dates from the time of its enactment and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it; an unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed ... An unconstitutional law is void. (16 Am. Jur. 2d, Sec. 178 )
This only makes my argument stronger, however. Further, it puts officials in the Bush administration in jeopardy of serious capital charges should the Supreme Court ever deign to rule on this blatantly unconstitutional provision of the Military Commissions Act.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pink Floyd Political University, Part IV

Post-Graduate School
- Roger Water's Amused to Death -

Doctor Doctor what is wrong with me?
This supermarket life is getting long
What is the heart life of a colour TV?
What is the shelf life of a teenage queen?
We watched the tragedy unfold
We did as we were told
We bought and sold
It was the greatest show on earth
But then it was over
We ohhed and aahed
We drove our racing cars
We ate our last few jars of caviar
And somewhere out there in the stars
A keen-eyed look-out
Spied a flickering light
Our last hurrah

And when they found our shadows
Grouped around the TV sets
They ran down every lead
They repeated every test
They checked out all the data on their lists
And then the alien anthropologists
Admitted they were still perplexed
But on eliminating every other reason
For our sad demise
They logged the only explanation left
This species has amused itself to death
No tears to cry no feelings left
This species has amused itself to death
( Complete lyrics in comments )

Assignment: Which would you rather have - Peace, Freedom and Justice, or an XBox 360 and an iPhone? Essays to be handed in and on my desk no later than the end of the world.
- Prof. S.B. True, guest lecturer.

Bonus Video: Wishing Well, by Paul Rodgers (of FREE) with Queen.

" 'Cause I know what you're wishing for
- love and a peaceful world."

Update 09/25/2007: Cross Posted (meaning I stole it from SBT and put it up over at the Unconventional Conventionist site. You can't pass up a great guest professor...)
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The Crumbling Economic Empire

So long as the world accepts US dollars as money value, the US enjoys unique advantage as the sole printer of those dollars. The trick is to get the world to accept. The history of the past 30 years is about how this was done, using WTO, IMF, World Bank and George Soros to name a few.
The research I did for The Shaky Dollar opened my eyes to something I've always tried to ignore - US economic imperialism. The most important link in that article is Crisis of the U.S. Dollar System, from Global Research Canada. Frankly, I was afraid people wouldn't click on it, and would miss some essential (and believe it or not, fascinating) stuff. Some highlights:
The US position in the world since 1945, and especially since 1971, has rested on two pillars.. ..the superiority of the US military over all, and, the role of the dollar as world reserve currency. That dollar is the Achilles heel of American hegemony today.
After 1945, the US emerged from war with the world's gold reserves, the largest industrial base, and a surplus of dollars backed by gold.
That held until the late 1960's, when the costly Vietnam war led to a drain of US gold reserves. By 1968 the drain had reached crisis levels, as foreign central banks holding dollars feared the US deficits would make their dollars worthless, and preferred real gold instead.

In August 1971, Nixon finally broke the Bretton Woods agreement, and refused to redeem dollars for gold. He had not enough gold to give. That turn opened a most remarkable phase of world economic history. After 1971 the dollar was fixed not to an ounce of gold, something measurable. It was fixed only to the printing press of the Treasury and Federal Reserve.
OK, this is the crux of the situation - the American dollar used to represent something. It had intrinsic value. But that has changed. The dollar's value now rests almost entirely on its extrinsic qualities - the perception of the world's banking system.

It's interesting to note here that it was shortly after Nixon took the dollar off of the gold standard that the OPEC embargo happened. This led, ironically, to the emergence of the PetroDollar, based on an agreement between the US and OPEC that the latter would accept only US dollars in payment for their oil. This in turn led to the situation Robert Newman describes as 'the magic checkbook' in his amazing documentary The History of Oil.

The result of that was that countries around the world had to purchase US dollars in order to buy OPEC oil. Another result was that the US dollar became the preferred reserve currency worldwide. This may not have been a very good idea, and highlights the shortsightedness of the world's best and brightest bankers. Could it be that they were blinded by their own greed? "Given the general tendency for crude oil prices to rise and become more volatile in recent years, it may even be argued that crude oil trading may, in the long term, be a significant liability for the stability of the currency in which the trade is conducted." (Wikipedia: PetroDollar)

So, America has enjoyed significant temporary advantage as the issuer of the world's reserve currency. Other countries are willing to exchange real good to get paper dollars, far in excess of the goods they receive in return. I liken this to someone having a very good credit rating, but not enough income to pay back the money he or she borrows. Remember, "After 1971 the dollar was fixed not to an ounce of gold, something measurable. It was fixed only to the printing press of the Treasury and Federal Reserve." And did the US ever start printing (and spending) money! They were acting like a pimp who'd just found out he only had a week to live. Or more accurately, 300,000,000 such pimps.
What soon became clear to US Treasury and Federal Reserve circles after 1971, was that they could exert more global influence via debt, US Treasury debt, than they ever did by running trade surpluses.. ..demand for dollars would continue, even if the US created more dollars than its own economy justified.
In the years between 1945 and 1965, total supply of dollars grew a total of only some 55%. Those were the golden years of low inflation and stable growth. After Nixon's break with gold, dollars expanded by more than 2,000% between 1970 and 2001!

The dollar is still the only global reserve currency. This means other central banks must hold dollars as reserve to guarantee against currency crises, to back their export trade, to finance oil imports and such. Today, some 67% of all central bank reserves are dollars. Gold is but a tiny share now, and Euros only about 15%. Until creation of the Euro, there was not even a theoretical rival to the dollar reserve currency role.
Here's the sticking point. This situation has led to the establishment and acceptance of a myth - the myth of American competitiveness in the world's economy. The result on the ground of this is that American workers' wages have been higher than their counterparts in other countries, because they have actually been subsidized by those other countries. But by how much? "The total US debt—public and private—has more than doubled since 1995. It is now officially over $34 trillion. It was just over $16 trillion in 1995, and "only" $7 trillion in 1985. Most alarming it has grown faster than income to service it, or GDP." That's over $100,000 for every man, woman and child in the country! Can you say, 'fiscal responsibility?'

The US imports goods, but to some degree exports paper money that, as we have seen has little real value (or significantly less real value than one would think.) So the recent fall of the dollar is more of a market correction than anything, like the collapse of the housing bubble. The invisible hand making a fist and punching you, invisibly, in the face.

This punch could be read as an understandable reaction to the incredibly callous monetary policies of the Bush administration. One way the dollar has been deliberately destabilized was this move last year, as Sans-Culotte reported;
Let me interrupt you here to point out the Fed's recent announcement that it will cease publication of the M3 monetary aggregate March 23, 2006. For a great explanation what that means please read this diary over at Dailykos. It's no coincidence this will coincide with Iran's oil bourse, and I'll venture it played no small part in Greenspan's decision to retire either.
One of the things in the M3 is a disclosure to the banking world of just how many dollars are being printed and circulated. Without it the disconnect between the currency and anything real is complete and absolute.
It works so: A German company, say BMW, gets dollars for its car sales in the USA. It turns the dollars over to the Bundesbank or ECB in exchange for Marks or Euros it can use.

The German central bank thus builds up its dollar currency reserves.. ..But since the Bundesbank no longer could get gold for their dollars, the issue became what to do with the mountain of dollars their trade earned. They decided to at least earn an interest rate by buying safe, secure US Treasury bonds.
But THE TREASURY BONDS ARE JUST MORE PAPER!! The 'magic' of the magic checkbook is that there is no way to cash the check. Knowing this allows America's financiers to act, frankly, like thugs. Because other countries hold so much paper on America, allowing the dollar to fall is a way of threatening them. This is bewildering, a form of insanity - yet the entire world economy is apparently dependent on it.
What is perverse about this system is the fact that Washington has succeeded in getting foreign surplus countries to invest their own savings, to be a creditor to the US, buying Treasury bonds. Asian countries like Indonesia export capital to the US instead of the reverse!

The US Treasury and Greenspan are certain that its trade partners will be forced to always buy more US debt to prevent the global monetary system from collapsing, as nearly happened in 1998 with the Russia default and the LTCM hedge fund crisis.

Washington Treasury officials have learned to be masters at the psychology of "monetary chicken." Treasury Secretary Snow used an implied threat of letting the dollar collapse, after the Iraq war, to warn Germany about the risk of trying to be too close to France with the Euro. Some weeks after the dollar had fallen sharply, and German export industry was screaming pain, Snow reversed his stand and the dollar stabilized. Now the dollar again rises as foreign money flows back in.
This is a kind of Dollar Imperialism more slick than anything the British Empire even dreamed of.. .. Instead of the US investing in colonies like England to earn profits on the trade, the money comes from the client states into the US economy. The problem is that Washington has allowed this perverse system to get out of all control to the point today it threatens to bring the entire world to the point of collapse. Had the US instead promoted long-term policy of investing in the economic growth and self-sufficiency of countries like Argentina or Congo, rather than bleeding them in repayment of unpayable dollar debts, the world would look far less unstable today.
So the only question I have is should these bankers all be in jail, or locked up in a large rubber room? I've learned so much from this Global Research article because it explains so much, even of things it doesn't even mention. No wonder the American labor force has been so devalued over the last few decades, since the country's economic strength has been decoupled so far from productivity. And no wonder Alan Greenspan's recent revelation comes as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The war in Iraq WAS for oil, or more accurately the right to maintain the petrodollar oil bourse.
The US waged war in Iraq not out of fundamental strength but fundamental weakness. It is economic weakness however, not military.. ..US economic hegemony in this distorted Dollar System increasingly depends on a rising rate of support from the rest of the world to sustain US debt levels.. ..That is the real significance of the US shift to unilateralism and military threats as foreign policy.. ..Even ordinary Americans have to give up their pension promises. If the Dollar System is to remain hegemonic, it must find major new sources of support. That spells likely destabilization and wars for the rest of the world.
The kicker for this post is the same as the kicker for my last economy post. Dick Cheney's investment portfolio shows he has been betting against American prosperity, perhaps from the beginning of his first term as Vice President. Traitorous bastard!

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Friday, September 21, 2007

The End of America

I'm experiencing somewhat more than my usual rage today. Frankly I'm pretty disappointed at the lukewarm response to my recent post about the failure in the Senate to gain a cloture vote for the Habeas Corpus Restoration bill sponsored by Chris Dodd and Patrick Leahy. I've been concerned about this cornerstone of human rights since the odious Military Commissions Act gutted its authority last year.
Simply stated, without habeas all other rights are moot - you need a day in court to state your case. They don't call it the Great Writ for nothing.
People, you've got to stop acting like the United States of America is somehow inoculated against tyranny. Remember, Germany was a constitutional democracy before Hitler's Nazis took over. And as Naomi Wolf pointed out on The Colbert Report last night, there is a blueprint for the overthrow of legitimate government by dictators. And Bu$hCo are following it religiously.
George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four as a warning.
George Bush reads it like an operations manual.
Watch the Video

You can read the blueprint in this review of her book The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot in The Guardian. It's full of hard to confront what ifs.
What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.

Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us - staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody's help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.

We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before - and this is the way it is now.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.
It ain't gonna carry itself.

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The Shaky Dollar

...Canadian Loonie Now At Parity

(Dry-as-dust but important as life itself blogging. With an 'easter egg' kicker for those willing to wade through the tough stuff)

Yesterday the Canadian dollar (aka 'Loonie, from the loon depicted on our dollar coin) went over $1.00 US for the first time since November, 1976. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty pointed out that this was largely due to the US dollar's weakness against all major world currencies, citing the Euro and Australian dollar as examples.

I try to avoid blogging about economics, but I think the time has come. First I'll share what little I know about currencies with you.

From UBC's Sauder School of Business; "Long term movements are driven by fundamental forces, such as purchasing power parity (PPP.) In the short run, exchange rate movements are driven by news and events."

OK, let's talk about the fundamental forces first. A country's currency relies long-term on the value of goods and services that it can trade with other countries. Manufactured goods, raw materials and services. The US has been running an increasing deficit in this regard for a couple of decades now, purchasing $700 BILLION dollars more in 2006 from other countries than those other countries purchase back. This is like every person in the US spending roughly $2,000 more than they earn year after year after year. Not good, obviously. The US trade deficit with Canada alone has been growing to the point that it was $6 Billion a month the last time I looked.

Another fundamental that affects currency values is world commodity prices. The recent rise in oil prices above $80.00/bbl hurt the US dollar and helped the loony, because the US is a net importer of oil, and Canada a net exporter (and the US's largest supplier now, BTW.) For more details, follow the PPP link above, and/or check out The End of Dollar Hegemony from Sans-Culotte's site Feb., '06.

What the UBC calls news and events I call psychological forces. Where the fundamentals represent world trade, in TRILLIONS of dollars, the psychological forces can drive the short-term value of a currency with much smaller numbers. If significant amounts of a currency are purchased in a short time, this will drive the currency's value up with no fundamental reason for it, just because the bid/ask differential is seen to change. A 'paltry' transaction of only a few hundred million dollars can often have a significant effect. There have been recent news items about central banks worldwide buying US treasury bonds to try to keep the dollar from falling, or at least slow that fall. See if you can tell when those injections of cash ocurred on this graph.

If you noticed the short spikes in late July and again in mid August, you're right. If you also noticed the steady decline from early March to the present (a loss of nearly 18% in only 7 months) or the near vertical drop in the last week, well that's the reason for this post.

Why, you might ask, would another country feel the need to artificially prop up the US dollar by purchasing T-bills? Consider the $6 Billion a month in trade surplus that Canada has with the US. For every penny the USD loses, we lose $60 million. It is therefore in our interest to keep your dollar high. Another thing always mentioned when the Loonie gains against the US dollar - it makes our exports more expensive, and can lead to job losses in the manufacturing sector.

Unfortunately, that only applies to countries who are major US trading partners. Others may be tempted to bail on the greenback before it's too late. Reading the financial advisers' websites does not give one much to hope for. Nor is any of this really news. It's been coming for some time, as the dates on these posts shows.

Arab central banks move assets out of dollar - Independent Online ... (March 14, '06)

The Truth Will Set You Free: Swedish Central Bank Dumps Dollar (April 22, '06)

Crisis of the U.S. Dollar System (Oct. 14, '06)

U.S. Dollar Under Threat As Premier Global Reserve Currency (Jul. 31, '07)

Most worrisome is this contemporary report from the Telegraph (UK)
China Threatens 'Nuclear Option' of Dollar Sales
The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.
Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.

It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession.
Simon Derrick, a currency strategist at the Bank of New York Mellon, said the comments were a message to the US Senate as Capitol Hill prepares legislation for the Autumn session.

"The words are alarming and unambiguous. This carries a clear political threat and could have very serious consequences at a time when the credit markets are already afraid of contagion from the subprime troubles," he said.
This is of course the payback from the WalMart-ization of the US economy over decades, where the American consumer has sold himself down the river for the price of a dozen pair of tube socks for $10.

(Promised 'kicker'):
Who could have predicted this global loss of confidence in the US economy? Well, for one, Dick 'traitor' Cheney. This news story from over a year ago shows Cheney and his wife to be betting on bad news for the US dollar in their own portfolios. A highlight:
The Cheneys also had between $10 million and $25 million in American Century International Bond (BEGBX, news, msgs). The fund buys mainly high-quality foreign bonds (predominantly in Europe) and rarely hedges against possible increases in the value of the dollar.
By my reckoning that made the Cheneys between $2 and $5 million tax-free. This guy makes Benedict Arnold look downright patriotic.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bad education.

Sometimes, school-aged kids stand up in righteous indignation and reinstill your faith in humanity because you see that, after all is said and done, they really do care about more than just the the latest clothing styles or the latest music or what’s going on on their MySpace pages, that, after all is said and done, they really do care about what is going on in the world and that they want to do something about it.

Maybe not this time.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Sept. 20 - Two students in northern New Jersey can
wear buttons featuring a picture of Hitler youth to protest a school uniform policy, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. sided with the parents of the students, who had been threatened with suspension last fall for wearing the buttons. However, the judge added in his ruling that the boys will not be allowed to distribute the buttons at school.

Citing a 1969 case in Iowa involving students who wore black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War, Greenaway wrote that “a student may not be punished for merely expressing views unless the school has reason to believe that the speech or expression will ‘materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.’”

The buttons bear the words “no school uniforms” with a slash through them superimposed on a photo of young boys wearing identical shirts and neckerchiefs. There are no swastikas visible on the buttons, but the parties agreed that they depict members of Hitler youth.

After the suspension threat, the boys’ parents filed a federal lawsuit claiming the district stifled the children’s First Amendment free speech rights.

District lawyers asserted that the image of the Hitler youth was abhorrent because it conveyed intolerance and racial inequality represented by Nazism.

If you’ve read my stuff here before, you know that I am a teacher (and a parent and a citizen) who is all for students’ rights, especially the right to express themselves and to try to influence school policy. I’ve helped kids write petitions, and I have signed student petitions. I have sat sat with students at school board meetings, listening to them read statements of protest that we wrote together. We talk about the rights of students all the time, so the kids know that they have them. That they have them most of the time. In many cases. But not in all cases. In fact, that’s what the Tinker decision was about: the legal limits on students’ free speech in a public school. Because a school cannot operate if everything that is “legal and fair” outside of a school is also fair and legal inside the school walls.

And we also talk about the responsibilities that go along with those rights. Like the right of my Jewish students (and colleagues) to not have to be offended by having Nazi imagery stuck in their faces all day while at school, Nazi imagery which is being invoked and exploited to make a point about a student dress code? Um, but, excuse me? Do these kids (and the adults behind them) really believe that somehow we can equate rules that dictate how students dress when they come to school with what the Nazis did? REALLY? Being told to tuck in your shirt or to not expose too much cleavage is the same as slaughtering people by the millions?

We on the Left - and some folks on the Right (hi, Rush!) - tend to throw that word “Nazi” around a bit too easily. Not all conservatives are fascists, no matter how angry and frustrated we might be with them. Sticking a label like “Nazi” on every person with whom we disagree is as bad as the right-wingers slapping the label “godless communist” or “socialist” on any progressive with whom they might disagree. And frankly, I think that it waters-down and softens the real meaning of the word. It denigrates the memory of those who suffered and died fighting the Nazis, and those who were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. It almost helps to make the word more acceptable, more conversational: just another catch-word for those we oppose.

Which means it becomes less scary.

School administrators who want to impose dress codes may be wrong-headed, but they are not “Nazis.” Somebody should have taught these kids about the true nature of the Nazis - and about their long list of horrific crimes - long before this issue came up. If someone had done a better job of teaching them the barbaric real history of National Socialism in Germany, they might not feel so free to do this.

So now this judge says that these kids can wear their silly buttons. Good for them. High-fives all around. They get to say they beat The Man. But just as Momma Agitator used to say, because they can doesn’t mean they should.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It Only Takes One Vote

Digby is just a fantastic blogger. To cut right through the crap and get to the results, there's hardly a keener eye and navigator of the DC political nastiness .
Thus, let her inform you as to the mechanics of this current mess. I simply cannot do better. What I care to focus on is the actual "math" of leadership.
One = A Leader.
Amazingly, the astute Digby does not tell us the magic formula to do away with this nasty, silent filibuster business. It's the magic of "one."

This stupidity of the "innocent bystander" theory, where "we don't have enough votes, whah" is not supported by the actual Constitution. No sir. When the President (of the Senate) asks for "Unanimous Consent" all it takes is ONE SENATOR to say 2 magic words:

"I object."
This works in the House of Representatives too. Observe Steny Hoyer, RAILING that the opposing Republican has objected to Unanimous Consent:

At that point, there is NO unanimous consent, and up or down (simple majority) votes ensue, either to continue debate, close debate and/or move to the measure. Digby does do well in pointing out that this is all protectionary measures to keep the Republicans and ChimpCo in the cool, to not have to veto or do an actual FILIBUSTER about WHY they want, oh, Torture, Illegal Surveillance, and un-Constitutional measures of any kind.


Let's draft just one brave soul out of any of the Senate. I appeal to Republicans, especially Chuck Hagel - R of Nebraska. Since you're not running again Chuck, howzabout you do a classic Reagan thing, and Just Say No - I Object.

The Country will bless you for it.

Otherwise, we need to do an emergency spinal transplant on ANY OTHER SENATE DEMOCRAT.

In case anybody needs a reminder, the Declaration of Independence begins the love of the Constitution of the United States. Here it is, read to us by a teenage kid.

Live long and prosper kid; you're a Patriot.

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The Road BACK to Democracy

Runs Through HERE


For Gawd's sake, this is sickening. 43 Republican Senators, including 'independent' Joe Lieberman (who for reasons known only to himself still wants to be identified as a Democrat) voted to block this bill. Nicole Belle's report from Crooks and Liars:
Let’s be clear and unvarnished…44 of our Senators hate the Constitution and basic civil rights. They do not believe in the fundamental right of due process. has the breakdown.

Absolutely unacceptable. With all the horrors that we hear about Hamdan, about suicides, about innocent people rounded up for bounties and left to rot in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, it is absolutely immoral that 44 senators feel that entrusting basic civil rights of any person to the Bush administration is the way to go. Senator Dodd has not given up the fight:

“America’s moral standing, and with it the security of the United States, suffered another setback today, atop a pile of setbacks that has accumulated over the past six years. The outcome of this vote is both symbolic and tragic. Each of us in the Senate faced a decision either to cast a vote in favor of helping to restore America’s reputation in the world, or to help dig deeper the hole of utter disrespect for the rule of law that the Bush Administration has created. Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues chose the latter, and my disappointment runs deep. But I will not rest my case with this vote. Instead, this defeat will only deepen my resolve to restore the rule of law and with it American security, for far too much is at stake - for every American - to simply give up the fight.”
Damn, that is hard to take. Every one of these 44 traitors (click for list) swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Tell me, how does this do that?

Senators Patrick Leahy and Chris Dodd have re-introduced the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act, an attempt to correct possibly the biggest legislative mistake since the Alabama State Legislature re-defined the value of pi* to be 3.000 in keeping with an obscure bible passage. Simply stated, without habeas all other rights are moot - you need a day in court to state your case. They don't call it the Great Writ for nothing.
Habeas corpus was recklessly undermined in last year’s Military Commissions Act. Like the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the elimination of habeas rights was an action driven by fear, and it was a stain on America’s reputation in the world. This is a time of testing. Future generations will look back to examine the choices we made during a time when security was too often invoked as a watchword to convince us to slacken our defense of liberty and the rule of law.

The Great Writ of habeas corpus is the legal process that guarantees an opportunity to go to court and challenge the abuse of power by the Government. The Military Commissions Act rolled back these protections by eliminating that right, permanently, for any non-citizen labeled an enemy combatant. In fact, a detainee does not have to be found to be an enemy combatant; it is enough for the Government to say someone is “awaiting” determination of that status.

The sweep of this habeas provision goes far beyond the few hundred detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, and it includes an estimated 12 million lawful permanent residents in the United States today. These are people who work and pay taxes, people who abide by our laws and should be entitled to fair treatment. Under this law, any of these people can be detained, forever, without any ability to challenge their detention in court.

This is wrong. It is unconstitutional. It is un-American.
The suspension of habeas was part of the Military Commissions Act, which conspires with the USA PATRIOT Act, the stacking of the Supreme Court with partisan ideologues, and purging US Attorneys to make way for friendly Bushies to turn the USA into something other than a nation of laws, not men. America, before our very eyes, is devolving into nothing more than a tract of occupied territory separating Canada from Mexico.

While we're on the subject, let me re-iterate something about this subject. As I have said before, this legislation is demonstrably unconstitutional. From Article I, section 9: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." What part of that is hard to understand? There IS a process for amending the Constitution, Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
Which means, my friends that EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE of someone being deprived of their rights is ILLEGAL, though the partisan ideologues of the Supreme Court REFUSED TO EVEN CONSIDER THE MATTER. If men who have sworn oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution conspire to undermine it, who WILL defend it?

One thing is certain. Keep a close eye on those in the legislative branch who fail to back this bill. They are anti-democratic, un-American, even fascistic; and I would say treasonous. There is no argument in favor of this continuing outrage that doesn't go down a road leading away from all democratic, indeed all civilized values.

As Senator Leahy said so beautifully in his statement,
"Whether you are an individual soldier, or a great Nation,
it is difficult to defend the higher ground by taking the lower road.
That's a road you just don't want to go down.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Firedoglake has info on a phone campaign to let your representatives in Washington know how you feel about this here and here. The Constitution needs your help NOW. You don't expect those who swore to defend and protect it to do so without your goading, do you?

* - They didn't really re-define the value of pi, that's just an urban myth. Which makes the Military Commissions Act the worst legislative mistake in American history, bar none.

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Cross-posted at Ice Station Tango

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UF Student Tased at Kerry Appearence

As He Says, "Don't Tase Me, Bro."

This takes the cake.

A firebrand, an earnest college kid packing a book, Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast, got a little full of himself at a John Kerry appearance at the University of Florida on Monday evening. Instead of being able to handle a situation, the police had to cook the guy.


When a student was brutally tased at UCLA, you would have thought that campuses around the country would have taken notice. Of course, it had to be my University that smooches the pooch.

It's not difficult for police, with a five-on-one advantage, billy clubs, training, back up, even pepper spray, to remove one admittedly spastic, hyperactive activist.

Also of note, they cut the student's microphone because he said, "blow job" in reference to the Clinton impeachment. And what was up with John Kerry? He's up there cracking jokes as the kid is getting smeared by the brute squad. Kerry did come out against the police's use of the taser today.

This was bowling shoe ugly. A sad day for the University of Florida.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

It's a nice thing nothing happened...

Exercise Vigilant Shield ’08 slated for October

Click to download the VS-08 Fact Sheet

August 30, 2007

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command along with U.S. Pacific Command, the Department of Homeland Security as well as local, state and other federal responders will exercise their response abilities against a variety of potential threats during Exercise Vigilant Shield ‘08, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-designated, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM)-sponsored, and U.S. Joint Forces Command-supported Department of Defense exercise for homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities missions.

VS-08 will be conducted concurrent with Top Officials 4 (TOPOFF 4), the nation’s premier exercise of terrorism preparedness sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, and several other linked exercises as part of the National Level Exercise 1-08. These linked exercises will take place October 15-20 and are being conducted throughout the United States and in conjunction with several partner nations including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Territory of Guam.

VS-08 and National Level Exercise 1-08 will provide local, state, tribal, interagency, Department of Defense, and non-governmental organizations and agencies involved in homeland security and homeland defense the opportunity to participate in a full range of exercise scenarios that will better prepare participants to prevent and respond to national crises. The participating organizations will conduct a multi-layered, civilian-led response to a national crisis.

USNORTHCOM’s primary exercise venues for VS-08 include locations in Oregon, Arizona and a cooperative venue with USPACOM in the Territory of Guam. NORAD’s aerospace detection and defense events will take place across all the exercise venues, to exercise the ability to mobilize resources for aerospace defense, aerospace control, maritime warning, and coordination of air operations in a disaster area.

What I find most troublesome [this means put on your tinfoil hat] is that this press release from NorthComm was the same day that 6 nukes went missing. And, you guessed it, from NorthComm's control .

What it USED to say, was that NorthComm had ordered the standown, so that procedures could be "reviewed." Hmm Mmmmm. Let's just fast forward to the present, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

I find THIS, and then, of course Al The Spook, a GREAT commenter at FDL, and blogger of his own right, has the story.

What's not going together for me, is that it's either 5 or 6 nukes, AND they're ALL accounted for. Just saying. It's. Not. Going. Alltogether. Nicely.

You got a problem with that? I do.

Every day, to me, it seems like we're goin going to wake up to this:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Metaphor For America's War On The Have-nots

This is Our Lady of the Angels, a magnificent $180M cathedral erected by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Opened in 2002, it is an opulent testament to the wealth of the church.
These are the Sisters of Bethany who live and work with the poor in East Santa Barbara. In December, these elderly nuns will be evicted from their convent home of 40 years so that the Archdiocese can sell it to pay for 1/10 of 1% of a record $660M settlement of hundreds of clergy abuse cases.

Everything that is wrong with this nation is aptly demonstrated by this sad story.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One aspect of "The War" that Ken Burns probably won't be telling us about.

Nine days from now, PBS will begin presenting the latest documentary from one of the masters of the genre, Ken Burns. The War is a seven part series that, according to the official series web site, will “[tell] the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four quintessentially American towns. The series explores the most intimate human dimensions of the greatest cataclysm in history — a worldwide catastrophe that touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America — and demonstrates that in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives.”

Well, I’d chime in that even in “ordinary times” (please tell me when those happen, okay?), there are no “ordinary lives," but that’s another post…

Anyway, I really like the work of Ken Burns. If I could afford them, I’d own copies of his other “masterpieces,” The Civil War and Jazz and Baseball. Yes, I know some people quibble and fuss over his work, particularly about what he “leaves out” or emphasizes “at the expense” of something else. Critics complained, for two examples, that there were “too many white musicians” discussed in his Jazz series, or that it seemed like an awful lot of Baseball focused on the teams from New York (one in particular) and Boston. Those might be fair points, but I have to ask in response, can you please tell me, of anyone else who has ever devoted 1, 140 minutes to the subject of jazz, or anything close to that, anywhere? I’ll wait… Didn’t think so. I think Ken Burns does amazing work, and I can still watch those three series over and over again and never be bored by them. It helps that I’m fascinated by the subject matter to start with, but I know many people who were especially entranced by The Civil War, who came away with a new understanding of our most important and definitive national tragedy.

Now comes The War, Burns’ treatment of World War Two. He says he wanted to do this after he learned that something like 2,000 WW2 vets die every day (correct that figure if I’m mis-paraphrasing). Realizing that there would soon come a time when all these folks would be gone, Burns wanted to get their up close and personal recollections and reflections on film, before it was too late. It’s a terrific idea. To me, oral history by the “every day people” who lived it is the most interesting kind. And now, instead of having actors and actresses read what someone else wrote about their experiences, we will see the faces of those who were there, and hear their words from their own mouths. And hearts.

I will watch every minute of this series, and I’ll be watching particularly closely to see if Burns spends any time on the issue of conscientious objectors. Several thousand Americans refused to allow themselves to be conscripted into military service during “The Good War,” a war that the overwhelming majority of people believe had to be fought and had to be won to save the world from evil. Some entered non-combat military service, and served bravely and valiantly in the military as combat medics, ambulance drivers, or hospital workers. Some were part of Civilian Public Service (CPS), and worked as smoke-jumpers, attendants in mental hospitals (who were responsible for many important reforms in the treatment of the patients in the “snake pit” institutions of the 1940s), as laborers on civilian construction projects (such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike), or as human ”guinea pigs” who allowed themselves to be test subjects in various medical experiments. Some others refused to be part of the “system” in any way, and went to federal prison for their beliefs, where they suffered as if they were common criminals. Some suffered more than that, because of why they were there.

I spent many, many hours reading about these brave Americans this past summer. I still have a couple thick books left to read. I was amazed that, even with all the stuff I’ve read about World War Two over the years (yeah, a Quaker military history nut: go figure), I’d never heard about this aspect of our history. In fact, until I became a Quaker, I’d never heard about this at all, at least in the context of World War Two. Conscientious objection was not a wide-spread movement during this war, but it does say something about the spirit and character of these men that they could stand up to what had to be enormous pressure to resist participating in something they felt was morally wrong, based on their (primarily but not always) religious beliefs (most COs were members of traditional "peace churches," such as Mennonites, Quakers, and Brethren).

There were many COs who refused to fight in Vietnam, but with the end of the draft, anyone who now wishes to opt out of service can simply refuse to enlist (although males still have to register for Selective Service or face legal penalties). At least for now, that is. Some current military personnel are refusing deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, or they are refusing to return after having been overseas. The media is ignoring them, as are many folks who should know better here in cyberspace. (You can read about - and sign up to support - them right here, gang.) They deserve our respect and support, if we really believe in peace.

So, we’ll see if Ken Burns mentions this particular band of brothers starting on September 23rd. I’ll be watching. But I won’t be surprised if that particular brand of heroism is ignored. I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with what’s in my books. And with spreading the word.

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