I was both outraged and a little amused Tuesday night by Tim Russert's questioning of Obama over Louis Farrakhan's supposed "endorsement" of his candidacy. I'm using the quotes, because Amad at Street Prophets clarifies that Farrakhan never endorsed Obama; he merely praised him, saying that Obama represents the "hope of the entire world." Obama denounced any alleged Farrakhan support, which wasn't good enough for Russert or Hillary Clinton, who insisted that "denouncing" Farrahkan wasn't enough for her and that he must "reject" Farrakhan's support. Whatever.
On Wednesday, McCain received the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, who believes we have to stay buddy-buddy with Israel in order to bring about armaggedon and the second coming of Christ. And what was McCain's response?
"I'm very honored by Pastor John Hagee's endorsement today," McCain said at a news conference. "He has been the staunchest leader of our Christian evangelical movement in many areas, but especially, most especially, his close ties and advocacy for the freedom and independence of the state of Israel."
Honored, Mr. McCain? Why not privileged, flattered, thrilled and grateful?
"[A]ll I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee's support."
No that wasn't Senator McCain responding to me (as if) but rather his response when asked (via Greenwald)about some of Hagee's more twisted views.
As Amad rightly points out,
So, it is okay to be an anti-Muslim, anti-Catholic bigot, but not an anti-semitic bigot? And why is it that the 300 pound gorilla on the Capital hill, THE Lobby, AIPAC, actively cheers and supports Bigot#2, but cries foul when Bigot#1 says anything?
To learn more about Hagee, use the google. Or click on the Greenwald link, where he does a good job of outlining Hagee's beliefs. But just to get the murmuring started, here are a couple tasty morsels:
All Muslims are programmed to kill and we can thus never negotiate with any of them.
The End Times -- Rapture -- is imminent and the U.S. Government must do what it can to hasten it, which at minimum requires: (a) a war with Iran and (b) undying, absolute support for a unified Israel, including all Occupied Territories.
And if you have a few minutes, here's an interesting video of a Christians United for Israel conference:
Mr. Russert, will you be asking Senator McCain any time soon why he is embracing political support from an advocate for apocalyptic war? Or is Pastor Hagee your kind of bigot?
...and the question we should be asking ourselves is: Has Congress taken leave of its senses! Is this their idea of 'conducting the people's business'? Roger Clemens has ensured that he'll end up as a minor footnote in sports history. His career is over. His reputation is shot. His awards are tainted, and his body is probably broken. So now Representative Henry Waxman wants to waste more millions of dollars on a perjury investigation? Who the hell cares if Clemens lied or not?!
Nearly 20 years later, Alaska is still feeling the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
From The L.A. Times:
When the Exxon Valdez spilled its oil in March 1989, the world saw images of blackened seabirds and otters and seals, of bloated whale carcasses and once-pristine beaches covered with crude. Hardly anything was said about the herring.
No one at the time understood the fish's central place in the ecosystem, nor did anyone know the herring's demise would lead to years of hardship for the people here.
Exxon Mobil has fought a $2.5 billion judgment against it all the way to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case this week. Not a very popular company in Alaska.
UPDATE: I'm trying to confirm that the picture in this post is the actual Exxon Valdez. I found the picture on Flickr here and there's no info other than the title--Exxon Valdez. I did find this article from 2002, which explains the fate of the Exxon Valdez. After a name change to SeaRiver Mediterranean, the Valdez was permanently retired in September 2002, "Too expensive to sail on, it was pulled from service late last month and anchored off some forgotten coastline in East Asia, perhaps to die."
"Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower --
With little fanfare, and as little review, new travel rules went into effect on the 19th of February that may have a profound effect on the ability and willingness of Americans to travel abroad.
The Department of Homeland Security has placed an odious new requirement on international air travel to, from, and over the United States. Where previously passenger lists had to be supplied to DHS within 15 minutes of a US bound flight taking off, now those lists must be made available in advance and every passenger must be given "permission" by DHS to board the flight in question. Think about that for a second. A passport is no longer sufficient to allow you to travel abroad, and DHS have given themselves the ability to deny you reentry to the United States...indefinitely.
Though most people don't know this the right to travel and, more specifically, the right to return to one's country of origin is guaranteed by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the United States is a signatory. So these new rules are, in effect, a violation of treaties and by extension, the United States Constitution that requires that treaties be treated as the 'law of the land'.
You have probably heard that the costumed cowboy shot down the U.S. spy satellite. My unruly friend, the Station Agent, fears that the Bush government has not been honest and forthcoming about the exact nature and function of the satellite. This got me wondering, so I dug around and found a classified FEMA presentation detailing the planned interception of the Satellite US-193 in a State Leadership Briefing, DHS/FEMA Region IX, February 19, 2008 (I live in FEMA region IX). Here's how the document describes the situation:
An uncontrollable U.S. government satellite will reenter Earth's atmosphere between the end of February and early March.
The satellite consists of 5,000 pounds of equipment and material, including a fuel tank containing 1,000 pounds of propellant (hydrazine), classified as a hazardous material.
Hydrazine is a clear, colorless liquid with an ammonia like odor. Direct contact with skin or eyes, or ingestion or inhalations from hydrazine released from the tank upon impact could result in immediate danger, including convulsions, tremors, or seizures. Ingesting or drinking Hydrazine can cause nausea, vomiting, uncontrolled shaking, inflammation of the nerves, or coma. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Service’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry).
The document was obtained by Wikileaks, "one of the most important web sites in recent months ... created by several brave journalists committed to transparency", a site the U.S. government is seeking to shut down. According to FEMA, should the engagement be successful, the hydrazine tank will break apart, releasing hydrazine into space, with nearly all the debris (99%) expected to fall into Earth's atmosphere within one week. The debris footprint is expected to be 10 - 25 miles wide and 100 - 1,000 miles long. The document discusses government response at the federal, state, and local levels should a hazardous situation arise. FEMA is coordinating six Federal Interagency Support Task Forces including:
Hazardous material qualified FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces.
Health and Human Services (HHS) medical support personnel.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) hazardous material specialists.
According to the wikileaks summary:
Of particular note in the document, is the fact that along with FEMA and safety task forces, a Department of Defense "Payload Recovery Task Force" is expected to respond to the impact site approximately 3 to 6 hours after the impact. This suggests that there may be some validity to rumors that US-193 is being intercepted on national security grounds.
Now here's something to think about. The presentation indicates the likelihood of a presidential disaster declaration (example here), without a Gubernatorial request "likely only in affected region" (slide 15). Usually a Governor makes a request, to which the President responds by issuing a disaster declaration, or not (the declaration process is described here).
Why would the president declare a disaster without a request from the affected area's Governor? This causes me to wonder if the satellite might be involved in something the president is unwilling to disclose to America's Governors. I also can't help but wonder if this dangerous situation hasn't been staged to create an excuse for the president to declare Martial Law, a situation that broadcast media is beginning to openly discuss.
During the public comment time on the new standards, a man opposed to the move spoke with clarity seldom seen in my home state of Florida.
Now I have in my hand an orange. I was about to eat this orange yesterday, but before I did I sat down and read about this evolution stuff. I learned that this orange is actually my first cousin. I didn't want to eat the orange no more. So now I'm going to give it to you people on the committee, and you can eat it if you want. But if you do decide to eat it, it shows that you don't believe in this evolution either. And we shouldn't be teaching our kids something no one believes.
In the years that we have been receiving your earthly generated communication waves, a great debate amongst my people; "Simpsons or Star Trek?" has arisen.
[Enterprising Unrulians shall seek out and find this theremin playing creature and the pianimal. They would be fun to have at parties it appears.] We really, really like the theremin playing by the yellow helmeted bozo.
This is a political ad, yes? But we can't tell WHO this unruly ensemble is backing for your next United States president? Is it Kodos or Kang? I can't believe they would be for the Kirk Party. He switched from the Space-o-crats to the P's (Priceline) you know.
If this really is your position, couldn't you have tried harder to stop telecom immunity legislation in the Senate. What about a filibuster?
Well Kvatch you know filibusters are hard! They take a lot of time and your throat gets dry doing all that talking. Plus the President promised to 'make me cry like a little girl' if I didn't get the Senate to roll over on this one. Not to mention the fact that AT&T threatened to cut off my DSL connection. You just can't stand up to the administration when faced with that kind of pressure.
But Senator...now the only mechanism citizens have of discovering the extent of Bush Administration lawbreaking, civil lawsuits against the telecoms, could be taken away.
Come on Kvatch...don't take it so hard. Lawsuits cost money, lots and lots of money. You don't really want to squander what little you do have suing big companies like Verizon, now do you?
Well Senator...many of those suits—
I'm sorry Kvatch, but I'm afraid that I'm going have to go. There is a nice young woman here who says that Hamachi tastes 'so much better' if I eat it off of her stomach.
Interesting articles coming out on the DoD's plans to "shoot down" a satellite. Obviously, these guys have watched a few too many episodes of Stargate Atlantis and not enough Battlestar Galactica, for they haven't realized that when you hit an orbiting object with explosives, you get a cloud of orbiting objects.
Not surprising from the Bush Administration, having rejected all tenants of biology, they now fail to understand physics. An object in orbit is in orbit because it is moving forward at the proper speed for it to fall in a circle around the Earth. Every part of that object has that velocity. Now let's imagine we blow it up. What happens?
In Stargate, it mysteriously disappears. Bang, it's gone. Fly right through the debris cloud and nothing happens. Now in Galactica, Starbuck "hears the rain", the sound of the debris from the Cylon base ship hitting her canopy. That's closer to real life.
In real life you get an expanding cloud of debris still in orbit. Some pieces are decelerated by the explosion and begin to fall. Others are accelerated into different orbits, perhaps even higher orbits, endangering satellites, shuttles, space stations and anything else falling around the Earth. See, they don't all fall at the same rate, some are faster in orbit, others slower, some higher, others lower. The end result of blowing something up in space is not the removal of the object, but separating it into potentially thousands of missiles ready to punch holes in things that contain air, for example, or that route your illegally intercepted signals from the receiving station to the data mining facility.
In short, in planning the destruction of the satellite, the Bush administration displays exactly the same scientific acumen it has displayed on evolution, global warming, AIDS, any number of gaffes where the ideology has trumped the truth. What the Administration gets from all this is similar to the Iraqi invasion: I'm a man of action, see, a cowboy. Well, that's all well and good if you're too damned drunk to hit anything with your six-shooter. In this case, the drunken cowboy is asking some very good shots to turn a satellite that would most likely crash harmlessly into the ocean into a cloud of very fast projectiles.
In Galactica, Starbuck's Viper is strong enough to withstand the pelting from debris. Our shuttles and space stations are not. And in space, as with everywhere else, we have dumped our garbage to the point where more dumping creates a danger. Low Earth orbit is crowded. We protested when the Chinese shot down one of their satellites over the debris created, now we do the same.
Bush needs to learn from someone whose physics came from somewhere other than a Stargate rerun and call off the shoot-down before the sumbitch knocks out my satellite TV. Or maybe a shuttle.
We carried you in our arms On Independence Day, And now you'd throw us all aside And put us on our way." -- Tears of Rage -- (Bob Dylan & Richard Manuel)
Throwing us all aside, the US Senate has capitulated once again to the UberFührer's President's demands, this time on the issue of telecom immunity. As infuriating as it was at first blush, it only became more so on further reflection. In last night's lively thread I made an oblique observation that the DINO problem may be much worse than we thought. Look at the way the voting breaks down by how close those Democratic Senators who voted with the Republicans are to facing the polls:
Here is the list, with the cohort to which each Senator belongs. I think It shows an interesting trend.
Evan Bayh (D-IA) - III Tom Carper (D-DE) - I Kent Conrad (D-ND) - I Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) - I Daniel Inouye (D-HI) - III Tim Johnson (D-SD) - II Herb Kohl (D-WI) - I Mary Landrieu (D-LA) - II Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) - III Claire McCaskill (D-MO) - I Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) - III Ben Nelson (D-NE) - I Bill Nelson (D-FL) - I Mark Pryor (D-AR) - II Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) - II Ken Salazar (D-CO) - III Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) - I Jim Webb (D-VA) - I
This year's cohort II (4 out of 12) Tim Johnson, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller 25%
2010 cohort III (5 out of 15) Evan Bayh, Daniel Inouye, Blanche Lincoln, Barbara Mikulski, Ken Salazar 33%
2012 cohort I (9 out of 22) Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, Dianne Feinstein, Herb Kohl, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Debbie Stabenow, Jim Webb 41%
I think the numbers pretty much provide their own analysis. There may be any number of stealth Republicans with D's attached to their names who will vote with the R's when necessary to get a measure passed, but refrain from doing so unless necessary in order not to blow their cover. I could be wrong, but when Nosybear remarked that I had implied such a premise, I ran the numbers and here you see the result. You do the math, as they say. To be honest I haven't done any stats or probability problems in decades, and wouldn't know how to test this result to see if it passes a significance threshold.
At the very least this way of looking at the vote demonstrates one thing. The Democrats seem to be much more afraid of being punished at the polls for being soft on Republican terror than for being soft on Islamofascist (or whatever you want to call it) terror.
Another observation I made is of just how much will have been given to this foul administration and their corporate enablers should retroactive immunity ever become law. Remember, the reason they're pushing so hard for this is that with the Department of Justice in their pocket, they can assure that no court will ever get to scrutinize their actions.
Without judicial review, and able to hide behind the State Secrets wall, there are no limits. The telecoms, the alphabet soupers, or the White House can spy on Congressmen of the opposition or even their own side for purposes of blackmail. They can listen in to conference calls of their competitors, steal trade secrets, practice insider trading without 'officially' being an insider. They could even bug trysts between lovers just for some kind of sick sexual gratification.
Jenn provided a link to this Raw Story piece about Bush's recent revelation that there were indeed telecoms who co-operated with illegal activities, something he has never come right out and said before. Man, that is one cocky bastard, filled with the certainty that he has destroyed the very concept of Justice in America! May he die the death of Herod the Great.
One line in that Raw Story sticks out from the others. "Bush has pledged to veto any bill without immunity, and he said Tuesday that he would not accept any more temporary FISA extensions."
Here's what I see playing out: -Buoyed by his success in the Senate, Bush is trying to set yet another 'soft on terrorism' trap for the Democrats in the house. This is typical of his brat-like habit of, when given exactly what he wants, demanding more.
-Should the house fail to comply he will veto the bill and then, bewildering to anyone with two functioning synapses, blame the Democrats for denying him the tools to fight terrorism.
This should scare the hell out of us, because it implies that he is either: 1) absolutely certain that the corporate media will spin this to look the exact opposite of what it is or 2) planning on letting FISA lapse then springing yet another false flag operation, the 'third pearl harbor' that will justify him suspending the November elections and declaring martial law outright.
Clearly, tears are not nearly enough. This is like attending a funeral for human rights, perhaps for democracy itself. Like the passage of the Military Commissions Act last September, this is a time for sackcloth and ashes, a time for tearing at the hems of one's garments. A time for weeping.
We pointed out the way to go And scratched your name in sand, Though you just thought it was nothing more Than a place for you to stand. Now, I want you to know that while we watched, You discover there was no one true. Most ev'rybody really thought It was a childish thing to do.
It was all very painless When you went out to receive All that false instruction Which we never could believe. And now the heart is filled with gold As if it was a purse. But, oh, what kind of love is this Which goes from bad to worse? Tears of rage, tears of grief, Must I always be the thief? Come to me now, you know We're so low And life is brief.
As I write this, it was within the last hour that the 110th Session of the Senate of the United States passed by 68 - 29 the most constitutional damage EVER. Consider the 4th Amendment wrecked unless some miracle happens in the House and/or in the Conference report.
THE COURTS: Bear with me here. This is a little complex. The FISA court continues to say that there is likely information that the public should know that exists in the classified materials the ACLU seeks. Christy Hardin Smith at FDL puts it better than I can:
In other words, there is likely information that the public should know that exists in these classified materials, but the Congress, and not the courts, is the place in which these matters ought to be investigated. It's a strong hint from the FISA court, but they are not going to go beyond that because to do so, in their opinion, would be a violation of their role in this oversight tango. (And I have to wonder if the documents that the House is combing through contain this information -- or is it something beyond what they have been given?)
That the FISA Court has gone on record publicly not once -- but twice now-- on this issue screams volumes. That there is no clear resolution to these issues says a lot about where we are politically, and about the levels of frustration that is engendering among a whole host of people inside and outside the Beltway.
"The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power." -- Henry A. Wallace, Vice President to FDR, 1944 -- The Danger of American Fascism
Glenn Greenwald has a good post up this morning, about how the Wall Street Journal is fudging the facts in support of telecom immunity. Most blatantly they are trying to present it as though immunity already exists and the Democrats are trying to change the law. Nothing could be further from the truth. The laws have been on the books for some time, and it's the White House that wants to change them retroactively, as GG shows:
Just marvel at this paragraph, incoherent and false in equal parts:
By far the worst threat is an amendment from Senator Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) to deny legal immunity to telephone companies that cooperated with the government on these wiretaps after 9/11. The companies face multiple lawsuits, so a denial of even retrospective immunity would certainly lead to less such cooperation in the future.
This is precisely the goal of the left, which has failed to get Congress to ban such wiretaps directly but wants to use lawsuits to do so via the backdoor.
The assertion that Congress has failed "to ban such wiretaps directly" is an absolute lie and there is no other way to phrase that. The reason there are lawsuits brought against telecoms isn't because of some cliched liberal-judicial-activist effort to impose on telecoms obligations which don't exist in law. The opposite is true: the lawsuits were brought precisely because telecoms violated multiple clear, long-standing laws that make it illegal to do exactly what they did: namely, allow government spying on Americans and access to their customer data without judicial warrants. [...] To claim, as the WSJ does today, that "the left" is using lawsuits as a "backdoor" because it "failed to get Congress to ban such wiretaps directly" literally could not be more false and misleading. And, as always, the falsehoods are bolstered by Bush-following lawyers who are single-mindedly devoted to the authoritarian goal of increasing unchecked government power, such as former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy, who hails the WSJ Editorial as "superb" despite what he must know are its undebatable falsehoods about the law.
Welcome to the Orwellian world of Bu$hCo™ doublespeak, a dialect apparently not far from the corporate language of buzzwords. Greenwald goes on to dissect further lies told in this same editorial, most prominently the idea that the telecoms are not already protected for actions in compliance with legal government requests for co-operation. IOW, even when the government may have been acting illegally, the telecoms are protected if they can demonstrate a 'good faith' argument that they believed otherwise.
Greenwald underlines the mendacity of the anonymous WSJ editorialist in a single beautifully written paragraph.
The persuasiveness of an argument can often be determined by the willingness of its advocates to confine themselves to the truth when making it. That telecom amnesty advocates resort to demonstrable falsehoods -- literally pretending that telecoms did not violate multiple laws when allowing warrantless spying -- is a powerful testament not only to their lack of integrity but also to the deceit and corruption that forms the crux of their efforts.
Nor do I believe for a moment that the editorialist's anonymity was an accidental slip. The persuasiveness of an argument can also be determined by one's willingness to put one's name to it. Another way to put this: "A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook." -- Bertolt Brecht ~~~~~~~~~~~ Perhaps the most frightening thing about the fascist shift that is going on in America is the takeover of what was once a free and independent press. I say this not just because control of the press is point #8 on Naomi Wolf's list of 10 steps that fascists take to shut down a democracy, or point #6 in Laurence Britt's 14 Characteristics of Fascist Regimes. I find this frightening because of why this is a common point.
If there is every to be an awakening from the nightmare Bush has imposed on America, it will be through a groundswell of public opinion that overwhelms even the will of the military industrial complex and the emerging feudal state of multinational corporate capitalism. How is that groundswell going to take place if the fascists control the media, and the media control people's opinions and attitude?
As popular as Greenwald may be in the pristine wooded hills of Greater Left Blogsylvania, that doesn't necessarily translate to that great a readership in the world at large, certainly not approaching the circulation of the Wall Street Journal. These falsehoods will doubtlessly be widely circulated in the corporate owned media and trumpeted through the malarial swamps of Lower Left Blogistan as well. As Churchill said, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
I leave you with a further sampling of quotes on the media, the truth, and the power of lies.
"Both by definition and practice, Laws Of Media deny commercial networks any sort of neutral or unbiased role." -- Prof. H. Marshall McLuhan -- "All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values." -- Marshall McLuhan -- "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." -- A.J. Liebling-- "Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." -- George Orwell-- "False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil." -- Socrates--
Certainly, Skull and Bones does cross boundaries in order to attempt to stay out of the public spotlight. When I wrote an article about the society for the Atlantic Monthly in May 2000, an older Bonesman said to me, “If it’s not portrayed positively, I’m sending a couple of my friends after you.” After the article was published, I received a telephone call at my office from a fellow journalist, who is a member of Skull and Bones. He scolded me for writing the article—”writing that article was not an ethical or honorable way to make a decent living in journalism,” he condescended —and then asked me how much I had been paid for the story. When I refused to answer, he hung up. Fifteen minutes later, he called back.
“I have just gotten off the phone with our people.” “Your people?” I snickered. “Yes. Our people.” He told me that the society demanded to know where I got my information.
“I’ve never been in the tomb and I did nothing illegal in the process of reporting this article,” I replied.
“Then you must have gotten something from one of us. Tell me whom you spoke to. We just want to talk to them,” he wheedled. “I don’t reveal my sources.” Then he got angry. He screamed at me for a while about how dishonorable I was for writing the article.
“A lot of people are very despondent over this!” he yelled. “Fifteen Yale juniors are very, very upset!” I thanked him for telling me his concerns. “There are a lot of us at newspapers and at political journalism institutions,” he coldly hissed. “Good luck with your career”—and he slammed down the phone. --Alexandra Robbins, Secrets of the Tomb
CARACAS–Venezuela's top oil official accused Exxon Mobil Corp. yesterday of "judicial terrorism," but said court orders won by the oil major do not amount to confiscation of $12 billion (U.S.) in assets.
Exxon Mobil has gone after the assets of the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, in U.S., British and Dutch courts as it challenges the nationalization of a multi-billion-dollar oil project by President Hugo Chavez's government.
A British court last month issued an injunction "freezing" as much as $12 billion in assets.
But Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said: "They don't have any asset frozen. They only have frozen $300 million" in cash through a U.S. court in New York. As for the case in Britain, PDVSA doesn't have "any assets in that jurisdiction that even come close to those sums" of $12 billion, Ramirez said.
He called it a "transitory measure" while PDVSA, the state company, presents its case in New York and London. Exxon Mobil is also seeking international arbitration, which Venezuela has agreed to.
But Ramirez, who is PDVSA's president, said Exxon Mobil "hasn't respected the terms of the arbitration" and its claims in the nationalization dispute "don't even come close to half the sum of $12 billion claimed by them." [...] He accused the Texas-based oil major of employing "judicial terrorism" and trying to generate "financial nervousness" around PDVSA.
Court documents show Exxon Mobil has secured an "order of attachment" on about $300 million in cash held by PDVSA. A hearing to confirm the order is set for Feb. 13 in New York. In a Jan. 24 "freezing injunction," a British court said PDVSA "must not remove from England or Wales any of its assets ... up to the value of $12 billion."
There's just a couple of comments I'd like to make about this. One is the acceptance of the idea that if white people live over a resource by dint of their having stolen the land from red people, they have control of that resource. As in say, Texas or Alberta. This principle is not to be extended to brown people, who never own or control a resource even if they've been living over it for millenia. As in say, Iraq.
The other thing is that it's pretty obvious that the big multinationals are getting way too powerful. While we usually associate the term economic imperialism with nation states, it's becoming increasingly clear that the practice has passed into the hands of unelected and unaccountable capitalists. And they're not exactly being coy about it. In fact, Canada's largest oil company is called Imperial Oil. I'd call that pretty blatant.
What is more disturbing is the clear indication that they are now using the court systems and even the military resources of powerful nations like the USA and Britain to impose their will on a world that hasn't the wherewithal to oppose them. And sadly, I don't see that trend reversing itself in the foreseeable future.
UPDATE: (h/t Green Libertarian) This story from xinhua.net (Chinese news service) helps show Exxon's motivation for these actions against the people of Venezuela.
The Exxon-Venezuela dispute has aroused markets concerns that world oil supply may be destabilized.
Prices of light sweet crude for March delivery rose 4 percent, its biggest gains in two months, to settle at 91.77 dollars per barrel at New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday.
In London, Brent North Sea crude for March delivery also saw an up of 3.43 dollars and settled at 91.94 dollars.
That should drive the cost of filling your tank up considerably, and with it Exxon's profit margin.
There's been a lot of world class pettiness on display in American politics for a long, long time. Yesterday, I started the day off with a good feeling that maybe, just maybe, some of the pettiness in the political process might be ebbing. By the end of the day, so much pettiness had been blasted through the newscycle that I wound up sitting on my couch in a rage, flailing away at my laptop cursing the likes of Mike Mukasey, Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh and a cast of thousands of the pettiest emeffers walking what's left of planet Earth.
It has occurred to me, that this is my own fault. I'm too optimistic. A candidate like Barack Obama, or even Hillary Clinton at times, can tap into that optimism. Occasionally I'll go an hour or two without the bitterness of living in a twisted, dystopian shadow of the America I grew up in, which was itself a shadow of the America that it should have been.
So when I see a news item like this I start to think, maybe this troll Mukasey ain't so bad.
From The Washington Post:
Five years after a gay advocacy group was told that it could no longer use the e-mail, bulletin boards and meeting rooms at the Justice Department, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey has reversed that decision and issued a revised equal-employment-opportunity policy barring discrimination against any group.
Mukasey informed leaders of DOJ Pride last week that the department would give it the same rights as all other DOJ employee organizations, said the group's president, Chris Hook. In a statement, Mukasey said the department will "foster an environment in which diversity is valued, understood and sought" and maintain "an environment that's free of discrimination."
DOJ Pride and its 110 members had been barred from holding an annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Month celebration since 2003, when then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft told the group that the Bush administration observed an unwritten policy of not sponsoring events without a presidential proclamation, Hook said. The group also was told it could not post notices of general meetings and events on department bulletin boards, he said.
Sure, Mukasey reversed an incredibly petty move by Ass-croft that was continued by Alberto Gonzales, who remains at large. No big deal, just simple human consideration. A welcome development that caused me to think, maybe this guy's different.
Now don't get me wrong, I never expected him to be any better than Ashcroft or Gonzo when it came to policy. I just thought, maybe he's not a complete asshole.
Wow! That is an outrage! But, by the standards set by the last two Attorneys General, it was right about where you would expect him to be--destroying our lives before hitting the lecture circuit. Holdfast blogger Matt Hamlin Browner wrote that Mukasey's declaration amounted to "a note that should go down as the day in which the Bush administration formalizes its position that the United States should be a country that is subject to the rule of men and not the rule of law." And he's right, except the Bush administration formalizes that position several times already--Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act, several other acts, executive orders out the wazoo--we all have our favorite greatest hits of Bush's team killing democracy.
But to add pettiness to assault on the torn up, charred pieces of the Constitution, I capped off my night by reading about how Mukasey is stonewalling Talking Points Memo in retribution for their coverage of the US Attorney purge. Muckrakergate, as The Politicois calling it, was one of the subjects brought up at the hearing. Democratic Representative Hank Johnson had to ask Mukasey whether he was responsible for taking TPM off the DoJ press list. We actually had a hearing where Congress demanded to know from the Nation's top law enforcement officer "are we are a nation of laws or men, and by the way, why'd you monkey with that blog?" Mukasey's a child.
Between the onslaught of disturbing Mukasey stories, Mitt Romney managed to take pettiness to the next, smarmy level with his rationale for getting out of the Presidential race. You see, Romney had to drop out because this is a time of war. According to him, if he and John McCain kept fighting it out it would keep McCain--who Mitt could eventually beat if this process were only about Mitt--from beating Obama or Clinton. If, Romney reasoned, Clinton or Obama were elected, they would embrace communists and terrorists all over the world and that's bad for America, which he loves.
UPDATE: Olbermann covers Romney's gibberish.
Then there's Limbaugh. So petty is this man that he would abandon his own party to support his sworn enemy, Hillary Clinton, so he can spend (what he thinks will be) four year of attacking her. He'll blame Bush's mistakes on the Clintons every day and that will be good for America... somehow. Never before has it been so apparent that these McCain hating, pill-crunching blowhards don't care about anyone but themselves. It's all just a petty little game to them.
The big reason, which I never actually came face to face to, until today, is that his refusal to actually act like an Attorney General, means that cases of Gitmo, Waterboarding, and nasty activity in the Department of Justice, are now NOT ACTIONABLE by the Courts.
There is no check and balance on the Unitary Executive.
Not hardly. Not if the wounds you suffer are to your heart and to your soul:
Denial in the Corps by Kathy Dobie, from The Nation
Marine Lance Cpl. James Jenkins is buried in the same New Jersey cemetery that he used to run through on his way to high school, stopping at the Eat Good Bakery to get two glazed doughnuts and an orange juice before heading off to class. When his mother, Cynthia Fleming, visits his grave, she looks over the low cemetery wall at not only the bakery but the used-car lot where James used to sell Christmas trees during the winter and the nursing home where he worked every summer and says, “Lord, son, you’re on your own turf.” James, who died at 23, is buried in Greenwood Cemetery; the owners told Cynthia they’re proud to have him there.
During his short career as a Marine, Corporal Jenkins received many commendations recognizing his “intense desire to excel,” “unbridled enthusiasm” and “unswerving devotion to duty.” It was for heroic actions performed during a fifty-five-hour battle with the Mahdi militia in Najaf that Jenkins was awarded a Bronze Star for valor. The fighting, which began on the city streets in August 2004 and moved into the Wadi al Salam Cemetery, was ferociously personal. Marines and militiamen were often only yards apart, killing one another at close range. When the battle was over, eight Americans and hundreds of militiamen were dead.
After that tour, his second in Iraq, Jenkins could barely sleep. When he did, the nightmares were horrible. He was plagued by remorse and depression, unable to be intimate with his fiancée, run ragged by an adrenaline surge he couldn’t turn off.
Back at San Diego’s Camp Pendleton the following January, Jenkins took to gambling, or gambling took to him; he became addicted to blackjack and pai gow, a fast-moving card game where you can lose your shirt in a minute. The knife-edge excitement felt comfortingly familiar. Jenkins went into debt, borrowing thousands of dollars from payday loan companies. Busted for writing bad checks, he was locked up in the Camp Pendleton brig that spring pending court-martial. In the months that followed, he was released, locked up and released again. He spoke often of suicide. The Marines never diagnosed his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When his mother called his command seeking help, Jenkins’s first sergeant, who had not served in Iraq, told Fleming he thought James was using his suicidal feelings to his advantage. “I have 130 Marines to worry about other than your son,” she recalls the sergeant saying. When his command decided to lock him up a third time, James Jenkins ran.
On September 28, 2005, eight months after returning from Iraq, Jenkins found himself cornered in the Oceanside apartment he shared with his fiancée. A deputy sheriff pounded on the front door, while a US Marshal covered the back. The young man with the “intense desire to excel” decided he could not go back to the brig or get an other-than-honorable discharge. He would not shame his family or have his hard-won achievements and his pride stripped away. And he was in pain. “He said, ‘I can’t even shut my eyes,’” his mother says, recalling one of his calls home that month. “He said, ‘I killed 213 people, Mom.’ He said, ‘I can’t live like this.’ He said, ‘Everything I worked for is down the drain,’ and he was crying like a baby.” While the officers waited for his fiancée to open the door, Jenkins shot himself in the right temple…
The rest here. Prepare to be angry if you read it. Really. Angry. The outrage I felt after reading this piece made my heart race. What had been a good day was spoiled. The excitement I had felt on Tuesday over the primaries evaporated into a seething rage. I felt sick. Physically sick. It got my acid reflux all in a mess.
As I mentioned a while back, I have a former student who is a Marine, who is due to ship out to Iraq this month. And we just found out that another former student has just signed up. With the Marines.
When soldiers returned from the Civil War with what we know call post-traumatic stress disorder, their condition was referred to as “melancholy.” After the First World War, the doctors called it “shell shock,” and they knew it was caused by the horrors of war in the trenches. Some of those soldiers actually received some forms of treatment. World War Two? “Battle fatigue.” Many of that generation just dealt with their nightmares and flashbacks on their own, through sleepless nights, ruined marriages, alcoholism. It was only after Vietnam, with advances in psychiatry and psychology and an enlightened culture that physicians finally realized that what happens to those who serve in combat is a disorder, a mental illness, something that needs to be diagnosed and treated. Those who suffer from this condition are ill: they are sick. They are patients, not “slackers” or “malingerers” or “losers.”
It is shameful - if not criminal - that the Marine Corps, which so prides itself on espirit de corps and teamwork, which sells itself to young people as being the best of the best, the “few and the proud,” can treat its own members in such a disgracefully shabby fashion. They have turned back the clock over one hundred years. Even those who tried to nurse Johnny Reb and Billy Yank back to health were more compassionate and empathetic than the callous, cold, heartless excuses for human beings who so wrongly dealt with the young men in this article.
Rather than wasting time looking into which teams might have "illegally" videotaped the practice sessions of what other teams in the National Football League, or which over-paid, over-exposed baseball players might have used “performance-enhancing” drugs, the United States Senate ought to be investigating how America’s elite fighting force mistreats and abuses its own troops. How it ignores them at best, misdiagnoses them and cuts them off from benefits as a matter of routine policy, and, at worst, leaves them adrift, abandoning them to lives of isolation, addiction, and madness, to die at their own hands, all the while denying any complicity or responsibility for their fate. And then disrespecting their families when they have the temerity to try to get to the truth.
Read this article. But don't just be angry about it. Print out a copy. Photocopy that copy. Share this. Leave it around, in doctors' offices, on the seat on the bus, in the pew at your house of worship. And be sure to show it to any young person you might know who might be considering enlisting in the military.
Show them the truth. “Always faithful”? Not to those who serve.
The US, EU and other democracies are accepting flawed and unfair elections out of political expediency, Human Rights Watch says in its annual report.
Allowing autocrats to pose as democrats without demanding they uphold civil and political rights risked undermining human rights worldwide, it warned. [..] HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said it had become too easy for autocrats to get away with mounting a sham democracy "because too many Western governments insist on elections and leave it at that".
"They don't press governments on the key human rights issues that make democracy function - a free press, peaceful assembly, and a functioning civil society that can really challenge power," he added. [..] "It seems Washington and European governments will accept even the most dubious election so long as the 'victor' is a strategic or commercial ally," Mr Roth said.
The ironic pain comes from the blatantly obvious fact that the most dubious elections of all have occurred right in the United States. The 2000 sElection of Bush the Lesser by a partisan and biased Supreme Court was a travesty. Four years later the more sophisticated but no less devastating electronic vote fraud in Ohio reinstalled the moron who would be king, to go on and add to the considerable damage he had inflicted on the nation. Anyone who thinks things are going to be better this time around should read this story from TPMMuckraker. I declare shenanigans!
I shouldn't need to elaborate - places like Bradblog and Black Box Voting have detailed the demise of democracy to death, for all the good it's done. I will sketch out just a few of the major ways that the electoral process has been thwarted in the last couple of elections:
1) Disenfranchisement before the fact: this includes practices such as caging lists and the generation of lists declaring people ineligible to vote because of criminal records that didn't exist. This latter instance was well documented after the fact in Florida, 2000, but too late to do any good as the result by then was a fait accompli.
2) Disenfranchisement after the fact: in 2000 this consisted of things like hanging chads and butterfly ballots. By 2004 it was implemented through electronic means, whereby your vote could be excluded or even flipped to the other side by the alteration of a memory card, taking only a few keystrokes.
3) False flag candidacies: Pssst. Hey, buddy! You want to ensure a Republican victory in an election? Just pour enough money into the Democratic primary to install a corporatist puppet on the other side. If you have an R - Republican running against a D - Republican, the Republicans will win every time. Do you think LIE-berman, Feinstein and Schumer are the only wolves dressed in sheep's clothing in Washington? Think again. It's not so hard to arrange things so the question becomes "will that be plastic, or plastic?" In fact it's a lot cheaper if you're an unprincipled Republican to eliminate your opposition in the Democratic primary than it is to defeat him in the general election.
4) Bulldozer tactics: Is there a particularly vocal opponent giving you trouble in Congress? Simply outspend him or her 5 to 1, and steal his seat. That's what's happening to Dennis Kucinich right now. Is it any wonder so many people choose not to participate when any good candidates are eliminated long before the ballot is even drawn up?
Here's another list, of a different kind altogether, from Mark Crispin Miller:
1. Repeal the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). This step will inevitably follow an in-depth investigation of how HAVA came to be.
2. Replace all electronic voting with hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB). Although politicians and the press dismiss this idea as utopian, the people would support it just as overwhelmingly as national health care, strong environmental measures, US withdrawal from Iraq, and other sane ideas.
3. Get rid of computerized voter rolls. It isn’t just the e-voting machines that are obstructing our self-government. According to USA Today, thousands of Americans have had their names mysteriously purged from the electronic databases now used nationwide as records of our registration.
4. Keep all private vendors out of our elections. With their commercial interests, trade secrets and unaccountable proceedings, private companies should have no role in the essential process of republican self-government.
5. Make it illegal for the TV networks to declare who won before the vote-count is complete. Certainly the corporate press will scream about its First Amendment Rights, but they don’t have the right to interfere with our elections. When they declare a winner when we don’t yet even know if the election was legitimate, they de-legitimize all audits, recounts and even first counts of the vote as the mere desperate measures of “sore losers.”
6. Set up an exit polling system, publicly supported, to keep the vote-counts honest. Only in America are exit poll results not meant to help us gauge the accuracy of the official count. Here they are meant only to allow the media to make its calls.
7. Get rid of voter registration rules, by allowing every citizen to register, at any post office, on his/her 18th birthday. Either we believe in universal suffrage or we don’t.
8. Ban all state requirements for state-issued ID’s at the polls. As the Supreme Court smiles on such Jim Crow devices, we need a law, or Constitutional amendment, to forbid them.
9. Put all polling places under video surveillance, to spot voter fraud, monitor election personnel, and track the turnout. We’re under surveillance everywhere else, so why not?
10. Have Election Day declared a federal holiday, requiring all employers to allow their workers time to vote. No citizens of the United States should ever lose the right to vote because they have to go to work.
11. Make it illegal for Secretaries of State to co-chair political campaigns (or otherwise assist or favor them). Katherine Harris wore both those hats in Florida in 2000, and, four years later, so did Ken Blackwell in Ohio and Jan Brewer in Arizona. Such Republicans should not have been allowed to do it, nor should any Democrats.
12. Make election fraud a major felony, with life imprisonment--and disenfranchisement--for all repeat offenders. “Three strikes and you’re out” would certainly befit so serious a crime against democracy.
Not to diminish the value of Mr. Miller's list, but one must ask, "what government is going to implement these changes?" I see a catch-22 here, a 'you can't get there from here' barrier that will not easily be surmounted. You're not going to get these kind of reforms until you change the entire body politic in Washington. You're not going to get a new body politic without the reforms. If you go to this post at OpEd news you'll see that a lot of the commenters feel the same way.
A more sobering reflection comes with the assumption that the November elections will be above board and the results the best we can reasonably hope for under the current conditions. (which for me would mean Obama in the White House, and a Democratic supermajority in both houses.) My point is that even the best case scenario under current conditions would be far from adequate to restore the democracy that used to exist in America. So I've decided to take a little un-scientific survey that you can answer in comments. There's no format, no multiple choices, no boxes to fill in - very open ended and unruly, the way I like things. Here is the one multi-part question.
Given the very best outcome that you can currently imagine for the 2008 elections, (feel free to name the winning candidate and his or her running mate, even cabinet members if that floats your boat)
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT:
The US will withdraw its troops from Iraq
Prisoners currently in Guantanamo and elsewhere will either be released or tried with the due process that one would expect in any civilized country
The USA PATRIOT Act will be repealed
The Military Commissions Act will be repealed and habeas corpus restored
The Protect America Act will be repealed
Serious crimes committed by the current administration will be prosecuted fully, and guilty parties penalized without pardons or commutations of sentence
Crimes committed by corporate entities enabled by the current administration will be prosecuted
Even one of the worthy proposals made by Mark Crispin Miller will be enacted
Anything I missed? Add your own in comments and I will put it up here too.
Of course it's a given that there are some things that desperately need to be restored for democracy to work, but can't be without a second American Revolution. The partisan Supreme Court that the last two Bushes have left as their legacy for example. The pillaging of the economy by the multinationals. I'm sure you can think of a few more.
The worst case scenario is of course terrifying: the installation of a worldwide system of corporate fascism under the guise of globalisation. What's really scary is that the best case scenario doesn't look that good either.
Once upon a time, in Stark County, Ohio, a woman was assaulted by a family member, and was injured badly enough that her cousin called 911 for help. Help arrived. The police officer mistook the victim for the perpetrator, slammed her around a bit, and hauled her away to jail. For some mysterious reason, the patrol car video camera was not turned on during this arrest. The injured assault victim was then taken to a jail cell, where she was held down, at one point, by no less than seven individuals, who forcibly removed every shred of her clothing. They then left her naked in a jail cell for the next six hours. She was not allowed to use the telephone. She was not treated for the injuries which had prompted her cousin to call for help on her behalf in the first place.
It's not a surprise that it is against policy for a male deputy to strip search a female in custody, and in this case, men were not only present, but clearly participated in the removal of the woman's clothing. That seven individuals were simultaneously involved in the stripping of this 125 pound woman seem to suggest a certain eagerness on the part of those engaged in forcibly separating the woman from her clothes. I believe the quote from the Sherrif's office characterizing the incident was: "by the book." They simply declared that what had occurred was not, in fact, a strip search. It was something else, and that made it A-OK.
Alright, I find myself horrified by the footage, which the victim and her husband released, and now resides on YouTube. (See the C&L post with video, and also this.) I keep asking myself why I'm so horrified, given that our government does things in the name of security that horrify me daily.
I might be horrified because this incident seems to trace back to a taser happy police force that has killed nearly 300 people, 5 people last month alone. And, I suppose the tasing tide can be described as a predictable outcome in a society that allows a powerful politician who had been consuming alcohol to shoot someone in the face at dusk, wait until the next day before allowing the police to question him, later having the victim who was shot in the face and subsequently had a heart attack apologize publicly.
Gunshot wound at dusk Smell of beer and wife not his Fresh blood spills to earth
This, I think, is what happens when a society allows a man who tortured animals as a child and delights in sentencing people to death as an adult, to control the world's largest standing army. I do see a link between the war and occupation in Iraq and the way in which the woman in this case was "handled" by the Sherrif's Department.
That could be the reason I am so horrified, but I don't think it is. I think I am horrified because this case is so highly symbolic to me. When I watch what occurred on video, I feel this woman has been violated. And I feel that I have been violated. In fact, I have been violated. We all have been. By the present administration. Our rights and protections have been stripped away from us as this woman's clothes have been stripped from her, though I will argue with much less complaint; we gave up our rights and protections rather a bit more quietly.
Guess what? That's the same argument the Sherrif's Office used to explain why they forcibly stripped the assault victim held in custody. Unable to call it a "strip search" because of the man hands involved, they said it wasn't a strip search. They said it was, "for her own safety." They did it to "protect her."
So the people who were supposed to protect her when she was hurt, turned on her, stripped her bare, and left her naked in a jail cell for her own safety.
That may be the reason I am so horrified. Because here, in the twilight of Democracy, that is what I feel the Bush administration is doing to us all.
There's a hint there as to where my loyalties lie in today's "big game." My late father is spinning in his grave, but I simply cannot root for the Patriots. As an Eagles fan, the idea of rooting for a New Yawk team really sticks in my esophagus. But. They are just too much. Too much hype. Too arrogant. Too cocky. Too much swagger. And they cheat. They remind me too much of You Know Who.
In fact, right now, they really are "America's Team," in so many (not-so-great) ways.
And here's a shout-out to my nephew J., who is 21 today. Between that to celebrate and the game, the Agitator house will be rockin.'