Friday, April 30, 2010

Democrats in Your Face: Moo

It seems to become clearer with each passing day that the Democratic Party is not our friend with this latest really bad idea, a national ID card, being the latest example of why the Democratic Party is not our friend. Apparently this “biometric” national ID card will resolve what has allegedly become a serious illegal alien (Mexicans) problem brought to the front as a result of the collapsing economy and job loss. While illegal aliens are a controversial topic with people arguing their different views I don’t believe I wish to see it resolved with this latest dehumanizing assault on our rights in the form of a branding iron which is exactly what this is, the Democrats wish to brand us like a bunch of fucking cattle. I, for one, am getting tired of these reactionary reactions to every perceived threat whether it is fantasy or real.

From what I have read this will require everyone who has a job to be fingerprinted like criminals. And what a boon for the police state this shall be. Our freedom loving Democrats are cinching the noose of a brave new police state ever tighter around our necks. As always, the government uses fear to manipulate the public but is the immigration problem really a national threat? I’m far from convinced that illegal aliens will topple the mighty American Empire and certainly not enough to wish to be subjected to such demeaning and insulting measures as this ID card. Next thing you know they’ll be tattooing serial numbers on the foreheads of newborns. Of course this could prove embarrassing for corporations like MacDonald’s if one of the tattoos is found on one of their hamburgers and we find out what really goes into a Big Mac.

Another interesting aspect of this ID card is that the independently and fabulously wealthy, who neither toil nor produce, won’t have to participate, they don’t work so they don’t need a card. Amazing how these things work out in the wash. Perhaps the worst aspect is that, if put into effect, you will need the government’s authorization to work. Aside from the above can you imagine the nightmare scenarios that are likely to occur? Something that is as complex as this is bound to create mistakes and errors and after reading the PDF file of this proposal it sounds like you will have to go through hell and high water to rectify a mistake or error that erases your identity which could put a kink in recreational pastimes like eating food when you are hungry. In the end you have to ask do we want legislation that requires us to have the government’s authorization to work? Are things really that bad that we now must give up the right to work just to keep a few Mexicans out? Surely this is a draconian measure hideous in its conception, tyrannical in nature, and completely out of all proportion to the problem.

Fund-raiser at The Real News

For one day only, the Real News is having a fundraiser with a special anonymous donor matching people's donations at 2 to 1! I encourage you to support them if you can. One of their recent videos is directly below.

More at The Real News

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Al jazeera: traffic lights in Jerusalem

from Al Jazeera's Youtube channel, via Irish4Palestine and Xymphora.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

from the ANSWER coalition: April 15th, 2000

a press release from the ANSWER Coalition:

IF that link doesn't work, they're also here:

"After 10 long years of litigation filed by the attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund on behalf of those of us who were arrested, a huge civil liberties victory has been achieved, resulting in the largest protest arrest settlement in U.S. history.

This victory was due to the amazing diligence and expertise of the Partnership for Civil Justice, who worked pro bono for a decade, and the steadfastness of those who had been arrested.

Everyone who was arrested at 20th St., NW between I and K st, on April 15, 2000, is now eligible to collect $18,000, but they must file their claim by May 17, 2010.

... the urgent email from the Partnership for Civil Justice on how people who were illegally arrested on April 15, 2000, can collect their $18,000. If people do not file the claim by May 17, 2010, that money will revert back to the government."

(No, I wasn't there, and in fact I've never attended an ANSWER coalition event. On the face of it the amount strikes me as high but I don't know what happened, and it may partly reflect the enormous cost it took to wage a legal battle for so many years. (I note that April of 2000 through April of 2010 takes us through the last months of Clinton's 2nd term, the entire Bush II era and the first year of Obama's term in office, and apparently all three Justice departments ran up the government's tab rather than settle, which probably would have been much cheaper for the taxpayers 10 or 9 or 8 years ago. )

At any rate, I am posting this in case someone reading this knows someone who knows someone, etc. Unlikely, but you never know. I'm also impressed by the legal effort described and thought it deserved a mention.-JV)

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Winners and Losers: The Unappreciated Power of Culture

Underestimate the power of culture at your own risk. In the original Star Wars movie Yoda describes the Force to Luke as something that you cannot see but is all around us and binds us together or something along those lines but it’s a very good description of culture if you substitute the word culture for the word force. Culture is all around us though you can’t see it (though you can see its effects) and it most certainly binds us together (crudely described as tribalism) but it is much, much more than that. Culture dictates how we dress, speak, what kind of food we eat, but more importantly it dictates how we think, how we view the world, it shapes our reality, and like the force it is incredibly powerful. The crumbling ruins we call Iraq are a testament to the power of culture and how destructive it can be when we are blinded by false world views.

Even a modest knowledge of world history has shown that when a culture more technologically advanced meets another culture with much less advanced technologically the results are usually disastrous if not fatal for the less technologically advanced people. One only need look at the European colonization of Africa and North America to see examples of this. Since American culture views brute power as above all other things and that we see the world as a set of dualities, or often do, such as winners and losers (usually determined by how wealthy you are) the natural assumption is that since we won, that is to say we invaded, committed genocide, and stole the land we live on, we are superior and thus by virtue of that superiority the lesser breeds are destined to fade away, the quicker the better assisted by much revision of history. It’s all very sad of course, the noble Red Man drooped on his horse, head bent, a tear rolling down his cheek but in the end it is better for everyone involved because now everyone can benefit from our superior technology and culture. By the way this is exactly the attitude taken by most Americans toward the people of Iraq. How often have you heard our leaders say that it is time that the people of Iraq should stand up for themselves now that we have bestowed our great white wisdom upon them with our gift of “democracy?” Those stupid brown people don’t know anything! This kind of demagoguery is the result of our culture shaping our very thoughts and views and most especially of those people who engineered the Iraq War.

One question is or should be – does advanced technology really establish superiority both morally and intellectually? I find the idea to be absurd. If anything, I believe I could make a case for the opposite to be true. For example Western Culture is a recipe culture. When we learn how to do something we don’t have to understand what we are doing or why we just know that if we follow the steps in the recipe we will get the desired results. On the other hand Native American cultures understood and knew why their technology worked and they did have technology, they made and built things and they used tools all of which qualifies as technology. When White “settlers” and Native Americans met the Native Americans were horrified by the White practice of beating children and it convinced the Native Americans that Whites were in fact barbarians. And after watching that Wiki leaks video I would say those early Indians had us pegged from the beginning. As for our sciences making us morally and intellectually superior guess again. The vast majority of Americans believe that Christ actually rose from the grave not to mention schools that teach a lot of creationist pseudo-science and other garbage in lieu of one the few scientific theories blessed with a plethora of hard evidence, evolution. So one can hardly use “science” to rationally view American culture as superior to all other cultures considering what a superstitious lot most Americans are.

I am not anti-science nor am I anti-modern technology. What I am against is using our science and technology to slaughter and murder other human beings and then using that same science and technology as proof of our superiority thus justifying the horrors of war. It just doesn’t wash. There are of course other aspects to American Exceptionalism but this unfounded conceit is certainly one of the largest and most dangerous of those aspects.

Friday, April 23, 2010

briefly, 23 April 2010

No, we haven't gone away. I guess we've just been hibernating. For my part I'm working on a post to go up this weekend. Don't know what Rob is doing- something mysterious and interesting, no doubt. However in the meantime I call attention to Arthur Silber, who has been posting again recently. If you're feeling generous with all that tax refund money burning a hole in your pocket, also consider sending him some dough.

April 12, 2010
"A Post I Already Regret"

April 20, 2010
"An Evil Monstrosity: Thoughts on the Death State"

April 22, 2010
"It's not the sex fraud. It's never the sex fraud"

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Healthy and Natural Survival Technique

It seems to me that the idea that one should view anything any national leader says with the utmost skepticism should not be regarded as cynical but rather as a healthy and natural survival technique. For example I really like the following quote…


Writing in the 19th century, Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin said that the State is “the most flagrant, the most cynical, and the most complete negation of humanity… this explains why kings and ministers, past and present, of all times and all countries—statesmen, diplomats, bureaucrats and warriors—if judged from the standpoint of simply morality and human justice, have a hundred, a thousand times over earned their sentence to hard labor or to the gallows.”

For years if I came across the word anarchy I associated it with people rioting, murdering and raping, looting, stealing, and so on. Yet isn’t that exactly what the State does? Our troops are murdering, raping, and stealing. Our actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere have led to rioting and looting. So what makes this better than anarchy? And perhaps anarchy could be something else entirely than my original idea of what it would entail. Maybe anarchy would be people minding their own business, doing what they wanted without hurting or bothering anyone else, pursuing the arts if they chose, or whatever. Truly people aren’t ready for anarchy for we have all been twisted by the culture we are born into and therefore susceptible to all the violent insanities that have been emblazoned upon our brains yet who knows what might be possible for humanity in the distant future?

A lot of futuristic science fiction concerns humanity spreading out through space, kind of a super cosmic imperialism which reflects the limited world views of our times. But what if someday humanity just moves beyond the need or desire for such things which would lead to a future very different from the self heating atomic powered coffee cups and ray guns that populate so much of science fiction. The assumption has always been that science and technology is what makes Western culture the superior culture yet the last eight years has shown that same science and technology being put to the basest of purposes, slaughtering other human beings, shooting them down like dogs in the street. Clearly any claims of superiority based on whatever delusional type of thinking falls apart as the West continues to pummel the East into submission, or attempts to.

Sitting atop this mountain of gore and death are the national leaders, the apex of a sickening system whose purpose is to promote and encourage the use of power to keep that same system that the monsters suckle from intact. You can argue endlessly over if it’s the system or if it’s the people in the system because the true cause for the endless wars and disintegrating economies can be found in America’s long descent into a military state. That is to say it’s the very structure of our entire culture that is to blame because our entire culture now revolves around all things military. In America generals are held in higher regard than luminaries like Martin Luther King and very few dare speak ill of the military or the troops themselves. Look how often the endless parade of generals are now in the news, with the news media hanging on every ridiculous and contradictory statement emanating from the mouths of the generals which become more outlandish with every passing day. But don’t be surprised when one of the good generals becomes president someday. It’s only fitting you see because having been in the military, and a general to boot, is the best resume ever in a military state like ours.

This in no way excuses people like Obama who seek the power of the presidency. Obama actively sought the presidency knowing full well that part of the deal was to keep the imperial wars roaring along and in this instance has been more than successful. To put your trust into national leaders, any national leader, is nothing less than suicidal. Congress has the power to end the wars by cutting off the funding but they won’t do it. Congress had an opportunity to pass health care reform but they didn’t do it. Congress has the power to spur job growth but they don’t use it or what they do is too little too late. Obama isn’t fighting to end the wars he is rather their champion. All these leaders have choices but their choices are always driven by political self preservation, the preservation of their own power.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Katyn, yesterday and today

Added On April 8, 2010
Russia joins Poland to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. CNN's Atika Shubert reports.

* Death toll rises in Kyrgyzstan unrest; state of emergency declared

Added On April 8, 2010
CNN's Errol Barnett interviews a blogger in Bishkek via webcam to see the extent of unrest and damage in Kyrgyzstan.

* Kyrgyz president says he won't resign

Before last week I had never heard of the Katyn massacre, in which Russian troops killed over twenty thousand Poles at the beginning of WW2, simply to consolidate the planned Soviet satellite state that communist Poland became after the war. It took another tragedy, in which Poland's president and wife and over 90 others were killed in a plane crash the day after the above videos were posted, to make many people aware of what happened at Katyn in 1940, myself included. (They were on their way to a ceremony in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the massacre.)

By the way, did you know that Lech Kaczyński, the recently deceased Polish president, had two PhDs and was a member of Solidarity? He was also shipped off to an internment camp by the government for a while in the early 80s, when the communists enacted a period of martial law. Part of me wants to deify him, as liberals are wont to do, but I remind myself that Poland has co-operated with the US government this past decade in the CIA black sites programs, and that gives me pause. But he still sounds like a more admirable character than either our current leader, or his smirky predecessor.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Rule of Law

Consider what David Swanson wrote:


President Obama has ordered the murder of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. Like the innocent but tortured Abu Zubayda (innocent at least of any of the crimes he was accused of), Awlaki is now the mastermind terrorist of the universe. And once he's dead, who's to say he wasn't? Who can demand a trail or access to documents? He'll be dead. See the beauty of it?

When the government makes an exception to the rule of law, then there is no law, because now anything is possible. And certainly foregoing any of the legal “niceties” for a particular case is making an exception I would say.

One might be tempted to believe that as the U.S. moves closer and closer to that ideal police state, so beloved of the corporate world, that the rule of law becomes stronger but what really is happening is your rights as a human being are evaporating. After all, if the president declares your death sentence without an accusation, no reading of your rights, no lawyer, no trial, what rights do you have remaining? The answer is none of course.

Using their wartime powers presidents have usurped civil law all through recent history. In other words, as they claim more power under the umbrella of war our rights diminish. When President Nixon stepped down from the office in order to avoid impeachment a lot of people at the time thought that Nixon had seriously damaged the office of the president, in fact weakening it, if only that had been true. Or, if it had been true the effects were ephemeral for certainly the power of the president has grown since those days under Nixon culminating today in the form of Obama who rather than dispensing with the expanded powers of the president he inherited from Bush is now expanding them further which is being ignored for the most part.

For example there is the drone war being conducted by the CIA under orders from President Obama. The CIA is the personal and private army of whoever is president. In this case the use of drones by the CIA in places like Pakistan was initiated by President George W. Bush and is now being expanded by Obama. Thus the powers of the president grow with each successor and the rule of law becomes expendable and diminishes.


The U.S. government runs two drone programs. The military’s version, which is publicly acknowledged, operates in the recognized war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and targets enemies of U.S. troops stationed there. As such, it is an extension of conventional warfare. The C.I.A.’s program is aimed at terror suspects around the world, including in countries where U.S. troops are not based. It was initiated by the Bush Administration and, according to Juan Zarate, a counterterrorism adviser in the Bush White House, Obama has left in place virtually all the key personnel. The program is classified as covert, and the intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed.

Murder is nothing new in the history of the U.S. who has assassinated foreign leaders with impunity not to mention the victims of Obama’s drone war in Pakistan where targets are chosen from highly questionable sources accompanied by highly questionable results, mostly the deaths of innocent villagers or farmers. What is, among other things, disturbing from the above quote is the secrecy that accompanies this, for lack of a better term, murder incorporated. And now this same den of killers are being aimed at Americans, which is not to say that it is any more horrific than targeting the people of Pakistan, but that Americans no longer have any rights what-so-ever as long as Obama, or any president, reserves the right to murder anyone on his say-so alone. We have reached the point where the rule of law no longer exists.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010



I’m loving all the carefully thought out and nuanced positions people are taking regarding the video released by Wikileaks showing U.S. soldiers murdering people in Iraq. There is no nuanced position, clearly war is wrong and what the soldiers did was wrong. There is nothing else to say about it, there are no mitigating circumstances. Those soldiers have no business being in Iraq therefore even if the murdered Iraqi were carrying weapons in each hand and hand grenades on their belts American troops have no business shooting people in Iraq. That’s fairly simple and I would think even a moron could understand it. But there you go.

Let’s take it one step further, even if the people that were murdered were shooting nuclear tipped warheads at the helicopter Americans have no business shooting people in Iraq because they shouldn’t be there in the first place. The one fact being denied in all this nuancing is that American troops shouldn’t be in Iraq at all. Period. The End.


Jonathan Schwarz hits the nail on the head in a brilliant post on this topic.

Here's my prediction for the final outcome of the Wikileaks video: the U.S. military will continue to claim some of the people killed were armed insurgents. This will satisfy all U.S. conservatives and most U.S. "liberals." Meanwhile, everyone else on this planet will continue to gape at us in slack-jawed horror.

Read the rest.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Nothing at All

Air force One carrying President Obama flew through the night returning from another PR moment in Afghanistan. Overhead shone a gibbous moon bathing a sea of clouds beneath in its radiant light. Sitting back in his comfortable seat sipping hot coffee, and wishing he had a smoke, Obama thought about his brief visit with that crazy bastard Karzai. I can put up with him for now, thought Obama, though in the end he was fairly sure Karzai might get a missile down his chimney, an unfortunate accident for the old drug runner. Christ, he had the nerve to thank the American people for their tax money, Christ. Yeah, a missile down the old chimney just might be in order. I can always find another sock puppet, no shortage of those. I’m the president of the United States and I have the power of life and death over all the little Karzais in the world, they survive by my good will as God, er, I mean president.

Suddenly, Air force One was hit by some strong turbulence and the plane drops straight down into the clouds of the storm raging below. Obama wiped spilled coffee from his cloths as the pilot got the plane level and under control. Outside lightening split the black void as rain pelted the window next to Obama’s seat. The thunder was ear shattering and with the next flash of light the plane shuddered but plowed on through the night. A secret service agent dressed immaculately in a blue suit hurried down the aisle, “Sorry sir,” said the agent, “but we’re having trouble with the controls, maybe the turbulence damaged something, but we can’t gain any altitude to climb out of the storm. I’m afraid it’s going to be rough for the rest of the trip Mr. President.”

“Can we land?” Obama asked.

“Yes Sir, nothing wrong with the landing gear sir, we just can’t go up, a little weird but we’re okay,” replied the agent.

Obama thanked him and went back to his own thoughts as the agent left going into the next cabin, probably to go back to sleep, thought Obama. Not that I blame him, been a long trip and now this damned storm, ah well. Even after the coffee Obama felt drowsy and he soon began to drift off to sleep. But what was that music he was hearing? It sounded like, yes, it is, it sounds like Charlie Parker playing Confirmation one of Bird’s most famous compositions. Obama loved Jazz even though he preferred White music and he especially liked Charlie Yardbird Parker, also known as “Bird.” In fact Obama had almost been inspired to be a musician by Bird but in the end he chose a different path. A more pragmatic one thought Obama, after all, Bird died without two bucks in his pockets despite his great talent and look at me, got my own jet, lots of bucks coming in, I’ll make a fortune after I’m done being president on the lecture circuit, hah!

But where was that music coming from? Now Parker was playing Now’s the Time and as Parker’s awesome solo reached its peak lightening struck again and all the lights in the plane went out plunging everyone into darkness but came on again a second later and when they did Obama saw Charlie Parker sitting across from him as he finished the last chorus of Now’s the Time. Parker put his horn down in the seat next to him his eyes narrowing as he fixed Obama with a glare and said, “Now’s the time man, now’s the time.”

Obama wondered if he was dreaming, Parker died over fifty years ago, he couldn’t be here on this plane, could he? “Y-y-y-you, can’t be here, your dead!” Obama shouted. Parker winced, “be cool man, you don’t have to shout, it’s just you and me and I’m here to have a little talk with you. We all got together you know, Monk, Trane, Powell, Dizzy, and all the rest of the cats and they sent me here to have a little pow-wow with the prez, no, not that Prez, you man, it’s you, you’re screwing everything up.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, just look at you, you’re black on the outside but on the inside you're lily white. You been throwing in the wrong substitutes and playing the bridge on the wrong chorus. You don’t even make sense most of the time. You tell stories but they are incoherent which isn’t cool, not by a long shot. Telling stories is only part of the deal man, you have to make sense, your stories have to be logical or it sounds like Chinese Jazz though you sound more like Tommy Dorsey to me, you’re just too damn white that’s your problem. I’m here to fix that. These wars you have going, they're hurting everyone, and when things go south you know it’s the minorities that get the brunt of it. It’s like you turned your back on your own people and that’s got to stop. We all thought you were pretty cool at first but after your first year we know better. You’re not cool at all man, no, not cool at all. It’s time to end the wars and bring the boys back.” With that Bird picked up his horn and started playing Back Home Blues.

Fuming, Obama said, “Hey, all I’m doing is playing the White Man’s game and beating him at it, look at me, I’m a living legend, a walking, talking, historic moment, I hold the power of life and death over my minions, I’m the first Black President, doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“I see,” replied Bird, “It’s all about you isn’t it. Don’t you ever think of consequences and those who have to pay them?

“Why should I, I have power and they have nothing, they are nothing, I’m the decider not them.”

“Man, you’re even more outside than I thought. I thought you were kidding when you said Ronald Reagan was one of your heroes but now I see you’re really bent. That Afghan War is a song without an end, just keeps taking the coda and repeating endlessly. How are you going to end it?

“End it! Who said anything about ending it? The war is reason enough for its own existence; I’m making sure I get reelected by showing people what a Democratic President can do because staying in power is the name of the game. It’s everyone for themselves and the weak will go to the wall, that’s reality Bird, that’s the way it works. Look at you, you were the king in your day, musicians threw their instruments in the river because they couldn’t play like you. You didn’t take any crap from anyone so why should I?”

“That’s not the same, it’s not like I was offing people,” Bird said. “And that’s what you’re doing, and not just soldiers but innocent men, women, and children as well and that’s just wrong, just wrong. I mean, how do you sleep at night knowing that your orders result in the death of little kids?

“I don’t think about it” Obama replied. “Besides, you're nothing but a dead junkie, you boozed and drugged yourself to death so where do you get off talking down to me?”

“Well maybe you should think about it” replied Parker, “I’m all of what you said man, I don’t deny it yet I also gave immense pleasure to millions of people and inspired thousands more to play music, I gave people joy and you give them death, that’s the difference between a dead junkie and yourself Obama.”

At that moment young kids appeared out of nowhere to walk down the aisle toward Obama, their faces somber and sad, those that had faces at any rate, for many were horribly mangled and didn’t have what you could actually call a face any longer but they said nothing as they silently looked at Obama as they passed. Obama felt his dinner rising up his gullet and sprang for the bathroom tripping over what looked like a child’s shoe. When Obama awoke he was chilled to the bone and covered in a clammy sweat but he was in his seat on board his very own Air force One and it had all been a dream, nothing to worry about. No, nothing to worry about at all.