Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Absolution of the Bush


White House - AP Panel: Agencies 'Dead Wrong' on Iraq WMDs
By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - In a scathing report, a presidential commission said Thursday that America's spy agencies were "dead wrong" in most of their judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before the war and that the United States knows "disturbingly little" about the
threats posed by many of the nation's most dangerous adversaries. The commission called for dramatic change to prevent future failures. It outlined 74 recommendations and said President Bush could implement most of them without action by Congress.
It urged Bush to give broader powers to John Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, to deal with challenges to his authority from the CIA, Defense Department or other elements of the nation's 15 spy agencies. It also called for sweeping changes at the FBI to combine the bureau's counterterrorism and counterintelligence resources into a new office.
The report was the latest somber assessment of intelligence shortfalls that a series of investigative panels have made since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Numerous investigations have concluded that spy agencies had serious intelligence failures before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks against the United States.

The report implicitly absolves the Bush administration of manipulating the intelligence used to launch the 2003 Iraq war, putting the blame for bad intelligence directly on the intelligence
community. END QUOTE.

So our colossal violation of Article VI of the Constitution and the Nuremberg Statutes against wars of aggression is not the president's responsibility at all! It was an intelligence thing! Those evil CIA and NSA people! They fed the baby bad food. That is what this sounds like. Can't GW Bush take responsibility for ANYTHING?

QUOTE: "The daily intelligence briefings given to you before the Iraq war were flawed," the report said. "Through attention-grabbing headlines and repetition of questionable data, these briefings overstated the case that Iraq was rebuilding its WMD programs." END QUOTE.

Bush tried to blame the intelligence establishments before, I recall. And he even had one agent outed to satisfy his spite against genuine agents and anaylsts of intelligence. Yes, we all say it was leaked, but if an administration leaks, the final responsibility is that of the executive. Step up to the plate, Dubya.

QUOTE: The commission was formed by Bush a year ago to look at why U.S. spy agencies mistakenly concluded that Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, one of the administration's main justifications for invading in March 2003.

"We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the commission said in a report to the president. "This was a major intelligence failure." END QUOTE.

Or perhaps the blander assertions of mainline intelligence organizations were drowned out by a major con job or sales pitch performed by Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld. Remember,
Bush wanted this war and would have waged it regardless of the intelligence.

QUOTE: The main cause, the commission said, was the intelligence community's "inability to collect good information about Iraq's WMD programs, serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on
assumptions rather than good evidence. END QUOTE.

Desire trumps good evidence every time, and the reality-based community is totally alienated. Bush wanted this war. Period. The people in his regime planned it, with all the accessory crimes against humanity, years in advance. All the bad information they claim came from the intelligence community was forced down its throat by the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans.

QUOTE: "This is not `politicization'," the panel said of its own report. "It is a necessary part of the intelligence process." ... END QUOTE.

"I am not a crook", the Pope is not a Catholic, and an adult Polar Bear won't rip your head off with one swipe.
Some people just believe anything.
I remember the large group of diplomats, military officers, former military and members of the intelligence establishment asserting before and during the war, that every declaration about Iraq having WMDs was unfounded. Most of them that were employed in the government either lost their jobs or quit them because they wanted no part of an illegal war or war crimes. This is just a bitter attempt to discredit professional, apolitical intelligence gathering. Porter Goss's purge of January 2005 just wasn't enough for Bush et al. This is not a piece of journalism. The story tells only one thing, that this report and summarizes what it says and quotes directly from it a bit.

It does not:
1. disclose the names of those on the "presidential commission" or just
when and where it met.
2. question the premise & conclusion of the report.
3. gather external, authoritative comment from multiple sources.
4. form its own fact-based conclusion, or report an external conclusion
on the veracity of the report.
This article could have been planted by the government.

The Theft

The wealth of the richest people and corporations in America represents a substantial theft of power, both economic and political, from the impoverished of the entire world.

Providence Journal:

By Jerry M. Landay, The Providence Journal

I AM SCANNING A LIST of the 154 federal programs that President Bush would either zero out or slash in his fiscal-2006 budget, which Congress is now considering. It represents a triumph for the handful who -- with Bush conservatism's chief cheerleader and theoretician, Grover Norquist -- would "drown" the federal government "in the bathtub." In fact, it is an American tragedy in the making: a blot on our collective soul.

The wreckage is breathtaking. It includes termination of a program that tests bio-engineered food safety. Also proposed for axing are conservation programs for American forests and energy, flood prevention, funds for studies in advanced technologies, vital public telecommunications facilities (such as Internet access for schools and libraries), drug-free school programs, workers' job retraining, vocational rehabilitation, enhanced teaching quality, adult education, community service, child emergency medical services, disease control and prevention, land and water conservation, rural fire-fighting facilities, hiring of police, protection of national parks, education of migrant farm workers, the miraculous Hubble space telescope, high-speed rail (advanced transportation long enjoyed in Europe and Japan), and vocational assistance for veterans. END QUOTE.

QUOTE:Few of the "hath littles" are aware of what's being done to them. The middle and blue-collar classes are victims of declining wages, ever-higher health-care costs, and other price hikes -- led by energy costs, the highest in history, and climbing. Behind the smokescreen of a glorious "patriotic war," fear of terrorism, and pumped-up religious fervor lies a home-front war against the middle and blue-collar classes: a conservative counter-revolution, which aims at a colossal redistribution of wealth upward, to the New Aristocracy -- supported by a self-serving rewriting of the law based not on legal principle but on "free-market" theory.

The intended result is the creation of a "peasant" class, driven to the bottom by the need to compete against cheap labor pools, such as India's and China's, working for the bargain-basement wages that are all the big-business scrooges will dole out.
With corporations unwilling to share their productivity gains with workers, as in the old days, and the American union movement in tatters, America's struggling wage earners confront a sad irony: a nation originally dedicated to dissolving ancient European class distinctions is now being
driven backward into another feudal age. END QUOTE.

Another article, same subject:

Corporate America hits paydirt:
Business is basking in strong GOP majority
By Jim VandeHei, Seattle Times

WASHINGTON — Fortune 500 companies that invested millions of dollars in electing Republicans are emerging as the earliest beneficiaries of a government controlled by President Bush and the largest GOP House and Senate majority in a half-century.
MBNA Corp., the credit-card behemoth and fifth-largest contributor to Bush's two presidential campaigns, is among those on the verge of prevailing in an eight-year fight to curtail personal bankruptcies.

Exxon Mobil and others are close to winning the right to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, which they have tried to get passed for more than a decade.
Wal-Mart, another big contributor to Bush and the GOP, and other big companies recently won long-sought protections from class-action lawsuits.

Republicans have pursued such issues for much of the past decade, asserting that free-market policies are the smartest way to grow the economy. But now it appears they finally have the legislative muscle to push some of their agenda through Congress and onto the desk of a president eager to sign pro-business measures into law. END QUOTE.

Restricting bankruptcy
United Republicans are counting on the support of enough Democrats to pass a bill that has been stalled since the mid-1990s. It would require many people filing for bankruptcy to repay more of their debt. Under current law, tens of thousands of people file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which erases all of their debt. The new law makes it harder to file for Chapter 7.

Like the class-action law, hundreds of companies stand to benefit from changes in the bankruptcy law. Credit-card and banking companies, which are leading the lobbying effort, were top financiers of Bush's two campaigns. MBNA, Credit Suisse First Boston, Bank of America and Wachovia were among the top 20 contributors to Bush, donating more than $300,000 each.

The legislation includes several provisions benefiting specific industries. Retailers such as Target and Nordstrom, which help fund the National Retail Federation, a trade association lobbying for the bill, will benefit because they lose substantial money each year when people erase their debt through bankruptcy. END QUOTE.

Corporate America-- home of all Ward Churchill's little Eichmanns.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Thieves In Three-Piece Suits

This article, by Norman Solomon, suggests that the Bush Regime's practice of imperial colonialistic warfare is not just due to a desire to control resources, but is also a reflection of extreme paranoia over issues of national identity. America must remain a super-power, they say, and the people, in their frailty or in their isolated strength, must assume whatever burdens it takes to maintain such a place in the world.

QUOTE:Released on March 18 with a definitive title -- “The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America” -- the document spells out how the Bush administration sees the world. Consider this key statement: “Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism.”

A high-ranking Pentagon official, Douglas Feith, offered this explanation to reporters: “There are various actors around the world that are looking to either attack or constrain the United States, and they are going to find creative ways of doing that, that are not the obvious conventional military attacks.” And he added: “We need to think broadly about diplomatic lines of attack, legal lines of attack, technological lines of attack, all kinds of asymmetric warfare that various actors can use to try to constrain, shape our behavior.”

Translation: They’re after us! And “they” are a varied assortment of individuals, groups and nations bent on harming us while impeding our efforts to do good and protect ourselves. (The Pentagon document says: “Our leading position in world affairs will continue to breed unease, a degree of resentment, and resistance.”) Some want to murder thousands or millions of American civilians, others want the United States to respect human rights and abide by the Geneva Conventions, still others vote the wrong way at the United Nations. END QUOTE.

In other words, these people would have us believe that war is not just a force that gives us meaning, war ensures our future, makes us safe, keeps our identity and position in the world intact. So if you approve of the war, then you must also believe the assertions above. But it is not enough to support the war, one must also have a sense of inner perfection and a monopoly on righteousness and act accordingly by ostracizing or insulting the unfaithful. According to this paranoia, your dissenting neighbors are as grave a threat to national strength and security as the external enemies.

QUOTE:... The satanic ones are sneaky all right. They may cloak themselves in all manner of legalistic garb, prattling about human rights and producing other pretexts for trying to stop us because we’re on the side of the angels. But they’re after us -- they hate us for our goodness and our purity, they cannot abide the light we bring unto the world. Verily, as the Lord was commenting just the other day, America’s geopolitical agenda is the essence of virtue, and all who wish to impede it must face our wrath... END QUOTE.

I would not say I am satanic, but I am definitely antagonistic to the neocon imperialist mindset. The legalist garb is reason, which is not gossamer or shifty. If you are educated, you know when a decision is based on it and when it is not. If a judge says "I decided the case based on my feeling that . . . " or if a teacher speaks according to her teleological feelings rather than analytic science, they have led people and influenced lives without any rational basis for doing so. If a president feels that a certain country is a threat, and forces hundreds of thousands of people to die in a subsequent war based on a feeling, that president should be impeached. I do not want policy, legal decisions, legislative decisions, really much of anything decided for me based on irrational factors. All the hysteria about Terry Schiavo is just that, hysteria. There is nothing reasonable backing it. All the coverage observes emotional realities, asserts emotions, asserts feelings. The discourse is devoid of any objective element, and so it could provoke irrational and criminal behavior. And it has.

Reason is superior to religion and emotion as a ground for decision-making because it creates a context and vocabulary that all parties, regardless of religion or emotion, can agree on. Reason is more flexible than a lowest common denominator, and, unlike a problem-based LCD, requires that people understand when their emotions or beliefs are ruling their thinking. Emotions and religions create narrow, shifting, and subjective contexts that allow self-deception or more universal deceptions to exist unchallenged. An objective context can fit many problems, and thus can solve most of them. Where an objective context exists, there is some hope that a vast number of people can agree on the truth and similar hope that they harbor the same interests.

The idea that America must remain a super-power is unreasonable. It is unreasonable because this country is impoverished. It does not have the resources to support an international empire, let alone keep its infrastructure and manufacturing base intact. Most of the basic consumer goods we use are not manufactured in America, and that reality is coupled with a huge trade deficit. These conditions indicate a narrowing of the economy characteristic of a poor nation, not a rich one. As shown in an earlier post on this blog, the network of tools and services called infrastructure is deteriorating, and there are no efforts whatsoever to maintain or repair anything comprising it. 18,000 people a year are dying because they have no health insurance, and the mortality rate from cancers of various kinds is double among uninsured people. Deeper cuts in social spending, the last vestiges of public investment are being contemplated month after month. The program called Social Security, which had opponents from its inception, is about to be privatized over any public disapproval. The party in power will do as it pleases because there is no opposition, no check on its power. People will suffer as a result of these policies, and even though one might say that this argument for social spending is not reasonable, I say it is moral.

Can you think of a moral justification for the policies above? How are they good? We reason we want good government, and that the government serves the people. How do the policies above achieve that end? They do not.

Simply then, we are an impoverished nation and society, and much of that is due to our leaders' imperial ambitions coupled with persistent social neglect. They have cut the taxes of the wealthy and corporations, made undermined the welfare of the people and infrastructure, and forgotten that the goverment must serve the people. Greed and ambition are not reasonable. The desire to good, while in itself it is not reasonable, accords with the objectives of the Constitution, and therefore accords with the reasoned framework of the nation.

The Most Free of Thinkers Under Attack

Philosophers and Cultural Conservatives
They were not in conflict in the 19th century.
Bush support is Bush hysteria. One of my professors has stated that Bush may not be Hitler, but the kind of support he generates, the kind of behavior his followers show, is very reminiscent of that of Germans supporting Hitler.

QUOTE:House bill aimed to restrain academic scholars with legal threatsby Jacqueline Marcus Of what use is a philosopher who doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings?—Diogenes

One may view the history of philosophy as a history of heresy.—Walter Kaufmann

In the Florida legislature, House Republicans, on the Choice and Innovation Committee, recently voted to pass a bill that threatens to restrain academic scholars. The law would allow students to sue teachers for beliefs that do not concur with conservative perspectives. If, for example, professors argue that evolution is a scientific fact instead of a theory, and if they don’t devote equal time to creationism, under this bill, initiated by conservative David Horowitz’s campaign, students can sue the professor for being biased.

Although the bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House, it represents a growing threat against the very foundation of scholarly research. The intended goal of this bill is to portray professors as tyrannical monsters who terrorize Republican-conservative students, rendering them into poor, helpless victims under the authority of those, ah yes, Brutal Liberal Dictators! ...

Given the massive media control, it’s the last arena left where students are introduced to a humane and rational approach to serious moral issues, where they’ll be exposed to critical analysis, such as examining how the Iraqis, students their own age, feel about the U.S. invasion, an evaluation which has been deliberately ignored from the American corporate media reports from day one of this invasion. Not surprising, my students had never considered what it would be like to be in Iraqi civilian shoes, to be occupied by foreign invaders. It was the first time anyone asked them to think about Iraqi families from an empathic angle.

After we discussed Plato’s theory of Justice, I asked my students if Plato would agree or disagree with Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. Most of them understood the connection between Plato’s assessment of war and the fact that Iraq is the 2nd largest source of oil in the world. Plato argued that “the desire for more things will soon exhaust the resources of the community and before long, we shall have to cut off a slice or our neighbor’s territory…and they will want a slice of ours. At this rate, neighbors will inevitably be at war. Wars have their origin in desires which are the most fruitful source of evils both to individuals and states.” ...

Considering the lecture on Plato, you’d think that conservatives would be on Plato’s side since Plato is a Moral Absolutist. Plato argued that “Justice does not entail harming others.” Oh, oh, that doesn’t sit well with war-monger conservatives. Regarding categorical imperatives, I equated Plato’s definition of Justice with the Biblical Commandment, Thou Shall Not Kill. What’s all the fuss about? Alas, conservative Christians talk big on the Ten Commandments, but do they really accept moral absolutism?

Given the brouhaha last election over conservative “moral values,” I brought up the obvious contradiction between the pro-life position against abortion on the one hand, and on the other hand, unquestionable support for an unjustifiable invasion of Iraq that has led to over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, mostly children. Moral Absolutism, I argued, calls for CONSISTENCY. Otherwise, if you allow for exceptions, it’s no longer absolute. Make up your minds. Either you adhere to the moral imperative or you’re a relativist.

The Bush-supporting, conservative students were not intimidated; they were raging mad at me for pointing out the contradiction. One student screamed in a fit of rage that “there are NO civilian deaths in Iraq!” END QUOTE.

No Iraqi civilians are dead.
Your house is made of gingerbread.
Empathy lies in the kiln, forgotten.
Paradox is beyond comprehension.
The person who cannot appreciate contradictions and resolve them consciously and reasonably is dehumanized and thus will dehumanize others.

Democrats & Battered Woman's Syndrome


Taibbi, Matt. "The Dems: Bums." 30 March, 2005.

QUOTE:In the midst of all of this, the Democratic Party is preparing its shiny
new 2008 position on Iraq and terror. Described in Goldberg's New
Yorker article, the political plan is centered around a new faction that
calls itself the "National Security Democrats" (a term coined by that
famous liberal, Richard Holbrooke) and is led by revolting hair-plug
survivor Joe Biden. The position of the "National Security Democrats"
is that the party should be "more open to the idea of military action,
and even preemption" and that the Democrats should "try to distance
themselves from the Party's Post-Vietnam ambivalence about the
projection of American power." Additionally, the Democrats ought to
reconsider their traditional stance as an opposition party and learn to
embrace Republican heroes like Ronald Reagan. END QUOTE.

QUOTE:The Democratic party leadership's persistent and bizarre campaign of
self-condemnation and Republican bootlicking is one of those things
that, on its face, makes very little logical sense. It makes cultural
sense; we have come to expect that the cultural figures we call the
Democrats will respond to electoral failure first by sniveling and
finger-pointing, and then by puffing up their chests and telling their
dates they know how to handle themselves in a bar fight. From the
Republicans we expect just the opposite; beaten at the polls, they
immediately start cozying up to snake-handlers and gun freaks and
denouncing school lunches as socialism. It is impossible to imagine a
Newt Gingrich responding, say, to LBJ's Great Society by concocting
its own expensive plan to feed the poor black man - but we fully expect
that a Democrat who loses an election will suddenly start to reconsider
his opposition to pre-emtpive invasion and Reaganomics. END

Democrats will not earn any respect by becoming Republicans.
Instead of fighting the empire, they choose to embrace it.
Republicans, since 1980, have embraced the goal of impoverishing the people.
Democrats have failed to resist the rising tide of social injustice.
No party, faction or thought can dominate you unless you allow it to.
No leader or representative stands for you unless you approve of him or her.
Imperialism is not the vitality of the United States of America.
It is the death of our country as we know it, as we want it, and as we deserve it.
Democrats are in no position to reclaim power as long as they are examining themselves with the objective of selling policies, with the objective of garnering conservative approval.
Brutality belongs to the Republicans, it is their stock & trade, their only tool, their last refuge.

Intelligent Design: Proving a Negative

Creationism and intelligent design have only one significant difference: creationism is religion not science, and intelligent design (ID) is teleology, not science. ID exists for only one purpose, makes only one assertion: life did not evolve on earth. There are no relationships genetically or taxonomically among the earth's creatures, there is no evidence of changing forms and climate through the geological timeline.There is simply nothing else to ID. It exists only to crush out a theory with the force of fact, that is, evolution through natural selection.

By Michael Shermer, Los Angeles Times

According to intelligent-design theory, life is too complex to have evolved by natural forces. Therefore life must have been created by a supernatural force — an intelligent designer. ID theorists argue that because such design can be inferred through the methods of science, IDT should be given equal time alongside evolutionary theory in public school science classes. Nine states have recently proposed legislation that would require just that. ... But let's be clear: Intelligent-design theory is not science.
The proof is in the pudding. Scientists, including scientists who are Christians, do not use IDT when they do science because it offers nothing in the way of testable hypotheses. Lee Anne Chaney, professor of biology at Whitworth College, a Christian institution, wrote in a 1995 article: "As a Christian, part of my belief system is that God is ultimately responsible. But as a biologist, I need to look at the evidence….
I don't think intelligent design is very helpful because it does not provide things that are refutable — there is no way in the world you can show it's not true. Drawing inferences about the deity does not seem to me to be the function of science because it's very subjective." ...
The term "intelligent design" is nothing more than a linguistic place-filler for something unexplained by science. It is saying, in essence, that if there is no natural explanation for X, then the explanation must be a supernatural one. Proponents of intelligent design cannot imagine, for example, how the bacterial flagellum (such as the little tail that propels sperm cells) could have evolved; ergo, they conclude, it was intelligently designed. But saying "intelligent design did it" does not explain anything. Scientists would want to know how and when ID did it, and what forces ID used. END QUOTE.

Intelligent design should not be given equal time with evolution in the study of science because it is not science. Perhaps we should invent a new discipline, Teleology, to accommodate those people born into and truly fixated on the banal culture of "values." A separate discipline will be the only way to tell the real workhorses of analysis from the ravening values wolves in the future.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Neocon Devotion: Indulge Murder & Repress Mourning

Every now and then a story like this manages to find itself on the radar. These stories of repressed public mourning must be broadcast widely to counter the pervasive censorship of the Pentagon.

QUOTE:Still fresh, like the soil churned behind her son's grave for another row of dead, is her anger. Anger at the way the Pentagon refused her sole wish when her son was killed by a sniper last May to photograph his casket returning from Iraq.
Meredith wanted to capture the way fellow soldiers respectfully draped the American flag across the casket, tucking the sides just so, and the way an honor guard watched over him as he was unloaded from a cargo plane.
But the Pentagon firmly said "no." It was against regulations and would violate the privacy of family members of other slain soldiers.
"It's dishonorable and disrespectful to the families," said Meredith. "They say it's for privacy, but it's really because they don't want the country to see how many people are coming back in caskets." END QUOTE.

And here is how the Pentagon answers for the policy.

QUOTE:The Department of Defense defends its policy, which was created in 1991 by then-secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. The policy protects the privacy of families who have lost loved ones in the war and who may not want their son or daughter's casket inadvertently photographed, said Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Defense Department spokesperson.
What families of dead soldiers really want is "the expeditious return of their remains," not photographs at Dover, Venable said.
The department strongly discourages family members from coming to Dover to watch the caskets of the dead unload. "It's a tarmac, not a parade ground," Venable said. The caskets arriving at Dover are similar to the "hearse pulling up to the back of a funeral home," he said. END QUOTE.

These are family members, and in the event of death, physical closeness to the corpse is a custom dating back at least two-hundred-fifty years.

QUOTE:Open government advocates are rallying behind Meredith and other family members who want to see photos of their loved ones at Dover. They view this as another attempt by the Bush administration to keep the actions of the government secret. They suspect that the ban is to prevent the public from getting too upset about the war in Iraq.
"I think it's a atrocious that they won't allow photos," said Rick Blum, executive director of, an umbrella organization of conservative and liberal organizations concerned about excessive secrecy in government. "The pictures show the true cost of war and the honor and the respect that the military gives to their sacrifice." END QUOTE.

War is a public event.
These soldiers didn't just die as soldiers, but as citizens of the United States. Therefore, they are entitled to some kind of public rather than secret homecoming.
This policy is unique to the Bush Regime and the Iraq War.

QUOTE:Other open government advocates suspect that there may be political reasons for denying the public access to photograph the caskets.
"The policy keeps these remarkable images off the front pages and off television as if out of sight could mean out of mind," said Tom Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, a nonpartisan research institute based in Washington. "The policy disguises this steady, mounting toll."
In 1996, Clinton personally oversaw the return of 33 caskets containing the remains from Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown's plane crash in Croatia. In 2000, the Pentagon allowed photos of caskets from the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
The National Security Archive keeps its own tally of examples where the images of caskets were released to the public.
The organization cites eight other examples where photos of caskets arriving at military bases were allowed, including the return of Americans killed in the 1998 al-Qaida terrorist bombing in East Africa; the caskets of six dead soldiers who died in a training accident in Kuwait in March 2001 were photographed at Ramstein Air Base; and in September 2001, the the Air Force published a photograph of the casket carrying the remains of a victim of the al-Qaida attacks on the Pentagon.
Exceptions to the rule stopped when the war in Iraq began.END QUOTE.

The ban on photographs and observance of the homecomings is political in nature and designed to keep the public from knowing and, more important, feeling the cost of the war. Its price in dollars is everywhere, its cost is censored. To allow the public to mourn in ceremony would also add a trans-rational dimension to the opposition to the war, and irrationality is the basis of most of the Bush Regime's imperialist policy. If they can make the opposition to the war seem merely rational, merely calculation, and support of the war true devotion, they make a stronger case to most of the American people.
That is why this ban on media coverage of caskets exists. To deny an emotional or devotional element in the anti-war cause.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread,
Their lone waters--lone and dead ...

Edgar Allan Poe. "Dreamland." 1844.
The Apocalypse

I have to confess that I have never read the Book of Revelations in its entirety, and that for the time being, I do not want to. I do not believe it is prophecy, but a message for crypto-Christians living in the second century AD. I believe it is meant for them and not for modern readers.

The rapture is nothing but a scam to justify social neglect, environmental degradation, and the resulting dehumanized society we live in now. Belief in the rapture validates all the crimes of the Bush Regime, and turns every believer into a self-satisfied, anti-progressive glutton. There are no end times, there will be no rapturing away of the good. If anything, those who believe they will be raptured away and live lives of excess and neglect the needs of the impoverished through their embrace of pro-corporate wasting of nature are more condemned than the most apparently sinful among us. The insane or intellectually disabled man or woman trapped in a local jail, imprisoned on charges he or she can barely understand, is more worthy to be saved from the world and from hell, than the most apparently righteous of Dominionist/Reconstructionists.

If anything, belief in the rapture is an indication of an individual's fear of himself, of his fellow human beings, and of the possibility of human progress. The last thing any Dominionist/Reconstructionist wants to believe is that human action can explain the origin of humanity and the earth, understand nature, serve humanity generally and take on, with a realistic chance of effectiveness, humanity's endemic problems. The people who want the world to remain impoverished, desperate and ignorant are the ones who have profitted from these conditions. And while not all the world's gluttons are rapture-believers, you can rest assured that all rapture-believers are gluttons overstuffed with various commodities and obsessions. My biggest condemnation of Dominionist/Reconstructionists is their persistence in highlighting and creating injustices of all kinds and exacerbating the ones pre-existing. Their implications and assertions that the unbeliever is an inferior being, and that even though all souls are equal in the sight of God, the inequalities of the world must be defended and even nourished. According to my moral maxim, anyone or anything that makes the world more unjust than it already is, is evil, these people and their institutions can be nothing but evil.

I think the apocalypse will be an event that the most sinful of us, the most frightened of us, and the weakest of us will not dread, but will welcome. The apocalypse will be the day that injustice is divorced from the world, that crime and criminals are removed from human thought and action. The apocalypse will not rapture the righteous away, it will punish the hypocrite. The apocalypse will not be the union of the alienated-- it will be the disunion of the scar from the flesh, the rending of spirits from the desires for power, and the end of the monstrous indifference that has made our suffering so hard on earth. In the apocalypse, those who are weak and in need, those the world chafed and turned aside, those buried in unmarked graves, those sleeping in doorways, will be given the dignity and well-being denied to them by the corrupt institutions of the world. The debtor will not be made to suffer. The massive creditor institutions will be exposed as dens of thieves to the hatred of all the people. The apocalypse is the descent of the sword of heaven, the sword that rips the world apart, uplifts blameless nature, and shows humanity its place in nature. So when I think of the apocalypse, I am deeply comforted. When I suffer, I always imagine the sword of heaven, howling flames engulfing and deep, furious water drowning those who reinforce every injustice the world inflicts, those who have alienated righteous nature with the cancers of overwork, pain and debt they have brought to the innocent. I see this in my mind, and it makes me glad. Truly, the apocalypse is the sea without a shore, the spirit breaching the boundaries the world has arrogantly drawn.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Pertussis Renaissance

Also from City Pages, is this article on the precipitous rise in cases of pertussis or whooping cough. Even the vaccinations may not be enough to keep you safe.

Whooping cough reared its microbial head in 2004 like it hadn't since the 1950s, just after the introduction of the whooping cough vaccine. ... School nurses and pediatricians are on high alert.
Public health officials expect whooping cough resurgences every three to five years, says Kris Ehresmann, section chief for Immunization, TB, and International Health for the Minnesota Department of Health, but the number of cases in 2004 was "very high," illustrating the growing severity of peak years. Whooping cough cases in Minnesota soared to 1,024 in 2004, while in 2000, the last outbreak year of whooping cough, only 575 cases were reported. At this rate, 2008 could be frightening. END QUOTE.

Reasons for this rise in whooping cough cases are theorized as being:

  1. The number of parents who conscientiously object to immunizing their children is up.
  2. People continue to be more mobile, and this increases their chances of being exposed to the disease
  3. Adolescents vaccinated as children have defenseless immune systems.
  4. People are not exposed to whooping cough regularly, and so they do not build natural immunity to it.
  5. No vaccine can give 100% protection against any disease.

City Pages Interview, Gore Vidal.

Gore Vidal is doing something I'd like to do someday. That is, he is a history teacher to the American public. Here is a recent interview of him by City Pages, a Twin Cities online journal.

City Pages - the News and Arts Weekly in Minneapolis & St. PaulVolume 26 - Issue 1268 - Cover Story
The Undoing of America
Gore Vidal on war for oil, politics-free elections, and the late, great U.S. Constitution
by Steve Perry

For the past 40 years or so of Gore Vidal's prolific 59-year literary career, his great project has been the telling of the American story from the country's inception to the present day, unencumbered by the court historian's task of making America's leaders look like good guys at every turn. The saga has unfolded in two ways: through Vidal's series of seven historical novels, beginning with Washington DC in 1967 and concluding with The Golden Age in 2000; and through his ceaseless essay writing and public appearances across the years. Starting around 1970, Vidal began to offer up his own annual State of the Union message, in magazines and on the talk circuit. His words were always well-chosen, provocative, and contentious: "There is not one human problem that could not be solved," he told an interviewer in 1972, "if people would simply do as I advise."
Though it's a dim memory now, Vidal and commentators of a similarly outspoken bent used to be regulars on television news shows. Vidal's most famous TV moment came during the 1968 Democratic Convention, when ABC paired him with William F. Buckley on live television. On the next to last night of the convention, the dialogue turned to the question of some student war protesters raising a Vietcong flag. The following exchange ensued:
Vidal: "As far as I'm concerned, the only sort of proto- or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself. Failing that, I'll only say that we can't have--"
Buckley: "Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."
That was TV in the pre-Information Age for you. These days Vidal, who put his Italian villa on the market a few months ago and moved full-time to his home in Los Angeles, speaks mostly through his essay writing about the foreign and stateside adventures of the Bush administration. In the past five years he has published one major nonfiction collection, The Last Empire, and a book about the founding fathers called Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson. But mainly he has stayed busy producing what he calls his "political pamphlets," a series of short essay collections called Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated (2002), Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (2003), and Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (2004). Last month at Duke University, he produced a short run of On the March to the Sea, an older play about the Civil War that he has rewritten entirely.
I spoke to Vidal, who will turn 80 this October, by phone from his home in Los Angeles on March 9.
City Pages: I'll start with the broadest of questions: Why are we in Iraq, and what are our prospects there at this point?
Gore Vidal: Well, let us say that the old American republic is well and truly dead. The institutions that we thought were eternal proved not to be. And that goes for the three departments of government, and it also goes for the Bill of Rights. So we're in uncharted territory. We're governed by public relations. Very little information gets to the people, thanks to the corruption and/or ineptitude of the media. Just look at this bankruptcy thing that went through--everybody in debt to credit cards, which is apparently 90 percent of the country, is in deep trouble. So the people are uninformed about what's being done in their name.
And that's really why we are in Iraq. Iraq is a symptom, not a cause. It's a symptom of the passion we have for oil, which is a declining resource in the world. Alternatives can be found, but they will not be found as long as there's one drop of oil or natural gas to be extracted from other nations, preferably by force by the current junta in charge of our affairs. Iraq will end with our defeat.
CP: You've observed many times in your writing that the United States has elections but has no politics. Could you talk about what you mean by that, and about how so many people have come to accept a purely spectatorial relationship to politics, more like fans (or non-fans) than citizens?
Gore Vidal: Well, you cannot have a political party that is not based upon a class interest. It has been part of the American propaganda machine that we have no class system. Yes, there are rich people; some are richer than others. But there is no class system. We're classless. You could be president tomorrow. So could Michael Jackson, or this one or that one. This isn't true. We have a very strong, very rigid class structure which goes back to the beginning of the country. I will not go into the details of that, but there it is. Whether it's good or bad is something else.
We have not had a political party since that, really, of the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, who was a member of the highest class, an aristocrat who had made common cause with the people, who were in the midst of depression, not to mention the Dust Bowl, which had taken so many farms in the '30s. We were a country in deep trouble, and he represented those in deep trouble. He got together great majorities and was elected four times to the presidency. And launched us on empire--somewhat consciously, too. He saw to it that the European colonial empires would break up, and that we would inherit bits and pieces, which we have done.
If we don't have class interests officially, then therefore we have no political parties. What is the Republican Party? Well, it used to be the party of the small-town businessman, generally in the Middle West, generally sort of out of the mainstream. Very conservative. It now represents nothing but the gas and oil business. They own it. And the people who go to Congress are simply bought. They are lawyers who are paid to represent Halliburton, big oil, big banking. So the very rich corporate America has a party for itself, the Republican Party. The Democrats don't have much of anything but a kind of wistful style. They just want everyone to be happy, and politically correct at all times. Do not hurt other people's feelings. They spend so much time on political correctness that they haven't thought of what to do politically about anything. Like say "no" to these preemptive wars, which are against not only the whole world's take on war and peace, but against United States history.
This is something new under the sun--that a president, just because he feels like it, can declare war on anybody. And Congress will go along with him, and the courts will support him. The founding fathers would be mortified if they saw what had happened to their handiwork, which wasn't very great to begin with but is now done for. When you have preemptive wars, and you have ambitious companies like Bechtel who will build up what, let us say, General Electric has helped to destroy with its weaponry--these interests are well-represented.
There is no people's party, and you can't even use the word. "Liberal" has been demonized. A liberal is a commie who's also a pedophile. Being a communist and a pedophile, he's so busy that he hasn't got time to win an election and is odious to boot. So there is no Democratic Party. We hope that something might happen with the governor of Vermont, and maybe something will or maybe it won't. But we are totally censored, and the press just follows this. It observes what those in power want it to observe, and turns the other way when things get dark. Then, when it's too late sometimes, you get some very good reporting. But by then, somebody's playing taps.
CP: Has the media played a role in transforming citizens into spectators of this process?
Vidal: Well, they have been transformed, by design, by corporate America, aided by the media, which belongs to corporate America. They are no longer citizens. They are hardly voters. They are consumers, and they consume those things which are advertised on television. They are made to sound like happy consumers. Listen to TV advertising: This one says, "I had this terrible pain, but when I put on Kool-Aid, I found relief overnight. You must try it too." All we do is hear about little cures for little pains. Nothing important gets said. There used to be all those talk shows back in the '50s and '60s, when I was on television a great deal. People would talk about many important things, and you had some very good talkers. They're not allowed on now. Or they're set loose in the Fox Zoo, in which you have a number of people who pretend to be journalists but are really like animals. Each one has his own noise--there's the donkey who brays, there's the pig who squeals. Each one is a different animal in a zoo, making a characteristic noise. The result is chaos, which is what is intended. They don't want the people to know anything, and the people don't.
CP: You wrote at the end of a 2002 essay that so-called inalienable rights, once alienated, are often lost forever. Can you describe what's changed about America during the Bush years that represent permanent, or at least long-term, legacies that will survive Bush?
Vidal: Well, the Congress has ceded--which it cannot do--but it has ceded its power to declare war. That is written in the Constitution. It's the most important thing in the Constitution, ultimately. And having ceded that to the Executive Branch, he can declare war whenever he finds terrorism. Now, terrorism is a wonderful invention because it doesn't mean anything. It's an abstract noun. You can't have a war against an abstract noun; it's like having a war against dandruff. It's meaningless.
But you can terrify people. The art of government now, the art of control as practiced by the current junta, is: Keep the people frightened. It's exactly what Adolf Hitler and his gang did. Keep them frightened: The Russians are coming. The Poles are killing Germans who live within the borders of Poland. The Czechs are doing the same thing in the Sudetenland. These are evil people. We must go after them. We must save our kin.
Keep everybody frightened, tell them lies--and the bigger the lie, the more they'll believe it. There's nothing the average American now believes (because he's been told it 10,000 times a day) that is true. Now how do you undo so much disinformation? Well, you have to have truth squads at work 24 hours a day every day. And we don't have them.

CP: I'd like to ask you to sketch our political arc from Reagan down to Bush II. It seemed to me that Reagan took a big step down the road to Bush when he was so successful in selling the ideology of the market, the idea that whatever the interests of money and markets dictated was the proper and even the most patriotic course--which was hardly a new idea, but one that had never been embraced openly as a first principle of politics. Is that a fair assessment?
Vidal: He was small-town American Republican, even though he started life as a Democrat. He believed in the values of Main Street. Sinclair Lewis's novels are filled with Ronald Reagans, though Babbitt doesn't get to the White House. But this time Babbitt did. So it was very congenial for Reagan to play that part, not that he had a very clear idea of what his lines were all about. Those who were writing the scenarios certainly knew.
I'd say the downward skid certainly began with Reagan. I came across a comment recently, someone asking why we had gone into both Grenada and Panama, two absolutely nothing little countries who were no danger to us, minding their own business, and we go in and conquer them. Somebody said, well, we did it because we could. That's the attitude of our current rulers.
So they will be forever putting--what they do is put us all at risk. You and I and other civilians are going to be the ones who are killed when the Moslems get really angry and start suicide-bombing American cities because of things the Bush/Cheney junta has done to them. We will be the ones killed. Bush/Cheney will be safe in their bunkers, but we're going to get it. I would have thought that self-interest--since Americans are the most easily terrified people on earth, as recently demonstrated over and over again-- we would be afraid of what was going to befall us. But I think simultaneously we have no imagination, and certainly no sense of cause and effect. If we did have that, we might know that if you keep kicking somebody, he's going to kick you back. So there we stand, ignoring the first rule of physics, which is that there is no action without reaction.
CP: Didn't the previous successes of our economy and our empire, post WWII, condition people to expect that consequences were for other people in other places?
Vidal: Well, wishful thinking, perhaps. I spent three years in World War II, and it was a clear victory for our team. But it was nothing to write Mother about, I'll tell you. Walt Whitman once said, of the Civil War, that it is a lucky thing the people will never know what happened in the war. One can think of a lot of things, one can imagine a lot of things, but...
The sense that there are no consequences--that can happen if you keep the people diverted. Television changed everything. Some 60 or 80 percent of Americans still think Saddam Hussein was a partner of Osama bin Laden. They hated each other, and they had nothing to do with each other. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. But if you keep repeating it and repeating it--and Cheney still does; nobody's switched him off, so he just babbles and babbles like a broken toy--how are they to know otherwise? Yes, there are good journals here and there, like The Nation, but they're not easily found. And with our educational system, I don't think the average person can read with any great ease anything that requires thought and the ability to exercise cause-and-effect reasoning: If we do this to them, they will do that to us. We seem to have lost all track of that rather primitive notion that I think people all the way back to chimpanzees have known. But we don't.
CP: In your latest book, Imperial America, you refer to Confucius's admonition to "rectify the language." In that regard I'm wondering about the Clinton years, and about the success of the Clinton/Morris strategy of "triangulation," which mainly consisted of talking to the left and governing to the right. Did that play a role in setting the stage for a figure like Bush, who throws around words like "democracy" and "freedom" when they bear no relation to reality?
Vidal: Well, certainly it did. Clinton represented no opposition to this. He was so busy triangulating that he was enlisting under the colors of the other team, hoping to pick up some votes. I don't think he did, but he got himself reelected by not doing the job of an opposing political party. In other words, the Republican Party as it now is funded, is the party of corporate America, which is no friend to the people of America. Now that's a clear division. The people of America, if you ever run for office, you find out they're very shrewd about figuring out who's getting what money, and who's on their side. But you have to organize them. You have to tell them more things than they get to know from the general media.
Clinton just gave up. Also, to his credit, or rather, to explain him, the Republican Party realized that this was the most attractive politician since Franklin Roosevelt, and that he had a great, great hold over people. They also realized that if he got going, we really would have National Health--we would actually become a civilized country, which we are nowhere near. I mean, we're in the Stone Age again. He was working toward it, and they saw he had to be destroyed. Later they got a cock-sucking interlude to impeach him. If I were he, I would have called out the Army and sent Congress home.
CP: Really.
Vidal: Yes, really. They went beyond anything in the laws of impeachment. They have to do with the exercise of your powers as president, abuses of power as president. He wasn't abusing any powers. He was caught telling a little lie about sex, which you're not supposed to ask him about anyway, and he shouldn't have answered. So they use that: oh, perjury! Oh, it's terrible, a president who lies! Oh, God--how can we live any longer in Sodom and Gomorrah? You can play on the dumb-dumbs morning, noon, and night with stuff like that.
CP: Clearly Bush does represent something radical and new, and there's been an understandable tendency on the part of people who don't like where the country is going to focus their outrage exclusively on Bush and the Republicans. But don't the media and the Democrats come in for a great deal of blame for creating the political vacuum in which he rose?
Vidal: Well, the media is on the other side. The media belongs to the big money, and the big money, their candidates, their party, is the Republican Party as now constituted. So everybody is behaving typically [in media]. What isn't typical is a Democratic Party that has also sold out. There are just as many lobbyists and propagandists there as on the other side. They're never going to regain anything until they remember that they're supposed to represent the people at large, and not the very rich.
But they need the very rich in order to be able to run for office, to buy television time. I'd say if you really want to date the crash of the American system, the American republic, it was in the early '50s, when television suddenly emerged as the central fact of American life. That which was not televised did not exist. And any preacher, because religion is tax-free--I would tax all the religions, by the way--any evangelical who wants to get up there and say, send me millions of dollars and I will cure you of your dandruff, he gets to spend the money any way he likes, and there's no tax on it. So he can have political action groups, which he's not supposed to have but does have. So you have all that religious money, and then you have the enormous cost of campaigning, which means every politician who wants to buy TV time has got to sell his ass to somebody. And corporate America is ready to buy.
CP: Likewise, there's a great tendency among his detractors to call Bush stupid. You've called him "dumb," albeit not as dumb as his dad. But I'm recalling what you wrote about Ronald Reagan years ago in your review of the Ronnie Leamer book about him: that no one who's stupid aces every career test he faces. The same is clearly not true of George W. Bush, who had failed in a lot of things before he entered politics. But he hasn't failed in politics. Do you think Bush possesses a kind of intelligence akin to Reagan's in that regard, or is that giving him too much credit? How do you think his mind works?
Vidal: I should think very oddly. He's dyslexic, which means--it's a problem of incoherence. I have some dyslexia in my family, and they can be reasonably intelligent about most things, but they have problems with words, the structure of language. Not really getting it. There's an inability to study anything. Sometimes they also have an attention deficiency and so on.
I would say that he is undisturbed by these things. His is a mind totally lacking in culture of any kind. I'm not talking about highbrow culture, just knowledge of the American past, and our institutions. He's got rid of due process of law, which is what the United States is based upon. Once you can send somebody off and put them in the brig of a ship in Charleston Harbor and hold them as long as you like uncharged, you have destroyed the United States and its Constitution. He has done those things.
CP: How did so many Americans come to embrace and even celebrate these bullying, anti-democratic displays of authoritarian, censorial governance? There's a palpable sense of mean- spiritedness about a good deal of public sentiment, it seems.
Vidal: I wouldn't call it the public. There are groups that rather like it. And these are the same groups that don't like black people, gay people, Jews, or this or that. You always have that disaffected minority that you can play to. And it helps you in states with small populations. If you get eight of those states, you don't get much of a popular vote, but you can get the Electoral College--a device that our founders made to make sure we never had a democratic government. In other words, I don't blame the public. He's not popular. I've just been reading a report on Conyers's trip to Ohio with his subcommittee's experts. Ohio was stolen. The Republican Congress will never have a hearing on it. But I think attempts are being made to publish the details of what was done there, and elsewhere too in America.
In other words, I put the case that Bush was never elected--not in 2000, and not in 2004. This is a new game in the world. Through the magic of electronic voting, particularly through Mr. Diebold and friends, you can take a non-president and make him president. But how to keep the people, including the opposition who should know better, so silent, this introduces us to a vast landscape of corruption which I dare not enter.
CP: I saw a recent CIA report that referred to the United States as a "declining superpower." To your knowledge, has the government ever said so before?
Vidal: Well, their style is hortatory and alarmist. And I think they say we're declining every day and every minute. We must do this, we must overthrow this government, we must do that, stop China. Why not nuke China? [The American right] was all set to do that at one point, I remember. William F. Buckley Jr. was in favor of a unilateral strike at their nuclear capacity. A whole bunch of people, moderately respectable, were in favor of that. It all comes from propaganda. It all comes from knowing how to use the media to your own ends, and keep the people frightened.
It was very striking--before the inauguration, CNN showed a bunch of inaugural addresses starting with Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a master politician. What theme does he hit first? "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Well, that's it. He intuited it, having followed the Nazis and knowing how Hitler was putting together his act, which was creating fear in the Germans of everybody else so he could mobilize them and make the SS. Roosevelt was saying that it was this unnameable fear that we had to watch out for. Then we skip over to Harry Truman, a real dunce, but there was a genius behind him in Dean Acheson. We jump over to him, and he is declaring war on communism, all over the world. They're on the march! Wherever you look, there they are, and we must be on our guard!
He instituted loyalty oaths for everybody--for janitors in high schools as well as members of the cabinet. Unthinkable, the distance from Roosevelt to his admittedly despised successor. We've gone from, we must not succumb to fear itself, to the next one saying, oh, there's so much to be afraid of! We must arm! We must militarize America and its economy, which he did.
CP: One theory about the reason the US invaded Iraq concerns currency--the fear that European deals for Iraqi oil might lead to oil's being denominated in euros rather than dollars. Do you think that notion holds any water?
Vidal: I do. Perhaps more oil than water, but yes, that's what it's about--the terror that Europe...Europe, after all, is more populous than the United States, better educated, better quality of life for most of its citizens. And it has actually achieved, here and there, a civilization, which we haven't. There's a lot of nasty response on the part of those Americans who are eager for more oil, more money, more this, more that, to put Europe down, to regard Europe as a rival and perhaps as an enemy. It was America that saw to it that we got a weak dollar, though. The Europeans had nothing to do with it. In fact they were rather appalled, because they own an awful lot of treasury bonds that will be worthless one day.
So yes, it was a power struggle. Ultimately the whole thing is about oil. We should be looking to hydrogen, or whatever is the latest replacement for fossil fuels. All the money we put into these wars in the Middle East, we should have put into that. Then we wouldn't be so desperate at the thought that in 2020, or in 2201 or whenever, there will be no more oil.
CP: Talk a little more about public education's decay in the current scene. Much of the Bush administration's spending on No Child Left Behind is earmarked for private corporate tutors.
Vidal: I don't think Bush himself is particularly relevant to any of this, since he avoided education entirely throughout his life. Which gives him a sort of purity. He was a cheerleader at Andover, where he learned many skills that have been very useful to him since.
The educational system was pretty good once. I never went to a public school, and the private schools here are generally good, though we are also better indoctrinated than the public schools. It certainly got bad around the '50s. Just as we became a global empire, the first thing I was struck by was that they stopped teaching geography in public schools. Now here we are a global power, and nobody knows where anything is. I loved geography when I was a kid. It's really the way to get to know the world. The success of Franklin Roosevelt was that he was a great philatelist. He collected stamps, and he knew where all the countries were and who lived in them. Now we have people who don't know where anything is. I remember a speech Bush gave in which he was reaching out not only to the "Torks" but the "Grecians" at some point. We live in total confusion time.
There is also something in the water--let us hope it was put there by the enemy--that has made Americans contemptuous of intelligence whenever they recognize it, which is not very often. And a hatred of learning, which you don't find in any other country. There is not one hamlet in Italy in which you can fail to find kids desperate to learn. Yes, there are areas where they might be desperate to become members of the Mafia, but that's because they don't have any money. And a country like Italy is not rich, not as rich as we are. But there isn't a kid in Italy who can't quote Dante. There's no one in America now who knows who Shakespeare is, because they stopped teaching him in high schools.
So we are out of it. And no attempt is being made to put us back into it.
CP: When does this current bout of foreign adventurism end? You've said in other interviews that it ends with us going broke. Can you explain?
Vidal: I haven't changed my line. We don't have the money for these adventures. We don't even have the money to operate those prisons which are the delight of Iraq. All we were doing at Abu Ghraib was export what we do to our own people in our own prisons, you know. We are sharing with the rest of the world penology-- in every sense. No, there isn't the money to do it. And the few who are making most of the money are probably investing it elsewhere, preparing islands for themselves to escape to. And then their followers, who are not very many, will be experiencing rapture. They won't be here.
CP: Is there any winning back some semblance of the older republic at this point?
Vidal: You have to have people who want it, and I can't find many people who do.
CP: What can average people do about this state of affairs at present, if anything?
Vidal: Well, some of the internet has been very useful. Radio has been very useful. There are means of getting things across. It's why I write those little books of mine, the pamphlets as I call them. Our first form of politics was pamphleteering in the 18th century. They serve a purpose--more pamphlets, more readers, more this, more that. There's a battle to do an interesting kind of guide to the American centuries, and how we got where we are and how we can get out of it. I'm engaged with some people working on that. Further, deponent sayeth not.

A Brief Look Back

I went walking in some rain the other day. It was a hard, persistent rain, but I hoped all the documents I was carrying would remain dry. They didn't. It would be nice to carry an umbrella, but it's difficult because I have a cane in one hand, a pack on my back, and I'm usually trying to balance myself with the other.
I also like my sunglasses more and more either when I'm outdoors or in front of the computer. They make my life much easier even though they're a pain on the ears. I have a cough and an irritation in my throat that will not go away. I call it the Shenandoah Valley Scratch. The scratch is in everyone's throat at one time or other here, and usually several people are suffering from it simultaneously. I believe I'm over the illness that had me for the last three weeks. But dealing with that and getting over it required much sleep.
I made an apple pie yesterday that was so, so good. I piled the apple slices up really high in the center, and when it baked, the apples cooked down but the center remained elevated. The apples were tart, so I had to use more sugar to make them palatable. I'm planning a tomato pie tomorrow. Tomatoes make a good fruit pie, and it's inexpensive. Some carrot sandwiches would also be nice.My post on Antonin Scalia's speech was not necessarily topical, but I find his thinking so bereft of reason that whenever I read his words, I'm just blown away. I still do not understand how anyone so averse to reason practices law, let alone gets himself elevated to the Supreme Court. He belongs in a Catholic state, a jurist under a Catholic king, frequenting a royal court as much as a law court. That's how I see him.
Of course, we have a defacto royal court now. There are people in power who believe that your respectability lies not in what you have done or in decisions you, as an individual, have made, but instead it lies in who is willing to be seen with you. It sounds juvenile, like high school. And this juvenilia is the product not of ignorance or sheltered living, but stupidity. That is what makes it impossible to forgive.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Whining Justice

Kind of like the Raging Queen, only much more stupid.
Justice Antonin Scalia gave a speech recently that was covered by CNN. Read their article here:
In it he tries to frame his views as more pro-democratic, more flexible than more liberal and reasonable interpretations of the Constitution. I just wonder how flexible your thinking can be if you believe the government is divinely derived-- the seed of God himself. Toward the end, he whined about abortion, how nothing can be done to end it short of a new constitutional amendment, and ripped Chief Justice Earl Warren, saying:

"Abortion is off the democratic stage. Prohibiting it is unconstitutional, now and forever, coast to coast, until I guess we amend the Constitution," said Scalia, who was appointed to the court by President Reagan in 1986.
He blamed Chief Justice Earl Warren, who presided from 1953-69 over a court that assaulted racial segregation and expanded individual rights against arbitrary government searches, for the increased political role of the Supreme Court, citing Warren's political background. Warren was governor of California and the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1948.
"You have a chief justice who was a governor, a policy-maker, who approached the law with that frame of mind. Once you have a leader with that mentality, it's hard not to follow," Scalia said, in response to a question from the audience. END QUOTE.

This in itself is not strange. Officers of the court do engage in political activity; even coercive, anti-democratic political activity, as Vincent Bugliosi tells us in his article: "None Dare Call It Treason."
QUOTE:In the December 12 ruling by the US Supreme Court handing the election to George Bush, the Court committed the unpardonable sin of being a knowing surrogate for the Republican Party instead of being an impartial arbiter of the law. ... The Court majority, after knowingly transforming the votes of 50 million Americans into nothing and throwing out all of the Florida undervotes (around 60,000), actually wrote that their ruling was intended to preserve "the fundamental right" to vote. This elevates audacity to symphonic and operatic levels. The Court went on to say, after stealing the election from the American people, "None are more conscious of the vital limits on its judicial authority than are the members of this Court, and none stand more in admiration of the Constitution's design to leave the selection of the President to the people." END QUOTE.

Yes, I'd have to say forcing his choice for president onto the likes of me is political maneuvering of the highest order. As if Scalia is above it all. Yeah right.

An Excellent Commentary from New London

New London, CT is a famous port for the sealing trade in the early 19th century. It was not as important as Stonington, but important.

The GOP's Selective Compassion
Published on 3/24/2005

I have a question for all those “culture of life” people praying in front of Terri Schiavo's hospital: Where were you last week when President Bush and the Republican Congress were pushing to cut Medicaid? ...Perhaps you'd like to hear the story of another woman, Annette Arrico. A divorced mother, Arrico ran a tiny beauty parlor in Rhode Island, serving mostly elderly ladies. After expenses, she took home only $150 a week and could not afford health insurance.
Some years ago, Arrico found a lump in her breast. She knew the lump meant trouble, but she tried to ignore it.“I had all I could do to bring up our daughter,” she said at the time.Pushed by her daughter, Arrico finally saw a doctor, but by then it was too late to help her. She subsequently died.
There are thousands of Annette Arricos among us today. Lacking health insurance, they do not seek preventive care and avoid getting a diagnosis. That's why the mortality rate from cancer is up to two times higher for uninsured people than those with coverage, says a Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study....Here is another question for the “pro-life” folks: Where were you two weeks ago, when the Senate voted to toughen the nation's bankruptcy laws? The bill made no distinction between debt run up in a casino and debt run up in a hospital. A recent Harvard study found that nearly half of the personal bankruptcies were caused by unexpected medical bills. Funny, but I don't recall any spiritual leaders rushing to protect families in a medical crisis from losing all in a bankruptcy....
To the pliant members of the “pro-life” base: Follow your orders, and get excited over a poor woman who can neither think nor emote and for whom doctors can do nothing. ...Then sit back as your political masters try to cut the programs that help the sick, the frail and the dying. Let credit card companies harass families overwhelmed by medical expenses.
You have every right to call yourselves “defenders of life.” Just as long as no one else has to.
Froma Harrop writes for the Providence Journal-Bulletin. END QUOTE.

These are my sentiments exactly.

Behold, another bait & switch.

More neocon manipulative rhetoric-- let's browse!
QUOTE:March 23, 2005
Money trumps 'humanity'
By Dana Rohrabacher
The more that is disclosed about the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food "humanitarian" efforts the more it seems the United Nations has nothing to do with "humanity" and everything to do with money. END QUOTE.
I perceive a weak attempt to take conscience, humanity, humanization, and the critique about the dehumanization of society away from "liberals." The investigation is the irrelevant past, the time before Iraq was our Middle Eastern colony. The time when Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld were screaming "Invade! Invade!" to the Clinton Administration. I wonder if the Rohrabacher has read Naomi Klein's "Baghdad Year Zero" article and critique of the US occupation of Iraq and its destruction of state enterprises and creation of massive chaos in the Iraqi economy with the objective of total subjugation of the people through despair. My guess is that she hasn't. The international community condemns rightly our wars of aggression and this is our response. It's called projection and neocons do it constantly. They project all their faults into their adversaries. And one of the biggest of these since the days of Henry Cabot Lodge is the organized international community either as the League of Nations or the UN.
QUOTE:The gap of undelivered goods equates to about $1 billion a year for over five years: $1 billion a year that went right into the pockets of Saddam and his cohorts while thousands of Iraq's own children starved to death. END QUOTE.
Is this supposed to take the loss of 8 billion dollars from Iraq restoration funds off of our minds? Sorry, Dana, it isn't working.One loss is miniscule beside the other, and totally irrelevant to the current situation.
QUOTE: For years, however, America was vilified for demanding economic sanctions and blamed for the suffering of Iraqi children. END QUOTE.
Vilified justly. I've heard that as many as a million children died of preventable causes in the 10 years of sanctions. America is vilified again after the second war for outright social neglect in Iraq. In both cases yes, the vilification has been justified, principled, and backed by the facts.
She goes on to complain about the UN's inability to "police itself."All the problems she ascribes to it, loss of credibility, silencing of whistleblowers, corruption with money, are readily distinguishable features of the Bush Regime and its corporate framework.
We know more than 100,000 people are dead because of our war of aggression in Iraq. Maladminstration of one program is a miniscule institutional problem beside the premeditated, brutal crimes of Dana Rohrabacher's regime.
QUOTE: At least these questions point to possible noble intentions of United Nations employees, whereas much of the investigation has led to the conclusion there is very little nobility left at the United Nations. END QUOTE.
Kick them out of New York City and then get US out of the organization pronto, miss neocon.Why don't you suggest it? Cat got your tongue?Go it alone, neoconservative. You don't deserve the rest of the world. Whereas the UN hints at noble intentions, the neoconservative uses noble words to hide evil intentions.
QUOTE: The United Nations has a long road ahead of it in order to restore its credibility. ... As this investigation moves forward and we continue to examine the United Nations, not for what it purports itself to be but what it actually is, we must work to prevent these mistakes from happening again and repair the damage that has already been done. The United Nations must demand a higher level of integrity or risk falling into irrelevancy. END QUOTE.
If you are a neocon Republican, the UN never had any relevancy for you. Never. You use hollow arguments about sovereignty to attack it, and now that those are all worn out, you turn to straw men in the form of this investigation.
So here's my version: The American government has a long road ahead of it in order to restore its credibility. ... As this investigation moves forward and we continue to examine American foreign policy not for what it purports itself to be, but what it actually is, we realize that the damage the neocons have done to our nation is irreparable.The American government has already fallen into irrelevancy.The nerve never ceases to amaze me-- how one country, the United States, can flatter itself so much that it criticizes the entire international community, international instruments. How can one nation be so great that it is above international law? The answer is that it cannot, it is not, and it never will be.
This is just another bait and switch-- don't look at the corruption of the American government, don't believe almost every member of Congress along with everyone in the Executive and Judiciary is not lying plutocratic imperialist scum. I'm not falling for it. Not for one minute. I don't want to hear about the UN, except to document the alienation of the US from everything it is, everything it stands for, and everything it would aspire to be.
And speaking of lost credibility, foreigners pay your twin deficits, Rohrabacher. The ones that buttress the life of luxury you enjoy. I think they should stop doing that, don't you? After all, if your nation is superior enough to judge every other, why shouldn't it be left out in the cold to pay its own bills? Just keep talking and I'm sure those brown-skinned foreigners will have even more justification alienate the dollar than its weakness. Our currency is the ultimate reflection of our international credibility. Its weakness is the product of the usurper's lies, violence, and stupidity as much as anything else.

Confirming militarist imperialist state
QUOTE:Army Raises Enlistment Age for Reservists to 39
Mon Mar 21, 2:26 PM ET U.S. National - Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army, stung by recruiting shortfalls caused by the Iraq war, has raised the maximum age for new recruits for the part-time Army Reserve and National Guard by five years to 39, officials said on Monday.
The Army said the move, a three-year experiment, will add about 22 million people to the pool of those eligible to serve, from about 60 million now. ...
The Pentagon has relied heavily on part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers summoned from civilian life to maintain troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly 45 percent of U.S. troops currently deployed for those wars are reservists. END QUOTE.
More proof positive that we live not in a democratic republic, but in an imperialist state where people serve the government, bow before the velvet-clad, and lower their eyes in manufactured shame. Yes, the state needs more people to sacrifice, more limbs to hack off, more minds to make insane, and more corpses to bury in secret.

Against the death penalty, yet they embrace war

What concerns me most is not what they're against, but what they're not against. They have never made a coordinated and forceful statement against any of the imperialistic wars whose costs are ravaging this nation's freedoms, have depleted its wealth, and in the process, have killed hundreds of thousands of people. If the American Conference of Catholic Bishops makes no statements against the "war on terror"; or the looting of the US treasury; says nothing about the rising food prices; continues their dead silence about the widespread and deepening poverty of this nation; then with their silence, they approve of these things. They are closer to the world than to heaven, I assure you.
Our leaders and soldiers have committed war crimes. Our iniquity comes to light. No word. Is it the shame of the ignorant or the guilt of the man who has seen fanaticism and could only cringe?
Those who fancy themselves most powerful here believe that if they humiliate a person they destroy his or her humanity. There is no condemnation from these religious people who supposedly believe that every spirit is equal before God and indissolubly human on earth.If no words are spoken or written against these things, if the attacks are not furious and consistent against them, then we must conclude that the institutional American Catholic church approves of every single war crime, every child killed, every woman raped, and every man tortured and murdered. They bring down the lash on American capital punishment, yet they have not the stomach to confront the empire and condemn its sociopathic architects and leaders in the name of God.

How The Other Half Lives

Jacob A. Riis. How The Other Half Lives. 1890.You can and should access this famous description of Gilded Age New York City online here:
Here is the first sentence of the first chapter.

QUOTE:1. THE first tenement New York knew bore the mark of Cain from its birth, though a generation passed before the waiting was deciphered. It was the "rear house," infamous ever after in our city's history. END QUOTE.

I've read the preface and introduction too. There are many references to Christianity and organizations of reformers, and so it sounds like the work of an evangelical Christian. In that sense, it attributes poverty to corruption, depicted as irreligiosity, in the culture rather than outright corruption in the political and economic leadership. The echoes of these justifications for poverty in public discourse are deafening right to the present and paralyzing to any effort to extend a more humanistic social democracy.
I am areligious and agnostic. In other words, I do not slam the door on belief by saying I don't know. I dislike public, shared religion, because the more public religion is, the more dangerous it is.The more contemplative and solitary religion is, the less damage it does to the community.I believe in consistent, institutional, secular solutions to the endemic problem of poverty. Any individual, organization or act that makes the world more unjust than it already is, is inherently evil and cannot be changed into good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

McClellan tries to pull the plug

on the public discussion of Bush's law in Texas and his turn-around stance with respect to the Schiavo case.

Think Progress

The controversy won't die because the hypocrisy is so glaring.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bastard Regime, Gangster State

Bastard Regime, Gangster State
The evil of our leaders taints all our souls. Veterans For Peace is calling for the Bush's and Cheney's impeachment. While I think that this is too little and too late, it is significant. I am always deeply moved when I hear from groups of veterans who have mobilized and are engaging in sincere and consistent activism against the imperialistic wars we are fighting. These, along with enemy soldiers and civilians in the contested areas, are war's direct victims and their voices should be the most resonant in any debate about the futility or usefulness of war. Their suffering should dictate right away that this insanity end. Most members of Congress and all of the Bush family have no immediate relative in danger of serving, being wounded, or dying in war. None of them will find themselves on the floor of a cell in a foreign country contracted to torture or even kill them. Their risks of encountering a "roadside" bomb as they drive through Arlington National Cemetery are minimal at best. These people, in their comfortable cars, heated-cushioned chairs and flag-draped buildings, know nothing of the tattered morale and dread of American soldiers. They believe that pride is nourishment enough for both body and soul. How quickly and defensively they dismiss the truth that where poverty coupled with loss of limb and life is rampant, PRIDE IS MORE MORTAL THAN FLESH.
Mike Ferner. "Serving, refusing, impeaching."QUOTE:Having taken care of hundreds of young soldiers used up and thrown away during Vietnam, and witnessing yet another generation led to slaughter on a lie, it gives me particular satisfaction to publicly announce that on Monday, the Veterans for Peace national office, representing 118 chapters across the country, will notify the entire Congress of the United States of our demand that George W. Bush and Richard Cheney be impeached!!
VFP is calling for Bush and Cheney's impeachment because - and this is important to understand - when Senate adopts an international treaty, it becomes part of the supreme law of the land, the same as an act of Congress. It's clearly stated in par. 2, Article VI, of the U.S. Constitution. This means Bush and Cheney have specifically and continually violated Article VI of the constitution and the U.S. War Crimes Act passed by Congress in 1996. We are calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney because they continue to commit what are clearly defined by the Nuremberg Principles - legally binding on the U.S. - as "crimes against peace...crimes against humanity...and war crimes." ...The Nuremberg Tribunals following WWII did not favorably judge the first nation the world determined had waged a war of aggression, nor its "good citizens" who obeyed their government. END QUOTE.

So for those who are asking, what laws have we violated? What have we done? I submit these documents and suggest that you read them. Look at what we've done in terms of them and you will see the criminality of this regime and why it must be stopped dead in its tracks.

Article. VI.
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. END QUOTE.

This is the article of our constitution that says that any international instrument we enter into becomes American law. In the eighteenth-century, the American government, Continental, Confederation and Constitutional, had more respect for international instruments than it does now.
QUOTE:TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441
§ 2441. War crimes
Release date: 2004-08-06
(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death. (b) Circumstances.— The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act). (c) Definition.— As used in this section the term “war crime” means any conduct—
(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or
(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians. END QUOTE.

This 1996 law construes American law in terms of the Geneva Conventions and international instruments. How did we come to disrespect these instruments so completely within a decade? The people who govern us are insane, or driven by manic greed and hatred. Reason, reality and precedent are forgotten. Are you still not convinced that America has turned from a democratic republic to a criminal, imperialist state?

QUOTE:Principle VIThe crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:
(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).(b) War crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
(c) Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime. Principle VIIComplicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law. END QUOTE.

There is a table of contents, and each one is hyperlinked.Read them through and you will see just how illegal our conduct in the last five years has been.

Our wars since 2000 have been wars of aggression, and were planned well in advance. This is a fact. This will never be erased, ignored or put away. And no matter how secret the government will try to keep it in the US, the truth will come out. A war of aggression is a crime. Period.We have conducted both these wars brutally. We have sought to destroy our enemies rather than vanquishing their strength. Inflicting destruction beyond an enemy's strength is crininal in the conduct of a war of any kind. So both the wars and their conduct were criminal.We did not occupy Afghanistan or bring it under the boot because our leaders are afraid to do so. After all, Aghanistan doesn't have the second largest oil reserve in the world, does it? They also dimly remember the Soviet experience there. What they do not realize is that the Soviet experience with a few variations is what we are experiencing now in Iraq.

Our occupation has been unforgivable. We, intentionally, have forced the Iraqi people to contend with a broken infrastructure, unclean water, untreated sewage, substandard housing and poverty that is more intense than anything they experienced before. Our military and government mistakenly believe that if the people are so impoverished they will not fight against occupation and the rape of Iraq's resources. They are wrong. Our occupation and forcible social neglect are crimes against the humanity of the Iraqi people. Social neglect as rape-- only an American would think of it. We have also tried to create something akin to the open-door policy in China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. Our little trip back in time has been complicated by the so-called "insurgency." I prefer to call it a resistance movement. The pipelines are installed and blown up within a week. The dynamic is played out over and over again. The way I see it, it's a rough form of justice, but nothing like a court.

Our conduct is sociopathic and murderous to the civilians who fall into our hands. In American jails and various prisons in various countries, people are taken in and disappear. There is no line to the outside world, no lawyer, no connection at all to significant others. I noticed that the photographs of men being humiliated at Abu Graib were eagerly circulated, and I also noticed that there were no photographs of women or children being humiliated in the presence of evidence that these things have also happened. I really wonder what the result of the circulation of such photos would be in our open-door, laissez-faire paradise known as Iraq.

So beyond doubt, we see an imperialist, criminal state, a government which privileges force either as torture or money over reason, reality, and precedent. A democratic republic and a imperialist state are not the same, they may not even co-exist. When this country turned the corner toward imperialism more than a hundred years ago, it set democracy on a treadmill. Now the democratic republican root is cut away, and those of us who remember it do not mourn as much as we rage. Can we retrieve it? I don't think that's possible without the overthrow of the current government and the suppression of the elites. It is not possible without the striking of corporate personhood from law, economic practice, and culture. It is not possible without the disowning of religion in the public sphere and the embrace of the secular society. In other words, I think a civil war is the only way we will ever bring democratic practice back to American culture and society. And where there is democratic practice, there is the hope of democratic republicanism.

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