Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RIP : Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

"Raise more Hell."


An Update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

There's a lot of right-wing angst out there about the new American dictatorship, Venezuela.
A congress wholly loyal to President Hugo Chavez approved a law Wednesday granting him authority to enact sweeping measures by decree.

Let's get this straight: Chavez was given this authority by a democratically elected Congress, representatives of the people, right? And it was all done Constitutionally, right?
Chavez, who is beginning a fresh six-year term, says the legislation will be the start of a new era of "maximum revolution'' during which he will consolidate Venezuela's transformation into a socialist society. His critics are calling it a radical lurch toward authoritarianism by a leader with unchecked power.

But George W. Bush has consistently and frequently ignored laws passed by the US Constitution by issuing "signing statements" that nullify the legislation he is ostensibly signing into law, and in some cases violate the US Constitution. One signing statement asserted the right of Executive Branch agencies to read your mail without a warrant. Another, issued on the McCain anti-torture legislation, said, essentially: "Torture is wrong and we won't do it; except when WE think we ought to."

Bush has consistently overreached Presidential power in the execution of the Iraq war, calling himself "the decider" amd ignoring Congress's Constitutional authority of oversight and approval.

And last August 17th, Federal Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that George W. Bush had both violated the Constitution and broken the law:

The president, she wrote, had “undisputedly violated” not only the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, but also statutory law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

But that must be okay, because, of course, Bush is just trying to protect the people, right? It's not business he's concerned with, right? Because if he were more concerned with business than with the people of the United States, we might be upset, right? So what is Chavez trying to do?

The law also allows Chavez to dictate unspecified measures to transform state institutions; reform banking, tax, insurance and financial regulations; decide on security and defense matters such as gun regulations and military organization; and "adapt'' legislation to ensure "the equal distribution of wealth'' as part of a new "social and economic model.''

Chavez plans to reorganize regional territories and carry out reforms aimed at bringing "power to the people'' through thousands of newly formed Communal Councils, in which Venezuelans will have a say on spending an increasing flow of state money on neighborhood projects from public housing to road repaving.

Chavez's opponents, however, argue the law dangerously concentrates power in the hands of single man.

Ironically, in the US, those Chavez opponents are, more frequently than not, supporters of the Bush administration -- our new Imperial Presidency -- people like Howie who think, as Richard Milhous Nixon did, that "when the President does it, it's legal."

Chavez supporters said the law will help align the government and economy for a swift move toward a more egalitarian society.

Is that where greater power in the Executive Branch is bringing the American people? It doesn't appear so. Last week, Bush signed an executive order that takes decision-making authority in US Government regulatory agencies (e.g., The Environmental Protection Agency, The Occupational Safety and Health Administation, etc., agencies that act as "watchdogs" for corporate abuse) away from experts in the field and gives it to political cronies. The executive order amounts to the rolling back of legislation (The Clean Air Act, The Occupational Safety and Health Act, etc.) without any Congressional consent. The laws are still there; we just won't enforce them. In fact, we'll ignore them entirely. Oh, and we'll accept your tax dollars as our salary. This is not consumer protection, worker protection, or public protection. It is corporate protection:
Industry and business groups that have made huge donations to the GOP welcomed President Bush's executive order.
So who's the "dictator?"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Archbishop Desmond Tutu : "God is Weeping"

An Update on the so-called "War on Terror"TM

Desmond Tutu Tells World Forum: Terrorism Cannot be Defeated in Current Climate

Unless, like Howie, you believe that Islam is a monolithic religion of hatred whose sole goal is the suppression of human freedom under an absolute world domination (sort of like, for those of you old enough to remember, Communism), you probably wonder what motivates a human being to kill an innocent person, or hundreds of innocent people, or to be killed. South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, speaking at the start of the 2007 World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya has some ideas:
The war on terror will "never" be won "as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate," like dehumanising poverty, disease and ignorance...
Despite Bush administration and neo-conservative assertions to the contrary, both terrorism and the (so-called) "war on terror" are necessary by-products of the "culture of death," a culture where self-interest predominates at the expense of the common good.
Tutu emphasised that the "fundamental law of our being" is that "we are bound to one another". Because of that, "the only way we can make it is together, all of us". Only together can we be free, safe and secure.
It is a founding principle of the Project for a New American Century -- one taken up by the Bush administration (if that is not redendant) -- that American military power and our status as the sole global superpower give us the ability and obligation to spread American values around the world. And that's fine, as long as we know clearly what our values are. Bush and the "religious" right in the US claim to stand for a "culture of life." They "talk the talk," but their walk is kind of crooked.

"God is weeping," Tutu told the ecumenical gathering at Nairobi's Holy Family Roman Catholic Basilica, at the sight of the awful things happening in the world today.

"God weeps and says: 'Who will help me so we can have a different kind of world, one in which the rich know they have been given much so they can share and help others?'" A creation that was very good has "turned into a nightmare".


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Guardian (UK) : Report : British Government Supported Northern Irish Death Squads

An Update on the so-called "War on Terror"TM

Here's another story about one of our "allies" in the (so-called) "war on terror." In the past, I have pointed out (here and here) that even the British -- not known for their squeamishness when it comes to abuse of prisoners -- have been raising a bloody fuss about human rights abuses perpetrated by their government in the name of this (so-called) "war on terror."

Now comes further evidence that the British government may have been -- at the very least, in the past -- the cause rather than the target of terror. A new report by the Northern Ireland (UK) Ombudsman for Police, Nuala O'Loan, says that the Royal Irish Constabulary (RUC) Special Branch, British Intelligence, and a succession of British governments conspired to collude with Loyalist death squads in the 1980s and 1990s.

The (Loyalist) Mount Vernon boys were state-sponsored assassins. Special branch ran their local leadership. We now know that British security services had penetrated all the paramilitary organisations.

Collusion tells us about our institutions and their purpose. After 1987 - when the loyalist paramilitary organisations were beginning to contemplate peace - Britain re-armed, reinvigorated and refocused them, taking control through its proxies among the warlords, and prolonged the war. Their reputations as ruffians, religious maniacs and pumped-up thugs merely gilded the reputation reserved by the British as law-abiding peacemakers.

Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin's chief negotiator, said:
The RUC Special Branch, British intelligence and their agents were doing exactly what they were paid to do. It was a political policy decided in Downing Street. The political figures involved, including British prime ministers, now must also be held to account.

Howie will not be moved by this. He is moved by very little, and still believes that George W. Bush is the "savior" of America. It doesn't matter if American values are trampled and spat upon, as long as "America" succeeds. The very possibility that, in turning our backs on such principles as presumption of innocence, due process of law, habeus corpus, and protection from illegal search and seizure (to say nothing of the illegality and immorality of torture), there IS NO AMERICA and therefore no American "success" falls upon deaf ears. It just doesn't make sense to him.

So, America is, ipso facto, one of the "good guys," along with Britain. But we ought to be careful of the company we keep. "Ye shall know them by their fruit..."
All these pressures are bearing down on Britain. It has been exposed not as peacemaker but as perpetrator, spreading terror and spilling blood; as the most powerful presence among the warlords. That is the national narrative we need to contemplate before we can consign collusion to the past.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Oh, Let Us Turn Our Thoughts Today to Martin Luther King..."

If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness. giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

Martin Luther King was murdered on April 4, 1968, eight weeks before the murder of Bobby Kennedy. But the dream lives on.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Goodbye, Bush

Quote of the Week

....Dedicated once again to my two favorite "commentators" of no consequence or significance. You know who you are. This one from a true American, both Republican and progressive:

To sit home, read one's favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon the good men's doing. -- Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Will the Africa Center for Strategic Studies Become the Next "School of the Americas?"

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The Africa Center for Strategic Studies looks, from the outside, harmless enough. Even its website, with its dot org URL, makes it appear to be merely another think tank working to improve the largest continent's developing nations.

But the ACSS is not merely another think tank, any more than the Project for a New American Century is just another think tank. The ACSS was launched in 1999 by the United States Department of Defense -- that's right, the Pentagon, not the State Department -- with a goal of, among other things, fostering "informed and productive inquiry on the military's role in a democracy among non-government civilian leaders, government officials and military officers."

In the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, a primary goal of the ACSS has been assisting the US in its so-called "war on terror":
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies supports the efforts of the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies to counter ideological support for terrorism... (and to) Build understanding and support for the War on Terror.
Now, all this is fine in and of itself. It is curious, I think, that we have largely if not entirely ignored Africa up until now, and continue to ignore many African crises, such as the one we witness in Darfur. When one considers, too, that Africa's total, global, external debt is less than two-thirds of what the United States has spent in the last three-and-a-half years in its invasion and occupation of Iraq, it is impossible to wonder if "ideological support for terrorism" would be most easily countered by a global policy of debt forgiveness (as urged by the late Roman Catholic Pontiff, the Holy Father Pope John Paul the Great).

But that is not the way this administration works.

In 2003, US agents began training operatives for four North African countries - Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia. ACSS has begun classes in counter-terrorism operations that seek to "share best practices and lessons learned regarding counter-terrorism policies and programs." (Presumably, "best practices" include physical abuse "tantamount to torture," suspension of fundamental human rights such as due process of law, kidnapping suspects, etc.) And in 2005 George W. Bush called for the US military training of 40,000 African troops to combat terrorism and "keep peace" in Africa.

Again none of this, on the surface, raises eyebrows. That is, perhaps, one of the reasons so little has been reported about the ACSS. But the parallels to the School of the Americas are frightening. The SOA began as a counter-insurgency training institute for Latin American military. It became, by the 1980's, a school for assassins and death squad leaders.
It isn't right. Write your Congressional Representatives and demand sufficient oversight.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Quote of the Week...

...Especially for my two favorite bone-head, right-wing, adolescent (so-called) "bloggers" who have chosen to take me on for my criticisms of the Bush administration:

"It is the weak and confused who worship the pseudosimplicities of brutal directness." -- Marshall McLuhan

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lame Attack From Right-Wing Adolescent Goons

It all started some months ago when someone told me IN THE DARK was a permanent link on a North Korean Communist blog. I didn't know what to make of it at first, so I started reading the blog every once in a while to try to get a sense of what was going on there.
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It soon became apparent to me that this was an attempt, feeble to be sure, at satire. My guess is that it is an American blog run by a young-ish, dreadfully immature, and not very humorous right-winger, perhaps Anglo-American, perhaps Asian-American, frightfully privileged and appropriately coddled and pampered. GOP all the way.

After a while I began asking, in the comment section (for there is no e-mail address on the blogger's profile page), for the link to IN THE DARK to be removed. It is, in my estimation, a cheap and libelous attack on free speech to be linked to Communist websites because one criticizes the current administration.

Well, as a result of my requests another blogger (this one probably Asian, possibly South Korean, and certainly blogging from Auckland, New Zealand) who comments frequently on the first blog posted this:

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This is all very cheap and really stupid. As I have mentioned in some of my comments, these bloggers are a waste of precious natural resources (like water and oxygen) that real, productive, thinking human beings could be using. Like George W. Bush, they are an example of the evil of banality. As Batman said, "If only their energies could be used for good instead of stupidity." Well, he said something like that.

I hope they remove the link to IN THE DARK, but if they don't, okay. Their blogs seem to be a revolving door of the same dozen or so adolescent imbeciles, all reading and commenting on one anothers' posts. I'm sure they have a readership in the double digits -- and IQs to match.

Meanwhile, I'll keep visiting them, asking them to remove the link to IN THE DARK, and subtly reminding them to make sure they stay on Daddy's good side so they can have a job someday.

Monday, January 01, 2007