Thursday, August 28, 2003

Where is the dream?

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Forty years ago today, Martin Luther King, speaking extemporaneously in simple, heartfelt words, shamed this nation and challenged it to do better. Today's self-appointed black leaders are 180 degrees away from King's dream. They want  skin color to trump character. They want black people to be seen as eternal victims of "institutional racism", unable to make it on their own efforts. They want to demonize and guilt-trip white people. Most of all, they want to cash in. Slavery reparations; crude shakedowns by venal hucksters like Jesse Jackson and Johnie Cochran; the self-perpetuating bureaucracy of racial quotas and the increasingly sophistical and dishonest attempts to portray them as something else; the witch-hunting of employers and contractors over increasingly arcane statistical imbalances, real or perceived - enough is enough! Black "leaders" are leading everyone down a blind alley, a quagmire or mutual resentment and divisiveness.

Race is the giant invisible elephant in the USA's living room. We dance around it, afraid of honest discussion, and yet we obsess with it, and try to force every social issue into the mold of a race problem. It's time for some straight talk.

Where did this whole idea of race come from? Well, it's likely that as soon as humans came down from the trees and started walking upright, they were dividing the world into "us" and "them". But for the Western world, the most influential factor is religion, specifically the story of Noah. In Genesis 9, Noah celebrates the end of the flood by planting a vineyard and getting drunk on the wine. Noah's son Ham sees his father lying naked in a drunken stupor, and tells his two brothers. When Noah recovers, he curses Ham, causing his skin to turn black. To this day, the people of West Africa are collectively called Hamitic in honor of Ham, and many Christians sincerely believe that black people are still under the curse of Ham and considered inferior by God.

But what does science tell us about race? It turns out, basically nothing. Of course we can usually look at a given individual and decide his or her race on the basis of appearance, but at a genetic level it's much less clear-cut. The gross characteristics we associate with certain races are determined by many genes acting in concert, in complex and often poorly understood ways. Certainly there is no such thing as a black or white gene. In fact the astonishing thing about human genetics is how similar we are to each other. No matter how you try to organize humans into different racial groups, there is more genetic variation within a group (typically around 85%) than there is between groups. Even mountain gorillas, isolated in the sky islands of equatorial Africa, show more genetic variety than humans. If we were dogs, we would not only be all the same breed but the same extremely specialized subset of a breed.

In a nutshell, race is a concept with no scientific validity whatsoever. It is a social construct  which changes over time. When the Irish first came to the US, they were considered a separate, non-white race, inferior to all others. They were put to work doing the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs, because if ten men were killed in a sewer collapse, there would be 100 to replace them on the next boat. An Irishman was held to have less economic value than a black or Chinese man. The first St. Patrick's day parades in New York were anti-Irish affairs held by Anglo-Saxons who taunted the Irish and burnt St. Patrick in effigy.

The Irish were fleeing starvation and oppression, and were desperately poor, often sick and uneducated, and many didn't even speak English. In Ireland under English colonial rule, they had no rights, no property, no vote, no voice. Yet within a generation they were running City Hall! The sons and daughters of immigrants became "lace curtain Irish" and subsequent generations continued their upward social climb. There's even a book called "How the Irish Became White". I haven't read the book but I can hazard a guess: the Irish became "white" by working their asses off, by working within the system and making it work for them. They refused to be victims, they refused to surrender their dignity.

Since then, many other groups have "become white", or more accurately, "become American". They have achieved financial success for themselves and their children. Many individual black people have done the same, proving that there is nothing inferior about their "race".

Yes, black people as a group still face challenges. There is still rampant racism in many segments of society, as the names Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima should remind us. But how much of lack of black progress is self-inflicted? When black people are fed a constant barrage of despair and victimism, when they are forever being told that society is a zero-sum game where "The Man" has stolen all the cards, it's no wonder that many of them give up and look to someone else with a big stick to right their wrongs.

I know that many liberals, if they happen upon this message, will think I have gone over to the dark side. But I always was a contrary old bastard, and anyway I believe very strongly that the core principle of liberalism has nothing to do with collectivism, race politics, victim politics or any of the other currently popular politically correctisms - it's simply this: every individual should be treated with dignity and respect, and have his or her rights protected against powerful elites.

Let's go back to the words of Martin Luther King:

"From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God, Almighty, we are free at last!'"

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

War is peace... freedom is slavery... Ashcroft is a patriot...

John Ashcroft used to be just another politician in the NRA's hip pocket. He was so out of touch with his constituents that in the 2000 elections, he was defeated as a sitting US Senator for Missouri - by a dead guy. But instead of sinking into well-deserved obscurity, Ashcroft was picked by George Bush Junior as US Attorney General (despite a less than impressive grasp of legal matters), this making good on the boast of NRA VP Kayne Robinson that if Junior was elected, the NRA would be working out of the Oval Office.

In office, Ashcroft quickly made headlines with his prudishness over semi-nude statues, his office prayer groups, his superstitious fear of calico cats, and his truly indescribable talents as a singer-songwriter. But it was after the atrocities of September 11 that Ashcroft found his true calling - shredding the constitution and destroying your liberty.

Within weeks of 9/11, the "USA Patriot Act" (Uniting and Strengthening America Act by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) was rushed through Congress, which voted for it almost unanimously - sight unseen. Now it's become obvious that those who drafted the act spent more time thinking up a cutesy acronym than pondering the ramifications of this draconian legislation for basic civil rights.

Secret arrests; indefinite detention without trial, charges or legal representation; unlimited and unaccountable snooping by the Feds - that's just the tip of the iceberg. (See e.g. this site.) More and more people are having second thoughts about the can of worms the "Patriot Act" has opened, and some states and several cities have passed resolutions against the act while commentators of every political flavor, including Charley Reese and Ron Paul, are speaking out against it. (Apologies to Charley Reese - in an earlier version of this post I described him as conservative.)

So what does the administration do in the face of this mounting opposition from all sides? Does it reflect that, in hindsight, it may have gone too far? Hell no. Instead it puts up a web site and sends Ashcroft out with a dog and pony travelling show to spend millions of our tax dollars convincing us all that less liberty is good for us.

Meanwhile, software pirate Orrin Hatch is hatching a plot to destroy what little is left of our liberty. His bill is called - wait for it - the Victory Act (Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations). Can you believe it! The RRR must figure, "those idiot citizens will buy any crap, no matter how much it destroys their rights, as long as we come up with a cute acronym for it."

By the way, what happens when the irresistable force of Ash-hole's destruction of the Constitution comes up against the immovable mass of his gun-nuttery? Answer: the gun nut wins. Ash-hole has forbidden law enforcement from investigating whether suspected terrorists have purchased firearms, because firearm purchase records are "sacrosanct"! (See article) Words fail me. Ashcroft is a black hole of rigid unthinking ideology, hypocrisy and stupidity. (Of course gun nuts always think that the Constitution is only nine words long: "The right to bear arms shall not be infringed.")

Some miscellaneous links:

By the way, reading this article has automatically placed you on Ash-hole's watch list. Expect a visit from some rather large gentlemen at 2 a.m. tonight. Muhahahaha!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Beyond Voodoo

Recently, Voodoo was declared an official religion in Haiti. It has also been declared an official economic policy in Washington...

(I wish I could take credit for that, but Jay Leno beat me to it.)

Remember Voodoo Economics? That was George Bush Sr's term for Reaganomics while he and the Gipper were competing for the Repug nomination in 1980. It was an apt name for the "trickle down" idea that giving the very rich even more money would eventually help the rest of us in some small way. You know, a rising tide lifts all yachts.

One of the theoretical underpinnings of Reaganomics was the Laffer Curve, named after economist Art Laffer. His idea was that there is some optimal tax rate which yields maximum revenue for the government. Set the tax rate lower, and you obviously collect less tax. Set it to zero and you collect no tax at all.

But if you set the tax rate higher, people will decide that the tax rate is too onerous, and they will come up with schemes to avoid or evade tax, or simply not work as hard. Set the tax rate to 100%, and again you collect no tax at all because no-one will want to work if they can't keep any of their pay. So there is some happy medium which maximizes tax revenue, and if you make the rate a little bit higher or a little bit lower, you move away from the optimum point.

Okay, this is wildly simplified, but I'm prepared to accept that the basic principle is valid. You have to remember that when these ideas were first being floated, we were in a very different tax climate with top marginal tax rates of 70%. Obviously we were to the right of the Laffer Curve's optimum point.

But today's RRR seems to have forgotten the Laffer Curve. They have a very different agenda and are convinced that tax is evil in and of itself. Repeated tax cuts for the highest-income segment have left us well to the left of the optimum point, so much so that states across the US are in the worst budget crunches of their history, and basic services like schools, police and fire are crying out for funds to keep going. (See e.g. this article.)

But you have to realize that the RRR doesn't give a rat's posterior about maximizing tax revenue. On the contrary, they have made it very clear that they believe government is the source of all evil, and it is their duty to destroy it by starving it of funds - regardless of how much hardship this causes for the less privileged. And if that means that their ultra-rich backers don't have to pay their share, well, it's a win-win situation!

But hold on a minute - reactionaries aren't totally against taxes. They're quite happy with levying taxes on the poor! Yes, "lucky duckies" who struggle to survive on a minimum wage should be made to pay more taxes! How dare they take advantage of such tax loopholes as child care and education credits! Have they no pity for us oppressed, suffering millionaires who must pay taxes on the dividends from our trust funds (oops, dividend taxes are on the way out) or "death tax" (oops, that's been abolished.)

To my mind, nothing better exemplifies the moral, political and intellectual bankruptcy of the RRR movement than their posture on taxes. I shouldn't have to point out that the poor are more heavily burdened by tax (relative to their income) than the rich when you take all taxes into account, not just income tax but also social security tax (only taxed on the first $87K), sales tax (the poor spend a greater percentage of their incomes on food and other necessities than the rich), vehicle registration (in most parts of the US, a car is a necessity to get to work) and so on.

The hypocrisy of the RRR was well illustrated during their campaign against the estate tax. Their hysterical propaganda raised the specter of families being forced by the estate tax to sell the family farm that had been in their hands for generations. In reality, the RRR was unable to find a single example  of such an event despite sending out urgent faxes to Republican farmers' groups throughout the country! Even some millionaires such as William Gates (father of Bill Gates of Microsoft) and Chuck Collins have become disgusted at this hypocrisy and have started a "responsible wealth" movement to defend progressive taxes. (See this article.)

Of course, reactionaries love to smear us liberals with moronic strawman accusations that we are evil anarchists who want to destroy society by taxing it to death. Needless to say, no-one wants excessive taxation for its own sake. But like it or not, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society." And since the wealthy benefit the most from a civilized society, it's only fair that they pay a greater share. After all, even after paying their taxes, they'll still be rich. Theodore Roosevelt - a president of impeccable Republican credentials - said in his 1906 State of the Union address, "The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government."

Bottom line: if you think taxes and government are inherently evil, either (1) change places with us "lucky duckies" or (2) move to Somalia.

Hello, still there? What a surprise.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Monumental stupidity

On a good day, I'm faintly amused by the antics of the religious right. On a so-so day, I'm merely annoyed by them. Then there are times when I want to crawl into a bathtub and slit my wrists in existential despair, crushed by the infinite stupidity, ignorance and hypocrisy of that howling mob of baboons. The ten commandments fiasco in Alabama is one of those times.

Judge Roy Moore (doesn't that sound like the title of a cheap spaghetti western) became infamous in the late 90's when he insisted on displaying a wooden carving of the TC's in his courthouse and announcing that he would be guided by "the law of God" rather than the law he had taken an oath to uphold. He defied numerous higher court rulings to remove the monument, and the ensuing controversy propelled him into the office of Chief Justice of Alabama. Now the weasely little dork has his beady eyes set on the US Senate, and he figures the religion card is good for another play. So one night under cover of darkness, he hauls a 2.5 ton granite religious monument into a Federal building. Now, like Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door and declaring "segregation forever", Moore is openly defying the Constitution and declaring "sectarianism forever". What's more, he has the gall to compare himself to Martin Luther King, even while his supporters emerge from the swamps to wave confederate battle flags and wreak havoc in the courthouse. Many of these inbred imbeciles are quite prepared to go to jail for extended periods, just to further the political ambitions of an ill-educated backwater judge. A "public servant" who doesn't care that his egotistical grandstanding has cost the taxpayers of his state over a million dollars, at a time when many Alabama schools are severly underfunded and in danger of closing. (If Moore is such a "man of principle", why doesn't he pay the money out of his own pocket?)

It goes without saying that all of Moore's arguments are patently bogus and self-serving. He claims that removing a religious monument from a Federal building would violate his right to free speech. Please! Free speech is for private individuals. The Federal government - and, thanks to the 14th amendment, the several state governments - doesn't have a "right" to free speech, it has a duty to protect the free speech of citizens. Nobody is stopping Moore from praying until he's blue in the face - on his own time.  But when he uses taxpayer money to promote a particular religion (and a particular sect of that religion), he has very clearly violated the constitution. The fact that a courtroom is the site of the violation is particularly unacceptable. From Moore's record, the obvious intent is to intimidate non-fundamentalists. As they walk into the building, the monument sends an unmistakable message: you are not welcome here. You will not get a fair hearing in this court.

As for Moore's specious claim that the TC's are the basis of US law - don't insult me! Anyone who would make such a fatuous assertion should never have been let into law school.

Let's take a look at these commandments that the RRR claim are the fount of all goodness and wisdom. How many people know that there are actually several  sets of "ten commandments" in the Bible - and the "official" set (according to the Bible itself) is not  the set everyone is familiar with as "the" ten commandments. In Exodus, God gives Moses the first set of commandments. Moses goes back down Mt. Sinai and finds that in his absence, the Israelites have started worshipping a golden calf idol. In his anger, Moses smashes the tablets and kills 3,000 people. He returns to Mt. Sinai to replace the tablets, and God tells him: "Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest." He then gives Moses a completely different  set of commandments! Most are concerned with religious feasts and sacrifices; the last one is "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk." (Exodus 34) This is the only  set that the Bible itself refers to as the ten commandments.

Okay, let's ignore the perils of allowing our children to seethe a kid in its mother's milk, and look at the "standard" set of commandments (Exodus 20). Again we find that many of the commandments are explicitly concerned with promoting a particular religion, namely Christianity. (Duh!) The very first commandment says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Tough luck if you're Hindu, Native American etc. Some of the other commandments sound reasonable - prohibitions against killing, stealing etc. - but anyone who claims that they originated with the Bible is a fool. In fact the Bible lifted a great deal from the Code of Hamurabi, but ignored a lot of the subtleties. Hamurabi is generally credited with the insight that the punishment should fit the crime, but the Bible is full of cruelty and barbarity that is out of all proportion to the "crime" - e.g. children are torn to pieces by bears because they mocked a bald man (2 Kings 2:23-24).

Worst of all, the ten commandments tell us not to covet our neighbor's male or female slaves - but the entire Bible contains not a single word in condemnation of slavery! Neither does it say anything in support of free speech, equality, or any of the other bedrock principles on which the US was founded.

Let's face it, the ten commandments are an embarrassing relic from a savage, bloodthirsty, ignorant and superstitious era in human history. Just by chance they contain one or two commandments worth following. However, to claim (as many RRR politicians did in the wake of the Columbine massacre) that putting them on classroom walls will prevent school shootings, is stupid beyond belief. To claim that they are the basic principles on which the USA is founded is willfully mendacious and an insult to the constitution, and for that matter to anyone with at least one neuron firing.

I'll give the last word to a courageous lady who was subjected to death threats, saw her livelihood destroyed and was hounded out of her small Alabama town because of her principled opposition to Moore's self-serving showboating.

"Idiocy abounds."

(See also this editorial in the Madison Capitol Times, a welcome breath of common sense in a world of insanity.)

Friday, August 15, 2003

Keeping you in the dark...

Want to know the truth behind last night's multi-state blackout? Click here.

And while we're at it, why didn't the "liberal media" that reactionaries are forever whining about cover this story about a George Bush Junior plan to use hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to force a gas pipeline throught the Peruvian rainforest, destroying ecosystems, driving many species to extinction, devastating native peoples, and - surprise! - enriching Junior's oil buddies. Why do we have to read this story in a British newspaper?

Once again, the RRR gives the US public the mushroom treatment. Not only do they not want you to read, but anyone who does read is regarded as suspicious and must be kept under surveillance! Read this story and this one. And don't even think about protesting this state of affairs; criticizing El Presidente is now illegal.

Ain't life grand in the land of the free?

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

You read it here first...

Every so often, I peer into my crystal ball to bring you news that hasn't happened yet. Here are some items from the near future:

Stay tuned...

Unfair and (Mentally) Unbalanced

One of the hallmarks of a dictatorship is its tendency to become megalomaniacal, evidenced by an overwhelming urge to crush any criticism, however insignificant. RRR mouthpiece Fox News had a screaming apoplectic fit at the title of Al Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Not content with slapping Franken with a trademark infringement lawsuit over his use of the phrase "fair and balanced", the media behemoth whined in official court papers that Franken is "neither a journalist nor a television news personality. He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight." They added that he is "either intoxicated or deranged" and "increasingly unfunny" (link). Ain't projection a wonderful thing?

It's not so long ago that Faux News went to court over its right to lie. It fired two reporters in 1997 for refusing to air a story containing false and inaccurate information. The reporters won a lawsuit against Fox, but it fought the verdict in a Florida Appeals court, which decided that there is nothing wrong with a major news organization lying, distorting and concealing the truth on a matter of public health (the use of genetically engineered growth hormones in dairy cattle - click here). A verdict to warm the RRR's heart, if it had one.

You know what they say, the first casualty of war is truth...

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

It's official: we're all doomed.

It's increasingly clear that extreme fundamentalist bibliolatry is playing a dominating role in US policy, and the implications are nothing short of appalling.

Many fundamentalists believe the end of the world is at hand. Some even believe it is their duty to hasten Armageddon. Ronald Reagan scared the pants off all thinking people when he declared his belief in the literal truth of the Book of Revelations. A senile old fool with his finger on the nuclear button, and what was left of his mind fried by the demented ravings of a tripped-out goat-herder... it's amazing the world survived Reagan's presidency! But now the danger is greater than ever.

Jeezus H. Christ on a goddam pogo stick! Are they all insane? It was precisely this sort of religious lunacy that drove men to fly planes into the World Trade Center. But now the stakes are vastly greater.

We can't wait until the next election, even if there is one. We must impeach Junior NOW!

The pathology of conservatism

Berkeley researchers combed through 50 years of research literature to determine the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism:

(Click here)

Yep, that makes a lot of sense. I would add "total lack of empathy for one's fellow humans, especially the less privileged", but I'm just a layman in this area.

Pretty much all of these factors play a role in the Bush Jr. administration's increasing enmity towards science. Of course, reactionaries tend to be scientific illiterates - what else can you call someone who believes in stupid fairy tales like Noah's ark as an explanation for the incredibly complex geology and ecosystems of the earth. This is something to bear in mind when they start mouthing off about stupid eco-nazis who don't understand "sound science" (which should really be called "sound-bite science").

A particularly egregious example of self-interested scientific illiteracy was the so-called "lynx fraud". Three scientists with the US Forest Service were studying the distribution of lynx in western states. They performed a perfectly proper control experiment to validate their methodology, using hair samples from captive animals to test their DNA equipment. Some right-wing group got hold of some garbled version of the story, and suddenly Congress was in an uproar, charging the scientists with fraud and trying to create a pretext for massive cuts in wildlife research programs. The gutless USFS administration cut the scientists off at the knees, and now realty and lumber corporations are salivating at the prospect of the lynx being taken off the endangered species list and its habitat being thrown open to commercial exploitation.

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss...

Monday, August 11, 2003

Iraq: USA's Northern Ireland?

The year was 1968. Northern Ireland's indigenous population was tired of being ground down by the oppressive "Orange" regime whose fanatical worship of the English crown led it to practice a form of religious apartheid. They were tired of being denied jobs, votes, housing, employment and social services. They were tired of being considered second-class subjects.

On their TV screens, they saw black people in the Southern US standing up for their rights. They saw how all the Jim Crow laws, police dogs and water cannons of a cruel, racist system were no match for a people who knew they were right and their time had come. Could it happen in Northern Ireland? They had to give it a try. And so the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was born. Resolutely non-violent and pro-democracy, they marched in the streets to reclaim their dignity and demand their rights.

The Orange reaction was instant and brutal. Howling mobs, heavily armed with clubs and knives, attacked the marchers while the police who were supposed to protect them stood by and laughed. Soon the police themselves started joining in the attacks. Pogroms swept over Northern Ireland, and whole Catholic districts burned to the ground while the London government dithered and sanctimoniously condemned civil rights "agitators".

Finally, embarrassment at the world's reaction to London's apathy spurred it into action. British troops were sent into the colony to quell the rioting. Their mission was ostensibly to restore order and leave within a few weeks. The Catholic population enthusiastically welcomed its "liberators". Soldiers were showered with kisses and given endless cups of tea as they patrolled the streets.

Very soon, however, the honeymoon was over. Poorly trained, trigger-happy British troops soon racked up an alarming death toll of civil-rights workers and ordinary civilians trying to go about their everyday life in the Catholic ghettos. It became alarmingly clear that the purpose of the British army in Northern Ireland was to prop up London's control over the colony. Tens of thousands of Catholics were arrested, often in heavy-handed early-morning raids which lefts their houses and tenements half destroyed, and left indefinitely in mass detention camps with no charges, no trial, and no pretense at vaunted British justice.

Events came to a head on January 30, 1972. A peaceful civil rights march in the overwhelmingly Catholic city of Derry was fired on by British troops, killing thirteen, wounding dozens, and finally destroying the hope that Catholics could win their civil rights by peaceful and democratic means. NICRA disbanded, and the previously dormant IRA suddenly saw an explosion in its membership and support. The British, by their crass stupidity, got themselves bogged down in thirty years of political violence which could have been avoided if their vaunted "sense of fair play" had been anything more than self-congratulating rhetoric.

There is an obvious lesson here for the US. The lie that we went to Iraq to liberate its people has quickly been exposed by our rush to solidify control over Iraq's oil. We have flooded Baghdad and other cities with combat troops and asked them to act as policemen, the inevitable result being a rapidly-mounting death toll of innocent civilians (see e.g. today's news item). Then we are shocked - SHOCKED! - when Iraqis start firing back, and assume they must be Saddam loyalists - it couldn't possibly be that they are angry at their liberators using them for target practice.

Can we learn from Britain's mistakes in Northern Ireland, or must we also spend decades bogged down in an Iraqi bloodbath which will inevitably spill over into more terrorist attacks on US soil?

Medical pot - morally equivalent to Jim Crow?

"SAN FRANCISCO - California and other states that want to make marijuana available to sick or dying patients are flouting federal drug laws in much the same way that Southern states defied national civil rights laws, a senior Bush administration lawyer said."

(Click here and scroll down to "SAN FRANCISCO".)

Who but one of Junior's flunkies could make such an incredibly fatuous, offensive and hypocritical statement. It's emblematic of the petty, vindictive attitude that RRR Taliban takes towards those adults who voluntarily ingest certain relatively innocuous substances into their own bodies, for the relief of excruciating pain and debilitating weakness due to loss of appetite, when all else has failed.

If we had anything approaching a rational drug policy in the USA, alcohol and tobacco would be at the top of the list of harmful drugs, in view of the trillions they cost the economy every year in disease, fires, accidents, unemployment and family breakups, etc. Of course they just happen to be billion-dollar industries who generously bankroll the ruling elite.

If you want to compare medical pot to the situation in the South, a better comparison would be with those who "flouted the laws" by running underground railroads, helping slaves to escape to freedom.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

War profiteering: as American as apple pie

Wouldn't you know it - Arnie makes a liar of me (see my previous post). But one good point is that Darrell Issa, the sleazeball I also mentioned previously, has sensibly realized he has no chance against the Terminator and has tearfully vowed to devote himself to Mideast Peace. What track record, one might reasonably ask, does Issa have in this noble endeavor? Not a heck of a lot, but he did feature in an interesting footnote to the war against Iraq. Having destoryed Iraq's cellphone system, along with pretty much everything else of the country's infrastructure, Uncle Sam was looking for bidders to create a new system. Up pops Issa, with a bill to ban the use of GSM, the international cellphone standard (used everywhere except the US), in the new system. He claimed falsely that GSM is a French standard (this was at the height of the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" hysteria) and that the new cellphone should use the US-only CDMA standard in order to snub the French. This would of course make Iraq an anomaly and prevent it from integrating with the cellphone infrastructures of neighboring countries. It would even hamper the US military in Iraq. It would also generate windfall profits for Qualcomm, the holder of many CDMA patents, which just happens to be headquarted in Issa's congressional district and has bankrolled him generously. Hmm, what a coincidence...

Of course this pales into insignificance compared with the scandal of taxpayer billions flowing into the coffers of Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, the former fiefdom of Dick Cheney, who still gets paid millions a year from them. That's quite a business model: pick a fight with a weak third-world country, destroy it, then pay your buddies (and indirectly, yourself) billions to reconstruct it. Oh well, it's only the taxpayers' money, there's plenty more where it came from.

What a convenient ideology conservatism is. The RRR may rant and rave about limited government, cutting spending, and staying out of nation-building entanglements, but as soon as they see a chance to make a billion or two, they suddenly start talking out of the other side of their mouths. All their rhetoric is just a fig leaf for naked greed.

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