Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Speaking of quagmires...

The scene: a harsh land where poverty is widespread. The autocratic leader erects grandiloquent monuments to himself at enormous public expense and openly defies the US, while his cronies loot the treasury. An extremist religion keeps the people in a state of ignorance and backwardness. Suffering through the intolerable summer heat, often lacking basic services, many of the downtrodden people wish the US would assert its authority over this desolate region.

Iraq before the invasion? No, Alabama.

Though the 10 commandments circus has mostly disappeared from national headlines, it's still going strong in Montgomery. The state senate has just authorized a constitutional amendment authorizing the display of the 10C's in state buildings. They don't seem concerned that this conflicts with the existing Section 3 of the state constitution, prohibiting the establishment of a religion, to say nothing of the US Constitution. Mind you, Section 256 of the Alabama constitution still mandates segregated education.

The state of Alabama today is that it doesn't have any bread, but it has a never-ending religious circus. The extreme fundamentalist right, chanting its mindless mantra that taxes and government are inherently evil, scored a decisive rejection of a desperately needed tax increase. Result: financial devastation. Schools, hospitals, and emergency services are all victims. But hey, they get to establish a fundy theocracy and shove their religious commandments down everyone's throat!

"Talabama" shows what happens when the RRR has free rein. The great unwashed masses are fired up with religious zeal, and become useful idiots who worship rocks and don't notice that the plutocracy is emptying their pockets. It could happen anywhere - other 10 commandment controversies are waiting to erupt all over the country. Ironically, most of these monuments were originally donated to various cities by Cecil B. DeMille in the late 50's - as a publicity stunt for his movie, "The Ten Commandments". As always in the US, it's not just a question of church-state entanglement - it's a three-way incestuous tangle of government, religion and money. The government exists to serve the wealthy elite, using religion as a tool to keep the masses under control and distract them from thinking for themselves.

It's time to topple some statues...

Monday, September 29, 2003

No blood for zip codes!

What does Iraq need most urgently, as it climbs out from under the rubble of the US-wrought devastation? Electricity? Water? Schools, hospitals? No, silly! What Iraq needs most desperately is US-style zip codes.

Of course it's not that zip codes are a top priority in Iraq, it's just that $9 million is a tasty little snack for Halliburton as part of its overall $2 billion no-bid contract. What a coincidence that the former CEO of Halliburton is Dick Cheney, who denies that he still has any contacts with the company, although a congressional report concludes that he does indeed have a financial interest under federal ethics rules.

Oh, and if we send any doctors, they'd better be anti-choice. Gotta cover all bases. If we're going to let mega-corporations feast at a trough filled with 87 billion taxpayer dollars, we should at least throw some scraps to Junior's other power base, the Falwells and Robertsons.

As for Donald Rumsfeld, he continues to be the darling of the neocons even as his credibility collapses faster than that of RRR ultra-hypocrite Bill Bennett. I'm sure wounded troops won't be singing Rummy's praises as they pay for their hospital meals. (Tell me again how repugs are "supporting the troops"...)

Back in Cheney's home state, they're a distressingly cynical lot. Take this online poll which asks, "Do you believe what political advertisements are trying to tell you?" and notice what percentage of people vote "No". Who would have thought?

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Lies and the lying liars who shriek them

Take the outrageous falsehoods of Rush Limbo (how low can you go) but take away his affability and wit. Stir in the raw, out-of-control anger of Michael Sewage (oops, I mean Michael Savage) and the priggishness of Bill O'Reilly, soak in bile overnight, then pour into a tight black miniskirt and you've got Ann Coulter.

This hideous harridan has been exciting the lust of pimply-faced neocon geeks for several years now, while riling up every red-blooded, god-fearin', gun totin' member of the repugs' useful idiots with hatred and loathing for everyone who isn't on the extreme right-hand edge of the political spectrum. She saturates the airwaves, popping up with everyone from Sean Hannity to Bill Maher. Whole forests bite the dust so that her shrill, vituperative screeds can fill the column inches normally reserved for something resembling coherent thought.

Everyone has heard Coulter's advice on international diplomacy: "We should invade [oil-rich] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Then there's her thoughtful remarks on how to deal with those who don't share her politics: "We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too." (See link.) Not having received the memo from the White House, she continues to insist on a Saddam-Al Qaeda-Democrats axis of evil: "On the basis of their recent pronouncements, the position of the Democratic Party seems to be that Saddam Hussein did not hit us on 9-11, but Halliburton did."

Other websites have done an exemplary job in cataloguing Coulter's lies and distortions. (See this link and this one. Also note that she's either lying about her age - while excoriating reporters rash enough to suggest she's no longer in her thirties - or else she illegally registered to vote when she was 16.)

My feeling is: why bother? The enfant terrible  of the extreme RRR adores the attention, like a four-year-old that keeps swearing because of its mother's shocked reaction. But behind all the acid attacks and flat-out falsehoods, there is a total lack of substance. Coulter is just a sideshow in the RRR's three-ring circus. She serves no purpose except as a distraction (though we could perhaps use her nose as a ski jump).

Let's just ignore this strident, screeching harpy of hatred and pay more attention to the man behind the curtain!

Friday, September 26, 2003

A rising tide lifts all giga-yachts

If it's Friday, it must be time for Junior's White House to issue another news release that they want to slide under everyone's radar. They already have a long tradition of burying releases about new anti-environment policies on Fridays when they hope fewer people are paying attention (See this PDF document.) Now they've released figures which show that poverty is up and the median income is down for the second year in a row. Not surprising, given that George Bush Junior has been a one-moron weapon of mass destruction against the US economy.

Mind you, it's not all doom and gloom for everyone. The richest Americans are getting richer! Their biggest problem is how to spend all their moolah, and the latest trend is giga-yachts that dwarf everything else previously seen on the water.

Junior has felt the billionaire's pain, and rallied to the rescue with his tax cuts for the top 1%. Once again we see that his "compassionate conservatism" is as phony as his "genuine leadership".

What part of "Do Not Call" don't you understand?

Judicial activism is out of control. First of all an Oklahoma City judge doomed the popular Do Not Call list, for which over 50 million consumers had signed up, with a ruling that Congress had given the FCC no authority to create the list. In a rare flurry of action, Congress immediately moved to grant that authority. But no sooner had the ink dried on the legislation than another judge popped out of the woodwork and declared that the Do-Not-Call list violated telemarketers' constitutional right to commercial free speech! In other words, "the right to be left alone - the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men" (Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States, 1928) comes a poor second to the right of mega-corporations to make money by annoying us and depriving us of peace and quiet in our own homes. But then, that's American democracy in a nutshell. A million dollars trumps a million votes every time.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Making a wreck of Iraq

The blundering, ham-fisted US occupation of Iraq continues to rack up an appalling death toll. The recent massacre of Iraqi policemen has become such a commonplace incident that when a US army spokesman is asked about it, he confuses it with another incident. Meanwhile, morale is plummeting among reservists who will have to spend up to a year in Iraq - undoubtedly, many will come home and find they have lost their jobs and/or families. And though the military hated Bill Clinton with a passion, more and more of them are realizing that Rumsfeld has been at least as hazardous to the military's health. Oh well, at least they can get some fresh water if they agree to be baptized.

But is Junior concerned about all this grumbling? Hell no, he isn't even aware of it. The boy in the bubble has a small army of flunkies who surround him, keeping reality at bay and shielding him from even the mildest criticism of his imperial presidency. By his own admission, he doesn't read newspapers. In fact he doesn't even read briefing papers prepared for him with a summary of the news - he has an aide read them to him. But heaven help anyone who voices the obvious question: is Junior illiterate?

Meanwhile the war on terrorism rights continues on the home front. The RRR continues to unleash its attack poodles on anyone who dares to stand up for the Constitution. And they still don't understand why we hate Bush, even as his approval rating plunges.

Let's make sure that next November, Junior gets the message!

(Note: you can access the New York Times articles by logging in as shrub_junior, password: dumbya)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Cracking down on thoughtcrime

John Ash-hole claims that one of the most controversial sections of the "Patriot Act", Section 215, which allows the FBI to demand "any tangible thing" upon certifying to a secret court that it's relevant to a terrorism investigation, has never been used. He feels that this is a refutation of the "baseless hysteria" spread by civil rights protestors. In reality, it raises the question: why is this law on the books if it hasn't been used? Needless to say, it has in fact been used many times. Once again, Ash-hole is lying. But then, that's what politicians do instinctively.

Dr. Jerry Parkinson, dean of the University of Wyoming College of Law, says: "There is no question, regardless what you think of the act, that this is one of the most undemocratic breakdowns in our country’s history of legislative process." However, he repeats the government's lie that concerned citizens have exaggerated the dangers of the act and "criticized it for things it does not do" - like giving government officials the right to look at library and Internet records on the mere hint that a person is related to terrorism. Tell that to Andrew O'Conner.

Mr. O'Conner was in a Santa Fe college library and made a remark to another patron that Bush was "out of control". His email inbox included a message from the Coalition for Peace and Justice in Palestine. Suddenly, he was handcuffed in the library and questioned for four hours by Secret Service agents. No wonder Albuquerque has joined a rapidly growing list of cities and states that have passed resolutions against the Act.

But Ash-hole's draconian legislation is having a chilling effect not only in libraries but also in universities, which are now burdened with requirements to surveill international students, and on the students themselves, who are saddled with vastly greater visa fees to pay for this surveillance, and must submit to intrusive Kafkaesque bureaucracy to get a student visa. The director of International Student Services at the University of Hawaii says: "instead of advisers, we are mandated by federal law to become enforcers."

The free flow of information is the common thread in libraries and universities, and it is a vital factor in improving international relations, advancing science and technology, and generally making the world a better place to live in. But Junior and Ash-hole shrink from information like a vampire from daylight. Armed with their fundamentalist certainty, they don't need information, and they don't want you to have it either.

In the context of the "Traitor Act", the words of Charles Austen Beard have never rung more true: "You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." Another quote of his is apposite here: "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power." All I can say is: "Okay, gods, they're mad with power, hurry up with the next step".

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The show must go on

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals decision delaying the California recall election turned out to be a minor bump in the road. The full panel of the court reinstated the October 7 date. This was good news for the 90 losers and wackos who appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Conspicuously absent was Leno's good friend Arnold Schwarzenegger - I guess he's too scared to debate Gary Coleman, or perhaps it would be embarrassing to have to fill a whole ten seconds explaining his stance on the issues.

Anyway, the show was entertaining in the same way the watching the 700 Club is sometimes amusing, purely for the freak show effect. One candidate promised that if he were elected, he would take Ross the intern out on a date. Another wore some kind of alien costume. Porn star Mary Carey flipped the finger to the camera, summing up the contempt those who have foisted this whole repellent debacle on us, have for us.

It's becoming harder and harder to tell the difference between tragedy and farce...

Monday, September 22, 2003

I'll be baaaack...

Junior has kept one promise from his presidential campaign - he's a uniter, not a divider. He has united people from all segments of the political spectrum in opposition to the totalitarian "Patriot Act". Even ultra-conservative states like Idaho and Utah are coming out against it. More and more people are realizing that Ash-hole's legislation has stripped us of our rights and dignity while doing nothing to make us safer. After accusing critics of the "Traitor Act" of fearmongering and supporting terrorism, Ash-hole is now being forced to eat crow.

John Ash-hole is increasingly being seen as a liability to Junior. Will the RRR ditch him in a desperate attempt to win the next election? But nothing will save Junior's hide if enough people become aware of his abysmal record.

Meanwhile in California, the recall circus keeps rolling on. But after the novelty factor wears off, voters are having second thoughts about the can of worms that has been opened. Even some conservative columnists are starting to realize that what goes around, comes around. If the Supreme Court's bizarre decision in Bush vs. Gore  can stop the vote counting in a presidential election, why can't it stop a bogus recall which was rammed through by a millionaire who didn't like the result of a valid election? Call it psephological karma.

However, one very worrying development is the rise of the machines - computerized voting machines, that is. The RRR is pushing these machines on counties across the nation, lining the pockets of companies like Diebold which just happen to be major repug party contributors. But these machines make it possible to commit fraud and tampering on a massive scale, with no paper trail.  Greg Palast reports: "In 2002, Comal County, Texas, tried out new computer voting machines - and three Republican candidates each won their respective offices with exactly 18,181 votes... Just down the road in Scurry County, Texas, two unexpected landslide wins for Republican candidates struck election clerks as just one coincidence too many. That county’s clerk, Joan Bunch, investigated and found that a 'faulty' computer chip had caused the county’s optical scanner to record Democratic votes as Republican instead."

Remember the bumper sticker, "If voting could change the system, it wouldn't be legal"? The RRR has made it abundantly clear that they will stop at nothing to seize power and hold on to it. What will it take to get rid of them?

Making out like bandits

In a development that received scant attention in the US media, the White House has in effect put Iraq on the auction block for the benefit of its mega-corporate puppetmasters. Halliburton and Bechtel are already feeding at the trough, their gluttonous greed blinding them to the resentment and violence that will inevitably result from this corporate feeding frenzy in one of the most unstable regions in the world.

This is the inevitable next step in the process of globalization, which has opened the world up to neocolonialism and rapacious exploitation as never before. Can't find a friendly dictator to sell out his country and its resources? No problem, just use the US military machine to destroy it!

Globalization has concentrated wealth in the hands of a small privileged elite, and dispossessed people around the world, in a way not seen in centuries. Basic needs like water are being privatized, forcing desperately poor families to pay a huge percentage of their income for water service. (Though in Bolivia, campesinos won a stunning victory, forcing Bechtel out of the country despite heavy-handed repression by the military dictatorship.) Indigenous cultures are being devastated and the environment is in critical danger (see also this article). Food has become another pawn in the arsenal of the globalizers (See this PDF document.) Small farmers are being forced out of business, and hunger increases as people become dependent on imported food, their own land having been taken over and turned into giant factory farms to feed hamburger to obese Americans. Job security and a living wage are becoming a distant memory, as mega-corporations trawl the world looking for the lowest wages.

Not content with exercising a monopoly on political power in the US, the RRR is intent on spreading its cancerous dogma around the world. Though they are livid about "judicial activism" when judges uphold the Constitution against government establishment of their narrow fundamentalist sect of Christianity, their own judicial activism has had and continues to have a horrific effect. They have twisted the "takings" clause of the US Constitution into an argument that mega-corporations should be "compensated" when environmental regulations prevent them from poisoning the air, land and water. In other words these corporations can hold us hostage and force us to pay billions of taxpayer dollars to them so they won't pollute! And then of course they pollute anyway, and don't even get slapped on the wrist. Worst of all, they are demanding that the US apply the "takings" doctrine extra-territorially, forcing other countries either to pay ransom to US mega-corporate polluters or let their environments be degraded.

Though the whited sepulchres of the RRR are forever bleating about what good Christians they are, I suspect they worship a different Jesus than the one most of us have heard of.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

We're from the government and we're here to label you...

A recent Keith Knight cartoon, reprinted in many alternative newspapers, shows a policeman viciously whacking a civilian over the head with his nightstick. The caption reads: "California's Prop. 54, if voted in, bans state agencies from collecting race-based data vital in tracking health, education & discrimination issues..." The obvious implication is that the Racial Privacy Initiative will give cops free reign to practice racial profiling. The twist is that the cop in the cartoon is black - because he happens to be Ward Connerly, the initiative's proposer.

This raises some questions that may not have occurred to Knight. In many states and cities, the police are required to keep records of the "race" of every driver they stop. But shouldn't the "race" of the officer also be recorded? If a black cop stops a black driver, does that count as racial profiling? What about a Hispanic cop and a gringo driver? In any case, don't the police have a tough enough job without having to make arbitrary and subjective categorizations of everyone they encounter, and keep track of the extra reams of paperwork that result? Is it fair that they're burdened with the presumption of racist intent when they're just trying to do their jobs? Yes, there are some bad apples, but the next time you're driving down the freeway at night, ask yourself: what "race" is the driver in front of me? Can't tell? Too bad! You're guilty of racial profiling.

The worst part of this racial data bureaucracy is that, as I previously wrote, "race" is a scientifically meaningless concept. The crude division of humanity into "black", "white" etc. doesn't even begin to hint at the complexity of human genetics. All it does is perpetuate division and resentment.

Many people claim that racial data is essential for equitable health care for minorities. This argument is bogus. With regard to the vast majority of medical conditions for which racial data is collected - infant mortality, diabetes, obesity, etc. - socioeconomic status is a far better predictor of risk factors for the condition in question than a checkmark next to a box labeled "black" or "white". In most cases, people don't suffer diabetes or obesity because they have been categorized as black - it happens because they eat too much junk food and don't have a nutritious diet, which in turn very often happens because they are poor.

In the land of the "rugged individualist", it's remarkable how obsessed we are in categorizing people by "race". At the same time there's an ever-present myth, supported by the unquestioning acceptance of all shades of political opinion, that the US is a classless society (even though in reality there is less income mobility in the US than in any other western country except Britain). To draw attention to class divisions, even when they stare us in the face, is strictly taboo. A poverty issue will always  be reported in the media as a race issue. We use race as a proxy for class. This is lazy and intellectually dishonest, but we always seem to find it easier to label people and put them in little boxes than to deal with them as individuals. Once we classify a man by his skin color, we fool ourselves that we know his opinions on any given issue, so we needn't actually talk to him. After all, he is interchangeable with anyone else who has been similarly labeled.

But by taking the lazy way out, and compiling endless statistics which deal with people as skin colors rather than as citizens, we end up hurting the people we claim to help. Accusations of racial profiling in Cincinnati and several other cities have led to the police reducing their patrols in black neighborhoods, with a consequent upsurge in crime. Even worse, it was a provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, requiring most Southern states to record the "race" of voters next to their names in the voter rolls, which made it trivially easy for Jeb Bush to disenfranchise tens of thousands of black voters in the 2000 presidential election.

With Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa as case studies, any thinking person should recoil from the prospect of the government keeping a database of the "race" of its citizens. Yet no country expends more resources on doing so than the "land of the free". Even when it is done with the best of intentions, the law of unintended consequences invariably kicks in. And when those in power have evil intentions, "race" data is their most potent weapon.

The California Racial Privacy Initiative is a first step in the right direction. Sure, it may initially make life a little harder from the racial data bureaucrats who are used to checking boxes mindlessly. It may actually force them to deal with people as individuals. Is that such a terrible thing?

Thursday, September 18, 2003

We have always been at war with Oceania!

For Junior and his RRR regime, lying is as instinctive as breathing. They lie about Iraq. They lie about lying. They lie about lying about lying. Even on the rare occasions when they retract a lie, they spout more lies in the process.

Now that their lies about Iraqi WMD's and ties to Al-Qaeda have become insupportable, they are weaseling out in a cowardly and pusillanimous manner, insisting that they never said what the record clearly shows they said. "Gosh, we never claimed Saddam was involved in 9/11," they whine in tones of outraged innocence. (See news item.) It's just a coincidence that polls consistently show a majority of Americans are convinced that WMD's have been found in Iraq, that its alleged links to Al-Qaeda have been proven, and even that Saddam himself was personally responsible for 9/11. (Perhaps they have trouble distinguishing between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, or just don't care.) It couldn't have anything to do with the steady stream of pronouncements from the White House (see e.g. Lies #4 and 5 in this list) and its various attack poodles in the reactionary media (for example, "The position of the Democratic Party seems to be that Saddam Hussein did not hit us on 9-11, but Halliburton did" - a statement so outrageously mendacious, it could only have come from the poisoned pen of that harpy of hatred herself, Ann Coulter.)

It just goes to show how much contempt the RRR junta has for the citizens of this country. They are no longer bothering to give Junior the Quayle treatment - limiting his public appearances to brief, carefully orchestrated exercises designed to minimize his opportunity to screw up. They think their figurehead is unassailable and will breeze into a second term.

But more and more people, even some diehard repugs, are starting to look critically at Junior. Will November 2004 be bedtime for the bozo?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The last refuge of a scoundrel

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the "USA Patriot" act was rushed through Congress in a wave of "ignorance, hysteria and misguided patriotism." It was a totalitarian's wet dream, shredding the Constitution and vastly increasing the US government's power over its citizens in an unprecedented departure from this country's most cherished ideals. Within months of passage, the Justice Department was conducting seminars on how to "stretch" the act in cases unrelated to terrorism. (See also this item.)

But still the Bushies are hungry for more power. Now they want to eliminate the need for judicial approval for subpoenas - the last remaining check on unrestrained police power - even though they cannot cite a single case where a delay in obtaining a subpoena impeded a terrorism investigation (see this item - log in as shrub_junior, password dumbya). Another worrying trend is that the police are increasingly fond of bandying someone's name about as a person of interest, destroying people's reputations when they have been charged with no crime.

Meanwhile, John Ash-hole and sub-Coulter RRR mouthpiece Michelle Malkin are sneering at librarians and others who are seeking to educate the public about the chilling implications of the "Patriot act". By the way, did you know that "USA Patriot" is an acronym? It's supposed to stand for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism". I think a more appropriate name would be "Totalitarian, Repressive And Intended To Obliterate Rights".

Reaganolatry runs riot in the RRR

Ronald Reagan isn't dead yet - unless you count brain death, which occurred no later than his first term - but the RRR is going all out to start a cult of personality around him that would embarrass "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il. The doddering old fool who sleepwalked through the most corrupt administration in US history (138 convictions and/or indictments) and the greatest ever bloating of the size of the federal government and the deficit, delayed the freeing of US hostages from Iran for political advantage (the October Surprise), and was cozy with brutal dictators around the globe, is being hailed as the equal of the Founding Fathers. The man who played politics with air travelers' safety by firing all the air traffic controllers got an airport named after him, and now his worshippers are complaining that the nearby Washington metro station doesn't have Reagan's name on it, and this is "confusing to travellers". I guess next they'll be agitating to have Washington D.C. renamed as Reagan D.C.! Remember when Lloyd Bentsen told Dan Quayle, "You're no Jack Kennedy"? Someone should have stood up and told Reagan, "You're no George Washington".

But it doesn't stop there. The RRR wants to put Reagan on the $10 bill. Ultimately they want Reagan monuments in all 50 states and every county in the US, and every former communist country in the world!

You know, I just can't believe that even the most rabid reactionary genuinely thinks that Reagan is the towering intellectual giant they make him out to be. I mean, take this guy - he's obviously taking the mickey. Isn't he?

But at least the gipper himself isn't a party to this orgy of mindless fawning adulation. What's even more worrying is that a similar personality cult is already building around Junior - with his active participation and direction. Perhaps encouraged by Showtime's sycophantic and heavily fictionalized hagiography that portrayed him as the hero of 9/11, Junior recently had an exhibit of historical photos and illustrations in the State Department headquarters replaced by - hold on to your socks - a set of 21 photos of Bush as diplomat! Yes, that would be the same Bush who has been sneering at the UN, "Old Europe" and just about everyone else, and whose unilateralism and juvenile arrogance has done more to unite the world in opposition to his dangerous rogue regime than any other US president. Hmmm, I wonder if there's a shot of Daddy Warbush puking in the Japanese Prime Minister's lap?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Show me a good loser...

The Dem presidential hopefuls are agonizing over whether to forego matching funds for their campaigns because of the associated $45 million ceiling (see news item). Howard Dean is said to be close to a decision to opting out of the public-financing system, but John Kerry sniffs: "I think we all should live by campaign finance reform and set an example for the country." Like all too many Dems, Kerry would rather feel virtuous and hold the moral high ground than actually win an election! This is suicide in the face of Junior's quarter-billion-dollar war chest.

Get your act together, guys! It's absolutely imperative that we evict the chimp from the White House where he is unlawfully squatting. We can't afford to tie both hands behind our backs while the repugs have been fighting dirty every step of the way and are getting dirtier all the time. Sure, campaign finance reform is a worthy goal, but first things first!

Friday, September 12, 2003

Patriot Games

John Ash-hole's "Patriot Act" roadshow keeps on rolling. He defiled Boston's historic Faneuil Hall with his dog and pony show, and he has Shanghaied US attorneys into shilling for him when they should be prosecuting cases. Meanwhile, his draconian law is increasingly being used to circumvent Constitutional safeguards and throw the book at ordinary criminals. Banks are scrambling to meet impossible deadlines to implement poorly defined requirements, so that the Federales can go on fishing expeditions to snoop through everyone's private financial matters.

Ash-hole and Junior rely on public ignorance and apathy to keep this juggernaut of totalitarianism rolling on relentlessly. It's only if there is enough public knowledge and outcry - as there was with Poindexter's obscene plan to allow "investors" to profit from terrorism and war - that we have any chance of turning it back. So the genuine "patriot act" - the duty of anyone who cares about what this country stands for - is to:

  1. Learn about the "Traitor Act" (as it should be called) and its chilling implications for your freedom;
  2. Go to the polls next November and DUMP THE CHIMP!

Keep them fat, happy and stupid

Between the RRR and the politically correctoids, the US educational system has been dumbed down as never before. Children start their day with the pledge of allegiance, in a surreal spectacle where they chant robotically in unison about how free they are, and it's downhill from there. Schooling no longer has anything to do with imparting knowledge - not even the basics - but with "giving" children self-esteem by assimilating them into a Borg-like collective where they are shielded from any independent or critical thought, and kept in a state of blissful ignorance about the real world into which they must eventually emerge.

The inevitable end result - ignorant voters who can be manipulated with trivial ease by blatant appeals to the emotionalism of the lowest common denominator. The privileged elite stays in power by keeping the masses in a state of brain-dead torpor. Mindless flag-waving jingoism and equally mindless religious fanaticism serve as a force field protecting our rulers from the harsh light of scrutiny which would expose their immoral, self-serving, destructive policies.

An educated citizenry is vital to a democratic country. The US has the least effective educational system in the western world and is behind many third world countries. And for all the pious platitudes like "no child left behind" and "children are our most precious resources", the elite has no interest in changing that situation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Decline and Fall of The Bush Empire

Junior and his RRR sycophants live in their own little world and willfully blind themselves to the facts. I've previously referred to their hostility to science when it gets in the way of their anti-environment policies. But that's nothing compared to their ostrich-like response to the abject failure of their adventurism in Iraq, and the perilous quagmire that is currently staring them in the face.

But not everyone is content to stay silent. Some retiring military figures, released from their vow of silence, are speaking out against the mindless incompetence of Junior's foreign policy, the groupthink and fawning adulation of his so-called advisors which perpetuates this incompetence, and the venal greed of the contractors who benefit from it. (See e.g. this article and this one.) In addition, some of the rats are deserting the sinking ship and the cracks are getting harder and harder to paper over - at least as seen from the outside.

Within Fortress Bush, though, it's business as usual. The White House's incestuous relationship with Faux News continues. Shortly after moving in, Junior's team switched a TV monitor - which had been tuned CNN throughout the Clinton administration - over to Fox News, ensuring that Junior wouldn't be troubled by exposure to the facts (though this violates the first rule of propaganda - never believe your own bullsh*t.) The Pentagon continues to stage-manage coverage of the Iraq war in a way that would embarrass Jerry Bruckheimer with its crude, over-the-top style (for example, the hagiography of Jessica Lynch and her "rescuers", long after the true story emerged in Europe.) The RRR continues to bluster its lies about Iraqi WMD's (see also this link.) And it's blissfully unaware of its hypocrisy in quashing dissent and smearing honest questioners as traitors, after years of sabotaging US efforts under Clinton to halt genocide in Kosovo (See this PDF document.)

Julius Caesar is supposed to have said: "The difference between a republic and an empire is the loyalty of one's troops." The Bush chimps may delude themselves that "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" constitutes a feasible foreign policy, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Emperor Bush is naked. (Now there's an image you don't want in your head...)

Monday, September 08, 2003

A New World Order...

September 11 - a date on which the world became a darker, scarier place. No need to specify the year. Just the partial date "September 11" instantly evokes those horrific images of devastation and hell on earth.

Now it's two years later, and the US is a very different country. The Constitution lies in tatters, and there is a new atmosphere of fear and paranoia everywhere you look. The relationship between the US government and its citizens has changed fundamentally. But are we any safer today?

Shortly after the attacks, Junior vowed - in his affected folksy cowboy manner - to bring Osama bin Laden to justice "dead or alive". Today, if you asked him how the hunt was going, he would probably assume his standard deer-in-the-headlights expression and respond, "Osama bin who?" I guess he's having as much success as O.J., who is busy searching the golf courses of Florida for the real killers.

Of course Junior's real agenda was avenging his daddy in Iraq, and delivering the country to his Big Oil puppetmasters. He doesn't seem perturbed in the slightest that more US troops have died since his shameless photo-op on board a warship to declare victory than during the war itself. It never seems to occur to him that his blundering heavy-handedness in occupying Iraq is breeding a whole new generation of Osama bin Ladens. He has totally lost interest in Afghanistan. Now it is slowly dawning on him that Iraq is becoming a quagmire to such an extent that it might - horrors - hurt his chances of election (oops, I almost said "re-election"). So now, after months of sneering and thumbing his nose at the UN, he goes back there to demand UN troops and funds to clean up the mess he created. But he refuses to yield anything in return - the US must retain military and political control of Iraq. Is there no end to the arrogance of this insufferable little pipsqueak?

Just as Junior turned a record budget surplus into a record deficit in a matter of months, he has squandered the massive worldwide outpouring of sympathy and goodwill that followed the September 11 attacks. The US is perceived more and more as a dangerous rogue state, not only in the Muslim world but just about everywhere else as well. A state that in many ways is just as fanatical and merciless as any suicide bomber, but infinitely more powerful. A state with a long and sordid record of overthrowing popular leaders and installing "our sons of bitches" amid great bloodshed, then fondly indulging their reigns of terror while stripping their countries' resources, even while piously preaching about justice and democracy. Inevitably there will be many who will lash back at the US in the only way left to them: terrorism which only hurts innocent people but does not even mildly inconvenience the privileged elite whom Junior's government exists to serve and enrich. And just as inevitably, "our sons of bitches" will from time to time point the weapons we showered on them, back at us. How conveniently we forget that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were both CIA creations!

Perhaps at some point in the future we will have an administration which (a) cares about ordinary citizens and their security, and (b) understands that the best way to safeguard that security is to refrain from being the global schoolyard bully and angering so many people around the world.

By the way, I don't usually give much credence to conspiracy theories, but sometimes your common sense tells you that the official story is a lie. You can't look at the Zapruder film without realizing that JFK must have been shot from in front - destroying the lone-nut-in-the-schoolbook-repository explanation. Similarly, there are nagging questions about 9/11 that demand an explanation - instead of the Junior administration's policy of knee-jerk secrecy and impugning the patriotism of anyone who dares ask questions.

Some other links to read:

Sister Act

I watched The Magdalene Sisters last weekend. It's a very dark, powerful and depressing film about "wayward" Irish girls who are locked up in convents and forced to work in laundries under slave-labor conditions while being subject to horrific abuse by the nuns. Worst of all, it's based on a true story. Some 30,000 Irish women passed through the Magdalene Laundry system, many spending the rest of their lives there after being abandoned by their families. Few people outside of the system had any idea it existed. It wasn't until the mid-nineties when the City of Dublin bought some land from an order of nuns and discovered 300 unmarked graves, that the story came out. The resulting government enquiry, and the public shock and outrage, finally led to the laundries (which at that point housed only a handful of elderly women) closing down.

Though it's still politically correct to regard the Irish as brutal, violent and even subhuman, I think the only unique thing about Ireland is that it's had its dirty laundry (pardon the expression) much more comprehensively aired than any other country. I remember when Ireland was hit by a wave of priest pedophilia scandals in the early nineties. A handful of US journalists, those few who have any idea of what happens beyond America's shores, sniffed that this was further proof the Ireland was backward - such a thing could never happen here. Now it's all too clear that in this respect, Ireland was a decade ahead of the US.

Shortly before watching "The Magdalene Sisters", I happened to see Rabbit Proof Fence about Australia's stolen generation. Half-caste aborigine children were torn from their parents and shipped long distances in cages to a settlement where they were forced to practise Christianity, punished for speaking their native language, and trained for a "civilized" life as domestic servants. This cruel policy was started by the British government and continued by the white Austalians up to 1970.

The British also had their Magdalene laundries in several cities such as Glasgow, run by the city governments themselves. And a policy very similar to the Australian one operated in the US, known as the Indian Schools - some of which are still running.

Clearly, the Irish don't have a monopoly on cruel and heartless treatment of children. The common factor is religion - specifically, dogmatic doctrinaire religion that gets in a position of power and believes it can do no wrong. As Blaise Pascal wrote, "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." (Pensées, 894) Another quote is apropos here: "With or without religion you have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but it takes religion for good people to do evil things." (Nobel Prizewinner Steven Weinberg)

Any more questions on why we need strict church-state separation?

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