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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The "War On Terror," "Brazil," And Krishnamurti

Brazil

  • Our Supreme Court feels that the Constitution can bear being warped to permit un-Constitutional treatment of human beings - even American human beings, as long as said human beings are arbitrarily labeled a "suspected enemy combatant" beforehand.



  • In Terry Gilliam's peerless movie Brazil, a dystopian world is comedically explored, wherein citizens pushing back against a soulless corporate state are designated "terrorists."



  • You see where I am going with this.

    Chris Floyd over at Empire Burlesque is righteously indignant about the sorry state of the nation at the moment (I am excerpting liberally from his post, but that is no excuse for you not to go and read the whole thing, as we bloggers are wont to insist. Also note that I am artlessly truncating what Mr. Floyd excerpts of Mr. Hedges' article.):
    I wrote a piece here a few days ago on a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, in which the justices agreed with the passionate plea of the Obama Administration to uphold -- and establish as legal precedent -- some of the most egregious of the Bush Administration's authoritarian perversions. This was the gist of the ruling:
    The Supreme Court acquiesced to the president's fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a "suspected enemy combatant" by the president or his designated minions is no longer a "person." They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever -- save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.
    One of the attorneys involved in the case rightly likened the ruling to the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision, in which the Court declared that any person of African descent brought to the United States as a slave -- or their descendants, even if they had been freed -- could never be citizens of the United States and were not protected by the Constitution. They were non-persons under the law; sub-humans...

    ...And yes, Virginia, it all applies to American citizens as well. Chris Hedges demonstrates this clearly in a devastating piece on the case of American citizen Syed Fahad Hashmi. Below is an excerpt, but you should read the whole piece:
    Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process....

    Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. ...

    “My brother was an activist,” Hashmi’s brother, Faisal, told me by phone from his home in Queens. “He spoke out on Muslim issues, especially those dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His arrest and torture have nothing to do with providing ponchos and socks to al-Qaida, as has been charged, but the manipulation of the law to suppress activists and scare the Muslim American community. My brother is an example. His treatment is meant to show Muslims what will happen to them if they speak about the plight of Muslims. We have lost every single motion to preserve my brother’s humanity and remove the special administrative measures. These measures are designed solely to break the psyche of prisoners and terrorize the Muslim community. These measures exemplify the malice towards Muslims at home and the malice towards the millions of Muslims who are considered as non-humans in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    ...“Hashmi grew up here, was well known here, was very outspoken, very charismatic and very political,” said Theoharis. “This is really a message being sent to American Muslims about the cost of being politically active. It is not about delivering alleged socks and ponchos and rain gear. Do you think al-Qaida can’t get socks and ponchos in Pakistan? The government is planning to introduce tapes of Hashmi’s political talks while he was at Brooklyn College at the trial. Why are we willing to let this happen? Is it because they are Muslims, and we think it will not affect us? People who care about First Amendment rights should be terrified. This is one of the crucial civil rights issues of our time. We ignore this at our own peril.”

    ...There will be more Hashmis, and the Justice Department, planning for future detentions, set up in 2006 a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists... [that would be my, Petro's, emphasis]
    I have been writing about this since November 2001, when George W. Bush's authoritarian claims over the liberty -- and lives -- of every human being on earth were first coming to light. (And not in dogged investigative reports, but in open, laudatory stories in the mainstream media.) It is very simple: all the government has to do is declare, arbitrarily, with no due process, that you -- yes, you, Mister and Ms American Citizen -- are a terrorist, or suspected terrorist, or an enemy combatant, and you can be stripped of your legal personhood, plunged into a gulag, confined indefinitely, plunged into isolation -- or killed.
    You see, I want to push back against a soulless, corporate state. And this brings me to Krishnamurti.

    Circa 1950, a Soviet Union-sponsored communist opposition leader from the Sri Lankan parliament had the misfortune of a public encounter with Krishnamurti, and it struck Ingram Smith enough for him to include the encounter in his book, The Transparent Mind: A Journey with Krishnamurti (I personally found the hagiography a bit cloying, and I'm sure K. cringed a bit if he bothered to read it, but there are some amusing insights contained therein). The anecdote I am referencing can be found here, under the title "I Am That Man." In it, the impertinent communist (he had imperially reserved some front-row seats in order to guarantee Krishnamurti's ear) found himself tangled in an hopeless (for him) dialogue with K. regarding his totalitarian leanings:
    ...There was mutual investigation into the ways in which the communist philosophy actually operated, and the means by which conflicts were handled. And basically, whether in fact reshaping, repatterning human thinking and behavior freed the individual or the collective from ego, from competition, from conflict. After half an hour or so, Dr. Perera was still claiming the necessity of totalitarian rule, asserting that everyone must go along with the decided policy, and be made to conform.

    At this point, Krishnaji drew back. ”What happens,” he asked, “when I, as an individual, feel I cannot go along with the supreme command’s decision? What if I won’t conform?”
    “We would try to convince you that individual dissent, perhaps valid before a decision is taken, cannot be tolerated after. All have to participate.”
    “You mean obey?”
    “Yes.”
    “And if I still couldn’t or wouldn’t agree?”
    “We would have to show you the error of your ways.”
    “And how would you do that?”
    “Persuade you that in practice the philosophy of the state and the law must be upheld at all times and at any cost.”
    “And if someone still maintains that some law or regulation is false, what then?”
    “We would probably incarcerate him so that he was no longer a disruptive influence.”
    With utter simplicity and directness, Krishnaji said: “I am that man.” [me again, emphasizin'] Consternation! Suddenly, total confrontation. An electric charge had entered the room – the atmosphere was charged.
    The lawyer spoke carefully, quietly: “We would jail you and keep you there as long as was necessary to change your mind. You would be treated as a political prisoner.”
    Krishnaji responded: “There could be others who feel and think as I do. When they discover what has happened to me, their antithesis to your authority may harden. This is what happens, and a reactionary movement has begun.”
    Neither Dr. Perera nor his colleagues wanted to pursue this dangerously explicit dialogue. Some were now showing nervousness.
    Krishnaji continued: “I am this man. I refuse to be silenced. I will talk to anyone who will listen. What do you do with me?”
    There was no escaping the question.“Put you away.”
    “Liquidate me?”
    “Probably. You would not be permitted to contaminate others.”
    “Probably?”
    “You would be eliminated.”
    After a long pause, Krishnamurti said: “And then, sir, you would have made a martyr of me!” There was no way of dodging the implications. “And what then?”

    Krishnamurti waited, and then quietly went back through the course of the dialogue...
    I know this is probably stupid of me, but I am really pissed off at this point:

    Hey, bitchez... I am that man.

    I'm Mad

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Holding Them Accountable

    Mount Olympus
    Image found at Psychology Today
    Much hand-wringing has occurred over the seeming paralysis of this administration (any administration?) as regards holding at the very least the prior administration accountable for its misdeeds, not to mention current misdeeds (a quick trip to the Google brings this, this, and this - and many many more like them.) Because of the tribal conditions of our "two-headed party" system, most of these calls are coming from the left, but this an issue that is really not in conflict with conservative values. Indeed, it seems to me that if there were indeed the public will to do something about the crimes, committed in broad daylight on the national and international stage, then the sheer magnitude of the necessity of redress would overwhelm any whimpering defensiveness brought about by partisan interests.

    I'd written briefly on this subject earlier this year, my focus at the time being on the sausage-making machinations that might slowly grind us towards justice, but I now conclude that it is the peoples' will that is the problem. Not that there aren't mighty efforts being expended by the guilty (and powerful) to avoid accountability, but as I stated earlier I think that if we really gave a shit, the resultant tsunami would transform the powerful into the petty - and with bittersweet dispatch.

    And so, I seek to explore just exactly why we, the citizens of this (admittedly stressed) democratic republic are not eye-bulgingly outraged at acts and policies that are so at odds with what we would presumably prefer to be our image and legacy.

    I believe that we, collectively, suffer from what I will call "Olympus Syndrome" (I Googled around and that seems to be a new coinage, at least in this context). In a nutshell, this "Olympus Syndrome" compels us to believe that the people that we put into place to handle the "big" problems of the world should somehow be shielded from the sort of justice that is taken for granted to be applicable to us mere mortals.

    Why should this be so? Our Constitution, and other historical legal charters, make much of no one being above the law. It is our explicit intent, and no serious person would argue otherwise in good faith. There is something psychological going on here.

    In the face of these "big" problems (poverty, hunger, war, "terror" - you know the drill), the guilt of our turning away is inescapable, and the assignation of these problems to "leaders" is simply inadequate to overcome our indifference - not surprisingly, inadequate to the solutions of any of these problems, but mainly here I mean inadequate against the guilt.

    I believe that, in order to mitigate this guilt, we first characterize these "big" problems as outside of the scope of what we "mere mortals" could possibly handle anyway. The unfortunate corollary to this mechanism is that we would then imbue those who we do assign these issues with superhuman attributes - to do otherwise would leave naked the lie of our "concern".

    If what I have written is true, then it is easy to see our reluctance: On one level, we have admitted to a class of humans who are above the rest of us, and we who are not worthy ought not to have the audacity to judge these folks.

    On another level, an indictment against the perpetrators would be an indictment of our very selves.

    I am not one to shy away from self-reflection and responsibility, so I would say indict away.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Socialism And Capitalism

    Capitalism
    Image found at PAULITICS via reddit.com
    Rogue Columnist Jon Talton has a post up regarding a debate he participated in, at which he was cornered into some uncharacteristic apologia for the merits of capitalism. I don't have much to comment on here - Jon is an honest thinker of some weight and he deftly maps the landscape and so you really should go read it for yourself.

    I was going to leave a comment to the effect that socialism & capitalism are two sides of the same coin, but I decided that it was an hoary observation to make and only marginally on topic. So I skittered over here to my territory to make the point.

    My sights are on "production," which obsesses both the capitalist and the socialist. Socialists, to me, are humane folks who have bought the frame of the greedheads (the capitalists - to me, again.)

    It is as to point to the "wonders" of the pyramids - the folliest of human folly - realize that they are a monument to slavery, and then go into elaborate intellectual yoga on how to build them more humanely.

    No - they are folly, narcissism, wastes of the oxygen breathed and the heartbeats beat of the laborers who labored and the kings who decreed. Just because they are big and they last a really, really long time seems to just gob-smack us out of perspective.

    Such it is with production. When one looks at human need, true human need... just what is served by production?


    Update: On an entirely different subject, Arthur Silbur makes my point (entitled "Odds, and One Regrettable Usual End" - I can't seem to get a direct link on this infernal dial-up). His (entirely correct) point is concerned with the tribalism of the left/right, and I would submit that framing is a step-maiden of this problem. Specifically, that either "side" ignores the elephant-in-the-room in their endless debating.
    Update II: Here's that link: Odds, and One Regrettable Usual End

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Media Spin (And Me, Again).


    Part 1

    I really should start another blog if I'm going to post about me - except that I can't seem to keep up with just one. So scratch that idea for now.

    As I note on YouTube.com, where these are posted, this is a great example of media misinformation. They had a story (overqualified professionals forced to flip burgers), and a guy who happened to be a programmer for a few decades and is, in fact, flipping burgers late in life. While I explained that I wasn't the "hard-luck case" that they were looking for, all I got were blank stares and friendly smiles as they filmed/interviewed me. (For the record: I voluntarily "dropped out" of the corporate scene a few years ago, before the economic meltdown.)

    When they were finished with the editing - voila! - they had an "overqualified professional forced to flip burgers." (Though I did get to say "greedheads" on the tee vee. Hee.) This is not the most egregious example, of course - the story does exist out there, many times over I'm sure. But it is, at the least, journalistic laziness to just use yours truly as a stand-in for that.

    I am Joe The Plumber.

    (And I really am loving the shit out of flipping the burgers.)


    Part 2

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Portland

    Bagdad Hawthorne SE
    Photo courtesy The Overland Agency
    As a rule, I have not used this forum for personal blogging - and I plan on keeping it that way - but I am overwhelmed with guilt for not posting much lately. This has been for various reasons, not the least of them being my recent relocation from Phoenix to Portland. And me being stuck with dial-up for the time being.

    This shot looks towards the Bagdad Theatre & Pub in the very, very cool Hawthorne SE district of my new adopted city. This is my neighborhood - hang a left at the light up ahead and my digs are less than 2 blocks down.

    With a fond farewell to Phoenix, I am very happy to be here.

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    Single Payer, Baby...

    Venezuela Clinic

    Susie Madrak, at Crooks & Liars (story from here, emphases Madrak's):
    [...]

    I walked out of the clinic with a diagnosis and treatment within twenty-five minutes of entering, without paying a dime. There was no wait, no paperwork, and no questions about my ability to pay, my nationality, or whether, as a foreigner, I was entitled to free comprehensive health care. There was no monetary value connected with my physical well-being; the care I received was not contingent upon my ability to pay. I was treated with dignity, respect, and compassion, my illness was cured and I was able to continue with my journey in Venezuela.

    [...]
    Ashamed yet?

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Lindsey Graham Goes All Ouroboros On Truth & Power



    Nicole at C&L posted this clip of the ever-lame Senator Graham lisping about Obama's "timidity." (Because the President has demurred from stomping all over the delicate situation unfolding in Iran.)

    What caused me to laugh out loud, though, was his demand that Obama speak "truth to power." Multiple times.

    Lindsey Graham insists that the President of the United States, the very Locus of Empire, speak "truth to power."

    (Insert deadpan stare here.)

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Obama Gets Colbert'd?



    Heather at Crooks & Liars' Video Cafe posts a roast at the Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner, served by the inimitable John Hodgman. (I apologize for writing "inimitable.")

    My politically over-stimulated brain substituted "progressive" every time Hodgman said "nerd." And, I have to say, after the concluding comments (which were more sentimental than comedic), our preternaturally cool President seemed to becoming aware of a knot swelling up the backside of his head...

    ...but maybe that's just me.

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Limbaugh Leadership

    Mama Fail

    When I saw these images, I thought of Rush and the sad sycophancy of the Republican Party.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Dickwatch

    The Dick
    AFP Photo
    That's my Dick!
    We fail to recognize the fact that we're alone out there in terms of trying to achieve the objective of forcing the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons.

    Everybody's in a giant conspiracy to achieve a different objective than the one we want to achieve.
    Ever the paranoid. Nice that he's out of the White House.

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Immanentizing The Eschaton

    Damned hippies
    Goddamned Hippies
    (Some may want to have a look at the definition of the title of this post.)

    William Greider discusses "The Future of the American Dream" over at The Nation. I agree with practically all of what he says, but it kinda sounds to me like a strange, under-the-radar, plea for fitting dirty fucking hippies in business suits so that they can more responsibly take over the engine of capitalism.
    Breaking free of this rigid top-down system and liberating workers to enjoy the freedom (and responsibility) of being human would represent a profound change for our society, a great leap forward in our social development as a people. As it happens, the shift to more cooperative and respectful workplaces can also yield economic gain for the nation. As numerous academic studies have shown and outstanding companies already understand, collaborative relationships between top management and the workforce are more productive and profitable. Instead of being ruled by fierce conflicts, the different elements within these companies share information constantly and steadily improve by learning from their mistakes. The profits are shared because the workers are also the owners.
    Ah, the eschaton. It is so goddamned All-American to equate the "good life" with wealth, isn't it? I'm not knocking Greider here - he is a soulful observer, and he clearly is touching (or at least sensing) "the hem" - but I am struck by how entrenched is the vulgarity of money and property in these meditations. No matter how you structure it, profit is always defined at the expense of the other. You can dance around this all you like, but greed is greed. One can at least commend the social darwinists and meritocrats for their naked recognition of this, and their implicit (and sometimes explicit) credo that "Greed is Good."

    Speaking of structure, Mr. Greider makes a cogent observation:
    This reorganization of employment and ownership cannot be commanded from afar, because it requires everyone--workers and bosses--to change...
    A nod to the incontrovertible fact that an enlightened society will ever lie in wait until the excruciatingly slow process of enlightenment, one human being at a time, reaches a critical mass.
    That change is very difficult for people to achieve in any setting.
    Yes, indeed. But then he goes on to sabotage this important observation with a with the beginnings of a "prescription" that, I would submit, snaps the average reader right back into our hierarchical fantasy-land:
    Government can encourage the pursuit, however, by setting out some incentives and loose guidelines...
    Ay yi yi.

    I'm pretty convinced that a "critical mass" of enlightenment will occur outside of the trappings of government service. I suppose we will try anyway, though - and perhaps we should.

    But it is a good think piece, and very much worth reading.

    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    Lawrence Wilkerson: "Let's Do It."


    YouTube posted by Firedoglake.com
    Former Chief-of-staff for Secretary Colin Powell, retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson has some choice words about fearhead Dick Cheney, and he pulls no punches. It seems that the Colonol is picking up the same vibes from The Big Dick as my Holy Crap! antennae.

    Rachel and Larry eventually get to the inevitable question on all of our minds... Can I Haz Frogmarch? They of course sketch around all of the requisite Very Serious points about political will & skill, with Col. Wilkerson ultimately expressing pessimism. Beginning around 6:40 in the clip, Ms. Maddow makes the very awesome point that the public seems itchy for the accountability, and that might create the "political will".

    It is Wilkerson's response to this that I enjoyed the most.
    "And that's what our country's all about. If that's the case, then let's do it.
    I've never been about patriotism for patriotism's sake - it has, after all, been the refuge of scoundrels for most of my life. But what Col. Wilkerson expresses there is the sort of Constitution-lovin' patriotism that I find invigorating.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Shepard Smith: "We Do Not Fucking Torture!"

    Shepard Smith
    Headshot from Odeo.com

    Crooks & Liars has a great clip up of Shepard Smith's head exploding:
    [punctuated with deskpounds] We! Are! America! I don't give a rat's ass if it helps! We are America! We do not fucking torture! We don't do it!
    Go watch it, really. I found it quite satisfying. It is rare that I can put myself in the place of a talking head as if he were the protagonist in "Good Night, and Good Luck" or, ahem, "Gandhi." The whole body language thing, the contempt and moral superiority shown when he pushed back in his seat after saying, powerfully, "It's wrong," a sort of genteel version of walking off the set.

    Ah, yes, that kind of shit fires me up, and I say that I am with you, Shepard Smith.

    Except that you're wrong. We do fucking torture, or at the least we have. And that explains the rage that rises within you. The rage that rises in me, and in most of the alert citizens of this country. The rage is a consequence of the "we."

    Torture (the crown jewel of evil, lording as it does over lesser demons like rendition, indefinite detention without trial, etc.) is an infinitely more heinous proposition in a participatory democracy than it is in States where the rule of law is exempted from the Glorious Leader.

    It is more heinous because we, the citizens of this democracy, have the tools to pursue justice. We do not have a military dictatorship to cower us, no second-generation megalomaniac with eyes everywhere... in other words, we have no one to blame. We cannot act as if we are the victims of this brutality, as members of these other states might credibly claim.

    We are in a moment. While this is not new information for many of us, it has been revealed to us almost in the manner of a confession. Most of their defense has been surrendered. In short, whether or not this is a masterful confection of Obama's, the cake has been baked and is being offered.

    This is not to say that the pursuit of light and truth (and some honest national remorse) would lead to any "successes" like prosecutions or schadenfreudelicious frog-marches (though it might.) The point is whether we, the people, enter into the righteous battle, regardless of the outcome.

    History will judge the United States of America on this moment.

    And the USA is "us," "we." That is why I identify with Shepard Smith's rage - no, I feel it, palpably. Because, this time, torture is personal.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Our Torture Has A Nazi Pedigree

    Phony MK-ULTRA pic
    From caption: "...un-identified white female between the age of 8 and 10 years old. Subject underwent 6 months of treatment using heavy doses of LSD, electroshock and sensery [sic] deprivation. Experiments under codename: MKULTRA about early 60s. Subjects [sic] memory was erased and her brain is that of a newborn baby."
    [Updated: H.P. Albarelli, Jr., author of A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments, was kind enough in an email to comment on the above image:
    "Yes, I've seen this photo in several places over the past year or so. I recently saw it in a book where it was marked as a "CIA MK/ULTRA" photo. It's not.

    "Where it came from I don't know but it was not the CIA. It appears oddly posed to me with various unprofessional features. It's too bad disinformation like this makes the rounds. The program (MK/ULTRA) was bad enough without trying to make it worse through bogus means."
    I thank Mr. Albarelli for his input.

    Update II: Hank has given me a very cool piece, posted here.]


    Christy unearths this nugget from Katherine Eban's article in Vanity Fair (emphasis mine):
    At the direction of an accompanying psychologist, the team planned to conduct a psychic demolition in which they'd get Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death.
    Presumably his brain was then like that of a "newborn baby."

    Project MK-ULTRA was a breathtakingly inhuman top-secret exercise of our government. It "evolved" from Operation Paperclip, a morally dubious enterprise designed to co-opt the brain trust of Nazi scientists. It seems that in our exposure to all of that brilliance some of the nasty leaked in, and we began to explore not just Nazi rocket science but Nazi "medicine" as well.

    Was a time that bringing up "CIA mind control experiments" was eye-rolling tin-foil-hat territory, and indeed even today it retains the ability to marginalize a speaker.

    I'm sure the brain-baking techniques have grown more, ah, sophisticated than they were back in the '60's (not), but to have this sort of monstrous behaviour revealed as being used, today, on Zubaydah (and we all know what happened to Jose Padilla - subsequently described as "a piece of furniture") contributes to my Holy Crap! feeling...

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Holy Crap!

    Jaw Drop
    Courtesy of Bonnie Rockwaller
    (Updated)

    I feel poised upon what I can only describe as a great tension, a not so distant rumbling of a fast-approaching series of "Holy Crap!" moments.

  • Crooks & Liars has the clip up of President Obama admitting that there is some space for justice as re torture, the new American tragedy wrapped in a travesty. Architects of legal "justifications" are fair game (one a sitting judge on the 9th Circuit, and may I invite you to his impeachment?), according to the President (as if it's his call, right DOJ?), and it looks like even some down-line sadists might have colored outside of the OLC memo lines, timeline-wise and outright no-that-was-bugshit-crazy-wise (although the insect-in-a-casket bit - APPROVED - is pretty goddam bugshit-crazy.) My take: He seemed artfully recalcitrant ("oh, y'all are making me do it!") to my discerning ears. And did I hear our President dogwhistling us to get off of our lazy asses and push Congress to do something about this shit because he really can't without bringing a shitstorm of Sturm and Drang (ok, that's redundant) from the offended offenders?


  • Impeaching Jay Bybee, which I mentioned above. This thing is actually "percolating," as John notes. This ain't the anti-big-gubmint mewling that normally savages Federal judges. This is a righteous assault, and it is big mojo if it goes forward.


  • This is kind of a riff off of the above, but... is it me, or is Dick starting to get a bit weird? OK, "weird" is the wrong word - let's optimistically call it "nervous." I actually think he'd be breaking a sweat if he weren't so mean with his precious bodily fluids (my apologies to Gen. Jack D. Ripper, who at least earned military credentials in Hollywoodland.)


  • Obama's recent fealty to "controversial" heads-of-state and well-placed canines has me all a-twitter. Yes, I said "fealty," you knuckledraggers. Except it isn't fealty - I know from personal experience that treating with respect even those you might have a raised-eyebrow over not only shows grace and dignity, but it actually somehow magically inspires it in the Other. But that's probably TMI for you lot. Anyway, if this American President truly begins to air the odious narrative of our relationship with our brothers in the Hemisphere of the Americas, well, I just may be losing my breath here...


  • Masters of the Universe who swelled with schadenfreude over the Spitzer take-down may soon find that they hath preened too much, wethinks. looseheadprop is on this story. Part one of three in a series, more is coming. I read everything looseheadprop writes (and do not neglect emptywheel), and you would be smarter, too, if you did. Oh, hell, all of Firedoglake.com is a fucking university. Even their regular commentors are frequently illuminating. While I'm this, Jane says Marcy needs our support, and I think she's on to something bigger at the same time.


  • No links here, just a thought. The debate over the War on Drugs is back, after being savaged, like so many things were, in 2001. The all-heat-and-no-light "conversation" on borders, violence, guns, drugs is starting to look pretty non-substantive. We are moving into no-nonsense times, and I don't think we're going to put up with the same old.

  • The Kleig Lights chunked upon Wall Street are illuminating all sorts of things not restricted to that lit scenery. There is some serious cognitive dissonance going on right now, and while that is a useful way of keeping us proles discouraged, as long as the distractions are cheap and plenty, dissonance can have a backlash. A major component of this sort of psychic shrug is to Question Everything. From my own Friedman-esque conversations with the "common man," I am seeing a new willingness to look at situations more holistically - or "systemically," in the pop parlance.

    When people are of a mind to make connections, it becomes a habit. And making connections bodes ill for a host of smug malefactors. One can hope that it is a Dawn, but more... that we have had, evermore, Enlightenment-strength, enough of that sort of Night.

    But I am an optimist.

    Update: Froomkin via C&L.

    Update II: Jane and Marcy and the gang are burning the midnight oil and finding some usefully ugly details in the SASC "torture" Report.

    Update III: Looks like Karl's feelin' a little Holy Crap!, too.

    Update IV: Jeebus, Missouri Senator Kit Bond is doin' the crazy, too. One of his more coherent defenses (the others are just batshit - why do Republicans constantly get away with bashing troops?) is that Bush, Inc. is off the hook because reps in both Houses knew about it all anyway and approved (Bond is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.) We'll leave aside, for the moment, that it is pretty clear that the revelations in the SASC Report are apparently, well, revelations to these cleared committees as well - the disclosure of inner deliberations of the White House is credibly out of bounds in this forum, suspicion unnecessary. The point is that Sen. Bond is basically inferring that he himself knew about what went on in the basements of Cheneytown. His shrillness in this clip tells me that he did know... just not that he knew through the official channels, to so implicate his colleagues.

    Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    Flail Against Theocracy

    Blog Against Theocracy - Darkblack
    Image from Darkblack
    Excerpted:
    ...this debate regarding Theocracy is further complicated by the fact that the State is not (yet) "properly constituted." We (the "secularists") have not settled our own internal debate regarding vice and behavior - the "invisible" harms. We as well point to the nebulous "good of society" when we criminalize gambling, prostitution, drug use. A truly "secular" approach would be to acknowledge and regulate these weaknesses. Attempts to purify them out of existence only embolden and legitimize the theocratic scolds among us.

    We have to clean up our own house before we can credibly criticize Theocracy.
    I would like to thank the folks at Blog Against Theocracy for the opportunity to post something that might actually be read :).

    Before I begin, I think I should explain where I "stand" on religion. There are aspects of our experience which, while objectively impossibly to point to and quantify, are profoundly real to the experiencer. I feel that the roots of religion are a legitimate attempt to create a framework so that these "intangibles" can be thought about and discussed. Love is an obvious and relatively non-controversial example of this.

    To repeat, I think that these things are real. Attempts to characterize them as delusional artifacts of some howl-at-the-moon past (read: the behavioralism-obsessed 20th century scientific community) are offensive and sophomoric. And just as much an intrusion on inner-life (religion, by my definition), as this BAT community sees Theocracy is on society in general.

    I am of the opinion that in the nanosecond it takes to crystallize, think about, discuss and organize these (very real) "intangibles" sets a contradiction into motion. So I don't play with "organized" religion, and I don't want it to play with me. This could be considered "my" religion.

    That said, I don't think that my "prejudice" against organized religion is a factor in my analysis regarding Theocracy. While I don't think that my prejudice is wrong, I can say that it may very well be so. And even if I'm not wrong, my brand of "religious logic" will most certainly derive fallacious corollaries that, while perhaps fascinating to debate, would be completely inappropriate in defining the social order... the State.

    That would be stopping the debate (not the debate about Theocracy, but rather that which is occurring within the framework of religions.) This is not the sort of debate which is won or lost. It's sole purpose is thought-clarification, and it must continue in perpetuity (or at least until we grow up enough to realize that thought is an inappropriate "container" for such things, but that's a whole 'nother matter.)


    And so:

    This is about managing harm.

    The State - the government, the collective, the caretaker of public space, securer of personal rights and freedoms - when properly constituted, concerns itself with the mitigation of "visible" harms. Mammalian bio-social imperatives aside, the collective most probably found its cohesion in facing the dangers of a morally neutral and untamed ecosphere (which will always remain with us). These groups, of course, created the meta-problem of clashing cultural values, a result of the collectives germinating in isolation of each other. And so, the protection from the harm of "others" becomes a natural function (albeit, one that ideally has an expiration date as wisdom evolves). Finally, as a group becomes more complex, the focus turns towards the members of the collective itself, assigning rules of interaction designed - again, when properly constituted - to create and preserve a fair and just society, as free from violence and exploitation as possible (also, to some degree, a temporary condition - although even with "perfect" enlightenment and education, there will always be that roughly 5% of psychopaths among us).

    These are broad strokes, but I think I've got that about right.

    Religion, on the other hand, is concerned with "invisible" harms. It dictates that we "love our neighbor." If you do not, then you are harming him. I actually think that this absolutely true, by the way. The problem is, this directive is completely unenforceable. Sure, you can, with sufficient coercion (and cruelty) enforce the outward expression of "love," but sincerity is not guaranteed. A failure of the original intent of the "love law," right out of the box. Not to mention that the whole approach creates a pretzel of contradictions regarding the loving of the non-lover neighbors and whether forcing them to love is very loving after all and well maybe it is for their own good... so one settles on, again, the insincere proclamation of "love" towards their victims, while all the time utterly bankrupt of the actual love that would prohibit such cruelties.

    Of course, theocratic movements never begin with such obvious absurdities. As a sort of appeasement to secular society, they adapt the language of "visible" harm. For example, I personally see gambling as a bad thing (I actually do). If I were a certain type of (religious) person, I might make the credible claim that it is "bad for society" to permit gambling. While that's a pretty incredible leap in thought in and of itself, I must then throw compassion under the bus in order to justify outlawing the impulses of those "less enlightened" than myself on the matter. Once again, Theocracy contradicts itself.

    It should be clear at this point that Theocracy has nothing whatsoever to do with those legitimate "intangibles" that are the very soul of religion. Theocracy has nothing to do with religion.

    Theocracy itself is a secular operation, saddled with hypocrisy. It is the cooption of religious language for purely political, secular reasons.

    Not incidentally, this debate regarding Theocracy is further complicated by the fact that the State is not (yet) "properly constituted." We (the "secularists") have not settled our own internal debate regarding vice and behavior - the "invisible" harms. We as well point to the nebulous "good of society" when we criminalize gambling, prostitution, drug use. A truly "secular" approach would be to acknowledge and regulate these weaknesses. Attempts to purify them out of existence only embolden and legitimize the theocratic scolds among us.

    We have to clean up our own house before we can credibly criticize Theocracy.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    The Elite

    Blake-Dante-Ebukadnezar

    The "elite" will always be with us. The problem with the current elite is we permit them to ignore the externalities from their wealth-building - environmental, human, economic - and this has made them soft and rotten.

    And hypocritical. Much is being made of the "socialization" of the losses of these so-called free-market capitalists, while profit is "deservedly" retained. Well, we've been socializing externalities from the get-go. It used to be called raping and pillaging.

    A better class of elite, in fitting with their self-professed love of meritocracy, would emerge if there were an accounting for off-the-books exploitation.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    A Tiresome Fallacy

    Monopoly Men
    Image from BBC News
    Michael Parenti has an excellent and articulate essay on the foolish contradiction of "Capitalist Democracy" (emphasis mine, and go read the whole thing, of course):
    In the midst of the meltdown, at an October 2008 congressional hearing, former chair of the Federal Reserve and orthodox free-market devotee Alan Greenspan confessed that he had been mistaken to expect moneyed interests--groaning under an immense accumulation of capital that needs to be invested somewhere--to suddenly exercise self-restraint.

    The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan made it. In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own selfish interests without restraint...

    Is the crisis of 2008-09 caused by a chronic tendency toward overproduction and hyper-financial accumulation, as Marx would have it? Or is it the outcome of the personal avarice of people like Bernard Madoff? In other words, is the problem systemic or individual? In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism breeds the venal perpetrators, and rewards the most unscrupulous among them. The crimes and crises are not irrational departures from a rational system, but the converse: they are the rational outcomes of a basically irrational and amoral system.
    Will we ever be loose the coils of this madness? I don't know the answer to that, but I will say I see some incremental intelligence between the crisis/solution cycles of the Gilded Age and the Great Depression, but that is based on historical record, a highly suspicious source of information. We (the U.S.) are in our third iteration, and it's in my lifetime so I can watch real-time, to see if we've ratcheted up the self-awareness any...

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Baby, Don't You Do It...

    Inauguration 2009

    ...don't you break my heart.


    Dear President Obama,

    Do you see all of those people? They believe in you.

    Don't you do it.

    Yours, with hope,

    Petro


    Update: Good, hopefully auspicious, start. Fellow Arizonan bmaz:
    An incredibly welcome move by an administration literally only hours into its initial term. You have to hand it to President Obama, Guantanamo is a sensitive topic, especially with the neocon screechers, yet he proved the courage of his convictions and acted immediately upon being sworn in.

    Update II: More...

    Update III: Wow, I'm starting to think that this guy is serious. By my lights, I think this is the boldest (and perhaps riskiest) move by Barack, a meaty facedown with the elites.