Thursday, March 31, 2011

Snakes in the Grass


"The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials." report in the NY Times, March 30, 2011

The Central Intelligence Agency may be nightmare fodder for conspiracy theorists, but the fact is that they function as an extra-legal force for American governments who want to intervene in other countries without the niceties of democratic scrutiny. For Presidents both Democrat and Republican, they function as a private army that comes with a wink and a pair of crossed fingers. Presidents know that they can deny everything but still use the CIA to do whatever they want since the CIA doesn't, apparently, count. President Obama has now admitted to following in the illustrious corrupting footsteps of sending the CIA off to do his bidding while making statements in direct contradiction to what he's having the CIA do. So of course Obama says there will be no American "boots on the ground" in the LIbyan conflict: follow the wink and the crossed fingers to this new admission that the CIA is already there, on the ground, doing Lord only knows what.

It's a grand old tradition, and it usually comes back to bite the United States in the ass. Witness 9/11: One can set aside all the absolutely crazy conspiracy theories about inside jobs and rockets and explosive-packed foundations and missiles and state secrets and all sorts of loony-toon stuff, and still not escape the undebatable facts that Al Qaeda and its Afghan sanctuaries would not have existed if it were not for the clandestine CIA operations in Afghanistan during the time of Soviet intervention there in the 1980s. You don't have to be a fan of dimestore spy novels to see that it is hugely problematic both for America and the countries of the world to have a secret army engaged in undemocratic subversion at the whim of whomever is running things in Washington.

I found this list of CIA interventions since World War II on the web. These are chapters from a book called "Killing Hope" I have not read nor make no pretense of endorsing, but the list of locales jibes with what I know about history. Congratulations President Obama! There should be a chapter about you and Libya added soon. Here's the list of shame:

1. China - 1945 to 1960s: Was Mao Tse-tung just paranoid?
2. Italy - 1947-1948: Free elections, Hollywood style
3. Greece - 1947 to early 1950s: From cradle of democracy to client state
4. The Philippines - 1940s and 1950s: America's oldest colony
5. Korea - 1945-1953: Was it all that it appeared to be?
6. Albania - 1949-1953: The proper English spy
7. Eastern Europe - 1948-1956: Operation Splinter Factor
8. Germany - 1950s: Everything from juvenile delinquency to terrorism
9. Iran - 1953: Making it safe for the King of Kings
10. Guatemala - 1953-1954: While the world watched
11. Costa Rica - Mid-1950s: Trying to topple an ally - Part 1
12. Syria - 1956-1957: Purchasing a new government
13. Middle East - 1957-1958: The Eisenhower Doctrine claims another backyard for America
14. Indonesia - 1957-1958: War and pornography
15. Western Europe - 1950s and 1960s: Fronts within fronts within fronts
16. British Guiana - 1953-1964: The CIA's international labor mafia
17. Soviet Union - Late 1940s to 1960s: From spy planes to book publishing
18. Italy - 1950s to 1970s: Supporting the Cardinal's orphans and techno-fascism
19. Vietnam - 1950-1973: The Hearts and Minds Circus
20. Cambodia - 1955-1973: Prince Sihanouk walks the high-wire of neutralism
21. Laos - 1957-1973: L'Armée Clandestine
22. Haiti - 1959-1963: The Marines land, again
23. Guatemala - 1960: One good coup deserves another
24. France/Algeria - 1960s: L'état, c'est la CIA
25. Ecuador - 1960-1963: A text book of dirty tricks
26. The Congo - 1960-1964: The assassination of Patrice Lumumba
27. Brazil - 1961-1964: Introducing the marvelous new world of death squads
28. Peru - 1960-1965: Fort Bragg moves to the jungle
29. Dominican Republic - 1960-1966: Saving democracy from communism by getting rid of democracy
30. Cuba - 1959 to 1980s: The unforgivable revolution
31. Indonesia - 1965: Liquidating President Sukarno … and 500,000 others
East Timor - 1975: And 200,000 more
32. Ghana - 1966: Kwame Nkrumah steps out of line
33. Uruguay - 1964-1970: Torture -- as American as apple pie
34. Chile - 1964-1973: A hammer and sickle stamped on your child's forehead
35. Greece - 1964-1974: "Fuck your Parliament and your Constitution," said
the President of the United States
36. Bolivia - 1964-1975: Tracking down Che Guevara in the land of coup d'etat
37. Guatemala - 1962 to 1980s: A less publicized "final solution"
38. Costa Rica - 1970-1971: Trying to topple an ally -- Part 2
39. Iraq - 1972-1975: Covert action should not be confused with missionary work
40. Australia - 1973-1975: Another free election bites the dust
41. Angola - 1975 to 1980s: The Great Powers Poker Game
42. Zaire - 1975-1978: Mobutu and the CIA, a marriage made in heaven
43. Jamaica - 1976-1980: Kissinger's ultimatum
44. Seychelles - 1979-1981: Yet another area of great strategic importance
45. Grenada - 1979-1984: Lying -- one of the few growth industries in Washington
46. Morocco - 1983: A video nasty
47. Suriname - 1982-1984: Once again, the Cuban bogeyman
48. Libya - 1981-1989: Ronald Reagan meets his match
49. Nicaragua - 1981-1990: Destabilization in slow motion
50. Panama - 1969-1991: Double-crossing our drug supplier
51. Bulgaria 1990/Albania 1991: Teaching communists what democracy is all about
52. Iraq - 1990-1991: Desert holocaust
53. Afghanistan - 1979-1992: America's Jihad
54. El Salvador - 1980-1994: Human rights, Washington style
55. Haiti - 1986-1994: Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Liberals Love War, Too"


As readers of The Cahokian know, I love quoting things. I've been disappointed of late to find a number of my favorite websites running pieces begrudgingly or even enthusiastically coming out in favor of the American attack on Libya. I am struck by the peculiar lack of imagination on Libya, that somehow in order to support the awakening of the Libyan people, people who should know better are embracing the worst kind of interventionist behavior. We've seen how this story ends countless times, and yet somehow the siren's song of "humanitarian intervention" has seduced a new generation of people. So here I'm quoting at great length a piece which nails exactly what's going wrong here.

I am excerpting below most of a blisteringly angry piece by Margaret Kimberley, editor and senior columnist of Black Agenda Report. Margaret Kimberly blogs as "The Freedom Rider." This piece, "Attack of the Cruise Missile Liberals," went up on BAR today.

"Peace loving Americans are few and far between. The vast majority of our citizens see nothing wrong with their government killing masses of people as long as the rationale sounds high minded and noble.

The love of bloodshed is generally connected with the right wing in this country, but nothing could be further from the truth. The desire for America to dominate the rest of the world is prevalent among most of its citizens, regardless of party affiliation. Those citizens differ only on who they want to see doing the dominating. Republicans are ecstatic when a Republican president drops bombs, sends drones on killing missions or occupies other nations. Democrats are equally enthusiastic when one of their own does the same.

Democratic party reaction to President Obama’s military intervention in Libya is but the latest example of the American propensity to exult over government sponsored violence. Obama, like George W. Bush before him, claims that his intervention, no-fly zone, peace mission (take your pick) is being conducted only for the most humanitarian of purposes. The dead bodies belie the claims of dogooderism but those words have a distinct power for people in this country and will always be used as a pretext for someone dying somewhere on the planet.

The legacy of Manifest Destiny and the belief in white American superiority effects and infects every policy discussion in this nation. The equation of goodness and rightness with white America holds sway very strongly and sadly not just for white people either... The United States attack on Libya has brought out the worst in this phenomenon. Liberals are gleeful that conservative icon Newt Gingrich backtracked on supporting intervention until the Democratic president actually intervened, but Gingrich is no different than they are.

We now have MSNBC television host Ed Schultz proclaiming “Support for Obama’s Invasion of Libya.” Never mind that Obama has taken great pains to claim that the bombing will be of limited duration and that ground troops will not have a presence there. Schultz seems to be ahead of the president on this one, but his show of support is telling in revealing the true support for American motivations in its interventions abroad. Likewise Juan Cole in an “Open Letter to the Left on Libya” dismisses criticism of the intervention thusly. “I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time,” and adds, “We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo . . .”

Foreign interventions conducted by the United States should be taboo. Our system is not designed to be in any way humanitarian. Its motives are to say the least suspect and no matter how evil its enemies are made out to be, the evidence of past history should make us suspicious of the arguments in favor of war.

The liberal hawks, like Obama, have no concern for Libyan civilians who are enduring bombing, and exposure to depleted uranium shells which create cancers and birth defects for years to come. This is not conjecture, but has been seen in Iraq and ought to be a reason for anyone who claims to be on the “left” to oppose the actions which bring it to pass.

The true anti-war activist, not just anti-Republican activist, has to raise its voice. The true anti-war movement must reawaken itself and hit the streets in the hundreds of thousands, just as they did in 2003 before the invasion of Iraq. That moment can be recreated, and in a deeper, more honest way, now that a Democrat is the head killer in charge."


Read the entire piece at Black Agenda Report. Thanks to Jon for turning me on to this article.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Newsflash from the Malabar Front!


"Attention! Your attention, please! A newsflash has this moment arrived from the Malabar front. Our forces in South India have won a glorious victory. I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end." -- George Orwell, 1984

"Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake." -- Barack Obama's address to the nation on Libya, March 28, 2011

"Leaders of the four dozen countries and international organizations meeting here on Tuesday made it clear that they agreed that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi would have to relinquish power, even though regime change is not the stated aim of the United Nations resolution authorizing military action against his forces...." News report the very next day, March 29, 2011

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"For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant -– Muammar Qaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world." -- Barack Obama's address to the nation on Libya, March 28, 2011

Estimated Total Deaths from U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2011
1,435 (low estimate) 2,283 (high estimate)
number of actual militants killed in these strikes
1,145 (low estimate) 1,822 (high estimate)
non-militant fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 21 percent

"Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair offered confirmation on Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community is authorized to assassinate Americans abroad who are considered direct terrorist threats to the United States." --news report February 2010

Monday, March 28, 2011

Love Is Our Nationality


This lovely song was recorded by the California collective Build an Ark on their first record "Peace With Every Step" back in 2003. I suppose this music is called jazz, but that seems really inadequate. I'm not sure I understand why the urge to make peace is always the first thing set aside. At the risk of sounding like a naive flower child, making the world better begins with one's own personal actions. Are they not as simple as this song suggests?

"Let's make peace
And stop the war
Let's make peace
And stop the war

Put down your gun
Pick up your baby
Undo your collar
Open up your arms
Strip off your uniform
Salute to your equal
Unpin your badge
Reveal your ribcage
Dismount your tomahawk
Untrain your tongue
Swallow your mushroom cloud
Civilize your crosshairs

Aw put down your gun
Pick up your baby
We are citizens of each other
We learn hope from one another's past
We are together
We are sweet-talking freedom fighters
We are literacy to curious children
Pattycake and pickup sticks played with bilingual rules
We are citizens of each other
No soldiers trample our ancient passion
When we are together we erase our fear of fear
We stand at attention without rifles
We march to the cadence of dreams
Love is our nationality

Our embassy safeguards persecuted touch
We are ambassadors of intimacy
We are diplomats of secret whispers
We are beauty without flags
We are emotions elected by a landslide
Giddyup love giddyup
Show me the power eyes inflamed with doubt can witness
Giddyup giddyup
Dress the morning sky in crimson when I pray
Giddyup giddyup
Spread moss under my feet when I dance after sunset's call
Giddyup giddyup
Show me love
Show me power
Put down your gun, pick up your baby..."


May it be so.

The main vocal is by Peter Harris, who also wrote the poetic lyric. The music is by Build An Ark, based on a theme by Funk Inc. Transcribed by me. You can try looking for this album or any of their excellent followups at Dustygroove.com.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friends & Enemies


The First World War was a watershed for the international left. For decades, socialists had organized in the nations of the industrialized world for the rights of workers, for social justice, for democracy; they exhorted values of international labor solidarity and talked about the common interests of the same classes across national divisions. The First World War was nobody's moral crusade: it was clearly a war for power and territory and economic strength. And yet, all of a sudden major portions of the left in each nation decided that being French or German or English or Russian was the most important thing. Their former class brothers and sisters across each other's borders were now enemies to be shot at; and the governments they were formerly protesting or struggling with were now the embodiments of their national pride. In an instant as socialist parties in the parliaments of France and Germany voted to support the war begun by their governments, the ideals they had bandied about were shown to be virtually meaningless.

Not all the socialists made this shameful turn, and it was from those who refused to surrender their ideals and principles that what became the Communist movement was born. The story of what happened to that movement later after the successful Russian revolution can be rightfully debated. But there was a moment of real heroism as some socialists said "no" to their own ruling classes, and continued to regard their allies as the people, the working classes, of all nations. Karl Liebknecht was one of those heroes. I've quoted this document before, and I'll probably quote it again, but in 1915 as the majority of German Socialists were rallying behind their government and the German flag to support the war, he wrote and distributed this leaflet, called "The Main Enemy Is At Home!" Liebknecht's heroic genius was in recognizing that for the working class, the war changed nothing. The government that was suddenly appealing to them for support, attempting to morally inspire the German people to war, was the same government, the same class force of big business and the aristocracy, that was moments before engaged in ripping them off and oppressing them.

Here's a few key excerpts. Liebknecht is too optimistic about the immediate future, but he's pointing out that the German government is lying when it says it has embarked on a quick and easy war. Italy has just joined the other side in the war.

"The masses in the warring countries have begun to free themselves from the official webs of lies. The German people as well have gained insight about the causes and objectives of the world war, about who is directly responsible for its outbreak. The mad delusions about the "holy aims" of the war have given way more and more, the enthusiasm for the war has dwindled, the will for a rapid peace has grown powerfully all over – even in the Army! This was a difficult problem for the German and Austrian imperialists, who were seeking in vain for salvation. Now it seems they have found it. Italy's intervention in the war should offer them a welcome opportunity to stir up new frenzies of national hatred, to smother the will for peace, and to blur the traces of their own guilt. They are betting on the forgetfulness of the German people, betting on their forbearance which has been tested all too often.

The enemies of the people are counting on the forgetfulness of the masses – we counter this with the solution:

Learn everything, don't forget anything!...We have seen how when war broke out, the masses were captured for the capitalist aims of the war with enticing melodies from the ruling classes. We have seen how the shiny bubbles of demagogy burst, how the foolish dreams of August vanished, how, instead of happiness, suffering and misery came over the people; how the tears of war widows and war orphans swelled to great currents; how the maintenance of the three-class disgrace, the unrepentant canonization of the Quadrinity – semi-absolutism, junker rule, militarism, and police despotism – became bitter truth.

Offensive are the tirades with which Italian imperialism glosses over its pillaging... More offensive still is that in all of this we can recognize, as if reflected in a mirror, the German and Austrian methods of July and August 1914. The Italian instigators of war deserve every denunciation. But they are nothing but copies of the German and Austrian instigators, the ones who are chiefly responsible for the outbreak of war. Birds of a feather!...

For thinking people, Italy's imitation of Germany's actions from summer of last year cannot be a spur for new war frenzies, just an impetus to scare away the phantom hopes of a new dawn of political and social justice, just a new light for the illumination of the political responsibilities and the exposure of the public danger presented by the Austrian and German pursuers of war, just a new indictment of them.

The main enemy of every people is in their own country!

The main enemy of the German people is in Germany: German imperialism, the German war party, German secret diplomacy. This enemy at home must be fought by the German people in a political struggle, cooperating with the proletariat of other countries whose struggle is against their own imperialists.

We think as one with the German people – we have nothing in common with the German Tirpitzes and Falkenhayns, with the German government of political oppression and social enslavement. Nothing for them, everything for the German people. Everything for the international proletariat, for the sake of the German proletariat and downtrodden humanity. The enemies of the working class are counting on the forgetfulness of the masses – provide that that be a grave miscalculation. They are betting on the forbearance of the masses – but we raise the vehement cry:

How long should the gamblers of imperialism abuse the patience of the people? Enough and more than enough slaughter! Down with the war instigators here and abroad!... Proletarians of all countries, follow the heroic example of your Italian brothers! Ally yourselves to the international class struggle against the conspiracies of secret diplomacy, against imperialism, against war, for peace with in the socialist spirit.

The main enemy is at home!


----

These are important words, far more important than the long-forgotten details of national intrigue in the early days of the First World War. Because once again a large portion of the left who knows better is making the wrong choice of friends.

I read the very disappointing "Open Letter to the Left on Libya" by Middle East Scholar and anti-war activist Professor Juan Cole. And Cole, who's made numerous insightful analyses of the U.S. war on Iraq is now siding with the liberal interventionists and calling the bombing of Libya a "humanitarian" action. The same NATO, the same US war machine, the same neocolonialist European allies, that Cole has criticized elsewhere are now, in his opinion, doing the right thing.

It is more difficult to respond to current events than it is to analyze history. But history's lessons are useful. And forgetting the material class interests of NATO, US imperialism, and European neocolonialism, is an absolutely fundamental mistake of those who think that the current intervention into the Libyan civil war is any way legitimately humanitarian. Even in the possible (but unlikely, in my opinion) outcome of a quick end to this conflict, a low bodycount, the removal of a dictator, and the restoration of civil order, the story does not end there.

The foreign intervention in Libya may ostensibly be in support of the Libyan rebels, but it is most certainly NOT in the support of the tide of revolution sweeping the Arab world. It is an an attempt to control and tame that struggle. Just connect a few dots. US. Arab League. Saudi Arabia. Bahrain. And do the world's protesters really want to empower the US airforce and NATO to act as the world's policemen?

This is grotesque. The left knows better; at least it knew better.

Other recommended readings:
* Zunguzungu blog has an intelligent but ultimately incorrect post on the subject, "Libya, Waiting to See."
* On The Unrepentant Marxist a left veteran analyzes the situation but criticizes left-wing countries in Latin America for supporting Qaddafi, "Libya, Imperialism and ALBA"
* Richard Seymour on the excellent Lenin's Tomb hasn't really written a definitive piece on Libya, but he reminds of his timely book "The Liberal Defence of Murder." I should review that book here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remember Our Boys on the Malabar Front!


"Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that after one day of operations, the coalition already has taken out most of Gadhafi's air defenses and airfields, and that the no-fly zone in Libya has been established. "We've worked hard to plan this in a relatively short period of time," Admiral Mullen said. "I would say that the no-fly zone is effectively in place." -- US Air Force news March 20, 2011

"The military campaign to destroy air defenses and establish a no-fly zone over Libya has nearly accomplished its initial objectives, and the United States is moving swiftly to hand command to allies in Europe, American officials said." -- New York Times Summary March 22, 2011

"Libyan air force no longer exists....the coalition no-fly zone now stretches across all of coastal Libya." -- British & American Military authorities, March 23, 2011

"A Libyan military aircraft was shot down in Mistrata by a French fighter jet on Thursday." -- News reports, March 24, 2011

11:00 pm update: "GEN. JACK KEANE (RET.), U.S. Army: Well, I think they have done a remarkable job in a short period of time. Establishing a no-fly zone, I think, is something of a misnomer. We have destroyed their air forces and we destroyed their air defenses. And the decisive force in Libya has always been his ground forces, and we're beginning to destroy them. They have got some problems with it. You just on the report -- those forces that are committed forces, that is, they're engaged with the rebels or are in proximity to civilians, we have to destroy those forces. To be able to do that, we must put air-ground teams with the rebels on the ground to be able to identify those targets." -- retired general and current military consultant (hired by the US for advice in Iraq), ABC News adviser, and General Dynamics and MetLife Boards Member Jack Keane interviewed tonight on PBS TV

---

"President Obama says he remains confident that the U.S. will be able to transfer the coalition military operation in Libya to international control within a matter of days." -- News Reports on Presidential Press Conference, March 22, 2011

"The coalition that was formed following the Paris meeting will abandon the mission and hand it over entirely to a single command system under NATO," -- (NATO Member) Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, March 24, 2011

"U.S. and NATO troop strength in Afghanistan has recently passed the 150,000 mark. Two years ago there were an estimated 34,000 U.S. troops and approximately 28,000 from other NATO nations in the country. The increase since 2008 is almost 250 percent....The most recent Pentagon figures show 94,000 US personnel are now in Afghanistan compared with 92,000 in Iraq." Statistical reports here and here

"Whereas a decade ago the US accounted for just under half of NATO members' defense spending, today the US share is closer to 75 percent – and growing." 2010 Analysis in Christian Science Monitor

---

"SEN KERRY: I met one of the leaders of the opposition, came from Benghazi to meet with me in Cairo.... Secretary of State Clinton met with the same individual that I did. People in Brussels, in NATO, have met with this individual.

NPR's MELISSA BLOCK: That's one individual you're talking about.

SEN. KERRY: Well, no, but this is their designated representative. We also know through them who a lot of the other players are."
-- US Senator John Kerry on NPR Radio, March 22, 2011

"In 1998, the Clinton administration pushed through Congress the Iraq Liberation Act, which provided $100 million to Iraqi opposition groups – headed by the Iraqi National Congress [led by Ahmed Chalabi] – to topple Saddam Hussein." -- Al Jazeera

"Dear Mr. President: ... We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraq sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." --Letter to President Clinton from Senator Carl Levin and others including John Kerry, Oct. 9, 1998

"After the war, even Chalabi's sponsors at the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that most of the information they had received from his defectors was 'of little or no value.'" --from Ahmed Chalabi The Manipulator 2004

"Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who met with Chalabi in 1998, said Wednesday that Chalabi did not deserve U.S. support and that the Bush administration should not have relied on him for intelligence and strategy on the invasion." -- USA Today 2004

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"I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone,” Rhodes said. “Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end. But again, the nature of our commitment is that we are not getting into an open-ended war, a land invasion in Libya.” --Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes quoted in Politico, March 24

---

"At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible....The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -if all records told the same tale -- then the lie passed into history and became truth. ... The instructress had called them to attention again. 'And now let's see which of us can touch our toes!' she said enthusiastically. 'Right over from the hips, please, comrades. One-two! One- two!" Winston loathed this exercise, which sent shooting pains all the way from his heels to his buttocks and often ended by bringing on another coughing fit. ..."Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortresses! Just think what they have to put up with. Now try again. That's better, comrade, that's much better!" " --George Orwell, 1984

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Self-Defense Only for Bullies


"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Jerusalem today, as well as the rockets and mortars fired from Gaza in recent days. Together with the American people, I offer my deepest condolences for those injured or killed. There is never any possible justification for terrorism. The United States calls on the groups responsible to end these attacks at once and we underscore that Israel, like all nations, has a right to self-defense. We also express our deepest condolences for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza yesterday. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties." President Obama, in a statement today

What's wrong with this statement?

Let me say first off that terrorism is a terrible thing. But let me also say that it is not just the so-far unannounced perpetrators of this bombing who are guilty of terrorism. I think it is unlikely that either of the main Palestinian players (Hamas or Fatah) will be shown to be behind this bombing. But what IS known is the identity of those who just killed four boys in Gaza who were in the street playing soccer: the IDF and the government of Israel. These boys were sacrificed so that Israel could kill some alleged Hamas militants nearby (guilty of what crime according to what jury?). The Israeli government "apologized" of course. Now my mother always taught me that part of an apology is a commitment never to make the same mistake again, which clearly the Israelis have no intention of doing, so you may toss that insulting apology straight into the trash where it belongs.

The biggest question I have about this statement is why Obama offers only an afterthought of condolences to the civilian victims of an Israeli attack? Because the part of this statement I find most disturbingly hypocritical is the part where he says "Israel, like all nations, has a right to self-defense." Because in his eminent reasonableness what he's actually saying is that the Israeli nation has rights, but the Palestinian one does not. Considering that one of these two nations is locked behind a barbed-wire barricade of blockade, that pretty much means you can toss Obama's professed commitment to Palestinian statehood into the trash with the Israeli apologies.

It's clear that tensions between the Israeli government and the Palestinians in Gaza are rising dangerously, similarly to the period before Israel's assault on Gaza two years ago. But what's not clear from reading most American media, is that what Hamas is doing is not acting like terrorists but acting like, wait for it, a nation that, like all nations, has the right to self-defense. The American media from rightwing to liberal shares the same narrative: Israel is responding to Hamas lobbing missiles at civilians in Israel. But I challenge anyone to read an independent source of Middle East news like Mondoweiss and not see that the actions of Hamas are clearly a response to Israeli aggression.

Israel can kidnap, imprison, assassinate, harass, evict, and blockade whoever it wants with complete U.S.-backed (and paid for) impunity. The recent US vote vetoing a UN resolution against stealing more Palestinian land shows that there are zero repercussions for Israel's aggressive policies. When the Palestinians respond, they are accused of being violent, of being terrorists. In fact Hamas has honored a ceasefire with Israel; and it has clearly announced measured retaliation and response to actual Israeli attack. As I've maintained elsewhere, I'm not a big fan of any kinds of military response. But to condemn the defensive actions of the Palestinians out of proportion to the aggressive actions of Israel is obscene. As obscene as thinking it will be okay to kill children playing games if you apologize afterwards.

And speaking of obscene, what kind of nerve does it take to say that nations have the right to defend themselves at the very moment you are ordering your war machine to rain death from the skies over the sovereign nation of Libya? What kind of obscene is it to urge "all parties" restraint and calm when you are giving one of the parties cut-rate cluster bombs, white phosophorus, and depleted uranium munitions? You can't say your intentions are peaceful when clearly in reality they are not.

I believe what the beautiful poster above says: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." But by what right does someone not willing to turn his own cheek ask another to turn theirs? The power of Obama's words is wearing very very thin.

Graphic from "Social Design Notes"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

About that Economic Crisis...



Of course the economic cost of the neocolonialist attack on Libya is probably not the first thing on the minds of the Libyans under fire. Regardless of the politics of populist dictator al-Qaddafi, most of the people fighting for him are surely doing what they regard as their patriotic duty. But until they start releasing the body counts, let's tally up the non moral costs of doing this dirty business:

The cost of a US F-15 fighter jet like the one just crashed or shot down over Libya: in 1998 just under $30 million a piece

Costs of operating these jets: "Meanwhile, it generally costs $10,000 per hour, including maintenance and fuel, to operate F-15s and F-16s. Those costs do not include the payloads dropped from the aircraft. The B-2s dropped 45 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMS, which are 2,000-pound bombs that cost between $30,000 and $40,000 apiece to replace."

The cost of Tomahawk Missiles: "On the first day of strikes alone, U.S.-led forces launched 112 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost about $1 million to $1.5 million apiece, from ships stationed off the Libyan coast. That totaled $112 million to $168 million. Since those first strikes, U.S. and British forces have launched at least another 12 Tomahawk missiles."

Well, thank goodness they're taking all that money away from NPR and Planned Parenthood! Thank goodness this is a country where people choose between paying for healthcare or rent! Nobody can say we don't have our priorities set.

UPDATE: Let me tack on this lovely bit of bitter cynicism from The Angry Arab: "Obama, the peace candidate:
I am sure that in 2012 when Obama runs for re-election, he would pledge to end the war in Libya."


(Thanks to Annie for the inspiration for this post)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Anti-American Art: The Attack Last Time


A Libyan stamp dealer put together this video montage of all the Libyan stamps issued over the years commemorating the 1986 attack by Ronald Reagan's airforce on Tripoli and Benghazi which was a glorified (yet failed) assassination attempt on Moammar Al-Qaddafi. Only Qaddafi's adopted daughter and some civilians and civil defence fighters were killed that time. Many of these stamps have been noted here before, but hey a little "Carmina Burana" makes everything just a little more chilling.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flashback: She Never Met A War She Didn't Like


Back when Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq, his now Secretary of State supported it. No surprise that Hillary is leading the charge in America's latest adventure in foreign intervention. This clip is from 2002. I guess only the first time you send thousands of people to their deaths is difficult, then it gets easier, right Hillary?

Anyway, no matter 'cause it doesn't seem like anybody gets to vote on these things any more. And of course even sadder is that if the Republicans held the presidency we'd already also be at war with Iran.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Neocolonialists Begin Bombing Africa


Former colonial power France has begun the assault on the north African nation of Libya today, sending its jets to attack government tanks approaching the dissident city of Benghazi. As of this writing it's being reported that American ships have launched a cruise missile attack against the country as well. American Secretary of State Clinton, an early supporter the American war in Iraq, attended a meeting of neocolonialists and Arab League stooges in France today to coordinate its assault on Libya. The French military attacks started before that meeting had resolved anything, annoying some of the diplomats in attendance since it clearly illustrated that some of them are there just for show.

Meanwhile, President Obama, after delivering a disgusting speech straight out of George Bush's mouth, flew off to South America. Obama says with utter neocolonial arrogance that yet another so-called international coalition of the willing (hello Iraq! hello Afghanistan!) is taking military action to "protect innocent civilians within Libya, and holding the Qaddafi regime accountable." Silence on (American ally) Yemen, where the government just assassinated forty protesters. Silence on (American ally) Bahrain where the government called in Saudi Arabian troops to stand behind it as it crushed a democracy movement, silence on Gaza, blockaded by (American ally) Israel and still recovering from the Israeli attack that killed an estimated 300 Palestinian children. Apparently the only time Obama opposed war was at the beginning of the war against Iraq, now a very long time ago. Since then he hasn't found a war he didn't love. Obama says there will be no ground troops, which will be cold comfort to any Libyans killed by remote-control button-pushers in their comfy chairs in the warrooms of the high-tech military death machine based here at home.

France was the colonial occupier of the Fezzan region of southwestern Libya between the time Italian fascist colonialists were defeated during the Second World War and the full independence of Libya in 1951. The US maintained an airbase in Libya that was closed by Qaddafi shortly after he came to power in 1969.

Moammar al-Qaddafi may be a dictator trying to protect his own power but he is absolutely 100% right when he says: “Libya is not yours. Libya is for all Libyans. This is injustice, it is clear aggression, and it is uncalculated risk for its consequences on the Mediterranean and Europe. You will regret it if you take a step toward intervening in our internal affairs.”

Let's close with a quote from Obama's speech. You tell me whether the appropriate response is laughter or tears: "This is just one more chapter in the change that is unfolding across the Middle East and North Africa. From the beginning of these protests, we have made it clear that we are opposed to violence. We have made clear our support for a set of universal values, and our support for the political and economic change that the people of the region deserve. But I want to be clear: the change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power; ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab World. It is their right and their responsibility to determine their own destiny." These are cruise missiles and fighter jets of love, people.

The war against Iraq was wrong and so is this one.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No to Airstrikes on Libya!


Today the United Nations Security Council voted to intervene in the Libyan civil war and authorize airstrikes against the forces of Moammar al-Qaddafi. According to the New York Times: "The United States, originally leery of any military involvement in Libya, became a strong proponent of the resolution, particularly after the Arab League approved a no-fly zone, something that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called a “game changer.” Not reported by the Times but widely speculated elsewhere is that the Arab League cut a deal to approve the air strikes on Libya in return for aquiescence to Saudi Arabian/Gulf Cooperation Council intervention in Bahrain on behalf of the beleaguered and unpopular royal family fighting off a mass uprising. While a few stern words have been tossed the way of the Bahrain government by the Obama administration, it's clear that Obama and Clinton completely sold out the Bahraini democracy movement, fearing the loss of a crucial U.S. military base, Iranian influence, and any potential spread of unrest from Bahrain's majority Shi'a population to the Shi'a region of Saudi Arabia. While the Shi'a are a minority in Saudi Arabia, they're a majority where the oil comes from. An invasion of Kuwait by Iraq might have been a big deal back in the day but apparently a Saudi invasion of Bahrain is not; even though the percentage of the population involved in the uprising's protests in the tiny island nation -- now brutally suppressed -- is staggeringly huge.

Back in Libya, things have not been looking good for the Libyan revolution. Government forces seized the upper hand, repressing protests in the capital, Tripoli, and then turning the protest movement on a military defensive. Government forces have retaken most of the cities which threw off allegiance to Qaddafi, leaving now only Misurata, Tobruk and Benghazi under the control of rebel protesters. Qaddafi's propaganda machine seems to have somewhat successfully rallied some of the population behind a wide range of accusations against the opposition ranging from the absurd (they're all on drugs) to the unlikely (they're all Al Qaeda) to the partially true (some of them support foreign intervention).

The hypocrisy is flying fast and furious in the Middle East. The Arab League and the United Nations looked the other way when hundreds of innocent people were being murdered by Israeli offensives in Lebanon and Gaza in recent years. Indeed the "Palestine Papers" released by Al Jazeera tell a story of massive complicity between the region's governments, Israel and the U.S. to destroy Hamas and the Lebanese resistance, no matter how many innocent people suffered. Now that oil supplies to Europe are threatened, and that Europe is gazing nervously at a potential new wave of brown-skinned immigrants, suddenly Qaddafi is enemy number one again. Never mind that just yesterday he had become Europe and America's best friend; an "ally in the war on terror" and fully embraced by Italy's incredibly corrupt Berlusconi as a bulwark against African immigration. Just a couple months ago the dictator's son Seif al-Islam al Qaddafi was being heralded in the American media as the LSE-graduated face of reform and reconciliation. Now Seif al-Islam is leading the counterattack against the popular uprising. Wednesday Hillary Clinton was on a visit to Egypt: walking around Tahrir Square in the aftermath of that country's revolution she said ever so wide-eyed, "To see where this revolution happened, and all that it has meant to the world, is extraordinary for me." Never mind her office's massive ambivalence about the Egyptian protests when they were actually happening. A group of revolutionary youth refused an invitation to meet with her. By the time she got to Tunisia Thursday there were protests against her. According to the Angry Arab News service "Demonstrators chanted: "No to normalisation, Tunisia is free and not for sale" or "Tunisia is an Arab country, neither imperialist nor Zionist."

It's deeply ironic that President Obama is now once again emulating Ronald Reagan, who famously authorized airstrikes on Libya back in 1986. While one of Qaddafi's children was killed by those airstrikes, Qaddafi and his regime survived, his fake anti-imperialism given credibility by American enmity. It is terrible that Qaddafi is making headway against the rebels. But we've seen this story before. There's a short one word answer for those who think this will end well: I-R-A-Q. So much for the antiwar President.

It's not clear to me how the UN resolution will now be carried out: no doubt if airstrikes begin they will be done under cover of "NATO." But the world just got a little more dangerous. The U.S., NATO, the U.N., the Arab League: they don't care about the Libyan people. They care about power. About stability. About preventing the spread of uncontrolled popular uprisings. About oil.

And who the fuck thinks the U.S. needs another war?

NO TO THE AIRSTRIKES! HANDS OFF LIBYA!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Perspective


Oya-Yansa is the Yoruba Queen of the Winds of change. She is feared by many people because She brings about sudden structural change in people and things. Oya does not just rearrange the furniture in the house -- She knocks the building to the ground and blows away the floor tiles. She is the cyclone and the earthquake. Oya fans Her skirts and blows the branches from the trees; should She choose to cry, torrential rains fall on the earth. She is the Mother of Mind. She can impart genius, restore memory, or slap you with insanity. Oya opens Her mouth, flicks out Her tongue, and lightning strikes.... No one can be certain of Oya's movement; no one can capture Her smile. She is the mistress of disguises. yesterday Oya was a gentle lamb; today, a buffalo trampling the earth beneath Her feet. Tomorrow She'll be a rainbow -- maybe.
--Yoruba/Santeria priestess Luisah Teish in "Jambalaya"



I heard they exploded the underground blast
They say its gonna happen - gonna happen at last
That's the way it appears
They tell me the faultline runs right through here
So that maybe that may be
What's gonna happens gonna happen to me
They tell me the faultline runs right through here
Atlantis will rise, Sunset Boulevard will fall
Where the beach used to be won't be nothing at all
That's the way it appears
They tell me the faultline runs right through here
So that maybe that may be
What's gonna happen's gonna happen to me
They tell me the faultline runs right through here

--Mama Cass Elliot, "California Earthquake" 1968


When I behold the heavens in their vastness,
Where golden ships in azure issue forth,
Where sun and moon keep watch upon the fastness
Of changing seasons and of time on earth.

And when at last the mists of time have vanished
And I in truth my faith confirmed shall see,
Upon the shores where earthly ills are banished
I’ll enter Lord, to dwell in peace with thee.

--"Oh Mighty God" 1925 Christian Hymn



Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

--Ecclesiastes


In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn't see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn't see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads

--Joni Mitchell, Refuge of the Roads, 1976


(Photos of the ruins of the 1972 Managua, Nicaragua, earthquake taken by me in 1986.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Take a deep breath)


What a crappy week for news. So on the advice of a loyal reader, here's a brief pause from nuclear meltdowns, repression, republicans, wars, and everything else. I can take no credit for this: a friend found it on a site entitled simply "The Best Picture on the Internet." It's really quite hard to argue with that assessment.

What it means, I have no clue. It seems to be a gothic tail, er, tale. Wilted roses. A matching bag and dress. A cloudy full moon. The visage of a sage elder. Granny glasses. A fish on wheels. And of course, cats. The story kind of writes itself.

"It had been a dark and stormy night. Fluffy wasn't certain what she'd find as she paused by the vase of flowers that Tom had given her only a few short nights before. Oh the howling and caterwauling had been awful. Such a scene. But as she gazed over the threshhold she knew she had no choice. She remembered the wise words of her grandfather, Mr. Whiskers. "The untold want by life and land ne'er granted, Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find. Meooooowwww." She grasped her fishy's leash and didn't look back...."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Anti-American Art: Down Here on the Ground


Here's a vintage-1966 Chinese solidarity poster supporting the Vietnamese people fighting off American attack. Notice the GI helments danging fom the guy's rifle toward the back. Perversely this reminds me a little of that old joke "What do they call Chinese food in China? .... Food!" because in Vietnam, of course, they call it not "The Vietnam War," but "The American War." All those lives wasted, all the destruction, all the bombing and burning and killing, all in the end for, well, nothing. The poster says something about the Vietnamese people winning because they are stronger; and indeed defending your own country (for real, unlike the video game I wrote about yesterday) is a position of strength. Which is worth remembering as the U.S. plays great-power-games in the Middle East, maybe (or maybe not!) intervening on "behalf" of the Libyan rebels or supporting the King of Bahrain (just joined by tanks from Saudi Arabia) against an uprising by the Bahraini people. Let's not even discuss Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is part of an ongoing series of posts on Anti-American propaganda images from around the world. For past entries click here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Homefront" Video Game: The Bully's Whine


Back in the 1980s in the dying days of the cold war, the right wing had an aggrieved fantasy of the communist threat. In B-movies such as the absolutely hideous "Red Dawn," which depicted homegrown heroes fighting off a Soviet invasion of the United States, the right wing acted out its political paranoia in the cultural sphere. Actually it was more than paranoia: it was a bully's feigned cry of outrage, the bully pretending it was wounded as it laid its jackboot on the neck of its opponent. The end of the cold war revealed what an unequal contest it had been as the Soviet world disappeared into the ether.

A poster in the subway caught my eye this past week; it was a version of the graphic above (click on the image to see it in larger detail). It's a compelling image of a wounded rugged American blindfolded by a North Korean star: in the background North Korean flags hang off the Transamerica building and the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. It's a poster for a new shoot-em-up video game from Kaos called "Homefront." It turns out this a distopian science-fiction video game about a near future where North Korea (!) has taken over the western half of the United States, resisted by brave rebels like the one shown. The game's story is actually written by right-wing activist John Milius, one of the writers behind the old "Red Dawn." Milius is a board member of the National Rifle Association.

Curious, I browsed the elaborate website for "Homefront." It's a slick production. Interspersed with clips from the ultra-violent game itself are fake news documents and films about the North Korean occupation, its brutal oppression of real America, and the war of resistance. Below is a screenshot from an amusing faux propaganda film showing little blonde children in occupied Des Moines wearing North Korean sashes and reciting a pledge of allegiance to the North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. In another film a professed liberal explains that his wife has just blown herself up in a suicide bombing against the occupying North Koreans and promises to emulate her shortly. There are faked up pictures of North Korean occupation of the U.S. including walls covered with Kim Jong Un's visage. And lots and lots of violence and explosions.


All in good fun, right?

Not so fast. I was reading an excellent post on the "We Are Respectable Negroes" blog ("The Rotten Heart of White Conservatism or Are White Americans Oppressed?") about how white conservatives have a whole elaborate persecution complex that they are the new victims of racism. The pose acts as a cover for their anger and resentment at the changing world. Something similar is well-documented on gay blogs about how the Christianist right plays the oppressed victim at the hands of advocates of gay civil rights or marriage-equality advocates.

Well this game is straight out of those playbooks. It's almost Freudian in what it reveals about right wingers; how they need to justify their worldview in their own minds. And clicking around the slick "Homefront" website, one realizes with some disbelief that the "bad" guys are all Asians and the "good" guys are all white and blonde. It turns out "Homefront" has generated some controversy. It's banned in South Korea, and a Japanese version of the game was scoured of references to North Korea.

Here's the truth: the United States is the most powerful military machine the world has ever known. The world is its playground. Its military budget is larger than that of most of the other world's nations--combined. North Korea, run by an unattractive family dictatorship, is nobody's idea of a real socialist paradise. But it's also a tiny, tiny country. Its posture of militant defiance toward the United States might be bravado or might be foolhardy or might be legitimately necessary: the U.S. war machine has been camped out literal inches away from North Korea for fifty years. If the North Koreans may have developed nuclear weapons, it's guessed that they have a half dozen of these weapons. There's no evidence that their missile systems can accurately target anywhere further away than Japan (which it might be mentioned, brutally occupied Korea for fifty years). On the other hand, thousands of American nuclear weapons might be aimed at North Korea with the flip of a switch. Presumably hundreds of these weapons are already pointed at North Korea from American submarines hovering in international waters. It is absolutely laughable to suggest that North Korea might invade the United States. It's also obscene: the United States is actually, in the real world, the country with a record of invasion of smaller weaker countries including Korea.

So what is this game exactly? It's clearly part of the rightwing's propaganda juggernaut, in this case aimed at young people ill-informed about the real facts of world politics and of convenient military recruitment age. This game comes from the same impulse behind Republican rep. Peter King's witch-hunting congressional hearings against "the radicalization of the Muslim community" that began this week. It comes from the same impulse that has white Teabaggers blaming the economic crisis on ACORN and poor people, or blaming high unemployment on immigrants. These rightwingers have a pathological need to pretend to be the victims. But don't be fooled by this deflection: don't be distracted the flashing lights and pretty colors. This is the work of people trying to rationalize their own brutality, racism, entitlement, privilege and pro-imperialism.

For all these rightwingers' professed fear of brainwashing, here is a real example of a brainwashing tool. Just say CTRL-ALT-DELETE.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

We Almost Lost... Tokyo


As of this writing Japanese authorities are trying to control a fire at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in the aftermath of a massive earthquake and tsunami. Radiation was released from the accident and thousands of people have been evacuated. It's not known how bad the situation is. While fortunately Japan has made great advances in preparing for earthquakes, this human byproduct of a natural tragedy reminds us of our complaceny in accepting the risks of nuclear power.

Gil Scott-Heron recorded "We Almost Lost Detroit" back in 1977 on his album "Bridges." The video above shows him performing the song in London in 1990. In songs and raps throughout the 1970s and 1980s Scott-Heron touched political and cultural issues like no one else: his biting commentary and social conscience stands out against the passing of time like Cassandra's very own words. In "We Almost Lost Detroit" he sings about the Fermi 1 reactor that narrowly avoided a catastrophic accident near Detroit in the late 1960s. Recorded before the more infamous Three Mile Island or Chernobyl meltdowns, he anticipated the anti-nuke movement and became one of its leading cultural spokespeople. He followed up this song in 1980 with the anthemic stomper, "Shut 'Em Down" (below).



Scott-Heron can rightfully be considered a kind of prophet. We ignore his words at our own risk. The earthquake was an unavoidable catastrophe. Any lives lost or poisoned by the Fukushima reactor are our own fault.

"Just thirty miles from Detroit
stands a giant power station.
It ticks each night as the city sleeps
seconds from annihilation.
But no one stopped to think about the people
or how they would survive,
and we almost lost Detroit
this time.
When it comes to people's safety
money wins out every time.
How would we ever get over
over losing our minds?
Cause odds are,
we gonna lose somewhere, one time."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2012 Election Preview: Inmates from the Asylum of Hate


Shown above is the Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Apparently this is where the Republican party has been shopping for its 2012 presidential election candidates. Let's take a quick peek at some of the potentials shall we?

NEWT GINGRICH
Newt Gingrich's first wife was dying of cancer. So he cheated on her with the woman who was to become his second wife. Not to worry, because then he cheated on her with the woman who became his third wife. He was doing all this cheating while attacking then President Clinton for having sex with Monica Lewinsky. He opposes marriage equality for gay people of course. He now says he did all this cheating because he was so focused on patriotism. Also, says Newt, God has forgiven him.

RICK SANTORUM
Rick Santorum has frothy views about America's gay citizens. He thinks the constitution provides no right to privacy, that that therefore, homosexuality, incest, child molestation, and "man on dog" sex (his words) are morally and legally equivalent (and repugnant). He said, "The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society."

MIKE HUCKABEE
Mike Huckabee says Barack Obama grew up in Kenya under the tutelage of Mau-Mau rebels. He seems to have gotten this idea from Newt Gingrich who said it first. He believes gay people are only qualified to adopt puppies, not children. From 2010: "He also affirmed support for a law in Arkansas that prohibits same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents. “I think this is not about trying to create statements for people who want to change the basic fundamental definitions of family,” Huckabee said. “And always we should act in the best interest of the children, not in the seeming interest of the adults.” “Children are not puppies,” he continued. “This is not a time to see if we can experiment and find out, how does this work?”"

HERMAN CAIN
Herman Cain thinks Barack Obama is a traitor. About his directive to the Justice Department to stop defending the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Amendment: "I think it is a breach of presidential duty bordering on treason. The oath of office by the president says that he will protect, observe, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, which means all of its subsequent laws. The fact that he says that he has asked the Department of Justice not to enforce it, to me, is a breach duty as President of the United States." Of course Cain forgets to mention that this a common presidential practice. Even President Reagan refused to defend a legal ruling that Bob Jones University was not entitled to tax exempt status. Cain also claims the Democratic Party supports abortion rights because it wants to kill off all the black babies.

SARAH PALIN
Next.

MICHELLE BACHMANN
She won't say whether or not Barack Obama is an American citizen or whether he is a Christian. And she has some comprehension issues or she is a big fat liar. "And what a bizarre time we’re in, Jan, when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it."

DONALD TRUMP
Donald Trump thinks he is qualified to run the nation in these troubled economic times. Because he has filed for bankruptcy three times. This believer in the sanctity of marriage who has been married three times opposes the right of gay people to marry even once. In fact he opposes the extension of any medical or civil benefits to gay couples. And he has a really bad combover.

TIM PAWLENTY
The former governor of Minnesota once vetoed a bill that would have allowed surviving gay partners the right to make decisions about how to dispose of a deceased partner's body. He also believes in cutting the military budget. Well, only the part of the military budget that will be spent on implementing the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Apparently Pawlenty is a strong believer in the sanctity of death.

If I was a gay American I might get a bit of a complex and start being very worried about all this. Oh wait, I am!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

THEY Are Taking OUR Money


This amazing chart from the Center for American Progress (to me via the Rag Blog) looks at the budget cuts in social programs now making their way through Congress and shows how the amount in each cut is covered by a tax cut or break being offered to rich people and corporations (Click on the chart to see it larger). As Michael Moore said in his recent speech to the Wisconsin protesters, "America Is NOT Broke." (That speech is strongly recommended...you can watch it here.)

It couldn't be clearer. THEY are taking OUR money. The Republicans (to be fair, enabled or far from adequately opposed by Obama and the Democrats) are first trying to make the American people pay for their mistakes, and then trying to restructure things to make conditions more favorable to the corporations who have made them rich and powerful.

It's not often reported, but Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed unfunded tax cuts -- including hefty tax incentives to corporations -- amounting to well over $100 million before he then turned around and claimed that state workers would have to bear the cost of the state being "broke." He manufactured his own crisis before turning around and insisting that somebody else pay the price. This is called class war.

And WE don't actually have to just sit and take it.

As the joke running around facebook last week went, "A unionized public employee, a teabagger, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the teabagger and says, 'Look out for that union guy -- he wants a piece of your cookie.'" A friend of mine added a coda to this: "A CEO is at a table. Without labor (aka people - unionized or brainwashed or both) there ARE no cookies and there is no CEO and there isn't even a fucking table."

It's time for the table-makers to start flexing their power.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Happy International Working Women's Day


Above is a Soviet poster from 1961 for International Women's Day -- originally International Working Women's Day. Although the holiday was originally celebrated later in March, this year marks the centenary of the celebration. Not intended as a sentimental holiday a la mother's day, International Women's Day was a political holiday created by the world socialist movement not only to honor women and their struggle for equality and civil rights, but to advocate for the transformation of society along lines of political and economic justice. Disturbingly it was less than a hundred years ago in the United States that women were considered fully human enough to be able to vote in elections.

In honor of the holiday here is a passage by Alexandra Kollontai, the under-sung forward-thinking heroine of women's liberation in the Russian Revolution. This is from her essay "Sexual Relations and the Class Struggle," written way back in 1921. Her challenging essays break out of the mold of simple moral arguments: she advocates a revolution in human relationships inexorably linked to that economic and political transformation, away from the inequalities of class society.

"The “inequality” of the sexes – the inequality of their rights. the unequal value of their physical and emotional experience – is the other significant circumstance that distorts the psyche of contemporary man and is a reason for the deepening of the sexual crisis. The double morality inherent in both patrimonial and bourgeois society has, over the course of centuries. poisoned the psyche of men and women. These attitudes are so much a part of us that they are more difficult to get rid of than the ideas about possessing people that we have inherited only from bourgeois ideology. The idea that the sexes are unequal, even in the sphere of physical and emotional experience, means that the same action will be regarded differently according to whether it was the action of a man or a woman. Even the most “progressive” member of the bourgeoisie, who has long ago rejected the whole code of current morality, easily catches himself out at this point since he too in judging a man and a woman for the same behaviour will pass different sentences. One simple example is enough. Imagine that a member of the middle-class intelligentsia who is learned, involved in politics and social affairs – who is in short a “personality”, even a “public figure” – starts sleeping with his cook (a not uncommon thing to happen) and even becomes legally married to her. Does bourgeois society change its attitude to this man, does the event throw even the tiniest shadow of doubt as to his moral worth? Of course not.

Now imagine another situation. A respected woman of bourgeois society – a social figure, a research student, a doctor, or a writer, it’s all the same – becomes friendly with her footman, and to complete the scandal marries him. How does bourgeois society react to the behaviour of the hitherto “respected” woman? They cover her with “scorn”, of course! And remember, it’s so much the worse for her if her husband, the footman, is good-looking or possesses other “physical qualities”. “It’s obvious what she’s fallen for”, will be the sneer of the hypocritical bourgeoisie.

If a woman’s choice has anything of an “individual character” about it she won’t be forgiven by bourgeois society. This attitude is a kind of throwback to the traditions of tribal times. Society still wants a woman to take into account, when she is making her choice. rank and status and the instructions and interests of her family. Bourgeois society cannot see a woman as an independent person separate from her family unit and outside the isolated circle of domestic obligations and virtues. Contemporary society goes even further than the ancient tribal society in acting as woman’s trustee, instructing her not only to marry but to fall in love only with those people who are “worthy” of her.

We are continually meeting men of considerable spiritual and intellectual qualities who have chosen as their friend-for-life a worthless and empty woman, who in no way matches the spiritual worth of the husband. We accept this as something normal and we don’t think twice about it. At the most friends might pity Ivan Ivanovich for having landed himself with such an unbearable wife. But if it happens the other way round, we flap our hands and exclaim with concern. “How could such an outstanding woman as Maria Petrovna fall for such a nonentity? I begin to doubt the worth of Maria Petrovna.” Where do we get this double criterion from? What is the reason for it? The reason is undoubtedly that the idea of the sexes being of “different value'’ has become, over the centuries, a part of man’s psychological make-up. We are used to evaluating a woman not as a personality with individual qualities and failings irrespective of her physical and emotional experience, but only as an appendage of a man. This man, the husband or the lover, throws the light of his personality over the woman, and it is this reflection and not the woman herself that we consider to be the true definition of her emotional and moral make-up. In the eyes of society the personality of a man can be more easily separated from his actions in the sexual sphere. The personality of a woman is judged almost exclusively in terms of her sexual life. This type of attitude stems from the role that women have played in society over the centuries, and it is only now that a re-evaluation of these attitudes is slowly being achieved, at least in outline. Only a change in the economic role of woman, and her independent involvement in production, can and will bring about the weakening of these mistaken and hypocritical ideas.

The three basic circumstances distorting the modern psyche – extreme egoism, the idea that married partners possess each other, and the acceptance of the inequality of the sexes in terms of physical and emotional experience – must be faced if the sexual problem is to he settled. People will find the “magic key” with which they can break out of their situation only when their psyche has a sufficient store of “feelings of consideration” when their ability to love is greater, when the idea of freedom in personal relationships becomes fact and when the principle of “comradeship” triumphs over the traditional idea of inequality” and submission. The sexual problems cannot be solved without this radical re-education of our psyche."


Take THAT, trash TV.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Where Are the jobs?


So I have a question.

Five months ago Republicans swept to power in numerous state houses, as well as in the House of Representatives in Washington. Conventional wisdom said that this was due in large part to the failure of jobs to materialize in the ever-so-slow recovery from the nation's worst economic crisis since before World War II.

Let's see what's happened. Nationally and locally the Republicans have:

Tried to repeal the modest healthcare reform
Tried to make abortion harder to get
Tried to redefine some kinds of rape as a lesser crime
Threatened to defend the Defense of Marriage Act that denies marriage equality to gay Americans from constitutional challenges
Tried to deny the right of people to protect themselves by organizing unions
Laid off or threatened to lay off hundreds of thousands of people
Given tax breaks to rich people
Organized hearings about the Muslim menace
Invited all sorts of crackpots and bigots to speak before congress
Killed major infrastructure advancement projects
Closed schools
Kicked poor people off medicare
Eliminated recycling from the Congressional cafeteria
Tried to cut off funding for PBS TV and NPR Radio
Tried to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood which provides healthcare, education, and the crucial proven abortion-preventative, contraception information and assistance

So where are the jobs?

Oh yes, the graphic. That's Nero on his fiddle. See Rome, in the background. Burning.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Liability's Debut!

The Liability - Kill The Lights from matt hall on Vimeo.


If you read my posts here on music the first thing that comes to your mind will not be "Oh yeah he's big into alternative indie rock!" And you'd be right. However even if they're not my first love I do like music from a lot of genres and I know good music when I hear it. My boyfriend Jesse, however, happens to be big into alternative indie rock, and not just as a consumer: he plays in several different bands. This clip is the opening number from the very first concert by The Liability, the band he organized here in New York City last year. The sound quality of the video here isn't perfect, but I really really love this song, called "Kill The Lights," written by his fellow band member Matt.

There are six guys in the band, all of them quite talented. Jesse is on keyboards. Paul handles lead vocals on this number. This first concert consisted of originals written by the various members of the band, and one cover (David Bowie's "Heroes.") The show was held at Fontana's down on Eldridge Street in Manhattan's Chinatown. Their sound is quite promising, and I can't remember the last time I walked away from a show like this with one of the songs completely stuck in my head like a good ear-worm. I've had friends in bands before and after seeing them perform I admit at times I've felt like I was fulfilling an obligation to support my friends without being really engaged by what I was hearing. Not so this: I'm really looking forward to watching these guys develop.


You can watch for upcoming Liability dates on their Myspace page.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Tea Party Rally turns into Fascist Hate Fest


This horrifying clip has been making the rounds of virtually all the blogs I read. I can't let it go by without sharing it here as well. The video is from the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and it documents a California rally "organized by anti-Muslim bigots to protest a February fundraising event held by an American Muslim relief group for relief work and charity in the U.S." The video excerpts speeches by local elected politicians, as well as the crowd heckling attendees to the benefit. Attendees who include lots of women and children. Among the organizers of the hate rally were local teabagger, uh "Tea Party," groups, no doubt focusing only on issues of economy and small government (snark!). In it one can see elected officials proudly fantasizing about murdering some of their constituents.

This is some of the ugliest video I've seen. And unlike the numerous videos of stupid people and/or rightwing people and/or racist people and/or some combination of the above that have been making the rounds over the past two or three years, this doesn't show teabaggers wandering about in a teabagger environment. This shows the unbridled racist anger and hatred of teabaggers when they get a chance to actually interact with the objects of their disaffection. It's viscerally disturbing.

To those who say the Teabaggers are not a fascist movement, I present this as evidence. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

What Feminism Looks Like


Yes, I posted a similar PSA from Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions just a couple days ago. I'm putting this one up not to beat the drum again about Palestine, but because of what this video says about women. In a brief minute it forces the viewer to confront one's prejudices about what feminism looks like. In my post about enforced standards of beauty on the Jersey shore ("American Burqa") I tried to chop away a bit at the superficial notion that American culture is synonymous with female empowerment. This video is the perfect companion, chipping away at the notion that female empowerment has to come with cultural transgression.

There are many women prominent in American politics, and they're not limited to one side of the issues. At some point all these women get judged on the basis of their physical appearance. How much energy is wasted discussing the appearance or clothing of Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton? Or of Maggie Gallagher, spokesperson of the anti-gay hate group "National Organization for [sic] Marriage"? Or even of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann? Palin and Bachmann are outspoken women (with revolting politics) who project a certain strength and independence; but are they feminists?

Show a picture of a Middle-Eastern woman in some kind of religiously modest clothing and an assumption is immediately made -- by Americans, anyway -- that she is submissive, oppressed, docile, controlled by men. And yet compare hijab-clad women in the protests in Palestine or Egypt with Sarah Palin. Who's more feminist? Who's more involved in fighting for human dignity, justice and liberation?

It's not about appearances; it's about substance and values and program.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Spring Is Coming


I got up one morning about twenty years ago to find my neighborhood covered in fog. In a moment of inspiration I grabbed my camera and walked a few blocks to Prospect Park, where I took this photo. Like this week, I remember it being unseasonably warm. Winter was still hanging on, with Spring yet to arrive and certainly no buds on the trees to herald the change of seasons. The fog was magic, rolling through the hills and valleys of the park. Prospect Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the same brilliant mind who created the better-known Central Park; but in Brooklyn he created a series of illusory landscapes designed to evoke the lost wilderness. Prospect Park is filled with vales and abrupt changes of scenery that reveal cleverly hidden lakes and groves. While the park is not surrounded by highrises like Central Park is, it's just as much an oasis in an utterly urban landscape. I remember how that fog bolstered the otherworldly illusion of it all. Tomorrow it's supposed to go back down to below freezing, but the jig is up. Winter's clutching at brittle naked branches. Time's up!