Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Above the law

Boingboing has a link to a column in the Miami Herald that says it all about BushCo's trampling of the Constitution. Quoting from the column:
Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered privilege to defy the law forever? It's time for every member of Congress to weigh in: Do they believe the president is above the law, or bound by it?

Bush stokes our fears, implying that the only alternative to doing things his extralegal way is to sit by fitfully waiting for terrorists to harm us. We are neither weak nor helpless. A proud, confident republic can hunt down its enemies without trampling legitimate human and constitutional rights.

Ultimately, our best defense against attack -- any attack, of any sort -- is holding fast and fearlessly to the ideals upon which this nation was built. Bush clearly doesn't understand or respect that. Do we?

This column by the Herald's Robert Steinback (here is the link to the whole thing) not only asks the question we are all asking about whether and why BushCo appears to think it's above the law, but also touches on a few other key BushCo tactics we've all had enough of:

1. Twisted semantics. For example, war on a concept, a war that can never be won. Like David Cross said, "that's like declaring war on jealousy." Pretty convenient if you always want to be in a state of war, a state of war that somehow justifies the attack on civil liberties. Other examples are "freedom," "liberal," "activist judge," "liberal media," "christian," "family." In each case look for a recent shift, flip-flop, or addition to a term's meaning. Look for the term to appear in popular media, usually beginning w/ right wing propapganda-spouters, and watch as the twisted term appears more and more in popular debate without any comment on the term's confusing vagueness or political slant.

2. Sheer outrage as a tactic. Steinback's column lists a whole pack of horrible things Bush is responsible for: An invasion of Iraq over lies, admitting the lies & saying the "war" would still have been started anyway. Torture, secret prisons, locking people up w/o charges for years. Warrantless searches and domestic spying against the U.S. population. All marks of a political organization that is going to do things it wants to do, lie about it, get found out, and do it anyway. Need I remind all you Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens out there that this is not a dictatorship we live in? That we are looking at an administration with no respect for its own people, no respect for law or our Constitution? What we are looking at is NeoCon strategy, a private organization trying to run the government, terrified of its own people, terrified we are going to say no to NeoCon aims and motivations. Hence the drive to destroy civil liberties. It's not about terrorism, it's about preventing people from speaking out, from opposing BushCo policy.

3. Backstabbing, punishment & character assasination. The Plame affair, the organized attack against the veteran who questioned BushCo policy, are two tangible examples. Add to this countless rhetorical examples directed against any opposition. Add to this, given the NeoCon penchant for secrecy, countless other examples of dirty tricks, harm and ill intent directed at those in high places who speak out.

4. Distractions. Is there a campaign out there saying "Happy Holidays" is somehow an attack against "Christianity?" I didn't hear about it but it wouldn't surprise me.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Banning "western" music

Now this is just plain fucking stupid. Some fundamentalist bury-your-head-in-the-sand-guilt-ridden backwards-ass control freak in a high place "bans" western music. Nobody is taking this seriously over there, according to this NPR interview w/ an Iranian DJ I heard yesterday (this link points to an npr.org page w/ a button that'll play the radio story in either WMV or RealAudio).

Having fundmentalists in high places has got those people used to attempts at repression. You get thrown in jail for blogging, you get thrown in jail for playing the wrong kind of music, they have some absolutely psycho laws regarding control of women, too.

But can you see my point about fundamentalism and letting it, and religion in general take a place in government? People need to realize that religion deserves respect but it's not perfect and has no inherent control over people- just guilt.

After all, we are just humans interpreting what we believe to be divine- just humans, all our prophets, priests and priestesses, etc.

I think knowledge is key here- study history, comparative religion, sociology, current events. Critical thought in education- Liberal Arts is not a dirty word, people.

Interlibrary loan and Homeland Security

[12/27/05-- this story was a HOAX. Of course we should be asking ourselves what we are going to say when they come knocking at your door, looking at your library records, tapping your phone, snooping in your house, following your web-surfing and reading your email] I'm posting Boingboing's permalink regarding this story since Boingboing pretty much sums it up:
Update: "DHS visits student over Little Red Book" report
Interlibrary loan is a service you use if, say, your library does not have a copy of a book you'd like to read and cite in a history or sociology paper you're working on. Your library contacts another library and the book is sent. We have a workteam dedicated to that function at the libary I work at, and it is all in the name of scholarly sharing of information, academic freedom, and libraries doing what libraries are meant to do: help you out when you'd like to research, report, read, relate, study, communicate knowledge, etc.

The college student in the story borrowed a book via ILL and supposedly because the book was written by Mao Tse Tung, and the student travels internationally Homeland Security officers visited the student at his house and questioned him.

The student, if this is true, must've been terrified, and my point here is about a chilling effect police behavior like this has- you can get in trouble for reading a book.

Of course there are doubts that this happened- it's too ridiculous to be true & there are supposedly holes in the story.

But really, think about how stupid this is- it's like saying if I read Marx I want to be a communist, if I read a book about Hitler I want to be a nazi, if I read a book by St. Augustine I want to be a christian. And what the hell does communism have to do w/ homeland security anyway? Nothing, obviously- there must be thousands of communists in the U.S. & who gives a shit?

My other point is that once you give these shady police agencies the power to snoop, they are going to snoop. They're don't seem to be accountable to anyone, certainly not the people of the U.S. They are like a private security force.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

BushCo negative Christmas wish-list

BushCo has not been getting its xxxmass gifts.

Instead, a number of disappointments have come along this holiday season for BushCo. Each event is really a gift toward the people of the U.S, I mean all of us whether you buy the BushCo line of bullshit or not. After all, don't we all want safety, a strong military, jobs, health, freedom (see the Bill of Rights), a democracy, a healthy environment? Pretty much everything BushCo and the Neocons do or try to do is aimed at destruction of one important thing or another, accompanied by rhetoric to the contrary, and vilification of anyone who doubts or disagrees. However, Republicans and Democrats both are starting to say they've had enough of BushCo's disregard for the law, the environment, the people of the U.S, and our standing and respect among the world community.

The list of BushCo Christmas-time disappointments:

1. The Plame affair. An illustration of the back-stabbing, treachery and treason common in the Neocon business-model. A Scooter Libby has been set up to take the fall in what amounts to an acknowledgement of BushCo lawlessness and cheating. He is pretty high up, but still takes orders from people higher up yet, and the grand jury is not done yet. An indictment of Rumsfeld or Cheney, a couple of old-time bad-conservative puppetmasters, would be a major event, not only whipping the Neocons into a revenge-motivated froth, but also a demonstration that laws do count, our government must abide by the law, and nobody gave the executive branch permission to disregard the law.

2. The reports of U.S. secret prisons abroad & what they do. Shedding light into dark places. Of course we need to interrogate & arrest people conspiring to attack the U.S. But you can't just scoop up people, fly them around the globe and torture them in weird locations. That's wrong. Knowing about it is not a national security threat. Knowing about it just sheds light on BushCo ways of doing things, BushCo incompetence. I love the little built-in argument: "Don't be a pussy, they're terrorists, they don't deserve to be treated like human beings, etc." Well how does abuse help obtain information? What is abuse other than just abuse? Don't cowards ("pussies") always resort to abuse? Are well trained interrogators capable of finding things out more efficiently? They must be. All this torture just looks like rough-shod corporate incompetence, like a private company won a big bid to do our dirty work and did a really shitty job of it. Which is probably exactly what's happening- probably an obscure subdivision of Haliburton.

3. The denial of the secret prisons and torture. Wow did that backfire. If there is a single soul who reads the news and who is not rolling their eyes and thinking, "how can you believe any organization with a history of lying?" I'd be surprised.

4. The McCain anti-torture bill. There was no way BushCo could not go along with this. Of course they were dumb enough to oppose it at first. But why is it that this bill's passage is seen as a blow to BushCo and a blow to the Neocons?

5. The massively unpopular "war." Hey, why are we over there, and shouldn't our military be here at home to defend us, people are beginning to say. Republicans, democrats, ordinary people are asking about how it's about time to end this. Wow it's coming out in the laundry. Behind all this is the failure of the BushCo characterization of anyone opposing the "war" as radical, left-wing, unpatriotic, a supporter of terrorism, etc. They sure did try, but it's hard to portray Nam vets like McCain & Kerry as unpatriotic. It's hard to hang those negative labels three quarters of the United States of America population. And once again, BushCo tactics, the "Swift Boat Vets" being a good example, are coming to light.

6. The Senate fight against the Patriot Act's insanity. Once again, bipartisan. Once again, BushCo crying national security. Giving police unlimited power for warrentless, secret searching and snooping has nothing to do with protecting the U.S.A. from attack. This kind of policy has everything to do with an administration that is afraid of opposition from its own people. It's not hard for police to get a warrant to search- evidence is presented to a judge. Evidence. That's why we have a Bill of Rights- so we don't end up with a paranoid administration that just wants to start keeping tabs on critics, dissidents, doubters, and millions of others who may exercise the right to free speech &tc. "Wait a minute, what about civil liberties, what about the constitution?" cry the conservative and the liberals together. "Where is this country going?" Once again BushCo shows its true colors by countering with think-tank generated arguments made of vague but highly persuasive half-truths. Bush's arguments are weak, emotional and full of vague threats, and up there for anyone who can read to take a look at.

7. National Security Agency warrantless domestic spying. The thing about this problem is that BushCo demonstrated its disregard for law, its tendency for secrecy and acting above and around Congress and the Judicial branch. The NSA will never have problems doing what it needs to do. But nobody except the Neocons gave the administration power to authorize the NSA's new role in domestic surveillance. And that is exactly why Bush, the Attorney General, et al are now loudly crying how very legal their policies are, how this was actually authorized by Congress, how the President always respects civil liberties, how only Al Queso suspects are the ones being spied upon, and anyone who says otherwise is a traitor, a disgrace and a scumbag.

8. The intelligent Design hoax. BushCo looks to the religious right for support; unquestioning, blind, obedient support. And the religious right always wants to say society is poisoning its children, society is against Christianity, etc, whenever the rest of us go, "hey wait a minute I don't want to be a part of your fundamentalist belief system and your religion has no place in government." So, events in PA where a schoolboard that supported the intelligent Design hoax was voted out, and where a District Court recently ruled that the board could not in the first place force the teaching of "intelligent Design," (aka Creationism), have demonstrated that people are not really willing to put up with this crap. The response from the BushCo/Neocon rhetoric-machine will be to attack the judge and label him an "activist judge," of course, while the truth is more like we have concepts like separation of church & state, and scientific evidence, which are kind of like cornerstones of civilization. Teach your children well, fundamentalists. Teach them how to get interested in history, western civilization, science, critical thought and argumentation. If you want a free country, think for yourself and let the rest of us do that too. And remember, secular humanist is not a dirty word, nor is liberal. They are just concepts which have had mud kicked on them by those who want to silence the voice of civilization.

Torture described independantly by detainees

Human Rights Watch, the U.S. based human rights organization made up of lawyers, journalists, academics, and country experts, has published descriptions of torture taking place in Afghanistan.

Guards without uniforms
Men from various countries detained indefinitely for unexplained reasons
Nobody knew detainees whereabouts or circumstances
Total darkness for weeks
No food for days
Filthy water for weeks
Chained to a wall for days
Not allowed to sleep or sit for days
Blaringly loud bad music and "halloween" sounds lasting weeks
Being punched
Having water poured over their faces to make them think they would drown

These elements are corroborated by the stories of some current Guantanamo detainees via lawyers the detainees have been allowed to talk to. The torture occured in Afghanistan, and is described in this article on Human Rights Watch's website.

But according to Secretary of State Rice, the U.S. does not do these kinds of things, and there are no secret prisons where we do them.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Henry A. Giroux - Against the New Authoritarianism

This book crossed my desk the other day at the library and caught my eye. Here is a top-notch educator, a PhD who not only summarizes what BushCo is doing to this lovely country we inhabit, but has also left for Canada.

Since Bush has been around, particularly since the (cheated) election of 2004, I've heard many, many folks talk about leaving. I've seen this feeling of defeat all over the place. I have threatened to go to France, for that matter- "If Lance Armstrong can learn French, then so can I." Lots of argument on this issue, I might add, is taking place. Most of it to the tune of, "well hell, how you gonna help change things back if you just run off?"

One of the key NeoCon strategies, I believe, is to produce exactly that feeling of defeat, like whatever you do to help restore sanity to the U.S. leadership and sociopolitical climate, civil liberties, etc, will have no effect and will lead to social rejection and possible jail time, or at the very least being sneered at by a clean cut family in a Chevy Suburban on their way to a revival meeting at the local fundamentalist church.

The point being, regarding Giroux, is he ran off, and his statements bespeak a sense of defeat, and are somewhat scary. But he has some fascinating things to say- he seems to shed light on the darkness infecting the U.S. right now. He seems to add a sense of structure to the whole process we've seen happen following the election of Bush II the Moron Son.

Chapter 4 of Dr. Grioux's book (he's written something like 30 books) above includes an interview with Giroux, from which I'll quote below:

Henry Giroux: I think that many universities in the United States are being undermined by both their increasing alliance with corporate values and interests, on the one hand, and the equally dangerous attack on academic freedom by the political and religious Right, on the other hand. We have witnessed four years in the United States marked by a growing culture of fear, insecurity, and repression. This is a culture largely controlled by religious, political, and freemarket fundamentalists; this combination, and the power it has exercised on American life, has been profoundly dangerous. The current government is involved in a war at home and a war abroad, both of which are mediated by a messianic view of the world that does not leave much room for dissent, nor for social movements that want to make authority accountable or forms of public and higher education that act as if they are democratic public spheres. And, of course, with Bush’s re-election
this will all get worse. The Bush administration views higher education as a left-wing bastion that needs to be destroyed, and I am convinced that in his second administration, the universities will continue to come under a harsh political attack. At the same time, the right-wing attack on critical intellectuals offers the Bush administration the kinds of diversions that sidetrack people from thinking about the Iraq war, the resources it is draining, the lives being lost, and the suffering it is producing. We have seen remnants
of the attack on higher education already with many academics after the events of September 11th being called “unpatriotic” because they undertook a serious examination of American foreign policy or called “anti-Semitic” because they dared criticize the Israeli government’s policies in the Middle East. A senator from Pennsylvania even tried to pass a law withdrawing
federal funds from those public universities that harboured professors who criticized Israeli policy in their classes. These are very disturbing trends and
do not bode well as to what will happen in higher education in the next four years. So, we are seeing a new war, a war at home, and that war will basically be against the universities. We already see the indications of how that war is going to be organized. We see it in the unjust association made between dissent and treason. We see it in legislation in which Republicans, through an appeal to academic freedom, attempt to place more conservatives on faculties. We see it in the increasing corporatization of the university and the marginalization of those disciplines that don’t translate immediately into profits. Penn State is one of the largest procurers of military contractors. Susan Searls Giroux and I had written a book called Take Back Higher Education on the corporatization of higher education. Essentially, it is an attack on the corporate university, of which Penn State is a poster boy.
There was no question in my mind that there would be retribution, though I never anticipated the shape it actually took. What became clear was that Penn State had become inhospitable to any kind of dissent. To be an academic and to constantly find yourself under pressure and isolated, by virtue of an atmosphere of anti-intellectualism and conformity, was completely
unacceptable for me. It was a pleasure for me to leave.

Here's a link to the whole interview (PDF). This guy's a heavy-hitter of a scholar, and just about each topic he brings up is food for thought on a major issue. These subjects will be covered in an upcoming post.

Friday, December 16, 2005

NSA spying on U.S. citizens w/ shakey cause

So now we find out the NSA has been involved in domestic spying for a few years. BushCo in typical secretive fashion sidestepped the law & freedom itself. See this story in Reuters. All this comes out right when BushCo has Condoleeza Rice up there saying how much they've respected civil liberties &tc. throughout the "war on terror." A pack of lies is wrapped up this manuever, and in the way BushCo went about letting the NSA spy on us. Also see this story in the Washington Post.

How can you believe anything that someone who lies all the time says? Once they start lying, how can you believe anything?

Will BushCo and Bush himself ever have to answer legally for all the bad things they've done, and the way they've cried terror, war and national security all along the way?

BushCo, the Patritot Act and civil liberties


The Senate blocked BushCo's insane version of the so-called Patriot Act. Both Reps and Dems are sick of BushCo's attempts to diffuse the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is the true foundation of our freedom. The freedom Bush talks about so much- lies about so much, I should say, as the Patriot Act stands for nothing but the loss of freedom.

Celebrate, people. And keep hope alive that when they finally hammer out a version of the Patriot Act, (because, unfortunately they will do this) it'll be a sane one. A version that fights criminaliy and attacks against the U.S. based on evidence, not based on snooping into the lives of U.S. citizens.

I think people are getting wise to the fact that BushCo, the neocons and the religious right are all about control, all about the loss of freedom. I get the feeling they are so interested in abolishing civil liberties because they know people are getting wise to NeoCon lies.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Paris Hilton Shrine

In Rhode Island. Suburban neighborhood. The kind of place where you see a lot of Santas and cute litte reindeer on people's snowy lawns this time of year. Not for this guy Joe Moretti, who usually has an unusual xxxmas tribute on his lawn instead. Last year it was Martha Stewart. Bizzare eh?

I like the huge blurry color photos, also the disgusting subject matter. Paris Hilton is neither beautiful or sexy, but the thing is that we are supposed to find her so- for some reason.

The first thing Moretti's neighbors think of is sex...some say "ah, no big deal," some are totally offended and worried about their grandkids associating xxxmas with sex, some, e.g. an old man quoted in the Washtington Post's story said, "hey, nobody should be ashamed of their sexuality." Sex, sex, sex, that all the neighbors think about.

What about seeing the guy's xxxmas display as a commentary on the commidification of xxxmas? A bold, full color set of panels, out of context, in a front yard, during the most commercial season of the year, of the biggest commodity of them all, Paris Hilton. Beautiful, but not because of Hilton.

Ok, OK. She's kind of cute but the fakeness, the celbrety crap is gross. She might look very nice in a pair of jeans w/o makeup and hair color &tc.

I guess there's a manger in Moretti's display too! According to a blog call the Defamer,
"A nearby manger scene playfully recasts Joseph and Mary with Paris and current Greek shipping heir beau Stavros Niarchos (with removable head, in case the romance ends before the end of December), and the infant Jesus with Hilton’s adorable pet monkey, Baby Luv."

"Recasting" the manger's infant Jesus w/ Paris' pet monkey? Cool!! Not that there's anything wrong w/ whatever religion people choose to follow, but this is the kind of gesture that says a lot about the "religious right's" moron-asshole-bury-your-head-in-the- sand-our-way-is-the-only-way-return-to-the-dark-ages guilt-ridden and contolling attitudes. Somehow.

And more from the Defamer, regarding Paris' very uh, welcoming pose:
"And while the larger-than-life image of Hilton spreading her legs at the center of the shrine might give some pause, they might reconsider their righteous ire when they learn that the pose is meant to accommodate the placing of over a hundred gifts for underprivileged children between the celebutante’s splayed thighs on Christmas Eve."

Now I think that's downright sweet.

And of all the digging I did, the Defamer Hollywood blog was the only place that mentioned the charity aspect or the manger.

Merry fucking Halloween everybody. C7