Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dubai to take over the Secret Service

In a stunning development today, the White House agreed to let Dubai run the Secret Service, the agency responsible for the physical protection of the President, top officials of government, and the treasury.

"After reviewing the history of the assassinations in this country," President Bush read from a prepared statement, "It's clear that Americans are incapable of protecting their own leaders. I fear I may be next. It seems some people here question my leadership." he added, glancing at the memorial edition of "My Pet Goat" on his desk.

"And as a country with an extensive history of money laundering, who better to run our treasury? I'm tired of liberal bloggers talking about how dirty money is ruining our country. If our money is dirty, we need to launder it, so again I say, who better than Dubai?"

President Bush related how he is considering having Dubai guard the Pentagon as well. Bush pointed out that the Pentagon failed to prevent a direct hit on itself on 9/11, when a plane flew into the building. "Clearly, what we need here is some outside expertise."

The President is also considering having Dubai oversee the Drug Enforcement Administration. "As one of the leading ports for drug smuggling, Dubai is the perfect choice," the President stated. "They know what to look for. It's like hiring hackers to help with our elections."

The press corp was uncharacteristically silent during the President's press conference.

Across the Potomac, at Arlington National Cemetary, Ted Kennedy led a memorial service for the death of the Republic. As the Constitution was laid to rest, the Democrats present wept tears. The Republicans blew noisemakers and threw confetti made from shredded copies of the document.

The eternal flame for the UAE-provided monument was never lit, as the price of oil went up when the news of Dubai's new role in America hit the markets.

A visitor at the grave of former CIA Officer David Atlee Phillips reported hearing a strange sobbing sound, followed by these words: "Had I known killing Kennedy would lead to the death of the Republic, I would never have participated in the plot. Can you ever forgive me?" A bolt of lightning struck the grave in front of the visitor, and the voice was not heard again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Can't we jump the track?

I wish we could. This country is barreling down the wrong track on every level. We cut services to the poor so we can cut taxes to the rich. We're spending money that should be used to rescue a great American city to reclassify secrets long ago exposed. We hand over the security of our ports to outsiders when many of our own countrymen remain unemployed. We offer vouchers to parents so they can pull their students out of failing public schools, a self-perpetuating cycle designed to destroy public education. We bury fertile farmland under business parks; gas prices are rising while ice shelves are melting; we're guilty of mass genocide by our actions in Iraq, and our inactions in the Sudan; privatization is bombing us back to a feudal society, and this song keeps echoing through my mind:

Cause you can't jump the track
We're like cars on a cable
and life's like an hourglass glued to the table,
No one can find the rewind button, girl
So just cradle your head in your hands.
And breathe,
just breathe
whoa breathe
just breathe

I'm trying to breathe. To keep my chin up. To be grateful for the good things in my life. I have wonderful friends. The winter scenery in Los Angeles is lovely. It's truly beautiful when it's cold and it's clear and the white-capped mountains peer graciously down on us. I have an apartment that is spacious for the price. I have my health.

And yet.

To look at reality these days is like driving the hills in San Francisco. You get to these points where you can't see the bottom. You don't know if you're going to make it. There's this yawning chasm and a moment of weightlessness, suspended over the crest. But in San Francisco, you know that your front wheels will again touch the earth, and you will be safe. I don't feel that way these days. I don't feel safe. I feel like I'm forever hanging out there, two wheels off the ground, not sure if our country is going off a cliff or just over a hill. I feel like we're in free fall, like a bad dream from childhood....

There's a light at the end of this tunnel you shout
cause you're just as far in as you'll ever be out
And these mistakes you've made
You'll just make them again if you'll only try turnin' around

I want to believe. I want to believe we're just going through a tunnel. But it feels more like we're sinking in a polluted lake.

And our poison is spreading. Canada's much-vaunted health care system has come under attack from a right-wing effort there that gained power in their recent election.

And then there's the problem with our vote. Friday at 5pm, before a three-day holiday, our Secretary of State pulled a fast one on Californians, certifying Diebold voting machines even though state law requires machines be federally certified, and Diebold machines failed federal tests because they use interpreted code. And again, the virus is not localized. The truly Orwellian-named "Help America Vote Act", HAVA, requires machines that are accessible to all, a noble goal that has wrought us a Faustian bargain: the only machines that meet the HAVA requirements are the electronic voting machines, and the money goes away if the state doesn't spend the HAVA funds quickly. At least the New York Times headlined their story, appropriately, "Bungling Voting Machines."

2am and I'm still awake writing this song
If I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me
threatnin' the life it belongs to.

And as if this isn't all reason enough to be depressed, I saw a documentary called, so very appropriately, "Darwin's Nightmare", about the fishing industry that has sprung up on the shores of the formerly pristine Lake Victoria in Tanzania. Nile Perch, a delicacy in Europe, were introduced into the lake, and there, they grow to monstrous size. They are harvested by Tanzanians, who can't afford to eat the fish they haul, and won't, even though many starve to death, because their paltry share of the proceeds is enough to discourage the eating of the fish. Their children sleep on the ground, able to because they melt the fish wrappings to make glue, which they sniff. In that stupor, they can then sleep through their hunger, through the cold, through the all too common acts of rape and sodomization.

And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary screamin' out aloud
And I know that you'll use them however you want to.

Everywhere I go I see increasingly hollow people - people too tired from increasingly long workdays to have the energy to think about, much less reach out to solve, these problems. All the gains of a century of unionization are slipping away. The forty hour work week doesn't seem to exist any more. Certainly one-income families are a thing of the past. The middle class is disappearing as fast as Iceland's glaciers.

And the middle class has always been the hope of the world. The middle class provides the moral bedrock of society. The poor are forced to make choices they don't want to out of sheer necessity. Jean Valjeans are made daily. The rich are tempted with choices most people can't imagine having. Only the middle class - those with just enough, not too much - are in a position to make the best choices for the rest of us. Destroy the middle class, and you destroy a society's heart and morality.

Oh God. Please help us jump the track. It's getting harder to breathe.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney's Shot a Genuine Metaphor

I can't think of a better example of the callousness of the administration than Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of his hunting buddy. That's such an appropriate metaphor for the actions of this administration. It's not that they're deliberately evil. I believe Cheney wasn't trying to shoot his friend. But he was so self-absorbed, so into what he was doing, so greedy - trying to get one more bird, as if he hasn't killed enough of the poor things in his lifetime, that he ended up wounding someone who presumably meant something to him.

That's exactly what they're doing to America. They're not deliberately ruining the country. They just truly don't have a clue. The people they meet all kiss their feet. The protestors are kept down the road. They are ruining the planet with their energy and deforestation policies. They are dismantling our civilization. And all for a fast buck, because they can. They're just following the quail and firing, irregardless of the consequences.

How do you reach people who have no connection to reality? Who think they have earned everything they have, rather than acknowledging that they were born to luxury? Who think other people are expendable, who send young Americans to die for oil in a foreign land that has never attacked us, that doesn't want freedom at such a horrible cost. If someone said to you, you could have the job of your dreams, you could have the income you've always wanted, but we'll have to kill 20 of your friends and family to get you there - would you sign that faustian bargain? That's the "freedom" we've offered Iraq. I imagine the numbers are much worse than my simple example.

And what about those of us with a conscience, who want to save our country without having to take up arms, what is our option? We don't want to fly up and become the target to be shot down. We don't dare be a friend sneaking up from behind - we might still be shot down. I guess we need to do what wasn't done - to yell, shout, wave our arms, seek attention for our concerns. There's no other way to do it.

I hope you'll join me in a little shouting today. And the next. And the next. Until they hear us. Until they act on our concerns. Our voice is about all we have left.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Three Most Important Issues

Now that we're stuck with Alito, here's what I think are the three most dangerous issues facing us immediately. There are so many things to be concerned about - SO many. But without addressing these three I frankly don't see how Democracy will survive on this planet. And maybe that's the goal. I'm sure it is, for a twisted few. But whether the twisted succeed will be up to us, not them.

They are, in no particular order:

  1. The threat to the Internet. The Internet is the hope of the world. For the first time in history, the little guy has access to the whole world. They may not find him, but he's out there, shouting from his or her Web page, and some of the combined information is incredibly valuable. There's been the concept of "Net Neutrality" - that the telecommunication industry provides the pipes but ignores what goes through them.

    But the telecom industry is upset that they've built this expensive cable network across America that companies like Google access essentially for free. But others fear this is the first step towards offering users what is likened to a "walled garden" whereby consumers might find their access to various sites limited by those providing the pipes.

    We need to be especially vigilant. Democracy defends on the informed consent of the governed. And since the mainstream media is not informing us appropriately, all we have left is the Internet. If that goes, it's all over.

  2. Our vote. Electronic voting, without proper oversight and audit protocols, threatens to rob us of the only voice we have in our Democracy. Groups all over the country have gone to their county and state authorities to help press for appropriate legislation. But this is a race against madness. If we lose this battle, we won't have a voice that counts on any other issue.

  3. Global warming/environmental degradation/end of oil. We're poisoning our planet, and we're entirely dependent on a non-renewable resource. If history is a race between education and disaster, I think disaster is well-out in front, at this point. There's no profit in replacing oil yet. But if we wait until we are past the point of recovery, what then? What happens when in the space of a month, families find they cannot pay their oil bills, and start defaulting on their credit cards? When oil stealing becomes prevalent, and a new black market opens on the streets of America for short-term oil supplies? Someone needs to do an 'end of the world' movie about the end of oil. Or maybe they already did in Mad Max, which I've never seen. But seriously - we need people to slow consumption and really start to invest in alternative forms of energy. Just imagine what your life would be like if you were without electricity for a month. No nighttime activities. No hot water. No computers. No Internet.

I applaud all the activists all over the world working to save lives, to save the environment, to improve education in their communities, and these issues are always important. But let's keep an eye on what I think are the 'big three', because they're going to need extra special vigilance. If we lose the fight for a school bill, there's always the next election. Unless our vote no longer matters, or we can't drive our kids to the school anyway, or there's no important information to learn when they get there...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Max Holland vs the nation

I wrote this in response to Max Holland's awful piece about last fall's JFK conference in DC, which I also attended and wrote up at Robert Parry's site. Sometimes I write a letter to the editor hoping to get published. Sometimes I write hoping to actually inform someone of something. The latter was my motivation in this particular case. Here it is. I know those of you who share my passion for Real History will agree with the sentiment at the end. (I've also added a few links for the curious.)

Dear Editors,

I was shocked that you allowed Max Holland to comment on the recent JFK Conference. He’s already shown his lack of journalistic integrity on the subject. In the current piece, he made the bald-faced lie that “In point of fact, 99.99 percent of the HSCA’s report improved upon or underscored the accuracy of the Warren Report’s key findings.” It did nothing of the sort, as those of us in the research community who have actually READ the HSCA’s report know very well. Is there no fact checker at The Nation?

When you rightly avoided publishing his article espousing the notion that the KGB caused Americans to suspect CIA involvement in the JFK case, he took it to the CIA, which published it happily, since it exculpated them of any involvement in the Kennedy assassination. But that’s not necessarily a new relationship. Holland got his early start with the Voice of America, a well-known outlet for the CIA’s propaganda during the Cold War.

In fact, that was the pattern at the conference, which I also attended. While most leading researchers on the case believe elements of the CIA were directly involved, those who take the opposite view, like Holland, invariably end up having a cozy relationship with the chief suspect.

It should embarrass you to learn that Holland omitted mention of the most interesting and heated exchange at the conference. Two speakers rose to debate the acoustic evidence on which the HSCA based its conclusion of “probable conspiracy.” The first, Richard Garwin, said the sound evidence was off by a second, and therefore proved nothing. The second, Don Thomas, said that Garwin was using a different copy of the audio tape, proven by the number on the tape, and that the discrepancy was attributed to its being a copy. Thomas then showed how the sound evidence matched perfectly with all the extant video evidence. It was a stunning refutation of Garwin’s weak defense of the non-conspiracy view.

Would it surprise you to learn that Garwin was, as he admitted publicly when challenged, a CIA man? As a conference participant, I found that confession stunning. As a “journalist”, Max Holland didn’t even find that worthy of mention.

Is Max Holland a CIA asset at The Nation? If he is, that’s a tragedy for the nation and The Nation. If he isn’t, he’s simply a guy who, for whatever private reason, is more comfortable repeating the assertions of others than uncovering the truth. And his “99.99%” statement shows he’s willing to lie to do so. So it hardly matters if he’s CIA or not. Whatever he is, he sure doesn’t belong at The Nation.

We continue to learn every day how official lies bring heinous tragedy upon the innocent. His perversions of history do no less damage. We can’t learn the lessons of history when he presents a false version of it.

Lisa Pease

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What does it take for impeachment?

"Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies," the song says. But there's nothing sweet or little about the numerous lies that were told in an attempt to justify our actions in Iraq. As horrified as I am about the actions of the administration, I confess to be even a bit more horrified at society's complacency as our constitution is shredded, heinous acts are done in the quest for oil, and "reporters" have become mere "repeaters" of official pronouncements. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the Adamses must be reeling in their graves, wondering what we did with their beautiful dream for America.

When did things go so wrong? I'd argue that a clear demarcation point started in 1963, when a President faced down his own government, not once, but three times, refusing to take the actions of empire, opting instead for actions supporting the notion of peaceful coexistence.

In 1961, when President John Kennedy had only been a few months in office, he allowed the CIA and the Joint Chiefs to pressure him into supporting the disastrous plot that became known as the Bay of Pigs. The New York Times had learned of the plot and journalist Tad Szulc wrote it up, but Kennedy begged the Times to tone down the story, to remove the taint of American involvement. When things went radically wrong, Kennedy would later tell Times editor Turner Catledge that he wished the Times had printed the whole story, because then he would not have been able to make such a grievous error.

The plan as presented to Kennedy involved landing a bunch of anti-Castro Cubans onshore at a beach in Cuba, but Castro was alerted in advance to the plans and cut off their route to Havana, isolating the invaders and making mincemeat of them. What the CIA and JCs figured was that, faced with certain defeat, Kennedy would authorize air strikes launched from Miami and from nearby naval ships. In other words, they thought they could pressure Kennedy into a fullscale war against Cuba, but he refused.

In 1962, the CIA and JC's pressured JFK again, this time over the missiles in Cuba. This was their invitation to invade, they argued. Now, anything goes because Castro is putting nuclear weapons in place. Again, Kennedy resisted going to war, and played a strategic game with the Soviets, saving the world from what seemed certain nuclear destruction.

In 1963, Kennedy resisted the efforts of the Joint Chiefs to broaden the conflict in Vietnam. He created a plan for full troop withdrawal by 1965. But by the end of 1963, Kennedy was dead, and the Vietnam conflict spiraled into a horrible engagement that would last over ten more years.

Contrast that with what we have in office today. We have a President who came to power because of Supreme Court decision. He brought with him into office people who, unlike Kennedy, wanted nothing more than an American Empire, indeed, an American Century, as they called it. Their report lamented:

the process of transformation, even if it brings evolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.
Miraculously--for those who believe in miracles--a new Pearl Harbor materialized in the form of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center Towers. Warnings of an imminent attack proliferated. Even a cab driver knew something bad was about to happen:
Ameen showed up in a livery cab sent to take me to a morning appointment in Manhattan. He started talking as soon as I got in the backseat, bragging about a movie star and a director he had driven around town the previous weekend.

We were nearly halfway over the Brooklyn Bridge when he changed the subject.

As we crossed the river, on a bright sunny day very much like the day that awaited us two months in the future, he said, "You know, I am leaving the country and going home to Egypt sometime in late August or September. I have gotten e-mails from people I know saying that Osama bin Laden has planned big terrorist attacks for New York and Washington for that time. It will not be safe here then."
You have to know if an Egyptian Cab driver was getting emails about a big terrorist attack planned for New York and Washington, the NSA was certainly listening in. According to a CBS report from March, 2000:
Everywhere in the world, every day, people's phone calls, emails and faxes are monitored by Echelon, a secret government surveillance network. No, it's not fiction straight out of George Orwell's 1984. It's reality, says former spy Mike Frost in an interview broadcast on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Feb. 27.
Clearly, if a Cab driver knew something was in the air, the government, whose technology far exceeds that of the Cabbie, should have been able to prevent the attacks had they wanted to.

As a side note, a lot of people I talk to just aren't bothered by the fact that the government is listening to their every communication. "I'm not a terrorist, so I have nothing to fear," they say. But is that true? Not really, according to Frost. The CBS report noted:
As an example of those innocent people, Frost cites a woman whose name and telephone number went into the Echelon database as a possible terrorist because she told a friend on the phone that her son had "bombed" in a school play. "The computer spit that conversation out. The analystwas not too sure what the conversation was referring to, so, erring on the side of caution, he listed that lady," Frost recalls.
Senator Ted Kennedy was surprised to find himself listed on the "no-fly" list at airports in 2004. It took him and his staff three weeks to get off the list, because "T. Kennedy" was an alias used by an alleged terrorist. We should all be very afraid when innocent people start being detained and denied everyday privileges because of some unfortunate connection.

But back to the big lies that have accompanied this administration. Hitler once said, the bigger the lie, the more the people will believe it, because while most people will tell small lies, few will tell egregiously huge whoppers. Bush and his team know this, and exploit this sensibility. Most people simply don't want to believe their government would lie to them about something as serious as Weapons of Mass Destruction. But we now know that not only did they lie to us about what they knew (see the Downing Street Memo), they were willing to manufacture evidence to get what they wanted. Over the weekend, a major story broke about the Bush and Blair administrations' willingness to stage a false event in order to garner support for an invasion of Iraq. According to the UK's Independent story of 2/3/06:
George Bush considered provoking a war with Saddam Hussein's regime by flying a United States spyplane over Iraq bearing UN colours, enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it, according to a leaked memo of a meeting between the US President and Tony Blair.
Again, the contrast with what might have been, and what is, could not be more dramatic. Similar hair-brained schemes were concocted by the Joint Chiefs under President Kennedy under the name "Operation Northwoods." These included a plan to create a fake airplane crash, complete with funerals for the fake passengers, and to blame the incident on Cuba as an excuse to invade. But where Kennedy refused to take any of these actions, resisting enormous pressure in the process. Contrast that with George Bush, who himself spoke the big lie that the Iraqis were harboring WMD.

How is it that impeachment proceedings have not yet begun?

A man lied about having sex with a more-than-willing subordinate, and he is instantly called before Congress. But a different man lies to the public about something that has cost over 2000 American lives and over 30,000 Iraqi lives, a man who says I can tap Americans by circumventing the law because I'm the Commander in Chief, a man who, as John Dean--who should know--says, is the first President to confess to an impeachable offense, remains blythely ensconced in the White House.

Where is the moral outrage now?

Since when is Monica's dress so much more important than our own best and brightest, the American soldiers we have sent to fight a resource war for oil?

Since when do the Republicans get to decide that extramarital sex is an impeachable offense but going to war under false pretenses is not?

Why aren't Americans calling and writing their Senators and Congresspeople every day, demanding that the President be held accountable to the laws of the land?

Are we outrage fatigued? That's no excuse. I'm tired. A lot of good people are tired. But to allow a President to flagrantly break the law, and to have no accountability, truly marks the end of this republic, something so dear that young men and woman have been willing for over 200 years to die for it. What is wrong with US, that we let the press let the President off the hook? I know most people are working many more hours a week this year than in years past. We watch more TV, we eat more junk food, and as a consequence, we're getting more obese. But it's not the physical obesity that worries me. It's the mental obesity we're showing. We've allowed ourselves to be stuffed with junk food for the mind. We feed ourselves on American Idol, and Monday Night Football, as our democracy hangs by a fragile shard.

The truth is a lean, tough, flavorless cut. But it's what we most need to be healthy as a society again. Superbowl's over. Time to get back to the work of preserving and protecting Democracy at home before we dare try to export it abroad.