Sunday, September 30, 2007

Carol Ann Gotbaum at Sky Harbor

(CNN) -- Phoenix police were investigating Sunday how a 45-year-old woman died over the weekend while in police custody at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport.

Carol Ann Gotbaum, in an undated family photo, may have accidentally strangled herself while in custody.

Carol Ann Gotbaum may have accidentally strangled herself while trying to get out of her handcuffs, Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said Saturday.

"According to investigators, it appeared as though Ms. Gotbaum had possibly tried to manipulate the handcuffs from behind her to the front, got tangled up in the process, and they ended up around her neck area," he said.

Put your hands behind your back, wrist over wrist. Now try to "manipulate the handcuffs from behind you to the front."

I've tried it. IF I weighed 85 lbs and had very long arms, I might be able to put my butt through my arms and bring my handcuffed hands forward, and then up to my teeth, perhaps. But I can't see how I could strangle myself.

Go on, try it. You might try working the cuffs with your teeth. And then, putting your arms behind your neck to use your skull to pop your hands free. But how on earth could you end up in a position that would result in your inextricably choking yourself to death?

Go on, try it, If you can demonstrate a lethal position into which she could get but not get out of, I'll be all ears. Meanwhile, BULLSHIT.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


The State law and Order Restoration Council, aka SLORC, is the name that the Burmese junta calls itself. It is so perfectly fascist it even sounds fascist. It sounds like Golum's brother, who is named, in turn, for the bilious slime that covers him.

Except that it's deadly serious. Monks and the best and brightest of Burma's citizens are being slain in the streets and monasteries and torture suites because they hold a vision for a better country, in which brute intimidation, despotism, greed, and corruption don't govern. Where SLORC doesn't rule.

God bless the dissidents. Power to the people of Burma.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Truly Great Rant

America Used To Be Really Goddamn Awesome
Posted September 28, 2007 | 04:57 PM (EST) Bob Cesca, The Huffington Post

I've been captivated by Ken Burns' The War this week and it struck me how awesome America used to be.

The prevailing attitude of the ladies and gentlemen featured in Burns' film, and by proxy all Americans of that era, was that if we had to fight a war, we had better do it right. Clearly and with little dissent, we had to fight that war, and without fail, Americans rallied together to do it really damn well.

People from every corner of the nation selflessly pooled their resources for the great cause of World War II, and I'm not sure about this one, but I don't think President Roosevelt ever once asked the country to sacrifice by going to the mall. And I'm pretty sure he didn't outsource the construction of tanks, Flying Fortresses, Hellcats and Thunderbolts to Mexico and China. That's a hell of a thing by today's standards, isn't it? More here

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oh Say Can You See?

Some gleanings from The Shock Doctrine. I trust some of this will ring a bell?

Having staged his coup d'etat in Chile, which involved cutting government spending on domestic programs by 37% in two years, the loss of about 180,000 industrial jobs, an unemployment rate of 20%, and a new "living wage" for the people of which 74% went simply to buying bread (not bread and milk; just bread), Pinochet proceeded to phase 2.

He replaced the public school system with charter schools and a voucher program. That is, he privatized them.

He created a pay-as-you-go healthcare system. That is, he made it for-profit.

He privatized the kindergartens and cemeteries. Like we're privatizing schools and nursing homes.

And he privatized the Chilean social security system. Where've we heard that before?

All of this was part of Milton Friedman's prized totally free free-market system. "George W. Bush is usually credited with pioneering 'the ownership society," but in fact it was Pinochet's government, thirty years earlier, that first introduced the idea of "a nation of owners."

What he created was Enron-style "piranhas"--wildcat speculators--an obscenely wealthy top 10% of the population, and 45% of the population below the poverty line.


Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, which I'm now reading, presents the Pinochet takeover of Chile as one of the major national case studies of what is going on now -- how it happened, who was behind it, and why.

After years of preparation, including the education of a phalanx of Chilean economists by Milton Friedman at U. Chicago, and extensive CIA training of the necessary "wet" "sportsmen" in the Chilean military, in just one day, Pinochet unleased tanks and rockets on the government of Salvadore Allende and acquired complete control of Chile.

Using the (yes, written down, bona fide) theory of total military Shock and Awe, which we saw unfolded again in Iraq, Pinochet made it quite clear to everyone in Chile, in and outside the capital, that dissent would mean death. The medium was the message. Total, instant, paralyzing force.

In the months that followed, Pinochet tortured and killed thousands, detained 80,000, and drove 200,000 more out of the country.

Until that day, Chile had lived in peaceful democratic rule for 160 years. What happened there had been utterly unthinkable. Not possible there.

Naomi Klein, author of Shock Doctrine, which I'm now reading, gives the Pinochet takeover of Chile as one of the major national case studies of what is going on now -- how it happened, who was behind it, and why.

After years of preparation, including the education of a phalanx of Chilean economists by Milton Friedman at U Chicago, and the CIA training of the necessary "wet" sportsmen in the Chilean military, in just one day, Pinochet unleased tanks and rockets on the government of Salvadore Allende and acquired complete control of Chile.

Using the (yes, written down, bona fide theory of total military Shock and Awe, which we saw unfolded in Iraq, Pinochet made it quite clear to everyone in Chile, in and outside the capital, that dissent would mean death.

In the months that followed, Pinochet tortured and killed thousands, detained 80,000, and drove 200,000 out of the country. Until that day, Chile had lived in peaceful democratic rule for 160 years. What happened there had been utterly unthinkable. Not possible there.

The date of that coup? September 11, 1973.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One Minute to Hell: Senate Threatens Military Means Against Iran

Never underestimate the stupidity and perfidy of a senator. In a 76-22 vote, the following senators have just passed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment and given what Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has correctly said can be interpreted as permission to take out Iran:

Akaka (D-HI)
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lott (R-MS)
Martinez (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Schumer (D-NY)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)

The amendment threatens to “combat, contain and [stop]” Iran via “military instruments.”

Cheney is playing the whole country like a tune. Senators Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, and Harry Reid deserve special denunciation for choose political self-interest at what I think is incalculable risk.

The land of the free and the home of the brave? Not. More like the land of the blind mice.

And all it took was one terrorist attack. One. If, given its experience during WWII, Europe looks on us as whimpering spoiled brats, I can’t cry “foul.” We abandoned all principle and reason on 9-11. And all it took was one terrorist attack.

My God, what will we do if Bush declares martial law? Fall into collective catatonia?

So, now we are one irrevocable step closer to bombing Iran. The consequences will be limitless in time and effect, especially if the weapon Bush chooses is nuculer—er, nuclear. European nations that are in bed economically with Iran will be hurt, as will China, Russia, and North Korea, its allies. This won’t be good. The Muslim world will have irrefutable proof that we intend permanent domination of the Middle East. We do. This won’t play well. The Saudis, Turkey, and Jordan will be forced out of whatever affinity they retain with the United States. Not good. And Israel? If the Arab States don’t see to it that Israel takes the first hit, I’ll be very surprised. As soon as that happens, Katie, bar the door.

If anyone’s left standing when all the dust settles, this will be looked upon as the moment the Clock moved to 1 minute to Hell.

"Jakarta is Coming!" For a preview, watch Burma!

I tell you right now, myself: This post will sound lunatic unless you've read the most important history book since Hannah Arendt: Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. If you read nothing else in your life, read this, and the sooner the better.

I’m now 75 pages into The Shock Doctrine and I’m ready to scrawl on the walls, “Jakarta is coming!”

Building on other strategies that got us here, discussed elsewhere on this blog, I've started to ruminate about things going on around us as I write. For instance, just suppose that the increasingly violent anti-liberal rhetoric of the last 30 years has been a strategy to make the minds of conservative Americans not just amenable to cheating at the polls, but amenable actually to our removal.

In that scenario, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, the whole Faux apparatus in fact, and Clear Channel, and those who trashed the Dixie Chix and others are psychological storm troopers, a secular advance guard paralleling Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Tim LaHaye on the religious side. The tactic is not new. Goebbels perfected it on the Jews.

I’m now 75 pages into The Shock Doctrine and I’m ready to scrawl on the walls, “Jakarta is coming!”

The master that Bush and Cheney serve is Milton Friedman. The model that they follow is Suharto’s Indonesia and Pinochet’s Chile. The local trial balloon was New Orleans.

The enemy is the peaceful and prosperous New Deal society. Its crime was Keynesian/Galbraithian economics, ensuring that wealth produced by many is returned in some measure to many. That is called “redistribution,” or worse, “transfer,” as if the profit of a corporation were realized entirely by the men in the executive suite, without the labor of the employees, and as if the raw materials of which the wealth was created had always belonged to them and not to the commonwealth itself.

The objective is to make of the world—soon to be starring the great prize itself, the former constitutionally democratic USA—a completely unregulated economy—-without product safety or quality regulations, or workplace health and safety regulations, or humane labor requirements, or minimum wage requirements, or environmental protections, or tariffs, or any other form of restraint on “free trade.”

The infrastructure is in place. The jobs are being outsourced, the unions dismantled, and the trade agreements written apace. The plans have been written, tested, and perfected. The engineers are at their posts. The media has been harnessed, the military propagandized, the people divided, the domestic intelligence and torture apparatus made fully legal and acceptable, and erected, the detention centers have been built, the CIA has been brought to heel, the equation of protest with treason firmly established, the voting machines and voting laws in key states have been fixed, the Justice department is blocking investigations into fraud, corruption, and patently impeachable crimes, the high Court is pretty much rigged, and Congress has been neutralized. The presidency is unitary. Read, the president is a dictator. But he doesn't want us to know that, so he is denouncing what's happening now in Burma. Denouncing, but not actually doing anything to stop that, or Darfur, or Iraq. No, he's got bigger fish to fry.

The missing piece, according to the pattern previously tested successfully in Jakara, Santiago, and New Orleans, is the next big shock, analogous in effect to Katrina or to 9-11, if not much worse. Something big enough to stun the population long enough so that life as we know it can come to an end overnight.

As our Dictator President knows, the way to get that next shock is by bombing Iran. Either in the event itself or in the aftermath of retaliation, anyone who stands in the way of a declaration of martial law will be forcibly detained and tortured until everyone understands that there’s a new game in the USA, and it is called “disaster capitalism.” What’s yours is theirs, what’s ours is theirs, and what’s theirs is theirs--constitution rights, homes, bank accounts, savings, the land and our liberty itself. The end.

What’s going on now in Myanmar (Burma) is a miniature version of what will soon be coming to a theatre near you—that’s if any American has the grit to protest, I mean.

None other than Daniel Ellsberg just warned in a speech at American University that if we go to war with Iran, we will be a police state. Read all about it on the Consortium website.

Again: If you read nothing else in your life, read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. The veil will fall from your eyes.

Ellsberg Says Coup Has Occurred (PS: He's Right)

Viet Nam Marine company commander, PhD military analyst, and Pentagon patriot Daniel Ellsberg is speaking truth again:

I think nothing has higher priority than averting an attack on Iran, which I think will be accompanied by a further change in our way of governing here that in effect will convert us into what I would call a police state.

"In a remarkable speech, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg warns that the United States will complete its slide into a "police state" if President Bush goes ahead with a war on Iran.

"Referring to Bush's steady accumulation of power over the past six years, Ellsberg said, 'a coup has occurred' and would be solidified by the crisis of an expanded war in the Middle East.

"To stop this, he urges government officials to live up to their oath of office and defend the Constitution."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Long US March to Christo-Fascism: Part III

Note: This is Part III of a three-part series intended as a broad rather than deep overview of the Christo-Fascist Right's rise to near-domination of US government. Each of its links leads to a world of other links from which the range of individuals, families, businesses, and organizations which comprise it can be identified and explored. The reach and power of the Christo-Fascist Right should horrify every sentient American. This series will be updated and revised as information and time are available. Part I. Part II.

Parts I and II of this series told in broad strokes the foundations of the secular and the religious Rightwing strategies for transforming a country that fought against the Third Reich into a country increasingly under fundamentalist, fascistic, and corporatist domination.

In Part III, we provide a series of links to other parts of the 30-year rise of the Right, beginning with Consortium's account of how, as the Left concentrated on tending the grassroots, the Right aimed at controlling US media.

Superb Read on US White Supremacy and Fascism

Sowing the Seeds of Fascism in America
A Dig led by Stan Goff
Author Stan Goff, a retired 26-year veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces, sounds a warning call that many of the historical precursors of fascism—white supremacy, militarization of culture, vigilantism, masculine fear of female power, xenophobia and economic destabilization—are ascendant in America today.

Here is a rare thing: An analysis of sexism, white supremacy, and militarism by a miltary guy. This is one scary read, but, like so much else out there, we gotta face up to it. A lot of the enemy is us.

If you doubt it, what are your more afraid of: losing your outsourced job, losing your house, being targeted for revenge by a raving GOP maniac radical Righwing white supremacist, or getting bombed at Linens N Things by a Muslim fanatic?

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Long US March to Christo-Fascism: Part II

Note: This is Part II of a three-part series intended as a broad rather than deep overview of the Christo-Fascist Right's rise to near-domination of US government. Each of its links leads to a world of other links from which the range of individuals, families, businesses, and organizations which comprise it can be identified and explored. The reach and power of the Christo-Fascist Right should horrify every sentient American. See Part I. Part III. The series will be updated and revised as time and information are available.

Turns out it wasn’t drugs, sex, or hair that galvanized powerful stakeholders in a full-scale, brilliant, long-term reactionary war. It was, above all, what was framed as the new generation's “frontal assault on free enterprise”―ironically an assault grounded, among other sources, in profound regard for the US Constitution.

In the 1970s, two camps emerged, each bitterly opposed to the nation’s movement toward its constitutional potential—a Liberal society with at least some of its most cannibalistic and plutocratic capitalist tendencies at least somewhat constrained by tax and regulatory policy.

Among early leader/thinkers representing the secular conservative establishment were Lewis Powell, later Nixon’s appointee to the US Supreme Court, and economist Milton Friedman, father of Neo-conservative "free market" economics (see The Shock Doctrine).

Among early leader/thinkers representing hard-core cultural and theological dissidents were the members of a strategy-coordinating body called the Coalition on Revival (COR), headed by Christian Reconstructionist minister Jay Grimstead, then a Young Life regional leader trained at Fuller Theological Seminary. Its 60-member steering committee includes or included multimillionaire Left Behind series author Tim LaHaye, his wife, Beverly, founder of Concerned Women for America, home schooling pioneer and fundamentalist Patrick Henry College Chancellor Michael Farris, Dee Jepsen, board chair of Pat Robertson’s Regent University, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association.

Significantly, COR members including Gary North and Tim LaHaye are also founders of the rightwing Council for National Policy, an ultra-secretive and ultra-powerful strategy organization of Republican strategists, activists, and financiers.

Another major player in the US and global Relgious Right is Sun Myung Moon, head of the Unification Church, international arms merchant, and owner of the rightwing Washington Times newspaper empire.

A good part of the back story of the intense secular effort to reverse the “liberalization” of the country can be found at MediaTransparency. Its centerpiece is a memorandum from then corporate lawyer Lewis Powell to a colleague at the US Chamber of Commerce. The Powell memorandum laid out a comprehensive, coordinated strategy for a militantly conservative takeover of law, business, economics, government, and media, and to put a stop to such self-restraint as there was on the part of most US corporations.

The story of the Coalition on Revival is a placeholder in a sense. It is a heads-up briefing intended to call attention to the wealth and power of the numerous direct and indirect allies and offshoots of Grimstead and his formative biblical Reconstructionist organizers. Because of the secrecy and sheer extent of parts of the “Religious Right” movement in the US, the full story is harder to get at, and certainly won’t be found here.

However, much of the story has been gradually exposed by folks like Frederick Clarkson, Skipp Porteous, Sara Diamond, Theocracy Watch, MediaTransparency, Americans United for Separation of Church and State,, RightWeb, The Public Eye, People for the American Way, and others, to whom I am (we are all) hugely indebted.
At its center is a comprehensive strategic plan to transform the United States from a constitutional democracy to a theocracy governed by Mosaic law as presented in the “Old Testament” of the Christian Bible, King James translation. These strategic documents emerged in the mid-1980s. Critical to its growth and influence has been our determination not to take it seriously. We blind ourselves to it by dismissing the Christian Right as just a “lunatic fringe,” thereby becoming its greatest asset.

Actually, it turns out that what many regard as merely ad hoc attacks on “liberalism” was actually a huge movement coordinated and focused by the steering committee of COR. COR's 17 Worldview Documents are, for us, a roadmap for deciphering the enormity and coordination of numerous legislative, judicial, executive branch, domestic and foreign policy, and cultural developments that have occurred in the US in the last 20 years. Clearly, as important as the strategy itself was the covenant sworn among its members to fulfill it, even to the point of martyrdom.

From these strategic deliberations--usually unknown to the rank and file evangelical-charismatic-fundamentalist churchgoer--eventually came hugely influential, richly funded for-profit and nonprofit projects in such spheres as media acquisitions/operations, music, entertainment, fiction, video games, fundraising, public relations, political organizing, political action, social networking, church-building, education, science and medicine, the family, and, of course, in the Republican Party. On balance, the constitutional democracy that we know has been under attack from every direction for more than 20 years, with great effect.

The most significant political development stemmed, ironically, from the failure of the Moral Majority to put Pat Robertson in the White House in 1988. It was a highly successful, brilliant strategy to take over the Republican Party secretly, from the grassroots up, and was engineered by men like Ralph Reed, the deceptively baby-faced pal of recently convicted GOP operative Jack Abramoff and the then Executive Director of the Christian Coalition of America, successor to the Moral Majority. The rest of us first noticed it in 1991-1992, following what is now known as the San Diego Stealth Initiative. This strategy and its “fifteen percent solution” gave the “Christian Right” ownership of the Republican Party.

Today, entities like The Federalist Society, the Madison Project, and the Council on National Policy, among other conservative oligarchs, determine who will candidate for our appellate courts, the Supreme Court, and other high public office.

About the Federalist Society, Theocracy Watch reported:
The Federalist Society formed twenty years ago in reaction to the powers the Supreme Court was granting the federal government. It is a network of lawyers, elected officials and scholars who want to free corporations from government regulations. It is hostile to civil rights, environmental protections, worker safety laws, a separation between church and state and more.

Some prominent leaders of the Religious Right play a dominant role in the Federalist Society. For example former President of the Christian Coalition, Donald Hodel is a board member. Twenty four of President Bush's top cabinet members and most of his court nominations are members of the Federalist Society. The list includes John Ashcroft, Attorney General; Spencer Abraham, Secretary of Energy; Gail Norton, Secretary of the Interior; and Theodore Olson, Solicitor General. Other notable members are Justices Scalia and Thomas, Orrin Hatch, Kenneth Starr.

People for the American Way prepared an in-depth report. The Federalist Society: From Obscurity to Power

The Christian Coalition, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, and dozens more obviously well-funded organizations deliver millions of charismatic, evangelical, and fundamentalist voters to the Republican Party, aided by thousands of small and large churches in flagrant defiance of tax law. Naturally, this criminal enterprise is ignored by the Republican Party, which prefers to focus its tax watchdogs on progressive churches.

Meanwhile, these and hundreds more—think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, political action organizations, media behemoths like the Christian Broadcasting Network, and even BlackwaterUSA, a private mercenary army--many of which are or have been funded by the Coors family, Richard Mellon Scaife, Erik Prince, the Texas Hunt family, and other super-wealthy scions or dynasties—exist for one overarching purpose: to ensure that the rest of us--religion and Constitution notwithstanding--live according to their fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible and the Constitution, by force if necessary.

How are they doing? It has taken 30 years, vast resources, brilliant strategizing, and dogged effort, but today George W. Bush is in the White House. Alito, Roberts, Thomas, and Scalia sit on the US Supreme Court. Senators, congressmen, state governors and legislators too numerous to mention belong to this movement. The right of choice is about to go away and the right of privacy is in the gunsights. Thousands of public documents have been and are being hidden by Adminstration operatives, and the President and Vice President and BlackwaterUSA and Scooter Libby reside in a realm above the law. Gay and lesbian people—-not to mention Democrats and liberals-are being demonized systematically by techniques developed in pre-War Germany. Our President speaks only to Republicans while using our tax dollars, and as we've seen recently, Republicans speak mostly only to white people. Far-right conservatives--many Christian conservatives--have extensive involvement in the armaments industry and in the US intelligence apparatus. George H.W. Bush was CIA head before he was Reagan's Vice President and, later, President.

Colleges like Patrick Henry, Liberty U., and Regent are training cadres of lawyers every year, and now contribute phalanxes of interns to the White House, the Justice Department, Health and Human Services, State, Education, and Defense. Media such as Fox, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Clear Channel determine FTC media ownership policies and decide what a generation of Americans will hear and see. Young Life and similar powerful campus-based propaganda ministries flourish, and the attack on public schools is visible in the home schooling movement mostly coordinated by centralized Christianist curriculum and materials, the voucher program, No Child Left Behind, and a national war on teachers. Government scientists are gagged on subjects like women’s reproductive health, global warming, stem cell research, environmental destruction, genetic engineering, food safety and the global practices of agribusiness. Creationism is being taught in our schools as serious science. Our military academies are being evangelized, and our military are evangelized and used by white supremacists as training camps.

These are, of course, also partly due to the influence of secular conservative corporate interests, because there is enormous overlap between the secular Right and the Religious Right, as the person of BlackwaterUSA’s Erik Prince and the Coors and Hunt families and others illustrate.

But wait, there’s more. What in the sixties had begun to be a productive dialog between corporations and progressive Americans has become a multinational monolog, a one-way, top-down, like-it-or-lump it frenzy of profit making without social accountability or, increasingly, regulation. That’s the free market way. (See Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine.)

From USAID, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank bringing destitution to a country near you, to the blatant corruption associated with Halliburton, KBR, BlackwaterUSA, and other war profiteers, to the erosion of constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms brought by The Patriot Acts, to the control of healthcare by pharmaceuticals and for-profit hospitals, insurors, and providers, to the manufacture of genetically altered crops that exterminate natural counterparts just by being planted, to the privatization of water itself, to the outsourcing of US jobs, to the systematic suppression of US labor rights, to the orchestrated dumbing-down of the public by TV and radio that give 24/7 coverage to trivia and propaganda but ignore (suppress) news that might damage the Right’s agenda, to energy policy set by big oil--all this and more can be traced, directly or indirectly, to Lewis Powell’s brilliant coordinating strategy for reinstituting unregulated “free enterprise,” and to the toxic influence of the Religious Right.

This summary sketch is merely an overview. Daunting as it is, there is also good news. The truth always outs, the majority of the American people want none of this, and, as we have begun to see in the last two years, over-reaching movements have a way of falling.

Not least, as the Right learned from the Left in the seventies, strategy per se is not partisan. It can be adopted by the opposition. The Left could do worse than pursuing media ownership and well-designed, coordinated political organization, voter registration, and grassroots Party change models pioneered by the Right, while keeping its eyes, mind, and heart fixed firmly on the Constitution and the safety and wellbeing of the commonwealth.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Long US March to Christo-Fascism: Part I

Note: This is Part I of a three-part series intended as a broad rather than deep overview of the Christo-Fascist Right's rise to near-domination of US government. Each of its links leads to a world of other links from which the range of individuals, families, businesses, and organizations which comprise it can be identified and explored. The reach and power of the Christo-Fascist Right should horrify every sentient American. This series will be updated and revised as information and time are available. Part II. Part III.

As we are reeling from this week’s revelations about Blackwater, not to mention other monumental developments of the last six years, many wonder how in the hell we got here.

It will take time to tell the whole story—this overview doesn’t pretend to be exhaustive—but while the rest of America was focused elsewhere, a fluid coalition of secular economic and political conservatives, cultural/religious conservatives, and other hard rightwingers launched two brilliant, loosely coordinated strategies to seize control of the country for the Right. The secular strategy came from the establishment. The cultural/religious one originated at the grassroots. Both eventually attracted followers at all levels. This takeover began in earnest in the early 1970s.

For 30 years, the Right has branded the New Deal as "communism" and the sixties a wholesale assault on decency. What actually happened in the sixties was that “the new generation”—now aging Boomers—saw certain dominant but fundamental and entrenched American values as they are, and we challenged them. Numerous radical thinkers on the Left (radical = root, fundamental) had said it all before in miles of manifestos, but Charles Reich preached it to the suburbs in his best selling The Greening of America (1970):

The logic and necessity of the new generation -- and what they are so furiously opposed to -- must be seen against a background of what has gone wrong in America. It must be understood in light of the betrayal and loss of the American dream, the rise of the Corporate State of the 1960's, and the way in which that State dominates, exploits, and ultimately destroys both nature and man. Its rationality must be measured against the insanity of existing "reason" -- reason that makes impoverishment, dehumanization, and even war appear to be logical and necessary. Its logic must be read from the fact that Americans have lost control of the machinery of their society, and only new values and a new culture can restore control. Its emotions and spirit can be comprehended only by seeing contemporary America through the eyes of the new generation.

By the mid-60s, building on the Enlightenment, the nobler tendencies of populism, the labor movement, and New Deal forebears, and working both in and outside the system, we had begun to change the nation. What stunned the Right were gigantic waves of reform to US government, law, culture, religion, and business. All were fueled conceptually and politically by thousands of little-known and famous radical-to-liberal "micro-projects," like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, and Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, and by the much larger civil rights, labor, and anti-war movements.

These waves took their main visible form as Medicare and Medicaid (1965), The Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a host of consumer protections, environmental safeguards, workplace regulations, think tanks, publications, and nonprofits. These continued over the coming decades to empower minorities, women, workers, and the elderly, and even began to lift up the unemployed poor.

Meanwhile, we also forced Americans to see, beneath the veneer of flags and rhetoric, the lies and devastation of war and the corruption of the “military-industrial complex" that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower so presciently warned us about:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together

What we accomplished was not too shabby. Be proud, sisters and brothers of the Left. Be damned proud.

Turns out it wasn’t drugs, sex, or hair that galvanized powerful stakeholders in a full-scale, brilliant, long-term reactionary war. It was, above all, what was framed as the new generation's “frontal assault on free enterprise”―ironically an assault grounded, among other sources, in profound regard for the US Constitution.

In the 1970s two camps emerged, each bitterly opposed to the nation’s movement toward its constitutional potential—a Liberal society with at least some of its most cannibalistic capitalist tendencies at least somewhat constrained by tax and regulatory policy. [Continued in Part II.]

Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Global Justice/Peace Symbol?

How about adopting the Myanmar monks' inverted begging bowl as the new global peace/justice protest symbol? It can stand as a sign of global and faith solidarity against the evil military despotism and greed that are the common enemy of people everywhere.

Monks at the head of the procession carried religious flags and an upside-down alms bowl, a symbol of protest.

Some monks are refusing alms from the military and their families — a religious boycott deeply embarrassing to the junta. In the Myanmar language, the term for "boycott" comes from the words for holding an alms bowl upside down.

Where Are Our Monks?


"We pronounce the evil military despotism, which is impoverishing and pauperizing our people of all walks including the Clergy, as the common enemy of all our citizens," the statement said.
[Photo from Yahoo.]

From CNN:
Without an apology, monks across the country have threatened to march Tuesday from their monasteries, cut off communication with the military and their families and refuse alms -- a humiliating gesture that will likely embarrass the junta.

"What the (junta) did in Pakokku is unforgivable. The monks are frustrated and angry," said Zin Linn, information minister for the Washington-based National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, which is Burma's government-in-exile.

"This boycott is significant because other underground labor unions, underground student unions and activists are calling on one another to join the boycott," he said. "I expect the demonstrations will grow bigger than ever. People may join with the monks and we may see chaos and disorder."

A chief abbot at a Yangon monastery said the boycott will have a symbolic importance in the ongoing struggle against the junta.

"In a staunchly Buddhist country, such a boycott is the most severe form of punishment for a Buddhist," said the abbot, who refused to be identified for fear of reprisals. "The boycott brings extreme shame to the ruling junta and should be taken seriously."

Since protests broke out August 19 after the government hiked fuel prices by as much as 500 percent, it detained dozens of pro-democracy activists and cut off the phone lines as the country's main opposition group the National League for Democracy or NLD.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rotten-Rock Democrats, "Friendly Fire," and the MoveOn Vote

Back in the day, as the expression goes, many radical activists considered liberals "rotten rock." It's a climber's term. It refers to saprolite, a weathered rock found on outcrops, that crumbles beneath the climber's fingers as she's holding on for dear life.

The association came from bitter experience--for instance, around sexual orientation:

In 1970 the issue came to a head when Betty Friedan, the President of the National Organization of Women (NOW), characterized advocates for the inclusion of lesbian issues in NOW's platform as a "lavender menace." Gloria Steinem [may she and her tribe be forever blessed] responded by [nailing it,] arguing that feminism was a revolution, not a public relations movement; and in 1971 NOW members voted overwhelmingly to affirm the legitimacy of lesbian oppression as a concern of feminism. [Commentary added, obviously.]

It must be hard for today's political activists to feel the horrific sense of betrayal that we felt at that moment. I'll just say that it came amid the early, heady days when feminists of all stripes still thought that such a thing as "sisterhood" existed among women who identified as feminists. We found out the hard way, hanging from the cliff, that it just wasn't so. There were many rotten rocks, some in surprising and powerful places.

That's the back story.

"Rotten rocks" succinctly describes the Democrats who voted with the immeasurably hypocritical GOP to censure for its Petraeus ad. You can find their names here. They include Diane Feinstein, Max Baucus, Barbara Mikulski, Mary Landrieu, Joseph Lieberman, and Patrick Leahy. It also applies to Cantwell and Obama, who sat this one out. (Biden was on the campaign trail; he may be excused given his pole position. Lieberman needs no comment.)

There certainly used to be a code of ethics that made abandoning a buddy in a fight a real chicken-shit thing to do--the kind of thing that folks couldn't really come back from--sort of like sleeping with your best friend's lover.

Democrats like Feinstein and Leahy, et al., don't seem to get it that we are in a fight for our lives, the fight of our lifetimes, against a regime and a party that stands for everything our Constitution expressly stands against. does get it, and doesn't hesitate to go directly after the heart of the beast, as I wrote yesterday. That is why Republicans must attack them in ever more spectacular ways. It is also why Democrats must stand with them, no matter what. That they still don't get this is completely mystifying to me.

The Republicans understand that. They also understand elementary campaign dynamics. This is not the point in a campaign for speaking to the nation as a whole. This is the time to speak to the base, who will be called to pick a candidate before the nation is called to pick a president.

Feinstein, Leahy, Mikulski, Landrieu (I really don't get that woman; she represents Louisiana and of course New Orleans)and the rest are choosing their votes for the wrong reasons and in a fog of fear. Instead of seeking to preserve their integrity, they appear to be seeking to appease someone. But who? Not the majority of the country, which gets the lies and charades and wants out of this war and craves a tough and unyielding leadership. Not principled Republicans, because as far as I've seen, there are none. Their frame of reference is a mystery to me, because if they fear demonization by the GOP, evidently they still haven't realized that that will come at them regardless of what they say or how they vote.

No. This capitulation to the rhetoric of a deadly serious foe amounts to "friendly fire," except that it's considered and deliberate, not accidental. These troops, safe in the Senate's padded chairs, just fired on their own front lines.

On The New Sanctuary Movement, Difference, and Me

I expected a day like yesterday, but then I ran into Chris Hedges.

Two concepts, one that has never occurred to me, and one that is currently on the front burner in my own life, smacked me in the head, pretty much derailing whatever little task list I had planned for this day.

But about the one that I’m dealing with right now, in my own life.

I haven’t seen it put so well as in this excerpt from Hedges’ review for Truthdig of John Gray’s Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia:

What Gray fails to grasp is the transcendence and power that comes with achieving the moral life, a life a realist has to concede is absurd. There is a meaning to existence. It is found, as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad and Vasily Grossman knew in simple, blind acts of human kindness, especially towards the outcast and the stranger. It is discovered when we confront and acknowledge the inevitable chains and limitations of human nature but do not completely succumb to them. These small acts of compassion, never free from the taint of self-interest, do not make the world a quantifiably better place. We will not be rewarded for them. We will not save ourselves from evil, suffering and death. But these acts mean that we have, if only for a moment, felt what it means to be fully human. We have reacted not as animals in a herd, but as individuals who rose above our baser instincts and the clamor of the mob to defy hatred and bigotry and to cherish life. These acts of compassion allow us to become conscious, if only for a moment, in an unconscious world. [Emphasis added.]

I live in Arizona, where the “border crisis” is a very present personal moral challenge. Like many others, I am struggling with the problems and opportunities offered by The New Sanctuary Movement. My first instinct is to run away. I am too easily confused by legalities, when the transcendent truth, as Tex Sample recently pointed out to me, is that we have a legal system that frequently achieves technical legality but often doesn't achieve justice.

Anyway, I’m still on the periphery of The New Sanctuary Movement-Arizona, a project of Intefaith Worker Justice. I’m not yet on the front lines, so I don’t want any confusion about the strength of my character on this issue.

What I do want to say is this. The one reliable, fail-safe, within-myself touchstone that I know I have for getting clear about human justice issues is my queerness.

As I've written about before, recently I had to confront Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s hotline for reporting “illegals.” My off-the-top reaction was, “Well, I wouldn’t report anybody myself, but what’s so wrong with that?” However, once I thought of my own experience on the other side of the border, so to speak, I understood immediately what’s wrong with that. A lot.

Arpaio’s hotline is immoral for at least three big reasons, all of which boil down to doing serious damage to what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community.”

One, it targets certain human beings in a way that encourages racist profiling. Though there is no way to tell by looking who is an “illegal immigrant” and who is an American citizen, we are being encouraged to act as if there were and follow our worst inclinations.

Two, it reduces human complexity—our individual humanity, the one thing that lets us recognize each other as embodiments of the Sacred—to one mere action, and that one is of highly questionable “illegality.”

Three, it injects fascism directly into to our neighborhoods. Hotlines like this institutionalize anonymous ratting, which enables individuals and communities to sustain the myth of superiority: Ratters never have to confront the consequences of their actions.

The assumption behind the hotline is that every caller will be right and all will call for legitimate reasons only. Meanwhile, however, there is no accountability whatsoever for the consequences of simply being wrong, let alone for being intentionally mean, delusional, racist, vindictive, etc. When there is no accountability, we humans let our nasty side out to play in what soon becomes an endless spiral of suspicion, ratting, revenge, violence, and community breakdown. Didn't we learn all about this from the French Revolution and Nazi Germany? Ain't we been there, done that?

Finally, by shifting responsibility for immigration law enforcement to average folks who are neither trained nor authorized (read given structures of accountability and procedure) to take them on, it makes us all auxiliary vigilantees. Which brings us back to fascism.

However. I know that I wouldn’t get this if I hadn’t personally been on the receiving end of the Arpaio vigilantee mentality. My queerness, in a culture that perceives gay and lesbian people as outlaws, through projection and propaganda, is their "illegal alienness" in a culture that perceives undocumented immigrants in the same way.

Which brings me back to The New Sanctuary Movement. I believe that Hedges is right:
There is a meaning to existence. It is found, as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad and Vasily Grossman knew, in simple, blind acts of human kindness, especially towards the outcast and the stranger. It is discovered when we confront and acknowledge the inevitable chains and limitations of human nature but do not completely succumb to them.

When the Sanctuary Movement sticks to a core principle from all great religions – that we are called to give our best to -- TaDa! --none other than the stranger and the outcast--and does not allow itself to exploit people in the process of creating public education moments, then it gives us a personal opportunity to
[rise] above our baser instincts and the clamor of the mob to defy hatred and bigotry and to cherish life. These acts of compassion allow us to become conscious, if only for a moment, in an unconscious world.

Two last thoughts. The reason for our myriad personal differences may then be that, if they are lived out fully and considered intentionally (a big if), they become the thing that lets us discern the true difference between mere legalism and justice, and give us the courage to act on that insight.

These days I often feel powerless to stop the BushCo juggernaut of fascism, greed, brutality, and violence that’s rolling over our country at high speed. What my personal struggle suggests to me--still, yet again, one more time--is that we are most powerful change agents when we act in our own communities. That is a battleground of human scale, where victories are imaginable and can sustain us when they occur. That’s where we can best stop fascism, racism, apocalyptic Christianist fundamentalism, and corporatist greed. That's where our focus as progressives should be: thinking globally, acting locally. (You want an example? Local elections were the tool that the fascist Right used to take over the GOP. If they can do that, we can, too.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More on the Fascist Mercenary Force, BlackwaterUSA

More on BlackwaterUSA from the Christian Science Monitor.

And this, from Democracy Now!

Mercenary, mercenary, mercenary.
Fascist, fascist, fascist.

We're Getting the Country We Deserve, Aren't We?

First posted as a comment on Truthdig, 9-19-07

There’s no question that fascism has come to the US.

We have a rogue president and vice president claiming unprecedented, flagrantly anti-constitutional powers.

We have an elaborate, un-checked domestic corporate/government spying apparatus unleashed on all of us. If you think they’re not spying on everyone who expresses concern or plans to run against them, guess again.

We have sabotaged voting machines manufactured by the president's partisans, and fraudulent elections shored up by a partisan high Court.

We have a fanatical Christianist military command willing to impose its bizarre beliefs on our military academies, by threat of retaliation if necessary.

We have a completely docile media fully owned and controlled by the military-industrial complex that’s fully owned and controlled by the Carlyle Group that’s fully owned and controlled by the president and his men and his Middle Eastern allies.

Instead of asking why the GOP is enabling and sustaining this coup d’etat, our media distort facts, indicting only Democrats who at least are speaking out even though they don’t have the numbers to run Congress. When they’re not blaming the Democrats, they’re feeding us nothing but Britney and OJ. Bread and circuses.

We have a paralyzed and largely bought-and-paid-for Congress.

We have BlackwaterUSA, the president’s personal praetorian guard owned by a fanatical Christianist billionaire who is locked into a cyclical group-grope with our tax dollars and has been written out of range of any law that I know of, here and in Iraq.

We have the most secret government in US history. Fanatically secretive. Known to have removed warehouses full of documents to places unknown. That's our national history we're talking about.

We have a president ready, able, and willing to kill hundreds of thousands merely because he wants to be “a war president,” poised now to nuke Iran on a lie, and happy to perjure himself and gut the Constitution he swore to uphold, again and again.

We have a once-brave people terrified by our shadows, and lining up to sell its children down the river environmentally, constitutionally, and economically if Herr Bush only barks loud enough.

Instead of seeing the real threat, we are focused on a bunch of Mexican peasants. As if.

Our jobs are going or have gone, our houses are worth less by the hour, our economy is teetering in the hands of a hostile China, and our living standard is lower than it was in 1973. But our CEOs make 500 times what the line worker makes, so be still. It will all trickle down by and by.

Our public education system has been eroded or sabotaged or supplanted by a Christo-fascist turn-key home schooling program (fully orchestrated curriculum), and university education is for the elite, alone. That ain't you or me, baby.

Our predatory leaders are willing to rape and pillage New Orleans for their own gain, and able to watch 1,500 people drown and say nobody knew this could happen. We're hearing a lot of that shit lately.

So if we don’t have fascism and a citizenry deliberatly rendered powerless and poised on destitution, exactly what are we lacking? It’s here. It patrolled the streets of New Orleans and it will be coming soon to a theatre near you.

We are at the rising of the curtain at a drama that’s been 30 years in the works, and these are the main acts. Ralph Reed said we wouldn’t see them coming until we were in the body bags. I didn’t realize that he meant that literally until I sat and watched them drown New Orleans.

The question is, where are the “patriots” when you need them? Where are the Freepers and all the people who were flapping panicked about black helicopters now that the black helicopters are actually here? What kind of "patriotism" do they represent that opens the doors to rapacious fascists and clams them on the people who are hanging two lanterns in the old church tower.

This isn’t the country my Dad fought for in WWII. He was a paratrooper and lost his eye in North Africa. I’m glad he’s dead, because I don’t think he could endure this.

Why are we enduring it? Are we just frozen in our tracks? Have we no memory of revolution, or do we just find it embarrassing?

I just wonder what the senior military, intelligence, and diplomacy officers think of all this. They surely must see what’s going down. Are they just waiting for their turn through the revolving door? Or, like Alan Greenspan and John Warner, waiting for retirement (when they have their fortunes) to speak out?

We’re getting the country we deserve, aren’t we?

Fascism Isn't Coming to The USA. It's Here.

Today’s latest Senate disgrace needs to be evaluated in the context of a purely fascist ideology that, gradually over the past 30 years, has seized our country while we were busy refusing to suspend our disbelief that it could happen here.

To some, today’s Senate resolution condemning’s New York Times ad seems just garden-variety congressional stupidity. In the scheme of things, it is admittedly a smallish thing seen next to anti-war soldiers mysteriously dying, but I think it is more worrisome than mere stupidity. The US Senate, part of the highest tier of government, has chosen to strike directly at our constitutional right of free speech. This seems to suggest the coming-out of something quite troubling.

When God and Country are conflated in an increasingly Christianist military force that, in turn, symbolizes the perfect righteousness of our ends and means, the suggestion that its senior spokesman might be a fraud – could be corrupt, deceitful, and complicit -- is the one implication that a fascist regime cannot afford to let walk unassailed into daylight.

But this ad, which simply asked, “General Petraeus or General Betray-Us?,” publicly pinned the lie to the symbolic heart of fascism. An attack was inevitable.

This isn't so much about the person. I don't know what Petraeus believes, but it's hard to think much of the principles of a commander who doesn't really know whether the deaths he oversees are doing anything to make us safer, but nevertheless hasn't resigned for that reason.

This is about symbolism. The decorated uniform of highest rank wasn’t just meant to lend credibility where it has been so lacking. In the context of everything else we've seen in the last 30 years--especially the last six as the curtain has risen--I'm comfortable saying more. I believe it was also meant to suggest subtly that "moral authority" could be enthroned by force here, too, if necessary, and yes, to dissuade any challenges. By costuming him in full, decorated uniform, the theatre manager intended us to understand that the USA is now God, Might, and Fatherland conflated, and that to question him is to question the new ruling trinity.

But the ad pre-empted the vignette, and in my view, the ad stands as a distinctively populist and distinctively brave American impertinence.

It speaks aloud what we’ve all had to live with for some time: That our leaders, some civilian, some military, some corporate, are equally comfortable eating lobster bisque in a zone of atrocity as perpetrating undeniably deep and extravagant violations of human dignity and the moral, cultural, social, and economic order of Iraq and of our own country. And are happy to lie about it all. If this isn't fascism, I don't know what is.

Thus, the despotic little tanty voiced in the Senate today was inevitable. That it was authentic fury and fear just unmasks these fascists, and their appeasers, for who they are.

We citizens shouldn't let this stand. Small as it may seem, today's resolution must become a turning point at which we call a fascist an un-American, anti-constitution fascist, and demand their resignations en masse. The resignations won't happen, I know, but let us at least get out the checkbooks for and let our voices be heard.

Now is just not the time to sit down and shut up.

The Bremer Edicts

If you're interested in the edicts of former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head Paul Bremmer, they can be found at the website of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Two assessments of interest:

Do the Bremer edicts limit Iraq's sovereignty?
To a degree. Two in particular impose significant restrictions, says Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and the author of a recent article on Bremer’s rulings. Order 17 grants immunity from Iraqi law to all members of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq, as well as to foreign contractors and diplomats. Order 57 establishes independent inspectors general in every Iraqi ministry who are authorized to conduct investigations, audits, evaluations, and other reviews. The Bremer-appointed inspectors serve five-year terms.

What is the process for changing the Bremer rules?
Allawi and his Council of Ministers propose a change that legally supercedes one of Bremer’s edicts and win the unanimous approval of the Presidential Council. However, a 100-member Iraqi National Council, due to be formed in July, can veto any Allawi decision if two-thirds of the council oppose it. Once an elected government is in place after January 2005, law-making authority will shift to a 275-member transitional assembly.

Order 17 is the one that appears to let Blackwater and everybody else off the hook for any and everything they do, including all US contractors, for any and every dollar they steal. Order 17 should be named the "Heads I Win/Tails You Lose" order.

But I'm sure it's an immense relief to the Iraqis to know that Bremmer apppointees are keeping watch over their dinars and their oil.

Will Bush Attack Iran?

There's a meaty discussion today on Salon, by Steven Clemons, positing the case that the price is just too high. Clemons believes Bush wouldn't be seeking more engagement with Iran if he were fixed on the "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran" course that that nutcase McCain thought so amusing.

I will be the first to say that I don't have a clue.

However, whereas Clemons thinks that bombing Iran would result in a lock on Middle Eastern oil by Russia and China (I don't follow that, quite), Bush may think that bombing Iran would result in a lock on Middle Eastern oil by the USA.

What I think, right this minute, and I could and probably will change my mind as time passes, is that the biggest obstacle in Bush's trigger-happy little way is the weakness of the US dollar and China's debt-grip on our short hairs. All the Saudis have to do is stop shoring up the dollar, and all China has to do is call in the debt.

That happens? We're done.

Well, and of course there's the assumption that the US is now peppered with terrorist pods waiting to fillet us like bass. Bush would be afraid of that. If they came out to play, it would make him look bad.

Is this what happens when we put a C- student, a frat-boy sociopath, a man terminally afflicted with LDS, in the White House? Ya think?

I'm going out to weed the yard. Meanwhile, I wish someone would drain Washington of all its testosterone (and that includes you, Condi).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blackwater II: Armed Wing of the Bush Administration

Blackwater: Shadow Army

Revisiting National Disasters

We're a very strange country. I wrote this during the Virginia Tech shooting massacre and still think it's worth considering.

I'm appalled by the massacre at Virginia Tech. I grieve with Blacksburg and the Hokies, and for our nation, which, to paraphrase Jack Cafferty, seems to have a monopoly on campus massacres.

Maybe I'm projecting, but I have to think that, as the days grind on, the sympathetic focus on the horror at Virginia Tech must be difficult for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. That is, the relentless spotlight, all but totally decontextualized, on the slayings of 33 people must be doubly painful for residents of a region whose losses numbered in the thousands.

I mean that since the folk in New Orleans and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are as capable as the rest of us of selfless grief and feelings of horror, I know they are joined with the rest of us in shocked outrage and deep sympathetic concern.
Yet I can't see how they can help but contrast the outpouring of unalloyed compassion directed at VA Tech, the national rally to find prevention protocols, and the President's instant come-a-callin' sympathy, with the nation's cheap, mean-spirited, and hostile reaction to the people drowned by the levee failure and wiped out on the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina.

We're a very strange country. No flags flew half-staffed for New Orleans, Gulfport, or Pass Christian--not that I recall, anyway.

I'm not saying that the response to VA Tech is inappropriate. I'm saying that the nation’s response to Katrina was and continues to be grotesque, shabby, scolding, and parsimonious, to put it mildly.

Questions wander in my mind, each one trailing unthinkable implications about competence, negligence, political affiliation, class, race, social position, power, fraud, and profiteering. Questions whose answers don't necessarily align neatly. Questions that just won’t go away.

I write in hopes that there are others who have not forgotten, and who are willing to shine a relentless spotlight on our Gulf South until we respond with dignity, justice, and compassion.

Massacres are horrible whether they're engineered by bad levees or by messed-up boys with pistols. National tragedies are national tragedies whether they’re man-made or weather-born. In the end, it isn't the cause or even the magnitude of a disaster that defines it in our national memory. It's what we do for the survivors.

I wonder what kind of people we are that we will not ensure our own children a safe and affordable education, and that we have not ensured that our own fellow citizens are at least made whole in housing and safe in civil infrastructure.

There are some things a decent people just do.

We aren't doing them. We're a very strange people.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ban the Deed, Not the Breed

I’m on a roll tonight.

Apparently, when somebody today punches the “be very afraid” button, Americans turn into total cowards (known in the dog world as “fear biters”). We abandon all discretion, give up our powers of discernment, and nail whatever moves.

As on the wiretapping and war-making fronts, Americans are struggling with our fear factor in the matter of dogs, and here again, panic has set in.

Just as half the country (it seems) supports racial profiling and expelling every undocumented worker in the country, so half supports exiling dogs of so-called “dangerous breeds.” (Bizarrely enough, it may not be the same half.)

That is what happened in Denver, when that city passed a comprehensive ban on dogs known as “pit bulls.” No exceptions and no allowance for the fact that there’s no such breed but several breeds that look kind of like a “pit bull.” If it’s a case of mistaken identity, that’s too bad. Worse still, there was no “grandfather clause” to protect highly socialized family dogs with not so much as a growl on the record. When the ban kicked in, animal control officers ripped all registered “pit bulls” from their owners’ arms, took them away, and in most cases, exterminated them. (Note the irony: Only the dogs of responsible owners are registered with animal control. The problem, however, is with irresponsible owners whose dogs are never registered.)

Anyway, no such thing as innocent until proved guilty for “pit bulls,” and, increasingly, any breed perceived (key word: perceived) to be “inherently dangerous.”

Maybe Michael Vick has done at least one good thing in his sorry life, inadvertently though it may be. His “celebrity” involvement in dog fighting has hiked the “pit bull” into mainstream consciousness and not just as a brute. As an unwitting victim.

Maybe the Vick dogs will get it through the fear-seared brains of breed banners that it’s not the breed, it’s the deed.

Maybe now, anybody with two brain cells to rub together will see that vicious dogs are made. And if they are made, this must mean that they aren’t necessarily born dangerous.

I think there are two reasonable caveats: (1) Dogs from lines bred for fighting are dangerous, regardless of breed. And (2) breeders who can’t document the sound temperament and good health of several generations of their stock should not be patronized. It doesn’t really matter which breed. This is just common sense.

The issue, clearly, isn’t breed. It’s always irresponsible owners, and responsibility begins with the breeder. We already know the drill. Abused children grow up to be abusers. Abused puppies grow up to be dangerous to their families and to others.

Since terms like “backyard breeders” and “puppy mills” are tough to define and seen as code words for partisans in a bigger war, let me put it this way: Responsible breeders test for health and breed for temperament. This is expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes heartbreaking, but it is the cost of doing business for responsible dog breeders.

People who do not test for health (see the diseases common for your breed) and cannot certify the temperament and stability of their dogs back through several generations (temperament generally means situation-appropriate behavior, with emphasis on restraint and non-violence) should not be patronized. Period. Caveat emptor.

Some say that’s not sufficient. Punishing the deed, they say, is too late.

Not in the context of US law, it isn’t, and for good reason. Murder laws punish murderers. In other words, even though we know that there’s a vastly higher incidence of murder among humans than of fatal attacks among dogs, we don’t ban all humans based on that incidence. We “ban” (incarcerate) only the humans who actually commit murder. The approach means that some people are killed, but it also means that innocent people (most of us) aren’t unjustly punished.

It’s a trade-off that civilized people have chosen to make. In my world, the logical parallel is that banning entire breeds is just not something a civilized people chooses to do.

Clearly, the culprit is the irresponsible, cruel, and ignorant dog owner. The incentive for breeding or owning a dog from a dangerous line varies from person to person. Such incentives may sometimes point to probable offenders, and thus to deterrence. Drug dealers want turf protection. Gamblers want bloodlines, champion dogs, and winnings. Ordinary, garden-variety people want protection for threatened residences. Education may work for some of the latter. Patrolling and criminal investigation may work for the former.

Those are the directions to pursue. Educating the public about breeds and their distinct needs, and about what responsible dog ownership entails, is imperative. Subsidizing shelters and spay/neuter clinics, and enlisting the world of dog professionals to help in public education and training and obedience clinics, and branding dog fighting and dog abuse as traits of cowards are the paths that a civilized society could take to address the phenomenon of dangerous dogs.

Wake-Up Call: Neo-Cons, the Reptilian Cortex, and Iran

This week, the 100th monkey seems to have woken up. From Jane Smiley to Naomi Klein to Drew Westin at Emory University, to Gary Kamiya at Salon, to researchers at NYU and UCLA, everyone seems to be getting the big picture. There’s something that links such developments as privatization, Katrina, Iraq, outsourcing, the unitary presidency, and even the GOP campaign style in a brutish, evil whole. Unless we all wake up, it may end up eating the world as we know it.

Underneath it all, neo-conservatism’s entire ideological smorgasbord--economics, domestic policy, and global domination--is pure Hobbes. All its themes are present there: constant war [war on “terror”], selfish individualism [privatization, dismantled social safety net, market deregulation], fear of violent death [our daily mantra], and a monarch above the law [King George].

The specific issue doesn’t matter. Hysteria R Us: over Al Qaeda, immigration, gay marriage, universal health care, Katrina, God in the public square. Take any of them, boil it down, and the neo-conservative response is obvious: take or be taken, kill or be killed.

This is clear even in the prevailing commentary. Everything is presented as if there are only two options: premature withdrawal or stay the course; invasion or a border wall; sanctity of marriage or demise of civilization; fight them there or fight them here.

Where did this collective panic come from?

The rise of conservatism in the US is not about nostalgia for an airbrushed 1950s. It’s not even about 9/11. It goes so much deeper. Like islanders in a dying culture, we are living within a crumbling global order and we know it. Look around. Everything we thought we knew for sure is gone or in doubt. Heaven, the weather, polar bears, public trust, US invincibility, borders, the American Dream, gender roles, even, mein Gott im himmel!, gender itself.

The things we once thought were immutable are not. Confusion is everywhere. Terra is not firma.

Now more than ever, we need anchors. And this is neo-conservativism’s taproot. Lacking anchors, every threat—perceived or real—looms dire, lethal, and immediate, like Iran’s nuclear capability. Like Saddam’s alleged WMDs. There is no time to think. Ready? Shoot! Aim!

America’s got HOS (Hobbes on Steroids), and we are behaving frighteningly like Germany pre-WWII. When terror, humiliation, and confusion predominate, then as now, the default human response is unquestionably atavistic and instinctual. Individually, we try to tamp down the rising panic with food, booze, drugs, sex, spas, shopping, and speaking in tongues. Nationally, we use bigger guns.

It is as if 9/11 finished off our capacity to foresee the consequences of our own behavior. It appears to have reduced our country to a left brain—-rational, uncharismatic, and effete [Al Gore]--and a reptilian cortex--charismatic, savage, and lacking reason altogether [George Bush].

If you want to take it this far, the fall of the phallic Towers hit America where we live.

Weare panicked, but as Naomi Klein forces us to see, the neo-cons are not. They are poised and ready to impose a new order. Alongside the quest for oil-—itself a throw-back--this is the reason for the war on Iraq, for the appalling drama BushCo served up in New Orleans, for the constant reiteration of 9/11, for the rising drumbeat about Iran’s nuclear power, and for their doing nothing at all to stem global warming and everything to make it worse.

The constant harping on of, and invitation to, cataclysmic terror isn’t just about the war or even domestic intelligence. Sustaining our panic is about acclimating us to a shockingly regressive government that will be brutal and rapacious whenever it chooses to be. As long as we are terrorized, we will submit.

That is why, in six years, the flood of books, editorials, op-eds, blogs, protests, revelations, and lawsuits against them have not even dented Bushco. The rational left brain, represented by moderates and progressives, is being trounced by the reptilian cortex, represented by neo-cons and fundamentalists because we are panicked.

Until the zeitgeist changes and the terror passes, or until we awake to the catastrophes we are causing in our adrenalin-testosterone toxicity, we are unlikely to alter course. We will accept a fascist dictatorship, we will enable a neo-Hitlerian global imperialism, and we will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons on Iran. This is the Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush wet dream. It needn't be ours.

Wake up, everybody. Now. Please.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

He's a Day Late, We're a Trillion Short

I'm tired of old men who wait until their fortunes are secure before protecting their fellow citizens and ensuring the security of their country.

Fron "Sad Alan's Lament"
By Paul Krugman, New York Times:

When President Bush first took office, it seemed unlikely that he would succeed in getting his proposed tax cuts enacted. The questionable nature of his installation in the White House seemed to leave him in a weak political position, while the Senate was evenly balanced between the parties. It was hard to see how a huge, controversial tax cut, which delivered most of its benefits to a wealthy elite, could get through Congress.

Then Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, testified before the Senate Budget Committee.

Until then Mr. Greenspan had presented himself as the voice of fiscal responsibility, warning the Clinton administration not to endanger its hard-won budget surpluses. But now Republicans held the White House, and the Greenspan who appeared before the Budget Committee was a very different man.

Suddenly, his greatest concern — the "emerging key fiscal policy need," he told Congress — was to avert the threat that the federal government might actually pay off all its debt. To avoid this awful outcome, he advocated tax cuts. And the floodgates were opened.

As it turns out, Mr. Greenspan's fears that the federal government would quickly pay off its debt were, shall we say, exaggerated. And Mr. Greenspan has just published a book in which he castigates the Bush administration for its fiscal irresponsibility.

Well, I'm sorry, but that criticism comes six years late and a trillion dollars short.

Mr. Greenspan now says that he didn't mean to give the Bush tax cuts a green light, and that he was surprised at the political reaction to his remarks. There were, indeed, rumors at the time — which Mr. Greenspan now says were true — that the Fed chairman was upset about the response to his initial statement.

But the fact is that if Mr. Greenspan wasn't intending to lend crucial support to the Bush tax cuts, he had ample opportunity to set the record straight when it could have made a difference.

K-Ville: Pro-Fascist Propaganda?

Propaganda may be tolerable enough when we know its goals up front and can recognize propaganda for what it is. We still have our powers of reason and refusal then. It’s another matter when we don’t even know we’re being manipulated and haven’t been told the agenda.

But against the backdrop of unauthorized domestic wiretapping, unitary presidents, domestic detention centers, acknowledged FBI harassment of anti-war protesters, disappeared dissenting soldiers, and sanctioned torture, propaganda is far more sinister, especially when its agenda is to accustom Americans to subvert our own Constitution

This is the context for K-ville, a new Fox series about post-Katrina New Orleans that premiers on Monday, September 17. Read Jordan Flaherty’s excellent heads-up on this subject at Dissident Voices.

"The Second Coming"

The drumbeats are quickening about a pending US attack on Iran and a recent, mysterious Israeli attack on Syria. All that I'm fit to think, Yeats said best many years ago:

"The Second Coming"

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Stop Calling Bush "Delusional"

He may be pathological, but whatever he is, he's a traitor, a liar, and a thief. He has raped the Constitution he swore to uphold, protect, and defend. He has repeatedly lied, and lied, and lied, to us and to the world. And the sole purpose of the war and his domestic policy is to enrich himself and his cronies.

If, after the last six years and all the accumulated evidence readily available to you, you still have doubts, then let me say this, as nicely as I can: There are smelts who are smarter than you.

Start calling him, his administration, and the party that enables him what they are: traitors, liars, and thieves. War profiteers, shock-doctrine storm troopers, neo-Nazi racists, thugs, and mass-murderers. War criminals, defrauders of the American people and the commonwealth, global environmental toxins, and world rapers.

Pray for peace at this weekend's Washington protest. Pray for guidance on how to end this march of travesty. Pray for courage and clarity and the will to restore our values, our country, and our planet.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Iraq: Truth and Consequences

This is, indeed, in the President’s opening words, “a moment that decides the direction of a country and reveals the character of its people.”

In its way, the speech was moving. An American could hardly help but thrill to the prospects it outlined.

If only it had been true!

From the mysterious 36 nations, to the assertion of oil revenue-sharing, to the “real improvements in Iraqi daily life,” to our being asked to stay but by a government we installed, to the assertion that “this is a way forward we can all agree on” – this was a fiction delivered by a man who is used to lying without footprints, without challenge.

It was, indeed, bizarre.

The test of our national character is whether we will permit the lies to stand. Will we, as a nation, be complicit in the panicked fantasy of a man whose sole objective is not to be the President who loses this war?

First, two facts.

One, this war was lost the day this President ordered it, and a body of commentary from the Left and from moderates exists to prove that the outcome was predicted time and time again by people who live in the real world.

Two, our kids must not be asked to sacrifice life, limb, happiness, and sanity in order to protect a man and a party from the just consequences of a disastrous willed policy.

If we fail to draw that sacred line, the delusion and the train of lies and losses it will necessitate, become our own.

Bush looked like Alfred E. Neuman tonight, too small for his desk, eyes riveted on a script. He looked the part of a shoe salesman hiding behind a general -- an ambitious and duplicitous general, but a general nonetheless. He looked the part of a man with a small mission bought at a great price: to save himself at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and American lives.

This is indeed a moment that decides the direction of a nation. Will it be toward rooting out jihadists at home and abroad, or will it be toward perpetuating a catastrophe in order to perpetuate profiteering, corruption, and war?

This is indeed a moment that decides the character of a people? What do we stand for, America?

On Iraq, the Creds Belong to Michael Ware

In my opinion, only the CNN corresponent in Iraq, the Australian journalist Michael Ware, is speaking credibly. He's there, he's experienced, he does his homework, he tells it like it is, and he doesn't have an ax to grind.

There are consequences for invading Iraq, and one of them is that there will be no easy or quick way out.

Whether we like it or not, Iraq is a bleeding ground and a training ground for Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda was not in Iraq before we invaded.

Al Qaeda lives for pressure.
You recall that we announced that we would go into Iraq alone, if need be. At that point,we guaranteed that we'd go in alone. What incentive did France, Germany, and the rest have to spend their kids' lives and treasure if we were willing to do it all?

Similarly, though I've never heard anyone point it out, Iraq has nothing whatsoever to gain from standing up as long as we're willing to do the heavy lifting. As long as we stand up, Iraq will sit down. End of story.

I'm with Cafferty this far: We've been jerked around.

OBut he and Wolf and Chris and everyone else continue pushing the fiction that the Democrats in Congress alone can do something about this mess. That's a lie. The Democrats are pretty much in line. The pressure should be on the swing-votes in the GOP. Fact.

Pressure the Swing Voters in the Senate to Get Us Out of Iraq

From Essentially Contested America, these words of wisdom:

The right question, perhaps the only critical question--one ECA has asked several times in the past year--is when will Republicans Senators depart from their perfunctory support of Mr. Bush's catastrophically failed war policy. And which Republicans will have the courage to do so. Check out the following piece exploring this issue. Check out the entire piece, but here's the challenge: "That's the question that these 12 GOP Senators must be faced with repeatedly--will you keep us in Iraq for at least 10 more years and send over the next generation of our kids? Or will you vote with Democrats to end the destabilizing occupation?" According to the piece here are the likely Republican Senators who will finally substitute reason for madness: Alexander (Tenn.), Coleman (Minn.), Domenici (N.M., Lugar, (Ind.), McConnell (KY.), Murkowski (Alaska, Sessions (Ala.), Specter (Penn.), Sununu (N.H.), Warner (VA.), Voinivich (Ohio), and possibly Dole (N.C.). Profiles in courage? Probably not.

These, therefore, are the enablers, the swingvote-Senators to pressure. NOW.

A Site to Love

Digital Resistance

Expected Gonzales Replacement, Ted Olsen, Author of Plan to Neuter Congress

While we're on the subject of a White House bent on taking Congress (the people's branch) out of the Constitution, kudos to KragoX at The Next Hurrah for some great shovel work on the ongoing effort by the GOP to enthrone an emperor in the White House:

Who was the White House counsel who devised the plan? Fred Fielding. Yes, the same.

Fielding's assistant in running the gambit? Well, he's now Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts. Yes, the same.

Again, the aim of the plan? To neuter the ability of Congress to enforce its oversight powers against the executive branch.

And who established this plan as administration policy by authoring a 1984 memo as head of the Office of Legal Counsel? Ted Olson. Yes, the same.

How much more of a pattern do the Senators need to see, do you think?

Why would any Senator in his or her right mind vote to confirm as the new Attorney General one of the three chief architects of the plan to render them powerless?

Ted Olsen is expected to be Bush's nominee to replace Gonzales at Justice. Nice.

Call Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid NOW

A phone call is worth much more than a fax or email. Say you're calling in their capacity as Speaker or Senate Majority Leader, and express strong opposition to (1) a permanent US presence in Iraq, and (2)Bush's usurpation of the authorities of Congress. Demand withdrawal from Iraq and impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

The office of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi

Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-0100

Office of Senate Majority Leader Reid

Senator Harry Reid
528 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3542 / Fax: 202-224-7327
Toll Free for Nevadans: 1-866-SEN-REID (736-7343) -Restricted to calls originating from area codes 775 and 702

US to Have Permanent Presence in Iraq? Not "No," HELL NO!

Sources on the Left have been saying for YEARS that Bush's intention was to establish a permanent presence in Iraq. It's about the oil, disaster capitalism, war profiteering, and neo-imperialism.

The only surprise is that King George is telling us about it--now, six years late.

Chris Matthews, cut the wide-eyed, chin-dropping BS. Who the hell didn't know this? The only surprise is that King George is telling us about it--now, six years late.

We've known about permament air bases and the world's largest embassy installation for ages. The latter was a public story a year ago:

Updated: 2:45 p.m. MT April 14, 2006
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq’s turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

“We can’t talk about it. Security reasons,” Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.

If you didn't see this coming, you've been asleep.

Where we stand: IF Congress has any guts at all, we are in a constitutional crisis. The President does not have unilateral authority to commit this country to a Korea-like marriage without the consent of Congress. If Congress does not draw the line in the sand now, we have a monarchy. It's one or the other.

This sure ups the ante for the September 15 march in Washington.

Time to call Pelosi and Reid. This is about the Democratic leadership in Congress, first, and then it's about pressuring the swing vote in the GOP. Get on the horn, people.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Border, The People, The Questions: Part II

This is the second in a two-part reflection on the "border crisis." First, from the introduction to Part I:

A lack of solid information has never stopped an American from forming an unshakeable conviction, and so it is on the question, what to do about the border with Mexico.

I don’t know how the "border crisis" will end or even whether it will end. I do know that NAFTA and CAFTA are making it worse for Mexico and Central America and for us. I do know that keeping our focus exclusively on illegal immigration keeps our attention off the far greater threat of privatization, disaster capitalism, and the flagrant disinvestment of major US corporations in the future of America.

I also know that cries for a border wall and protestations of national sovereignty are too often made by people who've never been southwest of Cincinnati--often the same people who support invading Iraq and taking its oil because our need makes us entitled to it.

For me, attacking people who have the guts to walk across this killer desert to pursue hopes their leaders and ours have made unrealizable at home, is just wrong. Even the rhetoric we use distances us from our capacity for empathy and thus from the conviction to pursue a truly just and lasting solution. These aren’t “illegals.” They, like us, are dreams incarnate. For more, see Part I, previously posted, and continue here with Part II.

Part II

If you’ve seen Babel, you have only a slight idea of the hazards of this desert. Adriana Barraza’s breathtaking performance as Amelia, the nanny, takes us into the risks only as far as the dangers of less than a day’s relentless sun and disorienting dehydration.

The fact is that for many, the journey from the border to a life and a job somewhere in America takes many days through rugged terrain shared with rattlers, scorpions, spiders. And that’s not counting the journey to get tothe border.

There are also cactus of many kinds, whose every barb is may be covered in bacteria that rachet up the pain. This land is unforgiving even in cool weather. In summer, the heat is simply incomprehensible. You can read figures like 106° or 110° and 116°, but unless you’ve experienced this heat without shade, and felt it reflected back again from desert rock, you have no idea.

The media spotlight small bands of young men, mostly, but increasingly, the volunteers at Humane Borders see young single women, teens, and younger adolescents traveling alone, without a single adult male guardian. They tell us that least 75% of these women have been raped at least once on their journey north.

These little bands, some with babies, cannot be prepared. Water weighs too much, and other things have to be brought along, or else are wanted.

It’s clear where they’ve passed. They leave signatures, trails of discarded backpacks, broken sandals and shoes, empty water jugs, “personal items such as photos, Bibles, love letters, tooth brushes, soccer cards, wallets” [Emily Dechamps, Humane Borders medical volunteer, in Desert Fountain, August 9, 2007.], the occasional cell phone. Incredibly, sometimes they leave “strollers and bicycles, artifacts of efforts to ease the journey by people who’ve been lied to about what they’re in for. We know from interviews that the coyotes often promise just an easy day’s walk, and discourage the people from carrying more than a gallon of water or two at most.” [The Rev. Liana Rowe, Humane Borders volunteer coordinator for Phoenix, AZ. Personal communication.]

Soiled diapers, tampons, toilet paper, and human feces lie where they fell. So do severely injured people with bloody, blistered, and sometimes broken feet, flesh torn by cactus and scrub, eyes glazed in the last stages of dehydration. So do bodies. From the vantage of the border towns, these aren’t fit challenges for neighborhoods.

Sometimes the immigrants come by car or truck, and often there are fatal accidents:
This time, he is twenty-two. . . . Jose's body is incredibly swollen-- you have to pry his eyes open to check his pupils. His body is in severe shock. His intracranial pressure is too high--so high, his low blood pressure can't overcome it to get oxygen rich blood to his brain. There are many signs now that his brain is no longer working. [Emily Dechamps, Humane Borders medical volunteer, Desert Fountain, August 9, 2007]

What makes a person take on this journey? Two things: Hope and desperation. Such incentives won’t be countered with checkpoints, guns, and fences or by unrelenting sun, and snakes and cactus spines.

If it were up to me, I’d welcome those who want to be here so badly, for this is the human spirit we’re talking about, with faith, guts, stamina, and vision to match its aspirations and needs. Isn't this what we want in our gene pool? These qualities don’t just bloom north of the border. They’re universal. What you see running, walking, or lying dead or half-dead in the desert isn’t “an illegal.” That’s a person. That’s a dream incarnate.
Details emerge, gathered from fellow travelers and emergency reports. There were eleven people in the van. They were newly arrived in our country, and all here illegally. He has four children back in Mexico. He was coming to fund dreams, dreams like school that require uniforms and books. We have no idea how to find and contact his family. He is going to die soon. The search begins in earnest when organ donation services come for a screening. Finally, some progress is made. Our phone starts to ring, people asking questions in Spanish. Where do we start?

They won't be able to come see him. They live too far away. Buses don't travel fast enough, and they cannot buy plane tickets. We will ship his body back to Mexico. The sadness along our border grows and grows, and some days I can actually feel the divide between us growing wider too. [Emily Dechamps, Desert Fountain, August 9, 2007]

All of us can empathize. After all, we’re a nation of immigrants, a nation of pioneer settlers who once made similar journeys, once transgressed other people’s boundaries pursuing dreams. The difference between these men and women and the pioneer heroes we love to celebrate is language and net worth. One difference between then and now is that now it’s what we call our turf that’s being transgressed. We’re afraid they might be “getting over,” getting something for free. The other difference is that then, our culture emphasized the “can-do” spirit, the viability of “the American Dream.” Today, it emphasizes alien threats and terrorists, and we are so easily frightened. From a country that formerly invited foreigners here to work and afraid of nothing, we’ve become a country afraid of everything.

And yet. If I lived in Douglas or Tubac or Green Valley or somewhere in Patagonia pursuing my dream--a ranch, a double-wide, retirement, whatever--I would be angry, too. I wouldn’t have asked to be afraid of being robbed and beaten by coyotes and drug smugglers in my own home. For my yard to be a public toilet. For streams of immigrants whispering past my house all hours of the night the whole year long. I wouldn’t have asked to be afraid to hike in my mountains, or picnic in canyons where hummingbirds flock, for fear of armed smugglers. I would be furious “at finding my cattle dead from ingesting plastic bags” [The Rev. Liana Rowe, personal communication] and fed up with fixing fences and water lines and trying to protect my family from that filth. I would be sick of being afraid and angry. I would think, “My government should protect me. It just should.” My stock of compassion would run dry pretty damn quick. I might even welcome the Minutemen to take shots at “illegals” on my land.

This isn’t easy to get your mind around, much less to resolve. And I haven't even talked about the drug-smuggling.

I don’t know how it will or can end, but I do know that NAFTA and CAFTA aren’t helping. Besides killing off small Mexican farms that once provided a good living for people growing and exporting fruit or vegetables,
such trade polices have destroyed Mexico’s previously healthy 5-6% annual GDP. Besides not supporting a vigorous border-side factory economy, NAFTA and CAFTA have dealt a double blow.

After all, it was those promised border factories--maquiladoras--that often attracted folk from up from the Mexican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran interiors to border towns like Nogales in the first place. But when they finally arrive, they learn that over half the factories built in response to NAFTA have closed, their jobs outsourced--guess where--to Asia.

The increased revenue that was promised to upgrade factory infrastructure isn’t going to that purpose either. Now it lines the pockets of corrupt oligarchs in Mexico City and New York City--the CEOs of and majority shareholders in the multinationals. Meanwhile, immigrant workers, the poorest of the poor, are left with little choice but to keep heading north, to another promised land. While they wait for their chance to cross the border, they lug their water up steep hills, and use buckets for outhouses. [The Rev. Liana Rowe, personal communication]

Our red-faced countrymen shown on the news protesting “illegals” sincerely believe they know what’s best. It seems so simple: Build a wall. Call out the Guard. Told over and over again that their jobs are being stolen by “cheap foreign labor” and that their culture is being undermined, they’re understandably angry. In an economy where 4,000 jobs were lost last month and word is that we’re heading for a recession, you can hardly blame them for fearing “amnesty” and “guest worker” programs.

These days we all seem to need something to be angry at, and a lowly Mexican upstart is tangible, powerless, and here. Better still, we can justify our outrage: Whether there’s any justice in it or not, he’s “illegal.” It’s harder to target and harder to mobilize around something so remote and intimidating as “trade policies,” and the oligarchs and politicians behind them have way more power. We prefer to take the line of least resistance. Shit rolls downhill.

In reality, the US picketers were angry even in the boom times. That tells me this is about more than job security. Though they insist that their anger isn’t about race, ethnicity, for some it most surely is. Pat Buchanan is but the best-known of the Anglo-First view of the United States--ironic, because if anyone, an Irish Catholic should have learned something from the anti-Catholic, anti-poor xenophobia that confronted his own ancestors.

Yet we’re told again and again that an “invasion” is occurring. No wonder we’re upset. Lou Dobbs and others like him use rhetoric to gin up our paranoia and outrage today, just as it did during the Potato Famine. It’s instinctual to grab onto what’s ours, instinctual to defend it. Save the babies and the beadwork. Grab the guns.

But the fact is, most Mexican and Central American workers here would rather go home. They want to live in their own homelands, and those who hold green cards return whenever they can and in the end go home to stay. So wouldn’t it make more sense to invite them as guest workers and to encourage their success in strengthening the economies of their own communities back home? Well, duh.

And then there are those who “were brought here as young children by their parents. This is their home. Many of them don’t speak the old language and/or have no family or support system in their presumed country of origin.” [The Rev. Liana Rowe, personal communication] That’s a whole different kettle of fish, isn’t it? Our vaunted “family values” bump smack into our bigotries. It’s easy to see which is more important to whom.

Bottom line: Most American job losses aren’t due to illegal immigrants at all. We’re just being told that. For some reason, it seems important to keep us focused on the border and not on those who are benefiting from elaborate international trade agreements and the outsourcing of the promise of "America."
The bulk of factory and middle class jobs lost seem to be lost because of outsourcing, not lost to immigrants coming here to take them. The only ‘citizen’ workers impacted by this influx of low to unskilled labor are the teenagers, and I truly have yet to meet a US-born teenager who would opt for 12 hours a day bent over in 112 degree heat in the chile fields in New Mexico or broccoli fields south of Yuma. [The Rev. Liana Rowe, personal communication]

The border crisis is real, but its causes aren’t little bands of desperate people looking for a better life. Its causes are rooted in labor and economic systems that exploit people and countries, that export jobs to the lowest bidder, and that route 90% of profit to the top 1% of people. This is a recipe for disequilibrium and despair, and the bitter meal is being served as we speak.

I don’t know where the answers lie. I surely don’t hold much hope that multinationals and the presidents they install will do much to get to the bottom of this. I’m afraid that like every other gargantuan problem facing us, resolution comes down to individual human hearts and minds, to get informed, search for the truth in all its complexity, and respond accordingly.

Added September 17, 2007: Mesa, AZ hiker dies on 8-mile hike

See Part I.