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Truth To Power

the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must

Archive for October, 2011

“The Iraq war is mine, yours, ours”…Not so fast.

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Henry David Thoreau was jailed in 1846 due in part to his refusal to pay a poll tax, because of its use in funding the Mexican-American War. From this experience he wrote The Rights and Duties of the Individual in relation to Government or as it is known today, Civil Disobedience. I wonder what Thoreau would have to say about this CNN op-ed, by Paul Rieckhoff, Iraq veteran, and the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, entitled The Iraq war is mine, yours, ours. In it Rieckhoff writes:

Whether one agreed with the Iraq war or not, we all own it now. That’s how our country works. Every single brave man and woman who wore the uniform overseas went over there wearing the American flag, representing us and our nation’s ideals.

I’m not Thoreau, just someone touched by his message. I find it reprehensible the statement “…representing us and our nation’s ideals.” My ideals do not include the invasion of a country based on lies. My ideals don’t involve regime change based on the whims of defense contractors. My ideals -and my flag- don’t include murdering innocents because of their religion and/or their geographic relationship to oil. My ideals cannot tolerate Abu Ghraib, the war crimes of Fallujah, or the endless destruction and loss of life that our debacle in Iraq continues to cause.

In Civil Disobedience Thoreau writes:

How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answered that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.

162 years later, and the disgrace continues. There is no reason to debate the Iraq war again. It was a mistake, a tragedy, and a farce- but I had nothing to do with it, because I had no input in the decision. I voted for no one who wanted to continue it, I marched against it before it began, and I wrote about the horrors and the depravity as it was on going. As much I as could- short of not paying my taxes- I resisted. When I see the “Support Our Troops” stickers I cringe. For those who were forced by our economic system of inequality to enlist, and then suffered brain injury and more because of it, I can understand, somewhat, the rational behind the action, and I feel for you.

But those who convinced themselves that “America’s Way Of Life” needed defending in the sands of some Middle East desert by waging a war against Islam and any other dark-skinned people we could find, fuck that. My nation’s way of life wasn’t impacted – except in the propagandist media – by Iraq. No one sent a scud or piloted a drone remotely so I could vote. Or exercise my free speech. Iraq didn’t threaten me or my country, and anyone who says different is either paid to say it, or a stooge for American Exceptionism, which is even worse. In fact, I’m 49 years old, and no war fought by my country in my lifetime has been a legitimate use of the American war machine. Not Vietnam, not Iraq, not Afghanistan. They were fought because men made money doing it. No other reason. So Paul Rieckhoff, you can keep the war. You made it possible, I didn’t. You made a salary fighting it, I didn’t.

Thoreau said: Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.

It’s not my war.

When wrong doesn’t matter

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Everybody knows at least one. A friend or family member who forwards you ridiculous emails, generally about one world government or Obama taking your guns away- he’s not, btw- or posts equally stupid crap on Facebook that makes you, by association in public, appear to be in solidarity with whatever nonsense their fevered brains cook up between World Nut Daily and Fox “News”. You can delete the emails or turn off their wall in Facebook, but still it leaks through. You can attempt to reply, but the true believers will never be convinced by mere facts, not when “FREEDOM!” or “LIBERTY!” is at stake- and they eventually make every argument boil down to that. For example, Michelle Obama wants to take away your breadsticks, don’t ya know? Probably the first step in the Obama plan of having us eat Soylent Green. You can go on and on, but I have to keep my blood pressure low, so I won’t.

But one of the most infuriating biases you run up against is the conservative manta that global warming or climate change is all a big hoax meant not to save the planet from its most meddlesome inhabitants, but rather a cunningly devised scheme to ban capitalism. Not that capitalism doesn’t deserve it, in a way- eat any shrimp from the Gulf recently? But any mention of cap and trade, or increasing car mileage standards gets the Hannity’s and the Cato Institute in a uproar, and they go on for hours about “evil liberals” and their “environmental activism” that is ruining life here in “…the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth.” Now, I recycle and drive a hybrid, so apparently I too want to ban capitalism, by their fractured logic. Funny, I thought I did it to actually reduce my impact on the world. Gosh, I’ve been duped by those evil treehuggers!

Earlier in the week a friend posted this:

with “The picture says it all…” atop it. Now, the gist of the picture is that anytime large amounts of “liberals” get together, they trash the place. You heard the same charge after protesters filled the Wisconsin capital, and it was equally erroneous. The picture above, near as I can tell, is the aftermath of Occupy Oakland, after the police fired upon non-violent protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. When you’re running for your life, you don’t have time to take down your tent. The police did that for you, after the park was cleared, by flattening the protesters personal property in a “search for contraband”. So much for the “picture says it all”- as long as the image can be used for propaganda, it will.

Well here’s an image that Sean Hannity won’t like:

That’s Miami. See, to some Floridians, climate change isn’t a myth, its actually happening in their front yards:

“Kipness says he never saw such flooding until a decade ago, but now sees it up to twice a day during the fall, when tides are especially high. He says he’s watched the undersides of $100,000 cars get rusted away by salt water.

This happens, many experts say, because of rising sea levels attributed to the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. We can expect to see more of the same across South Florida in the coming years, as a warming climate accelerates the faraway melting. Researchers are just now beginning to grapple with what this will mean for the inner workings of the city.”

Cable news was all over the “climategate” myth, all smug and self-righteous that they had vindication of a hoax. But when Richard Muller, a former “skeptic” on climate change published “The Case Against Global-Warming Skepticism” in the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Show found that the 24 hours a day cable news organizations could only devote 27 seconds to the piece. Doesn’t matter the damage they did trumpeting disinformation, just so long as their rhetoric continued. Who cares about the facts? In an age where human beings are undoubtedly the most educated they have ever been, we still have to suffer from religious extremists “debating” evolution, or quoting fairy tales from a book of mythology to deny gay rights. Facts are open to bidding- and the Murdoch’s of the world, they have deep pockets. Maybe when the underside of their Mercedes gets rusted from saltwater in South Beach, they’ll come around.

Of course, then it’s most likely too late.

After 44 years, finally a discussion

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Delivered 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

King made that remark in a speech entitled Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence. And now, 44 years later, we have arrived at a point in our history where we have finally been forced to confront that edifice. The month-long Occupy Wall Street movement has already achieved more than we could hope, simply by raising the point. The point that government has failed us, big business has abandoned us, and that for the majority of people in this world, life is a narrow straightjacket of economic slavery. King was right, of course; we don’t need coins flung at us. Rather, the system where 400 people in the United States have wealth equal to the bottom 150,000,000 needs to change. Change because it is grotesquely unfair. Change because it is unsustainable.

The dynamic of capitalism is relentless growth, an ever-expanding pool of consumers. For a finite resource such as our planet, this is obviously impossible. We have long past reached the point of diminishing returns. No matter how cheaply you can make them, once everyone has a cell phone or a TV, you can’t sell anymore. The robber barons of Wall Street knew this long before the man in the street, that’s why they came up with default credit swaps and derivatives. They cost nothing but fictional money to produce, deliver vast returns when they work- and even more when they fail. Of course, only the 1% get anything from them. They are the ones who reap the rewards, adding more and more fictional money to their coffers, without producing a thing. The only time the entire arrangement is brought to the attention of the rest of us is when their irresponsible gambling has gone woefully sour and we have to bail them out. At this moment instead of watching Bank of America fail and their management team in jail, we’re about to pay up another 75 trillion because their 3 Card Monte scheme in Europe went belly up. No one but the 1% got anything out of this. Not one job (other than hedge fund managers) got created, not one factory was made, no bridges got repaired.

We have no idea how the OWS movement will end up- I suspect it won’t be pretty- but its a beginning. When people take their money out of the behemoth “too big to fail” banks- at the point of getting arrested– and put their savings in a local credit union, its a beginning. When people who can’t occupy Wall Street instead beginning addressed their concerns via Occupy the Boardroom and cause panic among the plutocracy, its a beginning. When the grotesque imbalance in the pay of CEOs versus the workers in this county results in the public shaming of these leeches instead of flattering reach-arounds on CNBC and Fox, its a beginning.

This is a discussion I never thought I would see in our country. When people are awaken to the truth they can do one of two things. They can ignore it and live their days in a comforting fog of unreality, or they become energized to make a change. I believe we are witnessing the dawn of some sort of evolution in our way of thinking, one that looks past short term gains for long term results. One that values school teachers more than the Chairman of the Board. Where people are not just wage slaves and consumers, but equals. I don’t expect this discussion to be done in my lifetime. And I suspect it will get messy- as Gandhi said First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you,… and we’ve seen the inklings of that already, with the fraudulent “We Are the 53%” movement– but remember how the quote ends:

Then you win.

It’s taken 44 years for America to “see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring”. How long will it take to find the answer? Who knows. But finally, we’re having the discussion.

Sad week to be a GOP voter

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

If you’re a GOP voter you’ll probably not look back in fondness at the first week of October. Everywhere you turn that demon reality smacks you yet again. First, Chris Christie says, for the 1000 time, that he’s not running for president. Not that he was a viable candidate; for all his “let them eat cake” attitude toward his citizens he shows a little too much sense when it comes to say gun control, immigration and climate change. The GOP, the party that believes science is a debating society certainly isn’t going to flock to a guy who says humans can affect the weather, surely you jest.

Then the hammer fell down on the legions of Facebook/Fox News devotees as Sarah Palin made it official, that she’s not running for president. As one wag said, now she can quit jobs she can’t even get. Not that she could have been elected; she polls in the single digits and outside of a green screen at Fox, she doesn’t exist. But I’m sure we’ve not see the last of her. Five minutes after Obama takes the oath again, she be back on Facebook spewing her own particular insipid vision and hawking whatever TV show or infomercial she has running.

Yes, I said Obama takes the oath again. The eventual GOP candidate is Mitt Romney, and he’s just a pale caricature of Obama himself. The biggest thing against Obama, to the minds of a GOP voter is the Affordable Heath Care act, and it was the brainchild of Mitt when he was Governor of Massachusetts. And I imagine that quip “Corporations are people too” will come back to bite him, as it should. The rest of the woeful crew- Cain, Perry, et al, well, they’re just too insignificant to matter. The only candidate polling better against Obama is “Unknown Republican”, meaning that any of the ones that are actually running are wasting their time. The guy who killed Bin Laden and quotes Ronald Reagan is going to be hard to beat down the stretch, and while the average GOP voter will hold their nose and cast a ballot for Romney, so will the Democratic base-whipped puppy that they are- vote for Obama.

The world has gone into mourning over the death of Apple visionary Steve Jobs, and you know, no matter how much they like their iphones, the attention given to such a liberal giant must be madding to the true believers of the GOP. He made his fortune not by government bailout or derivatives, but by making a product someone wants to buy. Take that, auto industry. The man hand-picked by Jobs to run Apple, Tim Cook? Gay. Take that, hate groups such as American Family and Pat Robertson.

And finally, Occupy Wall Street is growing, with labor unions, nurses and even veterans joining the cause. And don’t think it has nothing to do with you, loyal GOP voter. Sure, Herman Cain can call the protestors “anti-American“, but that’s because he, like his party, are beholden to greed. There is nothing more American than protest, and while I think in the end this drama will end poorly- Major Bloomberg is just itching for the chance to really call out the goon squads and protect his base-hell, you don’t think JP Morgan just gave them 4.5 million for nothing, do ya? No, this probably will not be our Arab Spring- but its a start. As any ’60s hippie can tell you, getting Maced in the face doesn’t make you go home- it makes you angry. And the last thing any GOP voter wants is a bunch of 20-somethings getting riled up- and going to the polls. Nope, the first week in October hasn’t been kind to the GOP, for as much has they try to run from it, reality eventually wins. What did Stephen Colbert say? Oh yeah.

Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Heh heh.