{ An Autopsy of Democracy }

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Quote of the week

"There's no reason why future generations of little Buffetts should command society just because they came from the right womb. Where's the justice in that?" -- Billionaire Warren Buffett

I'm trying now to recall if it was on the Daily Show or The Colbert Report, but one of them showed a clip of a press conference in which Bill Gates and Warren Buffet answered questions about their philanthropic efforts. And some very, very clever reporter asked something like, "What did your kids do wrong -- did they stay out past curfew or something?" Obviously implying that Buffet SHOULD, all else being equal, have given all his riches to his "heirs," his children. Buffet responded with something like, "I don't believe that in a just society someone should be rich simply because they happened to come out of a particular womb." (VERY rough paraphrase.)

Of course these sentiments are not new.

On the estate tax:

Question: Could you discuss your views on [the estate tax] and how you will allocate your wealth to your children?

Buffett: It really reflects my views on how a rich society should behave. If it werenÂ’t for this society, I wouldnÂ’t be rich. It wasnÂ’t all me. Imagine if you were one of a pair of identical twins and a genie came along and allowed you to bid on where you could be born. The money that you bid is how much you had to agree to give back to society, and the one who bids the most gets to be born in the US and the other in Bangladesh. You would bid a lot. It is a huge advantage to be born here.

There should be no divine right of the womb. My kids wouldnÂ’t go off and do nothing if I give them a lot of money, but if they did, that would be a tragedy. $30 billion will be generated from estate taxes, which will go to help pay for the war in Iraq and other things. If you take away the estate tax, that money will have to come from somewhere else. If not from estate taxes then you inherently get it from poorer citizens.

Less than 2% of estates will pay the estate tax. They would still have $50 million left over on average. I think those that get the lucky tickets should pay the most to the common causes of society. I believe in a big redistribution. Wealth is a bunch of claim checks that I can turn in for houses, etc. To pass those claim checks down to the next generation is the wrong approach.

But for those that think I am perpetuating the welfare state, consider if you are born to a rich parent. You get a whole bunch of stocks right at the beginning of your life, and thus you are sort of on a welfare state of support from your rich parents from the beginning. WhatÂ’s the difference?

Right on. (Emphasis mine.)

(A great film that offers perspective on this topic is "Born Rich".)

Perhaps the #1 reason the Republican Party is so completely corrupt, greedy and despicable can be seen in all its vile nakedness in their repeated, adamant attempts at repealing the "death tax." (It's still going on as I write this.)

What? There's actually a TAX on DEATH? That's an outrage! That's obscene! That's Big Government again trying to steal money from the Little Guy! That's SOCIALISM! The STATE continuing to aggregate MORE AND MORE POWER UNTO ITSELF!!!

Uhh . . . no. Actually, 1.) the estate tax began (this is relevant right now) because we were facing a world war, and our leaders thought maybe we should actually try to fucking PAY FOR IT. 2.) The ESTATE tax only affects those with a huge ESTATE (hence the name) -- that is, those with many millions (or Billions) or dollars in assets -- that is, less than 2% of the population. The greedy corrupt corporate whore Republican fascist bastards who favor the repeal of this tax like to lie about it (otherwise their efforts would be UNIVERSALLY condemned) by saying that "the government takes away Family Farms" and "the government takes away Small Businesses" with the DEATH Tax. Not a SINGLE CASE has been shown of a family farm or small business having to go under because of the estate tax. Not one. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Zip. None.

Let's repeat it once again: THEY'RE GREEDY FUCKING LIARS.



All right. To be less "political" (god forbid) and more fair-minded, I'll concede that IN AN IDEAL AND PERFECT WORLD (the "Free Market Utopia," as I call it -- which does not, can not, and never will exist, by the way), every person fully and completely deserves each and every penny which he or she has. He or she has earned it, and is entitled to do WHATEVER he or she pleases with it. If Buffet wants to buy an island, more power to him. If he wants to hold a giant bonfire on the White House lawn, to symbolize what George W. Bush is doing with our tax dollars, he has every right. If he wants to EAT the money, let him. If he wants to spend it on hookers and blow -- that's his right. He's earned it. If he wants to spend it on a WAR, let him -- it's his money. If he wants to pay homeless people vast sums of money for performing degrading acts, fine. If he WANTS to give it away the charity, fine . . . But THE GOVERNMENT cannot and should not FORCE him to do so.

O.K. I understand.

This is perfectly logical. Except for a couple of things.

1.) No man is an island. No one has succeeded without help.

If you went to public school, the government (WE) provided that. If you went to an expensive and exclusive PRIVATE school, SOMEONE paid for that -- not you. Furthermore, EVEN IF you were born poor, but brilliant -- and I commend and hold in high esteem anyone who has overcome great obstacles in order to achieve success against the odds -- presumably you were able to achieve this largely because of NATURAL GIFTS that you were born with -- NOT simply because you "decided to work hard."

Furthermore, much of the private wealth in this country was generated, and continues to be generated, through public subsidies -- and I'm not just talking about agriculture. Most of the aviation industry -- hell, MOST industries -- developed because of "national security" (and those "quotation marks" are important). We used to have a concept, as a society, of "the commons" -- things that we ALL own. The very concept of "The Corporation" only came into existence because we DECIDED, as a SOCIETY, to PERMIT -- the GRANT THE PRIVELEDGE TO -- a group of people to "incorporate" in order to provide a "PUBLIC SERVICE."

If we want an extremely hierarchical society (or Aristocracy), in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer every generation, if we want an oligarchy or serfdom -- which is precisely what the Revolutionary War was fought AGAINST -- then, fine. American IS that. If that's the case -- if THAT is "America" -- then I DO hate it, and I WILL burn the flag, regardless of whatever "laws" might be passed.

2.) It is INHERENTLY unjust that one person owns 44 Billion dollars.

This whole post is a tip of the hat to Warren Buffet -- and Bill Gates, I think, also deserves MUCH adulation and praise for what he has done.

However: I do not accept the conventional wisdom that these people are necessarily selfless, great philanthropists, motivated by pure altruism. Warren Buffet is about 70 years old. Even after his donations (which he is giving in small increments, by the way, year by year), he will have AT MINIMUM 7 Billion dollars left for himself. MINIMUM. ANY person could live their entire life without working one second on a small fraction of 1 Billion dollars. (To put it in perspective: a Billionaire essentially could live one thousand years and still make 1 Million dollars every year. Think about that. Warren Buffet -- AFTER giving away most of his money -- could live for SEVEN THOUSAND YEARS MAKING 1 MILLION DOLLARS EACH YEAR. Still think he "deserves every penny"????)

If you (all by yourself) were to devise the "just" society (I'm thinking of John Rawls' thought experiment), would you state that "one person -- provided he or she is smart and works hard -- is allowed to acquire as much as 1000 times what the average person has"??????? THINK about this. Again: even THIS is assuming that "THE AVERAGE PERSON" is a MILLIONAIRE." This concept is being EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE. With today's society and its obscenely unequal wealth distribution, the actual document would have to read: "Any one person is allowed to acquire as much as 44,000 times what the average person has." (Assuming, of course, that "the average person" owns about $44,000. The reality is that most people OWE about $30,000 -- they own LESS THAN NOTHING.)

To some extent, of course, people do indeed get what they deserve (***IDEALISM ALERT!!!! IDEALISM ALERT!!!!*** UTOPIA!!!! UTOPIA!!!! KARMA!!!! KARMA!!!!). But can you really, HONESTLY say that a mill worker, a steel worker, a mechanic, a guy in an auto plant, a guy working in a lumber mill, or a coal mine, or on a farm, or any factory, or school, or hospital, or even the guy cleaning the toilets, or the post man, or a plumber, electrician, carpenter, mason (keeping in mind, of course, that these guy sonly make a living wage because they're in UNIONS), hell, even the guy at the DMV, the guy at Walmart, or Burger King, or Radio Shack, or Best Buy . . . . . . . . who work 40+ hours a week, DESERVE to live in POVERTY?????

(Yes, I will acknowledge that some of the above-mentioned professions pay fairly well -- again, in large part ONLY because of UNIONS -- but my POINT is that 1. hard work should MEAN something and 2. IF a person can't make a living by working 60+ hours a week, (or, two parents each working 40+ hours a week), then the whole "Family Values" concept is an evil, evil scam. Even if children do not need to eat, if a mother and father are required to raise a child (NO gay marriage), when is this child-rearing supposed to take place if both parents are working MORE than full-time in order to pay the mortgage, to pay for gas to get to work, to pay for electricity and heat and garbage and car insurance and day care and clothes and shoes and . . . . . . . ??? . . .

3.) Why didn't he do this sooner?

A simple question: if you had the power to prevent millions of people from dying, and chose not to, but instead chose to invest your money and let it build and build and build . . . Should you be commended, or condemned?

Again, I want to make it clear that, like everyone else, I DO commend Warren Buffet for what he is doing -- for he does not HAVE to do it, and I respect him greatly for it.

But: this planet has some serious fucking problems that could be solved pretty easily with enough resources invested. Millions of people die every year from starvation, from AIDS, and other treatable diseases. millenniumenium Fund was considered HUGH -- REVOLUTIONARY!!! -- because it was a promise (lie) to commit 5-10 Billion dollars to the "third world" to treat disease and feed the starving.billionilion dollars: less than one-third of what Buffet has decided now to give to the Gates Foundation. Less than ONE-THIRTIETH of what we have spend so far on the Iraq War. (And that's just the allocated funds -- without the interest on that debt, which will accrue for generations to come . . .)

Again, trying to be fair, I can see the argument that, since Buffet (or Gates) is an excellent business man, he was wise to invest his money and let the wealth accumulate -- otherwise he would not now have as much as he does. You give 1 Billion dollars to Africa, they spend it to cure a million people, great -- but, then you're out of money. You INVEST the 1 Billion, let it grow into 44 Billion, NOW you can REALLY help!!!!

True. But, in the meantime, millions of people have died needlessly. And perhaps -- (probably not, but PERHAPS, as now) -- if you had made the commitment and shown your generosity earlier, others might have followed your example (even ifselfishelfih, egotistical reasons), and the funds would have increased ten-fold.

4.) EVEN IF Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, et. al., COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY DESERVE EVERY PENNY THEY OWN, that does NOT mean that their children are entitled to be born rich and live their entire lives as born-rich, non-working stiffs. THIS is the point that Buffet, and Gates, and Gates' Billionaire father -- along side Ted Turner and others -- have been trying to make.

(I say "trying" to make, because clearly George W. Bush, and most Republicans in Congress, and apparently a vast proportion of the American people -- having been properly propagandized -- have not understood this point. To this very moment, these people are trying with all their might to reduce -- or, if they can, completely repeal -- the so-called "Death Tax.")

. . . . . . . .

I have to admit, I'm pretty ignorant about economics. (I will not even capitalize the Word, because I do not believe it deserves it.) But even a child can figure out the basics:

There is a PIE, which is to be split between 100 people. (You may picture this pie in your mind, if you like, and even choose your own flavor.) Each person gets a small portion of this PIE. All else being equal, each person gets 10% of this pie. But some people are lazy or dumb or both, or cannot find a job that they can make money at, so some get more of the pie than others. (Up to here, I'm actually fine with this -- so don't call me a "Socialist." At best, I'm an EXTREMELY CONSERVATIVE Socialist.") . . . . . . . . At some point, it comes to pass that 2% of the people own 70% of the PIE. The other 98% of the people have to share the remaining 30% of the PIE. Many of these 98% fight each other, in attempt to get more of the pie, so they can eat and feed their starving children and, if they're lucky, buy a TV set. The remaining 2% of the people sit and contemplate which companies, and which countries, they should buy next . . .

Does this look to you like a "fair and just and equitable and SUSTAINABLE" society?????

HINT: If you answered "YES," then you need to be institutionalized promptly. If you answered "NO," then you need to do something RIGHT FUCKING NOW, because this is EXACTLY the society in which we live.

We have to face the truth: if you were to design the "just society" -- the "best of all possible worlds" -- you would not say that it's o.k. that some live in desolate poverty, some starve to death, some die of curable diseases, while others amass more and more wealth every day and exploit the desperate by demanding the cheapest possible labor . . .

This is what "democracy" means: we can choose the society in which we live. We make the rules.

Let's start making them.

And taking the heads of the greedy who break them.




Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Not again . . .

Hear Us Now:

It appears as though the FCC might once again be considering relaxing media ownership rules. [*vomit*]

My comments:

The fact that the FCC, or any of our representatives in government, is even considering relaxing media ownership guidelines is absolutely appalling and reprehensible. It would be a move in the exact opposite direction from what is needed -- which is stronger, and strongly enforced, anti-trust laws, to break up the current media monopolies.

When a few companies own everything, and the government works hand-in-hand with these massive corporations to help them consolidate even further, our system has essentially become -- in the original sense of the term -- a fascist one: "the merger of state and corporate power" (Mussolini). The only thing worse might be (speaking of Italy) if the leader of the country personally owned most of the media.

The current media situation is a perfect illustration of why unfettered capitalism is antithetical to the ideals not only of democracy but of "free markets" -- which can bring about increased liberty only if competition and choice are increased. We must remember that capitalism is not inherently good in and of itself; it is good only to the extent that it serves to maximize [perfect] LIBERTY.

With every merger or buy-out, the markets become less free and fair. When companies, rather than competing, simply purchase (and thus eliminate) their competition, growing larger and more powerful every year, we have no "free market system" any longer.

The most telling proof (as if proof were lacking) that this media consolidation is dangerous and damaging to public awareness, is the very simple fact that the media themselves do not report this important story! They know that no amount of propaganda is going to succeed on this issue, because virtually everyone -- from all walks of life and every political stripe -- is against further media consolidation. Therefore they conceal the facts. Our government leaders do the same, and rules and regulations are passed behind closed doors and with as little public input or oversight as possible, meeting with industry lobbyists rather than the people who TRULY OWN the airwaves and who grant these corporations the priviledge to exist in exchange for providing a PUBLIC SERVICE.

I encourage you to explore the resources on the following web site:


Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



Friday, June 23, 2006

Thank You Lt. Ehren Watada - Lt. Watada refused Iraq deployment today; Under complete restriction and gag-order without charge

Thank You Lt. Ehren Watada - Lt. Watada refused Iraq deployment today; Under complete restriction and gag-order without charge

. . . . . . . .
Lt. Watada’s mother, Carolyn Ho, who flew in from Honolulu, Hawaii to support her son, said today, “My son’s decision to refrain from deploying to Iraq comes through much soul searching. It is an act of patriotism. It is a statement to all Americans, to men and women in uniform, that they need not remain silent out of fear, that that they have the power to turn the tide of history: to stop the destruction of a country and the killing of untold numbers of innocent men, women, and children. It is a message that states unequivocally that blindly following orders is no longer an option. My son, Lt. Watada’s stance is clear. He will stay the course. I urge you to join him in this effort.”

Judy Linehan, of Military Families Speak Out said, “As the mother of an officer who deployed to Iraq with Lt Ehren Watada’s Stryker Brigade in their first mission, I know the human cost of war intimately. I stand in solidarity with Lt Watada as he breaks ranks with a Commander-in-Chief who has flouted international law with impunity in the prosecution of this illegal war and occupation of an unarmed country. The lieutenant’s quiet resolve and quest for truth facing into our government’s fabricated deceptions carry hope to a world that trusts in the rule of law. Thank you, Lt Watada, for your courageous stand.”


Jesus, I hate these bastards

GOP-Run Senate Kills Minimum Wage Increase

After voting themselves a pay raise for the ninth year in a row, these Republican fat cat special-interest-lobby-controlled greedy corporate whores blocked an EXTREMELY modest increase in the minimum wage -- which would have been the first increase in nearly a decade.

As far as I'm concerned, they're simply criminals, and should be dealt with accordingly. Beyond that, I don't even know what the fuck to say.

O.K.: I'll say one thing:

For all those brain-dead talking-point-repeating Republican propagandist pieces of excrement out there who constantly parrot the lie that "Democrats don't have any ideas," here's a simple one for you:

Pass a law linking the lowest pay scale to the highest. That is, the CEO (or whoever is paid the most) in any company cannot make more than (for example) 10x what the lowest-paid employee in that company earns. Lest I be labeled a "Socialist" for this proposal, let's make it EVEN LESS equal/fair/democratic: 100X! So if the lowest-paid employee makes $5.15 an hour (the minimum wage), the highest-paid employee (or employER), cannot make more than $515.00 AN HOUR. (Approximately $1,070,000 per year.) If the CEO's want to earn more, they can; all they have to do is raise the pay scale of all their employees accordingly. (In short, when they get a raise, everyone else in the company gets one too.) Does this not seem more than reasonable? Would not the VAST majority of Americans STRONGLY support such a law -- probably even demand that it does not go far enough, that those at the top should in fact earn far LESS? You bet your filthy ass they would.

So why is no one proposing such a thing? Where are these alleged "far-left" Democrats? (Hint: they don't exist.)

And why isn't anyone in this so-called "liberal" media suggesting such a thing (for example, when interviewing lawmakers)? (Hint: ibid.)

While we're at it, I guess we'll have to pass a similar law linking the minimum wage with lawmakers' salaries, but of course they're clearly too corrupt to propose such a bill.

Ahhhh, freedom. I hope Iraq establishes an Oligarchy as lovely as ours.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Freedom On The March

The Anti-Empire Report
Some things you need to know before the world ends
June 21, 2006
by William Blum

Great Moments in the History of Imperialism

National Public Radio foreign correspondent Loren Jenkins, serving in NPR's Baghdad bureau, met earlier this month with a senior Shiite cleric, a man who was described in the NPR report as "a moderate" and as a person trying to lead his Shiite followers into practicing peace and reconciliation. He had been jailed by Saddam Hussein and forced into exile. Jenkins asked him: "What would you think if you had to go back to Saddam Hussein?" The cleric replied that he'd "rather see Iraq under Saddam Hussein than the way it is now."[1]

When one considers what the people of Iraq have experienced as a result of the American bombings, invasion, regime change, and occupation since 2003, should this attitude be surprising, even from such an individual? I was moved to compile a list of the many kinds of misfortune which have fallen upon the heads of the Iraqi people as a result of the American liberation of their homeland. It's depressing reading, and you may not want to read it all, but I think it's important to have it summarized in one place.

Loss of a functioning educational system. A 2005 UN study revealed that 84% of the higher education establishments have been "destroyed, damaged and robbed".
The intellectual stock has been further depleted as many thousands of academics and other professionals have fled abroad or have been mysteriously kidnapped or assassinated in Iraq; hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million, other Iraqis, most of them from the vital, educated middle class, have left for Jordan, Syria or Egypt, many after receiving death threats. "Now I am isolated," said a middle-class Sunni Arab, who decided to leave. "I have no government. I have no protection from the government. Anyone can come to my house, take me, kill me and throw me in the trash."[2]

Loss of a functioning health care system. And loss of the public's health. Deadly infections including typhoid and tuberculosis are rampaging through the country. Iraq's network of hospitals and health centers, once admired throughout the Middle East, has been severely damaged by the war and looting.

The UN's World Food Program reported that 400,000 Iraqi children were suffering from "dangerous deficiencies of protein". Deaths from malnutrition and preventable diseases, particularly amongst children, already a problem because of the 12 years of US-imposed sanctions, have increased as poverty and disorder have made access to a proper diet and medicines ever more difficult.

Thousands of Iraqis have lost an arm or a leg, frequently from unexploded US cluster bombs, which became land mines; cluster bombs are a class of weapons denounced by human rights groups as a cruelly random scourge on civilians, particularly children.

Depleted uranium particles, from exploded US ordnance, float in the Iraqi air, to be breathed into human bodies and to radiate forever, and infect the water, the soil, the blood, the genes, producing malformed babies. During the few weeks of war in spring 2003, A10 "tankbuster" planes, which use munitions containing depleted uranium, fired 300,000 rounds.

And the use of napalm as well. And white phosphorous.

The American military has attacked hospitals to prevent them from giving out casualty figures of US attacks that contradicted official US figures, which the hospitals had been in the habit of doing.

Numerous homes have been broken into by US forces, the men taken away, the women humiliated, the children traumatized; on many occasions, the family has said that the American soldiers helped themselves to some of the family's money. Iraq has had to submit to a degrading national strip search.

Destruction and looting of the country's ancient heritage, perhaps the world's greatest archive of the human past, left unprotected by the US military, busy protecting oil facilities.

A nearly lawless society: Iraq's legal system, outside of the political sphere, was once one of the most impressive and secular in the Middle East; it is now a shambles; religious law more and more prevails.

Women's rights previously enjoyed are now in great and growing danger under harsh Islamic law, to one extent or another in various areas. There is today a Shiite religious ruling class in Iraq, which tolerates physical attacks on women for showing a bare arm or for picnicking with a male friend. Men can be harassed for wearing shorts in public, as can children playing outside in shorts.

Sex trafficking, virtually nonexistent previously, has become a serious issue.

Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims have lost much of the security they had enjoyed in Saddam's secular society; many have emigrated.

A gulag of prisons run by the US and the new Iraqi government feature a wide variety of torture and abuse -- physical, psychological, emotional; painful, degrading, humiliating; leading to mental breakdown, death, suicide; a human-rights disaster area.

Over 50,000 Iraqis have been imprisoned by US forces since the invasion, but only a very tiny portion of them have been convicted of any crime.

US authorities have recruited members of Saddam Hussein's feared security service to expand intelligence gathering and root out the resistance.

Unemployment is estimated to be around fifty percent. Massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of Baathist government workers and soldiers by the American occupation authority set the process in motion early on. Later, many, desperate for work, took positions tainted by a connection to the occupation, placing themselves in grave danger of being kidnapped or murdered.

The cost of living has skyrocketed. Income levels have plummeted.

The Kurds of Northern Iraq evict Arabs from their homes. Arabs evict Kurds in other parts of the country.

Many people were evicted from their homes because they were Baathist. US troops took part in some of the evictions. They have also demolished homes in fits of rage over the killing of one of their buddies.

When US troops don't find who they're looking for, they take who's there; wives have been held until the husband turns himself in, a practice which Hollywood films stamped in the American mind as being a particular evil of the Nazis; it's also collective punishment of civilians and is forbidden under the Geneva Convention.

Continual bombing assaults on neighborhoods has left an uncountable number of destroyed homes, workplaces, mosques, bridges, roads, and everything else that goes into the making of modern civilized life.

Hafitha, Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi ... names that will live in infamy for the wanton destruction, murder, and assaults upon human beings and human rights carried out in those places by US forces.

The supply of safe drinking water, effective sewage disposal, and reliable electricity have all generally been below pre-invasion levels, producing constant hardship for the public, in temperatures reaching 115 degrees. To add to the misery, people wait all day in the heat to purchase gasoline, due in part to oil production, the country's chief source of revenue, being less than half its previous level.

The water and sewage system and other elements of the infrastructure had been purposely (sic) destroyed by US bombing in the first Gulf War of 1991. By 2003, the Iraqis had made great strides in repairing the most essential parts of it. Then came Washington's renewed bombing.

Civil war, death squads, kidnaping, car bombs, rape, each and every day ... Iraq has become the most dangerous place on earth. American soldiers and private security companies regularly kill people and leave the bodies lying in the street; US-trained Iraqi military and police forces kill even more, as does the insurgency. An entire new generation is growing up on violence and sectarian ethics; this will poison the Iraqi psyche for many years to come.

US intelligence and military police officers often free dangerous criminals in return for a promise to spy on insurgents.

Protesters of various kinds have been shot by US forces on several occasions.

At various times, the US has killed, wounded and jailed reporters from Al Jazeera television, closed the station's office, and banned it from certain areas because occupation officials didn't like the news the station was reporting. Newspapers have been closed for what they have printed. The Pentagon has planted paid-for news articles in the Iraqi press to serve propaganda purposes.

But freedom has indeed reigned -- for the great multinationals to extract everything they can from Iraq's resources and labor without the hindrance of public interest laws, environmental regulations or worker protections. The orders of the day have been privatization, deregulation, and laissez faire for Halliburton and other Western corporations. Iraqi businesses have been almost entirely shut out though they are not without abilities, as reflected in the infrastructure rebuilding effort following the US bombing of 1991.

Yet, despite the fact that it would be difficult to name a single area of Iraqi life which has improved as a result of the American actions, when the subject is Iraq and the person I'm having a discussion with has no other argument left to defend US policy there, at least at the moment, I may be asked:

"Just tell me one thing, are you glad that Saddam Hussein is out of power?"

And I say: "No".

And the person says: "No?"

And I say: "No. Tell me, if you went into surgery to correct a knee problem and the surgeon mistakenly amputated your entire leg, what would you think if someone then asked you: Are you glad that you no longer have a knee problem? The people of Iraq no longer have a Saddam problem."

And many Iraqis actually supported him.

"Moderation in temper is always a virtue; moderation in principle is always a vice." Thomas Paine

Recently, Al Gore appeared at a bookstore in downtown Washington signing copies of his new book on environmental concerns, when who should show up on the line of people looking for a signed copy but Ralph Nader. Gore stood up and said: "Nice to see you! How you doing? I'm really so grateful to you for coming by." After more pleasantries, Gore inscribed the book: "For my friend, Ralph Nader. With respect, Al Gore."

Two men in line could not resist remarking to Nader that if not for him Gore might have won the election in 2000. "Thanks to you, we had Bush all these years," said one. "How many are dead in Iraq because of that?"[3] What Nader replied has not been reported.

The idea that Ralph Nader cost the Democrats the 2000 election will likely persist forever, so let me state for all eternity, speaking for myself and for the millions like me: The choice facing us was not Ralph Nader or Albert Gore. The choice facing us was Ralph Nader or not voting at all. If Nader had not been on the ballot, we would have stayed home. The millions who voted for Nader and the millions more who stayed home demanded an inspiring alternative to the Republicans; even a halfway inspiring alternative would have sufficed for most of us. The Democrats did not, and still do not, offer any kind of alternative, particularly on foreign policy. On foreign policy the two major parties are completely indistinguishable. For all intents and purposes, the United States is a one-party state in all but name -- the War Party. The occasional minor points of difference which arise are Democratic artificial constructs created for election purposes, and in these cases the Democrats often take a position to the right of their Republican "opponents", like calling for tougher measures in the war on terrorism or against Iran. This is the case with the Democrats whether we're speaking of the conservatives amongst them, or the moderates, or the liberals. And this has long been the case. Here is an excerpt from a talk delivered in 1965 by Carl Oglesby, President of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), at an anti-Vietnam War rally in Washington:

The original commitment in Vietnam was made by President Truman, a mainstream liberal.
It was seconded by President Eisenhower, a moderate liberal. It was intensified by the late
President Kennedy, a flaming liberal. Think of the men who now engineer that war -- those
who study the maps, give the commands, push the buttons, and tally the dead: Bundy,
McNamara, Rusk, Lodge, Goldberg, the President [Johnson] himself. They are not moral
monsters. They are all honorable men. They are all liberals.[4]

Eat the Rich. Share your recipes.

With Bill Gates's announcement that he'll be phasing out his day-to-day participation in Microsoft, the media has carried a lot of adulatory stories about the Wunderkind, who became the world's youngest self-made billionaire at age 31. I do not mean to detract from Gates's accomplishments when I point out that for him to have become a billionaire just six years after introducing the MS-DOS 1.0 operating system, Microsoft had to be charging a lot more -- an awful lot more -- for its software than it had to based on the company's costs.

There are those, enamored by the philosophy, practice, and folklore of free enterprise and rugged individualism, who will declare: "More power to the guy! He deserved every penny of it!"

There are others, enamored by the vision of a more equitable society, who question how the current distribution of property and wealth can reasonably be said to derive from any sort of democratic process. By the 21st century, American society should have evolved beyond two percent with breathtaking wealth and seventy-five percent with a daily struggle for a decent life, including the middle class. In fact, along such lines we're regressing.

This is almost heresy to many Americans, who are unwilling to tamper with political and economic arrangements, though they have no qualms about meddling with people's sex lives, women's bodies, and other moral issues. Greed and selfishness are natural, they insist, and have to be catered to.

But if the system should cater to selfishness because it's natural, why not cater to aggression which many of the same people claim is natural?

[1] NPR, "Day to Day", June 6, 2006
[2] New York Times, May 19, 2006
[3] Washington Post, June 16, 2006, p.2
[4] November 27, 1965, copy of Oglesby's speech in my possession

William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Just show us the motherfucking plane, already

Last month the Pentagon FINALLY released (supposedly) the tape -- that is to say, one of the FIVE known existing tapes, ALL confiscated within minutes of the attack despite the fact that supposedly the government was taken completley by surprise, and all kept completely secret from the public -- of the plane flying into the Pentagon on 9/11.

Apparently the aim was to put to rest any conspiracy theories that a 747 commercial airliner was not actually what crashed into the building.

Only problem is, you CAN'T SEE A FUCKING PLANE.

In fact, I don't think this is a new video. To me it looks exactly the same as the previously released video -- or, rather, the previously released STILL FRAMES of a video -- which simply show nothing, then nothing, then more nothing, then an explosion.

Although I'm EXTREMELY cynical about this criminal administration (hell, most of them were known war criminals before they were even sworn in), I'm willing to accept that the logical explanation is that a hijacked passenger plane is in fact what crashed into the Pentagon. But: I simply don't understand A.) why we've never SEEN that, and B.) why NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE.

The suspicions, of course, stem from the circumstances, which would lead anyone with a grade-school education to ponder with some skeptical curiosity:

1.) How did this happen? Why wasn't it prevented?

Even though it's standard operating procedure for the U.S. Air Force to intercept any plane within minutes of a SUSPECTED hijacking (or actually even within minutes of any plane either not responding or flying several degress off-course), somehow our government/military was too incompetent to prevent an attack on the most well-guarded military complex ever devised in the history of man, even ALMOST AN HOUR after not only was it known that at least two other planes had indeed been hijacked, but ALMOST AN HOUR AFTER TWO PLANES WERE KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN HIJACKED AND CRASHED INTO THE TWIN TOWERS. Despite this unbelievable failure and complete and inexplicable disregard for standard operating procedure, no one was ever reprimanded, demoted, or even mildly chastised for their treasonous dereliction of duty. This applies to all of the planes involved with the September 11th attacks, but most dramatically and undeniably with the attack on the Pentagon -- which is the most suspcious of the three.

2.) The actual hole in the Pentagon appears to be far too narrow to have been made by a Boeing 747.

3.) The lawn of the Pentagon was relatively unscathed.

4.) No eye-witness has been able to claim with any certainty that they saw a commercial passenger plane crash into the Pentagon (only describing sounds, and claiming to have seen some kind of plane in the area immediately beforehand -- which is consistent with the missile theory)

5.) As was clear at the time, but is even more abundantly clear today, the Bush Administration had ample motivation to allow such an attack to take place (the "New Pearl Harbor" outlined in the Project For A New American Century"), as a pretext not only for invading Afghanistan and Iraq but as an excuse for practically EVERYTHING they've done since. (9/11 was brought up about 50 times in the Republican National Convention in 2004, for example.) Precedents include the Reichstag Fire, and quite probably the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then there's the "Gulf of Tonkin incident." Etc.

6.) Far from begin unthinkinkable, precisely such an attack had in fact been conceived much earlier -- by the far more "liberal" administration of John F. Kennedy -- in "Operation Northwoods."

7.) Various senior members of the Bush administration (including not only Bush himself, but also Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, and others) are on record lying about what they knew about 9/11 beforehand. -- Why isn't this, in itself, grounds for impeachment?

. . . . . . . .

There are many more reasons to list. But the point is, until we see the tapes, any sane person SHOULD doubt the official story.

Why don't they release them?

The only reason I can come up with is that -- assuming the official story is true -- it is useful for such "conspiracy theories" to live, so that at some point the government can release the tapes and discredit these theorists, thus implicitly discrediting ANY AND ALL OTHER questions and theories about 9/11.

Now, before anyone labels me as a "moonbat tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorist," please note that

1.) I AM NOT saying that I necessarily believe that it WASN'T a hijacked commercial airliner that crashed into the Pentagon, only that the government has a responsibility to release the tapes showing that event -- ESPECIALLY if they're going to claim the attack as a primary reason for starting a war,

2.) conspiracies do occur -- quite often, in fact; it is only the dismissive connotations implied by the now cliche phrase [the use of which is frequently propagated by the conspirators themselves] that elicits a chuckle from the guilty, the ignorant, the blindly faithful and the merely gullible,

3.) the OFFICIAL STORY about 9/11 is itself a "conspiracy theory" (and a rather implausible one, involving somebody on a dialisis machine in a cave in Afghanistan directing operations, while coincidentally on that particular day NORAD was conducting an exercise aimed at preventing precisely such an attack as actually took place -- even though supposedly they "never could have predicted" that planes might be used as missiles -- and an apparent complete and total breakdown of command took place for reasons that have yet to be adquately explained . . .),

4.) [This is the elephant in the room]: if the "conspiracy nuts" are WRONG, then THIS deserves even MORE media attention than it has ever received. Because if THE PENTAGON can easily be bombed by some hijackers an hour after three other hijackings (and two successful airline bombings), then our nation surely must be the least protected and most vulnerable in the world! Hell, if it's that easy to attack the Defense Department of the United States Of America, in the most well-guarded Military Industrial Complex ever devised in the history of the world, then we're COMPLETELY fucked.

I have to admit I HATE being labeld a "conspiracy theorist." Before 9/11, in fact, I was one of those people who derided and ridiculed such people. And I have to say that, even now, I'm not at all certain about the truth of 9/11.

My good friend Adam who (if such a thing is possible) hates the Bush adminstration even more fervently than I do, has told me that he dismisses most such theories for one simple, sound and rational reason: they didn't plant WMDs. While they did come up with various excuses and scapegoats, they could just as easily have planted some "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq, and no one (or few people) would have been the wiser.

It has also occurred to me that if an attack such as 9/11 was premeditated by the PNAC, why would they implicate themselves so blatantly by publishing a statement saying they wished for a "new Pearl Harbor" in order to amass popular support for their imperial wars?

My answer is simply this: 1.) they don't care what the public thinks, they know they can get away with it (as indeed they have).

The simple answer to the question is best phrased as another question: Why has Bush not been impeached?

Or, why has Henry Kissinger not been brought before an International Tribunal in the Hague for War Crimes?

The question seems reasonable, but in fact it begs the question. It's like saying, "well, he's so OBVIOUSLY guilty, therefore he MUST BE INNOCENT!" It's an absurd paradox, which would never be taken seriously in any court of law.

We must figure out some way to hold them accountable. In the meantime, they can get away with it, so they simply do it.



Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Quote of the week

"These women got paid, they ought to take their money and shut up about it." -- Ann Coulter, referring to 9/11 widows

She's taken some heat for her recent bile spewing. (Though with few exceptions, not from most conservatives or Republicans, interestingly.)

At least some people have the sense to state the obvious: that to say that 9/11 widows are "exploting" their husbands' deaths is so far beyond Orwellian that I am at a loss for words. Anyone with an IQ above 3 who has not been living under a rock for the past five years knows full well who has been exploiting the tragedy of 9/11. (Hint: did you watch the Republican Convention?)



Media Matters - Savage compared Zarqawi to Murtha, declared Zarqawi is "sort of a Jesus figure now to the liberals"

Media Matters -
Savage compared Zarqawi to Murtha, declared Zarqawi is "sort of a Jesus figure now to the liberals"

Not only comparing Zarqawi to Murtha, but calling Zarqawi "a human Murtha." I don't even know what the fuck that means, but it obviously implies that Murtha is not even human -- or if he is, then Zarqawi is more "human." ???

After listening to this and then swallowing back the vomit rising in my throat, I actually read the bloody article -- and, of course, there isn't ONE SENTENCE in the entire thing that could even function as a PREMISE for the statement that al-Zarqawi "is sort of a Jesus figure now to the liberals." So, that was midly amusing, at least. (The only thing to criticize in the article is that the headline seems to have little to do with the article itself.)

The irony is that if there's one person in this country whose mindless hatred, ignorance, absolutist mentality and sheer repugnance of character might warrant a comparison with someone like Zarqawi, . . . it would be Michael Savage.

(So am I allowed to call this pig a Nazi now? Good. Savage, you're a worthless Nazi hate monger. I hope you burn in Hell, right along side Zarqawi.)


Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Diplomacy," American Style

I haven't posted about the Iran "crisis" in a bit. But there's been much talk recently about Bush's efforts at "diplomacy." What does that mean? Well, here's the offer: you meet all of our demands, and THEN we'll meet with you to discuss whether or not you will meet our demands. This is simply de ja vu all over again, and I CANNOT BELIEVE that anyone can take these mad fools seriously after the Iraq debacle.

Remember that long letter from the leader of Iran to the U.S. Administration? Ignored. Dismissed. Might as well not exist.

A few years from now the pundits and war-mongers will be saying "everyone thought Iran had nuclear weapons -- you're revising history!" "Everyone had the same intelligence, and unfortunately it turned out to be wrong." "We tried to negotiate with Iran, but they refused! We HAD to go to war! They left us with no choice -- don't you remember? Don't try to revise history!"

And Orwell rolls in his grave.

Until the U.S. complies with the NPT, it is in no position to demand compliance from anyone else. Furthermore, Iran is not in violation if they are merely seeking nuclear energy -- which is explicitly allowed in the NPT (in fact, the nuclear states are required to help the non-nuclear states with nuclear power development). So unless Iran is in fact seeking nuclear weapons, they have done nothing wrong; and even if they ARE developing nukes, they are no more in violation of the NPT than the U.S. (Or Russia, or Britain, or France, or China, etc.) Not to mention the nuclear countries who won't even sign the bloody treaty -- such as India, Pakistan, Israel, . . .

Beyond the fact that the U.S. is maintaining its stockpiles and even building new nuclear weapons which it fully intends to use, it has refused to vow not to use nuclear weapons -- even against non-nuclear states. The U.S. is also actively involved in militarizing space, and will soon have the capability (if it does not already) to launch missiles (including nuclear warheads) at any target on the face of the planet.

So much for support of the U.N., Treaties, International Law, etc. Who is the "Rogue State"?

Given all this, Mark Malloch Brown's comments (full text here) were overly polite and understated -- but then, he's actually a diplomat, unlilke the rabid dragon John Bolton.

There was a decent debate on "Left, Right, and Center" recently about the larger issue of nuclear non-proliferation. Listening to Tony Blankley try to justify utter hypocrisy, ethnocentricity and exceptionalism, I kept thinking about Chomsky:

Among the most elementary of moral truisms is the principle of universality: we must apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others, if not more stringent ones. It is a remarkable comment on Western intellectual culture that this principle is so often ignored and, if occasionally mentioned, condemned as outrageous. This is particularly shameful on the part of those who flaunt their Christian piety, and therefore have presumably at least heard of the definition of the hypocrite in the Gospels.



Saturday, June 10, 2006

The media lap dogs have done it again

Media Matters -
Reporting Zarqawi's death, broadcast, cable and major newspaper reports failed to note Bush administration's reported refusal to eliminate him before Iraq war

A Media Matters for America review of extensive broadcast reporting on June 8 on the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the self-proclaimed Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, found that the three cable networks, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, as well as nightly news reports on NBC, CBS, and ABC, made no reference to widespread reports from 2004 that the Bush administration had as many as three opportunities to eliminate Zarqawi and his terrorist training camp prior to the Iraq war, but elected to wait because killing Zarqawi "could undercut its case for war against Saddam [Hussein]," in the words of NBC News chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Articles in The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal published June 9 also omitted that information, although The New York Times ran an op-ed in its June 9 edition that noted, "It has been reported that twice the administration passed on the opportunity to attack his camp in the Kurdish area of Iraq, evidently believing that it would detract from the more important goal of toppling Saddam Hussein."
. . . . . . . .
Top military intelligence officials knew he was in Iraq and traveling around the country before the United States invasion, but they did not fully recognize that he was preparing for an insurgency. The Bush administration found it more useful to point to Mr. Zarqawi as a link between the regime of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, which, at the time, he was not. It has been reported that twice the administration passed on the opportunity to attack his camp in the Kurdish area of Iraq, evidently believing that it would detract from the more important goal of toppling Saddam Hussein.
. . . . . . . .
"There have been several opportunities [to eliminate Zarqawi], including one case where Zarqawi was actually held by coalition forces. They didn't know who he was."
. . . . . . . .

From the comments:


The same right wing pundits that trumpeted the un confirmed reports that Bill Clinton supposedly refused Sudan's offer to hand over bin Laden will fall all over themselves with faux outrage & histrionics that anyone would even DARE to suggest that the Bushies passed on a chance to off Zarqawi BEFORE he got around to lopping off the heads of innocent people.

Anyone disagree?



Media Matters - Savage called Iraqi witnesses of alleged Haditha massacre "vermin" and "scum"

Media Matters -
Savage called Iraqi witnesses of alleged Haditha massacre "vermin" and "scum," proclaimed detained Marines are American "POWs"

Just in case you thought irony was still alive:

"SAVAGE: It's all coming from the Iraqi scum -- and I'm gonna say it like it is, the vermin we're fighting. The vermin we're fighting are accusing our Marines, and our Marines are now in the brig wearing shackles. I've never heard this, [caller]. This would be the equivalent of German civilians accusing Americans of atrocities, and the military taking the side of the German civilians during the war against Hitler. That's exactly what's going on here.
. . . . . . .

Does it not even occur to him that referring to people as "vermin" and "scum" is precisely what the Nazis did, to dehumanize them so that they could be exterminated?

He goes on to say that all the reporters publishing the story of the Haditha massacre are "enemy agents" and should be put in "shackles" until they can prove their innocence. Oh, and Jack Murtha, too.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Republicans Under Siege!

That's right, folks. It's the Four Horses Of The Apocalypse!! If those Evil Satanic Nazi Dems take power, the world will literally end!

See also:

Tug Of War! (Republicans Are Fighting Back!)



Poor Republicans. [*tear*]



Zarqawi: Rest In Pieces

My sentiments can be summed up by a commenter on DailyKos:

"I hate Bush, I hate this war -- and I hate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a fucking animal whose death is only lamentable to the extent that it wasn't slow and painful."

He was found near Baqouba. Hmm . . .

Baqouba has in recent weeks seen a spike in sectarian violence, including the discovery of 17 severed heads in fruit boxes.

We should place Zarqawi's head on a pike and leave it in the sun to rot and be picked at by birds.

Having said that . . .

Some questions (for the conspiratorial-minded -- or even just the inquisitive):

1. If they knew exactly where he was, why didn't they capture him? I'm serious about this -- if he's the "mastermind" behind the entire insurgency in Iraq, as everyone keeps saying, wouldn't they want to torture him a little bit and get some information? (Who knows -- maybe they drank their own Kool Aid, and actually believed that if they just killed this one guy, all the violence would go away.)

2. Does he indeed have a false limb? I cannot seem to find any pictures of Zarqawi's body -- alive or dead. Which, at this moment, seems very odd indeed. Maybe I'm just not searching well enough -- someone help me out.

3. Do we need better bombs? (Two 500-pound bombs only leave a few scrapes? -- not heavy enough, I guess)

4. Who obtained his DNA, and when? "Biological samples from his body also were delivered to an FBI crime laboratory in Virginia for DNA testing. The results were expected in three days." I guess he was imprisoned in Jordan -- do they keep DNA samples of everybody, or what?



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