Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nightmare: USA

Imagine you live in a lawless region - assorted bandits & warlords fight for control, and kill for the wealth & resources of your people. You organize a response: those entering your region must disarm. You define a perimeter, post lookouts. You organize a guard. You seek neighborhood safety.

One day a convoy refuses to stop. There's no discussion to disarm. Your team communicates "trouble has arrived" as a flash in the sky heralds immanent death: an unmanned combat air vehicle operated by the US military (or its civilian contractors) launches heat-seeking destruction.

Death perhaps is quick - compliments of U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama, and U.S. Army General Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force coalition. Thank also the US Air Force and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (formerly owned by Gulf Oil, Shell Oil, and Chevron). A fine aloha also from the taxpayers of the USA, main sponsors of the deployment / invasion... You made a new Bananastan: corrupt & deadly. Welcome to a nightmare.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Health Care's Willy Horton

Bluster circulates in the U.S. Congress about health care. Industrial lobbyists work hard to develop proper reform - in other words, a new format for sustained profits.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans are poorly insured, or uninsured.

Our human tales of woe are poorly publicized, though they erupt every day. Let's see & hear details: actual citizens suffering through the system, treated no better than a shitball.

Senator Bernie Sanders and supporters of true reform need to find the "Willie Horton" of American health care. Put a face on the pain.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bogeyman: Dreams of Terror

Horrible Terrorists "seek to destroy our way of life."

Bullshit. The enemy are sometimes military, sometimes criminals. Some are misguided. Some seek revenge. Some protect their homeland & family.

The story of Terrorist Bogeyman, of crazed zealotry, is a sham. But some interests are served by the dark dream. Few people ask: "Why are they after us?"

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Privatized Military?

Many functions of the U.S. military have been outsourced to private corporations. This trend is frightening in terms of accountability; what happens when highly-armed militias go rogue? Yet some key contradictions emerge. U.S. Republicans have repeatedly attacked public services for supposed padded budgets, unreasonable job security, and entitlements at taxpayer expense. But these perfectly describe the perks of U.S. military leaders.

Most American people proudly voice support for the armed services. Military people put themselves in harm's way, they deserve better than they now receive. But the military's top brass are insulated from all that: conversely, they keep themselves perhaps safest of any of us, with vast resources under their control.

Elected leaders are ultimately responsible for military command & oversight. But I believe proper administration is often a failure. We need new & better checks & balances.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sabotage Averted by Internet

Flawed policy choices by the failed governments of George W. Bush and his predecessors continue to cripple the USA. Tens of thousands of Americans remain posted overseas, perpetuating a neo-colonial system too-often funding despots hated by their own people. Meanwhile, the lifestyles and future prospects for most Americans is in decline. Funds are unavailable for basic infrastructure. Future-oriented industries require detailed training, yet childhood education in the USA deteriorates.

Big media in the USA was overly sycophantic under Bush/Cheney. How much worse might it have been had the internet not offered new channels of communication? If internet technology in 2001 were at the level of 1991, we might still be under the heel of neo-con leadership. These were corporate shills wholly willing to sacrifice average people for their own profit; they calmly gambled the lives & resources of every schmuck in America.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Your Heart has Stopped...

Imagine your heart has stopped. An EMT team arrives, hooks you to life support, then asks: What's your position on abortion? Should illegal aliens receive emergency health services?

Americans are held hostage on health care. Each American should receive premium care. If you ain't (and many are not) you're being jerked around... Everyday, many such suckers die. My uncle died prematurely - you could be next.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Banning Religion

Swiss voters recently approved banning Islamic minarets: referendum support for the ban was 57.5%.

I live very near a large Christian church. Repeatedly the bells toll for off-hour celebrations - nothing to do with my life. It would be easiest to say: quiet them bells; forbid celebration. But instead I hope that people are enjoying & celebrating life. Yes, baptisms and christenings are a bit noisy, as are call to prayer and Bar Mitzvah celebrations, but that's the joy of community.

This news simply shows that 57.5% of Swiss are shrewish & small-minded...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pashtun Palin?

The USA should disengage from Afghanistan & Iraq. We've imposed foreign troops serving distant politicians. We'll never bring stability or security to the region; our chosen local warlords will probably depart with the "Coalition of the Willing" -- to enjoy new lives in Florida or Switzerland. It is foolish, presumptuous, even criminal that we have taken over so much in these ancient lands. We follow the Soviets in Afghanistan, ignobly rejected - quick withdrawal will save many lives.

Obama, even if reelected to a second term, will not fix these nations. Will we next have President Palin, as with Baby Bush, pretending expertise on ancient Babylon, Kandahar, and the Hindu Kush? Better the USA stop sacrificing its soldiers, and save its money to spend at home.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mr. Obama, Tear Down This Wall

Twenty years ago when the Berlin Wall was broached, the end of the Cold War and German reunification were positive steps for humanity.

Can we dream of a future when Israel's Apartheid Wall will be dismantled?

Peaceful transition is unlikely to come through rational argument; hardliners on both sides of the Wall stifle the doubts and voices of moderates. Progress toward peace is avoided while elements aimed at expanding a Zionist homeland enjoy key funding flows from the USA. The Israeli High Court and the World Court have condemned much of the Wall's construction through the West Bank. Violence generates more violence, at huge cost. Squatter settlements multiply; the displaced grow militant; extremists dominate most debate. Mr. Obama, Tear Down This Wall!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Billowing Wanker at BU

Boston University honors it's "distinguished alumnus" Bill O'Reilly:
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/10/23-7

The problem with Bill O'Reilly is outside left or right. Inviting comment but interrupting, quashing consideration of alternatives, name-calling & violence mongering, are beyond traditional journalism and should be recognized as a step backward. The dude's a goon. The temptation to imagine "he's opinionated, but he's our goon" is beyond political opinion - it supports the destruction of discourse.

My dad's Scottish Drummond forebears descend from Atilla. His politics likewise. But his thought & opinion are not really 'right wing' except as coopted by wealthy media. Three political alternatives are offered by US mainstream media: bad, worse, do nothing...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No Money for US Wars

Last November the American people elected legislators pledging to end America's foreign wars. But the wars continue - while costs & damage escalate.

Meanwhile, the USA suffers repeated & continuing shortfalls of budget. Many domestic services are being cutback, including future-oriented education. It's past time that America withdraws from overseas warfare. Iraq & Afghanistan must fend for themselves. No need to further analyze the situation. Simply say: we can't afford war.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama Report Card = D

The U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, operating for about nine months, has failed in many key ways. Hope for Change (as promised) remains -- thus grade D instead of F for failure.

It's very clear the administration is not discontinuing assorted overseas U.S. military operations; even forced-feeding of Guantanamo detainees continues. Funded by Americans, belligerence in the Middle East persists unabated. U.S. civil rights remain threatened by self-serving government coverup. Bipartisanship has been a non-starter... No health care reform... Crippling bad investments in corrupted and corrosive systems... Poor oversight & financial sector reform. The USA remains a toxic corporate state, with Obama & Hillary Clinton glib shills - placeholders until new wingnuts such as Palin or Lieberman take the stage.

-----------------
(2:20 PM) It's now reported that President Obama today won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples." I hope the prize inspires him to help create a more peaceful world...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Memoirs of a Meal

It's 4AM in Seoul, and the hunt nears its end. For many nights now I've been a blood meal for hungry mosquito. How do they enter this simple room? Through the drains? Via the air con system? The doors and windows are tightly closed, but each few hours more arrive, replacing their dead cousins whose carcasses dot the floor & smear the walls. As I write these words, two bloodsuckers die on approach. The waves of attack become bolder, welts from past bites itch & swell, the tracking of evasive flight patterns seems tougher. This is a zombie attack, beyond complex reasoning. If I stayed longer, I'd screen the drains, seal door & windows, cut-off access. But I'm a brief visitor, a huge attractant for these few grams seeking my blood. Such a welcome! A single discomforted meal in a buzzing metropolis, I gladly depart in a few hours for home & family, escaping thirst & vengeance.

(Until then, I protect my remains. The last mosquito spotted evaded extinction & hides behind a heavy desk, quite noisy to move.)

(-- PS, she's now a goner; too sodden with blood to escape a hunt).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wreck of the "Neocon"

The Obama administration inherited a horrible mess of a bankrupt economy, a skeptical electorate, and unwinnable overseas wars. They've not done well thus far in turning things around.

Obama took the responsible route in supporting Bush's bank bailouts. Perhaps he should have done as FDR did, and watch the previous administration struggle in their own morass until Inauguration Day. There are still far too many Americans who learned little or nothing from the financial meltdowns one year ago: some remain apologists for the neocon vision of American Empire, some remain banking officials - once again gambling with the vast funds in their care for personal gain.

The strangled US medical system is hostage to big insurance and loud insider interests. Many Americans die earlier & substantially poorer due to lack of needed reform; the Republican Party while in power did almost nothing positive with the medical system, and they refuse to cooperate now. Our nation's now obese & sick; just let them eat cake. No comfort food will help. So sad !

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chosen for Advantage

Perceived injustice is the root of much conflict. Our world too often remains a dog-eat-dog battleground, a Social Darwinist killing field where the weak and unfortunate become nutrients for the advantaged.

Those born in the USA have opportunities unachievable to most people born in Somalia, for example. We've created a global system that perpetuates unjust favoritism. Some people claim a mandate to steal land or property (Fascism, "manifest destiny") or to otherwise oppress (perhaps because their relatives suffered, or a benefit of God's Will). Further subgroups manipulate the rules: banking executives rely on market discipline when pricing or refusing loans, but when their own jobs become exposed, finagling subsidies & new rules with undiminished self-aggrandizement.

Always around the corner lurks another band of thieves, eager for wealth. People will struggle with injustice. Those with looted treasures can never be quite secure. We can only try to make better systems; havens of justice.

Monday, August 24, 2009

DPRK North Korea



At the end of last November, I traveled across the DMZ by bus into North Korea. Ours was the last public tour of Kaesong (Gaesong 개성); that evening the border closed, and hasn't since reopened to tourists.

I was interviewed by TV and print media both before & after my trip. One interview was with a student reporter, Park Boram, a pre-journalism intern for the Ministry of Unification. Here's the summary transcript:

1) What is purpose of your sightseeing to North Korea?
North Korea is a very uncommon travel destination. As a specialist in place marketing, I’m very interested in unique destinations that are fun, educational or confer conversational capital. A tour to Kaesong seemed challenging and a bit scary (not least because I went by myself on a Korean language tour, and my Korean language skills are still very limited). The trip was also an uncommon chance to learn and appreciate something special.

I visited East Germany in 1981, a day trip to East Berlin. It was highly eye-opening to be in a society so radically different than my own. I had a few memorable conversations, and spent most of the day in museums, but left recognizing that humans are much the same even though their political systems might be radically different. (Demonizing whole communities is nonsense).

I have had some experience training groups from North Korea: they came to Sweden and I taught them about market economics & Swedish ideology. My strongest impressions were not involving politics, but rather basic human interaction. For example, when out with a group at night in Stockholm, my wife & I asked an older male professor “Who does the cooking at your house?” ("And who does the shopping and cleanup?" "What favorite dishes can you cook?") These topics generated laughter and joking among the North Korean colleagues. Such discussions may be a basis for humor & gentle ribbing, but also for human communication.

2) What is the picture of there? I mean, is there same to report which is from broadcastings or books? Or is there seems to be hard to live there?

Hyundai Asan has made a truly amazing effort. The corporate effort has bridged an area where the South Korean government could do little. It is a great tribute to private initiative that such a thing has been possible. I would expect this to lead to improved rapprochement. Certainly any North Koreans seeing or working in the Kaesong Industrial Complex would be impressed with the modern infrastructure, which so strongly contrasts with nearby villages & hamlets (normal villages reminded me of visits to Nepal; tougher & more rustic than settlements south of the DMZ).


3) Where is the most impression place? Or what is special food in North Korea?


A tour is a great way to feel pushed to learn more history (I’m still learning the basics of Korean history). For example, I knew that Kaesong was a former capital (918-1392 Koryo Dynasty), but I was surprised to learn the name was formerly Songdo (sounding similar to the place name for South Korea's huge New Songdo City development near Incheon).


I had a strong sense that the government in Pyongyang is taking care of cultural treasures as the joint heritage of all Korean people. We enjoyed visiting Sonjuk Bridge, Pakyon Falls and the ancient Songkyunkwan University buildings. Considering North Korea's economic condition, seeing these treasures was a sadly ironic contrast to the poor stewardship of the Seoul government with the tragic destruction of Sungnyemun (1st national treasure of Korea; Feb. 2008 Namdaemun fire in Seoul).

My group had a delicious 13-course meal served in traditional polished brass bowls, with alcoholic drink starter (Kaesong Koryo Insam Liquor). The waitresses wore "Songdo Gisaeng" Hanbok. The kimchi used coriander, and had a special tangy taste. Also an arrowroot jelly was yummy, peppery samgyetang, unseasoned kim (nori / seaplant), sukchu namul with ginger, and yakbap (sticky "medicine rice" with ginnan, chestnut, etc.)... I guess very few others in that city ate as well as we did.

4) This question is so privacy and individual, but I expect to know your opinion. What do you think of unification between North and South Korea? And why do you think so?

Highly-partisan positions within South Korean politics (GDP / Democratic Party antagonism) have made progress difficult, as unification policies are treated as a political football. Differing parties and politicians repudiate each other at the cost of Inter-Korean reconciliation. Partisan politics have led to the Sunshine Policy being promoted or opposed in narrow partisan politics, instead of in terms of nation-building. The partition of Korea has huge costs. In my personal opinion, unification is a great, perhaps primary, national goal worthy of major, serious, sustained effort.

5) And last question, do you have some opinions to Korean government or Koreans relation to North Korea?

During the time we visitors were at ancient Songkyunkwan University for sightseeing & nearby shopping, I had the chance to watch our guides. Though they were from North and South, and were dressed very differently, I could clearly see rapport: they nudged each other and joked and laughed together. From my perspective as an outsider, seeing them speaking Korean together as colleagues clarified the tragedy of a divided land. I wish more Koreans deeply recognized this tragedy. We might imagine a time when 72 million Korean people cherish their heritage; when buses and trains carry all Koreans throughout the Korean peninsula or perhaps onward to China, Russia or Europe. That scenario promises more dynamic culture, cheaper imports and the freeing-up of huge resources and vast areas of land now dedicated to military defense. This trip to Kaesong opened my imagination. It was a peak experience!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peace Month Fast Approaching

Peace Month begins tomorrow: No food or drink, dawn to dusk, for 30 days. Suddenly every bite of anything tastes special, and I'm more aware each time I open my mouth. I expect to survive the challenge, but it won't be easy... How will I contribute to peace in the midst of it?



http://peacemonth.org

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Politics or Not ... Scouting

Should everything be politicized? Kids birthday parties? Medical care? Is celebrating Christmas anti-Semitic?

I was a member of the Boy Scouts of America. I can heartily recommend Scouting for skills & leadership development; we had great fun & learned a lot.

More than 100 million Americans have been part of the Scouting movement; the vast majority with excellent experiences. Each & every day, Scouting skills save lives. Thanks to Scouting, many people better understand nature and the wider world.

But some people now see Scouting as the Great Satan - for sexual intolerance.

Scouting sought to be an organization for young men, but otherwise asexual. Health, hygiene & first aid are taught, but sexual matters were deliberately avoided; family & health professionals were recommended for advice. Perhaps such a solution could not continue in an all-inclusive issue-based society. Why weren't girls welcome? And what if volunteer adult leaders abused their trust as chaperones?

The National Office, Boy Scouts of America was pressured to take unambiguous positions in the national struggle for tolerance & gender equality. Bigotry was certainly involved in the decision to refuse membership to avowed homosexuals. Parent worries about pedophilia became part of the debate. The majority of Scouts are pre-teens, sexuality not yet a major part of their lives. But sexual & gender battles developed around them, fought bitterly by others through to the Supreme Court of the USA. Hurray perhaps for legalism, politics & propriety. The boys are the losers...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blind Obama




Obama needs more help. Change is far too little, much too late. Huge funds were given to robber capitalists & overseas warfare.
Let's develop a clearly better path.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fox, Murdoch & Mordor

No not Muldar... the Dark Side.

The below firms & organizations reportedly advertise heavily on Fox News. Check details. In my opinion, Fox deliberately generates hate & hogwash; Fox is not mainstream. Has "the rabid Fox" earned your support? - support these firms. If Fox disgusts you, these sponsor / funder organizations should be told, then abandoned to rot in their own mess:

60Plus.org
AARP Insurance
Accu Chek Aviva (Roche)
ADT Security
Ally Bank (allybank.com)
American Express
Apple
Avodart (GlaxoSmithKline)
Bayer
Best Buy
Black & Decker
BMW
Boeing
Bridgestone
Brita Filter
Campbell Soup
Chrysler
Clairol
Conservatives for Patients Rights
Dannon
Dell
Ditech (ditech.com)
Ford
Forex.com
General Motors
Golden Corral restaurants
Healthy Choice (ConAgra Foods)
hotels.com
HSBC Life Insurance
Hyundai
Intel
Kellogg's
Kraft Foods
Lending Tree
LensCrafters, Inc.
Liberty Mutual Insurance
L.L. Bean
Men's Warehouse
Mercedes-Benz
Metastock (Equis / Thomson Reuters)
Nestlé
Nexium (AstraZeneca)
Nissan
Office Depot
Orbitz
Pep Boys Auto
Pfizer
Priceline.com
Proctor & Gamble
Prudential Insurance
Radio Shack
Red Lobster
Remax
Sargento Foods
Splenda (Johnson & Johnson)
Sprint
State Farm Insurance
Subaru
Super8 Motels (super8.com)
Superior Gold Group
Time Warner Cable Inc.
Toyota
Travelocity
United Healthcare Insurance
United Parcel Service of America, Inc. – UPS
United States Postal Service
Wachovia Finance
Walmart
Wall Street Journal
Weitz & Luxenberg P.C.
Yahoo! Inc.


Treasonous Shocks by Fox. Bad business.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Charity to Banks

I'm still sorely bothered by the U.S. Government's bailout of ailing banks. The federal government authorities should not have interfered with the market. Better the banks crashed, and rot diminished. Now the same shitbirds who caused banking difficulties are still siphoning-off huge pay & benefits.

Many bankers may have lost their jobs. Some would perhaps need to seek the charity of their communities, but most bankers have accumulated substantial personal reserves of wealth.

It is the average taxpayer who was played for a sucker. And the game continues.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Accomplishment

Talents and accomplishment may reside anywhere; multi-talented people employed in one field have hobbies, passions and a sense of curiosity that can develop into substantial accomplishment. But such talents are often veiled & out of sight. One pathway for discovery is "crowdsourcing" (an open call for problem solving), but other systems for detection, utilization & reward should be devised. Let's utilize these resources!

Because academic publishing is a long and often tedious procedure, it does not accurately reflect the sum of progress in a research field. Researchers often follow lines of inquiry which never result in publications. This may be simply due to findings being judged uninteresting to the community or to the individual researcher. Perhaps the researcher, adequately understanding a phenomenon, wishes to direct his or her attention elsewhere. Little or no overt achievement may accrue. How might such work / interests be charted?

It is common to think of specialists or experts as being highly-capable in one or perhaps two fields. But while vocational expertise uses focused marketing in support of a concentration, actual expertise may span a range of fields, and perhaps dozens of subfields. Acknowledgment of wide-ranging talents might damage specialist reputation where the public perceives a lack of concentration, or where multiple achievements engender envy or uncomfortable self-reflection in surrounding individuals.

Universities are often considered validators of achievement, but it's tough to gain university credit for non-formal education. Most universities require that a person register as a student, pay large sums of money, and sit in a classroom for dozens or hundreds of hours; non-traditional education undercuts their trade. So-called "higher education" often wastes great amounts of critical time and resources. But after investing heavily in the university system, many graduates are unwilling to offer public criticism. (I've four university degrees, from good institutions in four different nations. In each case I learned a lot. But each program also had substantial weak points, and a lot of time was wasted. Maybe the greatest weakness was pedagogical: most professors are untrained in educational method, and students suffer tremendously).

I hope the Localversity system can help reveal and validate accomplishment among the general public, and put wider energies to good use. Write to me with ideas. Or donate funding toward Localversity's alternative approaches to a better world.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blair rhymes with...

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is being discussed as a possible candidate for the first EU Council President. Assuming the Lisbon Treaty finally is properly ratified, it's unlikely he'll find much support - except perhaps among Brits who (to be rid of him) would like him sent-off to the continent.

Blair rhymes with guerre... We should never forget his slavish support for Bush-Cheney military adventurism & circumvention of international law. Better Tony Blair spend his days tramping around the British countryside, or trainspotting, or collecting classic back-issues of The Beano, rather than forcing himself on the rest of us. Thank you, but Tony Blair has done enough...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Not Black & White

U.S. President Barack Obama is a role model in many ways. It is great that many people are encouraged by his intelligence, his assorted skills, and his successes. Yet let's clarify that Obama is a multiracial person, as much Caucasian as Black. This interracial element highlights a key dynamic of sociology in America.

Via anti-miscegenation laws, many U.S. states outlawed marriage between people of different races, such as Obama's parents. When his parents married in 1961 in Hawaii, 22 of the 50 states outlawed such a marriage: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming. (Another 8 states repealed such laws between 1948-61, while a further 11 repealed their anti-miscegenation laws in the 19th century).

The U.S. Supreme Court declared all such prohibitions illegal in 1967. But more than 40 years later, which states are relatively intolerant? In the 2008 election among the 22 "anti-miscegenation states" mentioned above, multiracial Barack Obama won just 35% of the electoral vote (80 of 231), but 93% of electoral votes elsewhere. Mixed race families elicit a different "racist attitude" than other families. Barack is a living symbol of hope.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Won Flu, Too Cuckoo

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently signaled a global pandemic level 6 for novel influenza A (H1N1), a viral illness spread mainly by person-to-person contact. Health authorities around the world are seriously concerned about its potential deadly impact. The 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed approx. 21 million people worldwide; we've much more mobility now - the virus might spread very quickly.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is liaising with state & local health officials to improve public safety & security. Because flu is transmitted through contact with infected people or their surroundings (animals can also harbor the virus), public education about hygiene can be critical. At this moment there is no available vaccine that offers immunity.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in promoting public education efforts, is sponsoring a contest (deadline 17 august 2009). U.S. residents age 14 or over who create an effective 15, 30 or 60 second video Public Service Announcement can win US$2500!
http://www.pandemicflu.gov/psa/index.html

Seems a great idea. Ten finalists will be selected by celebrity judges, one prize will be given, voted "by the YouTube community."

But wait.     This contest sucks in too many ways:
-- $2500 ain't much incentive for critical activity; when people start dying, the U.S. government will seem stupid cheapskates. In June the US Congress appropriated a special budget to combat this H1N1 flu: $7.7 billion ($7,700,000,000). So this contest is not a three-millionth of the special budget. Though public education & prevention is most cost-effective, most money seems to be aimed elsewhere - perhaps fancy P4 experimentation facilities or outbreak-response helicopters...
-- No message format is good for everybody; if ten or a hundred videos will save lives, sponsor many videos.
-- Money attracts people; a million dollar prize or $100,000 gets people excited and it's newsworthy, which spreads the message.
-- Open the contest more widely; why stupidly limit entries to residents of the USA & Puerto Rico?
-- It is unlikely a proper voting system by the YouTube community can be devised
-- On a scale of 1 to 10, this contest announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (see video on link above) has an impact factor below 3; dreadful! Do these bureaucrats really care to keep us alive?

Ultimately: wash your hands regularly & carefully. Don't touch your mouth or nose. Assume public facilities are germ-infested. And Enjoy Life while you can!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Checks & Balances

When I was a schoolboy, we learned about three branches of American government, auditing & balancing each other: Executive, Legislative, Judiciary.

As I grew up, it became clear that the Legislature (U.S. Congress) is often blatantly undermined by the Executive branch, and that another key power, the Monetary branch (Federal Reserve) can do most anything.

We were not too young, not too foolish, to understand reality. What we were taught did not exist. We've been deceived.

Overstimulated?

The US economic stimulus package has been a failure. Both Bush & Obama's governments sought to prop-up a fundamentally rotted system. The "greed is good" philosophy is not good. Social Darwinism cannot create a comfortable system except for a small wealthy minority shielded from everyone else by security services.

That same banker & industrialist minority got taxpayer subsidy monies in the huge government stimulus package, though hundreds of millions of Americans (and 'guest' residents) cry "stimulate me!"

The USA must develop a new vision where people feel comfortable to invest in society. Too many Americans now feel estranged. Our communities are in tatters -- too many withdrawals, not enough deposits. Investments in community are a common wealth that's been violated by crooked politicians & business buddies, further drained by illegal immigrants. Society & community can be, and should be, more than an amalgam of accidentally overlapping greed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Madoff Smug

Bernie Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years in prison. Much (some) stolen wealth has been recovered from his family. But Bernie took far more. He & his family enjoyed pillage and living large; now the wife reportedly is left with just $2.5 million cash... so unfair! In this darkest of cases, crooked financiers and their supporters are given leniency; typical folk get shafted. Many of Bernie's victims have been ruined. Bernie's family thrives as American gentry...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chiasso Bearer Bond Payoff?

Is speculation true of active news suppression over the Chiasso bearer bond case? I'd like to taste good fortune! This post evaporates for one 500 million-dollar bond... (No "termination with extreme prejudice" please...)

On 3 June 2009 two Japanese men at Chiasso train station on the Italian border to Switzerland were detained by Italian financial police (Sezione Operativa Territoriale di Chiasso, in collaboration with Guardia di Finanza del Gruppo di Ponte Chiasso). Undeclared bearer bonds valued at US$139.5 billion were found in a false sided case.

The first report was official (in Italian), at:
http://tinyurl.com/luxusl

One blogger began providing followup:
http://cryptogon.com/?p=9095

Japan's Kyodo & the wikinews soon chimed in:
http://tinyurl.com/m6kb96

Bloomberg eventually picked-up the story:
http://tinyurl.com/lkpemw

AsiaNews.it stirred the pot with innuendo:
http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=15505&size=A

What's happening? One reasoned analysis says it's foolhardy to imagine anyone would cash a US$500 million bond without sure authentication (they hold $10 checks until they're clear... they'll hold a half billion dollars till they're damn certain it's real). So what's going on? Who are the men? Why were their names not released? Where are they now? Can I feed at the honeypot?

Disease of the Dollar

Big capital has pushed and prodded the USA into a corner. The American people have been largely abandoned by our government (notwithstanding "of, for, and by The People..."). Huge resources drain to mismanaged banks & failed industries, supporting stupidity, as talent & promising resources waste away in a "credit crunch."

The US Congress decided this week to fund continuing overseas combat. The Yankee-led "Coalition of the Willing" & Operation Iraqi Freedom have dwindled. The US armaments industries & military bureaucracies scream that freedom has a price, and "support our troops" -- but their true concerns are money, jobs & power. Surviving millions of Iraqi & Afghan refugees suffer daily from the fallout of America's blood & guts adventurism.

In other news this week, the governments of Brazil, Russia, India & China (BRIC), and next the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, met in Yekaterinberg to discuss a new multilateralism. The US government sought to be included, but was rejected. Yekaterinberg (Ekaterinburg/Sverdlovsk) is iconic as the execution spot of the last Russian Tsar (Nicholas II) & his family; it's also the site of a highly-fatal Soviet bioweapon accident. Now there's a new breakout: the consensus that US unilateralism can't continue. The dollar has become diseased.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Washington Wars

The Obama administration today rudely twisted arms to pass a huge war funding bill. The Democratic leadership has forgotten promises to end overseas adventurism. With a new crowd now firmly in power, they dish up continuing military-industrial wastefulness, and promote the worst of the Bush/Cheney/Whitewater legacy.

These billions, the people's money, spent on America's warfare industries. Such riches could grow many better things. Instead, war machines & needless heroics stomp the world, made in the U.S.A.

America can't promote positive change through waging foreign wars. Bombing & maiming creates more enemies than friends. US money & energy should be spent at home, caring for our own people. Elected politicians who've abandoned their constituencies and damaged the nation will be voted out. Now they are parasites bathing in blood... We expected better!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Japanguish

Japan is a great place! It's world-leading in some ways. Could it be better?... certainly!

I've lived in Japan for 13+ years, and now visit regularly. There's much I like. (Perhaps I'll add more kudos later, but -- quickly -- some areas I admire are the hot springs, the people, culture, food, holidays, predictability, reliability, etc.).

This post, however, will list major weaknesses. Over time I'll add & revise the items. These are personal observations; suggestions welcome!
----------------------------------

Prepare plenty of yen (cash) for Japan. Only a small percentage of ATM machines handle cashcards / creditcards issued outside Japan (this means 1% or less!) In early 2009 I was in Beppu, Oita Prefecture. There was no place in that city to withdraw cash using a foreign Visa or Master card... I asked at two Tourist Offices, the major local bank, at a high-end hotel, and at a foreign tourist assistance desk. It was recommended to go to the neighboring city of Oita. Terrible for a city that attracts international tourists and has an globally-oriented university.

Most hotels & many restaurants accept credit cards (foreign or domestic) but a great many places in Japan require cash. Foreign exchange at banks in many cities is a tedious & costly procedure. In this earlier cited trip, I visited Oita Bank and exchanged Korean won at 15% over the interbank rate, and Australian dollars at 21% above that day's interbank rate; it took about 25 minutes for the paperwork. (I'm interested in this as a structural weakness. I wasn't out of cash, and had more than 50,000 yen and also plenty of U.S. dollars). The lesson is that well-off foreign visitors to Japan can expect to be seriously inconvenienced. They'll also feel Japan as rigidly domestic and financially archaic. It's sad that Japanese financial institutions haven't fixed this...
----------

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Zagat Sucks

I formerly subscribed to Zagat Survey, an excellent review of restaurants, hotels, nightspots, etc., around the world. I also submitted many reviews, which were published online & in Zagat printed guides.

But now I don't subscribe; rather, I believe Zagat sucks.

What soured me? They've a scummy system that automatically renews subscriptions. They don't allow immediate opt-out. The system is skewed to their convenience: the user is automatically billed again next year, and again forever. They claim a call or letter later can end a subscription. But I don't wish to "subscribe for life until further notice" -- I'd be OK for a year, but this is bad practice. Zagat sucks.

Haiku

Haiku by Genki

Distraction left me
knowing "Something Was Just Lost"
Then refreshing smell

------------------

Our world ain't fair, but
Children's chalk marks, blood, and grime
All purged by Spring rain

------------------

One quiet breath, then
Another. Without chatter.
Rustles mix with wind.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dangerous Korea?

Having spent some years in South Korea, with three trips to the DMZ and once across, I'm often asked by friends in Europe & the USA -- how dangerous is South Korea?

It's a tough question to answer. South Koreans don't feel much danger, but proximity to North Korea is certainly a problem. It's only 35 miles (55 kms) from the DPRK border to Seoul, 120 miles (190 kms) between Seoul & Pyongyang. It's costly to be bottled-up on the Korean peninsula by an unpredictable neighbor.

In terms of marketing, people around the world are both confused & frightened by the jointly-used name "Korea"...

There are smaller problems in living anywhere; sometimes irritation seems to accumulate. In Korea I've been bothered that incoming international mail is a few days slower to arrive than to Japan or Europe or the USA. It was also an irritant that an international service I use regularly will not ship to Korea (VistaPrint; they ship to 120 other countries...). An associated problem is finding Korea in international postage lists: is it under "K" for Korea, "S" for South Korea, "R" for Republic of Korea, or is it not listed...?

Some weaknesses leave locals unfazed, but I've been surprised: the university regularly issued us medicine to kill intestinal parasites. And don't drink the tap water!

But most people in South Korea prefer not to think about these wider problems, and don't spend time worrying about them. People busily focus on the everyday business of life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Obscured Imprisonment

(poetry by Genki)

I expend
My lonely energies
Building barriers
Against Others

Wrong race
Bad nation
Ugly
Can't be trusted

What threat
Built my prison?
Unforgiving jailer
In every mirror

But sometime
solitude breaks
I'm outside, in
unpredictability

Fresh air
A few breaths
Smile
Banter with others

No whistle of "time's up"
I trudge back
To my cell
and lock my own door

I may wake one day
In a better world
I hope. I pray.
Simple things may set me free.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Poking at Pyongyang

Media reports about Lee Seung-Eun (리승은 Euna Lee) & Laura Ling have been unfairly inflammatory. These two 'journalists' were arrested while unreasonably probing the Chinese / DPRK (North Korea) border on 17 March 2009.

To illegally cross the border, or even to be close enough that North Korean guards could grab them, was dumb. They were in a controlled area, and are now convicted provocateurs. Certainly we want them back as soon as possible; they and their families must be suffering terribly.

Who are these women? They were clearly in a dangerous place, with producer-cameraman Mitchell 'Mitch' Koss and a North Korean-born naturalized Chinese guide (who both evaded North Korean capture, but were subsequently detained by the Chinese; Koss was quickly released and returned to the USA a few days after the incident). Koss before has traveled the full length of this North Korean border (see his LA Times report from 2003). For what reasons were inexperienced women sent into danger? (Some facts emerge in a 30 March 2009 article by Barbara Demick). Why no clear statements from Koss - the direct witness who abandoned them? Most press coverage shows bias, and facts have been woefully inadequate.

Within hours of this incident, a Japanese man with wire cutters was arrested by the South Korean military attempting to break through the North Korean border. (A video report in Japanese is here). Strange goings-on for a highly-dangerous area!

The best strategy available for these women is to beg for mercy & clemency.

Update: It is unhelpful that in 2006 the older sister of imprisoned Laura Ling, Lisa Ling, infiltrated North Korea with hidden cameras posing as part of a medical relief team; the resulting National Geographic production "Undercover in North Korea" was highly critical of the DPRK. http://epicanthus.net/2009/06/08/larry-king-live/

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Foreign Devils Left My House

I've lived in assorted countries as a student & teacher; over 28 years as a foreigner! (About 14 years in Japan & Korea as a racial minority). This could be characterized as miserable or wonderful - mostly it's been good. There are many thousands of people such as myself: highly skilled global migrants who regularly learn to enjoy new tastes & experiences. Our numbers are increasing.

Mixed-race people are also increasing in number (I've Hawaiian, Chinese & European roots). In comparison with citizenship, racial ancestry is less likely to be public knowledge and is often misreported: U.S. President Barack Obama is regularly termed "Black" when he's as much Caucasian as otherwise. Racial groupings and definitions are imprecise and often used as a mechanism for exclusion...

I've lived in Sweden since 1995, and was a foreigner until a couple of months ago, when I joined my American-born wife as a naturalized Swede with multiple citizenship. Now I feel more interest as a local stakeholder, and more empowered. It's nice.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Tasting Torture: Gandhi at Gitmo

Torture continues at Gitmo. Kidnapped people held by the USA at Guantanamo Bay are still held in bad conditions. These so-called "detainees" are held indefinitely without charge. Some are tortured. Food is actually forced down their throats.

Active torture exists: where a detainee refuses to eat on command, they are bound & force fed. They're hogtied, a tube is painfully thrust up their nose & down their throat, a 'meal' is forced into them "for their own best interests."

This type of torture has been specifically forbidden by the World Medical Association (1975 Declaration of Tokyo; 1991 Declaration of Malta). The medical profession (the American Medical Association is a signatory) is specific (Malta, Art. 21): "Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment."

Doctors from around the world have condemned US mistreatment through force-feeding; 263 doctors signed a 2006 letter to The Lancet urging the USA to abandon these procedures.

Visualize skinny Gandhi, bound in a Gitmo five-point restraint chair, half clad in USA Gitmo orange, his hunger strike and human dignity forced to nothing by torturous tube-feeding. Force-feeding must stop now!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Slaves: Pay for Your Chains

Bailing-out banks in the USA with public funds is a clear case of the average schmuck having to pay for his (her) own chains. What a racket! Some people foolishly expect politicians to speak up, but top politicians are rewarded by high finance - it ain't gonna happen. The public must protect itself.

The citizenry wonders why they fund the banks, who then charge them usurious fees. Paying twice? No - more than that: pay also for police who protect the wealthy. Pay further for politicians who make financier scams legal...

Those paying the costs are the American working people, chained to the job, working 50 weeks a year & liking it (or they're thrown out of work).

There's a word for this: it starts with nothing, and ends with "sucker"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pentagon Disinfo Exposed = Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting announced this week went to David Barstow of The New York Times for articles revealing Pentagon orchestration of retired military officers as media analysts, and how many top-level pundits (and the large media networks primping them as "independent authoritative voices") neglected to disclose personal financial interests in firms profiting from policies promoted on-air.

Barstow illuminated the US Military-Industrial-Media complex. The covert Pentagon program focused on 'message multipliers' -- surrogates who'd deliver administration themes & messages to millions of Americans 'in the form of their own opinions.' These Government efforts were reportedly illegal propaganda (the Defense Dept's Inspector General has now claimed no illegality; a GAO investigation is continuing). The program ushered the nation into war; within a few days of being disclosed in The New York Times, it was discontinued.

The sub-theme since Barstow's revelations has been a stubborn refusal of most big TV networks to acknowledge the story, or to apologize for misleading viewers. Glen Greenwald has written extensively about big media's silence and conflict-of-interest. Awarding David Barstow's work a Pulitzer Prize makes a stronger and more enduring public record of a citizenry systematically deceived.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cheney's Torturous Logic

Former US Vice President Dick Cheney is today claiming that his government's tortures led to "success" -- he demands "what we gained" be made clear.

Cheney is a dangerous man; I believe he's a criminal. He swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, but he flaunted the law.

Torture 500 people to the point they believe they're dying - you may learn a few things. All were tortured illegally -- Cheney completely discounts the 450+ innocent people tortured wrongly / erroneously.

Further, international safeguards & the ICRC (Intl. Committee of the Red Cross) exist to help humankind, Americans as well as foreigners. Cheney's argument puts the lives and well-being of detained U.S. citizens in grave jeopardy.

Cheney was partly responsible for the intelligence & security failures under his government's direction that led to the 9/11 massacres. Thousands were killed during his watch (while he looked for ways to fleece us with his energy policy). Now he snipes from the sidelines.

Cheney should be in prison.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Innocent Don't Matter

The Bush government's effort to prosecute foreign detainees with secret military tribunals makes little sense in terms of vital operational details being communicated. These people had been jailed for years already, and "harsh interrogation" (torture) had supposedly extracted the useful information they might have had.

The secrecy was rather to protect the government from criticism for conducting torture. The tribunal for prisoner Majid Khan raised the claim (link here; page 13) that the 6 & 8 year old children of prisoner Khalid S. Mohammed were kept without food or water & tormented with insects for information about their father. Recent disclosures allowing insect-related torments make this hearsay story more believable...

Torturing or harming those known to be innocent, and collective punishment, are bad policy and cannot be excused.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

No Comment?

"We who have a voice must speak for the voiceless"
- Óscar Romero, Roman Catholic Archbishop; later murdered by right-wing death squad in church (24 March 1980, El Salvador)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Torture Revisited

Some specifics of U.S. Government-sponsored torture have recently been released by the Obama administration. The fact that cruel & horrific practices took place has been known for years, only now many details are exposed officially.

President Obama's positive decision to release the memos should be applauded. Interrogation details and participant testimonies highlight a rot which infected the US government and its operations.

Notwithstanding Obama's parallel words of support for intelligence service professionals, there were no requirements for operatives to conduct harsh interrogations (tortures); paramilitary or contract workers were reportedly often used instead of trained military interrogators. International & domestic laws were broken. Government fostered an open contempt for such laws, and officials sworn to uphold the law failed in their duties. Transgressions have been much more extensive than those described in these CIA memos. For example, pinning non-compliant detainees into restraint chairs and force-feeding by nasogastric tubes has been condemned ("Use of restraint chairs to break a hunger strike by a competent prisoner is a violation of both medical ethics and of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions" -- see also this link from The Lancet signed by 263 medical doctors worldwide). Smearing fresh menstrual blood on the face of a shackled prisoner (see E39) is inexcusable.

Those assigned to torture others might explain such acts as duty to Fatherland, but in any event such operations are dishonorable. They tortured suspects, not convicted terrorists. Even after months and years, prisoner abuse continued with no formal criminal accusations. Did the U.S. government truly want information from evildoers, or did they seek to harm & impose fear? The interrogators made conscious decisions to torture, and the "following orders" defense is insufficient protection; even their own President cannot protect interrogators, political commanders and direct support staff from indictment & conviction elsewhere -- in many cases these seem blatant war crimes.

Perhaps the first to be indicted should be those who crafted the policies. But the story is yet partly told: what other impromptu horrors were inflicted in efforts to "break the will" and impose fear in each detained suspect? Can we believe this was merely a search for information? ...if so, do it in public. Torture & murder are often used to crush dissent, often ultimately to enrich some elite. We know that people died under sustained secret interrogation & detention. Is it true the dead tell no tales...? Let the stories be told in a court of law.

These excesses should be rooted-out, revealed & condemned. The proposal by US Senator Patrick J. Leahy for an independent Commission of Inquiry is thus very important and should be supported. The rule of law, transparency, and accountability are fundamental to good government -- otherwise we've bad government. Otherwise the next despot will do worse.

Disinformation & falsehood are insidious. US Dept. of Defense publish the words -- too good to be true -- of Guantanamo detainees: "I'm in good health and have good facilities of eating, drinking, living, and playing." "These people take good care of me... The guards and everybody else is fine. We are allowed to talk to our friends." "The food is good, the bedrooms are clean and the health care is very good. There is a library full of Islamic books, science books, and literature... Sport, reading, and praying, all of these options are not mandatory for everyone, it is up to the person." Like Waldsee postcards written to those remaining in the ghetto by those sent to "work in the East" but actually at Auschwitz: "We are fine, working, and hoping to see you soon."

President Obama's statement that we should look forward has somewhat of a silver lining. Hopefully he means that US overseas adventurism will decline. Hopefully he will address the causes of conflict: perceived injustice. Hopefully he will shut down Guantanamo. Hopefully he will close WHINSEC and sever all links to the old School of the Americas. Hopefully...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What's a Goddamn Communist?

What's a Commie? Answering such a question was previously easy. They were enemies of America; we patriotically tried to to roll 'em back or kill them (USSR, VietCong, etc.) But now we do business with the same people - anyhow those who survived.

Aside from the specifics of Red Chinese commies vs. Cuban commies, it seems reasonable to ask if the whole exercise wasn't perhaps a load of bunkum. Were we misled? We certainly got all worked up about anti-Communism, and those caught in crossfire truly suffered - but did it matter? A "fight for free enterprise" morphed into overseas adventures led by no-bid Halliburton & Blackwater, cozying up to despots, and now the public bailout of key financial firms with friends in high places. Seems we've been played as suckers.

Dumb Pigs?

I hate to see government waste. I also dislike populist bullies, and those who build reputation by deceiving people.

What of the folk who publish The Congressional Pig Book Summary?

I've not been directly involved or affected, but their annual lists get a lot of attention. As with former Sen. William Proxmire's "Golden Fleece Awards" they incite populist rage, but the background story & scientific reasoning often gets trampled unheard. Perhaps the unwritten criterion for being included with the piggy "most egregious" projects is to be ha ha ha funny. For example, their work criticizes "$1.8 million for swine odor and manure management research in Iowa." Hilarious, if you live in Manhattan or Washington DC or Beverly Hills... but where do those deli goods and shrink-wrapped meats come from? Stinky factory farms pollute their surroundings unless highly regulated (also expensive). Horrible smells negatively effect health and property values. Perhaps public spending to alleviate stench is not unreasonable.

Citizens Against Government Waste explain how a project gets included - by meeting just one of their criteria: "The 1,188 projects, totaling $2.8 billion, in this year’s Congressional Pig Book Summary symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork. As in previous years, all of the items in the Congressional Pig Book Summary meet at least one of CAGW’s seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

* Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
* Not specifically authorized;
* Not competitively awarded;
* Not requested by the President;
* Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
* Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
* Serves only a local or special interest."

To rewrite, they require a project fulfill all the below criteria or it can get put in their stupid pig book:

* Requested by both chambers of Congress;
* Specifically authorized;
* Competitively awarded;
* Requested by the President;
* Can't greatly exceed Presidential budget request or previous year’s funding.

Is this reasonable?
Should wasteful spending in their own offices be examined? Why is CAGW situated in the heart of Washington D.C.? With cheap electronic communications, why not move to cheaper office space in say Ames, Iowa - complete with disagreeable pig shit smell...
CAGW's own overall budget is $5 million; should we speak of their "Five-million dollar Pig Book?"

After venting such responses, in fact I appreciate the energies and effort of the CAGW, and respect what they seem to be trying to do. But it is easy to blindside geeky researchers. Why not focus a bit more on the military - that's the real Pork Base / Camp Pork...

aloha

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unacceptable US Govt. Torture

US President Barack Obama has thus far excused the illegal activities of the prior administration. He's doubtless busy with assorted challenges (his kids ain't yet got their promised dog). Let's hope pressure continues to indict those who broke key laws. We can start with those who setup, ran & authorized torture.

The torture procedures have now been known for a long time, from Abu Ghraib photos and elsewhere. A 2005 report by U.S. ABC News [Ross, Brian & Richard Esposito (2005) "CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described" (18 Nov 2005)] describes in detail what happened to some people detained by the US Government (and not formally arrested, charged or convicted of any crime):
"CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:
1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt."


The International Committee of the Red Cross (14 Feb. 2007) describes mistreatment of 14 so-called 'high value detainees' in more detail:
"The initial period of interrogation, lasting from a few days up to several months was the harshest, where compliance was secured by the infliction of various forms of physical and psychological ill-treatment. This appeared to be followed by a reward based interrogation approach with gradually improving conditions of detention, albeit reinforced by the threat of returning to former methods. The methods of ill-treatment alleged to have been used include the following:
• Suffocation by water poured over a cloth placed over the nose and mouth.
• Prolonged stress standing position, naked, held with the arms extended and chained above the head, for periods from two or three days continuously, and for up to two or three months intermittently, during which period toilet access was sometimes denied resulting in allegations from some that they had to defecate and urinate over themselves.
• Beatings by use of a collar held around the detainees neck and used to forcefully bang the head and body against the wall.
• Beating and kicking, including slapping, punching, kicking to the body and face.
• Confinement in a box to severely restrict movement.
• Prolonged nudity during detention, interrogation and ill-treatment; this enforced nudity lasted for periods ranging from several weeks to several months.
• Sleep deprivation through days of interrogation, through use of forced stress positions (standing or sitting), cold water and use of repetitive loud noise or music. One detainee was kept sitting on a chair for prolonged periods of time (two to three weeks while constantly deprived of sleep).
• Exposure to cold temperature, especially via cold cells and interrogation rooms, and by the use of cold water poured over the body or held around the body by means of a plastic sheet to create an immersion bath with just the head out of the water.
• Prolonged shackling of hands and/or feet.
• Threats of ill-treatment to the detainee and/or his family.
• Forced shaving of the head and beard.
• Deprivation/restricted provision of solid food from 3 days to 1 month after arrest."


All this was admittedly condoned by US Vice President Cheney. Was it right? Did it work? Arrest Cheney & Co. as torturers, and let the courts decide!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tomb of Giants

(No - this isn't a political essay on Afghanistan / Iraq) We've just returned from a driving trip in Sardinia, where we came across assorted ruins and remains of prior peoples. Much of what we saw was unexplained on site (especially so as our Italian language skills are poor); some sites had only a sign labeling a name, others nothing at all. The nuraghi are towers erected anywhere from 3500 BC to perhaps 1500 BC, largely by a Bronze Age culture. There were perhaps 30,000 of these huge towers; some 8000 remain. There are also "Tomb of Giants" - we visited one named S'Ena e Thomes near Dorgali. It is reportedly positioned significantly relative to the Spring star Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri / Rohini nakshatra). There is an extended dolmen behind. What was this thing, how was it used? Nobody seems to know. There is conjecture that the place was a gravesite for multiple individuals. Why the small opening at bottom - for animals to enter and feed? There is a sense of sacred. The site is now just a part of the wild Sardinian countryside, surrounded by scrub trees and windswept nature.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Steny Hoyer shares Facts

Here's an easy-to-read indictment of failure:
Quotes & facts of the (now past) U.S. administration
from the office of U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer
(.pdf file; from 9 Sept. 2008; great data!)

Duped !

Back in September 2008, under the laissez-faire "free market" regime of George W. Bush (Dick Cheney presiding), we were suddenly informed the USA & world economy were in a doomsday financial crisis. We needed market intervention. We had to provide huge amounts of public funding to certain private firms (to the very same people who had put their firm in trouble) and -- (drum roll) -- we needed to do it quickly! With little review or forward planning! Hurry!

The resulting Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) led to a feeding frenzy. Banks & major financial firms consumed many hundreds of billions of dollars in low-cost monies. Soon they were demanding more funds. Market discipline was circumvented; regulatory agencies were kept weak; the inept remained in place.       (Wikipedia 1 - 2 - 3 articles)

If told
"act fast or it's the end of the world"
  -- be very cautious...

We was duped.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Stop Speculation Now!

"What the Obama administration is doing is far worse than nationalization: it is ersatz capitalism, the privatizing of gains and the socializing of losses. It is a "partnership" in which one partner robs the other. And such partnerships - with the private sector in control - have perverse incentives, worse even than the ones that got us into the mess."
-- Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1 Apr 2009, New York Times

The financiers and bankers have built a speculative bubble. It can't be unraveled by the bartering of politicians. Speculators are far better at their own game. We cannot win. Don't throw good money after bad. Don't re-fund the same semi-skilled scum who've caused the problem.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Flim Flam Scam

Our world has too many examples where ignorance results in rape (actual or metaphorical). Consider here the despoiling of peoples, nations and regions. Our widespread economic collapse is due to financial manipulations, insolvency, hostile resource grabbing, & war; personal foreclosures beautifully highlight the brutality of capitalism. Alternative approaches, (e.g. social democrats or religious-based political parties) seek to provide some safety net and measure of reason, but they are also centrally flawed. We need new models, because theocracy, fascism, ultranationalism, unlimited greed & xenophobia are highly-dangerous substitutes for ignorance. (more to come)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weasel 101: Managing Euphemism

Administrators team with media in maintaining orthodox thought among the inhabitants of a command region. The US Government under President George W. Bush was notably successful in maintaining a disciplined use of euphemism to cloak what could be construed as crimes against humanity or war crimes. "Enhanced interrogation" or "aggressive technique" labels were a mask for torture. Let's be clear: using information often supplied by low-reliability paid informants, US forces seized people. These detainees were transferred hooded & shackled to military prisons (at Guantanamo and elsewhere). Still held without charge, they were stripped naked, doused with cold water, kept awake with loud music or continuous 20+ hour interrogations. Many were forced to maintain stress positions, threatened or attacked by dogs, or held underwater and drowned ("waterboarded") and then revived. Some were kept in isolation cells for months or years - uncharged, without access to the minimal comforts guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions. This US system flaunted the 1984 UN Convention against Torture. Those responsible for torture: US political leaders and staff affiliates, Department of Justice lawyers, interrogators from the US Department of Defence etc., should be prosecuted, convicted & imprisoned for their crimes.

"The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of "a few bad apples" acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority." -- Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Womb Wranglers

US President Obama's pro-choice support is being attacked by the Roman Catholic Church and ultra-Right activists. These 'womb wranglers' are concerned about contraception and / or terminated pregnancy: they claim to be supporting a right-to-life.

It is sufficiently clear that almost nobody in the pro-choice population is truly "supportive" of abortion: most deplore & deeply regret the practice. The opposite camp nonetheless demonizes their opponents as killers.

Many might simply wish to avoid the topic. But taking a stand can become urgent. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has been rigid, dogmatic and punishing. In a recent case. "A nine-year-old Brazilian girl was raped by her stepfather and pregnant with twins. The doctors judged that the small and undeveloped body of the girl did not have the ability to carry the one child let alone two and thus decided to perform an abortion. The nine-year-olds’ mother gave her consent to the procedure, which was made the 4th of March 2009. The Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho decided to excommunicate the mother and the doctors the 6th of March. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, said that the twins the girl was carrying had the right to live: "It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated. Life must always be protected...""

A parallel band of zealots were responsible for the Bush administration allowing doctors and health professionals to choose to refuse treatment to people whose opinions or lifestyles they disagree with. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt claimed it was the "right of a physician to practice medicine according to his or her moral compass" -- but is it proper to refuse access to health care or medicines? I think it is wrong that licensed professionals (enjoying a protected profession with high barriers-to-entry and enforced scarcity) can thus withhold treatment. Their vision of right-to-life thus only applies to those who agree with them (or to the angelically pure preborn) but for others: "fuck 'em - let them die."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ending Discrimination?

The British government is in the news as discussing an end to the ban on the heir to the British throne marrying a Roman Catholic (the monarch is head of the Church of England). It all sounds dandy.

But what of the gross sexual discrimination by the Roman Catholic Church in banning women from becoming priests, bishops, cardinals or pope? They scam around the issue by claiming it's outside their control - that "the Church has no authority" with such Divine Law. I say, poppycock! Let's give it a try. Perhaps God will punish the Church, but more likely it's already being punished for misunderstanding Divine Law...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Distorted Face

Major General Geoffrey D. Miller
now retired.

Celebrated in the US Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
Maj. Gen. Miller’s awards include seven Legions of Merit, Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster) and Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

The US Army News Service describes him as "a role model, innovator, and a leader... Our Army asked Geoff Miller to tackle two of the toughest jobs in the Global War on Terror." Commander of Guantanamo, and subsequently Commanding General of Detainee Operations in Iraq, he was "willing to do the heavy lifting of detaining suspected insurgents and developing critical intelligence to help win the war."

He advocated innovative ways to "soften up" the as-yet uncharged detainees for interrogation.

He is under investigation for War Crimes in the USA & Europe.

One of many, responsible for torture.

What should he have done?
Did he provide honorable service? Or did he dishonor his nation?

Read "Break Them Down" by Physicians for Human Rights for some gruesome details...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cheney, Cheney, bourgeoisie

Dick Cheney / George W. Bush will never be accused of elegance. They are fundamentally small & vindictive. They utilized fear to corral the American people into emasculation. Cheney now brays from a fancy manor that Obama's new government opens our nation to attack. Let's clearly recognize: Cheney, Bush & their cronies were asleep at the helm for 9/11: Cheney busily being tutored by Kenny Lay & his Enron boys; Bush golfing & pruning bushes in Texas (when the planes actually hit the WTC & Pentagon, Bush was visiting brother Jeb in Florida & chatting with school kids). Oops - 2,974 dead.

Extra-judicial disappearance & torture were not sustainable or proper. 'Tough measures' did nothing to fix the underlying causes of discontent and outburst.

But what should Americans focus on - the 2974 unfortunate dead, or the 285,699,109 who survived? We lost a lot, but not 1%, not one tenth of 1%, but 0.00001 (or 1 of 100,000). The attack was a terrible tragedy for the killed & their loved ones, but the grand majority of us survived. PRAISE THE LORD.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lieberman-Likud Lobby Lead us

Ambassador Charles Freeman explains tactics by the newly coined Lieberman-Likud Lobby, that "plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors."

"There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government - in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so."

(Link to speech quoted in Huffington Post)
(Subsequent interview w/ Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation)

Does this Freeman purge surprise anyone? The need for American officials to kowtow becomes more blatant as the more extreme-right Israeli government takes power. I expect the new Lieberman-Likud regime will be sad news for Israel, the region, and the world. Typical demagogues & tyrants, they don't support themselves - dragging us all into their morass.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Politics or pie?

A sad situation: people care, but lazily do nothing.

Many people sit back and watch Obama working hard, winning some & losing some, and silently cheer him on. Such people are part of a huge problem. We need solutions; fast.

Better ways must be developed for people to participate in community affairs - not merely tramping to vote each few years.

I'm weary of arguing with friends, writing a blog, representing progressive thought, and living reasonably. Maybe I must become more of a poet or a songwriter, where ideas become more viral...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Madoff realities

The case of Bernard Madoff is frightening. The government regulatory agencies saw virtually nothing - even when irregularities were reported to them. The Treasury collected taxes on paper profits that were wholly imaginary. What are the true losses?

Direct losses are variously estimated. It may be that US$17 billion was actually under management, but losses up to US$65 billion are claimed (reinvested imaginary "profits"). Only US$1 billion has been recovered.

Trust has certainly taken a beating. Many charities have lost their capital, and the highly-exposed element of society that should benefit from such monies gets nothing. Some people will die sooner due to loss of such resources thanks to Madoff & Co.

Recent reports talk of "his wife's" Manhattan apartment. But if these are the fruits of crime, essentially stolen goods, wouldn't they need to be relinquished? What of the other Madoffs working in the web of companies - if one part of the network is a criminal enterprise, should the proceeds of other segments be legitimate?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When...

When...
When would you try?
When would you know?
When to resist?
Would you wait
... & ride the transports?
Would you pause
... till disinfection & Zyklon B?
Must you view
...the Killing Fields?


Will you be First
or Last
to Fight?

Better rude
Than dead.
You'll not push me further
Fuck Off!
(The more polite response - "Excuse me")

It's odd
More functionaries
Haven't been screwdrivered -
Hearts pierced by those
Protecting families.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Rest in Peace, Mr. Tetsu Goto


Today I was shocked at receiving last year's Annual Report of the Tokyu Foundation for Inbound Students (財団法人とうきゅう外来留学生奨学財団; I'm a recipient member). Already many months ago, Mr. Tetsu Goto suddenly died at age 59 - 東急電鉄の取締役調査役の五島哲氏(59)が死去. Tetsu Goto was an energetic supporter of foreign students in Japan; he regularly took time from his assorted business interests to participate in weekends and support parties for our highly-mixed family of students. He seemed to enjoy our fellowship; he's sorely missed, and 59 is far too young to pass away. Rest-in-Peace 五島さん。

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bloody Inheritance!

Hawaiians are again being restricted from properly enjoying our inheritance. People such as attorney H. William Burgess and activist Kenneth R. Conklin have aggressively sought to label native Hawaiians as racially discriminatory for not offering all-inclusive access to our properties and heritage. The Governor seeks now to validate confiscation. Labeling Hawaiians as racist is an outrage - most of us come from multiethnic families, we ourselves most of us are multiracial, highly generous, and have 'calabash cousins' of assorted backgrounds. In fact, this dispute over who is Hawaiian and who is entitled to inheritance is a crass attempt to further erode, divide and break-up our extended Hawaiian 'ohana.

Let's look at inheritance on the mainland. The courts support inheritance; nobody presumes the right to force their way onto the properties of the Rockefeller families. More importantly, who is a Rockefeller? Old John D. Rockefeller married Cettie Spellman, outside his blood family, so by "blood quantum" the kids were only half Rockefeller. Their great-grandchildren, West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller and the late Arkansas Lt. Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller (among others) have only one-eighth a Rockefeller bloodline. This didn’t interfere with their inheritance of wealth, property and family pride.

Native Hawaiians are being critically misled and deceived by blood quantum arguments. Perhaps we marry Kanaka Maoli, perhaps otherwise; those marrying into the wide world of non-Hawaiians should not feel compromised. As fully as other wealthy people, we can and must hand-down to our children an appreciation of heritage, family pride and individual identity. John D. Rockefeller Jr. was never led to feel himself a half-breed.

Wake up 'ohana! Over the years many waves of migrants have found Hawaii. Some joined our families or were otherwise invited to share our blessings. We can all enjoy a dynamic & loving community. But we'll not be forced from our heritage by arrogant colonists or treacherous repression. Stand tall!

Poki
(Dr. Bruce Henry Lambert)
former Kamehameha Schools Na Poki'i Hawaiian scholar
University of Oxford

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mad over Madoff

Not being a financial insider, I didn't lose or gain money with Bernie Madoff; he was unknown to me prior to his arrest.

Many people were burned by this guy, who has confessed to assorted crimes. Yet months later he's still out on bail, with restrictions on when and how far he can wander from "his" homes. He can enjoy all types of luxuries in a Manhattan penthouse and an oceanfront home in the Hamptons (Montauk, NY). He needs special permission to visit a Palm Beach, FL home; he can't use his jet and visit his French Riviera apartment & boat: they're off-limits, and his passport impounded. But should this guy and his family be allowed to enjoy any fruits of his scamming?

Any appearance of justice is elusive. Enron's Kenneth Lay had his multiple fraud convictions vacated (more than four-and-a-half years after Enron's collapse from systematic deception), when Lay (reportedly) died before sentencing... What will happen with this Madoff joker? Should the elegant wife & many family members he employed keep enjoying substantial wealth & earnings?

Where's Madoff Buried His Loot?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gambling with Banksters (Scamblers)

The banking establishment is suffering a downgrade of status as they seek public bailout funds. Use of the term "banksters" (adapted from gangsters) has become widespread. What is fair?

Not much. In this case, margin (credit) and derivatives purchasing is a type of gambling. The problem is that gamblers take account of the fact that if they lose they'll not need to pay - Joe Public will bail them out; they remain players. If rather they win, they enjoy huge benefits.

A low downside means they've been likely to gamble even more; given the chance, they'll again gamble wildly.

Bankers who've engaged in unacceptable risk management should be fired. Yet these high-rollers still have their jobs. They now keep a low profile, refusing to lend even in low risk cases, creating a credit crunch. Each bank has many scamblers...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bailouts, bankers & bombs

The economic crisis is not the sole blame of bungler bankers. Yet too many of these former plunderers are unrepentant and anti-reform. Those banks receiving bailout funds should be forced to retire their top management due to poor performance.

American adventurism in the Middle East is hugely expensive; these are costs that the USA can ill afford, and they are not only monetary. The US basing of troops in Saudi Arabia was the major grievance of the 9/11 hijackers (though George W. Bush & Dick Cheney claimed the focus was a vicious attack on the American way of life). Poor foreign policy choices have undermined the US economy and created enemies abroad. Now, more than ever, few American taxpayers wish to serve as human shields for Iraq & Israel.

More precisely: US media outlets regularly trumpet Israel's right to exist. Yet others in the region also have the right to exist. Regional solutions have been cast aside as the USA has bankrolled Zionist adventurism. Moderate Israeli solutions are undermined by US funds channeled to the extreme & the ultra-Right. Bombs will not solve Middle Eastern problems. US funding should be redirected to American domestic education.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Haiku by Lulu (Visiting Poet)

A thought in the night
Must be scribbled on paper
Before I forget

Twitching fingers mean
That I’m counting syllables
In my new haiku

Windswept and barren
Here our ancestors once dwelt
Kaho'olawe

Silence IS golden
When you’re being serenaded
By the coqui frog

Intentions are fine
But actions speak much louder
Get with it Lulu