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 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。