Edward Snowden interview

June 18th, 2014 at 9:42 pm by Aletha

For anyone who believes the President, or US politicians in general, have any respect for the Constitution, or that Edward Snowden should come home and face trial for blowing the whistle on national security overreach, listen to Mr. Snowden explain his actions in this interview from this past January 27 by the German TV network NDR, or watch the video linked at the bottom. (Note, this link is not working, since the Progressive Radio Network was hacked by professionals and wiped clean just after it broadcast a long special on vaccinations! The interview is still available on RuTube, at the link at the bottom of this post.)

The President believes in American exceptionalism, and that he has struck the proper balance between national security and the Constitution. This is nothing but hot air. There is nothing exceptional about yet another nation attempting to dominate the world; except that USA calls itself a democracy, claiming the moral high ground and to respect the rule of law. Regardless, unless USA gives up that vain ambition, it will find itself just another once powerful and respected nation, utterly ruined by its aspirations of empire. Despite all the rhetorical flourishes Obama can muster, the only moral high ground USA could possibly hold is that defined by might makes right, and that is the only law US authorities respect. Free speech? This interview has been posted and taken down several times on YouTube. Why? The above link has a link to the video on the Russian version of YouTube, RuTube.

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State of the Union 2013

February 13th, 2013 at 9:22 pm by Aletha

I suspect my response to the previous State of the Union was too long and delayed for anyone to read, and nobody has taken up my challenge to read it through and then defend the President. This was my response to Gloria Feldt, who thinks Obama hit a political home run.

My favorite part was near the beginning.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few…

Yes, this government has been working just on behalf of the few, has it not? That was such a revealing slip. I doubt he meant what that says, but it is too close to the truth, nonetheless. That was presumably a dig at Republicans, but since he has been the President for over four years now, and the Senate has been controlled by his party all that time, and the House for almost half that time, he cannot blame Republicans if the government has been working on behalf of the few, at all. The elite few do not need the help of the government, but they have gotten lots of help, bailed out for their greed-inspired mistakes that caused so much misery, on the backs of everyone else. Meanwhile the rest of us are presumably expected to be grateful for crumbs.

Part of the reason VAWA has been held back by Republicans is because one of its new provisions will cause a shelter for battered women to lose its federal funding if it refuses to shelter gay men or transwomen. In this case, I would say the Republicans are right, but for the wrong reasons. Was it necessary to throw in new provisions Republicans would balk at? No, but it made great political theater, giving Democrats yet another opportunity to scream about the Republican war on women. It would be nice if the Paycheck Fairness Act were passed, but I do not see that happening, so why, if he is aiming high, could he not have proposed the ERA instead? Too controversial, perhaps? He did not see fit to mention the Freedom of Choice Act either. I wonder why.

I also thought it was quite revealing that Obama talked about doing something about climate change, yet bragged again about how much oil and gas USA is producing. What is his solution, cap and trade? Another half measure guaranteed not to work.

Our war in Afghanistan will be over soon, he promises. The war in Vietnam ended the same way. Nixon tried to prop up the government in South Vietnam, which promptly collapsed after US troops left and the North took over, just as the Taliban will take over in Afghanistan. In both cases, the entire effort was a complete waste, but Obama will claim he ended the war responsibly, and that Afghan women benefited from our intervention. Some did, in some ways, temporarily. Afghan women were better off when the Soviet Union controlled Afghanistan, but USA made sure that did not last.

Yes, Gloria, the speech was a home run; the masterful manipulator at his finest. If anyone thinks I am being unfair, my challenge on my blog to read through my response to the previous State of the Union speech and defend the President still stands.

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State of the Union 2012

September 4th, 2012 at 8:33 pm by Aletha

This started out as my response, as co-founder of the Free Soil Party 35 years ago, to the State of the Union speech, but developed into a referendum on this Presidency. I conclude it as the Democrats prepare to launch their grand showcase, showing off how they rewrite history and make promises they will not keep. I invite a real debate, here and now, about issues of real relevance, with no issue off the table. I dare anyone to read this through and then defend President Obama. I mean by defend, respond to the charges I have laid out, not bring up barely related things I did not choose to mention, which may seem overlooked and relevant to you, but evasive to an independent observer. My response should be a book, but is beyond the scope of this blog and my free time.

The President was in full campaign mode for his State of the Union speech, complete with theatrics, guests such as the widow of Steve Jobs and the secretary of Warren Buffett as props to illustrate his points, and stirring invocations of patriotic fervor. Perhaps stung by attacks alleging he has apologized for USA, he determined to wrap himself in the flag. He began and ended with comparisons of the teamwork of the military to what the country as a whole could accomplish if it emulated that spirit of teamwork. Given its long history of war crimes and misguided and illegal adventures carried out for dubious reasons, I found his comparison ghastly, yet strangely fitting for the sad state of US politics. He made it sound as if the heroic military of America could do no wrong, and we the people would do well to emulate their example.

The military may seem an example of finely honed cooperation and honor, though I would dispute that on all counts. It is a blunt killing machine, with individual acts of valorous cooperation or honor misdirected and misused. The spin machine must glorify this killing machine and its actions, burying the scandals as isolated bad apples. This marvelous team spirit, focused on noble honorable missions, is the story, which below the surface is just a story that falls apart in face of what is really going down, such as wars cast as necessary self-defense waged to punish regimes such as ruled Iraq and Afghanistan who dared defy big business interests. This team spirit concept grates for military women enduring rampant rape and harassment, which is more or less casually swept under the carpet, recourse even less likely than for women in general. This military is also an example of callous disregard for the lives and rights of those who get in the way. The prison scandals were just the tip of the iceberg. There was the notorious mystery of what really happened to Pat Tillman, the football star who volunteered for Afghanistan, but got disillusioned and shot, supposedly in an accident of friendly fire? Where is the line between opposing US policy and being deemed a terrorist? Protestors and independent journalists risk crossing that boundary, some animal rights and environmental activists have already been designated terrorists, and the recent defense authorization bill has all but revoked the right of dissent for US citizens, who can now be arrested and held without trial indefinitely on the whim of the President who feels the dissenter could present some kind of threat, due process and Constitutional principles be damned in the face of terror. Has the principle of preserving civil liberties in time of war survived the new millennium, with both faces of mainstream politics determined to maintain the established order at home and military supremacy over the world in the name of national security, the economic and social costs no object, or at best secondary concerns? The priorities are all backwards, but that is par for conventional wisdom, its manipulation a fine art practiced by politicians, who call that debating the issues of the day.

The armed forces may display a certain degree of teamwork and courage, but there are more than a few bad apples among them. Their problems are cultural, running deeper than sensationalized scandals such as the missile defenders addicted to porn. When their purpose is serving business interests, calling them heroes does not exonerate their command hierarchy from their war crimes and excessive force, authorized or otherwise, attempts to disassociate American armed forces and values notwithstanding. Was his honoring of soldiers returning from Iraq effectively giving the presidential pardon for what candidate Obama used to call a grave mistake? Does he think he redeemed that mistake by responsibly ending it? War is an institution of primitive origin, the settling of disputes by competition to the death, which should be a last resort, when absolutely necessary for self-defense, the circumstances so dire there can be no alternative, but very few conflicts have met that standard, most certainly not the war on terror. People have brains; they can negotiate a live and let live state of unfriendly competition with their brains instead of fighting it out with killing machines, no matter how high the hostile emotions run. Grievances can be heard and compensated impartially. Obama could have ended the Iraq conquest the day he took office. This may sound impossible, or utopian, but in the war on terror, such ideas have not been near the table; if anything, such talk would be taken as supporting the enemy, heresy, treason? The anti-terrorism laws are intentionally so vague, neutrally interviewing or suggesting diplomacy with someone on the enemies list might earn a place on that list, since in mainstream politics, USA does not negotiate with terrorists, USA brings them down, to the justice of the jungle. People are not incapable of settling disputes without violence, or having a civil society without a creeping fascist police state, but the real problem is a belief system that values power over others, supremacy, dominance, subordination, manipulation, whatever one calls it, violence is elevated into a viable solution to any dispute, people trusting authority acting under its laws to keep violence under control. Obama exudes this belief system, portraying the military and his war on terror as necessary and noble, his halfhearted attempts at diplomacy his style of whitewashing what US policy actually does with its military machine, for what actual purposes. He thinks his macho posturing and intoning America the Greatest sound bytes is Presidential. Perhaps to those of a similar mindset, it is.

Obama began by honoring the warriors who were sent to conquer Iraq:

9:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought — and several thousand gave their lives.

We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. (Applause.) For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. (Applause.) For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. (Applause.) Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.

These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.

His mention of pride is odd for one who ran for President making much of opposing the Bush foreign policy, calling the war on Iraq a grave mistake. It is as though he puts it on the level of a redeemable strategic error, not an issue of bad policy, moral failing, act of unjustifiable aggression, and violation of important principles and international law, yet it made us safer and more respected around the world. So was it a good or just war, or what? Democrats like to rant about Republican failed policies. Was the Iraqi conquest an exception, after Obama reluctantly officially pulled out the troops to meet the deadline Iraq wrung out of Bush? This is from a Reuters story when he welcomed home some of the last U.S. troops from Iraq at Fort Bragg last month:

Despite lingering questions about whether the United States should have invaded the Middle Eastern country, the last American troops “will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high,” Obama said.

“Of course, Iraq is not a perfect place. But we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people,” he said.

Iraq is in shambles, its infrastructure in ruins, its soil, water, and air poisoned by US weaponry, including depleted uranium, causing a massive epidemic of rare cancers and birth defects. For that war USA has a legacy of a civilian death count probably well over a million, many more wounded, sick, or displaced there, along with legions of sick and injured veterans getting substandard or no care here. Iraq wishes to be self-reliant, which is why Obama was forced to honor the agreement Bush made with Iraq to withdraw all troops by the end of 2011. Iraq might have negotiated so some could stay, but Obama wanted immunity from prosecution for the troops, which Iraqi leaders rightly found an intolerable imposition, having reasons to expect some troops would deserve prosecution. To say Iraq is stable with a representative government is just hogwash, mission accomplished whistling in the dark, but par for the course for President Obama, following in the grand tradition of the politics of America the Greatest. What rationale could the conquerors of Iraq possibly have to justify holding their heads high? A job well done? Hardly, unless one considers the enrichment of the military industrial complex for laying waste another country to replace an unfriendly tyrant a job well done!

The remaining security force in Iraq is not supposed to be fighting, but their mission is to protect the massive diplomatic corps now tasked to look after US interests. They are certainly equipped to fight; Obama has to hope they will not have to. I imagine there are still plenty of mercenaries under US command or guidance still there, but presumably they are mostly not Americans.

There are no heroes in the war on terror, but plenty of cannon fodder desperate for a job or lured by recruiting lies, risking their lives to serve this country, called to serve the interests of this corporate empire. They have not made USA safer or more respected around the world, quite the contrary, though they have kept USA a force to be feared. Conflating fear with security or respect is a common tactic of leaders with abusive powers to protect. This claim of successes against the Taliban and al Qaeda is more whistling in the dark. Defeated is a curious euphemism for blowing up some enemy leaders, along with many more innocent bystanders and victims of bad intelligence, by missiles from drones invading the territory of nations with whom USA is supposedly not at war, but bad guys lurking within must be exterminated. The war on Afghanistan is a hopeless quagmire, so cooler heads have started to realize the only way out is to negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban, which will call the shots as it likes. So much for that broken Taliban momentum. Is it back from the fire to the frying pan for Afghan women, or was their alleged liberation just a cruel joke at their expense? The abuse of women certainly did not end when the Taliban were booted from the reins of power, for their effrontery refusing to turn over a war criminal without any evidence. That was the excuse Bush created to retaliate against Afghanistan, since the nationality of most of the suspects was Saudi Arabian, and Afghanistan harbored training camps and that war criminal Obama is so proud he ordered that raid to shoot on sight. Karzai cares far more about maintaining his tenuous hold on his power than the rights of Afghan women. More about that in this prior entry, Karzai Makes Mockery of Democracy. This more recent article on the sorry state of affairs for Afghan women is from the Christian Science Monitor:

Though Afghan laws exist to protect women, they’re rarely enforced. The United Nations found that in the two years since the passage of a law created to stop violence against women, it has only been used in about 100 cases.

“The majority of young girls and young women I work with do not understand anything about our rights,” says Fatana Ishaq Gailani, founder and chairwoman of the Afghanistan Women Council. “We have a very weak government. They are not thinking about the life of women, most of the work for the women in Afghanistan is for show.”

One of the most devastating blows to the credibility of those assigned to protect the rights of Afghan women in the government came almost two years ago when a court convicted Marhaba Karimi, the former Women’s Affairs director in Kunar province, of torturing and brutally murdering her daughter-in-law.

Afghanistan does not struggle with women’s rights because of the Taliban, rather the Taliban represents an extremist version of rural Afghan social constructs.

As usual, women are being used as pawns to put a nice spin on what USA is doing in Afghanistan. More on that from those experiencing it, Afghan women such as RAWA and Malalai Joya, popular member of Parliament twice kicked out for calling out the warlords running that mockery of democracy. Meanwhile, while a few prominent leaders on the most wanted terrorist list have been killed, along with who knows how many civilians, the will to resist what USA represents is far from broken. The desire for revenge does not weaken when leaders are martyred; it may become less restrained, so to say bin Laden is no longer a threat is to dismiss and deny responsibility for all the reasons he was a threat. I kept a running commentary on the raids on Pakistan, mostly on this page, but there have been so many since Obama took office, I stopped trying to keep up.

That last sentence quoted above, Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example, preludes his idea of what a society that works like the military would look like. The military does not operate at all like civil society or Congress. Does Obama have a problem with that? His premise is offensive to anyone who values liberty, independence, creativity, innovation, and seems to attempt to shame the right to dissent, usually covered under free speech. If Obama cannot handle his problem with other politicians not being willing to work with him, he does not belong in government. Blaming opposition obstruction for the failure of unsound policies, such as bailing out the too big to fail, to revive the economy is ducking responsibility; a fight is expected from the opposition, but does not always cause gridlock. Other Presidents have roused public opinion to support their ideas and put enough pressure on opposition politicians to get them to back down and allow a bill to pass, getting much of their programs through even without majority control of both house of Congress, which Obama had during his honeymoon. People might wonder, who would want a society in the mold of the military? Or is it this attempt to link that with his vision that seems so out of touch with reality?

Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.

We can do this. I know we can, because we’ve done it before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known. (Applause.) My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.

Rah Rah for our combat heroes and US superiority! I wanted to throw up. I suppose I am not a patriot. I love this planet, compelling me to do what I can to fight for its future, but it was not for nothing Virginia Woolf wrote a woman has no country, her country is the whole world. Regardless, what gall to compare those who fought to stop a league of madmen who thought they could conquer the world, Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito and their Axis, to our modern warriors on terror; this is offensive to anyone who realizes there is a vast gulf of differences between a war of necessary self-defense, and a war of choice on enemies of US policy deemed terrorists wherever they may be all over the world. Patriotism is supposed to overwhelm such misgivings, one is supposed to trust the President in this time of perpetual war? I must be defective, maladjusted as Martin Luther King might have said about this zealous loyalty to militarism. I certainly have nothing against top notch education, but what that has to do with militarism is beyond me. His notion of education reform must explain that mystery. High-paying jobs in high-tech? Those jobs are the exception to the rule in this service-based economy, not a high percentage of what is accessible to most. His notion of high tech and energy security is to trust the experts, those scientists for hire who promote clean coal, safe nuclear power, pesticides, herbicides, genetic engineering, advertised pharmaceuticals with downplayed serious side effects, toxic contaminated vaccines conferring partial temporary immunity at best, natural gas fracking, nanotechnology, business as usual all the while scoffing at the precautionary principle, these are all fine and dandy, no problem, they are the experts and everyone should have confidence they know what they are doing! Just like they did at Fukushima by now spreading its radioactive poisons over at least most of the planet. But the proponents of nuclear power say it is clean, safe, and a potential solution to climate degradation. This would be a joke, except that the President and most of Congress agrees with it. If they get their way, there will be new nuclear power plants soon under construction; plans for a few are already underway, while the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is winking at known problems, asserting US plants are up to standards and freely extending licenses for nukes long past their expected lifetime, as if no lessons from the Japanese disaster need be applied here. Twenty more years for Vermont Yankee despite the state law ordering its shutdown when the license expired, no problem, says the court, since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sees no problem, the state has no right to interfere! One might keep in mind what these coded words, energy security and clean energy, signify to politicians, because they can be made to sound one way and mean another. The idea of rewarding responsibility and hard work is better than coddling irresponsible large institutions who got themselves in financial trouble, for which politicians of both parties are better known. This was one of many turns of phrase that caught me wondering how Obama could say such things with a straight face. The master politician at work, deflecting responsibility for the failures of mainstream economics and politics by talking about the ideal economy, where theoretically contributions by everyone get fair credit and value, translated by conventional wisdom into the modern day corporate meritocracy prizing short-term gain.

The two of them shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share — the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.

Here I think Obama is appealing to his base, speaking to the public unrest that sparked the Occupy movement, trying to sound populist, as if he is not one of the elite few rigging the system, enabling themselves to be doing so well. This man talking about fairness once defended a shady real estate development firm against Cook County charging it with refusing to provide heat to tenants in the Chicago winter.

In 1994, Obama appeared in Cook County court on behalf of Woodlawn Preservation & Investment Corp., defending it against a suit by the city, which alleged that the company failed to provide heat for low-income tenants on the South Side during the winter.

This past April Obama, now pretending to be the watchdog of bad business practices, got thrown out rules the Labor Department had suggested to make the most dangerous jobs in farming off-limits for children, exempting family farms. The excuse, as quoted in the July 2012 Public Citizen Health Letter article Obama Administration Sacrifices Children to Keep Agribusiness Happy, was to frame the decision

was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms.

Restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot? When did that economy exist? Not in my lifetime, and I am older than the President. He must mean, under President Clinton, whose legacy it was to have a budget surplus during the Internet bubble, while he got passed such top corporate wishes as NAFTA, GATT, welfare reform, and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which allowed the too big to fail banks to get that big and make such risky investments that they should have failed. This is more whistling in the dark, invoking the American dream and values as the defining issue of our time. Sorry, the world is in too much trouble because of how people in power see and manipulate the American dream and values. It was his chance to claim the defining issue of our time; Presidents need to have a plausible vision to be effective at changing anything. Unfortunately for people like me, his vision is more of the same, no real solutions, just pipedreams that sound good while kicking the can down the road until a feminist revolution throws the bums out so women can clean up the mess the old boy network is making of this world. A militaristic police state where the President can get anyone arrested as a terrorist on a whim and held by the military indefinitely without trial is not my idea of change I can believe in, his transparently manipulative signing statement notwithstanding. This master craftsman of spin is still dependent on spin to remain credible. This was a constitutional law professor blatantly violating the Constitution by accepting this power nobody should have under any circumstances in a free country, because that authority fulfills the definition of tyranny. That he will use it wisely, as he says in this signing statement, even if true, has no bearing on how the next President might use it. To accept unconstitutional authority and then renounce the intention to use it is not a wise use of his authority as President, and he knows it. Vetoing the bill on constitutional principles would have forced Congress to back off, since as Obama observed, it was an important bill, so Congress would not want to keep that political hot potato in their court.
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How Democrats Manipulate, Manage, and Control Movements

August 2nd, 2012 at 10:57 pm by Aletha

The Obama campaign strategy to harness the voters who support the movements generally regarded as the core of the Democratic base, liberals, labor, feminists, environmentalists has been revealed. An unnamed Democratic strategist spilled the beans to David Corn in this article at Mother Jones (the online title was changed and the quote below expanded “for greater clarity” from his magazine article subtitled Can Jim Messina win back Obama’s base and get his boss reelected? about the deputy Chief of Staff under Rahm Emanuel and now campaign manager, in the current issue, July/August 2012).

As the White House’s ambassador to Washington liberals — unions, abortion rights groups, environmental organizations, and general advocacy shops — Messina organized regular Tuesday meetings known as the Common Purpose Project to discuss White House plans, priorities, and messages with these groups. The goal was to coordinate White House strategy with the organizing activities of these outfits. But some of the outside participants considered the meetings mostly sessions where the administration tossed out talking points and marching orders. “Common Purpose was put together to manage the outside groups,” says a Democratic strategist involved in its formation. “To keep them under control as much as possible. It aimed at manipulation more than organizing. Here was Jim Messina, the deputy chief of staff, coming to meetings, and people would be docile because they were getting access to the White House.”*

I inquired as to the identity of this candid strategist, but Mr. Corn has not bothered to acknowledge my request, so I presume this person wishes to remain unidentified. Too bad; now I may have to attempt pestering Mr. Messina or the White House for comment. I imagine I would get the same kind of stock non-response I got to my request for comment on A Case Against Obama Nation. Did people think the Democratic Party gave a damn about the movements comprising its base? No, they are to be managed, manipulated, kept under control as much as possible!

I thank David Corn, as I did in my request for the identity of his source, for providing confirmation from an insider source of this peculiar relationship between the Democratic Party and the movements upon whose votes it depends. Such an attitude has been alleged by many critics of that party, myself included, for many a year, but I do not recall seeing it so callously spelled out by a campaign insider, as if this is just the way the political game is played, people are docile sheep to be led around by their noses while that precious access to power granted to leaders of some groups means little or nothing. I hope this attitude infuriates people as much as it does me. Who the hell do these party strategists like Jim Messina and this unnamed deputy think they are? They know what is best for the sheeple? The Free Soil Party says, throw all the bums out! They are public servants; the public is not supposed to serve them. If the reader wants to be part of a feminist revolution, send the Democrats a message they will never forget! Change your registration, or if you are inspired to, think about running for office! It is never too late to make a statement, and unlike a protest, a large number of changed voter registrations cannot be ignored by the powers that be. That is the writing on the wall, an unmistakable warning that voters are fed up and declaring independence. Many have already declared themselves independent, but that can be ignored, dismissed, or patronized as long as independents are unaffiliated, disorganized, without candidates or a clear vision of alternative possibilities.

Perhaps this is just what one should expect from the Democrats. Jim Messina used to work for Max Baucus, who as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee infamously declared a single payer health plan off the table, and seems to consider him as well as Emanuel mentors. If Obama has pinned his hopes for reelection on the likes of him, what does that say about the President? I ask the reader, how does it feel to have a President who thinks of you as needing to be managed, manipulated, kept under control? It is people in positions of power who need to be kept under control. That is why this republic was founded, and why the Constitution created a system of checks and balances, a government of limited authority. That did not change on September 11, 2001, but the limits on that authority have been stretched so far, they have lost almost all meaning. When the government arrogates the authority to kill or detain anyone indefinitely without charge or trial, the boundaries of a police state have been crossed. Anyone who hoped Obama would live up to his promise to review and repeal unconstitutional expansions of executive power was led around by the nose. That is one issue. I could cite hundreds like that, where what people hoped Obama might do has little or no resemblance to what he has done, which is largely in continuity with the disastrous policies of his predecessors, including George W. Bush. Is this not business and politics as usual? Since when have the interests of the people mattered to the powers that be?

Ms. Magazine may be a prime example of feminist organizations successfully manipulated. It ran a cover story on the War on Women, page 26 in the current issue, spring/summer 2012, by Beth Baker, full of Democratic talking points, but making not one mention of how Democrats have betrayed feminists. The article is not available online at present. For instance, Ms. Baker mentions VAWA is at risk, since the House came up with its own version, which she claims would “deny support to LGBT survivors of domestic violence.” This is the peculiar Democratic twist on the Republican reaction to new language introduced by the Senate which would deny federal funds to domestic violence shelters that want to maintain a female-only policy, at the behest of gay and transgender activists, since gay men and transwomen have been complaining that such shelters have been denying them services. As I understand, there is no problem of lesbian or bisexual females being turned away, so LGBT is at best imprecise, at worst disguising that this language is an attack by Democrats on behalf of non-females on shelters for battered females.

The language I reference in the Senate bill is this section of the law, on page 205 of the Government Printing Office PDF of the bill text:

13 ‘‘(13) CIVIL RIGHTS.—
14 ‘‘(A) NONDISCRIMINATION.—No person in
15 the United States shall, on the basis of actual or
16 perceived race, color, religion, national origin,
17 sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph
18 249(c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual
19 orientation, or disability, be excluded from par-
20 ticipation in, be denied the benefits of, or be sub-
21 jected to discrimination under any program or
22 activity funded in whole or in part with funds
23 made available under the Violence Against
24 Women Act of 1994…

The Republican version took out gender identity and sexual orientation, but did not take out sex, so I do not know what all the fuss is about; a female-only policy will still violate the new law. The explicit language allowing gay men and transwomen to claim the right to access is not in the Republican version, but since a female-only policy excludes both on the basis of sex or perceived sex, shelters for females only will not be getting federal funds either way. I can understand the Democratic Party twisting this as part of the Republican War on Women, but what is up with Ms. Magazine going along with that distortion?

Along similar lines, Ms. Baker also claims the Affordable Care Act “forbids sex discrimination in health insurance pricing,” but as National Organization for Women has pointed out, this is a myth.

This is from the Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill on the passage of that bill over two years ago:

Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

March 21, 2010

As a longtime proponent of health care reform, I truly wish that the National Organization for Women could join in celebrating the historic passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It pains me to have to stand against what many see as a major achievement. But feminist, progressive principles are in direct conflict with many of the compromises built into and tacked onto this legislation.

The health care reform bill passed by Congress today offers a number of good solutions to our nation’s critical health care problems, but it also fails in many important respects. After a full year of controversy and compromise, the result is a highly flawed, diminished piece of legislation that continues reliance on a failing, profit-driven private insurance system and rewards those who have been abusive of their customers. With more than 45,000 unnecessary deaths annually and hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies each year due to medical bills, this bill is only a timid first step toward meaningful reform.

Fact: The bill contains a sweeping anti-abortion provision. Contrary to the talking points circulated by congressional leaders, the bill passed today ultimately achieves the same outcome as the infamous Stupak-Pitts Amendment, namely the likely elimination of all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion. It imposes a bizarre requirement on insurance plan enrollees who buy coverage through the health insurance exchanges to write two monthly checks (one for an abortion care rider and one for all other health care). Even employers will have to write two separate checks for each of their employees requesting the abortion rider.

This burdensome, elaborate system must be eliminated. It is there because the Catholic bishops and extremist abortion rights opponents know that it will result in greatly restricting access to abortion care, currently one of the most common medical procedures for women.

Fact: President Obama made an eleventh-hour agreement to issue an executive order lending the weight of his office to the anti-abortion measures included in the bill. This move was designed to appease a handful of anti-choice Democrats who have held up health care reform in an effort to restrict women’s access to abortion. This executive order helps to cement the misconception that the Hyde Amendment is settled law rather than what it really is — an illegitimate tack-on to an annual must-pass appropriations bill. It also sends the outrageous message that it is acceptable to negotiate health care reform on the backs of women.

Fact: The bill permits age-rating, the practice of imposing higher premiums on older people. This practice has a disproportionate impact on women, whose incomes and savings are lower due to a lifetime of systematic wage discrimination.

Fact: The bill also permits gender-rating, the practice of charging women higher premiums simply because they are women. Some are under the mistaken impression that gender-rating has been prohibited, but that is only true in the individual and small-group markets. Larger group plans (more than 100 employees) sold through the exchanges will be permitted to discriminate against women — having an especially harmful impact in workplaces where women predominate.

We know why those gender- and age-rating provisions are in the bill: because insurers insisted on them, as they will generate billions of dollars in profits for the companies. Such discriminatory rating must be completely eliminated.

Why, in a story in Ms. Magazine called Fighting the War on Women, is there no mention of any of this? Could it be that supposedly so independent magazine has been successfully manipulated, controlled, managed? Or has defeating Republicans become so important Democrats can betray feminism with impunity, while feminist leaders and writers disregard their dirty tricks? The larger environmental, peace, labor, and gay rights movement groups ought to ponder the same questions. Obama has caught some flak for his betrayals on those fronts, but it is beneath his attention; he wants the swing voters, so his disgruntled liberal base must go along with political reality; to keep Romney out of office they will have to vote for Obama, no matter what he does to demonstrate his independence from his base. When the choice is between the lesser of two evils, no substance is necessary or even expected; the expressed principles and ideas can be all a sham, just for showing off how different they want people to think they are. I am not saying these guys do not believe what they are saying, but what it means to them may not be what it means to the general public. That is deliberate; they speak in code. The public is not expected to understand the machinations of running the country. I do not refer to legalese, rather key phrases, such as national security, working families, middle class; these are all code phrases that evoke a picture of the American way of life, which is one of the key illusions that allow business to go on as usual.

I will have much more to say on the sorry state of politics soon.

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Obama Gets His Man

May 2nd, 2011 at 11:35 pm by Aletha

I have listened with incredulity to the celebrations and claims that justice has been done. What did Barack Obama accomplish by killing Osama bin Laden? To say that justice has been done is to smugly ignore all the reasons the man had a following. Muslims have legitimate grievances against the corporate empire. President Obama thinks killing in the name of crushing al Qaeda is justified because they are at war with the corporate empire. Who has killed more innocent civilians in that war? Ah, that question is not up for discussion, because the answer does not speak well for US pretensions to the moral high ground.

As usual, whatever the empire does in what it calls self-defense is automatically moral and justified, whereas whatever an enemy does in response is automatically immoral and unjustifiable. This double standard may seem perfectly logical to apologists for the empire, but it cannot change the fact that this adventure violated Pakistani sovereignty and international law. Obama said during his triumphal announcement:

…we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.

It is amazing how US politicians can say such things with a straight face. Is USA not directly responsible for over a million dead Iraqis, most of them civilians? If Afghanistan were not so sparsely populated, its death toll would probably be comparable. Rewriting history is a common practice of politicians. Obama may not want people to remember this, from one of his debates with John McCain:

Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan. Here’s what I said.

And if John wants to disagree with this, he can let me know, that, if the United States has al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out.

The preliminary news reports state that Pakistan was not even informed of the plan. People may think this is nitpicking, or that informing Pakistan would have put the plan at risk, since bin Laden obviously had friends there and might have been tipped off, but Obama had made that qualification for a reason. If Pakistan were unable or unwilling to act, there might be a case that invading its territory is not a violation of international law. Otherwise there can be no case; the drone strikes and this operation were aggressive acts against a sovereign nation, extrajudicial killings without a trial that are supposedly acts of self-defense.

It might be arguable that this operation was self-defense, if it really would bring an end to the war on terror, but all it has done is make a martyr of bin Laden. A leaderless group that wants revenge for the death of their martyred leader may be far more dangerous than before. Bin Laden may end up being seen in retrospect as a restraining figure on the mayhem that is now likely to break out. Under his leadership, most of the attacks were planned and coordinated. Without a leader, al Qaeda may feel it is open season to attack Western targets in myriads of ways that do not require planning or coordination. Needless to say, negotiating an end to the conflict has been made well-nigh impossible. People may think it was impossible before, but if USA had given a hearing to the legitimate grievances of Muslims, and been willing to negotiate in good faith to deal with those grievances, there could have been a chance. Bin Laden used to be an ally, and if he could have been satisfied that USA was willing to change its ways, he could have persuaded his followers to put an end to this war. Now there is nobody of his stature to play that role.

Congratulations, President Obama. The war on terror was already unwinnable; now it may well be impossible to negotiate an end to it. The empire will fall, and by that time, history may not agree with his assessment that this was a good day for USA, or the world. Revenge may feel good, but it rarely if ever helps bring an end to a war. Why would the President not seize this moment to declare victory and an end to the war on terror? Because he recognizes the threat has not been lessened. What he refuses to recognize is that the threat will never be lessened by military means, so if this could not be an opportunity to end the war on terror, there will never be a better one. It is impossible for military might to crush a resistance movement with legitimate grievances, because the actions taken to crush it constantly create more enemies and fiercer enmity.

Obama hopes this killing will intimidate and demoralize these enemies. This is a peculiar failing of reasoning based on the fragile male ego, as if this great victory will teach these enemies a lesson about what will happen to those who dare mess with USA. Fear does not quell the will to exact revenge. There is plenty of racist reasoning as well swirling around the rationale of the war on terror. Kola Boof, a Sudanese womanist who claims to have been a mistress of Osama bin Laden, told an amazing tale of how her story was disbelieved and attacked by whites.

In 2002 when the London Guardian newspaper outed my forced sexual relationship with terrorist Osama Bin Laden, the American media initially had no problem with revelations that Somi kept an Egyptian-Sudanese mistress in Morocco in 1996. My birth name, Naima Bint Harith, summoned visions of an Arab-raised aristocrat who they assumed would look like Cher. When they found out I was not only Black—but looked fully Black—and that I’d been adopted and raised by Black Americans in the United States and returned as an adult to North Africa as a model-actress, they immediately announced that I was less attractive than Prince Charles’ mistress Camilla Parker Bowles or President Clinton’s mistress Monica Lewinsky and that it couldn’t possibly be true.

Though I was featured in a two-part interview with MSNBC where I was billed as “Former Mistress of Osama Bin Laden,” and not alleged-former mistress, and was allowed to tell my story in my own words—Peter Bergen, supposedly the world’s preeminent Bin Laden expert, insisted I was making up the story and other American experts claimed that the billionaire “bin ladin” family had an upper class etiquette that would not allow an “overtly religious non-sexual” Arab Muslim Osama to have a Black mistress (yet two of Somi’s twenty-five children are black and his Syrian grandmother would be considered a Black woman in the United States). Connie Chung and her producers at CNN asked my lawyer point blank, “Why would a man of Bin Laden’s wealth and stature have a Black mistress?”

It was not without reason that bin Laden compared the war on terror to a Christian crusade. USA has no interest in understanding why he and his followers are willing to risk their lives to fight the empire. In the judgment of the empire, they are savages that must be crushed. There is no lack of racism underlying this war on terror. As half black, perhaps the President should know better, but whatever wisdom his mixed heritage may confer on him, he has suppressed it so well it might as well not exist.

Another example of racism was the claim that bin Laden was a coward, hiding behind one of his wives as a human shield. Reuters reported the White House has backed away from that story. One might wonder what was the purpose of spreading such a rumor. The spin machine never misses a chance to cast the enemies of empire as barbaric monsters.

Bin Laden resisted capture, using a woman thought to be one of his wives as a human shield as he fired back, several officials told reporters. Ultimately, he was shot in the head above the left eye and died almost immediately. (Reuters news service later reported that the White House was backing away from the story, with an unidentified official saying the woman was not his wife and was not used as a shield.)

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State of the Union 2011

January 29th, 2011 at 1:18 am by Aletha

President Obama may be a fine orator, but his speech was chock full of wishful thinking and spin. Some of his wishes might come true, though they will not have the results he is portraying, while some of his pipedreams are just whistling in the dark.

It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.

Contentious, yes. Comprehensive, hardly. Those debates have been most remarkable for the deeper perspectives kept off the table, hallmark of a carefully managed sham of a democracy. If that is what sets USA apart, it is nothing to crow about. Most genuine democracies have debates between more than two sides of the same coin. Considering how often and willingly Obama has caved in the face of opposition from the right, I wonder what it would sound like if he really did fight fiercely for his beliefs. One must expect a President to have reasons for actions that cannot be divulged, but I wonder, what does he really believe?

But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater – something more consequential than party or political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.

A common creed? The President ought to speak for himself. There is a creed Democrats and Republicans share, which allows both to justify the war on terror specifically, and the aspirations of empire in general. This creed is based on a value system that prizes dominance, power over, US exceptionalism, military supremacy. Jared Loughner did not believe women ought to be in positions of authority. He represents the logical extreme of that value system, but his crime was in principle little different from the war crimes committed in the name of protecting US interests. Violence is glorified and justified by the principle that might makes right.

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

I believe we can. I believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

Yes, Democrats and Republicans will move backwards together, or not at all. Obama is right about the challenges being bigger than party politics, but neither his approach nor those of his mainstream opponents will meet those challenges.

At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world.

What leadership is he calling a light to the world? Until recently, this nation was the biggest polluter on the planet, though China may have overtaken that dubious distinction by now, or will soon. This nation is also one of the worst international scofflaws, waging illegal wars of aggression against governments that did not threaten this nation in any way, except that they dared to resist the attempts of this nation to dominate the world, and in the case of Afghanistan, provided shelter to those willing to kill civilians to that end. I cannot condone such tactics, but when legitimate grievances with an aggressive superpower are ignored and compounded, blowback is bound to be horrific. Besides, USA has no problem with dictators killing innocent people to maintain their power if those tyrants are considered allies, unless there is enough of a spotlight to create embarrassing publicity, as in Egypt at the moment.

We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

Yes, the economy has been flooded with enough cheap money to create another bubble, creating some jobs but not enough to make a dent in unemployment. When that bubble pops, the crisis Obama inherited will look like a picnic. There has been no progress toward resolving the issues that caused that crisis. The financial reform bill was too heavily watered down, saturated with loopholes, and none of the too-big-to-fail culprits were broken up. On the contrary, they have gotten bigger.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.

That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of the new investments they make this year. These steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.

But we have more work to do. The steps we’ve taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession – but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.

This is one example of wishful thinking. The recession is still alive and kicking, and about to get much worse. The steps taken to this point only papered over the problems, which have been centuries, if not millennia, in the making. The economic system is hopelessly corrupted, since it is based on a fundamentally corrupt value system. The quality of life is going in the wrong direction, and the tepid proposals of our politicians will do nothing to right the sinking ship. Those tax cuts may have reduced withholding from paychecks a bit, but at what price? Republicans got what they wanted, an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. That two percent not withheld from paychecks will not help average people if their cost of living is inflated as a result of the deficit ballooning, or their retirement benefits have to be cut because less money goes to the Social Security trust fund.

In these times, winning the future is a strangely inappropriate metaphor, though it fits the aspiration of maintaining US supremacy. The future holds many perils. If people do not get their act together fast, the species will be history. The challenge of the future will be to survive without a horrendous decline in the quality of life. But Obama seems oblivious to that; he goes on to lay out his vision of how to “win the future,” as if what the country needs is to beat the competition of other nations. All nations need to take stock of the havoc conventional wisdom has wrought and cooperate to change course.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

Now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.

How many students answer questions about what they would change in the world? Is he honestly saying this is a nation of critical thinkers? Wishful thinking, and from what I understand, the educational reforms he has pushed are moving in the opposite direction, teaching the vast majority of children to pass standardized tests in preparation for a life as an unquestioning cog in the corporate world. Politicians need to take responsibility for the deficit, true, but there are more significant deficits in imagination, honesty, respect for diversity of opinion and life.

This tale of immigrants coming here to pursue their own destiny may have been true long ago, but nowadays many immigrants risk a great deal to come here because USA has wrecked their local economies, so the displaced face a life of abject misery, if they can survive at all.

Usually when a politician speaks of creating the best place to do business, that is code for giving businesses a break on taxes and regulations. Regulations are already porous enough to allow businesses to endanger their workers and foul the environment. Obama gave as an example of a silly regulation the EPA requirement to treat saccharin as a toxic waste. Since FDA approved it as a safe sweetener, Obama says the EPA regulation is just plain dumb. Wrong, FDA was just plain dumb, corrupt, or both to approve it in the first place.

The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.

None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.

Innovation is a good thing, when its purpose is good. Some innovations serve no good purpose, such as the financial innovations that contributed heavily to the financial crisis Obama inherited. Liar loans? Yes, some did make a pile of money with such innovations, and other innovations have also been hugely profitable, but should never have been developed at all. I speak of nuclear power, genetic engineering, the innovations of more efficient ways to kill. Obama has no problem with any of those. He may have a problem with liar loans, but not with bailing out the institutions that made a killing on those loans before the game inevitably backfired.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we are seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard.

Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”

That’s what Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.

Same old Obama, calling nuclear power, clean coal, biofuels, and natural gas clean sources of energy. This goes beyond wishful thinking; it is just plain dumb. This planet cannot afford to burn carbon much longer, period, end of story. Nuclear power is just as dangerous, in different ways, even discounting the risk of another catastrophic “accident.” Obama showed how interested he was in protecting the planet during the summits on climate change. There is no political will to do what it would take to prevent catastrophic climate change among Democrats or Republicans. They want to promote business as usual, pretending high technology will save the day. Most scientists agree that in order to make biofuels cost efficient, plants will have to be engineered for that purpose. This is a direct threat to biodiversity, and will only slightly decrease the production of carbon dioxide at best. When compared to burning gasoline or diesel fuel, biofuels could decrease carbon dioxide substantially, but not compared to powering fuel cells with cleanly produced hydrogen. Meanwhile the subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol are still in place, and that technology is hardly better than burning gasoline, if at all.

The technology to use sunlight and water to produce hydrogen is hardly a new idea, though the efficiency of the process is improving. That is a genuine part of the answer. Once fuel cell vehicles become affordable, there will be no need for any other fuel for transportation. Battery powered electric cars are also part of the answer, but until there is surplus truly clean electricity to charge the batteries, they will not do much to slow down the generation of greenhouse gases.

The hardest problems in what Obama is calling clean energy would be to make nuclear power safe, coal clean, and biofuels a means of significantly lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Trying to solve these problems would waste an inordinate amount of money and time, because they are impossible. However, it seems likely that is where most of the money and effort will go. That way, politicians can claim they are valiantly trying to stave off climate change, without doing anything constructive at all. The technology to actually prevent catastrophic climate change is already available, though its efficiency is improving and could be further improved, but without the political will to deploy that technology on the necessary scale, Obama and his crew of scientific hacks are leading humanity like lemmings straight off a cliff.
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Playing Politics with Murder

January 10th, 2011 at 10:10 pm by Aletha

As horrible as the killing spree unleashed by Jared Loughner was, the attempts to assign blame for his actions, in my eyes, only compound the tragedy. This talk about the decline in civility and the climate of hate puzzles me. Where have people been? This culture glorifies violence in so many ways, it could be said it worships death. Robin Morgan delved into that in great depth in The Demon Lover. The election of 2008 was as vitriolic as anything I have witnessed before or since, and much of that vitriol was coming from Democrats, directed against Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. It is too easy to blame this on reactionary nutjobs fanning the flames. Yes, they exacerbate the problem, but in a culture based on violence, where that is seen as manly, righteous, a viable means of settling differences, or carrying out God’s will, we are lucky such incidents do not happen every day. Actually, they do, but most violent acts do not involve public figures, so people can be shocked when something like this happens.

This unspeakable tragedy could be a wake up call, but not if politicians and pundits use it to score points. Yes, the ugly rhetoric is a problem, but it is not THE problem. I think most people have no idea how democracy ought to work. Passions about controversial issues can run high without degenerating into viewing the opposition as something evil to be squashed. Unfortunately this culture operates that way, black and white, one side must be right and the other wrong, winner takes all. That all sounds so ordinary, as if it were common sense, but the thin veneer of civility that keeps that paradigm from collapsing into utter chaos and mayhem is always on the verge of breaking down. When it breaks down in an individual, the results are always tragic, but most of the time there is only one victim at a time, so society can pretend violence is isolated and manageable. It is neither. It defines this culture. I hope this tragedy can become a wake up call, but that will not happen if people play politics with it.

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One Gyrl’s Take on the Stop Porn Culture Conference

July 12th, 2010 at 10:25 pm by Laurel Long

When I think of the international Stop Porn Culture (SPC) conference I attended in Boston last June, the first image that comes to mind is of a giant plastic foot with a slot in it for men to ejaculate into (Dr. Gail Dines discussed this during her presentation). The first phrase that comes to mind is humantoiletbowls dot com, the domain name of a mainstream porn site. And the first sound that comes to mind is that of a young boy gasping for breath as he is suffocated and raped by a trusted adult man addicted to pornography.

If what you’ve just read disturbs you, it should distress you even further to know that children are consuming porn at a younger age than ever before. Indeed, according to one of SPC’s presenters, the fourth most common word searched for by children is “sex,” (and what do you think shows up after such a search?); the fifth is “porn”. Where do you think your children are getting their sex-education, parents? Not from the “abstinence only” school curricula, that’s for sure.

Pornography is increasingly impacting our emotional health as well. Dear Abby had a sixteen-year-old girl write to her about porn addiction! Porn addicts have even been known to sing songs to their porn collections and stay home from vacation to masturbate to images. While we all were aware of the financial collapse, how many of us knew that men working at the Securities and Exchange Commission were jerking off to Internet porn, some as much as eight hours a day? And porn has increasingly come to (negatively) impact intimate relationships; some dub it the new “other woman.”

But, as is obvious to every woman alive, not everyone sees our porn-saturated society as a problem. As one of the founding members of Stop Porn Culture, Dr. Gail Dines, pointed out at the first SPC conference, while porn has become increasingly harsh, a feminist challenge to the porn industry has gone underground. Thus, SPC was founded in the hopes of bringing a radical feminist analysis of pornography back to the forefront of the feminist agenda. In order to combat porn, Dr. Dines suggests raising pornography consumption as a public health issue, much as was done with smoking. While this idea may be the most pragmatic way to challenge the industry, I’m saddened the exploitation of women required to make pornography does not in itself cause outrage. Perhaps male violence could be incorporated into a “public health” approach, but how likely this would be in a male-dominated society, I do not know. Yet, just the act of lessening porn production and consumption would have the effect of decreasing some violence against women, clearly a feminist goal.

Somewhat similarly, the topic of porn and capitalism came up among conference attendees. Several of the conference-goers I talked to seemed to believe if capitalism is dismantled, violent porn would cease to exist. I found this a rather odd assumption, since male supremacy is clearly present in non-capitalist societies. What reason is there to believe the images created by this imaginary society would be kinder and gentler to women? None, as far as I can tell.

These thoughts were echoed by the speakers on the panel regarding legal approaches to challenging the pornography industry. The first scholar, a woman from Durham University, stated that any new laws confronting pornography should be based on a feminist analysis of the industry as opposed to a moral one. The following presenter, Diane Rosenfeld, reminded us that the feminist community has a limited amount of monetary and time resources; we have to decide what the best use of these resources is: legal, education, etc. Rosenfeld also gave us a fairly recent example, the case of Abu Ghraib, where pictures were used to indict individuals for actions. But, when it comes to women, torture is a means to male sexual pleasure.

So, what did I take away from this feminist anti-pornography conference—in addition to overwhelming anger, that is? One of the main messages I got was that there are women fighting back; despite what the pornographers say, women will not be cowered into silence. Even if half the male population gets off to our pain, we will not go down without a fight. We will not give in to your phallic-like missiles, knives, and guns because we have justice on our side.

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The Glass-Steagall Act

April 6th, 2010 at 8:31 pm by Aletha

Pam Martens, whom I quoted extensively about the cozy relationships between Wall Street firms and the Obama campaign at the end of my post A Case Against Obama Nation, published an article at CounterPunch, Senator Dodd, Put Back That Wall! The Most Vital Ingredient in Wall Street Reform Goes Missing , in which she analyzes the sorry state of financial reform legislation coming out of the Senate Banking Committee, chaired by Christopher Dodd. She laments the text of the Glass-Steagall Act was hard to find, and her attempts to obtain a copy from the National Archives were answered only by a request for a copying fee of $35 per page. They would send her the first and signature pages, but the remaining 43 pages are apparently caught up in “the new reality of wealth, privilege and access in America.”

However, she remembered where she had found other documents dating from the Great Depression and was able to download it. She was reluctant to post the link, but will send it to anyone who sends her an email at pamk741@aol.com.

I copied it from the site and will be happy to email the Act to anyone who sends me an email with the subject line, “Save Glass-Steagall From Extinction.” (I hesitate to give out the web location for fear the repository that has given the legislation a home will suffer a buyout by Wall Street shortly upon the news leaking out. I say this only half jokingly.)

The document is a protected PDF, so I cannot post the text, but I have uploaded it so it can be accessed here. The wall between commercial and investment banks enforced by that Act was troublesome to the banking industry, so they worked through their stooges in the Clinton Administration to get it repealed. Specifically, if that law had remained in force, the merger between Citibank and Travelers Insurance would be illegal, though the Federal Reserve ignored that, approving the merger over a year before the repeal. In another article published a week later, The Guys Who Got It Wrong: Obama’s Economic Brain Trust Ms. Martens explains how this all came down:

This is what Mr. Summers had to say at the November 12, 1999 signing ceremony for the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the draconian legislation that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and allowed commercial banks holding insured deposits to merge with investment banks, brokerage firms and insurance companies: the very same combinations that led to the 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression:

Let me welcome you all here today for the signing of this historic legislation. With this bill, the American financial system takes a major step forward towards the 21st century, one that will benefit American consumers, business, and the national economy for many years to come…I believe we have all found the right framework for America’s future financial system.

Mr. Summers was wrong. This was not the “framework for America’s future” but the framework for epic financial collapse. Why isn’t Mr. Summers in an unemployment line along with the millions of Americans his bad judgment call put out of work.

Then there is Neal Wolin, confirmed by President Obama as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury on May 19, 2009. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 19, 2009, Robert Scheer had this to say about Wolin:

Wolin, Geithner and Summers were all proteges of Robert Rubin, who, as Clinton’s treasury secretary, was the grand author of the strategy of freeing Wall Street firms from their Depression-era constraints. It was Wolin who, at Rubin’s behest, became a key force in drafting the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which ended the barrier between investment and commercial banks and insurance companies, thus permitting the new financial behemoths to become too big to fail. Two stunning examples of such giants that had to be rescued with public funds are Citigroup bank, where Rubin went to ‘earn’ $120 million after leaving the Clinton White House, and the Hartford Insurance Co., where Wolin landed after he left Treasury.

Rounding out the list of those who got it wrong in the Clinton administration who have been brought back to get it wrong again in the Obama administration: Gary Gensler, one of those supporting the de-regulation of derivatives under Clinton, now head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission under President Obama; Gene Sperling, thanked by Lawrence Summers in the opening remarks at the signing of the legislation to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, now counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner; and, of course, Geithner himself, former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who served under Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers in Clinton’s Treasury Department from 1999 to 2001.

Ms. Martens concludes,

If financial behemoths collapse from hubris and corruption and lack of meritocracy, why wouldn’t government administrations do the same? President Obama needs to sack the financial wizards who got it wrong and add the common sense folks who got it right.

I think she knows better than most that Obama is unlikely to take that to heart. This all goes to show, Democrats are not serious about financial reform, no more so than they are about health care reform, women’s rights, constitutional rights, or the environment. They are more skillful at pretending they care about these things than Republicans, but actions speak louder than words. It stands to reason that any corporation that becomes “too big to fail” has too much power and influence, and is therefore not just a threat to the financial system, but to democracy itself. This is one reason corporations used to be kept under a tight leash. Power corrupts, and another name for a corporate state is fascism. In light of the recent Supreme Court decision opening the door for corporations to flood politics with unlimited cash in the name of free speech, a fascist corporate state is closer to reality than ever. Is this a democracy in name only? Perhaps when the Obama bubble bursts, there will be more than this halfhearted attempt at financial reform, but as long as the illusion of economic recovery persists, it is business as usual.

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Karzai Makes Mockery of Democracy

April 18th, 2009 at 11:32 am by Aletha

USA, Hamid Karzai, and his Parliament dominated by warlords have created a mockery of democracy in Afghanistan. It has come down to Karzai pushing this law for the Shia minority which will deny women a right to refuse sex with husbands, among other traditional privileges granted males to enforce male power over women. After the news got out, and Karzai got admonished by Hillary Clinton and other outraged leaders, he trumpets the law is being misinterpreted, then he says he will have it thoroughly reviewed. He deserves no credibility. RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) News documents some offensive sections of the new law in Sharia for Shias: ‘Legalised rape’. For instance,

Article 132
(3) The couple should not commit acts that create hatred and bitterness in their relationship, The wife is bound to preen for her husband, as and when he desires.
(4) The husband, except when travelling or ill, is bound to have intercourse with his wife every night in four nights. The wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband.

I cannot find the expressions of shock and outrage from world leaders credible. As if they knew nothing of what was afoot? This law was briefly debated in the Parliament, then railroaded through by Karzai as a political stunt. Those who act so shocked that Karzai, alleged ally, would jump at a chance to subordinate women if he thought it could get him a political edge, ought to read RAWA news, or some horror stories in the war news section of this blog. The indifference of the Karzai regime to the rights and safety of women is notorious. The article in the Guardian, ‘Worse than the Taliban’ – new law rolls back rights for Afghan women, also posted at RAWA News, as well as the New York Times in Karzai Vows to Review Family Law, quote Soraya Sobhrang, head of women’s affairs at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, who had worked on this bill for two years. She decried the lack of protest from the international community while the law was debated in the legislature.

‘Worse than the Taliban’ – new law rolls back rights for Afghan women
Jon Boone in Kabul
The Guardian, Tuesday 31 March 2009

Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan’s presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission.

The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month, despite condemnation by human rights activists and some MPs that it flouts the constitution’s equal rights provisions.

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.

A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.

Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was “worse than during the Taliban”. “Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam,” she said.

The Afghan constitution allows for Shias, who are thought to represent about 10% of the population, to have a separate family law based on traditional Shia jurisprudence. But the constitution and various international treaties signed by Afghanistan guarantee equal rights for women.

Shinkai Zahine Karokhail, like other female parliamentarians, complained that after an initial deal the law was passed with unprecedented speed and limited debate. “They wanted to pass it almost like a secret negotiation,” she said. “There were lots of things that we wanted to change, but they didn’t want to discuss it because Karzai wants to please the Shia before the election.”

The international community has so far shied away from publicly questioning such a politically sensitive issue.

“It is going to be tricky to change because it gets us into territory of being accused of not respecting Afghan culture, which is always difficult,” a western diplomat in Kabul admitted.

Soraya Sobhrang, the head of women’s affairs at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said western silence had been “disastrous for women’s rights in Afghanistan”.

“What the international community has done is really shameful. If they had got more involved in the process when it was discussed in parliament we could have stopped it. Because of the election I am not sure we can change it now. It’s too late for that.”

But another senior western diplomat said foreign embassies would intervene when the law is finally published.

Some female politicians have taken a more pragmatic stance, saying their fight in parliament’s lower house succeeded in improving the law, including raising the original proposed marriage age of girls from nine to 16 and removing completely provisions for temporary marriages.

“It’s not really 100% perfect, but compared to the earlier drafts it’s a huge improvement,” said Shukria Barakzai, an MP. “Before this was passed family issues were decided by customary law, so this is a big improvement.”

Karzai’s spokesman declined to comment on the new law.

From the New York Times article:

The law also outlines rules on divorce, child custody and marriage, all in ways that discriminate against women, said Soraya Sobhrang, commissioner for women’s rights at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

While the law applies only to Shiites, who represent approximately 10 percent of the population, its passage could influence a proposed family law for the Sunni majority and a draft law on violence against women, Ms. Sobhrang said. “This opens the way for more discrimination,” she said.

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said the law represented a “huge step in the wrong direction.”

“For a new law in 2009 to target women in this way is extraordinary, reprehensible and reminiscent of the decrees made by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the 1990s,” Ms. Pillay said in a statement posted on her agency’s Web site. “This is another clear indication that the human rights situation in Afghanistan is getting worse, not better.”

In addition to the clauses on when women may leave the home and must submit to their husbands, Ms. Pillay said she was concerned about a section that forbids women from working or receiving education without their husband‘s permission.

Ms. Sobhrang, who has been working on the issue for the last two years, said women’s groups and the human rights commissions had worked with Parliament to introduce amendments but then the law was suddenly pushed through with only three amendments. The bill as originally drawn up by Shiite clerics barred a woman from leaving the house without her husband’s permission, she said. The parliamentary judicial commission amended that provision to say that a woman could leave the house “for a legitimate purpose.”

Mr. Karzai cited that provision in a news conference on Saturday, pointing out that the final version of the law did not ban a woman from leaving her house. But Ms. Sobhrang said even as amended the law contravened the Constitution, which recognizes equal rights for men and women. The term “for a legitimate purpose” was open to interpretation, she added.

What is the Afghan government doing, writing an unconstitutional law for a religious minority? Why is Karzai pushing this, just to win reelection? Karzai is a major embarrassment, but what would one expect from a puppet dancing to the strings of Bush and company, who certainly did not give a hoot about rights for women, except as an excuse to justify the war. Are Karzai and the Parliament not making a statement with this law, a way of asserting their independence, daring USA to do something about it?

Obama says America did not choose to fight this war. The people were given no choice. Making Afghanistan pay was the hook, though that nation had only provided shelter to mostly Saudis giving their lives to make USA pay, for maintaining a military base on their holy ground, for instance. Afghanistan was chosen as the scapegoat because Osama bin Laden and company ran warrior schools there. He was an ally against the Soviet Union, and some historians credit that struggle with forcing the collapse of that empire. It was the Vietnam War analogue for Soviet Union, and promises to repeat the lesson for Obama, who is naive or complicit enough to promulgate this fantasy of securing Afghanistan to deny the terrorists a safe haven.

Obama has reservations about Karzai, and has also denounced the new law, but regardless, this mockery of a democracy, created as a corporate friendly shell regime to facilitate the businesses of fossil fuel pipelines and opium, is what Obama is committing to prop up as the cause that could not be more just. USA may not be in a position to tell Karzai to scrap the law, but USA can withdraw support for Karzai, which would probably mean his assassination. His life is worth nothing without protection, getting the fitting nickname Mayor of Kabul. USA has no business trying to occupy Afghanistan or Iraq, and this alacrity to sign away rights for women by this corporate stooge shows how little the Bush experiments in democracy mean. These are sham democracies, where women are worse off than before USA invaded, to set things right? Something went horribly wrong, and if it is all the fault of Bush, why is the Obama policy not a full reversal? These experiments in democracy are total failures, except for a few corporations with sweet contracts supporting the war effort. Obama could renounce it utterly, but has chosen just to shift forces and strategies around, hoping both disasters can be salvaged with his wise leadership? If Obama wants to improve on Bush, or if he thinks rights for women should actually carry some weight, he could renounce recognition of this government headed by Karzai, or get the hell all the way out, preferably both. Obama thinks his strategy will bring America back from the brink. No, that would require abandoning conventional wisdom, from which he has chosen liberally to guide and implement his plans.

President Obama could give up trying to salvage what Bush started. These are not his wars, though he consistently voted to fund them, not wars the people of USA understood, after being sold a bill of goods, a public relations masquerade now shown to have more holes than substance. He could get the troops out of there. They are not wanted and can serve no useful purpose. The occupation plays into the hands of the resistance, which Obama promises to defeat, to deny terrorists a safe haven, but that will never be accomplished by military means, or making alliances with warlords notorious for terrorizing women. Obama could ask the women of RAWA, read their News Archive, get a clue of the views of the women he says he cares about. The occupation has not liberated women, only on paper, and Karzai and that Parliament of warlords has shown how little those words can mean.

Another prominent feminist activist, Sitara Achakzai, was shot down last Saturday in Kandahar. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility. Her friend and fellow member of the provincial council, who asked her name not be published in fear for her own life, was quoted in the Sunday Globe and Mail

“Obviously, we’ve had a brain drain. … Now when we’re slowly trying to think for the future of the country …this is how our country repays people,” Ms. Achakzai’s friend said. “I have no faith in my government. I have no faith in the Taliban. I have no faith in the international community.”

Malalai Joya knows how little those claims of liberated women mean. Here is some of what she said recently about the plight of women in Afghanistan, from The Age in Australia

A voice of hope for Afghanistan’s women
Frud Bezhan
April 14, 2009

“Today, because there is no strong central government, Afghanistan is carved up between these same warlords, who have now filled the shoes of the Taliban,” Joya says. “Afghanistan is once again in the hands of rapists, murderers and extremists.”

She claims that although liberating women was one of the main moral arguments for invading Afghanistan in 2001, the situation for women has continued to deteriorate. “Ninety per cent of women in Afghanistan suffer from domestic violence, 80 per cent of marriages are forced, and the average life expectancy for women is 44 years,” she says.

Joya recounts the harrowing stories of two women she has met. Fatima, the daughter of a poor shopkeeper, was sold to a man, 50, who raped and beat her and then traded her for a dog. Her father did not have the money to buy back his daughter, 23. Shabnum, seven, was kidnapped and raped by three men, who cut her genitals.

“The plight of victims such as these girls is my driving force,” Joya says. “I will never give up my fight for justice, and I’ll continue to try to represent the millions of voiceless Afghan people — especially women and children — who are still being brutalised by warlords and the Taliban. While ordinary women and girls face rape, forced marriages and inhuman acts of abuse daily, women who stand up for their rights and take a public role in society risk being killed or silenced.

Despite the pressure brought to bear by the world community and while acknowledging the contribution of international forces in Afghanistan, Joya believes the US and other foreign powers are making a mockery of democracy and the liberation of Afghan women by empowering the warlords and fundamentalists.

“The US talks about thousands of girls flocking back to school, but the fundamentalists in power are encouraging the destruction of schools, the killing of teachers and the kidnapping of students,” Joya says. “The US also talks about the improving situation for women, but they are committing suicide more than ever. They would rather die than live.”

Yes, President Obama is contributing to this mockery of democracy and the liberation of Afghan women by empowering the warlords and fundamentalists. Calling this new law abhorrent is a nice gesture, but it means about as much as Karzai promising to review it. Karzai has no need to review the law; he knew all along what is wrong with it, and pushed for it anyway. If Shia men want to crack down on their rebellious women, that should be condemned. If the law and President cannot forbid Shia from practicing their oppressive customs, they should at least remain neutral, not codify those customs into law. Clearly maintaining his power matters more to Karzai than rights for women. Since that is his attitude, supporting his government contributes to this mockery. Obama may claim his plan is the best hope for Afghan women, but few of them agree, and they ought to know better than any US politician or general determined to defeat the terrorists.

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A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan?

March 27th, 2009 at 10:48 pm by Aletha

What is new about it? Obama may think his blueprint to crush al Qaeda is new and improved, but it is just as arrogant and doomed to backfire as anything George Bush had in mind.

Many people in the United States – and many in partner countries that have sacrificed so much – have a simple question: What is our purpose in Afghanistan? After so many years, they ask, why do our men and women still fight and die there? They deserve a straightforward answer.

So let me be clear: al Qaeda and its allies – the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks – are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe-haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged – that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.

Why is that, Mr. President? Could it have anything to do with blowback?

For the Afghan people, a return to Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance, international isolation, a paralyzed economy, and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people – especially women and girls. The return in force of al Qaeda terrorists who would accompany the core Taliban leadership would cast Afghanistan under the shadow of perpetual violence.

There Obama employs the same dirty trick Bush played, saying we must rescue the women and girls from the evil Taliban. Afghan women say they have been tossed out of the frying pan into the fire, courtesy of US allies, the Northern Alliance. Is Afghanistan not now under the shadow of perpetual violence?

As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future. We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists.

Like hell we are not in Afghanistan to dictate its future. USA and its allies have been busily dictating the future of the entire planet, and look what kind of mess has ensued. What about the suffering of those people at the hands of USA?

So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you.

A cause that could not be more just? How can Obama say that with a straight face? USA is unjustly occupying Afghanistan and violating the sovereignty of Pakistan. Who is al Qaeda, anyway, besides a loose coalition of Muslims who are willing to fight an empire in order to control their own destiny?

And to defeat an enemy that heeds no borders or laws of war, we must recognize the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan…

As if USA heeds borders or laws of war?

The United States has great respect for the Pakistani people. They have a rich history, and have struggled against long odds to sustain their democracy. The people of Pakistan want the same things that we want: an end to terror, access to basic services, the opportunity to live their dreams, and the security that can only come with the rule of law. The single greatest threat to that future comes from al Qaeda and their extremist allies, and that is why we must stand together.

The terrorists within Pakistan’s borders are not simply enemies of America or Afghanistan – they are a grave and urgent danger to the people of Pakistan. Al Qaeda and other violent extremists have killed several thousand Pakistanis since 9/11. They have killed many Pakistani soldiers and police. They assassinated Benazir Bhutto. They have blown up buildings, derailed foreign investment, and threatened the stability of the state. Make no mistake: al Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within.

It is important for the American people to understand that Pakistan needs our help in going after al Qaeda. This is no simple task. The tribal regions are vast, rugged, and often ungoverned. That is why we must focus our military assistance on the tools, training and support that Pakistan needs to root out the terrorists. And after years of mixed results, we will not provide a blank check. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken – one way or another – when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.

The single greatest threat to Pakistan is the war on terror, especially since Obama has insisted on going after targets within Pakistan, dashing the hopes of moderates there who had hoped he would be more sensible. Obama is taking one hell of a gamble, playing hardball with a nation with plenty of nuclear weapons and one of the largest armies in the world. Pakistanis are fed up with USA telling them who their enemies are. Sooner or later they will tell USA to take the aid they so desperately need and shove it.

To avoid the mistakes of the past, we must make clear that our relationship with Pakistan is grounded in support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions and the Pakistani people. And to demonstrate through deeds as well as words a commitment that is enduring, we must stand for lasting opportunity.

A campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone. Al Qaeda offers the people of Pakistan nothing but destruction. We stand for something different.

Nice sentiments, but distant from reality. The democracy in Pakistan is in a shambles. President Zardari is as corrupt as they come. Obama is very selective about which Pakistanis he supports. Most Pakistanis are not extremists, but US policy is driving more of them in that direction with every drone attack, which will be more and more frequent as US frustration with Pakistani ambivalence grows.

There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated. But there are also those who have taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price.

Or simply because they want to fight the occupiers, to control their own destiny. Obama is ignoring the reasons USA has such determined enemies.

As their ranks dwindle, an enemy that has nothing to offer the Afghan people but terror and repression must be further isolated.

Afghan people might well think USA has nothing to offer them but terror and repression. Obama hopes that investing in reconstructing their infrastructure will win them over, but meanwhile, the ranks of this enemy are swelling.

The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked. We have a shared responsibility to act – not because we seek to project power for its own sake, but because our own peace and security depends upon it.

Slides back into chaos? What does Obama call what is going on there now? Peace and security is only jeopardized by projecting this kind of power. That projection of power is a large part of the motivation fueling the fury of those who have become implacable enemies. Osama bin Laden used to be an ally, remember?

Obama ends with this:

The sacrifices have been enormous. Nearly 700 Americans have lost their lives. Troops from over twenty other countries have also paid the ultimate price. All Americans honor the service and cherish the friendship of those who have fought, and worked, and bled by our side. And all Americans are awed by the service of our own men and women in uniform, who have borne a burden as great as any other generation’s. They and their families embody the example of selfless sacrifice.

The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. Al Qaeda and its allies have since killed thousands of people in many countries. Most of the blood on their hands is the blood of Muslims, who al Qaeda has killed and maimed in far greater numbers than any other people. That is the future that al Qaeda is offering to the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan – a future without opportunity or hope; a future without justice or peace.

The road ahead will be long. There will be difficult days. But we will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan that serve the promise of a new day for their people. And we will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future. Because the United States of America stands for peace and security, justice and opportunity. That is who we are, and that is what history calls on us to do once more.

Again, some nice sentiments, so distant from reality. How many civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine have paid that ultimate price for the hubris of this empire and its allies? Those who died supposedly defending those lofty goals Obama cites died for nothing. They were defending the interests of a corporate empire, which stands for anything but peace, security, justice, opportunity, or a better future. Look at the colossal mess this empire has wrought. That was no accident, nor was it an unavoidable part of the business cycle. It was the future offered to the vast majority of the people of the world, a future with scant opportunity, hope, justice, or peace. Is Obama offering a different future? I do not see it, however skillfully he may spin business as usual. I note with interest most of the commenters on truthout, where I found the transcript, are not buying the spin either.

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A Vision for Healing

March 23rd, 2009 at 7:58 am by Aletha

Barack Obama has a vision for a changed politics, honoring a preacher John McCain might have chosen with the opening prayer for his inauguration. This is his way of reaching out to all Americans, reaching out to wary Republicans while leaving many of his supporters behind. This is standard old Democratic big tent politics, no great change in policy here. No hesitation to flout international law by bombing Pakistan, not just the requisite dose of bellicose rhetoric for the campaign. Smarting Republicans will not be easily charmed, nor those who supported Obama reluctantly, not their first choice. Sometimes the tent is too big, when efforts to straddle the elusive center matter more than its principles.

Change is coming, but who will benefit? In the name of economic hardship everyone will be asked to sacrifice, but that is not facing the real issues. The model of economics underlying modern capitalism is rabidly self-destructive. This latest bubble bursting was not so hard to predict. Obama has better plans, such as open government, lifting the abortion gag rule, more emphasis on diplomacy and alliances, more careful treatment of prisoners of war, first steps toward nuclear disarmament and a more sustainable way of life, a White House Council on Women and Girls, a White House organic garden, various other reforms, not trifles but nothing radical or unexpected. It remains to be seen what actions will spring from those plans. Among his bad plans are:

Expanding the war on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Taking his time winding down the war on Iraq. Defending Israeli and US war crimes, flouting international law. Stressing patriotism and maintaining military supremacy, claiming our way of life gives USA the moral high ground to project power around the world . Expanding the armed forces and NATO. Clean coal. Any role for nuclear power other than rapid phaseout. Faith-based initiatives. Abstinence as part of sex education, and new restrictions on abortions under mental distress. Promoting agrofuels and genetically engineered crops. Throwing good money after bad, keeping bankrupt crooks afloat. Using any of those extreme executive powers seized by Bush and Cheney with the Patriot Act and its follow ups, while letting them off the hook for their crimes. Promoting reversion to Clinton policies and people as the change we need. Promoting triangulation, selling out core constituencies, as continuity and bipartisanship. Promoting a food safety bill that as written, could ruin small and organic farmers by requiring them to take safety measures prompted by reckless agribusiness practices. Most of these bad plans were readily predictable, within the first weeks of his term.

Among many better plans he will not take on:

Reducing military spending to a minimum necessary to end all occupations, close or turn over all foreign bases, clean up the toxic messes the military-industrial complex has left in its wake, provide a realistic defense against potential invasion, get an international campaign going to decommission all nuclear weapons, research facilities, and power plants, and other indefensible weapons and research programs. Substantial luxury taxes on socially costly indulgences, such as junk food, tobacco, alcoholic beverages and other recreational drugs, unsupportive shoes, cosmetics and cosmetic surgery, unnecessary toxicity or pollution, sexist imagery, resource hogging, solely speculative transactions. Firing Jon Favreau, chief Obama speechwriter featured in a picture on Facebook of his gleeful mug and another Obama staffer groping a Hillary Clinton mockup. Firing the lot of military industrial friendly bureaucrats Obama picked to implement his plans. Abolishing slavery of all kinds, including sexual, and making it an important human rights issue around the world. Abolishing poverty by funding appropriate shelter, nutrition, health care, rehabilitation, education, day care for everyone who wants or needs it, so nobody has to remain stuck in a bad job, relationship, or sexual slavery to survive. Teaching boys thoroughly there is nothing salutary, manly, or legal about raping, battering, harassing, or buying women as part of comprehensive sex education. Banning dress codes requiring women to wear cosmetics or constricting or revealing clothing. Abolishing genetic engineering and cloning, at least outside the laboratory, as examples of science going too far, violating the precautionary principle. Getting toxic chemicals out of food, water, air as fast as possible. Stop subsidizing big agribusiness. Stop logging old growth and using wood for purposes where substitution is easy, such as paper. Nullify the free trade agreements, World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Federal Reserve Bank. Forget about biofuels, from corn or high tech. The focus on embryonic stem cells is misplaced, since other sources are more promising and less trouble. The focus on prescription drugs is misplaced, since other means are often more promising and less trouble. The focus on metaphorical wars is worse than misplaced, but expected of leaders of an empire.

Examples of misplaced focus abound, since the economic model is corrupted at its source by its assumptions about the value and meaning of hierarchy, capital, competition, incorporation, life itself. Capitalism has long been not about free markets or competition, but has devolved into bailing out insolvent companies too big to fail. That such could exist violates the principle of a competitive free market. The system is not even true to its own principles, let alone principles that affirm life, but will be defended to the last breath by the new leadership as well as the old. The system has revealed its fatal core rot. Let the institutions that deserve to fail die by their sword, unbridled debt and undeserved abusive power. There could be fulfilling work for all, but not under these fundamentally messed up conventional models.

Priorities as well as values and principles of those models are all backwards, designed and working to preserve power and privilege, not for common people. Obama will try to have it both ways, but his plans are too little, too late to do much about this mess. He thinks part of the answer is people acting more responsibly. This has some relevance, but the models underlying the way of life he touts as needing no apology encouraged rich people acting irresponsibly to get the world economy into this bind, inventing vehicles for reckless speculation fueled by cheap debt. Breaking up all the companies too big to fail might seem inconceivable, but it was not so long ago that these were denounced as monopolistic, and forced to split into multiple companies. Antitrust legislation was passed for good reasons, though enforcement has been lax, as a rule. Corporations used to be set up for specific purposes requiring a pool of capital. The idea of a corporate bottom line of short-term profit is among modern corruptions that make such a mockery of competitive free enterprise and fair play.

Those ideals Obama touts so proudly are sullied by blood. Some of that blood is already on his hands, authorizing full speed ahead on the Pakistan front, and hardly a word of protest at the rampage in Gaza. Democrats run scared from the soft on terror label, showing why the nation will not regain the moral high ground it squandered after blowback struck home. Obama was the last hope of Pakistanis to avoid confrontation over the raids, but he wasted no time dashing that, leaving the people of Pakistan to wonder how much worse could things get now that their neighbor and its people hiding in Pakistan are to be the central front of the war. It seems people in Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are still fair game for the war on terror, because they are sheltering terrorists, and who knows what Obama will do about Iran when his vaunted tough diplomacy gets nowhere. Is this a war on terror, or of terror? Is this a vision for healing, or is that just a mirage created by a master of illusion? Obama exudes confidence his plans will work. If they accomplish anything, it will be when the business cycle has run its course, or when he is forced by harsh reality to give radical ideas a chance.

Competition for dominance was bound to produce bad consequences, because it is a distorted fundamental value of warlike cultures. It may seem innocuous if one does not think too hard about it. Competition could be about other things, like being the best one can be, providing a better product or service, finding a better way to do or look at anything, honing a skill or talent, building on what works to make it better, and so on. In and of itself, competition is not a bad thing, but warlike culture makes it vicious, cutthroat, cannibalistic, dog eat dog, racist, me first and the hell with whoever or whatever gets in the way, men feeling entitled to rape, assault, harass, devalue, and buy women. The concept of power is closely tied to this valuation of dominance. Power over others is a heady emotion, enabling the atrocities of war and all sorts of other symptoms of this rotten culture, though its practitioners prattle endlessly on their good intentions. Power that empowers is internal, creative, inspiring, passionate, furiously resisting abuse of power. This kind of power is out of political power, but would turn politics as we know it on its head. People with integrity of character and vision could do that, but politics as we know it rejects them as idealistic impractical radicals whose ideas are ivory tower utopian fantasies that could never work. Instead politics presents mainstream versions of pragmatism, conventional wisdom, which can only appear to work through illusions and bubbles, motivated by fear and greed. Where is the sense of perspective in that, looking out for future generations? Unfortunately politicians have learned how to fake concern about the future to convince people how much they care. It remains to be seen what Obama will try, but his initial forays to deal with this colossal mess he inherited are surface treatment desperation measures cloaked in a cool confident manner, as if confidence in him could be the new bubble to obscure what really must be worked through.

There are better ways. There are more where those came from. For example, see the campaign blog Heart put together for 2008, or What This Feminist Revolution Could Accomplish from last January.

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Open Letter to Depressed Women

January 21st, 2009 at 7:41 am by Aletha

I imagine you crying out, convulsing with revulsion as all the things driving you to madness in your life surround you, perhaps not realizing you are not the crazy party, even if you feel crazy, lost, trapped, stuck, hopelessly overwhelmed with no way out. It is hard not to feel more than a little crazed when masters of policy and technology have it all backwards, any sensible view being ignored or ridiculed in favor of male propensities to contend for dominance. The basis of that paradigm is this drive to subordinate, so everything derived, directly or indirectly, from that is corrupted at its source. The list is unimaginable in length and horrors. For instance, might makes right, rape, battering, sexual harassment, intimidation, manipulation, bullying, winning, cruelty, hierarchy, cutthroat competition, cutting corners, plundering nature, toxic dumping, mixing up genetic structure for profit, war, conquest, colonization, occupation, arms race, superpower, doomsday weaponry, poverty, proselytizing, political, psychological, and economic models, Constitution recognizing rights only of white men, not even most of those getting to vote for decades… The rot is endless, so it is not alarming that you sense things are amiss; they are, and not because of anything deficient in you. That is a reversal scam, wool pulled over your eyes, that the problem is how you look at things, or biochemical imbalance. It is to your credit that you sense things are amiss, deeper than stock markets crashing, so your problems cannot be all your fault. Living in such a messed up world has to bring out charged up reactions, of depression, madness, going numb, or fury. It infuriates me anew beyond belief, to look at fresh examples of this madness every day, that trend showing no sign of reversing, even if Obama does get some things done by working with amenable Republicans. He seems anxious to reach out to them, despite drawing protests from dismayed supporters who expected better than another betrayal from a big talker politician, this time.

The world is effectively mad, upside down, its collective mind twisted into a pretzel by any sensible or rational standard, the worst schemes of the rich and powerful creating chaos as their bubbles of recklessness unravel. Even what men call knowledge is skewed by their basic premises, but fundamental to their learned thought patterns is this drive to subordinate, serving to prop up and escalate theories and practices like hierarchical models, hero worship, violence. One can say men compete to control everything, often with the worst of intentions or tools. Under another model one could say people can work with each other and resources provided by a generous but finite planet to make quality balanced relationships, products, services, instead of competing to control, dominate, master others, show who is boss in a society hierarchical in just about every way conceivable. Why is one group better than another? Sex? Sexuality? Ancestry? The only possible means to make such a comparison make sense is on the basis of proficiency in each ability possible to humans, in other words specific rather than general, since by differences readily apparent by appearances, those comparisons will trade off. Subordination of inferior groups is all twisted delusion maintained for benefit of men in power, a conflation of personal or cultural pride with being better or entitled. Pride does not require feeling better than others, a different kind of pride than feelings of superiority and entitlement associated with hierarchical models.

Convention allows males to look at females as sex objects, since females are different, the Other devalued to prop up male ego. Leave it to man to invent ideological violence. Other animals fight over territory, but man had to expand the territory of battle to beliefs, invent slavery and Inquisitions, turn war into a sinister art demanding ever more money and death. In some parts of the world, I might be killed for expressing my opinions, while in others people send death threats, or lean on me to tone it down. Times are bad, enough for pornography bigshots to stage a publicity stunt applying for a bailout, another maneuver to add insult to injury they must trot out. They are almost accepted as part of mainstream media, so why not? While men feel entitled to devalue women into sex objects, one group can justify devaluing another into slavery or other forms of second classhood. The default to see men as the norm, those who matter, head the household, must be taken seriously, is arbitrary, deliberately set up that way and maintained to keep the clique of the powerful, mostly men, in power, subordinate men contented with power over women. Feminism threatens to disrupt all that, so it is roundly reviled as anything but what it is, women taking power, which would ultimately bring radical change, at least in the way the culture sees and values women and power, since feminist power is not hierarchical or about vengeance or subordinating anybody. There is far more diversity in feminism than the media presents, as if it is divided between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin camps, or man-hating and pornography is so liberating camps. Radical women are visionary, going to the root of matters, not necessarily extreme, leftist, or lesbian.

The degree and forms of social madness vary, but the trend looks bad. It gets to the point the public relations people do not seem to care how unbelievable their spin is, they expect people to buy it. Why live in such a mad world, where people look down on you, want to abuse, devalue, or ignore you? Any hope of meaningful change seems a forlorn futile pipedream, not going to happen in your lifetime? Rebels try to organize, but are splintered into myriads of narrow focus groups that cannot agree on anything?

It can all seem hopeless, mocking you when hope itself is made into a campaign slogan, and Obama slogans into commercial advertising. Are there ample reasons to suspect Obama of selling out his principles to big money? His marketing program has kept these murmurs mostly off the map of mainstream media, otherwise it would be dealing with President McCain? Life can seem intolerable at times, yet is resilient enough to recover from most insults. Life cannot seem such a wonderful thing if you are having a miserable time with a job you cannot abide, or someone determined to make your life miserable, whether your boss, coworker, relationship, stalker, or your own compulsion. You do not deserve this. Blaming or taking it out on yourself is tantamount to conceding they win, you are too miserable to fight back. However implausible it may seem, a supportive friend or group could help you find a way to fight back. Usually there are ways, at least to work toward a better life, though finding one and making good use of it can seem farfetched, since the cold cruel world at large is so unsupportive.

The world will have to clean up its act more than most people can imagine if there is to be any chance of reversing course before too late to avert major ecological collapse. It could happen before humanity is forced awake by any number of possible disasters awaiting business as usual. It is hard to contemplate living under predictable scenarios, but people do have choices, and having their backs against the wall could bring out the worst in people, or the best. It is hard to see the point in living, if the future is so bleak. Yet there are better ways, and to work for any kind of change is a reason to live. To work for radical change that would deal with this predicament in a practical, realistic way is a reason to live. That may sound utopian, but it is clever but ironic artifice to call what can actually work utopian, when what is supposed to work according to conventional wisdom caused and is compounding the problems.

People will squawk, what a pipedream, yet this is to say there is no way better for visionary women to find than bailing out the scam artists? That goes for more than the financial mess. Scam artists have pulled the wool over our eyes in every way they could imagine. Nothing is left untouched, not science, medicine, psychology, religion, tradition, what one learned to believe. It all goes back to fundamental beliefs, based on fundamentally flawed presumptions on reality, twisting it to maximize hierarchy. Think about what the opposite would mean, if hierarchy had no value. This is closer to reality. There should be no hierarchy for its own sake. There is no need to overvalue necessary evils. The founding document, the Declaration of Independence, of USA says governments are instituted to secure rights,

deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

It seems government has taken it upon itself to stretch another phrase,

organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

If that last their refers to well off white men, the voters allowed under the original Constitution, there is our system, though it has revealed some heavy cracks lately, so very few powers that be are feeling so safe, smug, and happy at the moment. The Obama bubble might fix that for awhile, but look out below.

It may seem all so hopeless, so beyond any hope of repair, at least on the level of your own life. A woman needs a room of her own, and she needs support as well. When I was young women had a widespread support group movement, of small mostly disorganized groups of women throwing thoughts and feelings out for discussion, finding out how similar some of our issues with men were. Those groups were known as CR groups, for consciousness raising, before New Age and postmodern movements came along to recast consciousness into a ghost of what it meant. If that movement had been able to network as easily as is possible today, it could have turned political reality on its head, because feminist political awareness is powerful, potentially enough to endanger the powers that be. Those groups also helped women work out ways of dealing with our problems that seemed too personal, just your own problems, but other women could empathize, realizing political implications. Most problems are manufactured as consequences of wrongheaded assumptions of prevalent psychological and economic models. These assumptions only make sense if one believes in them, so men run the world, into the ground. That cannot last forever, but the sooner women realize how to turn things around, the better. It is all about networking, to communicate about gripes and figure out practical real life solutions. Eventually enough women will be emboldened to speak out, to express in all our creativity, wisdom, and power, to sweep enough of the rascals out of office to try something really new.

It could also help to try writing out your pain into a blog, or journal. A blog can be private so only friends can see it. If you make it public and allow comments, you might have to censor a few losers who feel like harassing you, but you might find someone who empathizes with you, can relate to what going through your battle is like. Another way is to join a moderated forum at an online support network. There is nothing like a supportive friend to help you ground, get your bearings, find a way out of the maze. The Free Soil Party is sponsoring a Depressed Women Network where women can rant and rave freely in forums carefully moderated to keep the atmosphere safe for that purpose. One section is visible to the public, others more private, some for venting only, others for discussion of issues. I imagine what depresses most depressed women is not unrelated to what infuriates me. This is not in our imagination. Women have reasons not to believe men know what they are doing, with women or anything else in this world of, by, and for men, throwing a few crumbs our way to placate our fury. We cannot agree on what to do about it, but that need not keep us feeling so alone and powerless. This is a political issue for Free Soil, the system built to keep women down, nothing new, but still depressing, infuriating, and under challenge. You can help fight the system by venting. Despite what you learned to believe, do not downplay what you contribute to the world. It is a political issue that depressed and angry women have so little support, our feelings ridiculed or dismissed as our fault, best pacified with drugs. Better to join a feminist revolution, or vent among friends. Repressing your feelings only hurts you, keeps the wounds festering. The drugs only make you numb, apathetic, docile. Your feelings are important. Venting them might help you and others more than you can imagine. You can fight back. You do not have to settle for blaming yourself, or drugging your life away. Most doctors are part of the system, not on your side, telling you how you need to adapt to society, get with the program. To some extent we must all make deals to survive, but Martin Luther King said in The Power of Non-Violence over fifty years ago

God grant that we will be so maladjusted that we will be able to go out and change our world and our civilization.

Think about that the next time you are told how you need to adapt or adjust to society. Society needs to adapt and adjust to women taking power. In the meantime, business goes on as usual, which is oppressive and depressing, but there are many ways to contribute to the struggle. This may seem remote, but so many women seethe inside that you might find some empathy or answers, if you venture to vent. Think on your depression as a reasonable reaction to such a messed up world. If you understand it is not your fault, you can help fight the oppression that is depressing you. To truth, healing, discovery, a way out of all the poison illusions!

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The Peace Candidate is Anything But

September 29th, 2008 at 7:51 pm by Aletha

Starhawk posted an essay Thursday on her site, explaining why she will vote for Obama. Heart alluded to being discouraged by that essay, which was sent out on the Global Sisterhood Network list. I posted this in response:

I also read that letter from Starhawk. I imagine she is trying to take a practical approach. Why she thinks Obama “is headed in the right direction, toward the future,” I cannot say. I think that is wishful thinking, and if this debate did not make that clear, I do not know what will. It almost seems she is saying, a candidate with principles is unelectable. That may seem true, but in my eyes, a candidate who betrays most principles important to me is not headed in the right direction. I imagine Starhawk thinks, or at least hopes, Obama is a principled politician. I was disgusted by his performance tonight, but not surprised. Commentators are saying he held his own in the area where McCain supposedly held an advantage, foreign policy. Yeah, he held his own; he can talk the warmonger talk with the worst of them. He even had the gall to deny he threatened to attack Pakistan.

Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan. Here’s what I said.

And if John wants to disagree with this, he can let me know, that, if the United States has al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out.

That is not talking about attacking Pakistan? I think the people of Pakistan would disagree. Obama also said,

You don’t muddle through stamping out the Taliban.

Just how does he propose to do that? This is heading in the right direction?

Now, what I’ve said is we should end this war responsibly. We should do it in phases. But in 16 months we should be able to reduce our combat troops, put — provide some relief to military families and our troops and bolster our efforts in Afghanistan so that we can capture and kill bin Laden and crush al Qaeda.

This is his vaunted timetable, refined so that in 16 months we SHOULD be able to REDUCE our combat troops? His fans have been saying his plan would end that war in 16 months! How does he propose to crush al Qaeda? Start a war with Pakistan? The next President might well inherit a war with Pakistan, the way things are going already! If not, it will be despite this reckless rhetoric from Obama!

I do not know if people really believe Obama would bring real change, but they seem to be comparing him to Bush, and in that light, he seems to represent progress. He may be more sensible than Bush or McCain, but that is a far cry from headed in the right direction. I imagine many women figure Obama is the best that can be expected. Considering how messed up the Green Party has been, this may seem the realistic approach. I see nothing realistic in rushing headlong toward the inglorious end of this empire, but I think Obama is masterfully playing on our hopes and fears, so many think he is what they hope he is. Starhawk says,

Obama may or may not be all we hope.

She knows better, but I think her fear of McCain has gotten the better of her. This is a terrifying time, but making decisions out of fear never makes things better.

One way or another, the Democratic Party is self-destructing. People may not yet be convinced its promises are hollow, same old tripe masquerading as change, progress, hope, whatever one wants to call it, it is all shameless posturing. Obama has no real answers, but he certainly is skillful at snowing people. Charm and erudition cannot substitute for principle, but in the reality most people see, principles and politics do not mix. Principles are seen as utopian, beyond the realm of practical politics. This is a sure recipe for disaster, and we are witnessing the results. The curious thing is that a variation on the standard recipe for disaster is considered practical, progressive, real change. Corporate media can allow no other perspective to gain traction. The survival of the corporate empire is at stake, so it will do its damnedest to circumscribe the range of acceptable political perspectives.

There was plenty more belligerent warmongering talk from Obama in this first debate:

Well, I think that, given what’s happened over the last several weeks and months, our entire Russian approach has to be evaluated, because a resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region.

Their actions in Georgia were unacceptable. They were unwarranted. And at this point, it is absolutely critical for the next president to make clear that we have to follow through on our six-party — or the six-point cease-fire. They have to remove themselves from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

And to countries like Georgia and the Ukraine, I think we have to insist that they are free to join NATO if they meet the requirements, and they should have a membership action plan immediately to start bringing them in.

So back in April, I warned the administration that you had Russian peacekeepers in Georgian territory. That made no sense whatsoever.

Obama is rewriting history. Those peacekeepers had been there for decades. Georgia was the aggressor, invading its breakaway province South Ossetia on the pretext of rebel attacks. Russia responded with overwhelming force, which was disproportionate and opportunistic, but it was not the initiator of the violence. There are reasons to suspect the Administration encouraged Saakashvili to move to reclaim those rebellious provinces, which he has wanted to do for many years.

I believe the Republican Guard of Iran is a terrorist organization. I’ve consistently said so. What Senator McCain refers to is a measure in the Senate that would try to broaden the mandate inside of Iraq. To deal with Iran.

And ironically, the single thing that has strengthened Iran over the last several years has been the war in Iraq. Iraq was Iran’s mortal enemy. That was cleared away. And what we’ve seen over the last several years is Iran’s influence grow. They have funded Hezbollah, they have funded Hamas, they have gone from zero centrifuges to 4,000 centrifuges to develop a nuclear weapon.

So obviously, our policy over the last eight years has not worked. Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. It would be a game changer. Not only would it threaten Israel, a country that is our stalwart ally, but it would also create an environment in which you could set off an arms race in this Middle East.

Obama was concerned that Senate measure was provocative. What, encouraging Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO is not provocative? So what is the plan if tough diplomacy with Iran, whose Republican Guard he agrees is a terrorist organization, fails? What is the plan if Israel gets impatient with diplomatic efforts and attacks Iran? The likely new Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, is less impatient to attack Iran than many Israeli politicians, but she may bow to their pressure eventually. A month ago, Obama said:

“My job as president would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran, that we’ve mobilized the world community to go after Iran’s program in a serious way, to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a difficult calculation,” Obama said in response to a voter’s question at a campaign event in Iowa. “We’ve got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall.”

So if Israel attacks Iran for pursuing its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would be another flagrant violation of international law, this stalwart ally must be defended at all costs? Israel has no respect for that treaty or international law, but Obama sees no cause to pressure Israel to back off? One can only hope Ms. Livni has more sense than these candidates.

I actually believe that we need missile defense, because of Iran and North Korea and the potential for them to obtain or to launch nuclear weapons…

How does this deliberately misleading excuse for that unworkable total waste of resources called missile defense differ from Bush? Clearly Obama has no concern about provoking Russia, which sees the missile defense program as a threat, enough so to threaten a nuclear attack on Poland for accepting a deal last month to host missile defense facilities. Russia called the line about deterring rogue states like Iran or North Korea a fairy tale. Why is Obama parroting this Bush lie? Why are he and Biden helping whip up Cold War style rhetoric about a very aggressive Russia that must be contained?

Look, over the last eight years, this administration, along with Senator McCain, have been solely focused on Iraq. That has been their priority. That has been where all our resources have gone.

In the meantime, bin Laden is still out there. He is not captured. He is not killed. Al Qaeda is resurgent.

In the meantime, we’ve got challenges, for example, with China, where we are borrowing billions of dollars. They now hold a trillion dollars’ worth of our debt. And they are active in countries like — in regions like Latin America, and Asia, and Africa. They are — the conspicuousness of their presence is only matched by our absence, because we’ve been focused on Iraq.

We have weakened our capacity to project power around the world because we have viewed everything through this single lens, not to mention, look at our economy. We are now spending $10 billion or more every month.

And that means we can’t provide health care to people who need it. We can’t invest in science and technology, which will determine whether or not we are going to be competitive in the long term.

There has never been a country on Earth that saw its economy decline and yet maintained its military superiority. So this is a national security issue.

So Obama wants to maintain military superiority so USA can project power around the world. In other words, he is as intent as any neocon to keep this empire in control of the world. No country has ever maintained military superiority, period. All empires must fall. What makes Obama think this one will be different? Is this what Obama thinks being President means, projecting US power around the world? Is this what passes for red-blooded American patriotism these days? This is what people around the world despise about USA, its sense of entitlement to project its power as the corrupt policeman of the world to promote transnational corporate interests. There is no right to military superiority and no way to maintain it. Does USA stand for the rule of law, or might? Obama wants his turn at emperor, figurehead of the corporate world. A President could renounce empire, military superiority, projecting power, but that would require some respect for international law. USA and Israel are right up there with the worst scofflaws. The list of war crimes makes international law seem like a bad joke. Obama wants to put Pakistan on the list of illegally invaded countries, to crush al Qaeda and stamp out the Taliban. He does not mince words, but he does duck and compromise major issues.

Why did he let McCain go on about how well the surge worked? The troop increase deserves little or no credit for the drop in violence. The ethnic cleansing had already nearly run its course, deals were cut with hostile tribal leaders, foreign forces wore out their welcome. Those trends could unravel, so the generals warn the progress is fragile. It is worse than fragile, it is a scam, a lull at best resulting from this desperate sham strategy of shaky alliances and manipulating the availability of information to create the image spin doctors want people to believe is real. Obama had chances to contest the surge theory, as well as many other dubious points McCain made, but let them pass. Too complex for the audience, he may think? I think not. Surge or not, most Iraqis want US troops out so they can rebuild their country.

That means that we, as one of the biggest consumers of oil — 25 percent of the world’s oil — have to have an energy strategy not just to deal with Russia, but to deal with many of the rogue states we’ve talked about, Iran, Venezuela.

And that means, yes, increasing domestic production and off-shore drilling, but we only have 3 percent of the world’s oil supplies and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. So we can’t simply drill our way out of the problem.

What we’re going to have to do is to approach it through alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel, and, yes, nuclear energy, clean-coal technology.

Obama is a long time supporter of ethanol, but he has been trying to back away from that lately. McCain said he would eliminate ethanol subsidies. Aside from that, the energy plans of these candidates differ only in the details. After this debate, it should be clear that the foreign policies of these candidates also differ very little. Obama might end the war on Iraq sooner, but keeps refining his withdrawal plan to push that end farther down the garden path. McCain said Obama has the most liberal voting record in the Senate. If Obama can pass for liberal or progressive, those terms have become so thoroughly mainstreamed as to be meaningless. Mainstream policy is nowhere near headed in the right direction. I fear many women thinking like Starhawk have been blinded by their hopes and fears, played for fools by this slick master politician, just like Bill Clinton. She says,

I don’t think Obama will be our savior. But if he’s elected, the wind will shift. The breeze will be at our backs, pushing us further and faster toward destinations we otherwise cannot reach.

So, voting for Obama is the only hope. Where have I heard that kind of defeatist attitude before? I hear that argument every election, the Democrat is not a savior, but he is the only hope for progress. That is political reality, the fantasy world perpetuated by corporate media that keeps these two wings of mainstream opinion in control of politics. What would it take to dislodge this misplaced loyalty to this Democratic Party, that pretends to care about women’s rights, peace, the environment? That is all for show, but Democrats get away with it because most people opposed to Republican madness are convinced they have nowhere else to go. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If enough people stop believing it, it will lose its stranglehold on political reality.

Barack Obama talks a good game about change, peace, the environment, abortion, but he is as compromised as any politician, as hawkish, macho, tough, opportunistic, slick as they come. I imagine many Obama fans thought he mopped the floor with McCain. I note how far apart they are from my perspective. From some angles, they are far apart, but not on most issues that matter to me. On balance, neither is someone I would trust, and that has nothing to do with skin color or sex. If this rant about his foreign policy has not revealed sufficient reasons, A Case Against Obama Nation goes into some depth. Bush seems emboldened by the belligerent rhetoric from Obama on Pakistan. I have posted a chain of news stories on the recent border skirmishes there, starting with Fear of losing drove US ground raid in Pakistan.

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A Case Against Obama Nation

August 19th, 2008 at 7:39 pm by Aletha

Obama Girl says in her video It’s Hopeless, directed at Hillary Clinton, which made ABC News back in March,

It’s become an Obama Nation…
We all have a crush on Obama

Anyone reading this, contrary to the perspectives behind those notions and the new swiftboating book Obama Nation, is not likely altogether convinced Barack Obama is a different kind of politician, or represents the kind of change one can believe in. The change he represents, I have heard it all before. He is a kinder gentler figurehead of the corporate state. His candidacy is different, not because he is such a different kind of Democratic politician, but his perspective is not that of a white man. His erstwhile primary opponent shared that distinction. This is significant, but their moderate posture is not otherwise groundbreaking, not the kind of root change needed to solve the problems of this time, slightly more rational on domestic policy, but on foreign policy, more of the same, while shifting primary focus of the war efforts from Iraq to what some call the just war, or real war on terror, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is from a recent flyer asking for money, substituting bold for underlined. What is it with is for these slick Democrats? Here is the Obama brand of change as of that flyer, already slightly revised for the next, the underlined is noticeably absent.

Change is a tax code that rewards work instead of wealth. Change is a health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it, and an education policy that gives every child a chance at success.

Change is ending a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized, and finishing a war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan that should have never been ignored.

(My name), that’s what change is. And that is the choice in this election.

It’s more of the same versus change. It’s the past versus the future. This choice has confronted generations before us. And now it is our turn to choose.

His message for a recent Democratic National Committee fund raiser substituted:

Change is an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who create it. Change is a health care plan that guarantees affordable coverage to all who want it. And change is ending a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and never been waged and that distracted us from winning the war against al-Qaeda. That’s what change is.

When the proposed future looks like the usual stale veneer of a kinder gentler version of corporate empire, Democratic style, a different kind of choice confronts the people. More of the same, with a slight swerve toward moderate politics, or turn it all around to clean up this mess politicians like these choices have fostered while pretending to the public, everything is under control, there is no cause for alarm, the experts know what they are doing. Obama thinks he can send some more troops to Afghanistan and its people will come around, the job can be finished with military victory there, terrorists smoked out of Pakistan, and friendly Iraqis running Iraq? Obama is dreaming. I can say that with confidence, because I am a dreamer. The Free Soil plan to end the war on terror is more visionary and feasible than his, no comparison. Obama is predictably selective about who is eligible for negotiation, and under what conditions. Free Soil supports a full accounting of all the war crimes on all sides. That means stopping this pretense to hold the moral high ground, negotiating with those these politicians dismiss as envious evil terrorists, the ringleaders Obama and McCain promise to eliminate. USA has lost whatever shaky claim to moral high ground staked after agents of blowback delivered that act of war that could not go ignored, even by a complacent citizen of empire.

Obama finally renounced his Pastor Jeremiah Wright, not for things he said that made me bristle, but for reiterating some inconvenient truths about US foreign and domestic policy. The war on terror is doomed to defeat, because it is battling rebellion against empire. No empire can stand for long, and these days any attempt will fall amazingly fast, this one already showing manifold effects of internal rot, its economy tottering precariously on a house of cards as mountains of junk debt devalue, while a few mostly white men get richer. To maintain the Obama image matters more than truth, so he can say he will finish the war on terror. How he expects anyone with an ounce of sense to believe that shows his arrogant disregard for reality. What does he mean, finish the war? I shudder to imagine what Obama might do to show how tough he can be on those terrorists. From Bloomberg, July 13

“I continue to believe that we’re under-resourced in Afghanistan and that that is the real sediment for terrorist activity that we have to deal with, and deal with aggressively,” Obama told reporters while campaigning in San Diego today.

Afghanistan is notorious for not staying conquered. What makes Obama think this time will be different? How does he expect to find the recruits to expand the ground forces? This is from the text of his remarks on Iraq and Afghanistan published in the New York Times on July 15.

I will restore our strength by ending this war, completing the increase of our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines, and investing in the capabilities we need to defeat conventional foes and meet the unconventional challenges of our time.

He sounds like another warmonger to me, but he wants to fight the real war, hoping a US friendly Iraqi government and army will be able to take over there. I see parallels to Vietnamization. It might be possible, if the occupation ended smoothly, but not if US keeps meddling and blaming Iraqis for the violence and not meeting milestones, like that peculiar oil sharing agreement to divvy up oil profits, intended to give control of Iraqi oil to transnational oil companies. These milestones were not meant for the benefit of Iraqis, as they would see it. The point is this change Obama touts is another bunch of timid pseudo solutions people who can remember have come to expect from Democrats, lofty promises never meant to be delivered. Obama talks about health insurance for all and a chance for success for every child. Success as a cog in some corporate machine, or an education policy that gives everyone a fair and reasonable chance to develop their talents and skills? Free Soil has a few things to tell Senator Obama about the meaning of change. There is no need for health insurance if necessary health care is taken as a basic right, as an essential consequence of the right to life.

That right was not meant for a fetus, but Obama thinks if the fetus is far enough along, so-called partial birth abortion can be declared illegal unless birth would endanger the health of the mother. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act Congress passed in 2003 is vague, banning a medical procedure, with no health exception, not only used for late-term abortion, so what late means is up for dispute, the label just another distortion to inflame people against abortion. Obama is the new Mr. Slick, pretending to have a perfect pro-choice record, ignoring the twists thrown on the common sense notion that women should not have late-term abortions unless necessary for health reasons, since after viability the procedure is generally more hazardous for a woman not otherwise expecting complications than carrying the baby to term. The procedure is rarely used, but is sometimes the best alternative before viability, so it is not a trivial matter if Obama would support this bill, with a health exception. It does appear he would not oppose a ban after viability with more limited mental health exceptions than exist in present law. Then there were controversies about him saying sweetie to a reporter, coded language about Senator Clinton, and his present votes in the Illinois state legislature, instead of no on five anti-choice bills, on request of Planned Parenthood as a practical political strategy, but protested by NOW. Is this practical politics at work? Since his supposed trustworthiness on abortion and other feminist issues is a big Democratic selling point for women, one might wonder, what principle will he not sell out in his quest for the center of conventional wisdom?
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Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan

July 8th, 2008 at 8:18 pm by Aletha

Dear Cindy Sheehan,

I am writing to offer an endorsement, and some information concerning you. I would not presume Free Soil is the first national party to offer to endorse you. I could understand why you wish to remain independent. As one rebellious woman to another, I know of the pitfalls and treachery of party politics, but I think Free Soil can be different, partly because my circle of friends revived it over thirty years ago. The blogger known as Heart, Cheryl Seelhoff, has volunteered to run for President, endorsed by the Feminist Peace Network as “a candidate for the rest of us.” That was the title of the announcement on the FPN blog last July . Her platform, a work in progress, is organized as a blog here

Regardless of all that, I wanted you to know Free Soil appreciates your efforts, valiantly fighting to stop the Bush agenda and this war that killed your son for no good reason. The opposition party refuses to take that role to heart. Big surprise, hardly. Democrats make an art of playing it safe, making big deals of minor points of difference, while leaving major points unchallenged, so the war goes on while Democrats think they score points by blaming it all on Bush and filibusters. One might think all this going on would make people mad enough to revolt, throw all the bums out, but there appears to be insufficient common ground to rally behind, so it appears people are complacent or resigned, at least to the eyes of pollsters and pundits. Some groups try to bring people together on this issue or that, putting pressure on legislators to pay attention, but on the surface there are so many problems, it seems impossible to make headway enough to pierce the armor of the system. The media creates the aura of invincibility and inevitability around the corporate empire, but the web is part of the media that is out of control, so women can try to show how we do not have to settle for the usual stuck in a rut male ways. The change Obama represents does not impress me. I suspect it means along the lines of working with Republicans to get things done, like the rotten compromises of constitutional principles in this FISA bill. Perhaps the grassroots will get to Democrats to make the bill unacceptable to Bush, removing the immunity provision at least, but I will not hold my breath. I hear rumors the immunity is only civil and would not hold up in criminal court, but that does not make sense to me.

Just a sample of my issues with that misnomer of an opposition party. As you may know, the old Randi Rhodes message board had a special Cindy Sheehan sub-forum, but her entire site, message board and all, was disappeared without explanation when she left Air America. I heard you on her show, kicking off your campaign against Impeachment Is Off The Table Speaker Pelosi. Friday June 20 she was incensed enough with the leadership over the immunity for illegal wiretaps the House approved to give you another plug. The next week someone on her board announced your Mike Malloy interview. I have been an infrequent, though perhaps notorious, poster there. My first post was to protest an infuriating oddity I found, a picture of you meeting with Larry Flynt, the caption announcing an exclusive interview and political alliance. I challenged this bogus image, a discussion about Mr. Flynt and his business ensued, and eventually the link to the image was broken, presumably by whoever contrived it.

In May Flynt phoned Ms. Rhodes privately, and she agreed to doing a story, with some reservations. She mentioned this on the air. This prompted a Randi Loves Porn thread in the Heard on the Show forum. I had to protest again, perhaps got some people to realize Mr. Flynt and the hardcore gang are peddling something other than erotic art. I had somehow missed that side of Randi Rhodes, hearing a different segment of the show after the local station moved her time slot to live. Some poster volunteered information about previous statements about her preferences, not hardcore. I have since learned she interviewed Flynt on air early this year. She has been alluding to starting a third party, when feeling especially sickened by the party bosses, which caught my attention, but I wish to keep at a distance uncritical fans of Obama or Flynt. I suspect both are up to no good, for different reasons.

Ms. Rhodes, though not entirely uncritical of Obama, has not paid any mind to my protests, unless I missed hearing it. This may be due to the infrequency of my posting, or the issues I raise may not interest her. The LA station was running a clip of her saying we can do nothing without one Democratic Party. She is sold on Obama, at least since March when she concluded his lead was insurmountable. Obama touts his plan to remove all combat troops from Iraq in a year or so. That is his best case scenario, though subject to refinement and excepting personnel to train Iraqis and guard that notoriously huge embassy, fronting for a military base? Then there is the private mercenary contingent. No way can I trust Democrats to end the occupation of Iraq, let alone find a way to avoid escalating the war on terror. Obama talks about finishing the war in Afghanistan. If that is not escalation, what is, especially considering his belligerent posturing at Pakistan. I could ask plenty of questions about his good judgment and connections, and do, in my critique. I am working on a detailed dissection for my blog.

I wondered if you had heard of Omar Osama bin Laden, peacenik son of Mr. Blowback From Hell? He and his British wife are trying to start a campaign for a truce. So I wrote him an Open Letter, submitted it to commondreams, CounterPunch, truthout. No response. Nothing new, being ignored, though in my ventures on various internet forums I have gained some notoriety. If you wish to read it, it is at the top of my blog at the moment, or here . It continues the article it links to, Feminist Diplomacy, posted almost a year ago, before I heard of this man or his quest for peace. I have posted commentary on various articles about the wars in the War category of the news section, accessible through the blog sidebar. War is a particular interest of mine. Obama will do his best to recruit and defang the peace movement, as if his plan will get all the troops out as fast as possible. The foreign policy promised by these warmongers makes me shudder. What would Obama do to counteract the idea he is soft on terror? I am not one to suggest these two parties are the same, but on most issues I care about, they differ too little. Conventional wisdom says people must settle for one of them. You, Heart, who knows how many rebels say otherwise, or would if they believed an alternative possible.

Media determines political viability to maintain its stranglehold on political reality. Free Soil is all about real solutions, going to the root of issues and applying a life-affirming value system. Perhaps you will find Free Soil too radical, far out, rebellious, utopian, etc., though I do not consider my positions impractical or extreme, to the contrary, but I have heard it all. People understand only what they are willing to take in. We are women bold enough to put our ideas out there to try to change the ways men run things, killing and mayhem in endless cycles of revenge, fouling our nest to make money, basing interaction on hierarchical models and cutthroat competition. Women all have different ideas and ways, but I see vast untapped commonality beneath the surface, looking for a way to break that stranglehold. Humanity has the brains and technology to solve most of the problems blindly following conventional ways has created, but as conventional wisdom would have it, business and politics must go on as usual. Hell no. That way lies madness and planetary catastrophe.

Any opinions would be welcomed. If you think there is a possibility we could work together on something, do not hesitate to let me know. You are also welcome to comment on our blogs or forums. I wish you good fortune, as one rebellious woman to another.


(Note: I sent this via email on July 4. I know Ms. Sheehan must be rather busy, but at this point, it appears she prefers to keep her opinions of this communication to herself.)

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Open Letter to Omar Osama bin Laden

May 6th, 2008 at 5:41 am by Aletha

Mr. Omar Osama bin Laden, as a great many women, and some men, oppose much of US foreign policy in general, this endless global war on terror in particular, the Free Soil Party would like to discuss with you and your wife your efforts for peace, and the truce offers made by your father. Diplomacy to end the jihad by engaging the issues driving it has been nowhere on the agenda of the leading candidates. Politicians painstakingly paint their positions into a corner, arguing over strategy and tactics to win the war on terror instead of how to negotiate its end, or at least a truce. Last summer Feminist Diplomacy was posted on the Free Soil home site and blog, making an argument for negotiating a truce with the jihad identified with Osama bin Laden. The point being, it is possible — however difficult it may be, that is expected — to negotiate in good faith with anyone with some sense of honor intact, which should include the devil of Christian mythology as well as Osama bin Laden. I am not suggesting a connection, but others have, while others proclaim USA is the great Satan, on a new Crusade. On top of all the past and recent grievances on all sides, the restrictions on women to the proper place prescribed by fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, with such severe punishments for violators, all make for tense negotiations. This is not an atmosphere like negotiating normalizing friendly trading partner relations. That part of the cultural clash is not important to US politicians, but is to Free Soil, recognizing the implications.

Trade is a separate issue from war, but a trade war on principle could substitute for physical hostilities. This is to suggest, one possible settlement of a war is mutual boycott, or slightly less stringent trade barriers, since friendly relations are out of the picture. This jihad is a different kind of war, making such avenues as could settle limited tribal or national battles presumably irrelevant. There is widespread suspicion or disbelief that anyone could convince the loosely knit confederacy that has arisen to the call of jihad to stand down, or even that the offer was meant to be more than a formality, bluff, or bad joke. This is not a simple matter, negotiating a truce that will stick, but that does not mean the truce offer should be dismissed or ridiculed, as it has been, for the most part, as if war is the only way, USA has no choice but to wage perpetual revenge for 9/11. At what point does one call crossing the line, enough revenge, torture, plunder, death, birth defects, destruction, refugees, too much already, or not in my name? USA has major credibility problems trying to claim moral high ground on anything in the light all this.

Iraq is safe territory for Democratic politicians to timidly dissent, but that aside, what kind of escalation of the real war on terror are they likely to instigate? Pakistan, one likely scapegoat, is already plenty destabilized, which can only get worse as Barack Obama and John McCain vie to outhawk each other on waging the real war on terror, ignoring what is really going down, refusing to recognize it is predictably disaster on all fronts, succeeding only in wreckage, plunder, and creating more and fiercer enemies. Pakistan is already tired of US attacks and meddling, supporting Pervez Musharraff after he was so decisively repudiated in the election, and may not be expected to remain an ally in any sense if that meddling keeps up. Obama is willing to talk to some enemies, if they speak for nations with oil or nuclear weapons? In contrast, in a comment to Feminist Diplomacy, I cited a Reuters story about a group of diplomats who think it is time to talk to al Qaeda, though the discussion makes it sound like a strategy to win through diplomatic ruse. Talking to al Qaeda? Don’t rule it out, some say

So the idea of negotiations is being discussed by a few important people. The Democratic candidates do not represent Free Soil, for a multitude of reasons. One is, as I blogged here, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were arguing over whether to take nuclear weapons off the table in anticipated fresh attacks on Pakistan. The place for women in my world is no paradise, men devaluing and terrorizing women in various vicious ways, but under the laws women have some rights, implied theoretical equality, with certain crucial loopholes, such as explicit equality. Western men had to be dragged kicking and screaming, but after persistent effective activism women won those rights, including the critical rights to vote and run for office, though women are far from being safe or respected as due, in general. The prevalence of rape and battering is one example of how unreliable male self-control is, relapsing into brutality for revenge. Muslim theocracy raises some different issues for women, perhaps another matter for diplomacy, if talks could progress from truce to airing and peaceful settlement of differences. Feminist Diplomacy describes what it might take to end the jihad:

… creating a forum to hear grievances, an international tribunal to settle all issues peacefully, negotiating compensation for legitimate grievances. Terror is a desperate tactic of people whose grievances are ignored, rather exacerbated by official reaction to protests. Recognizing this is not appeasement or justifying exceptionally deplorable acts of terror, rather recognizing enemies have legitimate issues is critical to negotiating a workable agreement to stop the killing, on the basis of there being a way to air all legitimate grievances for fair hearing and reasonable compensation. This is in no way about justifying terrorism, but pointing out how belligerent policy aggravates the matter, trying to force compliance with demands instead of negotiate a live and let live in peace agreement.

Free Soil renounces US foreign policy across the board, so this is a matter of principle, finding a way, however difficult it may be to work out, to live in peace regardless of differences. We are all the same species, sharing the same planet, who must find less belligerent ways if intelligent life is to survive. I cannot dismiss the prospect Bush will do more than snipe at Pakistan with occasional drone missions, activate those persistently rumored plans to bombard Iran, with nuclear bunker busters for fortified underground targets. John Conyers has promised to impeach Bush if he attacks Iran without getting approval from Congress, but even that might not get any traction with the party leadership. Negotiating a fair truce that will stick is a practical goal, unlike winning a war on terror, and any assistance you could provide would be welcomed by a fair sized segment of the Western world sickened by the mockery of everything decent and honorable going on in the name of defeating the jihad. Others may mock or dismiss you, but they are less popular than they think. If Free Soil has anything to say about it, there will be negotiations for a truce next year, and high politicians on trial, for war crimes and violating the Constitution, verging on treason. If you would like to discuss these matters, send a response or contact to editor@freesoil.org. A contact would not be published, but your response could be published on the Free Soil Party blog and allied blogs, if you do not mind.

This war on terror is such a hopeless travesty, revenge for blowback from militant Muslims who used to be allies, against Soviet Union. I do not know how anyone can think these wars are eventually going to force or convince mujahadeen to surrender. People are supposedly intelligent reasoning animals knowing how to settle differences without spilling blood. It requires willingness to negotiate, and a way to air grievances in a neutral setting so they can be fairly appraised for legitimacy and compensation. That could be other than monetary, such as assistance with rebuilding or renewable energy projects. Politicians in power may not have any interest in negotiating with designated terrorists, but others who represent real people, as opposed to big business interests, would talk to anyone if it will help to stop this war on terror. The planet cannot stand much more of the same old same old. What these wars have done to Afghanistan and Iraq is a war crime of proportion vastly exceeding the toppling of the World Trade Center towers, arguably a military target. Iraq has a plague of deformed babies from depleted uranium dust on the winds, no doubt also contributing heavily to Gulf War syndrome. We are people, not maniacal brutes. We have marvelous brains. Let us talk out a way to share the planet peacefully in spite of our differences. Vengeful men may not find any way to settle differences besides bloodletting, but that does not mean, there can be no other way. I say to all enemies, on the honor of what you believe, let us talk about truce and find another way to settle differences!

Let the naysayers wag about how this is how it has always been and must always be. War is not the only way. War is never the best way, though self-defense may require it. These are traditional ways of ancient conquering hordes, battles over territory devolving into a slow parade of empires having their day in the sun, all destroyed by resistance and internal rot. This is a new millennium and should be open to new ways. USA must renounce all aspirations to empire, no more enforcing its will as police force of the world, defiant of international law and opposition. All the candidates for President are calling for change, so the word has little meaning left under the convolutions piled on it for political spin. They are emphatically not calling for negotiating a truce or halt to the war on terror. Democrats want to concentrate on the real war on terror, code for taking out Osama bin Laden, killing al Qaeda or Taliban wherever they can be found, hoping Iraq can manage its own affairs as troops trickle out, while keeping the gargantuan embassy complex secure. That embassy fronts for a large military installation. USA should get out and stay out of Iraq, as well as the sordid business of toppling governments US politicians find objectionable. That complex will remain a target unless it is dismantled or turned over to Iraq. Republicans would do likewise on the Afghanistan and covert fronts, perhaps more aggressively trying to keep Iraq under chaotic control.

Free Soil has a different plan and ways of seeing things. It is a difference in fundamental vision of what can be. Barack Obama caught a glimpse of that and tries to claim it for himself, though it belongs to no one. He says he is willing to talk to some avowed foes, but designated terrorists like Hamas and Osama bin Laden are not on the list. If leaders of the jihad are willing to negotiate for a truce in good faith, that could be seized upon as an opportunity to negotiate an end to this war on terror. Western officials scoffed, if they recognized the truce offers at all. They are officials of democracies, so people can replace them with others more representative of the interests of the people. Many may scoff at negotiating with terrorists, but if the wave for negotiating for a peace settlement takes off, it will leave them behind.

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Rape as a Weapon of War

April 7th, 2008 at 8:20 am by Aletha

Heart posted an announcement about The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, a groundbreaking documentary distributed by Women Make Movies that exposes the systematic rape and torture of thousands of women and girls happening in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), being used as a weapon of war. The broadcast premiere will air on HBO, April 8, 10pm.

The civil war in the Congo was supposedly over, but tell that to the women tortured by gang rapes so vicious the vaginal wall loses its integrity, shootings in the vagina carefully so as not to kill, or piercing labia to padlock their vaginas. These men are carrying on a competition to invent the most fiendish forms of torture they can imagine. Instead of battling each other directly, women are used as pawns in an endless cycle of revenge.

Heart posted an article by Suki Falconberg about these unspeakable atrocities against women. 60 Minutes did a special report January 13, 2008. New York Times did a story on the Rape Epidemic last fall.

Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War

“The sexual violence in Congo is the worst in the world,” said John Holmes, the United Nations under secretary general for humanitarian affairs. “The sheer numbers, the wholesale brutality, the culture of impunity — it’s appalling.”

Newsweek did a story on fistula rape over a year ago. Those stories do not mention padlocking vaginas. This may be a new or previously unreported tactic in the competition of revengeful men to inflict the most pain on women. Mainstream reporters may have found it too difficult to believe, since ritualized female genital mutilation is not prevalent in Congo, but Ms. Falconberg linked a photo. She writes:

Of the many rape zones on Rape Planet Earth, the Congo is currently the most savage. After gang raping women and girls, soldiers are piercing their labia and padlocking their vaginas shut. Hot plastic as well as sticks and bayonets are being inserted into the women. Six-month-old girls have been raped to death.

Gang rapes are so severe that many women are suffering from fistula (the tearing of the vaginal wall so that the contents of the colon and urine seep in). Unable to reach medical care, some women are dying of massive infections. Even if the women do reach a doctor, fistula is very hard to repair—few practitioners can do it.

To intensify the cruelty, soldiers are even shooting women in the vagina, destroying their systems so completely that numerous operations are necessary—and even then repair may not be possible.

More Vicious Than Rape

The atrocity reports from eastern Congo were so hellish that Western medical experts refused to believe them—at first.
By Rod Nordland | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Nov 13, 2006

This is about fistulas—and rape, which in Congo has become the continuation of war by other means. Fistulas are a kind of damage that is seldom seen in the developed world. Many obstetricians have encountered the condition only in their medical texts, as a rare complication associated with difficult or abnormal childbirths: a rupture of the walls that separate the vagina and bladder or rectum. Where health care is poor, particularly where trained doctors or midwives are not available, fistulas are more of a risk. They are a major health concern in many parts of Africa.

In eastern Congo, however, the problem is practically an epidemic. When a truce was declared in the war there in 2003, so many cases began showing up that Western medical experts at first called it impossible—especially when local doctors declared that most of the fistulas they were seeing were the consequence of rapes. “No one wanted to believe it at first,” says Lyn Lusi, manager of the HEAL Africa hospital (formerly called the Docs Hospital) in the eastern Congo city of Goma. “When our doctors first published their results, in 2003, this was unheard of.”

It had been no secret that nearly all sides in the Congo’s complex civil war resorted to systematic rape among civilian populations, and estimates were as high as a quarter million victims of sexual assault during the four-year-long conflict. But once fighting died down, victims began coming out of the jungles and forests and their condition was worse than anyone had imagined. Thousands of women had been raped so brutally that they had fistulas. They wandered into hospitals soaked in their own urine and feces, rendered incontinent by their injuries. “Pastors would say to me, ‘Jo, I can’t preach because the church is too smelly,” says Dr. Jo Lusi, a gynecologist and medical director at HEAL. (He and Lyn Lusi are husband and wife.) “No one wanted to be around them. These women were outcasts even more than rape victims usually are. They would say to me, ‘Dr. Jo, am I just a thing to throw away when I smell bad?’ ”

The rapes—and new reports of fistula damage—have not stopped. Even now, “It is still happening, even today,” says HEAL’s medical director, Doctor Lusi. “Every space we have in the hospital is very, very busy with people.” Most of the dozen or so militias in the country have signed on to peace terms, and their battles with each other and with the Congolese Army have mostly stopped since the arrival of United Nations peacekeepers. But many of the armed groups—even those that have made peace—continue to attack civilians, especially in rural areas. “They won’t go ahead and fight each other, [but] they attack that village that supports the other group,” says Lyn Lusi. “This is a horrible perpetual movement of militias. They join after their families are killed, sometimes right in front of them. They see their women raped, and then they go and do the same thing. It’s a cycle of violence.”

Ordinary rapes, even violent ones, do not usually cause fistulas, although it’s not medically impossible. Doctors in eastern Congo say they have seen cases that resulted from gang rapes where large numbers of militiamen repeatedly forced themselves on the victim. But more often the damage is caused by the deliberate introduction of objects into the victim’s vagina when the rape itself is over. The objects might be sticks or pipes. Or gun barrels. In many cases the attackers shoot the victim in the vagina at point-blank range after they have finished raping her. “Often they’ll do this carefully to make sure the woman does not die,” says Dr. Denis Mukwege, medical director of Panzi Hospital. “The perpetrators are trying to make the damage as bad as they can, to use it as a kind of weapon of war, a kind of terrorism.” Instead of just killing the woman, she goes back to her village permanently and obviously marked. “I think it’s a strategy put in place by these groups to disrupt society, to make husbands flee, to terrorize.”

Benga, 16, and Masoro, 17, ask themselves the same thing. The two friends were abducted along with their mothers from the remote South Kivu village of Nzingu. Their captors dragged them to an Interhamwe camp. “When we got there,” Masoro recalls, “they said, ‘This is a horrible place where girls and women suffer, and you will suffer also’.” They were kept tied to trees except when they were doing domestic chores or being raped. Their mothers were raped in front of the girls. Benga bursts into tears recalling the experience. “Their purpose is simply to ruin people, to rape people,” she says. “I don’t know why.”

No one can say why. The answer is almost too awful to consider, and impossible to understand.

Impossible to understand, says this male author. Perhaps he does not want to understand. This is the logical extreme of the male sense of entitlement. These men see women as pawns, subhuman property, to be used to make a point, to get back at the men of rival tribes who did similar things to their women. For that purpose, the worse they can hurt the women of their rivals, the better. They can revel in their cruelty, the sickly sweet taste of revenge. Women are less than human to these men. When they fight directly, they fight to kill, but death is not sufficient for the women; they must be made to suffer, as much as possible, the more the better they like it, torturing women the means to its own end, for its own sake. What is it about men that allows them to sink to this? All is fair in war, even the most sadistic forms of torture they can enjoy?

Men like to dismiss male violence against women as the actions of a few, so why should they have any responsibility, ignoring the issue of who else could. Men may justify disassociating for all sorts of reasons, but they should have some clue about what can make men abuse women so horribly. Men abuse women in many ways, ranging from such torture as pawns of tribal warfare to violence to control women in relationships. However men justify any of this, notwithstanding all the variations, it is all the same principle, that women are sex objects who must be controlled, as property or objects for the cruelest revenge.

Men are not dumb brutes. Why is it so hard to find a way to negotiate differences? Money and male pride? What can drive a man to assault women so viciously? What? Hatred of women inflamed by attack on their women? War is supposed to be a rational way of dealing with enemies? Men have it all backwards, as usual. Peacekeepers are in the Congo, but they cannot stop this. The men of the warring tribes have to come to terms, or let their women forge a settlement, or the cycle will continue to escalate.

What will it take to stop ethnic cleansing, if such brutality can go on with impunity? It is said, war is hell, all is fair in war, but there is such a concept as war crime. This deliberate maiming of women goes well beyond that. Did men not once have more than the worst form of revenge in their minds, even in battle? More peacekeepers might help, but that misses the point. What goes on in male brains, that makes them think this is an acceptable tactic of warfare? Is this expressing their sense of manhood? Honor? Decency? Fair play? Justice? Is all that out the window in the hot pursuit of revenge, so torturing women as savagely as conceivable becomes the end, the instrument to revenge what was done to the women of their tribe? Men, I ask, seriously, how can men do this? A woman has her theories and rage, but men must know what it is in them that makes this possible. What kind of war is this, maiming defenseless women in a brutality contest? What makes gang rape possible? How do men get off on such brutality? Is that fed by imagery of sexualized brutality? Is that not a booming business on this Internet? Why do men patronize such images, so clearly not about any kind of healthy sexuality? What makes rape possible, usually justifiable in the eyes of the rapist and many with a sympathetic view? Boys will be boys, so the most savage forms of rape and mutilation are justifiable revenge?

It is all connected, in the dark recesses of male minds who enjoy cruelty to women, inferior sex objects men must keep under control, or abuse as proxies to top the viciousness to make a statement of revenge. War and revenge may be expected to bring out the worst in people. If there are worse ways to torture women, it seems there are men determined to find it. It is too easy for men to disassociate, disown responsibility. If a man can sensibly explain how men can do this, I will approve the comment. I think men have a lot of explaining to do about raping, humiliating, battering women, and about war, political reality, and the ways men run things.

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Is the War on AIDS On Track?

April 7th, 2008 at 8:20 am by Aletha

AIDS is hard to get my head around. There are too many bizarre aspects of this syndrome. Is the science itself sound? I call for an independent investigation, because none of it makes sense. Some science is sound, some in the service of industry is more or less corrupted by that association. It appears AIDS is an industry, not a well-defined disease, the whole war on AIDS is based on myths. I base that on long skeptical observation of this issue, lately a documentary titled AIDS Inc. produced by Gary Null, written up by Angry Scientist. Several points of view are presented on causes of immune system breakdown and issues with crediting such a variety of unrelated conditions with other known causes to HIV. The conventional wisdom just does not satisfy my BS detector. AIDS is yet another sacred cow I must challenge. I have not made up my mind definitively, but something stinks, one side has to be full of it. I find conventional wisdom rarely reliable on any matter not readily apparent by observation or implications.

An independent investigation should settle the matter, but AIDS experts allegedly do not care to debate, considering it settled, no questions asked, literally not allowing such questions at their conferences. This smacks of bad faith, and the dust bin of history is full of popular theories. The charges raised in that film are extremely serious and troubling. AIDS kills many people, or does it? What actually kills them, rare opportunistic infections preying on weakened immunity, as originally defined? In Africa, a different definition reassigns common killer infections to AIDS. Big money is involved. These things raise my suspicions. I would like to arrange a debate. I know one side has been seeking a debate. I do not know if the popular side will participate on a skeptical forum. I have not settled the issue in my mind, but my suspicions are severe and growing.

I wrote the following in email, but Heart decided to insert most of it as a comment to her AIDS Dissent: African Holocaust, which prompted my private rant.

AIDS here is defined differently than in Africa, different risk groups exist here, and here AIDS used to mean dying of rare opportunistic infections after immune systems breached a critical threshold, high risk for intravenous drug users, fast track gay men, hemophiliacs. Then they linked it to cervical cancer. I am fairly convinced HIV is a scam. That study Angry Scientist blogged that found no correlation between viral load and immune system collapse published in JAMA, with an accompanying editorial recommending looking for other causes, was the last straw for me. How do you answer that?

“The study challenges the current belief that the degree to which the virus replicates itself is the trigger for the loss of CD4 cells, white blood cells that are a key component of the body’s immune system.

An accompanying editorial in the journal said the findings were exciting because they suggested that researchers should look for and target non-viral factors that set off the eventual decline in the immune system.”

The contention the dissenters make is not whether immune system collapse is a myth, but that HIV is the determining factor. Calling them AIDS denialists is a straw man, and generally they take the actual diseases seriously as opposed to HIV, other way around from the orthodox view. Too many things can contribute to immune system collapse, but that study could not correlate that with viral load. Something else causes the collapse. In the high risk groups here, the something else is not hard to find. In Africa, different factors, similar result….

If you watch the whole film, you will see the fraud is not limited to neglecting the real problems of poor nations. The test is for antibodies, not approved to diagnose HIV infection. I know of no other infections disease commonly tested by antibodies. I found autoiummune disease tests, and tests for vaccine protection, but none for the presence of infectious diseases, which are usually easy to find…. HIV is the stealth virus, found only as viral debris magnified by the PCR technique invented by a Nobel Prize winner who denounces this use of it! None of it makes sense, and it is not because I am some stupid lay woman who could not possibly understand the machinations of this diabolical virus! It just does not add up! None of it! It stinks so bad, it begs for an independent investigation. I suspect, none of it can stand the light of day, but I am not certain, so I try to stay neutral, though I am not, not really. I also have to recommend Prescription for Disaster as a great expose of prescription medicine.

Defenders of conventional wisdom, take note, I have you in my sights. Political reality means nothing to me, male machinations that have no power but what people have given it by default. Feminist revolution is unlike any other, about changing basic ways and principles so hierarchy is minimized, besides the point, not the usual switching who is boss. If schemes I call scams have validity, they will have no trouble standing up to an independent investigation. If not, the experts have a lot of explaining to do.

Explain why the war on AIDS is now about allegedly promiscuous Africans, mothers must not breast feed which would pass on the virus that somehow stayed away before birth, but must take drugs that can cause birth defects to prevent transmission? I am a lay woman too dumb to understand what BS is fed to Africans as medical wisdom to save their lives, diagnosed with AIDS for symptoms of common diseases, while their real problems of poverty, war, rape, malnutrition, infectious water, tropical diseases are neglected, too complex to tackle?

Explain why HIV must be detected by an antibody test or PCR. Where is it hiding? All other infectious diseases are plentiful and easily found, and the antibodies confer lasting immunity after the immune system defeats the invaders. What possible use is a non-specific antibody test not approved to diagnose HIV infection?

Explain what kind of scientific conference refuses to answer relevant questions from a Nobel Prize winner, Kary Mullis, inventor of PCR? A theory with no answer to relevant questions is not worth the paper it is written on. Blind faith has no place in science. Science for hire has no place in science. It appears AIDS is an industry, a combination of both.

Explain what good are HIV drugs, if HIV load cannot be correlated with immune system deterioration. These drugs may kill infections, but are too toxic for long term use. Explain why gay men died so prolifically taking high doses of toxic chemotherapy long term, with known risk of fatal complications. It recently came out that Ziagen, one of the most widely-used AIDS drugs, increases risk of heart attack nearly double. No cure or vaccine is in sight, a recent vaccine trial had to be abandoned for backfiring. Explain why you believe these AIDS experts know what they are doing.

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Randi Rhodes Rants on Starting a Third Party After Election

March 10th, 2008 at 11:03 pm by Aletha

I note this because I catch part of her show and have been posting off and on at her forum about feminist revolution. I doubt she paid any attention, while the posters mostly seem to think I am too fringe to worry about. However, she is invited to join Free Soil, as any rebellious woman who wants to make noise, rock the boat, change the way politics, commerce, relationships operate in this world. That is intentionally vague, but I think most women will understand, especially if they know anything about Free Soil. Men can tag along as well, if they are sincere about wanting to help. Heart has put up her platform, as a work in progress, here.

Not to rain on the parade of this budding Randi Rhodes Party in the making, but she should know what it would mean to work outside the system. Once her upstart party gets any attention the Democratic Party will do whatever it takes to smash down the threat. This is a given. Shudder to imagine what they will say about surrendering the war on terror if her party goes too far toward renouncing war. The only reason it has not happened to Free Soil is because Free Soil has gone unnoticed, under the radar as a threat, so far. Ace in the hole? There will be more surprises than just what is new in the platform. Free Soil invites such an attack, which could only help get our message out. Is this new party a way to save the Democratic Party, or will it only destroy it? That may be in the eye of the beholder. The party regulars may take down any such rebellion as the party as they know it collapses. They may try and fail. Will there be anything left to save after the kitchen sink strategy plays out?

Where else would the rank and file of the Democratic Party go once they realize the party people do not represent their best interests? Women might go to a party dedicated to representing the interests of women, once they decide the Democratic Party is hopeless. Many might think there is no hope but to work within the system. I think Randi Rhodes might relent, since the pressure to try to reform the system from within is so strong. That pressure means less to me, being outside the system by intention, than being dismissed as fringe. Why that may be, I would like to know. My ideas are outside the mainstream because I am an innovative feminist philosopher, what else could one expect? I think they are better than anything in the mainstream, knowing so do a million other people, so why should anyone pay attention to me or Heart? Is it that, or are our ideas really so outlandish? Possibly anyone who reads enough could see we did our homework, that women can construct a new, more practical way of relating not burdened by male assumptions or limitations.

I wish this new party luck in saving the Democratic Party. As rare as it is for me to agree with party faithful, I have to expect any such effort could only succeed in destroying the party, inflaming the self-destructive feeding frenzy escalating with last-ditch desperation tactics of the Clintons. A rebellion needs a radical vision to change anything of significance. Nothing significant will be changed by a halfhearted rebellion that only means to split or take back a party so many reluctantly swallow as the lesser of two evils. The rebels are free to try defining a new party however they choose. That field is wide open, most attempts not worth mentioning or ravings of lunatics. Randi Rhodes is not a lunatic, and might create a big problem for the party before she intends to. Though she has gotten plenty mad at the party people in the past, I did not expect her to so emphatically threaten to abandon the party. I have invited her to interview Heart a few times, at her forum, not expecting a response, but I had to try. She has her own ideas, and it would make sense for her to try to orchestrate a new party herself. It is possible she will notice Free Soil someday soon, but she likely will soon fall back in line, to concentrate on getting Obama elected.

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