Archive for the 'General Terrorism' Category

Edward Snowden interview

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

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.

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.

State of the Union 2012

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

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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Obama Gets His Man

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

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.)

State of the Union 2011

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

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

Monday, January 10th, 2011

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.

A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Friday, March 27th, 2009

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.

The Peace Candidate is Anything But

Monday, September 29th, 2008

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.

A Case Against Obama Nation

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

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?
(more…)

Open Letter to Cindy Sheehan

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

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.

Aletha

(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.)

Open Letter to Omar Osama bin Laden

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

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.

Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

The devil is in the details. Nobody defends actually violent radicals or real terrorists, but is that whom this crackdown is after? There are screams on the Internet about the vagueness of this bill, passed by the House 404-6. Dennis Kucinich voted against, and Ron Paul did not vote. It went to Senate committee in October. It may not pass muster in the senior chamber so easily. One can only hope.

The bill calls for studying how to fight what it calls violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism, which presumably means spying on especially disliked dissenters. Eco-terrorists are high on that list. The word terror is used deliberately to demonize such dissent, and it often has nothing to do with reality, more like high officials pursuing personal vendettas against groups interfering with business plans. I have wondered how long it would take Big Brother to get around to spying on me or Heart. I might hope the effort would be spared, being so averse to coercion generally, though I will defend all peaceful forms of dissent. To draw where the line is crossed into coercive action is a matter of interpretation, which it is why government cannot be trusted to protect itself from forms of dissent it considers coercive. Dissent is not a luxury for officials to decide what forms are tolerable. Government must tolerate all peaceful forms, stop sending spies to incite violence. This is a country with a constitution and bill of rights, loophole ridden they may be, and a simple disclaimer to respect that is not credible, especially under this ultra portentous atmosphere created since the towers came crashing down.

The Bill of Missing Rights would throw this bill right out, unless it defines specifically exactly whom it is intended to fight. It might make sense to crack down on bombers of abortion clinics or rapists or batterers or hate groups like KKK, but somehow I think Congress has dissenters in mind. I will comment further on the final version, but in the meantime, there is still time to lean on your Senators to reject this unwarranted expansion of domestic spying. Like one would expect from our spy agencies, this plan is not like how it appears to be on its face. That would spoil their fun. I do not know what this incremental approach to intrusion on dissenters could possibly be meant to accomplish, besides fulfilling some dystopia. Big Brother would be proud of this bill. Anyone claiming to respect civil liberties who voted for this bill should be ashamed and think about it. But those Democrats fear inviting the weak on terror label, so they must show how tough they can be. The same has gone for crime, so this bipartisan assault on civil liberties is nothing new. The excuse for trampling the Constitution under the security blanket is different.

What This Feminist Revolution Could Accomplish

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Feminist revolution may sound scary because of fools who insist on distorting what it means. Men valuing male privilege do have lots to lose. It means women are so fed up with all men do to women, children, each other, and the planet that the ideas and ways of men have lost all claim to any unearned deference, trust, or credence. Whoever among men disavows prevailing ideas and ways should make it known, or they might as well be complicit. This is to say, men have a choice. Women can meet men halfway, but owe our oppressors nothing, and will fight back when attacked. Women have enemies willing to threaten anything to shut down our voices of revolution. As a mild sample from self-proclaimed great defenders of free speech, “the Free Soil Party website has been taken down by the Internet Police [edited from Anonymous].” I had not known that side of the perils of internet warfare. I had seen verbal trolling, spam, threats, vendettas, but that was no idle boast. The site had to be moved to where it could be well protected. Heart, a primary target as candidate for President, along with her friend whose candor on her forum got their attention, got hit much worse.

In defiance of all attempts to silence me, past or future, I say this. Women are revolting. The prevalent ideas and ways are toxic, emphatically not in our best interest, to be generous. There are always better ways, though improvements may range from minor, such as the Hillary touch on business as usual, to major overhaul necessary to substantially limit the damage, to the total revisioning necessary to reverse all the damage. There are ways to detoxify, rethink, revision, create a different reality, restore natural balance in our lives and the environment to whatever extent possible, as a goal instead of willfully trashing natural balance as a means to profit and subordination. It is not necessary or wise to foul our nest or resort to physical coercion against others, unless they initiate violence. No theory, system, or philosophy invented by man is free of corruption from the cultural rot of this order, based and dependent on fundamental imbalance between male and female, extended to all manner of hierarchy for its own sake.

On a level field, competition could be about quality instead of winning. Taxes could be mostly on luxuries. The hierarchical value system is thoroughly messed up, rigged beyond meaningful hope of reform or repair, headed for environmental collapse not so far off. Feminist revolution could supplant it top to bottom with philosophy that affirms life and balance, values people and other beings regardless of how they look, for their gifts, diversity, uniqueness, skills, effort, who they are by their own lights, their own sense of purpose and meaning.

It is about time to try out ideas of a feminist revolution. Women want our say, our chance to try out ideas, make everything from the economy to relationships work in ways that respect ideas from anyone according to the respect they are due, on merit. Respect is more than I can expect from enemies. Their conventional wisdom I scorn, as worn out shadows cast by their distortions of reality, with predictable disastrous consequences, such a sad, gross corruption of what reality could mean on this planet. As a sample of what that means, this is a sneak preview of the Free Soil Party platform currently in development, bearing in mind it is not like feminist revolutionaries such as myself, my web site editor, Heart, or friends, are blessed with free time or funds for a campaign, grassroots working women all. Men can be friends, those who prove deserving. Language and reality are being reclaimed, agreement is not expected, perfect agreement is not possible. The party has its basic principles it will honor and fight to bring about.

The system is fundamentally corrupt, rigged to perpetuate the existing hierarchical order, all the way down to its core value and belief systems.

There is no political reality, besides what men create to maintain the system. That deserves no more credence than any other illusion men have created for their benefit.

Artificial hierarchies of any kind cannot be allowed to abuse authority.

At least a truce will be negotiated with all enemies willing to negotiate in good faith.

To break down the hierarchical order, a first step will be to roll back all hostile takeovers, another abuse of this unbridled exchange economy known as modern capitalism. Businesses should grow by providing quality products or services, not by taking over rivals or otherwise exploiting political or economic clout to force competitors out of business.

The free trade agreements are the modern face of colonialism and should be dismantled.

A Pollution Abatement Corps will clean up toxic messes, equip buildings to collect solar energy, and build wind farms in suitable locations worldwide to phase out nuclear power and fossil fuels as soon as possible.

Toxic chemicals will be phased out as quickly as possible, heavily taxed as luxuries to encourage alternatives.

All sacred cows are under challenge at the Free Soil Party.

(That is a relatively recent statement of principles and high priority goals. The following is one of the oldest, nearly unchanged over a quarter century. The party was founded nearly thirty years ago by four women deciding our consciousness raising group was diverse and political enough to form a political party. Intent on abolishing sex roles, the original basis of slavery, we revived the name Free Soil, an abolitionist party preceding the less radical Republican Party, which took its time, but did abolish slavery during the war, then passed constitutional amendments granting black men rights, excluding women by design. Both big parties have practiced the art of betraying women to this day.)

Bill of Missing Rights

Whereas, the original bill of rights permitted slavery of Blacks and women, trashing the environment, and other abuses of economic and political might too plentiful to list; Free Soil therefore declares the following rights fundamentally necessary to secure blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all:

The right to nourishment, shelter, and professional care sufficient for good health, with fully informed choice among all alternatives, excepting unwarranted invasive experiments or life support efforts beyond the scope of public support.

The right to noninterference and privacy; the property, dignity, actions, and bodies of people define an inviolable zone against uninvited intrusions, excepting government or business authorities, and people under clearly warranted suspicion of violating or threatening some right of another person.

The right to sufficient basic and vocational education to qualify for a job reasonably consistent with the talents, abilities, and potential of a person. Those people demonstrating unusual creative abilities would be allowed three years of self directed apprenticeship to develop independence. While attaining sufficient skills for survival, no person should be held liable to pay for survival.

The right to procreative and sexual autonomy; birth control, abortion, child care, and assistance to escape abuse should be readily available, at least as high quality public health services, and household work should be fairly compensated.

The right to full information on anything potentially dangerous to a person, including: All possible side effects of any ingredient of anything one may ingest, and of any poisons, irradiation, drugs, hormones, and other treatments used in its production. All possible consequences of medical procedures and exposure to hazards in work, living, and other environments. All files which concern one’s interests or government activities, excepting methods of producing weapons of mass destruction. The right to know belongs to the people, not bureaucrats.

The right to effective prevention of unwarranted disruptions of ecological quality and balance, including: nuclear power; radioactive, ozone depleting, and other unconfined unselective harmful substances; high energy waves; genetically engineered forms of life; endangering species; deforestation; monoculture; cloud seeding; overfishing; whaling; and other irresponsible practices. An appropriate bounty shall be paid for evidence of covert polluting or poaching. The people or legislators of any state or locality may vote for additional specific restrictions, including banning or taxing the production, sale, or use of any selected polluting substance within that area.

The right to fair and equal consideration and opportunity, before the law, and in all fields of endeavor, without regard to sex, ethnicity, or persuasion.

Nothing in this Bill shall be construed to deny or limit any right defined in the Constitution or its Amendments, as Amendment IX states: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The people of any local community or state may vote to overrule any restrictions on rights, or tighten rules on business activities, regardless of previous recognition.

Feminist Diplomacy

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Diplomacy may seem a lost art these days, when the lone superpower prefers belligerent bluffing games creating cover rationales for a lead in to war. Making a huge deal of refusing to negotiate with certain enemies officially tagged evil terrorist creates a convenient rationale for aggression justified as preemptive war. There is no excuse for aggressive attack or preemptive war, though US politics seems to take the principle of intervention for granted, especially since the war on terrorism commenced. Democrats are also all for fighting the real war on terror, as they call it, refusing to take nuclear attack on Iran off the table. This is not limited to Republican madness. That idea is mad, inviting Armageddon or a science fiction horror story, at least for the Middle East, though taking a wider view, there is no escaping consequences of a nuclear attack. Any attack on Iran would be yet another foolhardy violation of international law, making harder to deny the argument USA is at war with Islam, as its extremist spokesmen have been saying at least since the attack on Afghanistan for harboring Osama bin Laden, after refusing to consider the Taliban offer to turn him over for some of that solid evidence of his primary responsibility that was claimed to exist at the time. If US officials really had more than suspicions so quickly, that was one way to avoid war, among others men in power ignored, never saw, or dismissed. Unlike Afghanistan or Iraq, Iran is not an inconsequential appearing foe, having several ways to retaliate beyond the obvious, attacking US troops across its border or Israel. Some have argued this is already a world war, but most Israeli and US officials seem determined to provoke one. From my perspective, feminist diplomacy for my country would develop practical, nonviolent ways to deal with enemies no matter why, or with what kind of passion, they hate US policy, which in no way represents the interests of women anywhere, though some may support it. Since that last spectacular attack on USA, it is more egregiously igniting more and fiercer enemies.

These ways could include 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. Politicians may lean toward selective diplomacy, even Republicans, but while posturing about plans to bring a change in course to get troops home from Iraq, Democratic leadership is desperately running away from the weak on terror bogeyman, supporting that bill to privatize Iraqi oil, talking tough on Iran, as well as promoting free trade agreements, going to show once again, they play their part in the problem. New trade agreements will include better protections for local workers and environment, so they say, sounds like what they always say, so next time never arrives. That implies something not so hot about the last one with a few countries in Latin America willing to go along, raising a question, how much better than those lousy deals making big business money at the expense of the local population and environment, as well as workers losing offshored jobs? This tribunal I suggest, I predict most politicians would denounce as treasonous or appeasement, more likely ignore, as they ignore most issues I choose to raise hell about. US politicians hope to avoid jurisdiction of international law or courts, but World Trade Organization is another matter, a tool to grease the race to the bottom. Plans for ramming the World Trade towers, Pentagon, and ? were no doubt initiated long before Bush Jr. claimed victory, possibly before Clinton, but certainly did not go on hiatus for him.

Warmongers see any attempt at diplomacy with bitter enemies as appeasement, as though there were no legitimate grievances with US foreign policy and transnational corporate activities. Those cost USA the moral high ground needed to discredit the jihad, ranks swelling thanks to the war on terror, the sinister trap luring USA to disaster, dishonor, violating international law to pursue a new Crusade, shattered credibility, alliances, and rights back home, and ultimately end of the corporate empire. That could happen suddenly and soon, through cascading bankruptcy or abandonment of the dollar as primary currency for international trade, causing a bond selloff to collapse this current stock market bubble. Call it military defeat or standoff in Afghanistan and Iraq, both make a mockery of superpower stardom. Expanding the war may reveal just how much worse it can get. This is no benevolent empire justified in its noble humanitarian interventions. It is not immune to military defeat or war coming home.

I see feminist diplomacy bringing an end to all that, an end to any desire to dominate, from the world to another being, human or otherwise. That is the road to more disaster, the sudden end of ability of this planet to sustain human life, perhaps all life. Men have to listen to reason, talk truce, or stand aside as women negotiate peace plans for wars around the world, end the war on terror, put forth ideas to stop the vicious cycle of retaliation. Men have gotten it wrong, more or less distorted or reversed, on just about everything, what they think they know notwithstanding. Most of that is based not on reality, but male theory, structured hierarchically on every level, which in practice glorifies violence, making it seem normal, casual, the expected way to solve an escalated conflict. Violence is only justifiable in self-defense or to aid self-defense, to stop or capture a violent criminal. Aggressive violence is never the only way or best way to resolve a conflict. That would fly in the face of reason, sense, instinct, reducing people to thoughtless insensate brutes, insulting the intelligence of most animals. Yet such is the psychology of the culture of empire, as if there is a right of the most powerful to claim dominance, rule, authority to make decisions directly affecting another. There is no such right; men invented and enshrined the might makes right concept, now devolving into corporate empire pushing to claim the world as a free trade zone so as to ruin local culture, enterprises, social services, and ecology, the better to grab up resources and cheap labor.

Democrats are complicit in most of this, still funding the wars and expanding free trade. They are by and large as comfortable with the war metaphor, the tough guy or gal act, working to further corporate empire. They are by no means about a feminist revolution, even if Hillary Clinton becomes their nominee. She is part of the problem, putting her touch on business as usual. As most Democrats, she wants to fight the real war on terror, whatever that means. Negotiating to end the war on terror is not part of her lexicon. National or cultural pride has limits. Aggressive war is illegal and foolish, but US politicians do not want to risk the taunt of appeasing terrorists. Negotiation is the only way to end this war. Winning is impossible even to define. USA has to own up to consequences of its trampling all over the world. Instead it heads for world war with few if any allies. This is a logical end result of male philosophy, the men on top will go for it all, control of everything they can think of. Scientists meddle with everything from DNA and brain chemistry to outer space in the quest for money and weapons. Women are reduced to pawns in this world, most forced to serve male ideology, interests, or lusts to survive. Women could represent the interests and ideas of women, but virtually all political parties big and small give women short shrift. Ms. Clinton has the name recognition, so is portrayed as the only woman who has a chance to win. This insults the intelligence of all women, but within the confines of mainstream party politics, it may be true.

To US politicians, the idea of discussing the truce Osama bin Laden offered is unthinkable. He is a war criminal, but he has lots of company in that regard among his enemies. If he could make a truce stick, persuade his followers to call off the jihad in the name of Islamic honor, that could be a starting point to negotiate a peace plan. It is easy for forget he was once an ally, against Soviet Union. Some credit that jihad with the breakup of that evil empire. It is too easy to say he has no honor, or is too sexist or fanatical or full of hate, so cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith. It is too easy to say negotiating with an enemy rewards terrorism. This war on terror cannot be won or justified. There is no moral high ground on either side. Bin Laden represents the views of too many and more all the time. An enemy figurehead such as bin Laden cannot be dismissed as not negotiable fanatical terrorist. However ghastly the tactics of an enemy, this does not create the luxury of ignoring their grievances. USA has hopelessly lost the battle for hearts and minds, for many good reasons, like Abu Ghraib and all the other instances of rape and mayhem. Women soldiers do not escape, getting raped and harassed regularly, the perpetrators rarely disciplined. USA casts itself as a model for the world. No wonder most of the world objects to that arrogant extreme of nationalism.

Feminists have created different models, creating a space for ways to exist peacefully with bitter foes, put a stop to the cycle of violence. This may sound pipedreamy, but that truce was offered for a reason. The Islamic code of honor required it. It should have been recognized and discussed, but it was dismissed out of hand like a bad joke, hardly noticed by the media. It is said Islam is about love of death, that its believers think America is too soft, a pushover. This is all warmonger hype, since love of death is a common disease of male-centered religions and politics. Hamas is said to be avowed to the destruction of Israel. This is also hype; Hamas stated it accepts the fact that Israel exists, but not Israeli claims and violent actions in occupied territories. Israel could negotiate with Hamas, but Israeli leaders are determined to isolate Hamas, despite its popularity as a resistance force defending the people, winning a hotly contested election. Significance of recognizing the right to exist of a state illegally occupying your land is overlooked by mainstream media. The tactics on both sides are deplorable, as usual, but most wars are battles over hyped variations of male ideology, cutthroat competitive nationalism or religious pride at work, while women have no say worth mentioning, but take more than a fair share of the suffering.

Cutthroat competition is how the theory of free enterprise has degenerated. Competition could be revisioned as trying harder, to excel in whatever pursuit, without seeking to dominate. The point would be not to win, but to improve life, for oneself or also others. Schools could be all about developing talents, creativity, independent thought, skills, not passing tests to be dumbed down, appropriately drugged, raised on TV, cogs in the corporate machine. This is another subject, but feminist revisioning runs across the board. Men make so much of winning, the ideal, competing to win the central purpose of everything. No wonder Earth is in such a mess. It is not for nothing I say men have almost everything backwards, wrong, corrupted, twisted to serve the few near the top of the local hierarchal house of cards. Men like to score, as if seducing women is a victory, a conquest. Winning is a bad reason to compete, nor is conquest a goal worthy of human potential, in war or sexuality. I think men focused on winning long ago because some man got the idea to overpower a woman saying no. Self-defense is not remotely about winning or dominance, nor is responsible hunting for food. Aggressive violence is about winning, forcing the target to accept whatever the will of the winner imposes. Rape could have been the original model for coercion, winning by violent acts the ability to have his way over her. Men could have found other reasons to fight, but winning a fight need not make the loser a slave. Life has meaning, not a contest with the object to beat, conquer, or control other people. Rules of doing business need not allow abuse like competing to be the biggest, devouring competition, or polluting a neighborhood. Hostile takeovers have no place if fair competition is valued in free enterprise. That is only workable as a free marketplace of ideas, so companies compete to make the best quality products and services, so customers can choose among a variety for the one that best suits them. Throwing hostile takeover and huge aggregations of capital into the mix ruins free enterprise. Competition has degenerated so far from its potential value, even Adam Smith would find it horrifying.

Cutthroat competition does not have to be the way free enterprise works. When free enterprise was working reasonably well was when corporations had to follow limited charters defining their narrow purposes for existing. If corporations stayed within those bounds, they could not buy out or put competition out of business, buy unrelated businesses to form a conglomerate, or get cozy subsidies to ruin farmers in other countries by dumping subsidized excess grains on their markets so, for instance, the best Mexican farmland can be grabbed by a few rich guys while desperation drives its impoverished people north for a chance for a better life. Some big US employers make money off this free trade arrangement for cheap labor. Some employers of migrants are more like slavemasters, figuring the workers will not dare trying to organize or raise issues with working conditions. All this is going on partly because corporations have been allowed to ruin business and politics with the edge cutthroat competition gives those with big money and connections, corrupting politics into a mockery of a democratic republic. Free enterprise can only work well with brisk competition and sensible rules of doing business keeping everyone honest.

Preemptive war is an extreme expression of lack of honesty, transparency, tolerance, thought, sense, civility, and common decency. It is the worst way to attempt to solve a problem, solving nothing, creating more bitter enemies while lining the pockets of companies in military or related businesses. Despite the debacles in the first two battles in the war on terror, Iran will probably be next in line, with feeble if any protest from Democrats, chastened by hawkish supporters of Israel hyping Iran as a nuclear threat. Any nation producing nuclear energy is a nuclear threat, because reactors produce plenty of material for dirty bombs, along with suitable ingredients for arguably the worst kind of weapons ever invented. Uranium and its derivatives have no place in a civilized society. Unlike their peculiar places in modern warfare from ultra hard penetrator to doomsday deterrent, none of their industrial or medical uses are irreplaceable. It does not help US attempts to win hearts and minds to put uranium dust on the winds just because its chemical properties make it such a valuable weapon. Uranium is toxic as well as radioactive, so ingesting it is no picnic. It is quite capable of causing epidemics of unusual cancers and birth defects, as well as symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome. Is this the modern variety of scorched earth tactic at work? The prerogative to pollute shows its worst extremes in military applications.

Feminist diplomacy would not insist on imposing feminist models of behavior on other cultures, but would encourage women of all nations to express their grievances and ideas for better ways. Men may not want to listen, but that just means men have lessons to learn. Offering assistance to capture energy from sun and wind might help convince men to listen to women. There are many things USA could offer other nations in exchange for things like respect and rights for women. There are also ways of encouraging women to revolt, but that gets risky and complicated where women have no basic rights such as a right to vote. Women could be encouraged to organize resistance regardless, but open revolt risks deadly retaliation, unless the resistance catches on to overwhelming numbers.

USA has made enemies that will be skeptical of any talking, but could show it means to negotiate in good faith by negotiating treaties to outlaw and decommission the worst weapons, meaning nuclear, biological, chemical, including the research. People already know far too much about killing; we should be investing all that time, energy, and money in improving quality of life for everyone. People have the intelligence to work out ways to live in peace, but too many men would rather fight. That oversimplifies matters slightly; men may know no other way, under the circumstances. It can be tricky to theorize on faraway wars while living in a nation that prospers on the surface while here and across the borders, some get richer, but more poor get poorer. Some call that imperialism, but it goes down deeper. I see nothing deserving authority in the airs men in power put on. Their power is contrived, built into the game they play, the winner take all power over principle refined to support intricate hierarchical structures. If the rules of that game change to reflect inherent reality, let alone its model, anything based on unsound theories must collapse, as any house of cards must once losing its shaky foundation. There are many ways of trading goods and services. Cutthroat competition dominated by multinational monstrosities with proportional political influence is about the worst imaginable in a democracy. Next up is fascism, and it is a quibble how close is USA, because it is too close and looks to get closer, regardless of who wins next election, unless someone comes out of nowhere with a radically different vision.

Feminist diplomacy has many such possibilities that sound impossible in a mainstream frame of reference, because they are. Those points of view are based on the principle of hierarchy, based at bottom on the idea men need to be in control, so women must accept that. No, women feel forced by fear or belief in duty when they accept anything of the sort. Nobody needs to be in control in a partnership. In business or politics, decisions need not be made by someone at the top. Decisions could be worked out to be acceptable to at least a majority of everyone affected by the decision. If there is no need or desire to dominate, no concept of subordinate or rank, creativity can have free rein, a free marketplace of ideas can develop rewarding products and services of better value. That is what competition could mean, in my ideal sense, which is so different from what it means in capitalism that it is no wonder some consider concepts of competition and free markets beyond redemption, doomed to a mockery of what free enterprise could be, degenerated into a race to the bottom for wages and quality of life, health, and ecology. Reclaiming language so far gone can be a tempting but fruitless enterprise. The point is, this world has potential to support all its life forms with reasonable quality of life, but not one with the winner take all might makes right mentality. That way lies utter ruin for planet Earth.

State of the Union speeches

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

The main event sounded to me like the standard expected bull with a few new wrinkles to make it sound innovative, hardly anything to applaud, but there was much clapping and many standing ovations from Congress, even Nancy Pelosi sitting next to Cheney, behind Bush. This must be what they call bipartisanship. I watched most of the speech and read the official version, which left out Bush making a big deal of the honor of addressing the first woman Speaker, but I found nothing worthy of applause. Maybe if I believed there was anything of substance to a politician, I might applaud something that sounds good. Bellicose crowd pleasing jingoistic lines wildly applauded sounded bad or indifferent, from my perspective.

One bizarre line that went over well was, whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. This is a dig at Democrats who think the war is doomed to failure, so will not give his grand plan a chance to work. The irony is that they have been voting for failure all along by funding these wars, because failure was a foregone conclusion, and even those who think invading Iraq was a great mistake call it a diversion from the mythical real war on terror, which will fail just as certainly, also a foregone conclusion from the start. It was clear once Bush announced Afghanistan would suffer the initial retaliation that he meant to ignite the next world war.

Democrats now talk of diplomacy for Iraq, but the point is, the occupation has to end, the sooner the better, and the role of this nation in whatever diplomacy finally settles matters there will likely be insignificant at best. This nation could try negotiating in good faith with all enemies, even those officially deemed terrorists. But Democrats are determined not to be painted as soft on terror, so they attempt to stake this awkward middle ground of supporting the troops while questioning the tactics, with positions shifting all over the map, so it appears nothing can stick to them except charges of flip-flopping, waffling, inconsistency, lack of principle, playing to polls, or the like. However, Democrats do serve the purpose of appearing to be a reasonable alternative to reactionary politics, while allowing that to remain a major force in politics by agreeing on most issues, playing up differences in style, approach, priorities, so voters appear to have no recourse if those issues kept off the table matter to them. The two-party system is itself a myth that serves the purposes of the two parties, their corporate paymasters, and the mainstream press, who all cooperate to perpetuate that myth. Most issues important to me, or to women in general, got nary a mention from the President or Senator Jim Webb, chosen to rebut him.

Israel Plans to Nuke Iran?

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

The story currently making the rounds apparently originated in the Times of London

If Israel is seriously considering using nuclear weapons to decimate nuclear infrastructure in Iran a necessary preemptive strike, this rogue nation knows no bounds. That would top the destruction of Lebanon on its war crimes list. Talk about a slippery slope. If depleted uranium is acceptable for bombing Iraq and Lebanon, why not mini-nukes for Iran? What next, a city blown off the map in Iran if it retaliates? The plan to limit fallout is a joke.

Israel has denied the story. Israel has lost plausible deniability on this issue, since it also denies having nuclear weapons. These tactical bunker buster warheads were a rare defense department request denied by Congress, but apparently they are part of the arsenal regardless. The estimate of the danger is downplayed, but this mini Bomb will spread plenty of fallout. If the wind blows the wrong way, Israel is not so far away that it could not taste the bitter fruit of this act of reckless aggression that would not even be in its own best interests, let alone the rest of the world. Israel knows this would not be self-defense, but it desperately wants to remain the only nuclear power in the region. If Israel cannot be trusted not to use nuclear weapons in such an aggressive unprovoked manner as this plan suggests, it should not be entitled to possess them.

Neither Israel nor USA has been appointed enforcer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel never signed, possesses nuclear weaponry in defiance of the treaty, while USA thinks it only applies to its enemies. That treaty binds its signatories who had nuclear weaponry to pursue disarmament. The treaty, besides being twisted to suit the ends of nations with these weapons, also suffers from a false dichotomy between peaceful and warlike uses of nuclear energy. It grants nations one in exchange for forsaking the other, yet nuclear energy yields plutonium suitable for the Bomb, and wastes suitable for dirty bombs. Not to mention the technology is dangerous and wasteful beyond belief. Iran is foolish to desire nuclear technology or the Bomb, but no more so than supposedly wiser nations still promoting this colossal boondoggle.