Wednesday, December 29, 2010

...and gun rights meet terrorism hysteria, with what otherwise would be a freak out being forgiven

Here. About, what, just a whole bunch of ammunition primers, meaning the explosive parts of bullets and shotgun shells, found in luggage that exploded at an airport. Nothing serious. Because it related to an all american past time, guns, the story is not being questioned, touted as being a potential terrorist plot, etc... but being quietly excused. Hypocrisy, thy name is the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. Folks who are Muslim and who have gone shooting have been convicted of "training for terrorism" based on videos of them saying things in Arabic while doing it, but this fellow, who checked potential explosives onto a plane, without a permit, is getting the aww shucks treatment.

Monday, December 27, 2010

....and Chavez slips towards a more authoritarian and possibly totalitarian state

Through forbidding foreign funding of NGOs, enacting a law that, in the words of the Guardian

"....also penalises organisations or political parties that invite foreigners to the country who publicly give "opinions that offend institutions of the state, its high officials" or that are contrary to Venezuela's sovereignty. Groups can be fined for such statements, and political parties can be barred from elections for five to eight years."

, putting into action another law that forbids elected politicians from changing political parties, and also passing a measure that will start the censoring of the Internet.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

....and the repeal of "Don't ask, Don't tell" is signed into law

A very good day. I was in fact impressed that it passed the Senate by the margin that it did, which is possibly evidence that despite the Tea Party uprising the country really isn't quite that conservative, at least on gay and lesbian issues.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In unrelated news....it seems that the show Alf is regularly watched by a third of the people of the Ukraine

Which means that Jerry Stahl's heroin fueled insights are reaching even more people than ever. I liked Alf as a kid, and I also really enjoyed "Permanent Midnight", by Stahl, as well as the film with Ben Stiller. Still a good show, though there's something of a perverse thrill in all of this.

While we're talking about population gains in the South, that lead to more congressional seats, let's review how things are in the Senate

According to Census.gov, as of 2010, 2,476,186 people total live in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and according to Wiki, the estimated population of Brooklyn in 2009 was 2,567,098. New York has two Senatorial seats while Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota have six. We're not talking about parity and balancing with these numbers, we're talking about undemocratic power.

**on edit: looking up states by population it seems that Delaware, Vermont, and Alaska are in the same boat, as well as Wyoming.: low population, over representation. I have no problem with the idea of less senatorial representation being extended to these states as well.

...and the South and West pick up more seats in Congress, along with Washington

Because of high population growth. It wouldn't be something that has a lot of impact on the country except for the fact that the Senate is widely undemocratic and favors the points of view of small, conservative, states in a way that's completely disproportionate to the rest of the country. I've ranted on this before, but in the Senate we have a situation where a state whose entire population wouldn't fill up a single borough of New York City has the same power as the entire state of New York.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The King's Torah and Himmler

Lately, there's been controversy over a book of religious instructions written in Israel called "The King's Torah", "Torat Ha'Melech", which I've found in Hebrew is "נפשות בין ישראל לעמים" that gives advice on what's permissible in killing non-Jews, with Palestinians in mind, and that among other things gives reasoning as to why killing non-Jewish children is right.

Max Blumenthal's article: How to kill goyim and influence people, leading Israeli rabbis defend manual for killing non jews gives a decent overview of it. It should be noted, by the way, that, yes, Max Blumenthal is Jewish, lives in Israel, and likely titled his piece that to be humorous.

The killing children part, as quoted in that article and in others, is this:

“There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”

Which is strikingly similar to a part of a speech Himmler gave to newly trained members of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing force deployed on the Eastern Front that was tasked with killing any man, woman, and child who was Jewish that they came across, on October 6, 1943:

"We came to the question: what to do with the women and children? I decided to find a clear solution here as well. I did not consider myself justified to exterminate the men -- that is, kill them or allow them to be killed -- and allow the avengers of our sons and grandsons in the form of their children to grow up. The difficult resolve had to be taken to make this race disappear from the earth."

Translation from "An introduction to the Einsatzgruppen" from Holocaust-History.org

So it seems that the authors of the King's Torah are in fine company.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How the U.S. can be so religiously intolerant despite being for freedom of religion....an explanation

Basically, it's because "Freedom of Religion" was understood for most of our history in a way that was only superficially true. The U.S. has had ups and downs regarding freedom of religion, but I would argue that freedom of religion for most people in the 18th and into the 19th century really referred to freedom of people to belong to Protestant Christian denominations, and freedom of religion was considered to be a success if a community tolerated a diversity of these denominations. Catholicism, in particular, was something frequently left out of the idea of freedom of religion, because Catholicism was seen to be the enemy of freedom, specifically the enemy of Protestant Christian sects. Other, more exotic, types of religion were not even considered. Freedom to not believe in any religion was, and has I would argue, been tolerated because the people who have frequently been atheists and agnostics have come from Protestant Christian backgrounds, have been ethnically similar to the dominant groups in the community, and so have posed less of a threat than Catholics, Muslims, or Jews.

In fact, up until fairly recently, maybe in the last 15 years, it would not have been uncommon to go into a small town in a more conservative area of the country, ask about freedom of religion, and be told that "Sure! we have lots of freedom of religion here! Just look at all the different churches we have--Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostal, Presbyterian....even Catholic!" ignoring the fact that the majority of these churches are really very similar sets of beliefs within one subsection of a bigger religion, that is they're all variants on Protestant Christianity, meaning they're basically the same when compared to, say, Hinduism.

Because toleration has in practice mostly referred to Protestant denominations of Christianity, there's really no contradiction between people having an ultra-religious, almost theocratic, interpretation of the world in the United States and at the same time professing to believe in freedom of religion.

I would guess that the model immigrants for America in the days after the Revolution seem to have been white, Germanic, Scandinavian, or British, Protestant dissenters of some kind, cheerful Mennonites and Amish, as opposed to dirty Irish Catholics.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Laura Ingraham praises Obama in new HuffPo roundup: proof that Barry is doing a good job

In relation to Obama's cave in about tax cuts for the rich. Because, hey, if someone who brags about going down to Honduras in the '80s to help out with the Contras as a young conservative, is on your side you must be doing something right, right?

Friday, December 10, 2010

From Truthout: "An Open Letter to the Left Establishment"

Basically calling on people to no longer support Obama.Here. I whole heartedly agree with this.

"This letter is a call for active support of protest to Michael Moore, Norman Solomon, Katrina van den Heuvel, Michael Eric Dyson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank, Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Jesse Jackson Jr., and other high profile progressive supporters of the Obama electoral campaign.

With the Obama administration beginning its third year, it is by now painfully obvious that the predictions of even the most sober Obama supporters were overly optimistic. Rather than an ally, the administration has shown itself to be an implacable enemy of reform.

It has advanced repeated assaults on the New Deal safety net (including the previously sacrosanct Social Security trust fund), jettisoned any hope for substantive health care reform, attacked civil rights and environmental protections, and expanded a massive bailout further enriching an already bloated financial services and insurance industry. It has continued the occupation of Iraq and expanded the war in Afghanistan as well as our government’s covert and overt wars in South Asia and around the globe.

Along the way, the Obama administration, which referred to its left detractors as “f***ing retarded” individuals that required “drug testing,” stepped up the prosecution of federal war crime whistleblowers, and unleashed the FBI on those protesting the escalation of an insane war.

Obama’s recent announcement of a federal worker pay freeze is cynical, mean-spirited “deficit-reduction theater”. Slashing Bush’s plutocratic tax cuts would have made a much more significant contribution to deficit reduction but all signs are that the “progressive” president will cave to Republican demands for the preservation of George W. Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy Few. Instead Obama’s tax cut plan would raise taxes for the poorest people in our country.

The election of Obama has not galvanized protest movements. To the contrary, it has depressed and undermined them, with the White House playing an active role in the discouragement and suppression of dissent – with disastrous consequences. The almost complete absence of protest from the left has emboldened the most right-wing elements inside and outside of the Obama administration to pursue and act on an ever more extreme agenda.

We are writing to you because you are well-known writers, bloggers and filmmakers with access to a range of old and new media, and you have in your power the capacity to help reignite the movement which brought millions onto the streets in February of 2003 but which has withered ever since. There are many thousands of progressives who follow your work closely and are waiting for a cue from you and others to act. We are asking you to commit yourself to actively supporting the protests of Obama administration policies which are now beginning to materialize.

In this connection we would like to mention a specific protest: the civil disobedience action being planned by Veterans for Peace involving Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Joel Kovel, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, several armed service veterans and others to take place in front of the White House on Dec. 16th.

Should you commit yourselves to backing this action and others sure to materialize in weeks and months ahead, what would otherwise be regarded as an emotional outburst of the “fringe left” will have a better chance of being seen as expressing the will of a substantial majority not only of the left, but of the American public at large. We believe that your support will help create the climate for larger and increasingly disruptive expressions of dissent – a development that is sorely needed and long overdue.

We hope that we can count on you to exercise the leadership that is required of all of us in these desperate times.

Best Regards,

Sen. James Abourezk
Michael Albert
Rocky Anderson
Jared Ball
Russel Banks
Thomas Bias
Noam Chomsky
Bruce Dixon
Frank Dorrel
Gidon Eshel
Jamilla El-Shafei
Okla Elliott
Norman Finkelstein
Glen Ford
Joshua Frank
Margaret Flowers M.D.
John Gerassi
Henry Giroux
Matt Gonzalez
Kevin Alexander Gray
Judd Greenstein
DeeDee Halleck
John Halle
Chris Hedges
Doug Henwood
Edward S. Herman
Dahr Jamail
Louis Kampf
Allison Kilkenny
Jamie Kilstein
Joel Kovel
Mark Kurlansky
Peter Linebaugh
Scott McLarty
Cynthia McKinney
Dede Miller
Russell Mokhiber
Bobby Muller
Christian Parenti
Michael Perelman
Peter Phillips
Louis Proyect
Ted Rall
Michael Ratner
Cindy Sheehan
Chris Spannos
Paul Street
Sunil Sharma
Jeffrey St. Clair
Len Weinglass
Cornel West
Sherry Wolf
Michael Yates
Mickey Z
Kevin Zeese"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

...and just to make it extra clear what side they're on: The Republicans hold back unemployment benefits in response to tax cuts

Or, to be more precise, because Obama wanted to end tax cuts for the rich, tax cuts which decimated the budget in the Bush years, Republicans vowed to not extend unemployment benefits that ran out on the first. Obama caved, extended the tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, and the unemployed, people who have been thrown out of jobs because of the recession, got to have money to pay rent in the run up to Christmas. Have a happy holiday, brought to you by the Republican Party.

Anti-alcholism Russian squirrel video



From Disinfo:

"‘Demon Squirrel’ Stars In New Russian Anti-Alcoholism Campaign (Video)

Posted by Ralph Bernardo on December 3, 2010

Man, this rodent needs to lay off the sauce. Via BBC News:

A Russian cartoon on alcoholism featuring a red-eyed “demon squirrel” with “the shakes” has had more than a million views on YouTube.

The squirrel rants about “chasing spiders up the walls” with a friend, who then murders his wife. The public information ad has created a buzz word, “kudyapliki” — imaginary creatures the squirrel and his friend want to hunt during their binge. “Are you on the booze yourself?” he asks at the end. “I’ll be seeing you.”"

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Fuckin' US-Korea free trade agreement

Here. I have an idea: why not make a trade agreement that lets people in Korea buy all the U.S. products they want while restricting the goods they can send to the U.S.? That way, they can buy shit and we'll keep our jobs. Otherwise, my feeling is more along the lines of "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out".

While you're at it, it might be a good time to download the "insurance" file for Wikileaks--here

It's here on the Pirate Bay. It uses a technology called BitTorrent, and if you're not aware of it you can easily download a client that will allow you to safely download and distribute both this and many other interesting files, of many different types, over the internet.

Turns out that the UN spying was only the tip of the iceberg--Wikileaks, spying, Area studies, links

In particular to the aggregation page for cables emanating from the Secretary of State's office, Here. When you deal with the sort of "Open Source" approach, what you're really doing is spying. But before that, in fact, the documents show that collection of information went way beyond that. The cable saying that people should collect credit card numbers of UN officials turns out not to be out of the ordinary but common practice with regards to officials posted in other countries, the only difference being that, in point of fact, what people were directed to get from the UN was much more extensive than is being reported. In fact, the people who are trying to minimize it either haven't actually read the cable or are flat out lying. You can look at the cable itself, through the link above, to verify that.

Check out the links on the page above to the "Reporting and Collection Needs" documents listed and you'll see that, guess what, they also want credit card numbers, frequent flier information and biometric information about officials in the Slovene, Hungarian, and Romanian governments, which suggests that as opposed to being an isolated incident the UN spying request was a standard set of requests mailed to diplomats around the globe to pursue with regards to the officials of the countries that they're stationed. In fact, the language used in all of these reports is exactly identical, meaning that it's standard practice to try to get credit card numbers of foreign political actors by embassy personnel attached to the U.S. government, which is pretty interesting.

The only reason I'm not posting the actual text is that Blogger and Google would most likely take it down.

Onto the "Area studies". A lot of the information requested is superficially just good information gathering about what you're dealing with, but if you look at what they're actually pursuing it's really an attempt to figure out the societies' political, military, economic, and social structure so that they can be manipulated for the benefit of the US and potentially overthrown if necessary. While the Eastern European countries probably don't face this risk, the same sort of information gathering, done by graduate students in the U.S. in the 1960s and 70s, particularly about Latin America, was not only secretly linked to intelligence agencies but was directly used to destabilize and to overthrow governments there, putting fascist and otherwise dictatorial, right wing, pro-capitalist, governments in place.

Hey, if you want some interesing reading, go to Wikileaks and read the cables emanating from the Secretary of State's office

This is a current WikiLeaks source. Particularly some of the stuff marked "Secret//Noforn", although there's lots of good stuff with other classifications.

Nice stuff about basically spying on many countries in Eastern Europe. They may call it something else, but it's clearly activity that any non-biased and non-coopted person would call spying.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Yes, being in it for the long haul

I remember the week before the WTO, 11 years ago, I was down in Ft. Bening Georgia protesting against the School of the Americas. Before that, I had been reading all about the upcoming WTO protests over the summer, but being in the Midwest and in college couldn't really do anything. And before that....I remember the huge annual anti-police brutality march in New York City in '98, strangely enough just a month or two before Amadou Diallo was shot by police for holding a wallet. Before that, I remember discovering a non-ultra ideological reading of Marx earlier in '98, Chomsky in '97, Project Censored in '96, before that reading about government oppression of activists and general misdoings via the Zine culture in '95, and reading about the Zapatista Revolution in High Times in '94. Ms. Hanks can't seem to keep her attention on the prize for two solid years.

Incidentally, it will be interesting to see the Republican's take on why Obama should cave into them.

Back in '06 Bush argued time and time again that because people had (sort of) elected him that the change of the guard in Congress didn't matter, and the Republicans in Congress at that time backed him. He was the decider. Now, it's a different story of course, because the American people have spoken, or something.

Nice article from "The eXile" on the Rally for Sanity and general hipster apathy at politics now that it's gotten tough

Because, wah wah wah, now there's opposition! It's not, like, fun anymore. Better to bury yourself in pop-culture trivia than to confront reality.

Here

"THE RALLY TO RESTORE VANITY: GENERATION X CELEBRATES ITS HOMERIC STRUGGLE AGAINST LAMENESS
By Mark Ames

***

I confess, I couldn’t hack it. I came to the rally–saw those two pastry chefs from the Mythbusters show get all the Liberal Elites to hold a post-modern human wave, an ironic human wave allowing all the self-conscious Liberal Elites to play like Real America, while salvaging their vanity because it was all ironic and post-modern… And to make sure that everyone knew they were not really human-waving but rather meta-human-waving, the Mythbusters duo deconstructed the human wave. And all the Liberal Elites smiled and laughed knowingly, because all 150,000 were in on the biggest inside-joke wankathon in American history. And that was it for me–I was outta there.

A century-old ideological movement, Liberalism: once devoted to impossible causes like ending racism and inequality, empowering the powerless, fighting against militarism, and all that silly hippie shit—now it’s been reduced to besting the other side at one-liners…and to the Liberals’ credit, they’re clearly on top. Sure there are a lot of problems out there, a lot of pressing needs—but the main thing is, the Liberals don’t look nearly as stupid as the other guys do. And if you don’t know how important that is to this generation, then you won’t understand what’s so wrong and so deeply depressing about the Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity.

***

I’ve come to the conclusion that this has been the Great Dream of my generation: to position ourselves in such a way that we’re beyond mockery. To not look stupid. That’s the biggest crime of all–looking stupid. That’s why they’ve turned Stewart into a demigod, because he knows how to make the other guys look really stupid, and if you’re on the same team as Stewart, you’re on the safe side of the mockery, rather than dangerously vulnerable to mockery.

In fact, I think this is why so many Gen-X/Yers turned against Obama: because he made them look stupid. They made themselves vulnerable to looking stupid by believing in him–and he jilted them. That’s how they see it–not that politics is a long ugly process that has nothing to do with self-esteem and everything to do with money and brawling–it was more like an “indie” consumer choice: They bought into the Obama brand, wore it, and suddenly discovered that the label wasn’t as cool as it seemed at the time, especially after the sentimental high of electing a half-black president wore off to the hard slog of what came after… so they threw the Obama jeans away and went to work trying to salvage their coolness creds for having made that fashion mistake. It’s captured best in this Awl essay by Tom Hanks’ daughter–E. A. Hanks, of all people: “Dear The Left: A Breakup Letter” which begins with her reaction to the special Senate election that Scott Brown won:

Dear The Left,

It’s interesting that you couldn’t keep Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat. I’m taking it for granted that you understand that I don’t mean “interesting” at all, but rather “detestable.”

So little Miss Hanks is not joking in her title for the essay–it really is written like a breakup letter. Leaving aside for now the question of “What the fuck is Tom Hanks’ daughter doing talking as if she and ‘The Left’ ever had a deal?”–or the other issue of “Why does your father make shitty Romantic comedy movies that turn decent people into anti-American suicide bombers?”–because we’ll get nowhere if we try answering those…anyway, leaving that aside…By framing her disillusionment as a breakup letter, she reduces the political struggle to a kind of frivolous private-school irony for 20-something Heathers, indemnifying her against Gen-X/Y reader suspicions that her break with Obama might mean she’s one of those Lefties who “have a cow.” She’s not–she’s cool and ironic and has a “Scott Brown? Really? You lost to Scott Brown? No, Really?” attitude, just like all the people who read her have.

20_6338201612102812503930176_21_JGregoryEHanksMMcCainLRettmerACowtherCCheek_063009-1

E. A. Hanks (second from left) with Megan McCain and her friends from “The Left”

Keep in mind that this E.A. Hanks “break-up letter” wound up becoming a hugely popular, heavily-e-forwarded article earlier this year among all the Daily Show Democrats, as embarrassment swept across the Liberal egosphere following Scott Brown’s surprise victory in the Senate race. She is the voice of the Rally today.

So now ask–who writes breakup letters? What’s the point of that? If you’re breaking up with a lover whom you just want to get away from, you won’t publish a breakup letter, you just want it to go away. But if you’re breaking up with a lover because s/he humiliated you, or you’re worried somehow how this will affect your reputation among the cool crowd (the obsession of Gen-Xers and –Yers), then you DO write a letter and publish it, so that you make HIM look like the fool, you transfer the mockery and humiliation out of your hurt little feelers and restore your public image as someone who is cool, who is self-aware, who never gets too excited about things but this one time you did and you got burned and that sucks dude….It’s an elaborate Gen-X/Y rhetorical strategy to abandon a movement or a trend that’s in serious danger of making its fans look stupid. And it’s even worse than that—there’s something very 1950s about her peevishness and selfishness, a kind of Ayn Rand cheerleader dumping the QB because he lost the Homecoming game—all the while she waited it out beneath the bleachers to see who’d win, but she’d foolishly placed her bets a bit too early with the new black QB…"

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A very nice interview with Ted Rall from Russian Television, in English.

Yay!

What's happening in Europe in terms of finance should not be used to justify cutting programs in the United States.

The two problems have separate origins. What happened in Europe was triggered by the economic downturn of the United States, but it had nothing to do with easy credit, predatory lending, or the inflation of the housing market. It had nothing to do with unregulated finance. The fact that people in the U.S. are using Europe as a reason why we should have less, and not more, regulation and social programs is turning reality on its head, since we've never been in the situation Europe is in right now. We essentially have no welfare state. We don't even have effective regulation of even the basic excessive features of capitalism. To say that what we have, or that a very tepid health care reform, could put us in the same situation that Europe is in with regards to state budgets is just absurd. Why not change what banks and other institutions do before trying to talk about what we need to do less of?