This is my latest column for Truthout.org.
I. Genetic Modification
We have seen the proof of this in our time. When law â€“ understood here as agreed-upon principles of justice and commonweal â€“ is treated as a filthy rag or a "quaint" relic or a cynical sham by those in power, the result is an ever-growing suppuration of greed, lies, brutality and violence. Its starkest form is evident in Iraq, where a lawless invasion based on deceit has created a hell beyond imagining, and beyond control. At home, unfettered power has stripped Americans of their essential liberties and human rights, which are now no longer unalienable and inviolable but are instead the gift of the "unitary executive," to bestow â€“ or withhold â€“ as he sees fit.
For those who hoped that November's elections might bring some essential alteration in our degraded estate, some repair of the broken strands, recent events have been disspiriting indeed. Two in particular stand out as exemplary of the ugly reality behind the bright rhetoric of "change" and "moderation" now twinkling in the Beltway air. Although apparently unrelated, they are in fact part of the same malignant process that has been devouring the structure â€“ and substance â€“ of the Republic for years. Add a comment
Itâ€™s time to stop mollycoddling that petroleum-plated pest masquerading as a statesman in the White House.
Why do the press and the members of the Iraq Study Group care about Georgeâ€™s ability to accept the seventy-nine recommendations in the recently published ISG Report?
I donâ€™t give a ratâ€™s ass about Bushâ€™s comfort level and neither should you. That pathetic excuse for a human couldnâ€™t care less about your comfort level or that of the thousands he has put in harmâ€™s way.
With the release of the long overdue whitewash, the Iraq Study Group Report, we have been treated to â€œrevelationsâ€ and recommendations that have been plainly visible to those whose eyes have been open for the last six years.
The ISG Report wonâ€™t make George see realityâ€¦ as if anything ever could. David E. Sanger of the New York Times reported that:
â€œThe panel was careful to avoid phrases and rigid timelines that might alienate the White House.â€
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by Stephen Soldz
Ever since the United States government decided to deviate from accepted international and American standards of treatment of prisoners of war and other detainees in its Global War on Terror, the participation of health professionals in coercive interrogations of detainees has posed a fundamental moral issue for these, supposedly "helping," professions. Unlike the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association considers it acceptable for its members to participate in coercive interrogations at Guantanamo and the various other American detention centers around the world. [For those unfamiliar with the differences among mental health professions, psychiatrists are specialist medical doctors whereas psychologists are not medical doctors and receive a doctoral degree in psychology.]
American Psychiatric Association President Steven S. Sharfstein took the lead in getting that organization to change its policies. Last summer he delivered his Presidential Address at the organization's May 2006 conference. This address has some very important and pertinent words on the issue. To a psychologist, especially disturbing is his use of the issue as a defining difference between the two, sometimes collaborating and sometimes competing, professions:
"We must also exercise vigilance over our other core values. When I read in the New England Journal of Medicine about psychiatrists participating in the interrogation of Guantanamo detainees, I wrote to the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Defense expressing serious concern about this practice. In mid-October I found myself on a Navy jet out of Andrews Air Force Base, along with the top health leadership in the military and other leaders from medical and psychological organizations, on a 3-hour trip to Guantanamo Bay. We were given an intensive 6-hour tour of the prison and briefed thoroughly on interrogation methods and the involvement of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, known as BSCTs (pronounced â€œbiscuitsâ€) in the process.
Where will we put the Iraq Memorial?
Eventually, thereâ€™ll be a memorial to the men and women who died in Iraq, so where do we put it?
Should we annex land in the capital so that veterans and family members can flock to Washington DC to see the etchings on a marble wall that are the last memento of a friend or comrade?
Should we build a little park with Sycamore trees and disabled access so the thousands of amputees, paraplegics and trauma victims can huddle together whilethey tryto cope with the surge of emotion; or amble about in stunned silence trying to make some sense of what theyâ€™ve done, or what theyâ€™ve seen, or what theyâ€™ve lost?
I have an idea. Letâ€™s tear down the rot-iron gates surrounding the White House. Letâ€™s remove the cement abutments and the cyclone fencing.
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Ever since the movie â€œFargoâ€ came out a decade ago, my ability to mimic the Scandinavian-inflected accent of my hometown and home state of North Dakota has been a guaranteed way to elicit laughter during my public speaking.
That joking ended earlier this month, when I realized -- in a painfully public manner -- that my use of that North Dakota accent was in a small but undeniable way supportive of a white-supremacist account of the history of this country. The story of that episode illustrates not just the depth of the pathology of white America but also a way we white folks can -- with self-reflection and help from others -- start to transform ourselves.
For those who have never seen the 1996 movie or heard a white person from the Dakotas or Minnesota (despite the title â€œFargo,â€ which is the largest city in North Dakota, the film is set in Minnesota), the accent has an amusing sing-songy quality and trademark phrases such as, â€œAh, geezâ€ and â€œYah, you betcha!â€ In print it may not sound particularly funny, but with the right delivery it can be a crowd-pleaser.
That is, itâ€™s a crowd pleaser in certain crowds -- such as an audience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I was speaking, and where few are likely to think much about real Dakota history.
I was at the university to participate in a panel on racism and white privilege, a subject about which Iâ€™ve written a book, making me an alleged expert. In my introductory remarks I made reference to my upbringing in North Dakota and the accent made famous by the movie, using it for a bit of comic relief in a discussion of a difficult subject.
On that panel with me was D. Anthony Tyeeme Clark, a professor of American Indian Studies at that university and a citizen of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. Although I didnâ€™t poll the audience, Iâ€™m pretty sure Clark was one of the few indigenous people there. (Clark told me later that of the 100-plus students and faculty who have self-identified as American Indian on campus in recent years, about 15 to 20 are citizens of Indian nations or tribal members, and even fewer are tribally connected.) Add a comment
Right about now is when it could come in real handy to have a President who reads. A book learning wonk. A guy not allergic to the printed word. George W Bush even admitted it himself. I think his exact quote was: â€œI donâ€™t read.â€ And you know what, I believe him. Then this summer, something happened. I think it was part of that midterm campaign thing, when the President claimed his beach reading list included Camusâ€™ â€œThe Strangerâ€ and what he referred to as â€œ3 Shakespeares.â€ 3 Shakespeares? Sounds like a customer at Baskin- Robbins ordering up a triple scoop of smart. And very suspicious coming from a man famous for struggling through the same page of â€œMy Pet Goatâ€ for 10 minutes.
The whole reading deal is important here because he should have been tempted to give the Iraq Study Group Report a brief scan before repeating â€œThe Study Group agrees with me.â€ Unh. No. They donâ€™t. He said this during a joint press conference with Tony Blair that could have been a Tivo of any of his previous eighty gazilliion press conferences with Tony Blair. Tony looks and sounds like a statesman and George like an eighth grader trying to fake his way through a book report on a classic he didnâ€™t bother to skim. Does the term â€œCliff Notesâ€ have any meaning here?
At the risk of switching milieus, weâ€™re stuck in â€œGroundhog Day.â€ Doesnâ€™t matter what happens, we wake up the next morning and instead of hearing Sonny & Cher singing â€œI Got You Babeâ€ we get the President playing the same lame game he has for three years: â€œIts a tough time. Going to take some hard work. Weâ€™re working hard.â€ His supporters say heâ€™s resolute. You know what, resolute isnâ€™t always a good thing. Butt cancer is resolute. Add a comment
by Winter Patriot
Derrick Shareef, about whom I wrote last Friday, wanted to be a "terrorist" so badly he couldn't see any of the signs that he was being set up, and he may spend the rest of his life in prison for his lack of ... what? ... awareness? discretion? common sense? ... or all of the above?!
Big Dan, who makes frequent and very funny comments at my blog, has taken to calling Derrick Shareef the "Air Grenadist", following a suggestion from Bluebear2, another regular and very funny commentor. It's a variation on the term "Air Guitarist", which of course refers to a person pretending to play a guitar that isn't there.
charged with a crime which, had it taken place, would have involved
weapons which -- according to some of the early news reports -- he
never managed to obtain. However, according to an affadavit filed in
the case, Shareef did obtain "weapons" (just before he was arrested),
but they wouldn't have worked for him! So either he was playing an air
guitar or else his guitar had no strings on it!
How do I know this? It's a long story, but I'll tell it as quickly as I can.Add a comment
Ed Vitagliano is the â€œnewsâ€ editor of the American Family Association Journal. Heâ€™s also the AFA â€œresearcherâ€ who started the gay SpongeBob fiasco, and heâ€™s still hunting gays and suggesting new ways to demean them. His tactics focus on thwarting understanding and encouraging ignorance.
In a recent article Mr. Vitagliano took aim at public education:
The influence of homosexual activists within the nationâ€™s educational system continues to grow, altering the attitudes of children and teens toward the acceptance of a destructive and depraved lifestyle.
Often without parental knowledge, local schools are instituting policy changes that not only promote respect for homosexuality, but often even celebrate it. â€¦ [italics added]
What could be more â€œdestructive and depravedâ€ than a man dedicated to demeaning young gay people and encouraging prejudice against them? Add a comment
Some things donâ€™t seem to change. Five years after I wrote this column in the form of a news dispatch, it seems more relevant than ever:
WASHINGTON -- There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that the United States is not the center of the world.Add a comment
The White House had no immediate comment on the reports, which set off a firestorm of controversy in the nationâ€™s capital.
Speaking on background, a high-ranking official at the State Department discounted the possibility that the reports would turn out to be true. â€œIf that were the case,â€ he said, â€œdonâ€™t you think we would have known about it a long time ago?â€
On Capitol Hill, leaders of both parties were quick to rebut the assertion. â€œThat certain news organizations would run with such a poorly sourced and obviously slanted story tells us that the liberal media are still up to their old tricks, despite the current crisis,â€ a GOP lawmaker fumed. A prominent Democrat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that classified briefings to congressional intelligence panels had disproved such claims long ago.
I just watched the Congressional briefing on the Lancet Iraqi casualty study: "650,000 excess deaths in Iraq". Speaking were Gilbert Burnham, Les Roberts, and Juan Cole. The briefing was organized by Rep, Kucinich, with the support of rep. Ron Paul.
The briefing was to discuss the October 2006 study Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey,which appeared in the British medical journal The Lancet. This study estimated that 655,000 more Iraqis had died ("excess deaths") since the invasion than would have died if the prewar rate of death (mortality) had continued. It further estimated that about 600,000 of these had died from violence.
I have great respect for Rep. Kucinich, who kept the entire briefing focused on the effects of the fighting on the Iraqi people and on Iraqi society. It is the first time I've seen anyone from the U.S. government focus on Iraqis and what they have experienced and what they are suffering. For example, he asked about the effects on Iraqi society of the loss of so many young men. He also asked about the creation of Iraqi orphans. Unfortunately, none of the three scholars had any real information on these topics, a sign of how little we really know about what is going on in that unfortunate country. Add a comment
The true horror of what President Bush--and the Republican-led 109th Congress--have done to all of us American citizens by authorizing torture in our names came clear during a talk I was giving on impeachment to a group organized by the New Jersey chapter of Progressive Democrats of America.
I had been reciting the growing list of Bush crimes against the Constitution and the laws of the land and had gotten to the issue of torture. At that point a large guy in the back of the room, a marine veteran of the Vietnam War who was proudly wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the words "Third Marine Division" and "Vietnam Veterans Against the War," offered up the comment that he had witnessed torture in Vietnam. Add a comment
To be successful in overturning our elitist plutocratic system we should add economic apartheid to our semantic arsenal. Better than economic inequality, economic injustice and class warfare, because apartheid is loaded with richly deserved negative emotions. Sadly, in South Africa , economic apartheid has taken over from racial apartheid.
How ironic that the Bush administration successfully talked up the global threat from terrorism while it pursued domestic and foreign policies promoting economic apartheid, a far greater and more pervasive threat to national and global stability.
The human race on planet Earth, taken as an aggregate mass abstraction, may be getting richer. But a new report from the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University shows that wealth creation is remarkably - one might say criminally - unequal. Follow this hierarchy at the top of the wealth pyramid: The richest 1 percent of adults alone owned 40 percent of global assets in the year 2000; the richest 2 percent owned more than half of global household wealth; and the richest 10 percent of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. That leaves very little for the remaining 90 percent of the global population. Could it be any worse? Yes, the rich are still getting richer, more millionaires are becoming billionaires.
As to the world's lower class: the bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1 percent of global wealth, defined as net worth: the value of physical and financial assets less debts. Over a billion poor people subsist on less than one dollar a day. Every day, according to UNICEF, 30,000 children die due to poverty Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that's over 10 million children killed by poverty every year! Global economic apartheid is killing people.
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