Thursday, March 31, 2005

No News - Good News?

*click* --- "Michael Jackson arrived at the courthouse with plenty of..."
*click* --- "...and Scott Peterson seemed to display no emo..."
*click* --- "...saying Pope John Paul was still "lucid" despite..."
*click* --- "...file for divorce from Brad Pitt..."
*click* ..............

huh - for some reason I thought there was something going on with judicial nominations and a right-wing takeover of our government... I must be imagining things...
 

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Looking Better for the Kurds

I caught an interview on CSPAN with Qubad Talabany, a representative from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to the US, this morning. It was a reminder that there are some very positive results of US actions in the area. The Kurds were severely mistreated by the Baath regime, as anyone can see by reading about the Halabja genocide. It wasn't until the US-lead coalition of forces, which included Britain AND France stepped into Iraq in 1991, that the Kurds were protected from this brutal persecution and given their own de-facto independence.

That's right... 1991.

I think one of the reasons why it's hard for many people like myself to join the applause as Bush takes bows is because credit is being donated without much qualification. It's 100% true that regardless of what motivated the neo-conservatives to orchestrate an invasion in 2003, the results for the Kurds are positive... I recognize this fully. But, I think there is much more to understand.

First of all, we have to look beyond Saddam Hussein to find the cause of trouble for the Kurds. It's not as simple as Saddam Hussein being a "mean guy". A starting point for the problem can be located at the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 which was signed by many countries including the United States. This treaty set the modern borders between countries in the area that before WW1 was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Kurdistan, a province of the empire, was supposed to be made a nation on it's own just like many of the other provinces including Iraq, but it was later decided to ignore them and the province was divided with parts given to Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran.



So if we fast forward to 1987, we can see the problem that occurred when two countries, each with it's own share of Kurdistan went to war. I certainly don't believe this gave CIA-asset, Saddam Hussein, the right to gas those villages in northern Iraq but I can see why he may have suspected a breach in the front between Iraq and Iran and it's just a matter of fact that even "civilized" countries take leave of decency and do some horrible things in the face of a war*.

A little later, in 1991, the US-led coalition stepped in to defend Kuwait from Iraqi invasion and consequently established military protection over the oil-rich south and the Kurdish areas of the north which contained another important resource, the land through which US oil companies were planning a pipeline from the Caspian fields to a terminal on the coast of Turkey. It's hard not to suspect ulterior motives on our part, especially when you look at the obvious influences of the oil industry in our government, the obvious oil interests in Iraq and the sad fact that we do nothing about genocides elsewhere in the world such as central Africa where oil isn't a factor. I think the people that deny these suspicions are really stretching.

Regardless of ulterior-motive, the contribution that Bush has made to the Kurds is a chance to upgrade their de-facto independence which relied on US and UK military support to a legitimate representation in a self-supporting democracy. So I think the US self-interests is more of a problem for US tax payers than it is for the Kurds. Bottom line for the Kurds is that it's better to be used by the US than to be persecuted by the Iraqis, the Iranians or the Turks... at least for now.

* Americans seem appalled that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds, but there are reports that reveal that the Reagan administration supplied those chemical weapons. usatoday

sources for map:
Wikipedia
Baku-Ceyhan Campaigne
 

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Judicial Nominations

-- How to steal the government from a generation of Americans that tune into their TV sets to watch reality --

In the last few days I decided to tune into mainstream TV news to see what the vast majority of American people were being fed. I sat through endless stories about the Michael Jackson trial, the Scott Peterson trial and the Phil Spector trial, but I had to really glue myself to the screen so as not to miss the brief flashes of news that actually affect us directly. In fact I must have blinked at the wrong times because I never saw any coverage of the revolution currently taking place in our government.

It seems that the Republicans are unhappy that the Democrats have only approved 95% of Bush's judicial nominations and are pushing to get the other 5% installed. Bush re-nominated the same exact 5% and this time the GOP is leveraging their control of Congress to change the way our government works so that the Democrats can't do anything to stop them. They are currently proposing that the filibuster be eliminated. This is some serious stuff.

Our judicial system is a powerful part of our government that makes rules without our input. We don't elect these judges and they don't have terms, they stay in power as long as they want. In fact the only thing that separates our judicial branch of government from totalitarianism is a critical balance of perspectives within the system. It's important to maintain this balance and that is why the founders of our nation set up safeguards to prevent a one-sided court. But these Constitutional safeguards are being removed by a one-sided congress in alliance with an extreme president. Together they are creating a one-sided court that can last for decades.

Remember, the judicial branch appointed Bush in 2000 to the office of President in the first ever election to be taken out of the hands of the American people. There is nothing marginal about this... Our government is loosing it's democracy and we are all subject to the consequences.

But please, don't let me interrupt the exclusive interviews with Jackson's lawyers.
 

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Arctic Drilling

The energy industry that conquered America has taken another victim today, a piece of wilderness in Alaska. But more than that, they have taken a piece of dignity from the human race. For two decades the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge represented a struggle between our obesity and the will to be better human beings. It's a line that defines us as humans. Do we have the will power to control our consumption or are we too weak to do anything about it? Are we drilling in Alaska now for the same reasons that so many of us are overweight? Are we incapable of controlling ourselves? Can we even keep a simple promise?

Indeed, the refuge is more than a piece of land - it's a promise that we made to leave it alone. So it doesn’t matter how much the industry tells us how environment-friendly they are or how small the 1002 area is compared to the rest of the refuge, the fact remains that we broke this promise and we broke it because of an addiction to oil. I guess it's true, junkies can't keep promises.

What's especially sad is the way it happened, our addictive consumption of energy has allowed us to become submissive to an industry that controls the very substance we crave... This industry says we need to offset our dependence on foreign oil... This is the very same industry that sent us to war to control foreign oil... It's the industry that tells us it's better not to depend on the market-manipulating OPEC producers and yet engineered an energy crises in California for their own profit.

For 20 years a government that reflected the will of the people kept this industry away from exploiting the refuge, preserving and protecting our promise and our integrity. But in recent years our will power has given way to our addiction as we allowed the industry to walk all over us, brushing aside it's corporate scandals and taking over our government legislation, and almost right after they effectively replaced the will of the people with the will of the industry, they won.

It may only be a small piece of the refuge, and the caribou may survive it, but this defeat is symbolic of something far greater, it represents our willingness to let our addiction compromise our integrity.
 

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Snow Job 2005

Lately, mainstream media has been filling it's "news" channels with wonderful success stories of democracy spreading throughout the middle-east and consequently the emergence of a president who was previously misunderstood and now proven to have been right. The image of bully America is giving way to the image of an America who is steering the world in the right direction. Once again, I find my own insights about the Bush administration buried under mainstream stories.

Most people who speak out against the Bush administration are rhetorically categorized as one and the same with the anti-war crowd. Indeed, I have always been critical of the Bush administration and I still am, but a historical look through my blog will reveal that I've always been more reserved with my opinions about the war in Iraq. Unlike the vast majority of Americans on both sides of the argument, I actually knew something about the Baath regime back in the 80's before we ever crossed Saddam Hussein. I was one of those few Americans that actually paid attention to the Amnesty International reports on Saddam Hussein's atrocities in Iraq while Republican hero's like President Reagan supported him and his activities. Indeed, I have always recognized the value of destroying the Baath regime. But I also recognize that destroying the regime would be the easy part. Now let me get to the part of the Bush policy on Iraq that has always been the basis of my opposition...

First of all, Bush lied to us. He lied about WMD and about Hussein's links to the 9/11 attacks. As Bill Mahr said, "maybe you have to lie to sell a war." Perhaps you do. But if America is really a democracy, representative or otherwise, then the leaders will ultimately have to deal with the disappointment of a population that doesn't want a war. If such wars are truly a function of humanity, then maybe our leaders need to learn that the American people really are good at heart and only need to be educated about the truth, of course it's hard for a government to appeal to our sense of humanity with the truth on one hand while violating humanity on the other. Maybe what Bill Mahr should have said was that you have to lie to sell a war when you’re a power hungry sack of shit.

Secondly, there was no exit strategy. All there was were the lies used to hurry Americans into a hasty commitment. Of course, you can't just go into a country, tear it apart and then leave, but this is why an exit strategy is so important. The invasion itself was a no-brainer, Iraq was never big enough to stand up the United States in the first place let alone after it's military was weakened by a previous encounter with international forces and never allowed to recover while in the vice-grips of military no-fly zones and economic sanctions. Who's going to deny that marching to Baghdad was like cutting through butter? Indeed the vast majority of casualties have occurred after we got there. So really, the challenge would have been an exit strategy and that should have been something we should have spent some time on and there would have been nothing wrong with letting us know about it.

Third, there didn’t seem to be any dialog with the Iraqi people to see if this is really what they wanted or to invite them in the planning of an exit strategy and subsequent democracy. I mean really, if exchanging Iraqi oppression for Iraqi democracy was the plan, wouldn't this have been an important step? And there was plenty of capable Iraqis living outside the influence of Saddam Hussein in America and Europe to talk to so, don't even go there.

Does any of this matter now that we're committed and the brush-fire of democracy is spreading through the middle-east? I think it does for two reasons.

the first reason is that this is an age of globalization and the pressure has been on since the end of the cold-war for countries to join the global market which wears the friendly mask of democracy to hide the hideous intentions of corporatism. One of the many risks that come with globalization is the loss of indigenous culture and for better or worse, the Islamic world has been a hold-out in this struggle against Freidman's Lexus* which is exactly what Bush and his neo-conservatives have been pushing for. From this perspective all the "rhyme and reason" that seems to be missing from the "fight for democracy" picture suddenly appears as plain as day. So I think before we celebrate the Bush-led revolution of democracy we really need to assess if it's social democracy or corporate globalization that's spreading like a brush-fire, and it's important to know the difference between them. Another thing to keep in mind is that none of these countries in the middle east have done much to prove an interest in democracy as much as simply showing signs that they don’t like the system they have. It's just as likely that the people in these nations will be trading one form of oppression for another, perhaps another dictator or now that the cold war with it's "domino effect" is over then perhaps it's more likely that the new oppression will be of the corporate variety. Again, this will only make sense for those that can tell the difference between the will of the people and the will of the corporation.

Secondly, I don’t think that the lies and the ill-intentions of a president should be forgotten simply because the consequences of his actions have the appearance of being favorable. We need to remember how Bush lied to us and because of that we need to think about the possibility that his true intentions are nothing like what he is actually telling us, maybe we need to be a little more suspicious and less willing to fall for the snow jobs, wishful thinking and the outward appearance of people demonstrating in the streets of Lebanon.


* Thomas Freidman, in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, describes the materialistic attraction of globalization as the Lexus which is often at odds with cultural values represented by the Olive Tree.
 


Archives:




Noteworthy:

* Current Post
* Inside the Patriot Act
* Luminosity of a Future City
* Arctic Drilling
* Human Decline
* Wealth Inequality
* Bush Sells Our Forests
* Healthcare and Terrorism
* Chemical Assault
* The Cuban Medical Industry
* The Endless War
* Do the Rich Need Tax Breaks?
* A Collapse of Some Kind
* Guantanimo Bay

* About the Picture
* More Stuff...
* About Metaspective



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Books That I am Reading:


The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism


Books That I've Read Lately:


Catcher in the Rye


J.D.Salinger

My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present


Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less


Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative


Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader


Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

TechGnosis
Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down


John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman


John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

Collapse:
How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
T.R.Reid

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

Cuba
A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

1984
George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree


Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels


Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.

Consilience


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money


Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".