Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pouring a pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi

credit: AP/Gautam Singh

Reuters reports that the President is traveling with a retinue of FIVE THOUSAND. Yes, FIVE THOUSAND "personnel including snipers, commandos and U.S. marines using helicopters, bomb detectors and electronic jammers."

Why the show of force? You might ask Arundhati Roy.

Damn, she is fierce.

With apologies for quoting the whole thing from the Nation, here's Bush in India: Just Not Welcome:

On his triumphalist tour of India and Pakistan, where he hopes to wave imperiously at people he considers potential subjects, President Bush has an itinerary that's getting curiouser and curiouser.

For Bush's March 2 pit stop in New Delhi, the Indian government tried very hard to have him address our parliament. A not inconsequential number of MPs threatened to heckle him, so Plan One was hastily shelved. Plan Two was to have Bush address the masses from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, where the Indian prime minister traditionally delivers his Independence Day address. But the Red Fort, surrounded as it is by the predominantly Muslim population of Old Delhi, was considered a security nightmare. So now we're into Plan Three: President George Bush speaks from Purana Qila, the Old Fort.

Ironic, isn't it, that the only safe public space for a man who has recently been so enthusiastic about India's modernity should be a crumbling medieval fort?

Since the Purana Qila also houses the Delhi zoo, George Bush's audience will be a few hundred caged animals and an approved list of caged human beings, who in India go under the category of "eminent persons." They're mostly rich folk who live in our poor country like captive animals, incarcerated by their own wealth, locked and barred in their gilded cages, protecting themselves from the threat of the vulgar and unruly multitudes whom they have systematically dispossessed over the centuries.

So what's going to happen to George W. Bush? Will the gorillas cheer him on? Will the gibbons curl their lips? Will the brow-antlered deer sneer? Will the chimps make rude noises? Will the owls hoot? Will the lions yawn and the giraffes bat their beautiful eyelashes? Will the crocs recognize a kindred soul? Will the quails give thanks that Bush isn't traveling with Dick Cheney, his hunting partner with the notoriously bad aim? Will the CEOs agree?

Oh, and on March 2, Bush will be taken to visit Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat. He's by no means the only war criminal who has been invited by the Indian government to lay flowers at Rajghat. (Only recently we had the Burmese dictator General Than Shwe, no shrinking violet himself.) But when Bush places flowers on that famous slab of highly polished stone, millions of Indians will wince. It will be as though he has poured a pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi.

We really would prefer that he didn't.

It is not in our power to stop Bush's visit. It is in our power to protest it, and we will. The government, the police and the corporate press will do everything they can to minimize the extent of our outrage. Nothing the happy newspapers say can change the fact that all over India, from the biggest cities to the smallest villages, in public places and private homes, George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, world nightmare incarnate, is just not welcome.

On animal ID and food safety laws

If you're like me and find the idea of requiring all farm animals to be microchipped outrageously Orwellian, you'll want to check back frequently to NoNais.org, a site maintained by Vermont farmer Walter Jeffries that's full of up-to-the minute news on NAIS-related legislation and resistance.

Today, he posts an action alert about another you-gotta-be-kidding-me piece of legislation, Bill HR 4167, the "National Uniformity for Food Act," which is coming to a vote in Washington, D.C this Thursday, March 2.

With this bill, says Jeffries, "Congress is poised to forbid states from being able to require stricter guidelines for labeling of GMO/GE foods. This would mean you would not be able to know if a food is genetically engineered unless the federal Govi-Corp says you can know."

This bill is also opposed by the Consumers Union, the non-profit, independent publisher of Consumer Reports. Policy Analyst Susanna Montezemolo writes:
The bill is not a simple food-safety uniformity bill, as its proponents claim. Under the guise of national "uniformity," this bill would eliminate critical state laws that protect consumer health while leaving in place an inadequate federal system based on the lowest common denominator of protection.

As drafted, the bill would wipe out state food safety laws and regulations that are not "identical" to federal law - even in areas where the federal government has not acted. The bill could directly harm consumers by increasing their exposure to food-borne illnesses, undermining the authority of state food safety officers, and overturning state food labeling laws. In order to keep current laws in place, states would be required to go through a new costly, time-consuming, and burdensome regulatory appeals process, which the Congressional Budget Office has estimated would cost the federal government alone more than $100 million over five years. In the end, the federal government could wind up denying state requests to keep their own laws in place.

Only two days to get in touch with your Congressman about this creepy, unconstitutional piece of legislation. My rep, Ben Chandler, is one of the sponsors. Sigh....

Monday, February 27, 2006


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Disastrous consequences of cheap food

At Grist, Tom Philpott has a great overview of the myriad problems with the way America feeds itself. Yes, American food is relatively cheap, but there are many downsides to that cheapness, including widespread health problems (an epidemic of obesity, for starters) from eating "energy-dense" foods (e.g. Ding Dongs), and a ruinously extractive system that has dire consequences both for the environment and local economies.

Philpott examines the economics of the cheap-corn policy (in service to the global commodity system) that sucks local economies dry. He looks at southern Minnesota (where I'm from) and (quoting Ken Meter of the Minneapolis-based Crossroads Resource Center) find that:
... between 1997 and 2003, local farmers sold an annual average of $912 million into the global commodity market. But to do so, they spent a jaw-dropping average of $996 million each year -- meaning an average annual loss of $84 million. Meanwhile, area residents spent $500 million per year buying food from outside the region, and another $500 million purchasing farm fertilizer and other inputs produced outside the region. Combined, that makes an outflow of $1 billion -- or more than the area brings in by selling into the commodity market.

"Essentially, this economy is extractive," Meter says. "Our food system doesn't build wealth in our high-producing areas, it extracts wealth." Meter says the area's economy benefits not local farmers or consumers, but rather the large operations like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, which thrive on low prices for commodity inputs. The federal government picks up the tab for a failing economy; between 1997 and 2003, federal subsidies poured into southeastern Minnesota an average of $98 million per year.
This disastrous situation can be fixed, however, says Meter:
[I]f the region's consumers were to buy 15 percent of their food from local sources, it would generate as much income for the region as two-thirds of farm subsidies. [Meter] says the Southeast Minnesota Food Network, an organization formed in 2001 to refocus area farmers on producing for the local market and encourage consumers to buy local, has been using his data to recruit new members.

As the federal government dithers with its food pyramids and ruinous cheap-corn policy, low-income communities are organizing to gain control over the quality of their food supply. Meter's work in the Midwest and Herrera's in the Northeast represent the rumblings of a growing real-food underground -- an upsurge that challenges not just the hegemony of processed food, but also the social relations that allow it to thrive.

Friday, February 24, 2006

"Of course there was drinking. Lots of it."

Dick Cheney strikes me as the kind-hearted, look-out-for-the-little-people sort of boss, so you know he can count on the loyalty of his secret service men.

As Triumph the insult comic dog would say, "I keed. I keed."

They're paid to take a bullet for him, but not to cover this sort of shit up, apparently....

From Capitol Hill Blue:
Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.

Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions. According to those who have talked with the agents and others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up.

We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy to inside information on the Vice President's shooting "accident" and all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume far more than the "one beer' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that day.

"This was a South Texas hunt," says one White House aide. "Of course there was drinking. There's always drinking. Lots of it."

Two sides to the NPT

Funny, you never hear about this watching CNN or reading the Times but, shocking as it seems, there were two parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons—the haves and the have-nots.

As shady as certain non-nuclear states' activities might seem, the Big Five have clearly not come close to respecting their side of the bargain.

Conn Hallinan writes in Counterpunch:
The theory behind [the NPT] was simple: non-nuclear weapons states would forgo developing nukes on the conditions that, 1) they are never blackmailed with nuclear weapons, and 2) the Big Five get rid of their arsenals.

All of this seems to have gotten lost in the recent uproar over Iran. While Tehran is being accused of trying to scam the NPT by secretly developing nuclear weapons, the open flaunting of the Treaty by the major nuclear powers is simply ignored.

For almost 38 years the vast majority of the world's nations have adhered to the NPT. Only India, Pakistan, Israel, and possibly North Korea have joined the Big Five, although, at the time the Treaty was signed, a dozen more were on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. In short, the vast bulk of the signers have held to what they agreed to.

The Big Five, however, have ignored the obligation to dismantle their nuclear arsenals or to even discuss general disarmament. At the NPT Review Conference last summer the issue did not even come up, a shortcoming which UN General Secretary Kofi Annan called a "disgrace."

Not only have the Big Five refused to consider eliminating their nuclear arsenals, in 2002 the Bush Administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) unilaterally overturned the 1978 pledge, and the White House threatened to use nukes on Syria, Iran, and Iraq, all non-nuclear states.

A brief reminder:

The fireball that consumed Hiroshima reached 18 million degrees in one millionth of a second. It evaporated 68% of the city, demolishing structures built to withstand an 8.5 earthquake. It charred trees five miles from ground zero, blew out windows 17 miles from the city's center, and killed 100,000 people in a single blow. Another 100,000 plus would follow in the months ahead.

The bomb that flattened Hiroshima was 15 kilotons. The standard warhead in the U.S. arsenal today-the W-76-is 100 kilotons. A substantial number of our weapons are 250 kilotons, and they range as high as five megatons. One of the latter can eliminate a small country.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there are presently about 27,000 such warheads in the world, many of them capable of being launched within a half hour. In accepting the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, said "More than 15 years after the Cold War, it is incomprehensible to many that the major nuclear weapons states operate with their weapons on hair-trigger alert." This is the price the world is paying for not insisting that the Big Five do what they agreed to do.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What's more dangerous, a chicken or a gun?

In a couple of years, the owner of a single chicken—or pony, or goose, or calf—will be subject to more intrusive surveillance than the owner of a gun.
"Not since Prohibition has any government agency attempted to enshrine in law a system, which so thoroughly stigmatizes and burdens common, everyday behavior and is so certain to meet with huge resistance from the citizens it unjustly targets."
So says Mary Zanoni, Executive Director of Farm for Life, an organization dedicated to battling an absolutely, unspeakably insane intrusion into the lives of American farmers and consumers—and something that has 'til now pretty much flown beneath major media radar.

She's talking about the "Draft Strategic Plan"issued by the USDA last April, spelling out steps it intends to take to implement a National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

NAIS, in short, would require every owner of even a single animal to register his/her home with a national tracking system, including Global Positing Coordinates (for satellite tracking) and implant or tag every animal with a radio frequency device (RFID).

For small- and medium-scale farmers this means implanting a microchip into every single heifer, sow, hen, duckling; footing the bill for the cost of it all; and facing fines and even imprisonment for noncompliance.

Apparently, there have been a few setbacks to the timeline, but by most accounts, unless there is a HUGE uproar against it, the NAIS will become mandatory. Now they're saying by 2009. There are already mandatory programs in place in Texas and Wisconsin. (Update: Texas just backed down (temporarily, at least) from mandatory premises registration—thanks to widespread and strenuous objections....)

Would it surprise anyone to learn that the original impetus for a nationwide animal I.D. program came from a private membership group, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA)? Who's in this group? Cargill, Monsanto, Schering-Plough and the National Pork Producers Council. Big ag is all for NAIS, because apparently it'll make it easier for U.S. producers to export meats to foreign markets. And industrial meat-producers won't have to tag every single on of their animals. A batch ID will do for them. But the little backyard operator will be saddled with a ridiculous amount of record-keeping, registration (of births, deaths, every coming and going of every animal)...

And of course this scheme does NOTHING to make America's food supply safer.

Zanoni has a quite thorough reaction to the draft plan, which is flawed on several important grounds, each one of which would be reason enough to throw the whole thing out:
1. Constitutional infirmities of the proposed program;
2. An enormous economic cost to animal owners, the States, the Department, and, ultimately, to American taxpayers and consumers for a program likely to be ineffectual;
3. Weaknesses in the stated rationales for the program;
4. A lack of consideration of alternative, far cheaper and more easily administered measures which would more effectively protect animal health and food security; and
5. A lack of notice and an opportunity to be heard for medium-scale, small-scale, and home farmers, and for other citizens owning livestock solely for their own use or pleasure, in the Department's process thus far.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Just a flesh wound...

"My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with. We hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves."
--Harry Whittington

Rogers: I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor.

Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.

Rogers: But the police have film of Dinsdale actually nailing your head to the floor.

Stig: (pause) Oh yeah, he did that.

Rogers: Why?

Stig: Well he had to, didn't he? I mean there was nothing else he could do, be fair. I had transgressed the unwritten law.

Rogers: What had you done?

Stig: Er... well he didn't tell me that, but he gave me his word that it was the case, and that's good enough for me with old Dinsy. I mean, he didn't want to nail my head to the floor. I had to insist. He wanted to let me off. He'd do anything for you, Dinsdale would.

Rogers: And you don't bear him a grudge?

Stig: A grudge! Old Dinsy. He was a real darling.

Rogers: I understand he also nailed your wife's head to a coffee table. Isn't that true Mrs O' Tracy?

Mrs O' Tracy: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Stig: Well he did do that, yeah. He was a hard man. Vicious but fair.

Vince Snetterton-Lewis agreed with this judgement.

Yes, definitely he was fair. After he nailed me head to the table, I used to go round every Sunday lunchtime to his flat and apologise, and then we'd shake hands and he'd nail me head to the floor. He was very reasonable. Once, one Sunday I told him my parents were coming round to tea and would he mind very much not nailing my head that week and he agreed and just screwed my pelvis to a cake stand."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Who thinks they DON'T have a plan?

Jon Stewart made a joke about invading Canada the other night while interviewing energy expert Peter Tertzakian.

Since Canada is the largest supplier of oil, natural gas and electricity to the United States, he wondered, "Why aren't we invading them?"

Funny, right?

Well, apparently, this isn't new news, since the documents in question were declassified 30-some years ago, but as the Washington Post reported at the end of December:

It sounds like a joke but it's not. War Plan Red is real. It was drawn up and approved by the War Department in 1930, then updated in 1934 and 1935. It was declassified in 1974 and the word "SECRET" crossed out with a heavy pencil. Now it sits in a little gray box in the National Archives in College Park, available to anybody, even Canadian spies. They can photocopy it for 15 cents a page.

War Plan Red was actually designed for a war with England. In the late 1920s, American military strategists developed plans for a war with Japan (code name Orange), Germany (Black), Mexico (Green) and England (Red). The Americans imagined a conflict between the United States (Blue) and England over international trade: "The war aim of RED in a war with BLUE is conceived to be the definite elimination of BLUE as an important economic and commercial rival."

In the event of war, the American planners figured that England would use Canada (Crimson) -- then a quasi-pseudo-semi-independent British dominion -- as a launching pad for "a direct invasion of BLUE territory." That invasion might come overland, with British and Canadian troops attacking Buffalo, Detroit and Albany. Or it might come by sea, with amphibious landings on various American beaches -- including Rehoboth and Ocean City, both of which were identified by the planners as "excellent" sites for a Brit beachhead.

The planners anticipated a war "of long duration" because "the RED race" is "more or less phlegmatic" but "noted for its ability to fight to a finish." Also, the Brits could be reinforced by "colored" troops from their colonies: "Some of the colored races however come of good fighting stock, and, under white leadership, can be made into very efficient troops."

That piece, by staff writer Peter Carlson, ends on an off note, with the kind of joke Ann Coulter or Tucker Carlson would make:
But it would be kinda fun to see Celine Dion and Mike Myers wearing orange jumpsuits down in Guantanamo.


That Guantanamo, always good for a punchline. And "eh?"—brilliant. What a keen observer of Canadian diction.

Another take, posted on Counterpunch today, by Floyd Rudmin of the University of Troms, Norway, sees the humor in this story, as well as a not-so-funny undercurrent.

Rudmin writes:
If U.S. war plans for the conquest of Canada provoke laughter, that is a comment on those who are laughing, not a comment on the war plans. In its day, War Plan RED was not meant to be funny. The 1928 draft stated that "it should be made quite clear to Canada that in a war she would suffer grievously." The 1930 draft stated that "large parts of CRIMSON territory [i.e. Canada] will become theaters of military operations with consequent suffering to the population and widespread destruction and devastation of the country..." In October 1934, the Secretary of War and Secretary of Navy approved an amendment authorizing the strategic bombing of Halifax, Montreal and Quebec City by "immediate air operations on as large a scale as practicable." A second amendment, also approved at the Cabinet level, directed the U.S. Army, in capital letters, "TO MAKE ALL NECESSARY PREPARATIONS FOR THE USE OF CHEMICAL WARFARE FROM THE OUTBREAK OF WAR. THE USE OF CHEMICAL WARFARE, INCLUDING THE USE OF TOXIC AGENTS, FROM THE INCEPTION OF HOSTILITIES, IS AUTHORIZED..."

The lugubrious conclusion made by Mr. (Dr.?) Rudmin is one I've been coming around to for some time now. As godawful evil and incompetent as the current administration has been, they did not just appear out of the blue. They just saw some attitudes that were already well established and took them to a logical (illogical?) extreme.

[T]he core of the militarism that is endangering America and driving us into bankruptcy, disdain, and dishonor is not new. The fundamental causes of the Iraq war cannot be found in contemporary geopolitics nor in the personalities of the Bush administration, as so many critics of the war think. There is something wrong at a much deeper level in American political culture. The American malady of militarism extends across decades, across generations, and is so deeply rooted in the American mind that attacking another nation seems to be the natural, spontaneous reaction of choice.
In fact, the U.S.A. is the least threatened nation on the planet. Its geographic, demographic, and economic size, and its location, give it far greater security than Russia, or Holland, or Hungary, or France, or Finland, or Iraq, or Iran. These nations are easily attacked from several sides, and in modern history have been thus attacked. These nations have reason to be fearful, but in fact are less fearful than is America. Certainly it is impossible for foreign forces to invade and occupy the U.S.A. even should the U.S. have the most minimal defenses.

But Americans feel more threatened than most other people on the planet. The U.S. military budget now exceeds that of all other nations combined. The U.S.A. is now the only nation with two defense departments; one to defend the homeland and one to....to do what? To project "defense" of America outside of our borders into other nations? That is normally called "aggression."
The whole article's worth reading.

Oh, and the Post reporter did ask a Pentagon flak about the status of Canadian invasion plans. His answer: "The Defense Department never talks about its contingency plans for any countries. We don't acknowledge which countries we have contingency plans for."

Note to flak: You know, you work for the Pentagon. This kind of honesty isn't necessary, and it's certainly not expected from someone in your position.

Not much reassurance, though, for our friends up north.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sedition—yes, sedition

Think it's too early to worry that the gubmint is gonna seize your computer if you write a letter to the editor about Iraq? Wrong again, borracho breath.

Maybe V.A. nurse specialist Ann Berg thought she was just, you know, voicing an opinion as part of her democratic right—nay, duty! But there's a dusty spot at her work station where her computer used to be, and the feds are investigating her for sedition.

See Editor & Publisher for the complete story.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D—New Mexico) is looking into it, and with characteristic senatorial understatement, opined:
Merely opposing government policies and expressing a desire to change course "does not provide reason to believe that a person is involved in illegal subversive activity," he said. Bingaman said such investigations raise "a very real possibility of chilling legitimate political speech."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Calling Chevy Chase

A young Dick, pictured here with his mentor, to whom
perhaps he should be more often compared...

Malevolence or incompetence—or both?

That has always been the problem with sizing up Cheney/Bush. Are they evil geniuses doing what they intend to do, or are they just fucking up?

Did they destroy Iraq on purpose, or by accident? To this day, I still don't have a clue.

The malevolence is beyond doubt, in either case, and the results point to someone, er, unfit for command.

Anyway, came across this excellent summary of how Cheney's hunting mishap is the last five and a half years in microcosm, courtesy of a "reader jeff" comment on a firedoglake thread:
I think this is dangerous territory for Cheney et al. There is no good explanation for this, other than being drunk or stupid. Anti-gun people are going to hate the whole thing. Gun people like me are going to hate that he was such a complete idiot.

I think, as other have pointed out, that this is a microcosm of the whole administration:

1. Try to play tough, with a gun, or an army.

2. Fail to follow well-established rules, guidelines, and past experience (either out of ignorance or willful disregard, or both).

3. Get someone hurt or killed.

4. Try to keep the story under wraps for as long as possible.

5. When the story does come out, spin it so that there was no possible way the administration did anything wrong.

6. Blame someone else, where possible, blame the victim.

7. Make anyone who has a problem with it look like an un-American pussy.

Dick: How will they spin an 18-HOUR gap?

Editor and Publisher is all over the 18-hour gap.

Eighteen hours! The vice president shoots a man in the face! And no one hears about it for 18 hours.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cheney = toast ?

In a real democracy, anyway, he would be. This guy should be in shackles.

With yet more evidence of blatant, treasonous illegality on the part of the Defense Contactor in Chief, Juan Cole takes a retrospective look at the Cheney/Libby/Niger/Colin Powell/Plame thread of the not-so-silent coup d'etat we've been suffering through for the past five or six years.

Also,from Peter Phillips of Project Censored, more old-ish news, but it sort of puts things in perspective:
The US now spends as much for defense as the rest of the world combined. The Pentagon's budget for buying new weapons rose from $61 billion in 2001 to over $80 billion in 2004. Lockheed Martin's sales rose by over 30% at the same time, with tens of billions of dollars on the books for future purchases. From 2000 to 2004, Lockheed Martin's stock value rose 300%. Northrup-Grumann saw similar growth with DoD contracts rising from $3.2 billion in 2001 to $11.1 billion in 2004. Halliburton, with Dick Cheney as former CEO, had defense contracts totaling $427 million in 2001. By 2003, they had $4.3 billion in defense contracts, of which approximately a third were sole source agreements.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

We have the evil party...

... and the pathetic party.

Left I has a nice (and thoroughly depressing) summary of where the opposition party stands on the issue of attacking still another sovereign country (and one that—shock of all shocks—happens to be sitting on an ocean of oil) on the basis of bullshit accusations: they're all for it.

Wesley Clark, that gentle bomber of Belgrade, sez we can do this with fourteen days of bombing and at a poll at putatitely progressive Daily Kos "has 24% voting for 'force' to 'take out' Iran's nuclear facilities, and another 21% for sanctions."

Basically, a significant (and significantly plugged in) faction of the Democrats is indicating it will back another war of aggression on Iran.

Time to rename the Department of Defense

Calling it the DOD doesn't quite cover it anymore, as Ivan Eland explains. Very little of the Pentagon's game has to do with defending anything. According to Eland, in fact, "most of the [Pentagon's budget] will be spent on offensively-oriented U.S. forces and enhance their ability to rapidly conduct imperial forays in far-flung corners of the world, including the Middle East."

So instead of DOD, how about DOO, Department of Offense. Doo? Nah. That would be a gaffe along the lines of Operation Iraqi Liberation—OIL. Department of Offensive Measures, DOOM? More like it.

It drives me crazy, but one of the cherished articles of faith among Americans is that "we" need a strong defense. Maybe so, but there is the little matter of having oceans on either side and friendly neighbors north and south. And not many take a second to compare this idea of a strong "defense" with what we actually have—an absurdly expensive and inefficient array of attack equipment, getting more expensive and inefficient by the day:

The Bush administration’s newly released Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), outlining its defense strategy, forces, and weapons programs, and its accompanying defense budget demonstrate that throwing money at national defense won’t make Americans safer at home. This bloated defense budget, already more than $500 billion per year (including the expenses for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), will be hiked by 7 percent. Yet most of that budget will not be spent on “defense,” which is only a small part of the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) budget. Instead, most of the money will be spent on offensively-oriented U.S. forces and enhance their ability to rapidly conduct imperial forays in far-flung corners of the world, including the Middle East. Since retaliation for such adventures is the reason terrorist groups strike U.S. targets, Americans can expect more such attacks at home and abroad. Even the new counterterrorism strategy of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admits that ill-conceived military operations could swell the ranks of terrorists.

Monday, February 06, 2006

"Shut up or I wll kill you"

Carol Fisher, public enemy?

A 53-year-old executive assistant from Cleveland writes of her treatment at the hands of some of the local gendarmerie:
I drove down a street in Cleveland Heights, another area known for its diversity and progressive history. This street was badly in need of postering too and though i was in a big hurry, I couldnt drive on without getting up a few signs. Before long a cop called from across the street: "Ma'am! Hundred dollar fine for doing that!" Oh really, since when? Another way of keeping us from getting the word out, eh? But not wanting to get arrested, I said ok and put up my staplegun and walked away. But that wasnt the end of it. "Ma'am! Hundred dollar fine unless you take those posters down." He is pursuing me across the street. Damn! OK fine, I say, I will take them down (not wanting to get into a confrontation, because I have lots to do today!) But this too is not enough for the cop. He wants my ID. I say I dont have my ID. He grabs my arm. I say let go of me, I am not doing anything wrong, I will take the posters down. People are watching to see what happens, are outraged but very afraid. The cop wont let go, he clearly wants more grief from me, and he is in the spotlight. He wants people to be scared. He pushes me against a store window and next thing I know I am face down on the sidewalk with two cops on top of me, one with his knee in my back. I am trying to call out to people, to tell them what the posters are about. They keep pushing my face into the sidewalk. I cant breathe.

I have osteoradionecrosis in my jaw, resulting from radiation treatments for cancer. My jawbone is slowly deteriorating, is very fragile, and doesnt heal well. I am 53 years old, not exactly a spring chicken. A hand comes down again to push my chin against the concrete. By this time there are four cops on the scene. My hands are tightly cuffed behind my back. They lift me up and shove me onto a parkbench and shackle my legs. I am still calling out, telling people what this is about. One of the cops says to me, "Shut up or I will kill you!", "I am sick of this anti-Bush shit!" "You are definitely going to the psyche ward." Then somebody calls the EMS, and a fire squad shows up. The cop superviser appears and puts his finger in my face: "I dont like it when people treat my men like this and if you don't obey the law you will suffer the consequences." I am lifted into the EMS truck, hands still cuffed behind my back. I ask to make a call and this is refused, but a fireman offers to make a quick call for me. If not for this, no one would have known where I was or what was happening, a fate shared by many immigrants in this country. At the hospital, I am treated as an arch-criminal. Escorted by four policemen, I shuffle into the emergency room, legs still shackled, covered with leaves and mud. I think to myself, if I was Black, I would not have made it this far. I would probably be dead by now. People in the emergency room are shocked by the scene and by what I am saying happened. I probably do look pretty crazy by now.

They put me on a gurney and pull the curtains around. One female nurse and four male cops. They want me to undress in front of the cops. I refuse. The cops refuse to leave. Finally the nurse shields my body with a gown as I undress and put on hospital clothes. I am cuffed to the bed, and two cops remain guarding me the whole time. They put in an IV. I have no idea what they have in mind....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union

"We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it," he said with a straight face.

Apparently, not freedom to wear the t-shirt of one's choosing.

After a weird series of news bulletins (many of which claimed, with no basis whatsoever, that Sheehan had unfurled a banner), Sheehan herself tells of her arrest on Counterpunch:

My ticket was in the 5th gallery, front row, fourth seat in. The person who in a few minutes was to arrest me, helped me to my seat. I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled; "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs.

.... I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things...I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately, and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct."

After I had my personal items inventoried and my fingers printed, a nice Sgt. came in and looked at my shirt and said, "2245, huh? I just got back from there." I told him that my son died there.

That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights. I have lost the country that I love. Where did America go? I started crying in pain.