Monday, September 29, 2008

"Taxi to the Dark Side" on HBO Tonight

Check your local listings for times. The Academy Award winner for Best Documentary of 2008, by Alex Gibney, who wore an orange ribbon on stage when accepting the award, is being shown tonight on HBO. See it!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Diane Arbusian Moment


Diane Arbus is famous for her photographs of freaks. Stan Honda of AFP-Getty Images was channeling Arbus in this photo of Palin with Kissinger.

"Rising up from a source deep in my subconscious. I saw a woman fully aware that she was out of her league, scared out of her wits, hanging on for dear life. I saw this in the sag of her back in her serious black suit, in the position of her hands, crossed modestly atop her knees, and in that 'Mad Men'-era updo, ever unchanging, like a good luck charm."

-- from "Poor Sarah," by Judith Warner in the New York Times, September 25, 2008.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bailing out regular folks not in Obama's plans

From "Mortgage help for bankrupt homeowners dropped"
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and DAVID ESPO, Associated Press Writers

"WASHINGTON - House Democrats say the idea of letting judges rewrite mortgages to help bankrupt homeowners avoid foreclosure won't be a part of the $700 billion financial industry bailout.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told Democrats at a closed-door meeting Friday evening the provision would be a deal-breaker for Republicans who she has said must deliver substantial votes for the rescue plan. That's according to several lawmakers who attended the session.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama had said earlier that the measure didn't belong in the bailout."

***

Obama says the measure doesn't belong. Regular folks don't merit a bailout. The plutocracy gets in trouble because regulations controlling their actions were lifted so the "free market" can do its "magic," and the plutocrats act heedless of the consequences, making obscene amounts of money, and when the joy ride is about to crash and burn the government comes to their rescue.

This is what an Obama presidency will look like!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The "Miami Model" in the Twin Cities

See this article, "Twin Study: Repression at the Republican National Convention."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poisoned Legacy: the Bush Regime, the Democrats, the Mass Media and the American People

Go here to read this piece by me. It went up at Counterpunch first, but the CP version doesn't display the links within it that the one posted now at World Can't Wait does.

Subject: Urgent Message from Minister of Treasury

[Courtesy of David Swanson]

Dear Excellent Friend:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion USD. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, lobbyist for UBS, who (God willing) will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a former U.S. congressional leader and the architect of the PALIN / McCain Financial Doctrine, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. As such, you can be assured that this transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully,
Henry Paulson
Minister of Treasury
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

PS: Ignore anything you read at http://afterdowningstreet.org.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

By Tim Wise

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege,
or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of
it, perhaps this list will help.

1. White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like
Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of
your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge
you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as
black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly
typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

2. White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin'
redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if
anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about
how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a
responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than
a thug.

3. White privilege is when you can attend four different
colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically
failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a
community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment
to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed
as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first
place because of affirmative action.

4. White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a
town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a
state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the
island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and
people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black
U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar,
means you're "untested."

5. White privilege is being able to say that you support the
words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good
enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be
immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the
pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't
added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals
and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which
you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a
dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

6. White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not
make people immediately scared of you. White privilege is being able to
have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that
wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska
first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family,
while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11
memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school,
people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

7. White privilege is being able to make fun of community
organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the
right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or
an end to child labor--and people think you're being pithy and tough,
but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and
18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she
took in college--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

8. White privilege is being able to convince white women who
don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and
your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the
ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them
give your party a "second look."

9. White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't
support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your
power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while
being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political
machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

10. White privilege is being able to attend churches over the
years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely
criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an
explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring
Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in
speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on
Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a
good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a
black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department
of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign
policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black
people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

11. White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is
when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for
asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely
refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means
you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and
nuanced.

12. White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a
POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while
being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to
it a "light" burden.

13. And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could
possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George
W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing,
people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is
increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters
aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too
vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which
is very concrete and certain.

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me (Soft Skull, 2005,
revised 2008), and of Speaking Treason Fluently, publishing this month,
also by Soft Skull. For review copies or interview requests, please
reply to publicity@softskull.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back At You!

More of what an Obama presidency would look like can be seen unfolding in Pakistan now.

La plus ca change, la plus c'est la meme chose:

"The United States is suddenly faced with the uncomfortable scenario of confronting the very same weapons and military hardware, including F-16 fighter jets, it has armed Pakistan with for decades. The unsavoury prospect of having to take a crack at the its one-time ally has surfaced most starkly in the skies over the Afghan-Pakistan border this weekend after the Pakistan Air Force deployed its US-supplied F-16s to challenge the violation of its airspace by US drones, and in one case, an airborne assault that landed US Navy Seals inside Pakistani territory."

See the rest of this at The Times of India, 9/14/08.

On the Radio

I'm going to be a guest of Michael Slate on KPFK today 90.7 FM, Tuesday, 9/16/08 at 5 pm PST. I'll be on for about 20 minutes, talking mostly about my recent article posted here. If you're not in the listening area you can tune in either live or listen to the archived edition online at http://www.kpfk.org/.

Pakistan: the New Cambodia

See this very informative essay by William Pfaff: "The New 'Invasion of Cambodia.'"

Pfaff notes, among other things, that the Taliban was created by Pakistani Intelligence in order to cooperate with and facilitate the U.S.'s backing of the mujahideen in their proxy war against the USSR in Afghanistan. Pakistan, in other words, was doing its part for U.S. schemes.

Both Pakistan and the U.S. managed to generate their own blowback, just as Israel did in 1982 when it invaded Lebanon in an effort to wipe out the PLO, most dramatically and grievously by facilitating and allowing the Sabra-Shatila massacre of Palestinians left defenseless when PLO forces under Yassir Arafat accepted evacuation instead of staying and fighting.

In so doing, Israel succeeded not in destroying the PLO but in creating a more militant version of the PLO: the Hezbollah.

The suicide bomber tactic that has so plagued Israel since and that Israel cites as a reason why its terrorist opponents are so horrible, was developed by Hezbollah because of Israel's attack.

Can there be any more dramatic an example of blowback than this - other than, of course, 9/11?

Pakistan is both a powder keg and a nation with nuclear weapons. What harvest of bitter fruit are Bush and Obama reaping?

Mondale and Me (More FISA Revelations)

by Cindy Sheehan

I was flying back to the states from Kristiansand, Norway, after receiving an award and was flying on the leg from Oslo to London. The flight's purser pointed out one of my "countrymen" sitting in 2D. I had already been recognized on the flight by the crew because I had won the award and been on Norwegian TV. The purser pointed to seat 2D and told me that it was Walter Mondale.

I looked and did a double take, because he did not look so much like Mondale from about 10 feet away. I was eventually convinced that it was Walter Mondale (Former Senator from Minnesota; Jimmy Carter's VP, Democratic presidential Candidate in 1984 and Ambassador to Japan during the Clinton administration). So being the shrinking violet that I am, I immediately went to introduce myself.

After we established who I was and that he supported "Nancy" even though I was a "wonderful person," he looked at me and said: "Boy wasn't the FISA thing awful?" I said, "Yes, it's awful and my opponent supported it." He returned with: "Oh, I don't think she was really for it." My last question went unanswered: "Well if she was against it, why would she allow it to go to a vote, as Speaker, and then vote for it, as a member?" Note: On many controversial votes, Pelosi often does not vote, on the FISA Act she voted the wrong way.

Our chat was then over because he said: "Nice to meet you, good luck with everything," and looked back down at the paperwork he was reading. I had been dismissed for asking a question that has no reasonable answer. Nancy allowed the Act to come to a vote and voted for it, against the wishes of our liberal district, because SHE WAS FOR RETROACTIVE IMMUNITY. Not only are telecoms some of Pelosi's biggest donors, she has been in on the illegal wiretapping crimes from the beginning. As a member of the Democratic minority leaderhip's "Gang of Four" with Jane Harman (D-CA), Steny Hoyer, (D-MD), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), not only was the gang briefed on Bush's FISA felonies, they were also briefed on torture. There was and is a rightful outcry on the FISA abuses (if the crimes weren't retroactively legalized, the penalites for breaking FISA laws are steep), but to me, torture is a crime against humanity and, in my opinion, that issue, and lying to a nation about going to war and funding war, are the ones on which the Gang of Four and the Bush Crime Mob should be held accountable.

Ever wonder why "impeachment" has always been inexplicably "off" of Pelosi's table?" Ever wonder why the most criminal and corrupt administration, in this country's long and checkered history that is liberally peppered with corruption and violence, is going to walk away and be allowed to live the rest of their lives in relative comfort and ease? Ever wonder why Pelosi's Congress has an approval rating under double digits? It's because the twin parties of corruption are the "Lawmakers" and the "Lawbreakers." How can Mondale credibly say that Pelosi did not "support" the legislation when she voted "Yea?" Did he mean that it is common for one to sell out his/her constituents and his/her principles when money and crime and punishment are involved?

Walter Mondale (a man whom I voted for three times) has been a political insider for generations and would not even broach the subject of accountability with me. Ever wonder why the system was allowed to decay so far that it appears that only a miracle can save it now from total socio-economic destruction?

This nation is in dire straits partially because of blind allegiance to a two-party monopoly (I used to say "duopoly," but what's the use?) that only exists to perpetuate itself and the unscrupulous system that supports it. That system built of popsicle sticks and set on a shaky foundation will soon go the way of all Empires unless our "leadership" becomes more responsive to the people's needs and less concerned with their bank accounts and personal power trips.

"Change" will not come from inside the monopoly. How much more proof do we need?

Monday, September 15, 2008

"If America bombs moderate sensibilities often enough, you may find that its actions are the best recruiting sergeant that the extremists ever had."

The above quote comes from the leading English language newspaper in Pakistan The News, as reported by The Australian on September 13, 2008:

"What amounts to a dramatic order to 'kill the invaders,' as one senior officer put it last night, was disclosed after the commanders - who control the army's deployments at divisional level - met at their headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi under the chairmanship of army chief and former ISI spy agency boss Ashfaq Kayani.

"Leading English-language newspaper The News warned in an editorial that the US determination to attack targets inside Pakistan was likely to be 'the best recruiting sergeant that the extremists ever had,' with even 'moderates' outraged by it."

The Australian goes on to report:

"The 'kill' order against invading forces, and the sharp deterioration in relations with the US, has far-reaching implications for the war on terror.

"Anger at all levels in Pakistani society was summed up last night in The News, not normally sympathetic to the militants.

"'There is an escalating sense of furious impotence among the ordinary people of Pakistan,' the newspaper said.

"'Many - perhaps most - of them are strongly opposed to the spread of Talibanisation and extremist influence across the country: people who might be described as "moderates."

"'Many of them have no sympathy for the mullahs and their burning of girls' schools and their medieval mindset.'

"'But if you bomb a moderate sensibility often enough, it has a tendency to lose its sense of objectivity and to feel driven in the direction of extremism.'"

Apparently, this is not, for even moderate Pakistanis who despise the Taliban and al-Qaeda extremists, the "change they can believe in."

From the Daily News, another Pakistani English language paper, on September 14, 2008:

Tribesmen say they are with army, warn US

Staff Report

MIRANSHAH: Tribal elders in North Waziristan on Saturday vowed to defend the country’s frontiers by fighting alongside security forces against any ‘possible American attack’.

Malak Nasrullah, Malak Qadar Khan, Malak Mamoor, Malak Muhammad Afzal Khan, Malak Mumtaz and Malak Habibullah welcomed Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani’s statement, adding that it was the voice of eight million tribesmen.

They said that if the American forces did not stop attacking the Tribal Areas, they would feel the repercussions of such attacks in Kabul, Bagram and Kandahar.

The elders said that their tribal brethren living on the Afghan side would also join the fight, as the foreign troops were subjecting them to gross injustices.

And finally, from the Guardian on September 15, 2008:

Pakistani tribal chiefs threaten to join Taliban
· US warned of uprising if armed incursions continue
· New counter-terror policy backfires on Washington

The article begins:

"A controversial new US tactic to mount counter-terrorist operations inside Pakistan has met with fresh hostility, it emerged yesterday, as Pakistani tribesmen representing half a million people vowed to switch sides and join the Taliban if Washington does not stop cross-border attacks by its forces from Afghanistan.

"Reacting to American missile attacks in north Waziristan last week, which followed an unprecedented cross-border ground assault earlier this month, tribal chiefs from the area called an emergency meeting on Saturday.

"'If America doesn't stop attacks in tribal areas, we will prepare a lashkar [army] to attack US forces in Afghanistan,' tribal chief Malik Nasrullah announced in Miran Shah, north Waziristan's largest city. 'We will also seek support from the tribal elders in Afghanistan to fight jointly against America.'"

"The development threatens to widen the conflict, with previously moderate people from Pakistan's tribal border region with Afghanistan in danger of joining Taliban militants based in the area. They have reacted furiously to intensified American missile attacks on targets in the tribal territory in recent weeks."

...

"'If the Americans are coming to sort it out with force, they would create more enemies. The Americans might have supersonic jets and we might have to fight with stones in our hands, but we will stand up.'"

Read the rest of this article here.

---

In the name of fighting extremists and terrorists, the US is engaging in war crimes and state terror, creating enemies among those who hate al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but who now, in what should come as no surprise to anyone, are deeply offended, angered, provoked and victimized by the US's willful attacks on their country and people.

These attacks upon and in Pakistan were advocated by Obama beginning in August 0f 2007. The Bush regime adopted it in July 2008.

Is this the change we can believe in?

"I Need You To Hold Still, Sir, Please."

Watched "No Country for Old Men" again last night. A magnificent film.

The quote above comes from the hired killer Anton Chigurh's request of a motorist that Chigurh stops so that Chigurh can steal the guy's car. The poor motorist doesn't know what's about to hit him as Chigurh asks him to stand still as he places the cattle slaughtering device (a captive bolt pistol) on the man's forehead and then pulls the trigger.

The poor guy stopped in the first place because Chigurh was driving a sheriff's car.

Beware of killers driving in official vehicles.

The Chigurh quote really ought to be the slogan for the GOP and the Democratic Parties this season.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Andrew Sullivan on Obama's Foreign Policy

"Obama Leads In Foreign Policy, Bush Follows" writes The Atlantic Magazine's Andrew Sullivan on 9/12/08 about Bush's adoption of Obama's recommendations that the US shouldn't observe the territorial integrity of Pakistan and should launch military actions against al-Qaeda as it sees fit, regardless of what Pakistan may want.

And Andrew means this as a compliment to Obama!

Without going into a great deal of detail here, it is, after all, a Sunday and atheists also need a day of rest, and one can read more about this here, let me ask the following: exactly what kind of world do we live in where one of our presidential candidates is lauded for advocating the violating of international law, a mirror of what the Bush regime did in invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq?

Is it better because al-Qaeda is really in Pakistan?

Do you think that this strategy of antagonizing the invaded country's people by killing innocents (such as we have done and continue to do in Afghanistan and Iraq) is going to create hostility to al-Qaeda? How does this work?

Even if you do succeed in killing off some of the al-Qaeda leaders, it's really elementary logic that the key sources of support and ongoing recruitment for anti-state terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda (what keeps them in business and makes them more than a fringe group) is precisely the state terrorist actions that led to and maintain the Iraq invasion and that undergirds the expansion of this into Pakistan and escalating it in Afghanistan - as Obama wants to do.

You don't kill off a movement by creating and expanding upon the grounds that provide the ongoing recruitment into that movement. You don't douse a fire by drowning it in gallons and gallons of gasoline.

But then, even if this is elementary logic, that doesn't mean that everyone's going to see it, does it? It's easier to go through life with blinders on, except when a Mack Truck barrels down on you from the side and you don't see it. By then it's too late, isn't it?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shock and Awe Comes Home to Roost

Published 9/13/08 at Counterpunch.

"Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.” – Sarah Palin at the RNC

[T]he looser ‘preemptive strike’ rationale being applied to situations abroad could migrate back home, fostering a more permissive attitude on the part of law enforcement officers in this country.” – FBI Special Agent Colleen Rowley

We followed our [RNC] Welcoming Committee members to many cities around the country. We consulted with the terrorism task force in those cities. We received information, etc. [Did you have infiltrators?] Yes, we did. [Were they paid?] Yes.” - Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher

[S]ix or seven officers came into my cell… one officer punched me in the face…And then they slammed—and I fell to the ground, unconscious. And the officer grabbed me by the head, slammed my head on the ground and re-awoke me …to consciousness. I was bleeding everywhere. … They put a bag over my head that had a gag on it. And they used pain compliance tactics on me for about an hour and a half. They pressed—they separated my jaw as hard as they could with their fingers…. They …bent my foot backwards. I was screaming for God and like screaming for mercy, crying, asking them why they were doing this.” - Elliot Hughes, member of the RNC Welcoming Committee, arrested at gunpoint days before the RNC, charged along with the other RNC8 Defendants with “conspiring to riot in furtherance of terrorism.”

The police state actions before and during the RNC are not a dystopic America but the real America of 2008 and a harbinger of even worse to come. Beneath the carefully staged and tightly cordoned off circus of “democracy” at the convention rots the corpse of the Bill of Rights:

Of what significance can a person’s right to see the charges leveled against them be when there’s a war on terrorists to be waged? What need do people accused of crimes have to see who has accused them – are they not guilty by virtue of being accused? What end is fulfilled to allow the accused to cross-examine their accusers? Why waste the court’s time with such absurdities? What purpose does it serve to have perfectly good evidence ruled inadmissible, so what if it was extracted employing electric shock and waterboarding? These people are guilty, guilty, guilty! Why just look at them: do they not look guilty? What more evidence do we need? 9/11! 9/11! 9/11! We must wring the truth out of them, whatever it takes, the preservation of freedom demands it! Planting police undercover officers in the ranks of these protestors and provoking them into doing illegal or violent acts, even if those undercover officers have to do it all themselves, is necessary to protect the precious rights we enjoy as Americans. Country First! Anyone who dares tell us that we must not violate Constitutional rights in order to protect Constitutional rights deserves waterboarding! Strap him down! Give me that bucket of water! I’ll show him who’s free!

* * *

It was only a matter of time before the obscenity of war crimes and torture being carried out on other countries and peoples would return home to be inflicted directly upon Americans who dare to speak out against these atrocities.

It isn’t only Arabs and Muslims anymore. It isn’t only American citizens who’ve converted to Islam. It’s now American citizens – whatever their religious views - who can be summarily rounded up in pre-emptive actions, charged with terrorism, and tortured - on the grounds that they might do something.

Bush declared “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.” Except our malapropist president has uttered a tautology once again: being part of “us” means being one of the terrorists. It means defending the use of monstrous measures in the name of fighting monsters. As Pogo put it: “We have met the enemy and he is US.”

Unhinged from the Law and from Facts

Accusing someone of being a terrorist, like the magical incantation of witches and warlocks, turns any feeble twig into an invincible sword. Invoking “national security” allows the White House and its representatives to do and say anything at all.

You can almost hear Bush saying this under his breath: “It’s good to be king.” Only, come to think of it, he’s said out loud a number of times: “If this were a dictatorship things would be a heck of a lot easier – just as long as I’m the dictator.”

It’s good to listen in on anybody’s conversations, peer over their shoulders at their email, track their financial transactions and inspect their associates.

What has Congress – the People’s Representatives - done to monitor the country against the predations of dictators and the whims of police agents?

Congress has peered down the precipice of an unchecked executive branch and they have jumped in feet first, but not without – God be Praised! - waving their American flag pins and bibles as they descend down the bottomless pit, into the infamy reserved for those who looked tyrants in the face and cringed like cowards.

But there’s a new president coming! Surely he will save the Republic!

“Change” “change” “change” they cry.

In the face of an openly lawless, felonious, war crimes, spying and lying White House they will rescue us, no doubt!

“[Y]ou reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the President’s authority.” -- Barack Obama

Whaa..at?! Are you saying that Bush and Cheney have not intentionally breached their authority? What country have you been living in? Are these not grave, grave breaches – even if the standard for impeachment was as high as you say it is, which it isn’t? What could be graver than this? Perhaps arresting your political rivals in the Democratic Party and torturing them – would that rise to the standard? How long before something like that happens?

“Change” “change” “change” they cry.

Are not their change invocations so appealing to so many because of the failure of Obama, McCain, Biden and others to stop the White House and the government from doing the things that need to be changed?

When those who are the guardians of the ship of state fail to do their duties, what happens to the ship? Who will police the police?

The police will police the police. Surely you trust the police? You’re not one of those commie-pinko-terrorists, are you? Hold still while I turn you in to Homeland Security.

The Unbearable Darkness of Duplicity

If agents provocateurs are infiltrating protesters’ ranks and engaging in violent and provocative acts to justify police crackdowns, then what’s to become of civil liberties, freedom of speech and assembly, the right to dissent and the health of civil society? Are the police and the government not now in possession of “Get Out of Jail Free” cards with which they can do absolutely everything and get away with it? Is this not recognizable as the tried and true plaints of scoundrels, authoritarians, fascists and tyrants?

When you give unlimited powers to the government with the only restraint the equivalent of the foxes guarding the hen house what do you expect to get? Do you think that you will be safe? Because if you do, you’re the world’s biggest fool and you deserve the fate you get.

If you’re not one of these then it’s time to show it and stand up. If you’re against this but don’t show it then it doesn’t count. If you act but act too late then it doesn’t matter.

There are no “maybe it will get better” rationales left if you’re paying any attention.

Speak out against the railroading of the RNC 8 because they stand in the breach against the flood that is coming that will drown us all.

The shooting of wolves from helicopters is not a metaphor here for the people, is it?

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Window On How Public Policy Is Actually Made

Headlined at OpEd News on 9/14/08 under the title: "Repression in Minneapolis and Pakistan."


Two items in the news offer us rare glimpses into how public policy is actually arrived at and what differences there really are between Democrats, even progressive Democrats - let alone centrists such as Obama - and Republicans.

The first item concerns the Minneapolis City Council’s role in the police state tactics used at the St. Paul RNC and the other item concerns foreign policy and Pakistan in particular.

Both are related directly to the so-called war on terror: what both major parties call the central issue of our time.

It is clear that the fulcrum for today’s politics involves the “war on terror” and whether the dominant paradigm about it that both major parties subscribe to will carry the day, or a different paradigm wins out that originates from among the people.

First item:

At OpEd News on September 11, 2008 Michael Calvan reported the inside dirty dealing in the all progressives Minneapolis City Council in which the council gave the green light to the police to use the storm trooper tactics before and during the RNC. I quote from the piece at some length as follows:

"In the months before the Republicans came to town, there had been a flurry of activity. Local activists were keeping a close eye on their local elected officials. Initially, there had been a so called Free Speech Committee set up, supposedly to look at how authorities could allow free speech during the RNC and keep order.

"We found out that the Free Speech Committee did not allow any members of the public to add our input. Only City Council members on the committee and lawyers were allowed to speak. There was no free speech allowed at the misnamed Free Speech Committee.

"Nonetheless, activists followed the Committee's actions closely and were present during each meeting. The City Council of Minneapolis is almost 100% Democratic. In fact the only real opposition in Minneapolis is the Green Party which currently has one Green on the City Council, Cam Gordon, who was a small light in a very dark room. But, we were to discover, even that light was to be extinguished.

"The so called Free Speech Committee would change the time and locations of its meetings…There was also discussion on protest groups being required to register themselves and even their members, to be 'allowed' to protest. At these times, Cam Gordon spoke eloquently on behalf of the community and in opposition to these repressive measures…

"Then suddenly [after months] we found out that the Free Speech Committee had their last meeting, July 16th. The meeting itself was unannounced, unlike the other meetings which at least had a pretense of openness and public inclusion. At the next Minneapolis City Council meeting July 25th, the recommendation of the misnamed Free Speech Committee was announced. The Free Speech Committee Resolution passed unanimously, even by our one small light, Councilman Cam Gordon.

"The Minneapolis Police were given 'legal' authority to shut down any protest or group of 25 people or greater. They were also authorized to use rubber bullets, mace and the other array of non-lethal weapons on innocent, peaceful demonstrators, practicing our First Amendment Rights. Also violated repeatedly was the Fourth Amendment Right protecting us citizens against illegal search and seizure. Police violated the laws of assault and battery and destruction of evidence of their crimes, as evidenced by their targeting journalists."

Calvan notes, probably correctly so, that even if the city council had not approved these fascistic tactics that they would have been by-passed and the police and various state and federal officials would have done it anyway.

In other words, despite months of efforts by grassroots activists and even with a Green on the City Council - making grand speeches about protecting free speech - despite the people doing the very best that they could to monitor, participate and speak out, the fix was in and democratic participation was merely a charade for the real power being exercised, even on the nearest thing to local control as you can find in the government - at the City Council level – and even in one of the most left-influenced places in the country.

Second item:

As reported by the New York Times on September 11, 2008, in July 2008 Bush secretly approved Spec Ops forces to launch ground military attacks inside Pakistan without prior approval from the Pakistani government. The NYT essay notes: “It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country.” It’s unclear because such actions are blatantly against international law. (During the Vietnam War when President Nixon announced on April 30, 1970 that he had begun bombing Cambodia and thereby expanding the war, a fury broke out in America. During the widespread protests that followed, four students were famously shot and killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4.)

The Times’ article continues: “Pakistan’s government has asserted that last week’s raid achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.

“‘Unilateral action by the American forces does not help the war against terror because it only enrages public opinion,’ said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, during a speech on Friday. ‘In this particular incident, nothing was gained by the action of the troops.’”

What gives this story even more resonance is the fact that the Bush regime is now finally embracing the tactics that Obama had called for back in August 2007. At the time, Bush, John McCain and the other Democratic presidential hopefuls including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton derided Obama for offering such a bellicose proposal. Bush said: “he’s going to attack Pakistan” in disbelief.

As Reuters reported on August 1, 2007: “Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region. ‘If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will,’ Obama said.”

So there you have it: the reactionary Bush White House has now adopted a plan that it previously publicly described as overly aggressive – can you imagine this White House thinking anything is too aggressive? – a plan offered up by the Democratic Party’s standard bearer, Obama, the man that many progressives pin their hopes on.

This reminds me of the line from a comic who wondered what the world is coming to when the world’s best golfer is black and the best rapper is white.

What is the world coming to? The labels certainly don’t tell you the story. You have to look carefully and critically at what people are actually saying and what they are doing. And you have to examine carefully how political policy is actually made, not how you might have learned about it in civics class and not how it is presented everyday in the news.

Obama himself has said – correctly so - that people should pay attention to what he’s saying. He does not oppose all wars, just “dumb wars.” He approves of the war on terror. His differences are over tactics and whether the goals of the “war on terror” are being best pursued. In other words, is the US imperialist empire doing what is in its best interests? This is like campaigning for Godfather and saying that the existing Godfather isn’t being efficient enough in his extortion, racketeering, drug running, torture, brutality and death dealing.

If the city that may be second only to Berkeley in the degree to which progressives hold political office colludes, conspires and cooperates with the police state, even while some of the progressives make fine sounding speeches but vote with the gendarmes when push comes to shove, and if the one “realistic” choice on the national level that the people are being given to oppose the Bush regime’s reign of terror is a man whose foreign policy is now being adopted by the very same hated Bush regime that Obama says he is a “change” from, then what’s realistic now? What good does your vote do? Just what kind of democracy is this?

The only ones we can trust are the people themselves acting independently of the political parties and the normal, acceptable political channels. You must speak out, protest, show how you feel and call on others to do the same. A movement of the people that becomes a mass movement that must be reckoned with by public officials and the media and that does not subordinate itself to either public officials or corporate media must come into being. What is more democratic than that?

It is the ONLY realistic path. It is also the only moral stance possible. Participating in the existing structures and channels is a fool’s errand and worse: it amounts to collusion in crimes against humanity.

Stand up for those who have stood up such as the RNC 8. Wear orange daily and spread the resistance. Don’t kick yourself after the November 2008 election and say, why the hell didn’t I recognize the signs? Why did I allow myself to be sucked in once again? Why didn’t I fight the burgeoning police state when we still had a chance?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Aggression Abroad and Repression At Home II

The police state tactics employed at the RNC are graphic evidence of our government's moves to establish a new normal in which free speech and free assembly are disallowed in the name of "national security" and "combatting terrorism" and to protect, in this specific instance, the GOP from being exposed in any way to dissent.

If you're a delegate or public official attending the 2008 GOP Convention - if you haven't left the Party in disgust over what Bush, Cheney, Rove et al have been doing (or are a Ron Paulite) - you're pretty far gone and rather immune personally to dissenting views.

Principally the St. Paul gestapo-style tactics were to prevent the country from seeing that the GOP's authoritarian, reactionary populism is very unpopular - reactionaries such as the GOP leadership can only retain their air of pre-eminence when they have the forum all to themselves and aren't challenged in any way.

Allowing dissent to be displayed would also have given heart to the majority in this country who feel distaste, distress, or worse at what our government and the GOP in particular are doing.

Back in 2003 at the Pacific Sociological Association's April Meeting I gave a talk that laid out the relationship between the bellicose, pre-emptive foreign policy being implemented under the so-called Bush Doctrine and the need, if they were to carry this forward, to clamp down on domestic dissent.

I wrote a brief, updated introduction to that talk on March 9, 2007 when I posted my '03 talk here at my blog. That introduction reads as follows:

"Aggression Abroad and Repression At Home

This is the text of a talk that I gave in 2003. In it I sketched out the rationale underlying the Iraqi invasion and the USA Patriot Act and related moves (e.g., the recent John Warner Defense Authorization Act) by our government to clampdown on dissent and put into place legal and extra-legal devices in anticipation of much more dissent at home to their plans. Understanding the link between these two - their international plans for empire expansion and the consequent crackdown on the domestic front - is crucial for us. Recognizing this link underscores both the treacherous terrain that we are currently enmeshed in and also the openings for us that are inherent in such a situation. Times of great danger are also times of great opportunity - if we recognize and act on that knowledge.

The other critical point here is that making any concessions to the terms laid down by our government in the name of being 'realistic' (e.g., those who counsel us to back a Democrat for President as the only realistic path) is a fatal strategy. Our government - GOP and Democrats both - has embarked on a risky, dramatic and exeedingly brutal program to restructure the entire world. They are hellbent on this agenda and fully committed to it. (While the Democrats have a slightly different approach, in general favoring more multilateral approaches than unilateral, notice that they have not stood up and opposed the domestic programs such as the Patriot Act and the Warner Act, and that they put up no real fight against the Military Commissions Act - which they could have and should have filibustered. Having inserted us into Iraq, the Bush regime has dared the Democrats to pull us out. It's a dare that the Democrats are reluctant to take because they, just like the GOP, do not want the US imperialist empire imperiled and a humiliating loss would do just that). We are being pressganged down this road and our only hope lies in explicitly rejecting and exposing their plunderous and barbaric moves and providing a contrasting and lofty vision of an entirely different world and future for ourselves and for the rest of the planet.

'Full Spectrum Dominance and the Bush Doctrine: Over There and Over Here'
April 08, 2003 by Dennis Loo"

[For the talk, go here.]

***

At Consortium News today, Ray McGovern posted this excellent piece on the same themes.

Storm Troopers at the RNC

By Ray McGovern
September 8, 2008

Ten days ago, as the nation focused attention on the hurricane nearing the Mississippi delta, another storm was brewing far upstream in St. Paul, Minnesota — a storm far more dangerous, it turned out, but one by and large overlooked by the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM).

When I flew into St. Paul on the evening of Aug. 30, I encountered a din in local media about “preemptive strikes” on those already congregating there to demonstrate against the Iraq war and injustice against the poor in our country.

St. Paul’s Pioneer Press expressed surprise that “despite preemptive police searches” and arrests, a group calling itself “the RNC Welcoming Committee” was still intent on “disrupting the convention.”

A headline screamed, “Preemptive Arrests of Protesters in Twin Cities.” But it was the article’s lead that hit home: “Borrowing from the Bush administration’s ‘preemptive war’ playbook, police agencies in the Twin Cities have made ‘preemptive strikes’ against organizations planning to protest at the Republican National Convention.”

In the following days I was to see, up close and personal, a massive and totally unnecessary display of ruthlessness.

What struck a bell was that this domestic application of the doctrine of “preemption” was totally predictable — indeed, predicted by those courageous enough to speak out before the U.S. “preemptive” attack on Iraq.

Ironically, it was FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley, living in the St. Paul area, who served warning of precisely that in her hard-hitting Feb. 26, 2003, letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, three weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. [NYT, March 6, 2003]

Confronting Mueller on a number of key issues (like “What is the FBI’s evidence with respect to the claimed connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq?”), Rowley warned of the trickle-down effect of “the administration’s new policy of ‘preemptive strikes’”:

“I believe it would be prudent to be on guard against the possibility that the looser ‘preemptive strike’ rationale being applied to situations abroad could migrate back home, fostering a more permissive attitude on the part of law enforcement officers in this country.”

Rowley called Mueller’s attention to the abuses of civil rights that had already occurred since 9/11, and pointedly warned “particular vigilance may be required to head off undue pressure (including subtle encouragement) to detain or ‘round up’ suspects.”

Transforming the Police

While in St. Paul, I got in touch with Rowley, who has been politically active in the Twin City area, and asked for her reaction to St. Paul’s version of preemption. This was hardly her first chance to say I-told-you-so, but she called no attention to her right-on prophesy five-and-a-half years ago.

Shaking her head, Rowley simply bemoaned how easily the artificial stoking of fear had succeeded in causing the “otherwise wonderful community police officers of St. Paul to turn on their own peaceful citizens (the surreal insanity we witnessed during the RNC).”

She added that, once the Feds, the so-called fusion centers, the contractors get into the act, “all the rules go up in smoke.”

The “preemption” began on Friday, Aug. 29, well before the RNC began on Monday, Sept. 1.

An academic doing research on social movement organizations, who for several months has been observing the main protesters — the RNC Welcoming Committee, the Coalition to March on the RNC and End the War, and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign — provided this account:

“On Friday evening the space in St. Paul that was being rented by the Welcoming Committee was raided by riot police, who knocked in the door with automatic weapons drawn, forced the 60-70 activists inside onto the floor, handcuffed them, then proceeded to confiscate all the banner-making supplies and movement literature.

“Over the course of several hours the cops interrogated, photographed, ran warrant checks, and eventually, released everyone one by one. Then they closed down the space for a code violation. The next morning a city code inspector arrived and found no basis for closing the space.

“Saturday morning was one of escalation and terror. The Ramsey County Sheriff Department, together with the St. Paul police, Homeland Security, and the FBI raided four private houses. At 8:00 AM, dozens of cops in SWAT gear broke down the door of one house where about a dozen activists were staying. They were awakened with rifle barrels in their faces and forced to lie face down for more than an hour.

“The cops stole all the computers and other electronic devices in the house, and core members of the Welcoming Committee sleeping there were arrested. It being a holiday weekend, those arrested for alleged crimes could not arrive in court until Wednesday, at the earliest. Thus, those trying to organize demonstrations will be in jail for the entire time the RNC is going on. Four other houses were raided and dozens of activists were detained.”

The academic who wrote the report appealed to those concerned over “this enormous police over-kill” to contact the Twin Cities’ mayors and demand an end to the “witch hunt.”

He added, “The people who were arrested were some of the gentlest, most dedicated activists I’ve ever met.” A far cry from the “criminal enterprise” described by notorious Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.

Nanette Echols, a resident of St. Paul who had been extending hospitality to the visiting protesters, insisted they had done nothing wrong.

“In the place they raided on Friday night they were showing documentary movies to twenty-somethings in a clean, alcohol-free zone after dinner,” she said.

Caving In to the Feds

The St. Paul City Council? Only one member had the courage to speak out — Councilman Dave Thune, who was particularly enraged that Sheriff Fletcher took action within St. Paul city limits:

“This is not the way to start things off…I’m really ticked off…the city is perfectly capable of taking care of such things…This is all about free speech. It’s what my father fought for in the war. To me this smacks of preemptive strike against free speech.”

Thune objected in particular to Fletcher’s deputies using battering rams to knock down doors, then entering with guns drawn, and forcing people to the ground, as they did on Friday night.

This was the unsettling backdrop as I flew into St. Paul on Saturday evening, to speak at the Masses at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on Sunday morning.

On Monday, I joined some 10,000 on a peaceful march from the Capitol to the Berlin wall of fences and to what the old Soviet Union would have called the “organs of public safety” arrayed before the RNC convention hall.

On the fringes there was some property damage and further arrests. What violence there was bore the earmarks of provocation by the likes of Sheriff Fletcher and his Homeland Security, FBI, and, according to one well-sourced report, Blackwater buddies.

That’s right. Agent provocateurs.

Primary targets of the repression were the alternative media, including any and all those who might have a camera to record the brutality — as was successfully done at the RNC in New York four years ago.

The manner in which Amy Goodman and the two producers of “Democracy Now!” were deliberately mistreated was clearly to serve as a warning that the rules had gone up in smoke — the First Amendment be damned.

Tuesday evening, after speaking at the “Free Speech Zone,” a fenced-off area surrounded by the organs of public safety, I joined the Poor People’s march up to the fences before the RNC.

I observed no violence at all; yet, the police/FBI/national guard/and who-knows-who-else decided they needed to clear the streets. My friends and I narrowly escaped being tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, or worse. It was an overwhelming show of force — not to protect, but to intimidate.

Palin Significance

After speaking at a conference at Concordia University in St. Paul on Wednesday, I was more eager to watch the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, deliver her acceptance speech than to risk the tear gas and pepper spray.

The way she dissed community organizers was hard to take.

But those things pale in significance, so to speak, compared to the way the governor of Alaska proceeded to ridicule the notion of reading people their rights. I had thought that despite the distance between Alaska and Washington, the reach of the U.S. Constitution and statutes extended that far.

Friends tell me I should not have been surprised. But, really!

After the widespread kidnapping, torture, indefinite imprisonment, and our cowardly Congress’ empowerment of the president to imprison sine die anyone he might designate an “enemy combatant” — after all that...well, it seems to me that reading a person his/her rights takes on more, not less, importance.

Not to mention the massive repression then under way right outside the convention hall.

It was, it is, a scary juxtaposition. The following day Col. Ann Wright and I went to the jail to offer support to the young people who had been brutalized and then released. They had not been read their rights. Many were camped out on the sidewalk, refusing to leave until their friends still inside were also released.

Out of the jail came Jason, a well-built young man of about 20 years, who needed help in walking. We talked to Jason a while, and he showed us the seven, yes seven, taser wounds on his body. One, on his left buttock, had released considerable blood, creating a large stain on his pants.

Resourcefulness

The young protesters had some success in exposing infiltrators in their ranks. During confrontations, members of the Welcoming Committee, in particular, took copious photos of law enforcement officers and then memorized the faces.

This tactic worked like a charm in one of the St. Paul parks, when a man who looked like a protester — dark clothes, backpack, a bit disheveled — walked by.

One of the protesters recognized the man’s face and searched through her camera until she found a photo of the man actually performing the raid on the Welcoming Committee’s headquarters on Friday night.

The young protesters asked the man, and two associates, to leave the park, at which point the three hustled into a nearby unmarked sedan.

The license plate, observed by a Pioneer Press reporter, traced back to the detective unit of the Hennepin County sheriff’s office, according to the county’s Central Mobile Equipment Division.

Protesters later picked two other men out of the day’s planned march — one because he was wearing brand-new tennis shoes. The two left without indicating whether they were with the organs of public safety.

So there is hope. Young people are smarter than old ones. It is a safe bet that in the coming weeks lots of unwelcome photos will be exposing various agents provocateurs, including over-the-hill flat-feet in unmarked cars, as well as young Republicans with unmarked tennis shoes.

If those are the kind of “sources” upon which the police, FBI, etc. have been relying…well, that would be like having Shia reporting on Sunni, or vice versa.

The organs of public safety are probably not quite so dumb as to be unaware that one cannot expect valid “intelligence” from such amateurish antics. More likely, the attitude is that any kind of “intelligence” will do for the purposes of local law enforcement and timid public officials cowed by the Feds.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The RNC 8

http://www.nornc.org

Hello to all our friends and supporters,

In the last week, eight people affiliated with the RNC Welcoming Committee were arrested in their homes or picked up off the streets and charged with conspiracy to riot and furtherance of terrorism. The Welcoming Committee was a group that formed to facilitate logistics (food, housing, convergence center) around the 2008 Republican National Convention Protests in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Most of them were arrested in the days leading up to the convention, and many had their homes raided by law enforcement. They were being held in the Ramsey County jail but as of Thursday were all released on bail or bond. They are now facing serious criminal charges and the potential of a protracted and expensive legal battle.

This case is potentially dangerous not just for these individuals but for organizers and activists all over the country. It represents a seemingly coordinated effort between state and federal agencies to crack down on organizers as a way of intimidating and systematically repressing movement building in all its forms. It now falls to all of us to fight these charges not just for these eight people but to protect our friends, our movements and our communities.

Currently, our immediate need is for financial resources. We are asking for people to donate money or set up benefits in their own communities.

You can donate by going to www.nornc.org and clicking on the “Donate to RNC Welcoming Committee Legal Support” button.

To check out ongoing updates on the case visit www.RNC8.org.

Thank you so much for your support.

In solidarity,
The Friends of the Welcoming Committee

http://www.nornc.org
********************************************
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/09/the-perishing-republicans-twin-city-cops-and-the-rnc-8/

The Perishing Republicans, Twin City Cops, and the RNC 8
by Ron Jacobs / September 6th, 2008 DISSIDENT VOICE


Let me begin this piece by stating that I don’t give a rat’s ass about the Jerry Springer-like drama playing out around the GOP vice presidential pick Sarah Palin. Let me also state that I seriously wonder how long it will be before the folks that vote for the Republicans year in and year out realize that the men and women they are voting to rule them are part of the Washington elite just as much as the Democrats they despise. As for the rest of the lies and bombast coming out of the XCel Center in Minneapolis this week–it is as if the producers of the convention combined a megachurch service, a high school pep rally, and
the spirit of Leni Riefenstahl.

No, I don’t care about Sarah Palin and the shotgun wedding she and her husband are arranging for their daughter and her boyfriend. Nor do I care about whether or not she was vetted by John McCain. I do admit that I get a kick out of the fact that John McCain has no idea of how many houses he and his wife own, yet he is portrayed as someone who is not part of any elite. I also get a bit of a kick out of the fact that George Bush and Dick Cheney have not (and seemingly will not) appear at their own party’s convention. It is as if these two men, who have kept their party in power for the past eight years,are now disowned by the very same people that put them there in the first place. Or, perhaps, like so much else in US mainstream politics, the absence is part of the illusion voters are being fed: the Democrats have a candidate of change and so do the Republicans. See, the old guard didn’t even show up in person at this year’s convention! John McCain and Sarah Palin are new and improved, just like the cleaning product you have always bought. Familiarity improved!

What I do care about in terms of this week in Minnesota is what is going on outside the convention. From all reports in the media outlets that cover that which is not scripted by the GOP, the streets of the Twin Cities have been turned into a zone where police terror is permitted and even encouraged. If one is a protester, it is even expected. Prior to the convention itself, a series of raids were conducted against people involved in planning protests against the convention and the policies of
the Washington and the GOP. These raids were coordinated by federal, state and local authorities and involved procedural and constitutional violations by the police. On Sunday and Monday, police attacked protesters and arrested hundreds. Tuesday and Wednesday saw more of the same. A small concert attended by a few hundred people was attacked on Tuesday and, on Wednesday, police prevented the popular rock group Rage Against the Machine from performing at an outdoor show because “they would incite a riot.” (They did play a show later at the Target Center). In addition, police have attacked protesters, journalists and bystanders with clubs, pepper spray, and tear gas. So far, close to five hundred people have been arrested. Most of them are being held in open air detention centers.

These arrests, while certainly of questionable legality, are but the tip of the iceberg. On September 3, 2008, eight members of the RNC Welcoming Committee– some of the primary organizers of the protests–were formally charged with Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism. These eight were among those arrested in the pre-convention raids and, according to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), face up to 7 1/2 years imprisonment each. For those of us around forty years ago, the indictment of eight people on charges of conspiracy to incite a riot at a national political convention is an ominous deja vu. For those who need a reminder or who don’t know the history I’m referring to, eight men were charged after the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago with (among other things) conspiracy to cross state lines with the intent to incite a riot. These eight became known as the Chicago Eight. Of course, in today’s more enlightened world, authorities didn’t just charge men this time around. At least two of those charged were women. The charges against the RNC Eight (as they are being called) were brought based on the testimony of informants and provocateurs that infiltrated the loose knit organization. As the NLG news release makes clear, “None of the defendants have any prior criminal history involving acts of violence. Searches conducted in connection with the raids failed to turn up any physical evidence to support the allegations of organized attacks on law
enforcement. ” Because no physical evidence of this nature was found, police seized common household items like lighters, cleaning fluid, some nails and a couple hatchets and claimed that these items were to be used to incite insurrection. In addition, police claimed they confiscated two buckets of what they called (I’m serious here) “weaponized urine.” What these buckets actually contained was gray water used to flush toilets at the house where they were found. According to police, other seized materials included other types of household tools, padding (probably to protect people from police truncheons), some pvc pipe and an army helmet.

At this writing, the charges brought against the eight are state charges. It is unknown whether or not federal authorities have any plans to charge these eight or any of the others arrested. What is known is that, much like Chicago forty years ago, the primary cause of any riots that might occur in the Twin Cities are the result of unconstitutional police actions supported by local officials, the national party nominating its warmongering candidate, and the federal police state apparatus. Indeed, the events of forty years ago were termed a police riot by a federal commission formed to investigate the disturbances.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. His most recent novel Short Order Frame Up is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What American Forces Are Doing in This War That Palin Calls God's Work and That Obama Has Refused to End Immediately

Excerpts from the Statement of Alberto J. Mora, Navy General Counsel
Senate Committee on Armed Services
Hearing on the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody
June 17, 2008

"Mr. Chairman, our Nation’s policy decision to use so-called 'harsh' interrogation techniques during the War on Terror was a mistake of massive proportions. It damaged and continues to damage our Nation in ways that appear never to have been considered or imagined by its architects and supporters, whose policy focus seems to have been narrowly confined to the four corners of the interrogation room. This interrogation policy – which may aptly be labeled a 'policy of cruelty' – violated our founding values, our constitutional system and the fabric of our laws, our over-arching foreign policy interests, and our national security. The net effect of this policy of cruelty has been to weaken our defenses, not to strengthen them, and has been greatly contrary to our national interest.

Before turning to this damage, it may be useful to draw some of the basic legal distinctions pertinent to interrogation. The choice of the adjectives 'harsh' or 'enhanced' to describe these interrogation techniques is euphemistic and misleading. The more precise legal term is 'cruel.'
...

All of these factors contributed to the difficulties our nation has experienced in forging the strongest possible coalition in the War on Terror. But the damage to our national security also occurred down at the tactical or operational level. I’ll cite four examples:

First, there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. And there are other senior officers who are convinced that the proximate cause of Abu Ghraib was the legal advice authorizing abusive treatment of detainees that issued from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002.

Second, allied nations reportedly hesitated on occasion to participate in combat operations if there was the possibility that, as a result, individuals captured during the operation could be abused by U.S. or other forces.

Third, allied nations have refused on occasion to train with us in joint detainee capture and handling operations because of concerns about U.S. detainee policies.

And fourth, senior NATO officers in Afghanistan have been reported to have left the room when issues of detainee treatment have been raised by U.S. officials out of fear that they may become complicit in detainee abuse."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

When I Heard...

When I heard that police were raiding – with guns drawn – the homes and offices of prospective protesters in St. Paul in anticipation of the RNC, because protesters were concealing weapons - weapons the police didn’t find because they don’t exist - my first thought was how very deep into a police state we now are.

Then I thought, how akin this excuse is to the WMD hoax justifying the Iraq invasion. “They’re hoarding weapons of mass destruction! Oh my god! We must crush them before they get us!”

After which I thought, which part of this is the bigger story?

Is it the fact that gendarmes of the city, state and nation are behaving worse than those nasty Chinese police during the Olympics who don’t appreciate the cardinal right to demonstrate that we in America understand so well?

Is it the fact that the Democratic Party set up “Freedom cages” in Denver to shield the Democratic Party and its “Champions of the People” from protestors demanding real change?

Or is it the fact that these police state tactics are not deemed worthy of mainstream media attention from the same media that lauded Bush’s complaints about Russia’s actions towards Georgia and China’s “human rights” record?

Is it that the pre-emptive criminalization of protest and of speech, the use of percussive grenades on peaceful demonstrators, the tearing of peace activists out of their cars, the arrests of journalists and charges of “conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism” and so on, are only bad when they’re done outside the U.S., but they’re democracy in action when they’re done inside the U.S.?

I honestly don’t know which is worse: the fascist actions or the deafening silence and the myopic national chauvinism of the corporate media about any of this.

* * *

At the DNC our-man-of-change Obama chooses as his running mate a senator who was even more hawkish on Iraq than were Bush and Cheney – if that is possible – and at the RNC the maverick McCain chooses a Dominionist who reminds me of an even more malevolent version of Nixon’s Veep Spiro Agnew - if that is possible - a lipstick wearing, lying, mean-spirited, Hockey Mom/pit bull, who mocks the need to give some smidgen of due process to those being held at Gitmo since they’re all “terrorists” after all. And the crowd goes wild from her words, gesticulating with signs that say “Country First,” all the while looking to my eyes like Über alles all over again.

From the German national anthem during the Nazi years:

“Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
Über alles in der Welt,
Wenn es stets zu Schutz und Trutze
Brüderlich zusammenhält.”

English translation:

“Germany, Germany above everything,
Above everything in the world,
When it always for protection and defense,
Brotherly sticks together.”

* * *

Welcome to the free, fair and glorious celebration of democracy we call elections in America, version 2008.

Like Vista, we need to reboot because it seems to freeze all of the time when we try to write the words: End the War. Stop the Torture. Impeach the War Criminals.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin and Dominionism

First, a brief explanation of Dominionism from ReligiousTolerance.org:

"Its most common form, Dominionism, represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christianity thought. Its followers, called Dominionists, are attempting to peacefully convert the laws of United States so that they match those of the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order. One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious choice and freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the 'Kingdom of God' in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. They feel that the power of God's word will bring about this conversion. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it. All that needs to be done is to properly explain it to them.

"All religious organizations, congregations etc. other than strictly Fundamentalist Christianity would be suppressed. Nonconforming Evangelical, main line and liberal Christian religious institutions would no longer be allowed to hold services, organize, proselytize, etc. Society would revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs outside of their home would be tried for idolatry and executed. Blasphemy, adultery and homosexual behavior would be criminalized; those found guilty would also be executed. At that time that this essay was originally written, this was the only religious movement in North America of which we were aware which advocates genocide for followers of minority religions and non-conforming members of their own religion. Since then, we have learned of two conservative Christian pastors in Texas who have advocated the execution of all Wiccans. Ralph Reed, the executive director of the conservative public policy group the Christian Coalition has criticized Reconstructionism as "an authoritarian ideology that threatens the most basic civil liberties of a free and democratic society."

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Second, these two articles lay out the connection between Sarah Palin and the Dominionists - she is a member of the Assemblies of God: here and here.

Dominionism is also known as Christian Reconstructionism.

From my book, Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, Chapter Five, pp. 107-108:

"'Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors—in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.' --D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries Pastor, at a “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference in February, 2005

"'Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. . .. World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.' —George Grant

Here is what Dr. Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, a critic of the religious right, said in 2005:

'Stripped to its barest essentials, here is their [Reconstructionists] blueprint for America. Their ultimate goal is to make the US Constitution conform to a strict, literal interpretation of Biblical law. To do that involves a series of legal and social reforms that will move society toward their goal. Here is their blueprint: 1) Make the ten commandments the law of the land, 2) Strengthen patriarchically ordered families, 3) Close public schools—make parents totally responsible for the education of their children, 4) Reduce the role of government to the defense of property rights, 5) Require “tithes” to ecclesiastical agencies to provide welfare services, 6) Close prisons—reinstitute slavery as a form of punishment and require capital punishment for all of ancient Israel’s capital offenses—including apostacy [sic: apostasy], blasphemy, incorrigibility in children, murder, rape, Sabbath breaking, sodomy, and witchcraft.

'Some Reconstructionists realize that, sooner or later, there is bound to be a backlash against the kind of society that they intend to create. Many seem to be biding their time until public sentiment turns decisively against the kind of reforms they are seeking. When that happens, I believe that some, if given the opportunity, will be willing to take up arms and wage another civil war. Some of their literature indicates that they believe that such actions can be morally and theologically justified if they follow a lesser magistrate (like the Governor of a state) who claims to be following biblical law while refusing to submit to a rule of law that is imposed by a secular constitutional authority. This kind of crisis could easily be precipitated by the Governor of state, like Alabama, refusing to execute a Court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from state government property.'"

At the RNC - This is How Homeland Security Looks

Video and some commentary on clashes between demonstrators and the police (state) troopers at the RNC.