Saturday, June 30, 2007
Cheney and the Dead Salmon
More about The-Power-Behind-The-Thrown, Dick Cheney, and the planned killing of 70,000 wild salmon in order to pick up votes for the Republicans.
Here’s the Cheney-salmon story, as carried by Raw Story:http://rawstory.com/printstory.php?story=6680
Did Dick Cheney kill 70,000 salmon? Committee to probe
06/29/2007 @ 1:16 pm
Filed by Nick Juliano
A Congressional committee is preparing to investigate Vice President Dick Cheney's role in water-management decisions that killed more than 70,000 salmon in Oregon.
Three dozen West Coast Democrats requested the Resources Committee investigation after the Washington Post reported of Cheney's involvement in managing flows from the Klamath River in 2002.
The Post reported that Cheney personally contacted the Interior Department official in charge of the program to push for more irrigation water be delivered from the river to drought-striken farmers and ranchers.
Environmentalists and officials in California and Washington blame the federal policy, which critics say violated the Endangered Species Act, was responsible for the deaths of 70,000 salmon, whose corpses lined the banks of the river. The Post said the plan was enacted "because of Cheney's intervention."
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W. Va., told the Associated Press that the committee is investigating the Bush administration's "penchant to favor politics over science in implementation of the Endangered Species Act."
"It certainly appears this administration will stop at nothing to achieve political gain from natural resources disasters," Rahall added. "Ultimately, it will be hardworking Americans and their healthy environment that will lose if we fail to act."
Democrats say the salmon kill devastated the commercial fishing industries in Oregon and California, with fishermen still feeling the economic effects today.
Excerpts from AP report:
"The ramifications of that salmon kill are still being felt today as returns to the Klamath River are so low that commercial, sport and tribal fishing seasons have been curtailed for the past three years," 36 House Democrats said in a letter to Rahall calling for the hearing.
Commercial fishing in California and Oregon was cut by more than 90 percent last year — the largest commercial fishing closure in the history of the country — resulting in more than $60 million in damage to coastal economies, the letter said.
Megan McGinn, a spokeswoman for the vice president's office, said late Wednesday she had not seen the letter and could not comment.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Federal Lands: National Sacrifice Areas
An airplane ride over the western forests—any western forest—is among the most depressing things I can think of.
Our national forests are like strip mines for the timber industry. Roads I remember that were lined with trees less than thirty years ago are through open space, now, national sacrifice areas. View points that once looked out on mile after mile of trees...ah, forget it. If you’ve been on a trip through the west in the last few years, you know what it looks like.
Campgrounds are closing: if they can’t make money, they get shut down. The ones that aren’t closing have their fees go up and up. Now, in many of our forests, you have to pay for the privilege of parking alongside the damn roads while you eat a sandwich or snap a few pictures—and lots of times you pay more than you would in, say, Seattle or Portland.
I want to thank President Bush for this situation.
Bush's public lands legacy is a sad sight to behold
Last updated June 26, 2007 5:51 p.m. PT
MOUNT HOOD, Ore. -- Most Americans don't own a summer home on Cape Cod, or a McMansion in the Rockies, but they have this birthright: an area more than four times the size of France. If you're a citizen, you own it -- about 565 million acres.
The deed on a big part of this public land inheritance dates to a pair of Republican class warriors from a hundred years ago: President Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the Forest Service.
Both were rich. Both were well educated. Both were headstrong and quirky. Pinchot slept on a wooden pillow and had his valet wake him with ice water to the face. Teddy and G.P., as they were known, sometimes wrestled with each other, or swam naked in the Potomac.
In establishing the people's estate, they fought Gilded Age titans -- railroads, timber barons, mine owners -- and their enablers in the Senate. And make no mistake: Those acts may have been cast as the founding deeds of the environmental movement, but they were as much about class as conservation.
Pinchot had studied forestry in France, where a peasant couldn't make a campfire without being subject to penalties. In England, he had seen how the lords of privilege had their way over the outdoors. In the United States, he and T.R. envisioned the ultimate expression of Progressive-era values: a place where a tired factory hand could be renewed -- lord for a day.
"In the national forests, big money was not king," wrote Pinchot. The Forest Service was beloved, he said, because "it stood up for the honest small man and fought the predatory big man as no government bureau had done before."
A century later, I drove through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on my way to climb Mount Hood, and found the place in tatters. Roads are closed, or in disrepair. Trails are washed out. The campgrounds, those that are open, are frayed and unkempt. It looks like the forestry equivalent of a neighborhood crack house.
In the Pinchot woods, you see the George W. Bush public lands legacy. If you want to drill, or cut trees, or open a gas line -- the place is yours. Most everything else has been trashed or left to bleed to death.
Remember the scene from "It's a Wonderful Life," when Jimmy Stewart's character sees what would happen to Bedford Falls if the richest man in town took over? All those honky-tonks, strip joints and tenement dwellings in Pottersville?
If Roosevelt roamed the West today, he'd find some of the same thing in the land he entrusted to future presidents. The national wildlife system, started by T.R., has been emasculated. President Bush has systematically pared the budget to the point where, this year, more than 200 refuges could be without any staff at all.
The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees some of the finest open range, desert canyons and high-alpine valleys in the world, was told early on in the Bush years to make drilling for oil and gas their top priority. A demoralized staff has followed through, but many describe their jobs the way a cowboy talks about having to shoot his horse.
In Colorado, the bureau just gave the green light to industrial development on the aspen-forested high mountain paradise called the Roan Plateau. In typical fashion, the administration made a charade of listening to the public about what to do with the land. More than 75,000 people wrote them -- 98 percent opposed to drilling.
For most of the Bush years, the Interior Department was nominally run by a Stepford secretary, Gale Norton, while industry insiders such as J. Steven Griles -- the former coal lobbyist who pleaded guilty this year to obstruction of justice -- ran the department.
Same in the Forest Service, where an ex-timber industry insider, Mark Rey, guides administration policy.
They don't take care of those lands because they see them as one thing: a cash-out. Thus, in Bush's budget proposal this year, he guts the Forest Service budget yet again, while floating the idea of selling thousands of acres to the highest bidder. The administration says it wants more money for national parks. But the parks are $10 billion behind on needed repairs; the proposal is a pittance.
Roosevelt had his place on Oyster Bay. Pinchot had a family estate in Pennsylvania. Bush has the ranch in Crawford. Only one of them has never been able to see beyond the front porch.
Timothy Egan, a former Seattle correspondent for The New York Times and the author of "The Worst Hard Time," is a guest columnist. Copyright 2007 The New York Times.
© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Thursday, June 28, 2007
My Friend the Bear—Jim Harrison (by way of a couple of people)
I’ve quoted Jim Harrison before—something my friend Thurber pointed out, a quote about God puking after looking around at the mess we’ve made here in America. We’ve fucking trashed it.
Somehow, there are still a few good things, though. Wild things. Like love and god and good.
I found this on Hunter Bear’s web site—a place I think more people should go:
My Friend the Bear
Down in the bone myth of the cellar
of this farmhouse, behind the empty fruit jars
the whole wall swings open to the room
where I keep the bear. There's a tunnel
to the outside on the far wall that emerges
in the lilac grove in the backyard
but she rarely uses it, knowing there's no room
around here for a freewheeling bear.
She's not a dainty eater so once a day
I shovel shit while she lopes in playful circles.
Privately she likes religion -- from the bedroom
I hear her incantatory moans and howls
below me -- and April 23rd, when I open
the car trunk and whistle at midnight
and she shoots up the tunnel, almost airborne
when she meets the night. We head north
and her growls are less friendly as she scents
the forest-above-the-road smell. I release
her where I found her as an orphan three
years ago, bawling against the dead carcass
of her mother. I let her go at the head
of the gully leading down to the swamp,
jumping free of her snarls and roars.
But each October 9th, one day before bear season
she reappears at the cabin frightening
the bird dogs. We embrace ear to ear,
her huge head on my shoulder,
her breathing like god's.
Salmon, Smith, Water, Votes, and various...
The Washington Post
, and well as the blog Blue Oregon (http://www.blueoregon.com/2007/06/dick-cheneys-kl.html#more
) have some coverage of how the Republicans, notably Cheney and Rove, climbed into the dispute over who gets the water from the Klamath River, and exploited it for votes in the last presidential election. I've ranted about this issue before.
The Klamath Basin is a big subsidized irrigation project, that over-uses water from the Klamath River for the benefits of farmers. The people downstream, Indians, commercial fishermen at the mouth of the Klamath, sport fishermen, suffer. What galls me is that the river water is guaranteed, by treaty, to the Indians along the river so they may have decent salmon runs, also treaty guaranteed. The farmers, though, are just that: farmers, traditional supporters of the Republicans. A few years back, during a major dry spell, the farmers raised hell that they weren't getting enough water because the EPA said the river had priority.
The Republicans made sure the farmers got enough water. It got ugly down in the basin, with all sorts of crazy Montana patriot types, scads of flags, talk about how farming is a sacred act, and so on. Incidentally, what they farm is mostly hay and sugar beets—with a whole lot of water subsidized by taxpayers...in fact, the whole basin is a government project, paid for by you-know-who. Sugar beets and hay. Wow.
Oregon's junior senator, Gordon Smith, apparently was a party to the ruthless politicing by the party political officers (commisars, really), Rove and Cheney. Smith comes off as a good guy, moderate, clean, and concerned. He often appears with Jeff Wyden, the senior (and Democratic) Oregon senator. Teamwork. Uh-huh. The problem is that the politicing was done on company time, which ain't allowed. If you or I had a government job, and hustled votes for one side or the other while we were working and on the clock, we'd be in trouble. However, those that have the gold, make the rules, in case any of us forgot.
The Democrats are preparing to challenge Gordie Smith in the '08 election. A lot of energy and talk, if you look at the progressive blogs, about who might be electable. I hope somebody is. But, Smith could be worse. As an example, I bright up Oregon's 2nd District Congressperson, Greg Walden. Walden is beloved by loggers, developers, miners, and ranchers. During the bruhaha down at Klamath, he was right there with the militia/patriot types, waving the flag, and promising water for the farmers. More water than was, or is, available, actually... Walden has a conservation vote record that's way way down close to zero. He cultivates extractive industry money with a D-9 Cat. Super conservative, super exploitation-oriented. I'd like to see somebody come along and give Walden a run for the money.
Godzilla comes slouching toward D.C.
This morning's news-blogs are about the Bush Cheney Junta refusing to observe subpoenas, thus heading toward a serious show-down in the courts. That something like this is coming is as obvious as an 8000 pound Japanese monster coming down the street. Of course: this is what it's all about.
The administration wants to make permanent changes in our government—they just about have, yeah. I worry that one of those changes is going to be a permanent neo-con government. These guys haven't worked this hard on their agenda to hand it over to a bunch of Democrats in 2008. Part of this agenda is a strong-man presidency, you know, like a dictatorship. These guys are a bunch of authoritarians, control-freaks, wannabe dictators.
What happened when Nixon defied Congress was that the courts found in favor of Congress and Tricky-Dick's stone-walling managed to even alienate members of his own party. It looks to me like the party is behind the president on this issue, because of the conservative coup on the Republicans. This leaves us with a divided Congress—and the Supreme Court, ultimately. Guess what's happened to the SCOTUS? Yeah, it's been taken over, too. I think this is part of the strategy: when push comes to shove, SCOTUS is going to side with the Junta.
And that'll be that.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Krugman on today's "Republicans"
Here's someone else's take on what's happened in this country—and in particular to the Republican Party. It's not the old party of T.R. or even Bush I. Or of Rockefeller, barely of Arnie down in California.
No, it's an entirely other party, "Republican" only in name. It's so far to the right...well, it doesn't even belong on the national level—it should be some splinter group in Alabama or Orange County.
Don't Blame Bush
By Paul Krugman
The New York Timeshttp://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/printer_051807H.shtml
Friday 18 May 2007
I've been looking at the race for the Republican presidential nomination, and I've come to a disturbing conclusion: maybe we've all been too hard on President Bush.
No, I haven't lost my mind. Mr. Bush has degraded our government and undermined the rule of law; he has led us into strategic disaster and moral squalor.
But the leading contenders for the Republican nomination have given us little reason to believe they would behave differently. Why should they? The principles Mr. Bush has betrayed are principles today's G.O.P., dominated by movement conservatives, no longer honors. In fact, rank-and-file Republicans continue to approve strongly of Mr. Bush's policies - and the more un-American the policy, the more they support it.
Now, Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney may have done a few things other Republicans wouldn't. Their initial domestic surveillance program was apparently so lawless and unconstitutional that even John Ashcroft, approached on his sickbed, refused to go along. For the most part, however, Mr. Bush has done just what his party wants and expects.
There was a telling moment during the second Republican presidential debate, when Brit Hume of Fox News confronted the contenders with a hypothetical "24"-style situation in which torturing suspects is the only way to stop a terrorist attack.
Bear in mind that such situations basically never happen in real life, that the U.S. military has asked the producers of "24" to cut down on the torture scenes. Last week Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, circulated an open letter to our forces warning that using torture or "other expedient methods to obtain information" is both wrong and ineffective, and that it is important to keep the "moral high ground."
But aside from John McCain, who to his credit echoed Gen. Petraeus (and was met with stony silence), the candidates spoke enthusiastically in favor of torture and against the rule of law. Rudy Giuliani endorsed waterboarding. Mitt Romney declared that he wants accused terrorists at Guantánamo, "where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil ... My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo." His remarks were greeted with wild applause.
And torture isn't the only Bush legacy that seems destined to continue if a Republican becomes the next president. Mr. Bush got us into the Iraq quagmire by conflating Saddam with Al Qaeda, treating two mutually hostile groups as if they constituted a single enemy. Well, Mr. Romney offers more of that. "There is a global jihadist effort," he warned in the second debate. "And they've come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda with that intent." Aren't Sunnis and Shiites killing each other, not coming together? Nevermind.
What about the administration's state of denial over Iraq, its unwillingness to face up to reality? None of the leading G.O.P. presidential contenders seem any different - certainly not Mr. McCain, who strolled through a Baghdad marketplace wearing a bulletproof vest, accompanied by more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees while attack helicopters flew overhead, then declared that his experience proved there are parts of Baghdad where you can "walk freely."
Finally, what about the Bush administration's trademark incompetence? In appointing unqualified loyalists to key positions, Mr. Bush was just following the advice of the Heritage Foundation, which urged him back in 2001 to "make appointment decisions based on loyalty first and expertise second." And the base doesn't mind: the Bernie Kerik affair - Mr. Giuliani's attempt to get his corrupt, possibly mob-connected business partner appointed to head the department of homeland security - hasn't kept Mr. Giuliani from becoming the apparent front-runner for the Republican nomination.
What we need to realize is that the infamous "Bush bubble," the administration's no-reality zone, extends a long way beyond the White House. Millions of Americans believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there's a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job - and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias.
And the Republican nomination will go either to someone who shares these beliefs, and would therefore run the country the same way Mr. Bush has, or to a very, very good liar.
The Coup Against the American Government, Cont.
One of the better Washington news sources is the Washington Post. Saying that drives the unreconstructed Nixonists crazy: they’ve never forgiven the WaPo for exposing Watergate. And they definitely hate the paper for opposing Bush. The Republicans, honestly, are anymore a bunch of neo-fascist jack-booted jack-offs.
The Republicans are very pissed because because they like what Cheney and Bush have done to the government: taken revenge for every imagined slight, every half-drunk resentment the party faithful have carried for years. Everything, from the New Deal to civil rights legislation to opposing Viet Nam: none of it has been forgot—and they love what the fascists have done in the last few years.
This is from yesterday’s WaPo.
Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power
Web Q&A: Monday, 1 p.m. ET
» Reporter Barton Gellman, will be online on Monday, June 25 to answer readers' questions about the Cheney series. Submit a Question Here.
By Barton Gellman and Jo Becker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, June 25, 2007
The vice president's lawyer advocated what was considered the memo's most radical claim: that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line of torture. U.S. and treaty laws forbidding any person to "commit torture," that passage stated, "do not apply" to the commander in chief, because Congress "may no more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."
That same day, Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo signed off on a second secret opinion, the contents of which have never been made public. According to a source with direct knowledge, that opinion approved as lawful a long list of specific interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA -- including waterboarding, a form of near-drowning that the U.S. government classified as a war crime in 1947. The opinion drew the line against one request: threatening to bury a prisoner alive.
Yoo said for the first time in an interview that he verbally warned lawyers for the president, Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that it would be dangerous as a matter of policy to permit military interrogators to use the harshest techniques, because the armed services, vastly larger than the CIA, could overuse the tools or exceed the limits. "I always thought that only the CIA should do this, but people at the White House and at DOD felt differently," Yoo said. The migration of those techniques from the CIA to the military, and from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib, aroused worldwide condemnation when abuse by U.S. troops was exposed.
On June 8, 2004, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell learned of the two-year-old torture memo for the first time from an article in The Washington Post [Read the article]. According to a former White House official with firsthand knowledge, they confronted Gonzales together in his office.
Rice "very angrily said there would be no more secret opinions on international and national security law," the official said, adding that she threatened to take the matter to the president if Gonzales kept them out of the loop again. Powell remarked admiringly, as they emerged, that Rice dressed down the president's lawyer "in full Nurse Ratched mode," a reference to the ward chief of a mental hospital in the 1975 film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Neither of them took their objections to Cheney, the official said, a much more dangerous course.
'His Client, the Vice President'
In the summer and fall of 2002, some of the Bush administration's leading lawyers began to warn that Cheney and his Pentagon allies had set the government on a path for defeat in court. As the judicial branch took up challenges to the president's assertion of wartime power, Justice Department lawyers increasingly found themselves defending what they believed to be losing positions -- directed by the vice president and his staff. One of the uneasy lawyers was Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, a conservative stalwart whose wife, Barbara, had been killed less than a year before when the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Olson shared Cheney's robust view of executive authority, but his job was to win cases. Two that particularly worried him involved U.S. citizens -- Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi -- who had been declared enemy combatants and denied access to lawyers.
Federal courts, Olson argued, would not go along with that. But the CIA opposed any outside contact, fearing relief from the isolation and dependence that interrogators relied upon to break the will of suspected terrorists.
Flanigan said that Addington's personal views leaned more toward Olson than against him, but that he beat back the proposal to grant detainees access to lawyers, "because that was the position of his client, the vice president."
Decision time came in a heated meeting in Gonzales's corner office on the West Wing's second floor, according to four officials with direct knowledge, none of whom agreed to be quoted by name about confidential legal deliberations. Olson was backed by associate White House counsel Bradford A. Berenson, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
Berenson told colleagues that the court's swing voter would never accept absolute presidential discretion to declare a U.S. citizen an enemy and lock him up without giving him an opportunity to be represented and heard. Another former Kennedy clerk, White House lawyer Brett Kavanaugh, had made the same argument earlier. Addington accused Berenson of surrendering executive power on a fool's prophecy about an inscrutable court. Berenson accused Addington of "know-nothingness."
Gonzales listened quietly as the Justice Department and his own staff lined up against Addington. Then he decided in favor of Cheney's lawyer.
John D. Ashcroft, who was attorney general at the time, declined to discuss details of the dispute but said the vice president's views "carried a great deal of weight. He was the E.F. Hutton in the room. When he talked, everybody would listen." Cheney, he said, "compelled people to think carefully about whatever he mentioned."
When a U.S. District Court ruled several months later that Padilla had a right to counsel, Cheney's office insisted on sending Olson's deputy, Paul Clement, on what Justice Department lawyers called "a suicide mission": to tell Judge Michael B. Mukasey that he had erred so grossly that he should retract his decision. Mukasey derided the government's "pinched legalism" and added acidly that his order was "not a suggestion or request."
Cheney's strategy fared worse in the Supreme Court, where two cases arrived for oral argument alongside Padilla's on April 28, 2004.
For months, Olson and his Justice Department colleagues had pleaded for modest shifts that would shore up the government's position. Hamdi, the American, had languished in a Navy brig without a hearing or a lawyer for two and a half years. Shafiq Rasul, a British citizen at Guantanamo Bay, had been held even longer. Olson could make Cheney's argument that courts had no jurisdiction, but he wanted to "show them that you at least have some system of due process in place" to ensure against wrongful detention, according to a senior Justice Department official who closely followed the debates.
The vice president's counsel fought and won again. He argued that any declaration of binding rules would restrict the freedom of future presidents and open the door to further lawsuits. On June 28, 2004, the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 in the Hamdi case that detainees must have a lawyer and an opportunity to challenge their status as enemy combatants before a "neutral decision maker." The Rasul decision, the same day, held 6 to 3 that Guantanamo Bay is not beyond the reach of federal law.
Eleven days later, Olson stepped down as solicitor general. His deputy succeeded him. What came next was a reminder that it does not pay to cross swords with the vice president.
Ashcroft, with support from Gonzales, proposed a lawyer named Patrick Philbin for deputy solicitor general. Philbin was among the authors of the post-9/11 legal revolution, devising arguments to defend Cheney's military commissions and the denial of habeas corpus rights at Guantanamo Bay. But he had tangled with the vice president's office now and then, objecting to the private legal channel between Addington and Yoo and raising questions about domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.
Cheney's lawyer passed word that Philbin was an unsatisfactory choice. The attorney general and White House counsel abandoned their candidate.
"OVP plays hardball," said a high-ranking former official who followed the episode, referring to the office of the vice president. "No one would defend Philbin."
'Unacceptable to the Vice President's Office'
Rumsfeld, Cheney's longtime friend and mentor, gathered his senior subordinates at the Pentagon in the summer of 2005. Rumsfeld warned them to steer clear of Senate Republicans John McCain, John W. Warner and Lindsay O. Graham, who were drafting a bill to govern the handling of terrorism suspects.
"Rumsfeld made clear, emphatically, that the vice president had the lead on this issue," said a former Pentagon official with direct knowledge.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a longtime Cheney mentor, tours Abu Ghraib in May 2004. In 2005, he made it clear that Cheney 'has the lead on this issue,' said a Pentagon official, referring to the treatment of detainees More Cheney photos...
Though his fingerprints were not apparent, Cheney had already staked out a categorical position for the president. It came in a last-minute insert to a "statement of administration policy" by the Office of Management and Budget, where Nancy Dorn, Cheney's former chief of legislative affairs, was deputy director. Without normal staff clearance, according to two Bush administration officials, the vice president's lawyer added a paragraph -- just before publication on July 21, 2005 -- to the OMB's authoritative guidance on the 2006 defense spending bill [Read the document].
"The Administration strongly opposes" any amendment to "regulate the detention, treatment or trial of terrorists captured in the war on terror," the statement said. Before most Bush administration officials even became aware that the subject was under White House review, Addington wrote that "the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto" any such bill.
Among those taken unawares was Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England. More than a year had passed since Bush expressed "deep disgust" over the abuse photographed at Abu Ghraib, and England told aides it was past time to issue clear rules for U.S. troops.
In late August 2005, England called a meeting of nearly three dozen Pentagon officials, including the vice chief and top uniformed lawyer for each military branch. Matthew Waxman, the deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, set the agenda.
Waxman said that the president's broadly stated order of Feb. 7, 2002 -- which called for humane treatment, "subject to military necessity" -- had left U.S. forces unsure about how to behave. The Defense Department, he said, should clarify its bedrock legal requirements with a directive incorporating the language of Geneva's Common Article 3 [Read Common Article 3]. That was exactly the language -- prohibiting cruel, violent, humiliating and degrading treatment -- that Cheney had spent three years expunging from U.S. policy.
Same shit, different day
You might have noticed one of the things that makes me nuts is the difference between what this country says it is and what it is in real life.
What America is supposed to be about is freedom, the freedom to say what you think, of equality for everyone, of hope, of participatory government, blah blah blah blah.
Even those of us who should know better—like me, yeah—still fall for this bullshit.
What happened? Was it ever better than it is today? No...but there was more...hope. Throughout our national history there have been surges of hope—for equality, the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, for a government really of “the people,” and so on. Hope is what’s kept me going. I keep hoping things will get better. What a codependent, yeah. I am.
That brings me back to a book I mentioned a while back, Clancy Sigal’s Going Away
. It’s about the death of sone of the strongest hopes, participatory democracy and social justice. These deaths happened back in the 1950s, with the raging paranoia of the Cold War and the meanness of McCarthyism. Yeah, there were little outbursts of hope in the ‘60s, with the civil rights and anti-war movements, but those were like the last spasms, the rattles. I got to admit, I still believe in those things. And I still do what I can to bring about some major changes. The definition of insanity? Doing the same thing, over and over, and expecting different outcomes.
Back in the 1870s, the life of coal miners was exceedingly hard. It’s never been easy, and probably never will be—but back then it was absolutely vile. Many of the miners were Irish immigrants. The Irish had come to America to escape the death trap of English rule over their homeland. They arrived and were fed into entirely new death traps: soldiering in the Civil War, building the railroads, and working in the mines. They did, however, view America as a land of opportunity...and behaved as if it really was. In the coal fields, they organized into protective societies: The Ancient Order of Hibernians, and they fought back against the exploitive tactics of the mine owners. The nickname for the miners’ were “Molly McGuires.” When the miners agitated for better wages and the mine owners hired goons to beat them up, the miners beat up the goons. If the mines were unsafe, the miners closed them down. They fought back. It got violent.
America needed coal: industry, railroads—the country ran on coal. It needed cheap coal, because the industrialists hated like hell to pay more for anything than they absolutely had to. They hired scabs—strike-breakers—to counter the miners’ demands for better wages and working conditions, they got the troops called out to force miners back to work; they hired detective agencies and placed secret agents among the miners. And they hung or imprisoned those who spoke out against the awfulness. This sounds familiar, yeah. It should: it’s only one chapter in the book of broken dreams of America.
In Sigal’s book, the narrator picks up a hitch-hiker, a young guy who turns out to be a descendent of one of those secret agents used to squash the miners. The guy doesn’t know shit, of course: he’s a good citizen of the United States of Amnesia. What he knows is only what he’s been told through official sources.
So, that got me into this rap about American history. From the suppression of the Molly McGuires to the crushing of strikes against the mines in Idaho, in Nevada, Montana, Arizona, the repression of the Wobblies in the woods of Washington and Oregon (and Idaho and Montana...etc.), the owners, the bosses, have never hesitated to use whatever means they thought was necessary to preserve their investments. It got international, very fast, like the oil companies, the big mining conglomerates, the timber industries... Mexico, Chile, Peru, Indonesia, Africa—whatever is necessary to protect investments is done. To read the history is to read the betrayal of what America is supposed to be all about. Or what they say it’s all about.
The war against the Iraqis is no different—the technology has improved, but the goals are the same. Instead of coal it’s oil, instead of a national struggle it’s an international struggle, but, same ol’ same ol’.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Hell's Handbasket: the Ride
The current D.C. flap is about the assertion that Cheney's office is not part of the Executive Branch so he doesn't have to follow the rules...Well, one of the flaps, at least. But it is a big one, because it's about power not being shared among the branches of government. It's part of the on-going renovation of our traditional form of government that the neo
-cons have engineered. It's clearly about constitutional issues, just as much as Nixon's fight with Congress was about the separation of powers.
Back in Nixon's day, Congress was willing to get into it, fight it out, with Nixon. These days, I'm not sure that Congress is willing to go that far. Congress appears to be much more concerned with the image of being tough on terror than with saving our form of government. That's why torture is still used; why we're still involved in one of the stupidist
wars in America's long history of stupid wars; and why the attorney general's
office has been operating as the office of political commisars
It's been pointed out there's already been a coup. The changes in government brought about by the Bush-Cheney administration have effectively gutted the old Constitutional arrangement of government: a new system is in effect, one where the Executive Branch doesn't answer to anyone. The more Congress stumbles around and nothing really changes, the more I agree.
Well, we had the 2nd longest running government in the world. Guess that was good enough.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Time, Rocks, and Hot Springs
It’s nice to get away and it’s nice to come home. Good to leave the old familiar responsibilities and good to to pick them up again.
For my birthday, and for Father’s Day, we blew out of town, over the mountains to the McKenzie River, and some hot springs. We couldn’t afford to stay there, in their nice fancy resort—$100 a night, but we could afford an hour in the hot mineral pool on Saturday and another hour on Sunday. We got out of our minds and into our bodies.
The world did not fall apart while I was off being an unsupervisor. No more than it does with my supervision, anyhow.
No new terror plot hypes, that I’m aware of. Some new revelations about who knew what concerning the situation at Abu Gharib: yes, the administration did know about the torture, did authorize it, in fact. Fuck the Geneva Conventions, hello war crimes. Is this news to anyone? Maybe so, to some some sort of pro-Bush robo-neocon. It seemed obvious that what went on there was known about. Sanctioned. Ordered. It would be so good to see Rumsfelt, Cheney, and Bush in the dock at The Hague, charged with the same sorts of things we hung the losing generals and politicians for after World War II. My faith in justice might be restored.
But, in the meanwhile, life goes on. I'm now officially 69 years old. I'm an old man in most parts of the world. I've already lived longer than probably 99 % of the people who have ever lived. I don't know what that counts for; not much. I was looking at some formations of basalt and volcanic ash, layers of them, in a road-cut yesterday. In a dozen yards of exposed geology, maybe fifty thousand years' worth of upheaval, eruptions, earthquakes, erosion—and the period of my life-span, so far, might be, oh, about the width of a human hair. America's history might represent a half-inch of rock. We ain't much. I read something about the history of earth, if it were represented by the Empire State Building, the history of mankind might occupy the top five or six feet of the building. No more than that. Time seems like it's really important, but it's also utterly mysterious and infinite.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Mormons and Political Power
After the way the neo-cons and the Republican Party sucked up to Pat Robertson and the "christian zionists," nothing those slime-balls do should surprise anyone. But, just in case you think things have changed since last year's elections... Read on:
Polygamy: the Red State Answer to Family Values. AZ and UT Attorney Generals Won’t Prosecute It. And Then There's Orrin Hatch.
Created 06/15/2007 - 9:15am
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
Polygamy: the Red State Answer to Family Values. Arizona and Utah Attorney Generals Won’t Prosecute Males with Multiple Wives. Orrin Hatch Counts Polygamists as Good Buddies and Fine Men.
When doing a high school term paper on Mormonism, we recalled that Utah was admitted as a state in the 1890s only after it prohibited the practice of polygamy. Then, a couple of years back, we reported on BuzzFlash that in a town meeting in Utah, Orrin Hatch rebuffed complaints about polygamists  who married underage girls and abused their wives. As much as Hatch has left little room to astonish us with his unctuous hypocrisy, we were indeed taken aback when Hatch was quoted as responding something like, "Show me the evidence. All the polygamists I know are good people." (No, we are not making this up.)
So maybe we should have been prepared for a Reuters story on June 12th that indicated that polygamists will not be prosecuted in the states of Utah and Arizona.
"We are not going to go out there and persecute people for their beliefs," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.
Adds Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff: "We determined six or seven years ago that there was no way we could prosecute 10,000 polygamists and put the kids into foster care. There's no way that we have the money or the resources to do that."
Okay, Utah became a state under the condition it prohibit men from marrying multiple wives – and now the Republican Attorney General of Utah says that polygamy is de facto legalized. In a bi-partisan nod to an odd interpretation of the law and family values, the Democratic Attorney General of neighboring Arizona regards the practice as a religious belief, not subject to prosecution.
Of course, bowing to child abuse concerns, both Attorneys General claim that they would indict polygamists who force underage brides to become wives in their harems. The problem with this concession to the rule of law by Goddard and Shurtleff is that polygamists tend to live in very closed communities – and it is extremely difficult – short of aggressive prosecutorial action – to prevent young girls from becoming wives against their will.
As Orrin Hatch, a GOP hypocrite extraordinaire indicated a couple of years ago, "hear no evil, see no evil."
We don’t hear George W. Bush or anyone in his hierarchy of radical family value appointees discussing the illegal promiscuous practice of polygamy in the Mormon West. The Reuters article  noted that about 40,000 "fundamentalist Mormons" in Utah and nearby states live in polygamous relationships.
That’s enough polygamy going on to fill a nice size rural city.
But you don’t find any Republicans making this a "red meat" issue for their right wing echo chamber. Could it be that most polygamists, who are Mormons, are good reliable Republican voters?
Maybe we are just too cynical.
But then again, we don’t see Utah and Arizona rushing to overlook gay marriages. God forbid gays should marry in those two states.
Maybe, the secret is if you are gay in Utah and Arizona and want to get married, make sure one "top" marries "ten" bottoms.
Gay polygamy would surely be considered a "belief" then and be perfectly acceptable to the Attorneys General of Utah and Arizona.
Somehow we don’t think so.
So, let’s hear it for polygamy.
Red State family values at their finest.
Just ask Orrin Hatch. Some of his best buddies are polygamists. Just fine men, real fine men, you see.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL Technorati Tags: Editorials
 Orrin Hatch
 http://technorati.com/tag/ Mormons
 http://technorati.com/tag/ Orrin Hatch
Friday frustrations & fiascos
Friday and laundry day—which is after shopping day and eating day and so on and so forth. The trouble with washing clothes is it just encourages them to get dirty all over again. Like voting, uh-huh.
I finally worked out a scripted automatic backup for everything on my computer. It took an external hard drive and a program called SuperDuper!. It actually went into action rather easily. That’s typical of so much of life: much more time wasted worrying about the actual doing than the doing itself. I figured out how to copy CDs, a couple of weeks ago, after years of thinking about how cool it would be to do it. My downward path to wisdom...well, not wisdom: technical abilities. I still ain’t got down the wisdom part.
I’ve been thinking about how I let myself get used. Not necessarily for money, say, but favors, errands, relaying stuff. We have a friend over in the City Across the Mountains who is having a hard time. I’ve mentioned her, I think—hepatitis C, diabetes, obesity, heart problems, COPD, and no money. Zilch. She applied, a year ago, for SSI, and like almost everyone who applies, she got turned down. That’s hell for the people themselves, but it sure makes good business for lawyers and para-legals who specialize in appealing those decisions.
In the meantime, it’s strictly charity for meds, because there really isn’t any way for her to buy them. She gets food stamps and friends help her make the rounds of various food banks. The apartment she lives in is HUD subsidized and she doesn’t need to pay rent. One non-profit agency helps her with her electric bill. No phone, of course. There’s a computer in the basement of the apartment house so she can receive and send email. Apparently there’s nobody in her building who’ll let her use a phone, so she has the agencies, etc., call me here, and then I email her the messages... It’s bizarre, yeah. The arrangement for her insulin is through a program at an area hospital; apparently it’s pretty flaky, because a couple of times she’s called to borrow money to pay for the insulin. A couple of weeks ago she went to the hospital because they told her they’d messed up on the application so she went to the ER, figuring they were not going to send her away to go into insulin shock. She called us collect from the ER and we called her right back. Fucking ten dollars for the collect call. Jesus Christ! is right. I got a message for her early this week, so I sent the info on. Didn’t hear from her for two days, then emailed and said, well, did you get the message? She wrote back and said the last two numbers I’d sent didn’t come through—there were two sets of numbers, the doctor’s phone number and a reference number to use. That’s all she said: the last two numbers didn’t come through. I wrote back and asked which two, the phone or the reference number, and, well, being vague is fine, but, it really helps to be prompt and communicative. That was Wednesday and I haven’t heard anything back. The vibe I got was, she couldn’t do anything because the “last two numbers didn’t come through,” and there was some fault in the transmission of them from this end. It’s happened before. When stuff doesn’t happen it isn’t her responsibility—kind of like “the dog ate my homework.”
I think I’m being used around the message center stuff.
Now, what do I plan on doing about it? No, I haven’t the foggiest idea. Just putting it out here is a step in some direction or other.
In the meanwhile, my birthday is Sunday and it's fodders day. I don't feel very celebratory, as I've mentioned before. So B. and I are going to drive over to the MacKenzie River, visit some hot springs, and spend the night. That'll be good, yes.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
After a week...
So, anyhow, maybe I only have something new to say about once a week. Who knows? I've been reading a lot, which is always recharging.
Read about the beginnings of WW One (Tuchman's thorough and most readable and intelligent Guns of August) and the battle of Paschendale (a collection of oral accounts by various Brit Empire soldiers who lived through it). The best thing about reading those books is the reawakening of my awareness that war is incredibly good at bringing out the worst qualities of the ruling classses, both economic and politcal as well as military. Once a war starts, stupidity climbs in the saddle and leads the charge. All too often, war is won by the side that make the fewest blunders. The remainder of the victories are won by those who have the most resources. Morality, of course, has little to do with outcomes—a lot to do with historical perspective afterward, but not much at the time of conflict. America did have the moral high ground in WW Two, but that wasn't what determined the outcome: it was resources.
Also, I read a book about the "human potential" movement that began thirty or forty years ago, particularly out here on the west coast. An optimistic period, for a lot of people, because during the horrors of the Viet Nam War, some people were able to launch themselves full-tilt into new forms of psychtherapy, biochemistry, yoga, Zen, spiritualism, encounter groups, t-groups, massage...it was like a time of socially acceptable narcissism. A lot of it coalesced down at Esalen Hot Springs, on the California coast at Big Sur. I well remember those years. As usual, I was on the fringe, wishing, but not achieving, to be a full-blown participant. I did the best I could: I learned about orgones and Rolfing. I sat in the hot-seat during encounter groups and had my inventory taken, the way Chinese intellectuals in Mao's day got to experience group criticism. I experimented with psychedelics. It was fun while it lasted, yeah... But, so what? Many of us treated that stuff so seriously, yet we remained essentially lonely, overly self-reflective, and bummed-out. All that really gave us lasting pleasure, though, were the two old stand-bys: love and work.
Is that the ultimate wisdom of my life? Well, I guess so. Up to now, anyhow. And, shit, in less than a week I'll be 69 years old. Holy cow!
Stay tuned for follow-up bulletins.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
At the end of a two week silence
Been two weeks since my last post, I know
. I haven't had the motivation to stick anything up: feels like it just vanishes into the cyber-void. The truth is that I'm discouraged. Yes, I did feel elated and somewhat optimistic that the Demos came into power. But two of the most dynamic members of Congress are busy hustling themselves toward the presidency. Without saying anything substantial. Or hardly anything insubstantial.
And the war grinds out. Casualties mount. "Support our troops" had become the mantra of the pro-war, pro-imperial forces in government, no matter what people say. And that support-our-troops-or-your-a-traitor cant has effectively silenced the elected anti-war people.
Nothing has changed, has it? What did I miss? Did Bush get forced back into Constitutional behavior? Did Gonzales get tossed out on his ass? Any prisoners get released from Guantanamo? New privacy protections come into force? No no no no.
And the war goes on.
Anyhow, here's a rap about a post I got:
What crazies me up about capitalism—”the free market economy”—is that anything is allowed. Sell the product, sell the product, and sell more product. It doesn’t really matter how you sell it, just sell it.
This mini-rant comes to you because some jerk posted what seemed at first like a comment on the blog, but after a dozen or so words, it became a sales pitch. Spam isn’t enough; automated phone calls aren’t enough; junk mail isn’t enough. Jeez. It’s like the people who get conned into selling Kirby Vacuums door to door or Avon or cookware, perfume, laundry soap—they’re encouraged to hit on their friends first. I’ve known several people—if not friends, then acquaintances—who tried their sales pitches out on me. When I wouldn’t buy they became offended.
“But, if I just sell ten of these, then I can become a distributor—”
Those scenes are uncomfortable. It’s hard enough to maintain good solid friendships without buy-and-selling getting in the way.
Fuck off, sales-people!