January 27, 2004


From an Amnesty International 

press release - http://news.amnesty.org/index/ENGMDE140472004


Amnesty International is calling for an inquiry into recent attacks in

which civilians were killed in Iraq in circumstances which may have violated

international law.

"There are worrying reports about the mounting casualties

amongst civilians who find themselves caught in the battle between American troops and

insurgents," said Abdel Salam Sidahmed, Director of the Middle East and North Africa

Program in Amnesty International. "It is time to ask questions about whether these

casualties could have been avoided, and whether needless deaths could be prevented in

the future."

According to press and hospital reports, at least 44 people --

including many women and children -- were killed when US forces attacked targets

allegedly connected to al-Qa'eda near the city of Falluja on Friday . .

From IPS  :

Patriot Law

Found Guilty of Misuse and Repealed -

Ranjit Devraj

/>After snaring thousands of teenagers, politicians, journalists, members of minority

communities but few terrorists, India repealed its 'patriot' law introduced in response

to the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

NEW DELHI, Sep 18 (IPS) -

After snaring thousands of teenagers, politicians, journalists, members of minority

communities but few terrorists, India, this week, repealed its 'patriot' law introduced

in response to the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

A government

statement said the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had at a meeting

Friday decided to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) with a new law.

''It is important to note the intention of the government is to protect the

rights of people vis-a-vis the misuse of POTA,'' the statement said.


unpopularity of POTA contributed to the electoral debacle of the right-wing, Bharatiya

Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in May by the

communist-backed, Congress-led, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of Prime

Minister Manmohan Singh.

Indeed, the Congress party and its allies had made

misuse of POTA a major election issue and vowed to make its repeal a priority, ignoring

dire warnings from BJP leaders, including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,

that this would be an invitation to increased incidents of bombings and suicide attacks

. . .
So why not here?

From a report - http://globalmarch.org/clns/clns-september-2004-details.html#20-1 staff

by the Child Labor News Service  :
ISLAMABAD: Children in

Pakistan are being trained and used in armed conflicts according to a report by the

Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC)


report expressed disappointment over the fact that Pakistan has not yet ratified the

optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on

the involvement of children in armed conflicts. Article 38 of the UNCRC states that, “no

child below the age of 15 shall have any part in hostilities or shall be recruited in

the armed forces. States shall also ensure the protection and care of children who are

affected by armed conflicts as described in international laws”.

The report

observed that Pakistani children had suffered worst form of violence after US invaded

Afghanistan in 2001. “Recruitment of children continued despite the government's

attempts to curb the use of madrassas (seminaries) as breeding grounds for jihadis.

Factors including poverty, unemployment, adventure, physical punishment, religious glory

and feeling of being powerful at a young age prompt children to join the jihadi outfits

that manage many of the madrassa networks,” the report said. It claimed that there were

over 70,000 madrassas in Pakistan and some were still involved in recruiting thousands

of children to fight in Afghanistan and Kashmir . . .
Funny, but it seems to

me that the US recruits children, too. Isn't a 17 or 18 year old still a child?

/>. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Be at peace

January 02, 2004

This is a must read! Jay Shaft, writing for Axis of Logic, asks, "How Much Worse Can It Get? When will mainstream America wake up?" Good question. Excerpts:

This well to do and very contented yuppie made the comment that it really wasn’t all that bad when you looked at the entire picture. I had to wonder what picture he had been looking at, and what amusement park had it on display. The facts he was quoting were in no way based on any current facts or figures on the plight of America. His facts painted a rosy picture of economic recovery, a winning trend in the war in Iraq, a victory over terrorism, and happy times for all Americans.

I was presenting him with the current figures on how bad it really is on all the issues he mentioned, and he acted like it was something he had never heard before. I realized that maybe he never has heard how bad it has gotten, and maybe he didn’t want to hear it. His shock and anger were immediate and vitriolic in nature. He denounced me as a liar and a bullshit artist, and claimed I was making these things up out of thin air . . .

The ignorance and unawareness so prevalent among the mainstream 9-5 sheeple constantly amazes me. People that are supposed to be our best-educated and most responsible workers and thinkers seem to never even think for themselves anymore. When they come across an idea that challenges their safety and comfort they attack it violently as lies and left wing propaganda. Any idea that deviates from their narrowly defined version of reality is met with scorn and sarcasm. You would think that these people would be the ones trying to figure out where America is going wrong.

Be at peace.

A fairly good profile of Dennis Kucinich in this morning's NYT.

And The Left End of the Dial has the lyrics to Willie Nelson's new song. It occurs to me that being the home of Willie, The Dixie Chicks, and Lyle Lovett, maybe Texas does have some redeeming social value . . . nawwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Be at peace.

Essay: Of Rights and Responsibility - -

Try to realize, and truly realize,
that what stands between you
and a different life
are matters of responsible choice.
from The Seat of the Soul
by Gary Zukav

Not long after deciding to write this, I stated my intention on my web log. I did so because I like to think I have some integrity, and intimidated by the task, I knew I wouldn’t back out once I advertised. Now as I tackle the subject, I feel I have some greater appreciation of both my rights (to make my announcement - "coming soon" - disappear with a few key strokes) and my responsibility (to deliver as promised). Believe me, abdication has been difficult to resist.

The subject of "rights" - human rights, civil rights, gay rights, property rights, privacy rights, and so forth, seemingly ad infinitum - has added a great many decibels to "The Great Noise" that erupted at the crashing of the WTC over two years ago, much of the clamor generated by the emergence of the odorous "Patriot Act" from the usually constipated bowels of Congress. Chances are that the "PA 2.0" upgrade will be shipped, just not quite on time. Like all such things these days, the documentation will probably be unreadable, there won’t be anyone at the helpdesk, and the source code will be hidden in Ashcroft’s Bible. Of course, the minute we fire it up . . . BSOD and total system lock.

We are, indeed, in danger of losing many of our codified rights. Should George W. Bush be awarded a second term with the Republican Party maintaining a majority in Congress and sympathy in the courts, we will surely see repeal of some and erosion of others. For nearly two years neoconservative stalking horses like Hugh Shelton have been preparing the way. In very late 2003, just before publication of this essay, with no fanfare (and almost no media coverage save that still chirping away on the left like a mine canary), a significant piece of "Patriot Act II" (call it "P.A. 1.5") was approved and made law by stealth.

I must say the following unequivocally: in a democracy, rights are not "lost" - they are abdicated through a societal failure of responsibility. We have spent so much energy on defining and exercising our rights, that we have failed to protect them with responsibility. Instead of participating in the democratic process, we have denied the necessity of effective self-government and have settled for "government-for-hire." It is no wonder, then, that a century of "dumbing down," media conglomeration, the rise of the ruling/legal class, and the pressure to consume have left us with an administration grateful for an "external" excuse to ignore (or even glorify) the miasma of our plight. I will not here argue the case for terrorism in any way. But I will say that it is a fact of nature that opportunistic predators strike at the weakest, rather than the strongest, organisms. In that simple but glaring light, the president's claim that we are defiled and attacked because we are envied our greatness is at best pathetic. Although we claim to still be the greatest nation on earth, we have been lagging for many years behind other countries in education, healthcare availability, workers' rights, arts, and crime prevention.

We can no longer bask in the afterglow of our "defeat of communism." In fact, state communism defeated itself - in spite of its propaganda - by removing, rather than enhancing personal responsibility. We simply outlasted and outspent them.

The test of American democracy was not decided by the disintegration of the Soviet Empire. The Soviet Empire embraced a corruption of Marxist thought and died of - simply - greed and fear and repression. It occurs to me that those same commodities are now in abundance in the United States of America. If you listen closely, you can hear millions of Americans trying to whistle past the graveyard. True, everyone whistles their own tune, but that doesn't faze the graveyard. It is essential to remember that "The Cold War" was not a battle between communism and democracy, but a battle between communism and capitalism. In the United States of America, democracy has been the flag in which capital has wrapped itself. I fear that having "beaten" communism, capital will have little use for democracy. But, maybe, if SUVs get a little cheaper, Britney reveals a little more skin, and the music gets turned up a little more, it'll be pretty painless.

What a waste it will be. We are the wealthiest nation-state on the planet. We have the resources and creativity to feed, cloth, shelter, comfort, and sustain the world. Why, then, are we embarked on a mission to suppress all those who do not espouse our particular brand of political economy? And if what we're pushing is so good and so right, why does our government conduct itself with deception and secrecy?

To those "on the left" I throw down this challenge: why are we blaming the neoconservatives? I ask liberals and progressives to do the same self-searching that I have asked of our government: "if there's a problem, what part of that problem is with me?"

These are issues of responsibility; at a national level, social responsibility and personal responsibility are mirrors of and to each other. Gary Zukav, the author I cited as an invocation for this essay, would tell us that each of us is responsible for the whole thing. I understand that concept, but it can only be understood on a spiritual plane, and it is very hard to practice it. Populist progressivism, however, is very much about a spiritual view of life - that we as individuals will be well and wealthy only to the extent that we ensure that everyone is well and wealthy. To the extent that we are selfish and scared and greedy, to that extent is our wealth and power hollow and ineffective.

Before I go on and bang the drum for personal responsibility, I will tell you that I have been, at times, nearly the worst example of a responsible person that you might find. I have found ways of denying, avoiding, or simply blowing off responsibility that have been downright creative. I'm at a deficit - I owe countless amends and most of the time use my despair of making those amends as an excuse to give up trying. My point here is that I have my own battle to fight in this area. And so do you. So do Bill Bennett and Rush Limbaugh. This personal battle involving a self-examination of our values must be constantly fought if we are to bring integrity, power, commitment, and connectedness to a progressive movement.

All I can offer here are some suggestions from my own experience. I have said elsewhere that the new progressive movement must have a spiritual basis. You may squint and curl your lip at that, but there it is. Do neither as I say or do. Do as your heart and soul tell you. This is simply what I believe:

I have the right to be apolitical. In a democracy, I have the responsibility to be as fully involved in the government of society as I can be;

I have the right to behave selfishly to the edge of the envelope. I have the responsibility to think of the comfort and well-being of "the other" first. I was taught the simple concept of "manners". I am not a fan of any religion, but all those with which I am familiar place a high degree of value on tolerance, charity, compassion, and selflessness. I cannot believe that our constitutional separation of church and state means that we are not allowed to be good people, active members of society, responsible citizens. To a great degree, however, we have tattered the cloth of personal responsibility as a civic virtue. Responsibility has become a commodity. "Don't blame me, I voted for McGovern . . .";

I have the right to choose. I have the responsibility to choose the "no" option in many situations that allow me with legal impunity to choose "yes". Self-denial means overcoming fear: "what will happen to me if I don't [fill in the blank]?" The real question should be, "what would happen to all of us if each of us had just what we need and no more?";

I have the right to live to the limit of my means (or even beyond that limit should loose credit prevail). I have the responsibility to live simply, to leave a small footprint, to stay the hell out of the way unless I am certain to contribute positively to the greatest good;

Under the tent of "freedom of speech", I have the right to say pretty much what I please. I'm afraid I'm not very good at this one, but I have the responsibility to be reasoned, knowledgeable, respectful, and truthful;

I have the right to form my own views. I have the responsibility to know the truth, even if it contradicts my views;

I have the right to protect myself from those things I fear: poverty, violence, misinterpretation, estrangement, fevered disagreement, incarceration . . . I have the responsibility to act with humility, courage, integrity, and, very often, restraint.

As a species, I think we have learned nothing from our banishment from the Garden. The message was, "you don't get to do everything, you don't get to have everything, you are not god." God was on our side. She was trying the "tough love" bit. Do not be so arrogant to believe that the gods will shed a second tear when we have destroyed ourselves. And will our last breath exhale the words, "it wasn't my fault?"

Be at peace.

January 01, 2004

Just realized that I needed to really start the new year off right:

Hey! Teddy!! Yo! Kennedy!! You are NOT by any means a "progressive." I mean, I'm real glad that you've made the speeches about Bush lying and all that, but that doesn't make you a progressive. Your agenda doesn't hold a candle to Kucinich's. Please don't run for re-election again, OK?

Be at peace.

It's 2004 AD . . . whew! This is the year that - legally, non-violently, and gratefully - we elect Dr Howard Dean to replace George W Bush as our president.

After that happens, we will be able to begin healing from the spreading cancer called "The Reagan Revolution" to start on a foundation to forward a New Progressive Agenda. Much of that foundation is being articulated now by Dennis Kucinich, George Soros, Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley Braun, Manuel Valenzuela, Jim Hightower, Howard Zinn, Kathy Kelly, Ray McGovern, Jim Lobe, Julien Ninio, and a growing number of media agencies, journalists, bloggers, and other advocates of peace, justice, and truth.

I want to start the year by thanking everyone who has come here and then come back; everyone who has left a comment (even those scolding me for switching my support to Howard Dean), signed my guestbook, or sent an email; everyone who has linked to my blog from theirs; and everyone who has referred someone here.

So . . . just a couple of goodnews items:

First, it looks like Halliburton/KBR is gonna lose it's oil for votes welfare payment. (Talk about shutting the barndoor after the damn barn's been dismantled.)

Next, Stephen J. Glain writes in The Boston Globe that, "Pentagon freezes Iraq funds amid corruption probes". Excerpts:

The Pentagon has frozen new funds approved for Iraqi reconstruction amid growing allegations of corruption and cronyism associated with the rebuilding process . . .

The Pentagon's decision to delay Iraqi reconstruction is another setback for a process already hobbled by political insecurity and, increasingly, concerns over corruption and misconduct. The success of the US-led bid to remake Iraq politically depends largely on efforts to reverse the country's chronic unemployment by repairing it economically. But lawmakers in Washington and businesspeople in Iraq say the bidding process lacks transparency and favors a growing class of monopolists and oligarchs that could overwhelm the country's infant regulatory framework.

"Everyone is focusing on the capture of Saddam Hussein," said Laith Kubba, a former Iraqi dissident who divides his time between Washington, London, and Iraq. "But with Saddam gone the most important thing is the country's political and economic transformation, and that is being held hostage by vested interests" . . .

The US government and the International Finance Corp., the lending arm of the World Bank, say they have made available hundreds of millions of dollars for small to mid-sized businesses in Iraq. In addition to new sources of capital, Iraqi businesspeople say they want enhanced oversight and regulation over the subcontracting process to prevent larger players from tilting the awards in their favor.

"Otherwise, the next round of bidding is going to be more corrupt than the first," said an Iraqi consultant to US telecommunications companies with offices in Baghdad and Washington. "The clans have always done this, but now it's a hundred times worse."

Ashcroft finally recused himself from the Plame-outing investigation. Not only will the Special Prosecutor's dog not hunt, I doubt whether there's anything left to catch a scent on. The best that will happen is that someone in the "administration" who is expendable and probably wants out anyway will 'fess up, get sentenced, then pardoned by Doubleduh in late October.

Be at peace.