8/09/2007

For a new Constitutional Convention

By Mediagonebad

The United States is in one hell of a mess. And the mess is so big that our politicians and their corporate sponsors cannot get us out. That just leaves us, the citizens, to pursue this awesome responsibility, this all-important duty.

The people of the United States need a new declaration of independence from our government. We need a new constitutional convention to put forward ideas and platforms that reaffirm our commitment to a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." And we need the people power of direct democracy to give every citizen a chance to participate and vote on proposals. Our democracy has been hijacked by a band of right-wing ideologues and zealots who believe -- just like Adolph Hitler -- in worldwide corporate hegemony rather than democracy.

The Executive Branch of our government has -- without the consent of the governed -- strayed from its separate but equal position and has taken on the role of an imperial kingdom. After six years of the Bush administration, our Constitution is in grave danger and our rights and freedoms are being rapidly curtailed by a Congress and Justice Department that sheepishly follows wherever Bush leads because its members do not want to appear too critical of the self-described "war president" while troops are in the field. Rather than defending the Constitution, both major parties are engaging in political posturing.


Let's review some of the highlights of the Bush administration:

(1) Florida election fraud in 2000.

(2) Dick Cheney's super-secret 2001 energy task force. The public is still in the dark about who attended and what was discussed.

(3) In August, 2001, Bush ignores daily briefing report entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." The report stated that bin Laden might use planes as weapons.

(4) Hours after 9/11, while commercial flights were grounded nationwide, Bush allowed some 200 members of the bin Laden family to fly to Saudi Arabia without even being questioned by the FBI.

(5) The invasion of Iraq was sold to Congress on a whole pack of lies regarding Iraq's military capabilities. We were supposed to be in eminent danger. We were supposed to fight them over there so we wouldn't have to fight them over here, as if terrorism were an actual nation instead of a cowardly hit-and-run political tactic to get attention.

(6) Private "military contractors" like Blackwater and Haliburton provide support services, security, and even go on armed missions in Iraq alongside the troops. It is not clear who these private contractors are accountable to. The generals? The Congress? Their stockholders? No one?

(7) The passage of Patriot Act I, Patriot Act II, and the National Security Agency wiretapping program curtail civil liberties and allow the NSA to bypass the FISA courts and sanction warrantless wiretapping.

(8) The White House exposes Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA agent in retaliation for her husband's statement about yellowcake uranium in Niger. Bush had stated that Iraq was trying to obtain this material from Niger and Joseph Wilson proved that this was false. Valerie Wilson worked in the CIA as an expert on nuclear weapons.

(9) Ohio election fraud in 2004.

(10) Bush states "We do not torture," but admits that "enemy combatants" may be subjected to extreme measures in order to gather information. Yet even the International Committee of the Red Cross says we do, in fact, torture prisoners. The Military Commissions Act sanctions torture of "detainees" and ends the writ of Habeas Corpus, which is at the very root of democratic government. Nothing in this bill protects American citizens from being kidnapped by their own government, sent to secret prisons without a trial, and tortured.

(11) Federal judges dismissed for political reasons rather than performance.

(12) In Presidential Directive 51, Bush asserts that in a "catastrophic event" he can take over all aspects of government, including even state and local government. In the event of a major labor strike, for example, Bush can use this directive to declare "martial law" and send the National Guard into American cities.

(13) Bush and Cheney claim executive privilege and fail to honor Congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony. Bush wants witnesses to speak to prosecutors in secret and off-the-record. Bush uses signing statements to specify which parts of a bill passed by Congress he does not accept or will not abide by.

(14) The presidential pardon of convicted felon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who had inside knowledge of the inner workings of the White House that Bush and Cheney did not want exposed, effectively bought his silence.

(15) War spending reaches $12 billion a month.


What a mess! Corruption. Fraud. Secret government. War profiteering. Warrantless wiretapping. A nation that purports to be free and democratic simply does not engage in such criminal activities unless something is very, very wrong. For the president and vice president, impeachment is the necessary Constitutional remedy. For the systemic problems, however, a new constitutional convention may be our last best hope before Bush leads us into war with Iran and more chaos.

7/16/2007

Honoring our war dead


By Mediagonebad

History will one day portray George W. Bush as a criminal and a warmonger who desired the power of a king to decide law, declare war, curtail civil liberties, and erode the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Bush, Cheney, and their corporate constituency -- the "neocons" -- are presently protected by a timid Congress, a sympathetic Supreme Court, and by a mass media busy distracting the public with sports and entertainment rather than engaging the public with diverse viewpoints on policy issues. We are the citizens.We are the ones who should be deciding policy. We are the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Yet we are routinely left out of policy decisions.

When Bush is finally exposed for the criminal he is and his role in fabricating evidence for the Iraq war is finally exposed, what punishment should he receive? Impeachment? Prison? And what of the thousands who died or were injured by guns, bombs and IEDs? What of those who underwent torture or were placed in secret prisons for no other reason than they were picked up somewhere because their names sounded similar to a suspected terrorist? No case review. No counsel. No trial. No rights.

And how do we ensure that all of the victims of Bush's wrongful war be remembered for more than merely following orders from above? Will the dead be immortalized on a wall like Vietnam vets? Will the wounded be provided lifetime medical and mental health care, or will they -- like Vietnam vets -- be ignored to become destitute and homeless?

Even though the war is wrong, no one need die in vain if we replace life with life. We can plant memorial trees or gardens to provide life-giving oxygen through photosynthesis. Or perhaps we can do something unconventional and experimental, something unseen that may help restore the ocean reefs on a planet that has already lost 20 percent of its coral reefs, which are critical to Earth's ecosystem. The Reef Memorial Project places a memorial bronze plaque on a new concrete reef ball -- a circular-shaped form designed to simulate underwater reefs. (Also see Reef Ball Foundation.) The concrete forms are then shipped to the area where the reef is being built and are then offloaded into the water and stacked alongside other forms, thus forming a reef. Families and friends can participate in this process at any point -- from constructing the forms and polishing the plaques to holding a memorial service onboard the ship as the forms are offloaded. The hope of this project is that these concrete reef balls will become living rocks that provide food and shelter for reef plants and aquatic life. As the war spending exceeds $10 billion a month, Congress could certainly find the money to purchase a memorial reef ball for every soldier killed in Iraq.

Can there be a greater personal memorial than helping to sustain the planet that sustains us? Whether we plant a tree, a community garden, or help build a reef, we are honoring our heroes. Bush and Cheney did not honor them when they dragged them into a war based on a pack of lies, so we honor our war dead by honoring life, by ending the war, by taking our country back, and by ensuring that no president ever again achieve the power of a king. We ARE the government.

3/16/2007

America's Road to Fascism

By mediagonebad

Is the United States on the road to fascism? Below are some defining characteristics of fascism based on the work of Dr. Lawrence Britt (Free Inquiry Magazine, Volume 23, Number 2), who studied the common characteristics of fascist regimes in Italy, Germany, Spain, Indonesia, Portugal, Chile, and Greece. I have applied Britt's characteristics of fascism to the United States and the Bush and Obama administrations.

1. Powerful and continuing nationalism. This is best understood as displays of flags and simplistic patriotic slogans, symbols, lapel pins, bumper stickers, and so forth. After 9/11, George W. Bush used catch-phrases -- like "we have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" -- that were repeated over and over by members of his administration. This is meant to separate "them" (the bad) from "us" (the good) so we can feel good about ourselves as we bomb or starve them into submission to Big Oil.

In 2009, the Tea Party, organized by FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey, became a populist conservative movement favoring limited federal government, fewer taxes, deregulation, immigration enforcement, and rejection of global warming science. Members spanned a range of political views spurred on largely by Tax Day protests. By the mid-term elections in 2010, the Tea Party ran several candidates on the Republican ticket, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sharron Angle of Nevada, Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota
. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin went on a national speaking tour on behalf of Tea Party candidates. Overall, the Tea Party did not fare well in the mid-terms, but their views affected mainstream Republicans like John Boehner of Ohio and Jim Demint of South Carolina. Overall, the Tea Party slogans in the 2010 mid-term election helped shift the Republican Party even further to the right.

2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights. The Bush administration argued that human rights can be ignored in certain situations because of the "need" to gather information. Constitutional law can be side-stepped. The Geneva Conventions can suddenly be ignored. Torture, indefinite incarceration, and political assassinations become acceptable. The concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, the documented torture at Abu Ghraib, and the policy of extraordinary rendition of prisoners to secret prisons in third countries are current examples. President Obama has bolstered this policy by supporting indefinite detention of American citizens, who can be whisked away and imprisoned in third countries without any recourse or due process of law. The U.S. Constitution is being undermined without a whimper from the mass media.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a unifying cause. After 9/11, Arab-Americans and Muslims suddenly became targets of hate speech and racial profiling simply because of their race or religion and not because of any link with terrorists. Even wearing a tee-shirt with Arabic lettering can be cause for detention at airports. Anti-immigrant rhetoric has also been stepped up and Mexican immigrants are blamed for the economic woes created by the massive war debt.

4. Supremacy of the military. Like Hitler declared himself the German "fuhrer" or "leader," George W. Bush declared himself "the war president" and "the decider." And like the German Reichstag gave Hitler dictatorial powers to control the German army, the U.S. Congress gave Bush dictatorial powers to conduct the so-called "war on terror." Military service has become glamorized and military spending has increased while the national debt spirals out of control. Domestic entitlement programs suffer, including, even, the medical after-care of wounded soldiers. Recruiters aggressively target vulnerable working-class high school kids with promises of money and college.

And private corporations like Haliburton and Blackwater are becoming more than "military support contractors." They are becoming private armies in and of themselves that go on armed missions just like the Army and the Marines. Just what are these missions, anyway? Are these militias operating legally under the U.S. Constitution? Is Congress fulfilling its Constitutional duty to regulate and discipline them? If not, then who is in charge of them? The President? The Pentagon? The CIA? Or is Vice President Cheney and his super-secret "energy task force" (Big Oil) now in charge?

5. Rampant Sexism. Dr. Britt notes that fascist regimes are male-dominated and that the state takes an increased role as the guardian of the nuclear family as an institution, with women as second-class citizens. Fascist regimes tout vague terms like "family values" and become more strict regarding divorce, abortion and homosexuality. Organizations that help single parents and the poor with a variety of services, like ACORN and Planned Parenthood, have been under continous attack. A smear campaign against ACORN forced it to close, so it no longer provides voter registration services or assistance with heating bills.

6. Controlled mass media. The media in the United States are not controlled by the government, per se, but the owners go along with military censorship of war reporting and fail to provide opposing views. Public officials and press secretaries have daily "talking points" that serve as an echo chamber. Each official repeats the same terminology. For example, in the build-up to the occupation of Iraq, members of the Bush administration repeated the imagery of the "mushroom cloud" to convince the public that Iraq was an imminent threat to U.S. national security because it "wanted" nuclear weapons. The media did nothing to challenge the assertions or to demand proof -- even when then Secretary of State Colin Powell presented cartoon drawings to the United Nations as "evidence" that Iraq had mobile chemical weapons labs.

7. Obsession with national security. After 9/11, people were driven into a frenzy over getting revenge and eliminating an exaggerated common threat -- terrorism. New color-coded "threat" levels, prominently displayed by the national media news networks, added to the atmosphere of fear and confusion. Although terrorism is a real and despicable political tactic, it is also rare and often random.

8. Religion and government become intertwined.
Christians do not live in a reality-based world and this is really the heart of America's road to totalitarian fascism. Politicians know that religion has long been used to manipulate people and to convince them that what "faith-based" government does is moral and just. Opponents are not just adversaries, but are considered traitors who are committing heresy. Christians are an easily controlled group because they are issue-oriented and vote according to dominant electoral "themes" like opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Bush loyalist Karl Rove was very good at manipulating this group. [Author Chris Hedges wrote a fine book called "American Fascists," which goes into much more detail about god and government.]

9. Corporate power is protected. Ever since the first permanent settlement at Jamestown in 1607, the corporation has been more important than the individual. Within weeks after Jamestown set up a crude government, the first of many slave ships began arriving to provide the new settlers with slave labor. Now, 400 years later, abject slavery has been replaced by wage slavery. The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are "persons" and are thus protected by the First Amendment. The problem with this is that corporations, because of their great financial power, can never be equal with real flesh-and-blood citizens when conflicts occur. When Oprah Winfrey criticized the beef industry on national television, Texas beef industry representatives sued her for libel and took her to court. She ultimately won her case, largely because she had the financial resources of her own to mount a legal challenge. The vast majority of citizens cannot fight back. Corporate power has become so huge and international that it has swallowed up the three branches of government and leads the military charge to grab the world's oil.

In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission affirmed corporate personhood and ruled that the federal government may not restrict political spending by corporations wanting to sway voters in elections. Corporations may spend whatever they want in order to influence voters.

The greatest challenge to corporate greed has been the Occupy movement, a worldwide movement of people occupying public spaces and setting up democratic encampments that even provide meals and health services. The corporate masters and their militarized police forces are trying to break this people's movement by coersion and by force. In the U.S., the Occupy movement has shut down major seaports with the support of dock workers' unions. Corporations do not like challenges to their power and they will fight back violently, as any detailed study of American history shows.

10. Labor power is suppressed.
Labor unions have been largely busted up and workers are losing ground on wages and benefits while housing and health care costs soar. Large numbers of people have become disenfranchised from the old American dream of economic prosperity with equality and justice for all. Jobs are being outsourced to foreign nations where safety rules, environmental laws, and child labor laws do not exist. Meanwhile, corporate lobbyists buy favors and votes in Congress and get tax cuts and multi-billion-dollar no-bid contracts for military support services. The mass media is a part of this corporate power structure and does a piss-poor job of speaking truth to power and standing up for citizens. The media do not expose the societal harm that corporate abuses cause because their parent companies are involved in this fleecing of the public.

11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts.
Academic intellectuals and opponents of government policy are treated as unpatriotic "liberals" or as inarticulate whackos in the media while government officials are basically provided with an open microphone to lie at will without any challenge to their assertions. Reporters ask sheepish, softball questions and accept the responses as truth. Serious debate is stifled by omission and artists like the Dixie Chicks are vilified for speaking out.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Under the misnamed "Patriot Act," the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI were given broad new powers to spy on Americans. Constitutional and civil rights began to erode. Giant telecommunication companies willingly provided personal information on thousands of Americans to the FBI. With more than two million Americans in jails and prisons -- many for non-violent crimes such as violating drug laws -- prisons are increasingly becoming privatized factories-with-fences to provide cheap labor to manufacture products for corporations.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Scandal after scandal is beginning to unravel while the Bush administration circles its wagons and dishes out pure spin to the media. Bush has always appointed his close friends to high government positions and they support his policies regardless of the law. When confronted, Bush claimed "executive privilege" as president and commander-in-chief. Obama has solidified this. Once such power is achieved, it is not given up, no matter what the Constitution says on the separation of powers.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections can be rigged by increasing the registration requirements in key states, by reducing the number of voting machines in key districts, by changing the times when the polls will be open, by kicking eligible voters off the roles, by making ballots more confusing, and by eliminating paper records of voting so that all recounts will have to be done by hacker-vulnerable computers. These are all tricks used in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 to give Bush the presidency. The 2010 Supreme Court ruling also comes into play when corporations became free to spend unlimited money to influence elections and, in November 2010, Republicans took back the House after a particularly nasty year of negative commercials in which truth did not matter.

Many of these fascist characteristics have been building slowing over a number of years through both Democratic and Republican administrations. But the reign of George W. Bush has taken these characteristics to dangerous new levels. If we value our constitutional freedoms, then we must do everything we can to challenge him on multiple fronts. After Bush's recent visit to Guatemala, Mayan priests performed a purification ceremony to rid their sacred sites of the evil spirits left behind by Bush. If we intend to pursue any measure of justice for his abuses of power and for his crimes against humanity, then he needs to be arrested and brought to trial. And Obama, whose election gave high hopes to many and who won a Nobel Peace Prize based on this hope, should be marched out of the White House in leg irons for allowing crimes against humanity to continue on his watch.

The worldwide trend over the past 40 years has been toward mass privatization brought about by some kind of societal event, such as a civil war or a natural disaster, in which civil liberties can be suspended while economic law is re-written to favor unfettered capitalism. The war on Iraq was an example of this. Saddam Hussein's government was taken down by force while economic laws were re-written by foreign corporate interests in order to extract Iraq's wealth one contract at a time. This can happen in any country at any time -- even in the United States as citizens divide and hostility grows. Keep in mind that there are those who want to eliminate the Constitution and impose laissez faire capitalism no matter what the human toll.

2/23/2007

The dumbassification of America

By Mediagonebad

Resistance is futile, America. We have already been assimilated. Not by a foreign enemy or by random terrorists, but by our own military/industrial/media complex that drums thoughts into our heads through repetition, repetition, repetition…. In other words, through the systematic dumbing-down of America.

I don’t know who came up with the term dumbassification -- I first heard it from Chuck D of Public Enemy -- but the term seems to fit the passive response of an otherwise intelligent people who have been hoodwinked and pacified by an internal group of Americans who want unrestricted corporate domination over all aspects of American life. A corporate state where American citizens -- and, indeed, the entire world -- are subservient to this military/industrial/media complex.

The process of dumbassification begins right in our homes every time we turn on the television and are literally bombarded by commercial messages that chip away at our self-esteem by telling us we will be wallflowers without this or that personal hygiene product; that men will not be real men unless we drive this or that truck; that we will not have a love life without this or that erection medication; that our children will not be happy and content without the newest toy or gaming system. Buy, buy buy. Consume, consume, consume. Don’t think about the consequences. Don’t worry about global warming. Don’t ask under what labor conditions our products are manufactured in China and elsewhere. Just Buy! Don’t worry about genetic food. Just believe that Monsanto genetically engineered that corn to be good for you! Why make them test it and label it? Just trust them! Dumbassification!

In the schools, dumbassification is a process of social control that leads to the loss of our national identity and history. The great labor struggles, walkouts, and sit-down strikes leading to the movement for an 8-hour workday may get a page or two in a history textbook, but the meaning, the context, and the downright importance of these struggles to today‘s world are all but forgotten. Same thing is true with slavery. Ever since the first European colony was formed 400 years ago at Jamestown, Africans were kidnapped from their homeland and forced to work so that their white neo-colonial masters could make profit with cheap labor. They were given “Christian” names and robbed of their language and their identities. In order to control their behavior, they were beaten, whipped, raped, and hanged. There were white slaves as well, but they retained their given names, whereas blacks were listed on the manifest simply as “negro, negro, negro….” The term “nigger” -- the N-word -- was a derogatory word used to keep the workers down, to deny them of self-esteem and self-worth. Today, however, the term is used in the hip-hop generation almost as a term of endearment. “Wazzup, nigga?” is a term heard in high school hallways and seen in facebook postings everywhere, but what is wrong with using terms like brother, sister, friend, comrade or bro? What is wrong with using words that do not disrespect all those who died at the hands of masters and bosses? Dumbassification! The schools have helped dumb-down American citizens, who have forgotten their own national identity and history.

And, or course, in 2002, we were told over and over that we must go to war in Iraq for our own national security because Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” Through media repetition, people can be conditioned to believe anything. It’s like if one source tells you that you are growing a tail, you can simply dismiss it as an error. If two sources tell you that you have a tail, you might start to wonder about the concept. Then when three sources tell you that you have a tail, you are apt to turn around and look. This is exactly how we have become assimilated and it is why we are such pushovers when it comes to the constant media drumbeat for war. The corporate masters have taken the fight out of us by suppressing the spirit of the founding fathers who declared independence from British rule and later formulated a Constitution and Bill of Rights. Bush and Cheney tell us we are on a mission to spread democracy and to protect ourselves from terrorism. They tell us that, to do so, we must give up some of those rights and freedoms that all citizens should consider a birthright. And yet we silently comply while they abandon habeas corpus, eavesdrop on telephone conversations, read mail, and intercept the email of law abiding citizens. Dumbassification!

In spite of Bush and Cheney’s claims to the contrary, the Iraq war has been lost. L-O-S-T. There is no democratic government in Baghdad and there will not be one as long as foreign troops occupy Iraqi soil. The Bush administration -- and now the Obama administration -- cannot be trusted to end war, let alone hold unconditional regional peace talks with all parties and neighboring nations, including oil-rich Iran. They want war because the corporations they represent want war and reconstruction profits. And we let them! Dumbassification!

There is not even the pretense of democracy in Iraq today. The “blue finger” elections were nothing but a sham for the media to buy into. The Bush administration has brought militia heads to power, along with gangsters, murderers, looters and rapists of all sorts. There is no way to win this war because there is no internal process for democracy to grow. Iraqis will keep fighting and Americans will keep dying as long as our government insists on occupying Iraq. More troops will not help and will likely make matters even worse.

All Americans need to understand this. Bush claimed that our troops would stand down as Iraqis stood up. Well, they are standing up, and this is apparent each time atrocities are committed against Iraqi families, each time doors are kicked in and the men are either shot or taken to secret prisons. From the moment the tanks rolled into Baghdad and the military rushed in to secure the oil fields but did nothing to stop rampant looting of national treasures, the war was over and not winnable. And then when the pictures of abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib surfaced, any lingering respect among Iraqis for the Untied States evaporated. And the entire world, which once looked up to the United States as a civilized nation where human rights are highly regarded, saw that Abu Ghraib was not the actions of a few soldiers on the night shift, as the Bush administration contended, but was official U.S. policy regarding the treatment of prisoners and was authorized by the highest levels of government. The media spin machine sometimes refers to Abu Ghraib as “torture-lite” as if that makes forced nudity, sexual degradation, sleep depravation, stress positioning, waterboarding (simulated drowning), somehow more palatable and acceptable. We should be outraged and demand independent investigations to prosecute the government officials responsible for approving torture no matter how far up the chain of command they have to go. But we don’t. We would rather watch silly mind-numbing television “reality” shows and not think about it. Dumbassification!

Bush was a president who fancied himself as some great military leader, but his actions took the world back into the dark ages. Bush and Cheney have basically overthrown the Untied States, stacked the courts with their own judges, and rendered Congress ineffective as a balance of power. Now the Obama administration is quietly chipping away at more Constitutional rights. The National Defense Authorization Act, which Obama signed, allows the indefinite detention of American citizens without constitutional due process of law. Unless we become outraged and stop this process of dumbassification, we will find ourselves living in the Orwellian world of corporate fascism. No rights. No privacy. No guns. No independent media. And no hope.

What will it take to wake up the assimilated Americans? What will it take to get us to leave our television sets and occupy the National Mall or participate in a nationwide general strike? How do we overcome our passive response to a power-grabbing, corporate-controlled government beholden to the corporate dollar? By voting in staged elections financed by the richest 1%, which tries hard to limit the voting rights of the 99%? It is not in our nature or history to lie down like whipped dogs, yet that is what we are doing. Dumbassification!

2/15/2007

An ethical way to end the Iraq war

By Mediagonebad

The Network of Spiritual Progressives is proposing an “ethical way to end the Iraq war” and is now launching a major print campaign. The proposal is presented in three parts: 1) recognizing that the Iraq war is wrong and that presidential repentance is necessary; 2) calling upon the Arab league to replace U.S and British forces; and 3) rebuilding Iraq, launching a global “Marshall Plan,” and recognizing that generosity beats domination as a strategy for homeland security.

I disagree with the first part of the proposal calling upon President Bush to repent before the U.N. I believe that impeachment for lying to Congress will provide the proper measure of justice for now -- unless he is later indicted for war crimes, of course. If we allow Bush to get away with impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors and for the mass murder of tens of thousands or people, then why should anyone obey the laws of society? And what message is the Bush administration sending to kids when it refuses to sit down and talk with adversaries face-to-face? That it is OK, perhaps, to simply walk up and slap someone upside the head without provocation?

I mostly agree with the second and third parts of the proposal. Iraq should be turned over to the Arab League so U.S. and British forces can leave Iraq. “Fellow Arabs know the language, understand the culture, and especially the religion of the people of Iraq far better than do our own soldiers,” the proposal states. U.S forces are “perceived as modern-day imitators of the crusaders who once devastated Muslim countries.” The proposal wants U.S. and British forces to withdraw as Arab forces take their place. This could be a long process and I would prefer that the withdrawal be immediate, complete, and unconditional, but I could compromise on this point if a cease-fire could be achieved first.

Part three of the proposal calls for rebuilding Iraq and creating a global “Marshall Plan.” The new plan should “commit 1% of the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. each year for the next 20 years toward the goal of eliminating global (and domestic) poverty, homelessness, inadequate health care, inadequate education, and for repairing the environment.” This approach, the proposal states, could have a secondary benefit in that a policy of generosity would replace the policy of domination and control and would eventually rebuild “respect and trust in the U.S.,” which is vital to homeland security.

Although I personally do not agree with the wording of the proposal, I would endorse it because this is the kind of common sense approach that we should be discussing instead of letting the powers that be and the mass media control the terms of the debate and ignore citizen action and input. Among the original signers of the proposal are Rabbi Michael Lerner, Howard Zinn, Rev. Tony Campolo, Sister Joan Chittister, Donald Gelphi, S. J. , the Revs. John and Susan Gregory-Davis, Rabbi Stephen B. Jacobs, and Marshall Berman.

2/10/2007

Planetary SOS: It's do or die, folks

By Mediagonebad

Global warming requires immediate action by the United States -- the most wasteful, polluting country on the planet. And, sorry folks, this action will require major lifestyle adjustments that will shake up the very foundation of government as we now understand it.

Throughout the Clinton and Bush administrations, global climate change has been ignored, given mere lip service, or has been actively challenged and misrepresented by the highest levels of government. Politicians are beholden to their corporate benefactors -- especially corporations that produce or depend upon oil -- so politicians tend to appease these corporations and bow to their desire to discredit global warming as legitimate science.

Some may argue that the damage has already been done and that the dire effects of global warming cannot be stopped. This may well be true. But the United States has a responsibility to the world to take the lead and make the sacrifices necessary to reduce greenhouse gases as much as possible.

First, we need to understand that the interests of the planet must take precedence over the national interest and, especially, over the corporate interest. We must begin producing all-electric and vegetable-oil-based vehicles and phasing out the gas-powered combustion engine for all but vehicles that can run on biodiesel or a similar vegetable-based fuel. We must also phase out coal-fired power plants and dangerous nuclear power plants and replace them with clean solar, wind and hydroelectric power generating plants. This will require that auto manufacturers be willing to produce those vehicles for the public good rather than for their own private profit. It will also require hundreds of new factories to build commercial-grade solar panels, wind generators, blades, and so on. Gas stations will have to begin selling vegetable-based fuel and converting to battery charging stations. This must become the number one priority in the country and citizens may be inconvenienced for years.

Now, let's back up a little. None of this is going to happen without a fundamental change in the way we allow our government to operate, without an all-out war on global warming. Obstructionist, pandering politicians of any party must be booted out. The American people -- not the government -- need to claim our role as the real decision-makers in this nation. We need to understand that corporations, operating for profit under an unregulated free market, are not going to address global warming in a timely fashion and on the scale needed. Never. But we need to set goals and create a series of five-year plans right now. Tomorrow may be too late.

This war on global warming will need to divert funds from the massive military budget in order to make it happen. There will not be any outsourcing to China or anywhere else and every sector of society must be involved in one way or another. In all likelihood, the oil companies -- which are now the driving force behind the war in Iraq -- will be nationalized in the public interest to ensure that oil is available throughout this societal transformation. Prices may rise and rationing may occur at some point, so the new war on global warming will most impact those of us who are around at the beginning of this transformation.

This is a planetary emergency and nothing is going to be done about it unless the citizens of the United States take the lead and force the societal changes necessary to accomplish it. This nation has the ingenuity, the work ethic, and resources to get it done, and there is no reason why we cannot create full employment, national health care, and a living wage for all in the process. But we need a collective consciousness, not political polarization and self-interest. If we cannot achieve that, then there is no hope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the rapid scale needed to offset climate change.

We need people -- like Molly Ivins said in her final column before her death -- we need people out in the streets banging pots and pans. We need tens of thousands of people living in a tent city on the National Mall in Washington, D.C, inconveniencing the normal routine of Congress. We need sit-down strikes. We may even need general strikes to disrupt business-as-usual throughout the country. This is serious, folks. It's do or die.

2/02/2007

The Oil Barons: Chasing the Dollar into the 21st Century

By Mediagonebad

"Indians chase the vision, white men chase the dollar," writes Lame Deer, a traditional Sioux medicine man. "Americans are bred like stuffed geese -- to be consumers, not human beings. The moment they stop consuming and buying, this frog-skin [dollar] world has no use for them."

In the 1800s, the Indians were nearly wiped out by the westward expansion of the American frontier. The prize then for the US was land for farming, logging, mining and railroads, and the methods used for displacing Indians were brutal and genocidal, as hundreds of thousands of buffalo -- the main food supply for many Indian tribes -- were shot and left to rot in the sun. The Indians who did not succumb to starvation were relocated and forced onto smaller and smaller parcels of land. Every Indian treaty signed by the United States was broken by the United States. The treaties provided temporary appeasement while the aggressive expansion continued unchecked.

Strike first. Eliminate the opposition's ability to resist. Use whatever means are necessary to win. Claim divine intervention to soothe the God-fearing naysayers. These tenets of the Manifest Destiny doctrine are centuries-old tactics and have been used in North America and throughout the world. Under the Manifest Destiny doctrine, the United States has the divine duty to spread its version of political, religious, and free market "truth" throughout the world, and it does so by claiming this mission to be in its "national interest." From the Indians to the Mexicans to the Koreans to the Iraqis, those who resist are conquered. Even the Moon and Mars have been conquered, if only symbolically at present.

But the 21st century prize for the United States is oil, and the strategic importance of oil to the American economy is the driving force behind today's Manifest Destiny. Bush's war on Iraq, a nation already weakened by economic sanctions and disarmed by a 1991 war and by continued United Nations weapons inspections, is a brazen -- and many would say criminal -- grab for oil that fits perfectly with the extraterritorial nature of Manifest Destiny.

The United States is purporting to support a western-style democracy in Iraq, and, of course, freedom from the tyrannical dictator known as Saddam Hussein. When we dig under the rhetoric and look at the context, however, the Iraq war is an annexation, a colonization, a hostile takeover of a sovereign nation that happens to have 10 percent of the world's remaining oil reserves. And one of the great ironies of the war on Iraq is that the Bush family business just happens to be oil and weapons, which makes the war for oil a win-win situation for the Bushes. No oil-producing nation, nor any nation with the military or ideological power to stand in the way of US Manifest Destiny, is safe from military intervention, regime change, and hostile takeover. The excuses used to justify intervention almost sound legitimate to the casual observer: The Indians needed "civilized." The Iraqis needed "freedom." But Manifest Destiny dictates that both Indians and Iraqis, as non-Europeans, are incapable of self-government.

Like the red-skinned Indians, the new enemies of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny -- the "terrorists" -- are portrayed by the mass media as brown-skinned Arabs. After a group of Saudi extremists flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11/01, Bush's declaration, "you are either with us or you are with the terrorists," brought the Manifest Destiny doctrine once again to center stage. First-strike, unilateral military intervention is easier for the public to swallow in the vague context of a "war on terrorism," of "us vs. them," of "good vs. evil." In President Bush's own words, it is the destiny of the United States to "change the world," to rid the world of "evil-doers." What he means, of course, is that he will defeat all of those who oppose US imperialism's divine claim to planet Earth. In any realistic historical context, however, Bush's view of Manifest Destiny would be considered just as extremist, dangerous, and ruthless as any dictator the world has ever known.

The Republic of Cuba, however, has been a thorn in the side for US Manifest Destiny. Ever since 1959, when Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, in the name of Cuba's workers and farmers, led the Cuban Revolution and overthrew the corrupt Batista regime just 90 miles south of Key West, Florida, the US has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Cuba. From the Bay of Pigs invasion to exploding cigars to germ warfare to an economic blockade to blatant acts of terrorism against hotels and airplanes, the US government, in collusion with a bloc of wealthy Cuban-American exiles in Miami, has sought to destroy the Cuban Revolution. At every meeting of the UN human rights commission, the US exerts its mighty influence over voting members to ensure that Cuba -- by just one vote in 2004 -- is condemned for human rights violations. Another tactic is to list Cuba as one of seven countries that support terrorism. Is Cuba -- a sovereign nation that treats food, housing, education, and health care as human rights -- on Bush's short list for military action and "regime change"?

Perhaps now is the time to replace the doctrine of Manifest Destiny with a new humanist doctrine, a doctrine more in tune with a rapidly growing world population and a dwindling supply of natural resources. A doctrine more in tune with global warming, air pollution, and contaminated drinking water. A doctrine more in tune with the need of all human beings for food, shelter, education and health care.

"I am trying to bring the ghost dance back," writes Lame Deer, "but interpret it in a new way. I think it has been misunderstood, but after [110] years I believe that more and more people are sensing what we meant when we prayed for a new earth and that now not only the Indians but everybody has become an 'endangered species.' So let the Indians help you bring on a new earth without pollution or war. Let's roll up the world. It needs it."

Note: For more information, see my entire compilation at Manifest Destiny -- From sea to shining sea...to global domination

1/09/2007

Who killed the electric car?

By Mediagonebad

The best-kept secret in zero-emission vehicles is the electric car. While auto manufacturers, oil companies and the federal government act as if this technology is light years away, General Motors has already designed -- and destroyed -- the best electric cars in the world.

The EV1, manufactured by GM, had all the power and speed that we are used to in our cars and had a range of 75-130 miles between recharges. The car used no gas or oil and the only maintenance on them was battery care, tire and brake care, and filling the windshield fluid reservoir.

In other words, EV1s were the perfect car for city driving and short commutes. With proper marketing, they could have been very popular and would have put a lot of people back to work in this country, but only 800 cars were built and they were for lease only. As a result of a GM lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the cars were rounded up from the lessees and crushed. The Bush administration, with its insider ties to Big Oil, supported the GM lawsuit and called for more research money for hydrogen fuel cells, a promising technology that is many years behind electric car technology.

"Who Killed the Electric Car?" is a documentary released by Sony Pictures Classics. It is the story about the EV1, California's zero emission mandate, the lawsuit brought by General Motors and others against CARB, and the subsequent recall and destruction of the EV1s. Buy it, rent it, share it, and then DO something. Electric cars have been around for more than 100 years, so this technology, more than any other in existence now, can quckly reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere if we find the political will to manufacture and mass market all-electric vehicles.

The auto manufacturers and oil companies have long withheld the mass development of this technology from humanity and it is my belief that this is the main reason we now find ourselves facing the crisis of global warming and the prospect of a new world war. Energy is very important, but we all need to understand that science has already proven that energy is free, abundant and clean and that our current energy policies are all wrong and unnecessary. The profit-hungry energy companies, motivated only by money and power, do not want to do what is in the best interests of humankind.

An Inconvenient Truth

By Mediagonebad

Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" is one of the most important films ever made. Gore's presentation makes a very compelling case for the reality of global warming and underscores the urgency for action in the United States, the world's most wasteful consumer society.

Arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate and will soon present a danger to islands and coastal areas. Polar bears are already drowning because the shrinking ice sheets prevent them from reaching their winter food supplies. Black bears are reportedly not hibernating in some areas and spring flowers are blooming in mid-winter in the northern U.S. World climate patterns are changing more rapidly than anyone could have predicted.

The Bush administration has been in absolute denial regarding global warming and has even muzzled NASA scientists by editing their work so that global warming appears to be some lunatic fringe theory rather than a fact. Bush's ignorance regarding global warming does a grave disservice to every living, breathing creature on the planet.

See the film and share it with others, then DO something. Change to compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Wash your clothes in cold water. Turn down the thermostat. And most importantly, write to your representatives and demand that they address this as an urgent matter affecting all life on Earth.