31 May 2004

The philosophy of steak rare

In schools and in society as a whole, philosophy is treated as something extra, something to be left to those in academia with a bit too much time on their hands. In short, philosophy has been relegated to tired, unswept corners of the university and told not to mix with the more hard-headed disciplines such as economics or the sciences. So why should we care if Socrates and Confucius are told to sit on the back of the bus? There are many empty seats back there, after all? Has philosophy ever built a bridge or balanced an account?

No. But if we read between the lines of any economic text or newspaper editorial, we see philosophy reasserting itself. Often it comes out in adultered form, but it is always there, just the same. The problem with its current status as a mere undercurrent is that it is generally implicit and therefore escapes the light of rational debate. Looking at economics, for example, our current society pursues the goals of production and consumption, global competition for resources, along with the monopolization of both resources and information. Yet no one questions the philosophical underpinnings of our current system.

At some point, we really need to ask ourselves--Is this what life is all about? Is the goal to accumulate the greatest amount of plastic trinkets before our final lap around the Monopoly board? Personally, I think such goals are empty. Our "work," at least to the extent that it is tied to the production of necessities, should go to creating a healthy and more equitable world. Production, after all, creates more overall joy in the world if articles of production end up in the hands of those most in need. An extra pound of steak on the table of the US elite is little more that a high-cholesterol table ornament, most of which is destined for the trash bin. The same steak (or better yet, the grains fed to the cow), when given to the destitute, on the other hand, can make a huge difference in their lives.

Stock markets, banks, bridges, and fancy cars may have special meaning to us as consumers, but we only have a limited span of time on this planet, and in the end, we need to inquire into our purpose. I hope to hell this purpose amounts to more than shopping at Walmart.

28 May 2004

Michael Moore

It has been reported that Disney has ceded all their rights to Moore's new film. Does this mean the film will definitely be shown here prior to the elections? I have a feeling that this documentary will have a significant impact on the electorate. In the modern democratic age of information, knowledge of what's happening around the world has a way of slipping past the barriers thrown up by corporate America and the slippery oil-boys in the Whitewash House. When I convey articles from the alternative press to family members and friends, they are amazed at the discrepancy between these reports and the mainstream press. It's telling that the New York Times has felt the need to apologize for non-critical reporting regarding Chalabi and related lies regarding WMDs.

27 May 2004

New Republican Emblem

The GOP National Committee announced today that it is changing the Republican emblem from an elephant to a condom because it more clearly reflects the party's political stance: a condom stands up to inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives one a sense of security while screwing others.

Furthermore, it was reported today that at a White House staff meeting last week, there was a heated discussion about the health of Vice President Cheney and his angina problem. President Bush interrupted and stated emphatically that men do not have anginas. The President was especially perplexed when a staffer said Cheney has acute angina.

26 May 2004

Butler deserves a medal!

I recently learned that there was an article in the Monterey Herald in which a DLI leutenant colonel accused Bush of knowing of the impending 9/11 attacks. Does anyone know what happened to the officer? We need to find him and give him a medal for standing up for what he believes in. This news is even more intriguing when we consider other reports that many of the hijackers were trained in US military organizations.

IISS

The IISS (a London think-tank) claims that Al-Qaida's ranks are swelling due to the current Middle East wars.

25 May 2004

Graphic Iraqi Prison Pics

The Daily Weasel has some of the more graphic pictures from the prison scandal along with some good commentary. There's also a German article critical of the recent abuses.

P.S. There's an interesting translation of a French article by Manuel de DiƩguez that deals with torture.

Mouse-potatoes

I'm becoming a mouse-potato! Aaaaaaaah! I really need to turn this damn thing off, go outside, and see what season it is.

asscroff

 

Onward Christian soldiers...

The new reports on Iraqi prisoner abuses are interesting in their links to Christianity. I've met Christians who were very spiritual people, but for so many, it just seems to be a cover for racism (perhaps linked with the idea of being one of God's chosen).

Some whoppers, supersized...

I continue to be surprised at the lies being presented in the main-stream press--and the lack of a reaction. Yesterday, on NPR, I heard a speaker say that the administration went to war in Iraq to stop a dictatorship that had attacked two sovereign nations. Evidently, the speaker was pressed for time, because he failed to mention that the US government put Saddam in power and supported him, and then provided massive support (weapons, intel, etc.) for the Iraqi attack on Iran. In one of yesterday's papers, there was another such bit of nonsense: a headline saying something like, "Schwarzeneggar now must deal with mess Davis left behind." The "mess" was caused by price-gauging by Enron and other energy giants and these very same companies are the ones that put their buddy Arnold in power--so that they wouldn't get sued. Does Joe six-pack actually believe this crap?

20 May 2004

Donate to the flunkey of your choice...

We find out today in the news that millions of our hard-earned tax dollars have gone to supporting Chalabi, whose house was recently raided by the U.S. military. I think Orwell missed the mark by 20 years . . .

19 May 2004

Squeaky flatulence

On NPR today, it was reported that the Red Cross had told the military about incidents of torture in military-run prisons long before the current scandal. Clearly, nothing was done about it. What surprises me most about the U.S. public's reactions is that people are not incensed over the lies of the government and military. Let us assume, for a moment, that the fascist Republican right is, in fact, right, and that captured Iraqis really all deserve to be tortured (even though over three-quarters of them are said to be completely innocent of any wrong-doing). Personally, I don't understand the logic of why innocent Iraqis deserve to be tortured while someone who kills and eats their victims (e.g., Jeffrey Dammer) somehow deserves no torture whatsoever, but let's leave that aside for the moment.

Assuming that torture is okay, aren't we still left with the problem of who in the hell is in charge of all of this? We're told it's a few bad apples. Then we're told that it isn't just a few bad guys but is in fact endemic, but it's really okay anyway. Then we're told the people in charge didn't know about it. Then we find out they did.

Evidently, these "words" spouted forth from our so-called leaders are in fact no more meaningful that the squeaking of flatulence. If We, the People want information on what OUR REPRESENTATIVES and OUR MILITARY are doing, where are we supposed to turn? In the end, we have to rely on reports from the foreign or the indie press.

The bad apples aren't the privates in some remote prison in Iraq. They're the idiots in the White House. And it's time to toss that rotten fruit in the bin before it stinks up our house as well as the neighbor's.

17 May 2004

Hersh article

In Hersh's article on Iraq in The New Yorker, Hersh discusses how Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone set up a secret program that endorsed torture of prisoners throughout the world. The American people are certainly a trusting lot. When we hear of secret payments, secret organizations that aren't vetted by congress, and the deepening culture of political and business collusion, is it enough just to sit on the sidelines and trust the so-called "leaders"?

Funneeee!

Now, for some really funny stuff:



Top 11 signs you are either George W. Bush or Kim Jong Il.

11. You were a drunken party-boy who now finds himself the leader of a nuclear power.
10. You are often confused with your father because you share two-thirds of his name.
9. You threaten war to get oil.
8. Platform shoes, lifts, cowboy boots...
7. In times of international difficulty you turn to Clinton cabinet member Bill Richardson.
6. Vanity: permed hair, 14 thousand dollar suits.
5. You were installed through the political and financial machinations of your father.
4. You are a military leader despite questionable military background.
3. Your dad sold chemical & biological weapons and/or mechanisms of delivery to Saddam Hussein.
2. You've run your own economy into the ground and South Korea is pissed at you for your intransigence.
1. Persistent gaffes undermine domestic propaganda efforts to establish cult of so-called personality.

Un chiste...

Baby Bush

G.W.Bush was very depressed that people were saying he is stupid.
So he calls his good friend Queen Elizabeth, who says, "Now George, what you need to do is to surround yourself with smart people. Let me show you." She calls Tony Blair in and asks, "Tony, your parents had a baby. It isn't your sister and it isn't your brother. Who is it?"

Tony Blair replies, "It's me!"

So G.W. calls Dick Cheney and says, "Dick, your parents had a baby. It isn't your sister and it isn't your brother. Who is it?"

And Cheney says, "Wow, that's a tough one. Let me get back to you."

So Cheney calls Colin Powell and says, "Colin, your parents had a baby. It isn't your sister and it isn't your brother. Who is it?" And Colin Powell says, "It's me!"

So Cheney calls Bush and says, "It's Colin Powell."

And Bush says, "No, you idiot! It's Tony Blair!"

14 May 2004

Stupid White Men 2

Today I read the last part of Stupid White Men. Moore makes an interesting comment at one point about how little time Americans spend reading and how much time they spend staring at the boobtube. In my experience, reading really does seem to make a difference. I haven't watched any regular TV now for around a year and I do sometimes feel like I've broken free from the group-think gripping our culture. The chord at the back of my head is definitely unplugged from the matrix.

13 May 2004

Paul Ehrlich

I just heard Paul Ehrlich talk about his new book Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, & the Human Future on NPR. I was impressed both by his talk and the viewer comments. Few people are questioning the fundamental myths underlying our economy and society since the powerful have an inherent interest in maintaining the status quo. But as Ehrlich mentioned, the status quo is unsustainable and is, in the end, not even in the interest of the elite.

12 May 2004

More on the prisons...

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., one of the senators allowed to see the additional pictures of U.S. attrocities, has called the images “appalling,” saying that they “go beyond” what much of the world has already seen in photos broadcast and shown to the public. Arianna Huffington's site has some good commentary on recent events along with links to the reports that the government has been given. Personally, I think that far too much is classified in this country. How is a democracy supposed to function when the people are treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed shit)?

Stupid Whitemen 1

I finally got around to reading Michael Moore's book Stupid Whitemen. Moore of course uses the hyperbole common to any good muckraking prose, but the book does seem to accurately reveal the startling extent of inbred good-ol'-boy backroom relayshuns between the current US ruling elite. What's more surprising and damning is the media's collaboration with this elite. Don't reporters have any backbone? If they did, I think they would be quitting en masse at this point.

11 May 2004

Abu Ghraib and the Geneva Conventions

This morning, I listened to the Senate hearings on the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal. In much of the dialogue, the Geneva Conventions were brought up. At one point, one senator even quoted two key sections from the convention. In actual fact, even the authorized methods of interrogation used by the US military are in violation of the conventions. At any rate, the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly condemns the Iraqi attrocities. Consider Article 3, for example:

Article 3
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.


During the hearing this morning, there were a number of sentators of the right-wing, fascist persuasion who spent most of their allotted time praising the the US military, referring to the incidents that occurred as minor abberations. Evidently, we are supposed to simply trust the military, wherever it is, to always do the "American" thing (whatever the hell that is).

6 May 2004

Negroponte

John Negroponte has been selected as the White House's ambassador to Iraq. The prez is to be congratulated on his fine choice and choice timing. At a time when the US storm troopers are in such dire need of training regarding torture, the White House has managed to find a pol of such protean talents. As the politician overseeing the CIA machinations involving the infamous Battalion 3-16 in Honduras, I'm sure our buddy Johnny can teach the troops a few tricks of his own.

As I touched on earlier, the US with its new concentration camps and information awareness campaigns has definitely ushered in a new era, and We, the People, are now faced with a decision to go along silently or oppose the new fascist violence and hypocrisy. The current US regime has decided to use open violence without the charades of previous administrations regarding the rule of law and other such drivel. The problem with reliance on brute force is that it draws the world into a hopeless situation that is clearly unsustainable while placing normal Americans and their posterity in extreme danger for many years to come.

The Sorrows of Empire

I just finished Chalmer's new book The Sorrows of Empire. It's a good read. Much of what he talks about is familiar to me at this point, but I did find some sections interesting, particularly the part about how the current administration is shifting responsibilities around among agencies in order to avoid civilian oversight. This book, along with Kevin Phillips' book Wealth and Democracy, paints a fairly grim picture of current trends.

4 May 2004

The dire need for more training???

Today, I listened to the talking heads discuss the recent prisoner abuse cases in Iraq. Evidently, the problem was a "lack of training." The soldiers and corporate employees in charge evidently were not informed that forcing prisoners to simulate sodomy was not appropriate. The British troups evidently were never told that beating a prisoner to death for no reason was not the gentlemanly thing to do. So now the pentagon will find out what went wrong and discipline the naughty individuals involved, providing a few hours of training for future guards. The guards will be given instruction on Arab cultural norms (an interesting idea, since the guards originally designed their methods of torture to intentionally antagonize victims through the violation of these norms).

Who knows? Perhaps this whole war could have been prevented had the US simply "provided training" to the evil Iraqi regime that was guilty of so much torture and abuse of its civilian population. Perhaps Sudam Hussein and others who were supported by the US CIA simply lacked training and information on "correct procedures." When US firms shipped Iraq materials for biological weapons, perhaps they simply forgot to include a little slip of paper providing instructions ("Not to be used on civilian populations.") Or when the US provided Iraq with weaponry, perhaps they forgot to inform them that the weapons were not to be used in the ongoing unprovoked attack against Iran. At any rate, the problems so far surely are not due to racism or evil. It's clearly simply a matter of information. I'm sure if we give the organizations (the US army and CIA) even more money, they will solve these problems by providing a class or two on proper American behavior.

3 May 2004

Hail Bush der great leedah

Have you ever wondered at what exact point the citizens of Nazi Germany realized that they were living in a Fascist regime? Meeting over ein bier after a mass political rally, did the people mutter under their breaths, "I think we've crossed the line at this point." Or was it only after the invasion of Poland. Or perhaps as the fragrance of burnt sausages became subtlely intertwined with the smell of cremated bodies. Or perhaps, never. Perhaps the normally soft-spoken man at the pub ended up like the proverbial boiled frog, making tiny moral sacrifices required by the Department of Heimland Security, until it simply became impossible to leap forth from the pot.

And where are we now? Where do we draw the line? At what point do we leap out of the boiling pot? After the U.S. military sets up bases in the majority of nations on the planet? After it sets up puppet regimes and rigs elections throughout the globe? After it makes unprovoked attacks against sovereign dictators (formerly installed by the US) in order to provide global corporations with the necessary lebensraum? After it begins to arrest citizens without trial? After it establishes concentration camps on inaccessible military bases? After it creates the execution chambers? After it changes laws to allow any form of spying on citizens and foreigners alike?

I don't know. (What would I know? I'm just a mere member of the working class, after all.) Unfortunately, fascism is evidently not the sort of thing that's clearly announced like the end of daylight savings time. As I look at the news and public opinion, I'm convinced that few citizens in the U.S. have drawn a line in the sand. Few people seem to be saying, "I will only go down this road so far." We are assured that anyone speaking with a Texan drawl who speaks and spells as poorly as most of the rest of us, shorely cannot be conceiving evil plots and schemes. We're told that an evil-doer intent on creating fascist rule would shorely have the decency to speak with ein thick German accent or be wearing a headwrap. Certainly, anyone mentioning nice things like prayer in schools and family values is simply out to protect our wonderfully moral way of life from all those decadent brown people across the ocean.

So tell me, where does one draw the line? And what do we do when that line's crossed?