May 19, 2007

Back from Africa -- As the wicked Bush administration loses its ruthless grip on power, the United States looks much better to come home to. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the immigration officials seem much more human and less uptight than a while back. Getting a ride back from JFK airport to Hoboken the driver went over the Verrazano Bridge, a magnificent structure, but it's strange to see a sign posted that says "No pictures no videos". The Home of the Brave is scared of its own shadow under the Bush regime. Imagine not being able to photograph the beautiful bridge! The image is intellectual property. The Neocons in their attempt to establish rule of the world have tried to turn the country into an armed camp. How wonderful to see them begin to recede into history, or so it appears.

On the 18-hour flight from Johannesburg I read a large chunk of Leonard Thompson's A History of South Africa. Thompson is a Yale professor of history and the book carries an impressive endorsement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who says, "I did not think it was possible for a white person to write a history of South Africa which a black South African would find to be a fair and accurate account of a beautiful land and its people. Leonard Thompson has disabused me of that notion." And indeed it is a dramatic story well told.

It was fascinating to read how the National Party through skillful political mobilization had taken control of the country in 1948 with only 12 percent of the population behind it. Their program was apartheid, and they very systematically implemented their cruel agenda, ever tightening the screws on black Africans as well as Coloureds and Indians, while favoring and cushioning the whites, who had the vote and the economic power and thereby increasing their support. At the same time they controlled the media.

"The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), a public corporation controlled by government appointees, had a monopoly on radio broadcasting and on televiasion when it began to operate in South Africa in 1976," writes Thompson. The SABC "became an instrument of officialo propaganda. Other government appointed bodies exercised wide powers of censorship. In 1977, for example, they banned 1,246 publications, 41 periodicals, and 44 films. Most of those banned poublications were books and pamphlets dealing with such radical opposition movements as the African Naitonal Congrss, so that it became difficult for South Africans to find out what opposition movements were doing and thinking." Hmmm. Sound familiar? It sure does to me.

The whites who formed the main body of support of the regime did not really know what they were supporting. "Few whites ever saws an African, Coloured or an Asian home," writes Thompson. They were in a bubble. But at the same time, "apartheid society was also riden with mental stress and violence. Suicides were exeptionally frequent among white South Africans... South African society was very different from the benign picture produced by the government's information services and presented by official guides to visitors."

However, this counterhistorical regime, as remarkably adroit as its exercise of power was, could not maintain its fantasy world of "racial purity" and perfect separation of ethnic groups forever. The world was moving onward. "By 1978, the apartheid regime was in trouble," writes Thompson. The regime became increasingly corrupt. The economy was faltering. The world increasingly turned against apartheid. The colonial powers receded from Africa and black nationalism rose all over the continent. The world moved on from racism as the norm. Its grip on power became ever more desperate and tenuous and finally fell apart all together, leading to the explosive release of pent-up cultural energy that is now driving a glorious social renaissance in South Africa, one of the brightest spots on the planet in the grim 21st century New World Order.

I liken the difference of South Africa before and after the fall of apartheid in the early 1990s to the contrast Alexis de Tocqueville outlined in Democracy in America in the 1820s and 1830s. I can't resist quoting a chunk of it in which he describes the observable difference between the slave and free states on the two sides of the Ohio River.

These two states differ only in a single respect: Kentucky has admitted slavery, but the state of Ohio has prohibited the existence of slaves within its borders. Thus the traveler who floats down the current of the Ohio to the spot where that river falls into the Mississippi may be said to sail between liberty and servitude; and a transient inspection of surrounding objects will convince him which of the two is more favorable to humanity.

Upon the left bank of the stream the population is sparse; from time to time one descries a troop of slaves loitering in the half-desert fields; the primeval forest reappears at every turn; society seems to be asleep, man to be idle, and nature alone offers a scene of activity and life.

From the right bank, on the contrary, a confused hum is heard, which proclaims afar the presence of industry; the fields are covered with abundant harvests; the elegance of the dwellings announces the taste and activity of the laborers; and man appears to be in the enjoyment of that wealth and contentment which is the reward of labor.

The state of Kentucky was founded in 1775, the state of Ohio only twelve years later; but twelve years are more in America than half a century in Europe; and at the present day the population of Ohio exceeds that of Kentucky by two hundred and fifty thousand souls. These different effects of slavery and freedom may readily be understood; and they suffice to explain many of the differences which we notice between the civilization of antiquity and that of our own time.

Upon the left bank of the Ohio labor is confounded with the idea of slavery, while upon the right bank it is identified with that of prosperity and improvement; on the one side it is degraded, on the other it is honored. On the former territory no white laborers can be found, for they would be afraid of assimilating themselves to the Negroes; all the work is done by slaves; on the latter no one is idle, for the white population extend their activity and intelligence to every kind of employment. Thus the men whose task it is to cultivate the rich soil of Kentucky are ignorant and apathetic, while those who are active and enlightened either do nothing or pass over into Ohio, where they may work without shame.

It is true that in Kentucky the planters are not obliged to pay the slaves whom they employ, but they derive small profits from their labor, while the wages paid to free workmen would be returned with interest in the value of their services. The free workman is paid, but he does his work quicker than the slave; and rapidity of execution is one of the great elements of economy. The white sells his services, but they are purchased only when they may be useful; the black can claim no remuneration for his toil, but the expense of his maintenance is perpetual; he must be supported in his old age as well as in manhood, in his profitless infancy as well as in the productive years of youth, in sickness as well as in health. Payment must equally be made in order to obtain the services of either class of men: the free workman receives his wages in money; the slave in education, in food, in care, and in clothing. The money which a master spends in the maintenance of his slaves goes gradually and in detail, so that it is scarcely perceived; the salary of the free workman is paid in a round sum and appears to enrich only him who receives it; but in the end the slave has cost more than the free servant, and his labor is less productive.

The influence of slavery extends still further: it affects the character of the master and imparts a peculiar tendency to his ideas and tastes. Upon both banks of the Ohio the character of the inhabitants is enterprising and energetic, but this vigor is very differently exercised in the two states. The white inhabitant of Ohio, obliged to subsist by his own exertions, regards temporal prosperity as the chief aim of his existence; and as the country which he occupies presents inexhaustible resources to his industry, and ever varying lures to his activity, his acquisitive ardor surpasses the ordinary limits of human cupidity: he is tormented by the desire of wealth, and he boldly enters upon every path that fortune opens to him; he becomes a sailor, a pioneer, an artisan, or a cultivator with the same indifference, and supports with equal constancy the fatigues and the dangers incidental to these various professions; the resources of his intelligence are astonishing, and his avidity in the pursuit of gain amounts to a species of heroism.

But the Kentuckian scorns not only labor but all the undertakings that labor promotes; as he lives in an idle independence, his tastes are those of an idle man; money has lost a portion of its value in his eyes; he covets wealth much less than pleasure and excitement; and the energy which his neighbor devotes to gain turns with him to a passionate love of field sports and military exercises; he delights in violent bodily exertion, he is familiar with the use of arms, and is accustomed from a very early age to expose his life in single combat. Thus slavery prevents the whites not only from becoming opulent, but even from desiring to become so.

Many have observed that the rise of the Republicans under Bush and Cheney is like the resurgence of the Confederate south, and there is certainly much basis for thecomparison. Cheney, remember, was one of the congressmen who would not support a resolution to free Nelson Mandela, and Bush Senior staunchly refused to issue a formal apology for the CIA's involvement in the capture of Nelson Mandela. The parallels could go on and on. Now as South Africa goes through its stages as as a young free society, the U.S. has been going through a dark, regressive period. But maybe we are seeing the signs of its end. We can only hope.


Weekend, May 19, 2007

Food for Thought -- Check out this clip on YouTube of a toy remote control plane handled with amazing dexterity by its controller. The U.S. government has had drone planes for many many years, planes that can be flown by remote control. What fun for a clandestine agency! Think of the possibilities! And believe me, they do. Evil power freaks like Cheney, Bush, Wolfowitz et al do not miss the possibilities such a device offers. In fact, the CIA uses them quite openly. In the 1962 plan called Operation Northwoods, the U.S. military wanted to use them to create a false terror attack by blowing up a plane over Cuba in order to blame Cuba for shooting it down and create a pretext for invading Cuba. (See the book Body of Secrets by James Bamford, or ABC News) How can we believe men who have been in government for generations who tell us no one ever imagined flying a plane into a skyscraper when we know the very same people have taken precautions against just such a possibility? [Oddly enough, the original ABC report on the book is no longer posted, but there is a new report, which omits the part about hijacking planes. Hardly any other mainstream references to Northwoods still remain on the Web, but many articles appear outside the mainstream. See , National Security Archive , Jackson Thoreau, Wikipedia, What Really Happened, or google "Operation Northwoods".]
  • Flow My Tears -- Check out a song by Pink, Dear Mr. President that lays it down eloquently.
  • Wolfie: Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy -- Architect of the Iraq War and Neocon world domination Paul Wolfowitz has been forced to step down from his position as head of the World Bank for digging into the till for his girlfriend. Finally. According to the New York Times, "Paul D. Wolfowitz was ready to move on from the Pentagon in early 2005. He had been thwarted in his effort to become defense secretary or national security adviser. And the war in Iraq had deteriorated. So when the World Bank presidency came open, he jumped at the opportunity. It offered him a 'second chance' to redeem his reputation and realize his ambitions, says a friend who has known him for decades." For an aristocrat like Wolfowitz, a would-be master of the world, the top position at the World Bank was a good half-way house, a sort of easing down from the heights, like semi-retirement. It was a good slot for Bush, the Great Patron, to put him in, like he put Brownie in FEMA. Never mind that the job actually had a function, supposedly. Poor Wolfie. For a relatively minor infraction for such a mega-scoundrel, he's got to give up his nice cushy position.
  • Falwell Dead -- Alas, the poor world was stricken with grief as beloved Jerry Falwell, saint of intolerance and bigotry, went on to meet his maker. What now? How will the world move forward without his vision? The man who blamed Hurricane Katrina on lesbians is no longer among us. On whom now can we blame his tragic departure from our sphere? Someone, surely. Now he'll miss the rapture. NW Herald
  • Carter 'Lambasts' Blair -- Blair's relationship with Bush was "subservient" and "abominable", according to Jimmy Carter, and he was a man who could have made a difference like no other. But when he had the opportunity, he chose to go with dishonesty in the cause of mass death and destruction. Bye Tony. (BBC, Irish Examiner) No less an authority than Bush himself says Blair was, in fact, NOT his poodle. (Times of India)
  • George and Tony Sittin' in a Tree -- Financial Times, NY Times
  • King George Selects His War Czar -- Why do these people who fight wars for "democracy" love the title "czar" so much? I guess they do represent the old world order of royalism. So Bush finally found a glutton for punishment willing to take on the role. NY Times/Truthout
  • Medical Industry Attacks -- Michael Moore reports that he has finished his film exposing the medical industry and has had to send a copy of the film out of the country to ensure that it is not confiscated by the Bush administration before its debut in Cannes tonight, May 19.

    May 20, 2007

    'Sicko' Triumph at Cannes -- After being warned by his lawyer that he should spirit a copy of his film that exposes the corporate healthcare industry out of country lest the government confiscate it, Moore has made it to Cannes where his film was warmly received, according to Salon. It shows specific, anecdotal horrors of a medical industry built on a harsh, unyielding profit motive that requires it to treat as few people as possible as cheaply as possible. It brings the scandal to long-overdue public attention.
  • Candid Carter -- Former President Jimmy Carter called the Bush administration the worst in history. Go easy on the former president, one can't fault the man for stating the patently obvious. AOL News
  • Whimpering Wolfie and the Fall of the Neocons -- According to the London Sunday Times, the fall of Paul Wolfowitz from the head of the World Bank signals "the end of an ideological era in Washington". One can only hope. According to the Times, "As Tony Blair was bidding farewell to President George W Bush in the Rose Garden on Thursday, the World Bank was preparing to kick out Paul Wolfowitz as president. Allies to the left and right in the Iraq war were falling by the wayside that day. Was he responsible for Blair’s departure from office, Bush was asked. There had to be a reason why a prime minister who had never lost an election was being dumped. 'Could be . . . I don’t know,' the president mused above the distant chant of war protesters outside the White House gates." The Times portrays the Wolfie incident deftly: "The fall of Wolfowitz is already entering the annals as a morality fable for the Bush administration in which the arrogant, narcissistic former Pentagon official and a handful of his cronies were foisted on an unwilling international institution until it finally found a way to spit them out. By this reckoning, Wolfowitz’s appointment as president of the World Bank in 2005 was an 'Up yours' similar to the way the Iraq war was imposed by Bush against the wishes of the international community – with predictably dire results."

    May 23, 2007

    Check out this Video on voting machine hacking and fraud.

    May 24, 2007

    Bush's Plan -- According to The Progressive via Truthout, "With scarcely a mention in the mainstream media, President Bush has ordered up a plan for responding to a catastrophic attack. Under that plan, he entrusts himself with leading the entire federal government, not just the Executive Branch. And he gives himself the responsibility 'for ensuring constitutional government.' He laid this all out in a document entitled 'National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51' and 'Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20.'" In case of "catastrophic emergency," that is "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government function ... the President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government." No more checks and balances, the president rules. It's obvious that Bush, Cheney, Rove et al would love to lock down a dictatorship if they could. That doesn't mean they could pull it off. But the clear demonstration in their every action that their inclination is toward autocracy is very unsettling. Hopefully that is why opposition to them is mounting in the U.S. and around the world.
  • The Randy Rhodes Fans MySpace site always lists lots of good video clips.
  • Air America's presidentl, Mark Green, on Fox News explaining that Air America may have gone into Chapter 11 but it's not going to lose as much money as Fox did before it found its audidence.
  • Young Turks on the White House saying Carter is "irrelevant", but not irrelevant to refrain from commenting on. The talking point word is "reckless". Carter is now reckless for having said such a thing.

    Memorial Day Weekend,
    May 26, 2007

    Mixed Feelings -- Memorial Day is a holiday with contradictions imbedded in it. On one hand, one wants to pay homage to those who have served, risked their lives, sacrificed their physical or mental health or their lives to protect their country. But it is also an occasion sleazy politicians manipulate to justify and promote their own wars, which are not about protecting the country. On the contrary, the Bush regime's wars are destroying the country piece by piece. It is a day to remember the unfortunate souls in Iraq today, mere puppets on the stage created by Bush and the various industries that promote war, people who were misled into taking contracts with the military because in most cases they were economically disadvantaged and were told they could get huge signing bonuses and education if they went into the military. In return they committed themselves to serve to protect their country, an honorable commitment. Unfortunately that commitment has been manipulated and they have been dragged into a conflict that does not protect the country, that only furthers the ends of some very evil men. Now the legislature has given into the president yet again to give more billions of dollars to fuel this hideous and futile exercise in Iraq -- why? And Why now? Because it's Memorial Weekend and they are supposed to be taking a vacation. They want to wrap it up before they take their vacations. Why are their damn vacations so important? What are they their for? why don't they give the soldiers and the citizens of Iraq a vacation? What happened to the skewed value system of the country? Are our routines so important, our vacation schedules? What is so important that these so-called public servants have to put their work to save the country from disaster on the shelf, give in to unjustifiable policies just to wrap up affairs before their vacations. Is there a single profile in courage in Congress today?
  • The One -- Al Gore Al Gore told an audience at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side that he may run for president again, though not necessarily in 2008. (See NY Post) Here is one man who is head-and-shoulders above anyone else out there anywhere near the realm of politics from which presidents are chosen. When you place him in the field of contenders, he towers over them all. Putting aside that he won the election in 2000 and had the office stolen from him (he never should have allowed it), he was vice president for eight years. He was senator for many years. He has seen the collapse of his personal fortunes and has come back. He's written excellent books that are not just the typical expanded PR brochure of policians running for office (like Bush's "A Charge to Keep") but are really about the most important issues of this somnolescent era. This is the one man more equipped to take charge of this catastrophe created by the corrupt, incompetent Bush regime than anyone. And he really did have an important role in the congressional initiative that made the Internet what it is today. Gore for president!

    May 26, 2007

    Happy Rats -- Rove, Bush, Cheney and the rat pack are gloating with great joy tonight as headlines blast that the Democrats back down and give Bush his money for more war. Bush lately at his press conference has dropped all pretense of being a Jovial guy, that front that the media went for in the early days. Now he's just raw viciousness and he doesn't hide it anymore. He's tired of his low approval ratings. Tired of reporters that ask challenging questions instead of bowing obsequiously as they used to. Always an angry man, he seems so full of hatred now he looks like he will explode any minute. But tonight he is happy. Back to being the all-powerful, unyielding ruler. See the comments of David Sirota, author of Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government and How We Take It Back: "Democratic politicians, Capitol Hill staff, political consultants and all their lobbyist friends sitting comfortably tonight in their Northwest Washington homes believe the public thinks Democrats are "weak" because they don't more strongly support leaving American troops to be killed or maimed in the middle of a bloody civil war in a country half way around the globe that had no WMD and had nothing to do with 9/11. What they seem unable - or unwilling - to realize is that the public has believed Democrats are weak not because some in the party have opposed the war, but because many in the party refuse to wield the power the public entrusts them with on all sorts of issues."
  • Nature Speaks -- At an outdoor press conference, right after Bush repeated his line about having confidence in his Gonzo-Fredo attorney hitman, a bird crapped on his $2,000 suit. ABC
  • Presidential Spite -- Reporters from McClatchy, one of the few major news organizations that was skeptical of intelligence reports during the "run-up" to the war in Iraq, is being retaliated against by the administration now. They no longer get access.
  • Wow! Greg Palast says he and the BBC have the "missing" Karl Rove e-mails that discuss vote fraud strategies. Palast: "Goodling testified that Gonzales' Chief of Staff, Kyle Sampson, perjured himself, lying to the committee in earlier testimony. The lie: Sampson denied Monica had told him about Tim Griffin's 'involvement in "caging" voters' in 2004 ... The perplexed committee members hadn't a clue --- and asked no substantive questions about it thereafter. Karl Rove is still smiling. If the members had gotten the clue, and asked the right questions, they would have found "the keys to the kingdom," they thought they were looking for. They dangled right in front of their perplexed faces. The keys: the missing emails --- and missing link --- that could send Griffin and his boss, Rove, to the slammer for a long, long time. Kingdom enough for ya?"

    May 27, 2007

    Sunday News

    Of, for and by the Corporations -- George Stephanopoulos opened his show with Bush administration Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and N.J. Senator Bob Menendez discussing the new immigration bill. My neighbor and senator, Menendez, was articulate, prepared, well-informed and represented the position with heart, as usual. Gutierrez, the Bush administration token Latino, looks like one slick character. His tall moustache, greasy swept back grey-speckled pompadour, and high, thick eyebrows look like features painted on some villain in a 1940s movie.

    The white elephant in the room, as always in these situations, are the big corporations that own and run the show, both Congress and the media through which we are watching the show. Gutierrez says: The problem is, we still have these low-end jobs that no one here wants to take, "we've moved on," he says. That's why we need to bring in immigrants to do the jobs, he says. What he doesn't say is that he and the others are protecting the ability of big corporations to keep costs low by offering jobs that pay less than a living wage. This bill continues to protect the corporations' power to get cheap labor in the U.S. as well as to move jobs out of the country to get cheap labor overseas.

    The corporations owe something to the country they operate in, and they should not be allowed to get labor at lower rates than people can live on in this country. The political and social dialogue in the U.S., as controlled by the major corporations that monopolize the media, is always shaped via the corporate view. In this case, typically, the rights of corporations to do whatever they want, to screw anyone and everything, destroy the environment and the social fabric of the country are paramount. Same with our healthcare system. It's of, by and for corporate America, the public can be damned.

    This aspect that underlies practically every major issue today is suppressed and submerged in the reports. Government of, for and by the Corporations Shall Not Perish from the Earth. The U.S. has become the Corporate State of America.

  • Meet the Press featured an interview with New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson, which was a relief because last week they spent interminable minutes with a couple of doddering old Republicans reminiscing about Ronald Reagan. The world is coming apart at the seams, no end of trouble and crisis, and Meet the Press spends half its weekly show telling supposedly heartwarming stories about The Gipper. It was a throwaway show, a bone for the Republicans, for whom the less discussion of the real issues the better.

    May 30, 2007

    Poor Rachel Smith Miss USA had to endure boos at the Miss Universe contest in Mexico just for being the representative of the U.S. (ABC) Very sad, the poor girl, what has she done? The viciousness and arrogance of the Bush-Cheney administration have turned America into a mega-villain, the most hated country on earth. The news media will attribute all the vitriole to Mexico to try to isolate it and downplay it. But it's much worse than that. Sad that someone like Rachel Smith, who is just one of all these young women celebrating the beauty, harmony and inclusion of this international event, would have to take the consequences for the evil men who are pulling the country down the toilet and closing the lid over our heads.
  • Out Goes Wolfowitz, In Comes Zoellick -- As the world breathes a sigh of relief with the final departure of ghastly Paul Wolfowitz from the World Bank, Bush has lined up his next contender, showing once again his capacity to always dredge deeper into the radical conservative pit for ever more repellant candidates. This latest character, Robert Zoellick, is a managing director and vice chairman, international, at Goldman Sachs. A long-time swimmer in the smarmy Reagan Bush mileau, Zoellick has held a number of positions in those administrations, a U.S. trade representative, a deputy secretary of State, and an aide to President Bush 41. The LA Times writes, "Zoellick will arrive at the bank with a reputation as a straight shooter." He's also a heavy duty Bushie, free market proselytizer, neocon maniac, and a member of the fanatical Project for a New American Century, the sort of church of the neocons. He was one of the signers of a 1998 letter to Bill Clinton urging the removal of Saddam Hussein (see wikipedia). In fact, the letter and other PNAC documents spell out the Bush agenda for world domination, or what they refer to as "American global leadership" in their Statement of Principles. In fact, it's precisely the agenda they launched into using 9/11, which became the "new Pearl Harbor" they pined for in their statement of principles, as a pretext.

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