January 3, 2007
In the Age of Bush and BlairLONDON -- In sleepy London town it doesn't seem that much saner than the U.S. if you look at the news. The worst news show on the BBC, of course, is up with the very best in the U.S., but it still follows the same mindless narrative, utterly out of touch with reality. The big story today, the TOP story is that the Iraqi "government" is going to "launch an investigation" into allegations that Saddam Hussein's execution was objectionable in the way it was carried out, that some people taunted him during the execution or something. They are killing him, ripping the life out of him by hanging him by the neck and they are upset because someone was -- what? behaving disrespectfully?
It's like reading Gulliver's Travels when you see the absurd banter that they call "news". How do they find that one little point to which to object out of a mountain of atrocities and outrages? Why should someone's yelling at a public execution be the one thing that is cited as objectionable? I guess in a sense the answer is imbedded in the question. If they were to ignore all the crimes and outrages perpetrated by the relevant governments and the pirates that control them -- the really most pressing and relevant stories of the day -- they'd have to go on the air and say nothing happened today. So they pick this relatively minor offense and make it the top story. After a few words about it affecting some posture of moral outrage, they move onto the next story, in which a young girl was killed by a pit bull. Ghastly, grisly and tragic indeed, but the second most important story after someone misbehaving at an execution? I'll retire to Bedlam.
The real story, of course, the real top story in the world day after day, is the horrendous slaughter that continues in Iraq, that formerly civilized country that Bush broke down into chaos and disorder, fulfilling his father's pledge to bomb it back to the stone age. They've done it, those Bush ruffians. Now what?
You hear these commentators talking about it, carrying on this ongoing discussion about changes Bush is going to "unveil" in the New Year now that the population has spoken clearly their disapproval of his lousy, stupid war. He doesn't care what the peons think, of course. He's going to dance around a little, remove a general maybe, ignore all the advice of all the people who are smarter than him, do nothing but continue the slaughter, increase it, if anything, with MORE TROOPS! After the U.S. population told him in no uncertain terms No mas! Absolute defiance of the democratic will.
And shots of Tony Blair smiling like he was on top of the world when he ought to hide his face in shame. He's probably thinking of that great slot he's reserved with the Carlyle Group, alongside Poppy Bush.
Meanwhile, in other news:
In Memoriam: Gerald Ford. No hero. No "healer". A great obfuscator and puppet of the dark, sinister forces that rule behind the stage of politics. Damned Lies -- More on Gerald Ford's contribution to falsified history: "Gerald Ford's Terrible Fiction" Credit Where Due -- "Gerald Ford's Role in the JFK Assassination Cover-up" by Don Fulsom Falsity and the New Dark Age -- Antiwar.com
January 4, 2007Rudy's Dirty Underwear -- Here in London, the Guardian is reporting that "the last thing Rudy Giuliani needed was let the world know about his weaknesses: that stormy failed second marriage, that association with a disgraced official, and those inconvenient views on the issues of the day." They definitely summed it up in the first sentence of the article. It was a big blunder for the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign when his 140-page strategy book got into the hands of the NY Daily News, exposing Giuliani's secret plan to be president, plans he's been publicly denying.
Though McCain is routinely touted as the front-runner in the 2008 Republican presidential campaign, the real winner of opinion polls is Giuliani. The misplaced campaign plan outlines Giuliani's budgets, schedules, and fund-raising plans and goes into detail on some of the dirty laundry the campaign expects others to expose, including his business dealings, his assciation with disgraced former police commissioner Bernard Kerik, his two failed marriages, etc.
Some reports say the document was left in a hotel room and turned over to the Daily News by an "anonymous source". But the Giuliani campaign is taking the Nixon-Rove approach of trying to turn it into a reverse scandal, saying someone "infiltrated" the campaign and stole it, making them the victim of "dirty tricks" rather than their own ineptitude. At the same time they are trying to play down the importance of the book. Some one is getting fried on the Giuliani campaign.
Giuliani has plenty of weak points once one penetrates his one campaign asset, the fact that he looked good on TV after 9/11. But some of the victims' families are eager to expose the truth about his failings in that very incident. See Democracy Now for an interview with Wayne Barrett, senior editor at the Village Voice, who's been covering politics for 22 years and is the author of Rudy!: An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Guiliani and "Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 and Kevin Keating, the producer and director of the documentary Giuliani Time
Nature Tourism in London -- Travelogue Notes: I saw a fox walk across Cromwell Road the other night. I couldn't believe my eyes. I watched for a while trying to confirm for myself what I was seeing. Thanks to Google, I could verify what I saw. According to National Geographic, there are now 10,000 red foxes in London digging the urban scene. Instead of chasing rabbits, they help themselves to discarded take-out food, and they don't have to worry about getting shot by farmers. Aaah foxey!
RANDOM TRAVELER'S NOTES
January 7, 2007
Information WarLONDON -- While strolling around London taking pictures I was stopped and questioned by police. It seems that the beautiful aristocratic home I had just photographed from outside its gate was the Saudi embassy. There was no sign to that effect, but it was the case, according to the police.
They were very nice about it. They didn't rough me up or haul me to jail, though the threat was implicit in their gestures. They are after all police, and they don't have the friendly look of the traditional bobbies anymore, not these ones in the special force for protection of the embassies anyway. They asked for my ID, took all my information down. They looked at all the pictures in my camera (thank God it wasn't film).
The pictures included a couple of shots of a Christmas tree, a few shots of the hotel I'm staying in, a beautiful tavern front or two, some street scenes including one that showed the cop van just before they got out and and stopped me. I told them I had no idea it was a Saudi embassy. In fact if I had known, it still wouldn't have occurred to me that I couldn't photograph it.
When they were convinced that I wasn't a clandestine operative, they let me go. But those are the times we are living in, the times of Bush and Blair and constant terror and paranoia. Even jolly old London is infected by this fever. I guess they assumed I could take the picture back and study it with my terrorist buddies and we could better figure out where to plant a bomb to blow up the Saudi embassy, as if I give a hoot about the Saudi embassy.
In the age of the information explosion, the reactionary group in power via Bush and Blair is trying to keep information locked up, trying in vain to control it. Those who hold power illegitimately, and exercise it unjustly and brutally, namely the Bush administration, believe they can hold their unjust power by brute force. And if they have to bug everyone's phone calls and e-mail messages, monitor everyone's Web activity, read everyone's mail, imprison people without trials or even charges and torture them, allegedly to "get information", they will do it. They will do whatever they can to stop the movement of history, to hold onto their power, wealth and control of the world's resources, even if they have to kill everyone to do it. That's their primitive logic. But it ain't gonna work. Time marches on.
Bye Bye Blair -- While America will have to stew with the poison of Bush a while yet, Britain will be done with Blair in a matter of months and events are moving on, attention is turning to Gordon Brown, his successor. His toughest challenge, writes Iain Macwhirter in the Sunday Herald, will be to "find a path through the minefield of Iraq policy."
Brown doesn't have Blair's "empathy skills," Macwhirter says. But what good are they when you've destroyed your credibility by signing on to a lying policy that is often termed the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history, as Tony did? Bush won't have puppy dog Blair to support him anymore. He won't have his rubber stamp congress. Democrats are finding they won't be able to face voters if they let Bush get away with sending more soldiers to Iraq when obviously the policy has failed, the war is lost and no one even knows what "winning" it would have ever meant. Bush is losing his oily grip on power.
Macwhirter: "Throwing good soldiers after bad might seem a sensible strategy if you are a Christian fundamentalist with a hotline to God. But for Brown this represents a huge moral and political problem which he will shortly inherit. The war is lost so what point is there in escalating the conflict and losing more lives?"
The World Turns -- Those poor little sheep who poured their French wine down the sink in 2003 could have enjoyed drinking it, and now that the whole world knows Chirac was right, he's reminding us what he said then. According to The International Herald Tribune, Chirac now says, "As France had foreseen and feared, the war in Iraq has sparked upheavals that have yet to show their full effects ... This adventure has worsened the divisions among communities and threatened the very integrity of Iraq. It has undermined the stability of the entire region, where every country now fears for its security and its independence. It has offered terrorism a new field for expansion ... The priority, more than ever, is to restore full sovereignty to the Iraqi people."
The Transformation of Saddam -- A news show I chanced to cut into tonight showed how the U.S. supported Saddam through all the crimes he was finally hung for. It was well done. It broke the story down simply using quotes from various British papers of the last 30 years to show the utter hypocrisy of the Bush administration's phony moral posturing against the mass murderer that they supported so enthusiastically and consistently. Now in death the evil Saddam is being transformed into a martyr. (See International Herald Tribune) How much worse could anyone blunder than these guys? They keep besting themselves, already the worst in American history, they insist on digging a deeper hole into hell.
And from America -- If you get shot point blank in the chest, that would indicate you did yourself in, right? If they found you shot in the chest in a parking lot at the end of a good day when you were preparing to reach out and take the prize you had earned by a hard struggle, like if you preparing to take office after you had won an election for mayor, then of course it would obviously be suicide, right? At least if you're a Black mayor in a white majority town in Louisiana. That's the reasoning behind calling the shooting death of Mayor Gerald Washington of Westlake, Louisiana a suicide, according to local authorities. It was his gun, after all. That would prove it, right? Open and shut case. See AOL for the story. Old Jim Crow lives. Lynch 'em.
January 10, 2007
Speaking Subjectively, coming back to the States after a week in London, I have to say, the U.S. is a more congenial place than it was a few years ago. Going and coming back gives you a more pronounced view, the contrast with earlier returns is brought to mind clearly. There is a sense that at long last, perhaps sluggishly, the world is getting up and moving on.
The Bushies have held tenaciously, savagely to power for six years, clearly willing to do anything to enhance power, anything. Their message to their enemies is, We are ruthless, unmerciful, we will be restrained by no compassion, no moral imperative, no law, no principle. Our only interest is power and if you get in our way, we will destroy you. Now Poppy Bush is sobbing and balling on camera. They are losing their hold. Baby Bush has made such a catastrophe of everything, the dynasty is painted into a corner.
If people brought down the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Bloc, people can bring justice for the war crimes of half-pint dictators like George W. Bush. There is no natural law that says these clowns should rule. Or, if they are brought down kicking from power, like Richard Nixon, that they should be immune to prosecution for their crimes. Gerald Ford's declaration that Richard Nixon was to be pardoned, never tried, and not even investigated, was not "the proper thing to do" to save the country from more pain, as Ford pretentiously claimed. It was not a good precedent, should not be allowed to be a precedent. It should be seen as a black mark, a compromise of justice, a corruption of power. For Nixon to appoint Ford and Ford to pardon him? That outrageous conflict of interest was allowed to stand? And is now seen as a precedent for the way we should conduct our government? Is this designed as an encouragement to corrupt officials that they shouldn't worry about being accountable for any crimes because once they get powerful enough, they will be immune? This is not a good way to run a country.
But there has been a sea change. There is a sense of understanding among people, a broad consensus about how bad Bush is, how bad his pet war is. Despite their persistent efforts to keep everyone in that state of fear that gripped the country after 9/11, the Bush administration has been unable to make Americans sign on to their hate and fear mindset. The whole charade about the war, its somehow having a connection with the security of America,it's all unraveling. Who believes in them now?
AOL trumpeted a Gallup poll the other day that asked people who their most admired people were, and Bush came out on top, again, for the sixth time. Every year of his presidency he has topped this poll. Now it's getting kind of ridiculous. Bush can hardly even find any defenders in the Republican Party now. I'm wondering what kind of people they are talking to in this poll. Billy Graham has placed in the top five or so for decades and decades. But the key in this poll is the percentages. Bush won this coveted honor by being named by 13% of the respondents. Thirteen percent of Americans answer that question with the name of George Bush. Not too impressive.
Bear in mind, the fact that someone answers that question to a pollster, doesn't even mean he or she has all that much feeling for Bush. If you say, "My father," they might say, "No, we're talking about famous people." Or maybe that's the habitual pattern of thinking that comes into play when a Gallup pollster asks you that question. It's like a crossword puzzle.
Oddly enough, in 1998, when Clinton was at the same stage in his presidency as Bush is now, he also won. Ariana Huffington was a little annoyed that Clinton "beat Billy Graham, the pope and Colin Powell as America's most admired man." But then again, Huffington wrote, "Every year since this poll was started over 50 years ago, the winner has almost always been the sitting president -- whether that was John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton."
This Gallup Most Admired poll doesn't signal a great resurgence in Bush's appeal. By now more Americans have died in Iraq than died on 9/11. More Americans died or disappeared in Katrina than 9/11. The U.S. has been at war in Iraq under this president longer than it spent in World War II. Tens of thousands of Americans have been maimed or disabled in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed. Bush has already had his reign of death. The forces of history are not on his side.
But he is far from finished killing. Just today we see a report that signals the wave of killing Bush wants to unleash now. According to (Dawn), "Iraqi and US forces killed 50 people in a central Baghdad district they described as riddled with 'terrorist hideouts', Iraq's government said on Tuesday, as American jets and helicopters prowled overhead."
"Riddled with terrorists" -- I'm sure! Just what is a "terrorist" anyway? Is that like someone who strikes shock and awe into the hearts of men, women and children in order to accomplish a political objective? But aren't you talking about an insurgency? These are insurgents rising up against an occupier. That is fundamentally different from the picture evoked by the word "terrorist". That word makes anything seem justified. It evokes the smoldering ashes of the World Trade Center. Terrorists! Rip their hearts out! No punishment is too extreme!
But far behind the TV tube, in the actual place where these atrocities are taking place, it is families, civilians who are dying. It is not "terrorists". It is in most cases not even "insurgents", though their cause is hard to refute if you approach the question without prejudice. It's innocent people who just want to go on with their lives. Do they hate America? By now, probably yes. It would be strange if they didn't. At least the particular Americans who are killing their families and destroying their country.
Which brings me back, by the way, to an incident the other night in London in which I was stopped and questioned by police, had to show them my pictures to prove I wasn't a terrorist because I had snapped a photo of what turned out to be the Saudi Embassy, though I didn't know it then. Yes, they were decent and humane to me, they were in no way objectionable in any way other than in the conduct of their duties, their obligation. But it does bring questions to mind, questions that would not have been very relevant a few years ago, and which may become much more pressing if the trend to abolishing civil liberties continues.
There were no signs of any kind indicating that one should not photograph, or in fact should not do anything they wouldn't do anywhere else. There's not even a sign saying that it's an embassy. Maybe they don't want anyone to know. But if you photograph it, the police will stop you and question you.
I was able to convince them that I wasn't a terrorist. I wasn't uptight. I cooperated. The pictures on my camera backed up my story. And after all, it's pretty far fetched that everyone who snaps a picture of this beautiful building is going to use the photo to plan a terrorist act.
I'm used to dealing with white cops, showing them I can speak their language, I'm okay, you're okay. I'm with you. I'm one of you. But what if I was Asian? Or Black, or Arab, or Pakistani? What if I didn't speak the language? What if all these things made me scared and I lost my composure? Might I end up in Guantanamo?
In fact that's how a lot of people did end up in Guantanamo who were not terrorists, but IT guys or messengers. These are the kinds of extreme situations we have to reckon with now because as crazy as the proposition might be to Americans, the law of the land now allows the president to put you away without a trial, without charges, simply because he, in his great wisdom, suspects you of being a terrorist.
Isn't it very very strange to contemplate that in America, this mean little man has claimed nearly total power for himself over every citizen, everyone in the world?