Politics: January 2003 Archives

These are the least diplomatic statements I have ever seen associated with this man who is so extraordinarily popular around the world. Maybe we really are in deep deep trouble.

Nelson Mandela, no friend of current White House policy, yesterday in Johannesburg attacked the Bush administration more forcefully than he had ever done in the past. Maybe the fearless former South African president can shame so many others who could make a difference but have been timid or silent in the face of American power gone insane. Can we and the world still be saved from the sleazy junta in Washington?

"What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight and who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust.

"Why does the US behave so arrogantly? Their friend Israel has got weapons of mass destruction. But because it's their ally they won't ask the UN to get rid of them."

A man who should know racism when he sees it, Mandela asks whether the American president and the British prime minister (to whom he refers, with contempt, as "the foreign minister of the United States") are behaving as racists in their relationship with the UN.
He said: "Both Bush and Tony Blair are undermining an idea (the UN) sponsored by their predecessors.

"Is this because the Secretary General (Kofi Annan, from Ghana) is now a black man? They never did that when Secretary Generals were white...

"Are they saying this is a lesson that you should follow. Or are they saying we are special, what we do should not be done by anyone?"

Like many of those who oppose this war and see it as part of a much larger record of violence, Mandela addresses the world's historical experience with the nation which threatens another conflagration. The article in London's Mirror continues:
The world statesman went on to launch a withering attack on America's human rights record.

Referring to the US wartime atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagaski, he said: "Because they decided to kill innocent people in Japan, who are they now to pretend they're the policeman of the world?

"lf there is a country which has committed unspeakable atrocities, it is the US...they don't care for human beings."

He went on to appeal to the American people to vote Mr Bush out of office and protest at his policies.

John Pilger is writing from and for readers in the U.K., so his title suggests a much more parochial statement than what you will actually find in its text. The first part of the essay is an extraordinary attack on the American and British governments; the second lines up the argument in horible detail. The combined effect is devastating, just about the last word on the subject of this mad war and the system which is planning it. Don't read it before dinner.

To call Blair a mere "poodle" is to allow him distance from the killing of innocent Iraqi men, women and children for which he will share responsibility.

He is the embodiment of the most dangerous appeasement humanity has known since the 1930s. The current American elite is the Third Reich of our times, although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal of their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by proxy, to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American "interests", such as a voracious appetite for the world's resources, like oil.

[If the Common Dreams link doesn't show the picture, try the Mirror site.]

So reads the actual lead headline this afternoon on the Reuters site--cross my heart and hope to die if I'm lying!

How can these guys live with themselves?

Breslin says it's in the faces of the people. But, no, it's not a reflection of memories of the the Trade Center destruction. It's the consciousness of the destruction yet to come.

On the streets yesterday, when greeting each other, people did it with no expression. Certainly, the cold had much to do with that, but this is a time when people do not smile anywhere.

You study the faces on television. I would not hire the press guy for the president, Ari Fleischer, for a job in a funeral parlor because he is too somber. I single him out because he is on TV a lot at this time.


But when you study faces anywhere, you can't find a smile.

The faces tell you the time in which you're living. The government is talking about a war with Iraq as if discussing a commuter train home. When we have the war, when we get the 101st Airborne in place, when the carrier group arrives, when the war starts at the end of February. The 8:42 to Long Beach.

The government talks about a war in terms of personal insults, deliberately keeping us waiting, by Saddam Hussein, of whom we're all sick and tired.

No one so far has talked about the number of people who will be killed in Iraq. We will lose great young people. Oh, there has to be tens of thousands of Iraq civilians killed. How can they bomb and invade without killing tens of thousands? Particularly those school children whose mothers dress them for the day and send them off to be blown apart by a smart bomb that turns dumb on the way down and hits a schoolhouse.

But death will not visit Iraq alone.
Of course, people display gloom. When you're in something this lousy it tells on everybody. The soul shows.

Bush talks about this war as if he is driving us to it on a one-way street. We bomb them. We flatten them under tank treads. What happens then? Why, America wins again! The Bush people want the thrill of the invasion news without having to read the casualty lists on the following days.

Neither he, nor anybody else, mentions the obvious fact that an attack on Iraq will cause a response someday. Maybe a month, a year, five years. They will come. And the only place they will attack is New York.

That came to mind naturally yesterday during a walk along the fence of the old World Trade Center site.

No suicide bomber wants to go Waco, Texas.

Nobody tries poison gas on Denver.

They can't wait to hit New York again.

And if there is one sure thing, this Bush and his southern Republicans will simply shuck off the news of anything happening to New York.

Thanks, Jimmy.

This blog is directed to the world outside of New York. Its message is hardly necessary for those who have lived in the Gotham City for the last ten years.

An opinion piece in Newsday today, from an author who once saw the former prosecutor as a hero, and who co-authored a book describing him as such, reminds us of the truth about the the man who later became an unpopular mayor. Giuliani had a 32 percent approval rating in 1999 and throughout his second term, until the destruction of the World Trade Center, he remained unable to claim any real popularity in the city itself.

It is an exhilarating experience to publish a book critical of a pop culture icon like Giuliani, who enjoys an 80-percent approval rating nationally, is routinely called "America's Mayor," and will be the subject of a made-for-television docu-drama in March. Friends think I am committing career suicide by deflating a political diety. TV talk-show bookers say Giuliani is too popular to dispute.

But there is a case against canonization. Something bogus is going on here. One day has become a career.

Jack Newfield hardly misses a beat in his account of Giuliani's failings. Even crime reduction, for which he boasts credit, was hardly accomplished by the mayor in a vacuum. The list of Newfields's indictments includes the mayor's pervasive racist policy, education system disasters, union antagonisms, violations of major constitution rights, the undermining even of existing programs for the poor and, most damaging from the point of view of the constituency which most enthusiastically supported him, fiscal irresponsibility.

Just now I made the mistake of turning on the television for the first time in months. I wanted to see if there were millions, shivering, standing in support of reason outside the United Nations Security Council, and I was properly feeling very guilty for not being there myself

I didn't really find out anything, because all I saw and heard on each network were the usual, now iconic, talking shirts (and blouses), describing a world and representing a logic totally alien to me.

The world is the one created by this White House and the media which represents it, to the exclusion of any alternative. The logic, I believe, at the moment goes something like this: Ok, we just may give Iraq a tiny bit more time, but if then the inspectors still don't find weapons of mass destruction, it will mean Hussein is hiding them. At that point the Europeans and any others who oppose a war won't have a leg to stand on, and we can go in and nuke the people responsible for September 11, making us all feel both virtuous and safe.

I don't have to comment any further right now. I'm just going to sign off and weep--for reason, logic, sanity, history, the present, for any future, but above all for the millions of people who will be caught up in this evil.


Not In Our Name has two full pages in today's NYTimes. The statement is excellent, and it properly references more than just this war. Sign it.

For a visible image of resistance to this war and the new foreign and domestic order, see the Blue Button Project.

James Wentzy's film documentary, "Fight Back, Fight AIDS – 15 Years of ACT UP," has been accepted for screening next month by the 53rd Berlin International Film Festival.

Fight Back, Fight AIDS – 15 Years of ACT UP von James Wentzy (USA)

From the Festival site [my translation from the German]:

Absent for years from the Berlinale, AIDS appears again as a topic of feature films in the Festival's Competition and Panorama theaters. Two documentary films examine socio-political issues [the second, also an American film, is Louise Hogarth's The Gift]: As gays began to die like flies in the 80's, the world looked away. ACT UP became, for the media, the voice of AIDS: And the world was shocked that this the most easy-going of minorities was able to apply itself to deal with the crisis, to ACT UP, to shout back. This film shows how the media-savy actions of this loose organization came about and how AIDS politicized the gay world and moved it to assume real responsibility: Ashes are thrown onto the lawn of the White House of an ignorant President Bush senior, corpses are laid out in front of the two-faced Clinton--and the film historian Vito Russo (who was at the Panorama theatre in 1983 with his lecture, "The Celluloid Closet") is shown delivering his last great speech.
In November I announced the screening of the film here in New York, and after seeing it, wrote:
The ACT UP documentary was beautiful, but for all the evidence of the success of the activism it records, the reminders of how little has changed in the world in fifteen years is a horrible concomitance. Bush, war in the middle east, health care, drug company profiteering, oil, greed and stupidity. There were also the images of so many activists whose lives were destroyed at the height of their beauty and their powers. I would not have missed this screening for anything, but it was a melancholy, if not terrifying, experience, and one which an intelligent and generous world could have prevented.

I hate to take the narrow view, to personalize the big issues, but as someone who lives in New York, and is absolutely mad about its people and its beauty, I see this news first as the death knell for the vulnerable, very open city I love. Still with my initial reaction, no, I don't give a fuck for what happens to anyone elsewhere in the country who hasn't been screaming at the top of their lungs all along about the insane regime which has highjacked the nation.

WASHINGTON -- One year after President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea the "axis of evil," the United States is thinking about the unthinkable: It is preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iraq.

At the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in Omaha and inside planning cells of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, target lists are being scrutinized, options are being pondered and procedures are being tested to give nuclear armaments a role in the new U.S. doctrine of "preemption."

Louis Lapham, the editor of Harper's, has come up with the phrase, "radical nationalists," as a description of the party interests which currently control Washington, and thus the nation and already much of the world. Don't call them "conservative."

"Conservative" is hardly an accurate description of Bush, the Republicans, the corporatists and the religious fundamentalists whose agenda for change, well underway already, will clearly destroy the republic, and perhaps much more.

I don't for a moment doubt the eager commitment to the great and noble project of "regime change," but on the evidence ot the last eighteen months they've been doing their most effective work in the United States, not in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq. Better understood as radical nationalists than as principled conservatives, they deploy the logic endorsed by the American military commanders in Vietnam (who found it necessary to destroy a village in order to save it), and they offer the American people a choice similar to the one presented by the officers of the Spanish Inquisition to independent-minded heretics--give up your liberty, and we will set you free. [online text not available]

[But first, a warning, home ain't what it used to be.]

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department is sending a cable to embassies around the world telling Americans abroad to be ready to leave their resident country quickly if for any reason they have to, a U.S. official said on Friday.
Well, yes, the sky is almost certainly going to fall, but remember, they don't hate us. Like us, they hate this government and lots of the things we do. Our best bet to begin turning things around: Impeach the miscreants--now! The administration is pretty free with the word "treason,"* but the charge could and should be directed toward themselves.

*How's this?

"The President considers this nation to be at war," a White House source says," and, as such, considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason."

Everybody out there knows I read the NYTimes, but that doesn't mean I eat it up, and I don't suggest such a narrow or uniform diet for anyone.

Today's edition included on page A6 an image of the "Turmoil In Venezuela," as the headline above the caption reads, but no news story, so it can't be found online. Yes, there is a caption--five lines they give it--but no real story, no background or explanation. Other news sources (even our own government's Voice of America News) featured the story prominently yesterday and today, but the Times must have decided it was too difficult to reconcile the story behind the image with the impression they have been giving for months that Venezuela is in the midst of a popular revolt against a mad dictator. The importance of the story, almost ignored by the Times, is suggested even in the few words of their own tiny item [my italics].

One of the hundreds of thousands of supporters of President Hugo Chávez who gathered yesterday in Caracas, Venezuela's capital. They denounced a strike by the opposition that has slashed oil production. Several blocks away, an explosion killed one person, a 45-year-old man, and wounded 14. No one claimed responsibility.

The White House tells us that it's up to Iraq to prove that it is innocent.

The Bush administration's case against Iraq can be summed up in one sentence: Iraq has not led United Nations inspectors to the weapons Washington insists Baghdad is hiding.
But why should we be surprised at such arrogance and disregard for the niceties of international law? The current administration has been treating people this way for a long time.
A federal judge in New York attacked the Bush administration recently for defying his order to allow Jose Padilla, who is accused of being part of a plot to set off a "dirty bomb," to meet with a lawyer. In case after case, the administration has taken the position that if it accuses someone of being a terrorist, he can be prevented from communicating with a lawyer.
If it serves their political purpose, anyone, even American citizens, can be held without trial or counsel or charges, and in some cases, murdered. It's up to us to prove we are innocent, except that sometimes we're offed first.
. . . November 3 of last year when Bush gave the green light for operatives to kill Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a suspect in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. From 150 miles away at a base in the east African country of Djibouti, the CIA launched a remote-controlled unmanned drone to track al-Harethi, and when his car reached an open road in the Yemeni countryside, a Predator missile was fired from 10,000 feet overhead. Al-Harethi and the five other passengers in the vehicle were immediately incinerated.

One of those passengers subsequently turned out to be an American citizen.

Check out the section devoted to Secretary of the Treasury in this White House website. Why would we need a Secretary of the Treasury in these fat times, especially when, in the absence of [an appointee of an appointee], we have a brilliant President-select to fill that silly little economic portfolio thing?

Washington to world: "Drop dead!

"WASHINGTON/BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Washington shrugged off growing vocal opposition to a possible war on Iraq as big powers lined up to reject military action.

China and Russia, as well as Canada, joined France and Germany Thursday in opposing any rush to war. They said U.N. weapons inspectors should be allowed to continue efforts to disarm Iraq by peaceful means. Washington dismissed the objections, saying it would find other supporters if it decided to go to war.

"I don't think we'll have to worry about going it alone," Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington after talks with Britain's supportive Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

What a county! So, it appears we're fighting a war on drugs at the same time we're fighting a war on drugs. [Since we're not making any progress in either campaign however, the White House claim that we can fight two wars at the same time remains just a dangerous boast.]

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 — A military hearing into the deaths of four Canadians in an airstrike by two American pilots in Afghanistan has focused attention on the military's long-held but little-known practice of using drugs to keep its weary forces awake and alert — or to help them sleep off the stress of combat.
But it seems that there's more to this story than the NYTimes is willing to print. We have to go to The Village Voice for perspective. Read "The Guilt-free Soldier" in this week's edition. The sub-headline, "A Pill That Wipes the Conscience Clean," is a bit sensational, since the Pentagon doesn't even have these drugs, yet, but horrendous issues await us just down the road.
Pills like those won't be available to the troops heading off for possible war with Iraq, but the prospect of a soul absolved by meds remains very real. Feelings of guilt and regret travel neural pathways in a manner that mimics the tracings of ingrained fear, so a prophylactic against one could guard against the other. Several current lines of research, some federally funded, show strong promise for this.

This report from Mother Jones is decidedly not what you hear in the North American commercial media, and in any event with its length it's decidedly more information than we have come to expect from the media, regardless of bias. Don't expect the same old same old.

Like most Venezuelans, Escobar has plenty of reason to be dissatisfied. Since Chávez won election in 1998, even many of his staunchest supporters believe he has mismanaged the economy and picked needless fights with the opposition. Under his leadership, Venezuela has fallen into severe recession: Factories are shuttered, inflation is soaring, and credit has disappeared. The government sits atop the largest reserve of oil in the hemisphere, yet upwards of 40 percent of Venezuelans still live in poverty. But despite the widespread economic misery, what upsets Escobar most is that Venezuela's rich want Chávez out of power, now. Chávez, she says, is the only leader who has ever cared for Venezuela's poor. "The rich have always had so much, and we, nothing," she explains as thousands of marchers -- mostly of mestizo or African descent -- surge past, blowing whistles, singing, waving flags. "Now Chávez wants the rich still to have, but us too, a little."
It's not just a coincidence that the White House has taken such a special interest in President Chavez, a special interest exceeded only by its special interest in President Hussein.
But there's little doubt that after Iraq, Venezuela is the oil-rich country where the White House would most welcome "regime change."
But why does it look like Venezuelans themselves want a regime change? The American press and television tells us that the people want to oust their president, but this could hardly be the whole story even there were any sense at all in such a lazy explanation.
For three decades after the last dictator fell in 1958, the country was often held up as Latin America's model democracy. There were two powerful political parties, both with a strong base of support among the upper and middle classes, both able to rally large masses of the poor via well-honed patronage systems. It was, everyone liked to say, just like the United States.

. . .

And when the big oil dollars started flowing in the early 1970s, it was a system that organized one of the longest-running fiestas of the 20th century.

After the riots of the late eighties, triggered by an attempt by the conservative government to pass on to the poor, through an austerity program, much of the bill for the consequences of a decline in oil receipts, Venezuela went through economic and political agony for nearly a decade. he period of strife included an unsuccessful coup attempt led by (then Colonel) Chavez in 1992, for which he served two years in prison. A civilian Chavez was elected president in 1998 with a record 56 percent majority, and a new constitution followed in 1999, drafted by a popularly-elected Assembly and approved by an overwhelming vote in December of that year.
What Chávez has done, through the new constitution, is to start a process of formalizing and solidifying their political power, channeling their anger through political institutions rather than the streets. "Venezuela is a time bomb that can explode at any moment," Chávez said when the constitution was approved. "It is our task, through the power of the vote, to defuse it now." Chávez threatens Venezuela's elite because he wants to turn the mob of February 1989 into what he likes to call el soberano -- "the sovereign citizen." Which is reason enough, in a country where the poor and working class form a solid majority of the voting population, for the elite to want Chávez out.

For starters, he's more interesting and more his own man and woman than any of the others--and, not incidently, he's the only one who has actually served time when he was arrested. Oh, and he's the only presidential candidate who ever showed up at City Hall for an AIDS demonstration, bless him.

Jimmy Breslin in today's Newsday:

Take some of these Democratic candidates we've had: Mike Dukakis, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and put them in a room and you'd open the window and jump out.

Sharpton may be stale in New York. But he is new practically everywhere else.

When crowds find that Sharpton can be exciting, and that he produces laughter with quick observations, he will have his moments as a candidate. He can use the language with more speed and fervor than anybody around. He is a master at "out of the past we see the future" phrases. About Martin Luther King, he told the crowd yesterday, "Celebrate the past. Fight for the future."

He has credentials on real issues which should be the envy of any candidate--if they actually had any real interest in real issues.
He also knows more in five minutes about hospitals, schools, ambulance responses, prison sentences for the poor, welfare, food stamps and going into the service to fight wars than the rest of these presidential candidates have learned in their lives.

I don't know how far he goes. But at the start, he will have some of them on the verge of throwing up after appearing with him.

Across the U.S. and abroad yesterday, and in some areas continuing today, hundreds of thousands of people refused to be robots in Washington's plans for war.

Bush spent the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David. But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer made clear last week that the president does not see the growing protests as evidence that support is fading for his policy toward Iraq.

"Most people who support what the president is doing are not going to take to the street to say, 'Disarm Saddam Hussein,' "Fleischer said.

Maybe the NYTimes was saying something to Fleischer about the commitment of "those people who" want to bomb other people in this paragraph from its own coverage of the demonstrations:
Two hours before the start of the antiwar rally here, supporters of the war effort held a counter protest on the National Mall, southeast of the Vietnam Memorial. Fewer than 100 people — mostly from two groups, one called Move-Out and another called Free Republic — waved flags as "The Star Spangled Banner" played over a portable speaker.
During the period of the Vietnam tragedy it took ten years to build anti-war protest to this level. I'd like to believe Bush will be in very big trouble if he atacks Iraq, but then there's such a disconnect in the White House between themselves and all reality here and abroad, they just might do it anyway.

Citizen Works has a full-page ad in the NYTimes today describing the Bush administration’s assault on privacy and civil rights. Not news for most anyone who normally sees this weblog, but posssibly a reminder, if not a terrifying reality check, even a goad for action, for many who will see it in the paper around the country.

The University of California has suddenly reversed its decision forbidding its own Emma Goldman Papers Project from printing quotations from Emma Goldman about war and the suppression of free speech. [See my post of three days ago.]

"Now I understand, maybe one tiny, tiny, tiny part of what Emma Goldman's life must have been like in the sense of both taking risks and also appreciating what it feels like when your voice is really speaking for others who have similar concerns," [the director of the Project, Dr. Candace S. Falk,] said.

She said she had been overwhelmed by public reaction to news reports about the deletions. Since Tuesday, Dr. Falk said, the Goldman Project had received more than 300 letters and e-mail messages from around the world, all but a few supporting her view that deleting the quotations amounted to censorship. The university had insisted the disagreement was about fund-raising techniques, not free speech.

This small victory is good news, but we still shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking it's free speech if an authority (any authority) is permitted to decide when it's not ok to speak freely, or even to decide when it is.

I can't take it anymore! The American media has been misrepresenting events in Venezuela, slavishly adopting the account, one of pure invention, furnished by the Right in both Caracas and Washington. Too much time has passed for me to believe that the reportage error is purely a matter of ignorance, especially when the NYTimes, normally more subtle about its heavy corporate slant, follows the cant so readily.

What we read and what we hear is a lie.

This is clearly an oil strike, not a "general strike," as it is often described. At the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, which controls the industry, management is leading the strike because it is at odds with the Chavez government.

Over the past quarter-century PDVSA has swelled to a $50-billion-a-year enterprise, while the income of the average Venezuelan has declined and poverty has increased more than anywhere in Latin America. And while Venezuela depends on oil for 80 percent of its export earnings and half its national budget, the industry's workers represent a tiny fraction of the labor force.

Outside the oil industry, it is hard to find workers who are on strike. Some have been locked out from their jobs, as business owners - including big foreign corporations such as McDonald's and FedEx - have closed their doors in support of the opposition.

Read on.

Not my quote, but that of that wacky agitator, John le Carré, printed as the headline of his piece in The Times of London.

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

. . .

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

Thanks to Fred H. for the le Carré tip.

In a column whose overall message is the continued decline in Dubya's popularity figures. Maureen Dowd hits a few bullseyes, but none better than her take on what passes for foreign policy in Washington these days.

It's equally hard to fathom the president's bipolar approach to nuclear threats. Yesterday he hurled new ultimatums at Saddam Hussein. "I'm sick and tired of games and deception," he said, even as he responded to Kim Jong Il's games and deception with pleas and promises to send food and oil to Pyongyang. There are inspectors in Iraq who are not finding nuclear weapons, while inspectors have been kicked out of North Korea, which has admitted to a nuclear weapons program.

So what's the message here? If Saddam had already developed nukes, we'd send him a fruit basket? But since he hasn't, we'll send him Tomahawk missiles. We know Saddam's weak, but we're pretending he's strong so America can walk tall by whupping him.

Not all of us are blind.


To the Editor:

Re "Detention Upheld in Combatant Case" (front page, Jan. 9):

If the definition of "wartime president" has changed from being president at a time of war that has been declared (Harry S. Truman most recently, as I recall) to when Congress has authorized money for military force but has not declared war (Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Bosnia and the Persian Gulf war, to name the major conflicts) to the president's simply declaring a war (on poverty, on cancer, on drugs, on crime, on terrorism), then we have had a "wartime president" for as long as I have been alive.

The war on terror is not a real war. It is not declared by Congress. This is a continuing, never-ending excuse to forward an agenda and, at least as described in your article, trample civil liberties in the name of "war" — a conflict that is politically nurtured despite its terrible and very real roots.

Barnstable, Mass., Jan. 9, 2003

I believe however that Bebe Brown is mistaken, in this letter which appeared in the NYTimes today, about Truman declaring war. Truman inherited the Second World War and Korea was a police action where no war was actually declared.

Almost a century after she helped create the conscience of a once lively American Left, Emma Goldman's words have been proscribed by a great American University. The University of California at Berkeley was the birthplace almost forty years ago of the free speech movement [Is America is regularly in need of a free speech movement, like, it's a such a new idea?], and for 23 years it has been the repository of Goldman's papers, but the school doesn't seem to have learned a thing from its extraordinary history.

In an unusual showdown over freedom of expression, university officials have refused to allow a fund-raising appeal for the Emma Goldman Papers Project to be mailed because it quoted Goldman on the subjects of suppression of free speech and her opposition to war. The university deemed the topics too political as the country prepares for possible military action against Iraq.
And the words which are so offensive and political?
In one of the quotations, from 1915, Goldman called on people "not yet overcome by war madness to raise their voice of protest, to call the attention of the people to the crime and outrage which are about to be perpetrated on them." In the other, from 1902, she warned that free-speech advocates "shall soon be obliged to meet in cellars, or in darkened rooms with closed doors, and speak in whispers lest our next-door neighbors should hear that free-born citizens dare not speak in the open."

Just before they occupied the Administration building in December of 1964, Mario Savio had exhorted his comrades,
"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, you can't take part, you can't even tacitly take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to indicate to the people who own it, to the people who run it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

Mario Savio

It's that time again.

Zachie Achmat still won't take his pills, even though Nelson Mandela has asked him to. It's part of a very big plan, and it seems to be working, since, as he says, "The country is realizing that people can actually buy life, and that this is unacceptable."

The class, racial or economic foundation of the world's response to the AIDS pandemic has rarely, if ever, been illustrated so dramatically as it has been and continues to be in South Africa. A heroic activist in the country with the highest official count of AIDS-infected people in the world, Achmat has "dragged his government into savings its people," fighting denial at all levels [the goverment of Thabo Mbeki questions the very existence of HIV as the cause of AIDS and minimizes the problem otherwise] and demanding access to AIDS medications for all regardless of ability to pay.

He needs those drugs himself, and he can afford them, but in 1998 he vowed not to take them until everyone in South Africa could. While that day may be dawning, at least in his own country, it may in the end be too late for the man most responsible for what would be a very great victory, one which would honor that associated with Mandela, who now calls Achmat a role model.

The parallels between the campaign and the A.N.C. are haunting. The [Treatment Action Campaign, of which Achmat is chairman] is one of the few organizations still wearing the A.N.C.'s mantle of activism. Its leaders are using techniques they learned in the anti-apartheid struggle. Mr. Achmat was jailed several times in the 1970's, and spent the 1980's living underground as an A.N.C. activist. The campaign is fighting an evil even more formidable and deadly than apartheid, and one that, absent universal access to AIDS treatment, is just as selective in bringing most of the suffering down upon South Africa's poor.

While some may say the gesture trivializes and distracts from the gravity of the anti-war message, Unreasonable Women organizer Donna Sheehan said desperate times . . .

"It got your attention, didn't it?" joked Sheehan of Marshall, who said she doesn't even go into the kitchen without a robe on.

--maybe too stupid to deserve democracy.

I've always thought that the reason most Americans do not vote their interests, but instead support those of the super-wealthy, is that they actually expect to be among the super-wealthy themselves some day.

So goes a good part of the argument of an OP-Ed piece in saturday's NYTimes.

People vote their aspirations.

The most telling polling result from the 2000 election was from a Time magazine survey that asked people if they are in the top 1 percent of earners. Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent and a further 20 percent expect to be someday. So right away you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favored the top 1 percent [the repeal of the estate tax, which is explicitly for the mega-upper class], he was taking a direct shot at them.

Calvin Trillin in the January 27 edition of The Nation:


Korea has the bomb, but not to worry.
It's not a crisis. No, we needn't hurry
To get inspections back. Why try to spot
The weapons they already say they've got?
Containment's fine, no reason for attack.
The threat, we've said for months, is just Iraq.
And why destroy Saddam but still contrive
To let this wicked Kim Jong Il survive?
Because one wicked tyrant must remain
To run against in Bush's next campaign.

My quarrel is not with their sleeping habits, or even the manner in which they entertain themselves. I'm just glad I don't have to be any part of the current regime in Washington.

"All the senior staff has no life, or has too many lives — kids," said Mary Matalin, who recently quit after two years as counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.
What concerns me is what a self-imposed isolation says about their minds and their souls and therefore what is its impact on the rest of us.

The Washington of the Bush administration is dead, and it's not just the social life. It starts at the top, with the senior occupant of the White House avoiding society whenever possible, preferring to visit only with their oldest, closest friends when they entertain at all.

They venture out with friends to favorite restaurants, like the Peking Gourmet Inn in suburban Arlington, Va. [also his father's favorite, a locked-down suburban Chinese restaurants for a night out?], but like the first President Bush they prefer low-key evenings at home with longtime friends.

"It's the social-life equivalent of comfort food," said Mrs. Bush's press secretary, Noelia Rodriguez, who said the Bushes held perhaps only one film screening in the White House theater in all of last year, preferring to watch movies at Camp David on the weekends. "Being with close friends and family and doing things that are more family-oriented, like T-ball. The focus there is not on th 40-somethings, but on the 5- and 6-year-olds."

---Like little George Dubya.


The only way we will wean this country from its monster passenger truck obsession is to shame it. I used to think the SUV would eventually be abandoned when Americans perceived it as uncool, since so much of its popularity is all about fashion, but in such an uncool society that may take too long. Arianna has a better way.

Ratcheting up the debate over sport utility vehicles, new television commercials [the brainchild of Arianna Huffington] suggest that people who buy the vehicles are supporting terrorists. The commercials are so provocative that some television stations are refusing to run them.

Patterned after the commercials that try to discourage drug use by suggesting that profits from illegal drugs go to terrorists, the new commercials say that money for gas needed for S.U.V.'s goes to terrorists.

The ABC affiliate in New York will not be running the ads, scheduled to be broadcast on "Meet The Press," "Face the Nation" and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos." New York must either love the SUV more inordinately than other cities or some of us are unable to take such "hot-button issues," as the local ABC director of programming describes the subject of the ads. He also said that a lot of the statements being made were not backed up, but I'm guessing the affiliate was less concerned about textual support for the arguments made by the Bush administation's antidrug spots.

I really love this picture, but yeah, it needs the story it accompanies, which includes the sassy quote above.

Grass-roots anti-war activists in the Northwest are reporting a very visible and audible growing swelling of support for a once-local overpass peace vigil. By their report, even a majority of the truckers who drive under the bridges where they display their signs are giving them the thumbs up and honking.

"It's my belief that lots of people have the same feelings but they don't know if there is someone else who agrees with them," Bird said. "If you stand up and say what you think, that encourages all the people who say the same thing."
There are many ways to do just that, and along with so many other initiatives of all kinds, the Blue Button Project is based on the conviction that it will work.

But do we have time?

FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - President Bush said on Friday the United States was ready to win a potential war with Iraq and "liberate" its people as he rallied soldiers at the largest U.S. Army base amid an intensifying military buildup around the Gulf nation.

"Some crucial hours may lie ahead," Bush, wearing a green military jacket, told about 4,000 troops at Fort Hood Army Base in his home state of Texas. "We are ready. We're prepared."

"If force becomes necessary to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction ... to secure our country and to keep the peace, America will act deliberately, America will act decisively, and America will prevail because we've got the finest military in the world," he said. His speech was punctuated with applause, whistles and the soldiers' traditional "hoo-ah" cheers of approval.

Gosh oh gee wiz, he talks as if the most-powerful-by-far empire on the planet has a worthy (that is, equal in strength) enemy. So, does that mean that there's a chance that this war thing could all end up in a draw? After all, isn't it now clear we're going to be just about helpless in combat, since our primary defense, as has become usual in these wars against "the lessor sorts," will be to drop bombs from several miles up if anyone dares to shoot at us? Sounds like an equal contest to me.

Seriously however, will it be another war like Granada, or will it look more like Viet Nam or the Boer War?

Can't someone tell Georgie that it isn't a big-screen thriller, but rather the real world in which he is supposed to be working?

I've been seeing lead story headlines quoting this fool for two years now, and I still can't believe this is what the man who presides over the country sounds like.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from January 2003.

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