Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Ongwhehonwhe

That it is the nature of the oppressed to imitate the oppressor, and by such actions try to gain relief from the oppressive condition.

Paulo Friere, in his book, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed, speaks of the banking concept of education and how this concept is used to maintain a control of oppression. In the banking of education, the teacher is the depositer and the students are the depositories. The teacher passes on information that the students receive, memorize, and repeat. In this form of eduation, there is no communication or interaction between the teacher and the student.

The truth is, however, that the oppressed are not "marginals," are not living "outside" society. They have always been "inside" the structure which made them "beings for others." The solution is not to 'integrate" them into the structure of oppression, but to transform that structure so that they can become "beings for themselves." Such transformation, of course, would undermine the oppressors' purposes; hence their utilization of the banking concept of education to avoid the threat of student conscientizacao.

I knocked and the door opened, but I found I'd been knocking from the inside.

It is about coming to the realization we are on the inside looking out, not the other way around. We have been boxed and manufactured since day one and we are beginning to see that things look much different from the outside of our little boxes. The views are quite spectacular and at the same time, very frightening. It's a shock to our psyche, contradicts our belief systems, and totally undermines what we have been taught our entire lives. A total culture shock for sure, and it takes a bold person to explore this new world outside their nice warm cozy box. Like the newborn child is thrust into a separate reality they do not understand, so also we find ourselves in this new world. Some people embrace this world out of the box and exploration becomes their desire. Other people will step out of their comfortable surroundings for short periods, but must return before their world implodes. Perhaps it's my experiences from the sixties, but I find life out of the box as very elating and the more I remain out of the box, the harder it is to return to it! My mind lavishes in the freedom of the other side of the door and I don't want to go back in! This separate reality is where I find the real people, the Ongwhehonwhe!

The use of critical pedagogy places us in a position where we must question ideologies and practices considered oppressive, and encourage liberatory collective and individual responses to the actual conditions of our own lives. Perhaps we need to create a critical pedagogy forum and discuss views and definitions of oppression and possible remedies of those oppresions. Who knows, we all may learn something about ourselves and each other. And building an alternative reality which benefits "all" people of our earth should be our focus. Once out of the manufactured existence we are all accustomed to, we should strive to re-design society within the commonality of equality, justice, and truth.

Author, teacher, and documentarian, Douglas Rushkoff, has published many enlightening pieces about culture and interaction. I particulaly like his book on open source democracy and the premise of the possibility of changing or re-designing political structures through the interaction of millions of people. A possibility which could bring about new solutions to our current and future social problems. Open source communities have already found that solutions to problems will emerge quicker and be more beneficial for the participants with the interaction and participation of loads of dedicated people. In comparison to a centralized planning structure, open source participation wins hands down in my opinion. A true form of power of the people. A version of Rushkoff's book done for the UK policy think tank Demos is viewable in pdf. It's entitiled Open Source Democracy

Rushkoff explains how interactivity is the birth of resistance, and he mentions three stages of development in which the media programmed people can return to autonomous thinking, action, and collective self-determination. These stages are:

  • deconstruction of content

  • demystification of technology

  • do-it-yourself or participatory authorship

I particularly liked this quote, "While it may not provide us with a template for sure-fire business and marketing solutions, the rise of interactive media does provide us with the beginnings of new metaphors for cooperation, new faith in the power of networked activity and new evidence of our ability to participate actively in the authorship of our collective destiny."

The values engendered by our fledgling networked culture may, in fact, help a world struggling with the impact of globalism, the lure of fundamentalism and the clash of conflicting value systems. Thanks to the actual and allegorical role of interactive technologies in our work and lives, we may now have the ability to understand many social and political constructs in very new contexts. We may now be able to launch the kinds of conversations that change the relationship of individuals, parties, creeds and nations to one another and to the world at large. These interactive communication technologies could even help us to understand autonomy as a collective phenomenon, a shared state that emerges spontaneously and quite naturally when people are allowed to participate actively in their mutual self-interest.

The emergence of the internet as a self-organising community, its subsequent co-option by business interests, the resulting collapse of the dot.com pyramid and the more recent self-conscious revival of interactive media’s most participatory forums, serve as a case study in the politics of renaissance. The battle for control over new and little understood communication technologies has rendered transparent many of the agendas implicit in our political and cultural narratives. Meanwhile, the technologies themselves empower individuals to take part in the creation of new narratives. Thus, in an era when crass perversions of populism, and exaggerated calls for national security, threaten the very premises of representational democracy and free discourse, interactive technologies offer us a ray of hope for a renewed spirit of genuine civic engagement.

So this interaction and civic engagement is one of the possibilities offered us "out-of-the-boxers" as we explore this new, designed as we go, world of ours. It's a world we design. It's a world with unlimited possibilities and that is what makes it so spectacular, vibrant, and exciting. It's an explorers dream come true as we are steadily searching for what lays just over that next hill. It's a world that the Ongwhehonwhe will use to create a better world.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Global Village

The hypocrisy continues with no relief in sight! I'm still amazed at how the population is willing to accept the atrocities of the growing totalitarianism of our current administration! The architecture of a regime, through the increasing disregard to the constitution and the ongoing breaking of civil law, seems so obvious to me. And the formation of a Patriot Police worries the hell out of me. Yet there are millions of our citizens, who do not see these atrocities as harmful to the basic democractic principles our country has been built upon. The typical response of the supporters of our current administration is usually something like, "There are times we just have to give up a little freedom in order to maintain a level of safety and security here in our country." And I've found any attempt to point out the obvious to these supporters is normally met with an uncompromising argument about patriotism, freedom, and democracy! I am treated as if I don't have a clue what the definition of these words are, and I am usually reminded that my non-support of the president and his adminstration's war on terror, only aids the country's enemies. If not agreeing with authoritarianism makes me unpatriotic, then so be it! I put my trust and belief in the power of the people, not an institution, and certainly not in elected politicians who follow dictated party lines and whose concerns for the working people come second to capital!

Now I can understand stubborness and can really appreciate it as a tool for the perseverance of our beliefs and actions. I understand stubborness because I have a boatload of it myself. Most times, my stubborness goes entirely against any efforts of arbitration or compromise for sure. I am not a negotiator myself because I'm just too damn stubborn and no matter how many attempts to alter or change myself, I have continued to fail. But I'm still trying and haven't given up yet! So, I'm just as guilty of the tunnel visioned beliefs as the people who support our president's administration and their plans. What is it that separates us and creates the structures of our personal beliefs in such opposite points of view? And I'm not talking about the elite within our society, but the working people themselves. The people who have so much in common but yet view the issues at completely opposite ends of the social spectrum. Is it religious beliefs which separate us, rascism issues, the capitalism/socialism ideologies, or a little of all of these? Some have quoted poles which indicate half the U.S. population is incapable of acquiring, processing, and understanding information. I can't nail it down and I'm asking because I don't have the answers. And I find it imperative that the working people, who stand to lose the most, must find some common ground of solidification. I know the majority of us believe in truth and justice, but these issues seem to become obscure and shadowed by the other issues. Somehow we must come together in order to stem, or at least to soften, the innevitable impact. Like they say, it's not the fall, but rather it's the sudden stop when you hit bottom that really hurts!

I have this dream of a Global Village. Okay, that's not my terminology for it, but the term is from Marshall McLuhan and his description of how electronic mass media would collapse space and time barriers in human communication. This collapse would enable people to interact and live on a global scale, which would basically turn the earth as we know it into a Global Village, spurred by electronic mass media. Of course we can implant the internet into his "electronic mass media" idea and see the possibilities of globalizing communities by this interconnectedness of the people over the entire earth. This connectedness allows the possibility of forming new unheard of before sociological structures within the context of culture. We now have the ability to create an unprecedented historical period in the advancement of civilization. In McLuhans book, Gutenburg Galaxy, he states that "technologies are not simply inventions which people employ but are the means by which people are re-invented." Re-inventing a people, a culture, or a civilization based on equality and justice is certainly an appealing undertaking in my opinion, and it seems to me that the tools for doing exactly this, are continually presenting themselves to the people of the earth who have this dream of a world built of the people, and by the people. McLuhan's idea that the Medium is the Massage, has raised him into the status of a prophet by many internet advocates. It really doesn't matter what we call it, global village, global awareness, or global consciousness, it basically describes a new tool in the search for equality, justice, and peace!

We have a long way to go before the global population majority is exposed to the electronic medium of the internet but we will eventually get there, and in remote places throughout the world there are people, such as Dr. Abraham George, who are dedicated to bringing the poor and remote peoples of their country into the realm of the Global Village. In the Daily Independent, Goke Omolade writes about the global village. In his article, he mentions the difference in the world's individuals, their ethics and mannerisms, and also how the impact of religion, science, and technology shape the behavioural content of nations and their inhabitants.
In fact, the concept of a global village, largely, has to do with the world taken as a unit community interconnected by electronic gadgets and irrespective of one’s geographic location, the ease of telecommunications answers the demand of such needs. In a way, advancement in information technology can be adduced to the imaginative reasoning of the 1950s science fiction. That the world enjoys the services of the Internet and related network programmes is noteworthy enough and by the time the fruits and commonality of the super-highway technology are available, humanity would be the better for it. Even at that, history is seemingly on the side of the trend of events presently unfolding and since history itself is a continuum of thesis and synthesis; it might be appropriate to say that the world is on the synthetic spot wherein innovative ideas contend with opposing forces of maladministration, sheer oppression and squalor.

Omolade mentions that the experiences of our past, which the entire world has become accustomed to, may take a while to wear off, but through the connectedness of the people, it is becoming increasingly difficult for power mongers to remain behind their walls of non-transparency as the web continually opens windows to these atrocities.

The dream of a Global Village is shared by many of the earth's people, and an integral part of this dream is the possibility that one day we could see the inhabitants of our planet living within a new borderless community which employs cooperative intelligence rather than corporatist negligence. Why is it so difficult to imagine a world without borders? I find it very easy to picture our earth as a Global Village, and I know there are others who have the ability to see the possibilities of such an alliance as well. I'm sure the people who share this thought are in the minority, but I truly believe the ranks are growing, as the people of our earth are continually subjected to the ineptitude of our current economic and political systems and the leaders within these systems. The current mindset of the political structures offer no solutions, only increased problems and injustices. Yes, we are different, but there is a place where we are equal and our differences can be overcome by meaningful dialogue concerning human rights, equality, and justice. Regardless of which borders we reside behind, once we remove the ideology of profits and the consumeristic approach to happiness, we can find neighbors who have the same underlying characteristics and principles that most of us possess. Once we rise above the propagandist static, it is possible to hear the truth from real human beings. You see, the people are much smarter than the machines our societies have created. It's just that we must unchain ourselves from these machines in order to "see"!

Take my neighborhood for example. I have very good neighbors all around me, even though we are very different, we all share many common goals and ideas. There are Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, agnostics, shamans, and atheists which live in my neighborhood. There are office workers, government employees, teachers, construction workers, retail workers, and non-workers in my neighborhood. There are Asian Americans, African Americans, Austrian Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and Indian Americans in my neighborhood. There are voters and non-voters in my community. There are people who have yearly income levels from $50,000+ to less than $10,000 in my neighborhood. But with all this diversity, there still remains a cohesion among all of us and their are no borders between our homes. We are a community which shares a common respect for each other's rights. If a neighborhood and a community can be interactive and adhere to a system based on human rights and justice, then why can't the entire planet behave in the same way? Could it possibly be that an elite few people in power are so concerned about maintaining their power, that they keep the populations separated for their own personal gains? Do our political machines build walls between the people of the world in order to maintain a structure which promotes the ideology of a few with ulterior motives of power?

Perhaps we all have to get to a point where we lay all our nationalities aside and search for a federation of human beings on a world-wide scale. A place where communication between individuals and communities apart from the misinformation that radiates from our present world leaders. The idea of a Global Village has been around for a very long time and people with the foresight have desired a more connected and informed world population which could create a better world. And the bottom line is I believe, the desire for a better world should be what all of us concentrate on. This should be our common ground and all our endeavors and actions should focus on this as an "end", and this leaves us with a whole lot of work and coordination between all of us, deciding what should be the "means" of reaching this "end"!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Peace & Friendship or Collusion & Corruption

We have progressed considerably since the divinely inspired mission of "Manifest Destiny" was first discussed and implemented here in the U.S. Or have our politicians and lawmakers merely changed their tactics and put a new face on the old tradition of exploitation of our tribal members? The rascism which has been linked with manifest destiny, has allowed greedy politicians and profiteering carpet-baggers to literally steal billions of dollars from our Native Tribes. From the very beginning, history has been witness to the presidential and congressional manipulation of the tribes of North America and the theft of their natural resources and land, along with their independence. Let's take a look at the Indian Peace medal for instance. The medal's back pictured clasped hands of the European and the Native American along with crossed tomahawk and peace pipe. Thomas Jefferson was pictured on the front of the medal. The very president that adorned the medal is the very man who initiated the "Trail of Tears", which brought about the death of native cultures and the reservation system. The Peace and Friendship portrayed on the medal should possibly be replaced with Collusion & Corruption!

The majority of the federal legislation passed after 1871 has served to either reduce the sovereign powers of native nations or enhance the state's powers over them. Among the policies initiated by legislation was assimilation, as in the 19th century allotment and break up of reservations, forced schooling of children, the 20th century termination of tribes, civil rights assaults by the FBI through their COINTELPRO program, involuntary sterilization of women at Indian Health Service clinics, and the placement of large numbers of children into non-Indian foster and adoptive homes prior to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978). The injustice which has been thrust upon the indigenous people here is very well documented and unfortunately, usually accepted by society as a necessary evil, supposedly by the divine inspiration of manifest destiny. An effort to justify and relinquish conscious guilt through a social imperative maybe? How any society can justify crimes against humanity and cultural genocide is unfathomable to me, but societies have practiced this since before history was written.

The tribes in North America have fought the land rush, gold rush, and mineral rush; and now they are in the middle of the gaming rush. Tribal casino revenues now are bringing in multi-billions of dollars yearly and are becoming very attractive to the profit hogs, both private and governmental. Casinos have helped create increased levels of inter-tribal government corruption and have been detrimental to the solidarity among Native Americans. In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which according to government reports, was designed to reduce poverty and unemployment rates, build schools and healthcare facilities, new roads and sewer systems, and build new responsible governmental tribal courts. But according to some activists within the American Indian Movement, in essence the gaming is merely a way for the U.S. government to get out of it's treaty obligations and the biggest thing that gaming has brought, is the greedy politicians running from their plush D.C. offices in search of profits.

Many American Indians view the Gaming Act as merely another governmental plan to continue the genocidal manipulation for which they are well known. And the casino business backed by U.S. Congress is seen as creating corruption within the tribal leaderships. And the corrupted leadership is waging a war on their very own people. Some tribes are removing hundreds of members from their roles or denying enrollment to others. Since the IGRA was implemented, we have seen gambling monopolies created in states which normally don't allow gambling, it's brought about tribal conflicts, and even tribal member and community conflicts. And of course lately we have heard plenty about the atrocious behavior of Jack Abramoff and his contempt for not just Native Americans, but all Americans as well.
Enter Jack Abramoff. Along with his friends and associates, he targeted a handful -- six, to be exact -- of Indian tribes to finance his empire on the Potomac. What, exactly, happened? As far as I can tell, the Abramoff crew took advantage of the Indian tribes' goodwill and bankrolls to the tune of $82 million in order to pay for their own mansions, exotic trips and think tanks -- you get the picture. Which is: A few Indian tribes get scammed, a bunch of lobbyists and congressmen and staff get greedy (and later nailed), some promises get made and a casino gets shut down, and then Congress starts falling over itself to enact lobbying reform. Meanwhile, nearly all federal Indian health care, education, housing, water, energy, heating and roads programs are getting cut. -Tex G. Hall

So the scandals against our native people and all citizens we are now hearing about, which are deeply rooted within the corporatist leather of our elected official's pocketbooks, boils down to "Same shit, different day", and manifest destiny is still alive and well in the wealthiest country of the world. And along with that wealth, the collusion and corruption that always accompanies it, is working it's magic just as it always has. And the American Indians are still fighting for their rights and an end to the genocidal tendacies of a supremist government!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Secure In Our Homeland or Prisoners?

In the Attorney General's memo to Majority Leader Frist, Alberto Gonzales states that the authorization and utilization of domestic spying is entirely legal in all respects. So we can conclude that since we are living within a National Security State due to the war on terror, which is global in scope and infinite in duration, then all times are war times. And since the U.S. falls within the global dimensions of the theater of the war on terror, we can also conclude that it's okay to violate constitutional law and bring our citizen's homes and their personal freedoms under the tyrannical rule of this state of security. "Homeland Security" has in effect, turned us all into possible unlawful enemy combatants and placed us in a position of risking the wrath of the state by utilizing our constitutional rights.

Instead of Homeland Security, they should have just went ahead and named it "State Security (SS) and got it over with! But I suppose the use of the word "Homeland" serves the same purpose. The word has been used many times in the past to denote one thing and yet hide ulterior motives. You can see it's use in the speech on the anniversary of the “Beer Hall Putsch”.
For perhaps many a person will ask himself the question, why are we fighting at such great distances? We are fighting at such great distances in order to protect our homeland, in order to keep the war as far removed from it as possible and to spare it what would otherwise be its fate

And the word "Homeland" surfaced again during apartheid in South Africa.
Apartheid ideologues argued that once apartheid had been implemented, blacks would no longer be citizens of South Africa; rather, they would become citizens of the independent "homelands". In terms of this model, blacks became (foreign) "guest laborers" who merely worked in South Africa as the holders of temporary work permits.

How about this quote concerning the threats of the homeland? "An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to insure our domestic security and protect our homeland. ". Yeah, it's another of ol' Adolph's quotes which had to do with the creation of the Gestapo. Utilization of a major crisis is a well known ploy which has been used by totalitarian governments many times. If the people are made to feel insecure and unsafe, they will be willing to give up some of their liberties and freedom. This is how additional power and control is placed within a government's hands in the ploy that they will protect the people from the threat!

Here in the U.S. our school systems have increasingly steered away from the study and reading of our Consitution and the rights and responsibilities of the citizens within the document. We have become products of a manufactured political stagnation. We believe that once we vote, and our representatives are elected, they are the ultimate power and we must accept and follow their lead because of their political savvy. The majority of us wash our hands of the matters of politics once we go to the polls and vote. We are glad it's over and we can get away from the consuming and often sickening efforts required during these political drives of finger pointing, mud-slinging, and derogatory circuses. And our politicians like to see us draw back into our smaller, more peaceful worlds and leave the politics to them!

The fact is, our elected representatives should have no more power than what we as citizens decide and dictate to them. It's our responsibility to dictate to our politicians what they are to do, not let them do what they personally want to do, or what their party dictates them to do. Rather than blindly following a party line, (which has the tendency of forcing the process of thought out of the picture), we should educate ourselves on the issues both locally and nationally. We have been manufactured to accept our two party system and the power of these parties lies in our willingness to accept their infinite political wisdom as "all that"! Until we can break away from this manufactured illusion of democracy, I don't see the common people going anywhere but backwards as a mere few elite continue upwards using the people as their own stepping stones. The rights of the citizens have been slowly eroding through the globalist/corporate ideological intent of special interests. And we have allowed ourselves to become too compliant and have found ourselves immersed in the entanglement of consumerism and the debt which accompanies it.

Now while we are in this state of security, we find we can no longer question our elected leaders less we become threats to our homeland security. If we disagree with our elected officials, then we are considered treasonous, unpatriotic, scum and by speaking up against a very obvious growing tyranny, we are in essence aiding and abetting our homeland's enemy. More control and manufacturing of consent is all this is people. If you give up your rights now, I guarantee you'll have to fight to get them back later! We all know how concessions work don't we? It takes practically a miracle to ever get them back! It occurs to me how this seizing and centralization of power into the hands of a few, resembles a Bolshevist dictatorship more than it does a democracy or even an illusionary democracy for that matter! It's very obvious, to me at least, that even the once normal illusion of democracy is disappearing and the reality of the tyranny is beginning! Are we being protected by Homeland Security or are we consenting to becoming political prisoners?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blogging for Power

The evolvement of the blogosphere continues and depending on which source you want to quote, there are currently somewhere around 20 million blogs online. And the growth rate of these blogs is somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 per day! Bloggers post content to the web around 600,000 times per day with a regular readership of over 50+ million. Last summer, Technorati stated that a blog was created every second. However, in the nature of the web, these numbers tend to expand exponentially which makes it difficult to chart or predict what the next few months will show. The point being, the numbers associated with blogs are creating a power source of information. While the propaganda machines of mass media view these blogs with an air of condescension, the truth is there is a growing power in "them thar' blogs" that is free for the harvesting! An alternative power source which acts much like a battery and is mistakenly overlooked by mainstream lock-stepped social architects.

But this is changing and there are some web-based technologies which have seen the power within these blogs and are beginning to harness their information. One such site which offers blog tools for business professionals is blogpulse, which is part of Intelliseek Inc. The business world is beginning to focus harder on this untapped power and marketing researchers, public relations professionals, and politicians are attempting to harness this virtually new power source for their personal monetary benefits. Let's not let the blogs and the web become corporatized. We must harness this raw power for the people, keep it open and free, and offer all information and knowledge possible in order to keep this power in the hands/minds of the working people of this world. If the common people of this earth ever had a chance to unify and connect, this is the opportunity! And by the way, I use the word "common" with the utmost adoration, as it's what I've always considered the "stuff" that great things and great people come from! Common people are the essence of life here on the third rock.

The power of blogs encompasses a broad spectrum of issues. From refunds, to apologies from NBC Dateline commentary John Hockenberry, to the idea of a community management tool. And one very interesting aspect is how to utilize blogs in turning a community into a collective learning machine?

This quickly growing blogosphere offers all of us who are interested in building communities of people power, an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference in our own future and the fate of our planet. Do you have a thought? Share it! Ever wanted to speak your mind? Speak it! I urge everyone to try your hand at blogging. I am constantly in awe and humbled by the intelligence of our working people. I have seen the power of your minds. I have seen the compassion in your writing. And I have heard your demand for justice. Well, it's time people! Let's build such a large net of concerned people, that the corporatists and the trough hogs will have no choice but to listen! It's our watch!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Acts of Treason?

In December, Representative John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, issued his report on the misconduct of the Bush administration concerning the war in Iraq.
“In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration. There is at least a prima facie case that these actions that federal laws have been violated – from false statements to Congress to retaliating against Administration critics."

Conyers has introduced resolution H. Res. 635 which creates a select committee with subpoena authority in order to investigate possible misconduct of the Bush administration. He has also introduced resolutions regarding censuring both Bush (H. Res. 636), and Cheney (H. Res. 637).

Even Newsweek has done a report on the domestic spying. In their report, there is mention of the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) monitoring protests ranging from enviromental sit-ins to vigils of merely a dozen people opposing the war in Iraq. The report even cites a protest about how peanut butter was regarded as a potential threat to national security!

At least now the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed lawsuits against the Bush administration. These lawsuits are being filed separately by the A.C.L.U. in Federal District Court in Detroit, and the C.C.R. in Federal District Court in Manhattan. These lawsuits mark the first challenge to the domestic eavesdropping program which has been secretly utilized and approved by the executive branch of the U.S. government.

But take care what you do or say! If you speak out against this administrations tactics or their unconstitutional wanderings, you may find yourself being labeled as a traitor! As Congressman Murtha put it, "Welcome to Bush's America, where war heroes are forced to defend themselves against betraying the very flag they bled for. Where those who cry out to save this nation are cast as disobedient radicals unworthy of attention. Where there is no more debating the Presidency.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Cowboys and Indians

What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization and religion?

-Andrew Jackson-

Jackson's views concerning the removal of the "savages" is well documented and from these views, the "Cowboy" mentality began and it has changed very little over the last two centuries and some would like to see Jackson's image removed from the twenty dollar bill. Imperialism was alive with Jackson and it's still alive today as Bush and associates attempt to consolidate the government's power into the executive branch. It's not the image of imperialism we need to remove, but the mentality which is attached to the idea of imperialism which has no place within the future of a sustainable economic and ecological world.

Under the current administration, we see again attempts to constuct an empire. The architects of this empire within the 21st century are aggresively pursuing their agendas through what is being purported as Cowboyism. This is nothing new for the political machine of the U.S. Even the founding fathers of this nation had the same empirical aspirations, and visions of empire is seen by the country's cowboys as American as Apple Pie. It is very apparent that Imperialism is woven into the U.S. past doctrines and principles whether the people are willing to accept this fact or not. And it continues today as it lies hidden within the continuous patriotic connotations spun by the past as well as the latest administrations, along with their use of military intervention; it's within The World Bank; and it's woven within the structural adjustment programs of the International Monetary Fund.
The ruling elites in the economically backward countries depend on their relations with the major powers and giant corporations for their privileged position. In return, they are charged with imposing the dictates of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on the working class and peasantry to ensure that oil, minerals, agricultural produce and other essential raw materials find their way to the advanced countries or to production facilities set up by the transnational corporations.

The Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, defines imperialism as huge monopolies and financial institutions which control economies and political systems, which in turn, control the lives of the people all over the world.

Imperialism means parasitic exploiters who oppress hundreds of millions of people and condemn them to untold misery; parasitic financiers who can cause millions to starve just by pressing a computer key and thereby shifting vast amounts of wealth from one place to another. Imperialism means war--war to put down the resistance and rebellion of the oppressed, and war between rival imperialist states--it means the leaders of these states can condemn humanity to unbelievable devastation, perhaps even total annihilation, with the push of a button. Imperialism is capitalism at the stage where its basic contradictions have been raised to tremendously explosive levels. But imperialism also means that there will be revolution--the oppressed rising up to overthrow their exploiters and tormentors--and that this revolution will be a world wide struggle to sweep away the global monster, imperialism.

This "Cowboyism" is inseparable from what has been deemed as The New World Order. Even John Brown, a former State Department official who resigned in protest of the invasion of Iraq, sees the War on Terror as a 21st century continuation of the American Indian Wars, only on a global scale. Brown has written an essay entitled Our Indian Wars Are Not Over Yet. In his essay, he list ten ways of interpreting the War on Terror as another frontier conflict. These "Cowboy and Indian" wars have dominated our culture as was seen in Vietnam, and ironically, military commanders and news commentators also refer to war-torn areas of Iraq as “Indian Country” for the supposed savagery of Iraqi insurgents and their will to fight to the death, if necessary.

It amazes me how the more we change, the more we remain the same. I speak with people through online discussions and e-mails concerning the past atrocities inflicted on our indigenous people and it amazes me how some of these individuals can't see that these atrocities are still alive and remain within our social structures yet today. Each and every day I see the same attitudes of the past Jacksonian democracy within so many of our citizens. Attitudes which are built by imperialistic minds whose intent is to conquer entire civilizations and cultures. When will we as human beings decide to put an end to this constant circle of destruction? How do we open the eyes of the politically blinded and the immorally justified people? When will we as human beings outgrow the Cowboys and Indians mentality?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Truth Is The Real Hero of War

The executive editor of The Digital Journalist, Peter Howe, writes of the impact that images and text have on our emotions in a piece entitled Disposable Heroes. He praises Nina Berman for her work on Purple Hearts and her ability to bring a more personal awareness of the atrocities by putting a face on the realities of war. I have to agree, and I've always felt the public should be exposed to all aspects of war. Only by putting a face on it can we somehow begin to realize the horrendous suffering and despair that comes from war. There is no honor in war, save the brotherhood between the people who find themselves embroiled in the day to day survival of life and death situations. If there was some way all the people of the world could smell that very distinctive odor of burning human flesh; if they could see streets littered with pieces of arms, legs, and the heads of people like themselves; if they could hear the screams of the suffering; then just perhaps we could begin the journey towards peace, and the people would demand that our corporate politicians be replaced by people who are concerned about humanity rather than capital or trade policies.

There is a video presentation, hosted on the Digital Journalist web site, which offers a glimpse of what the book Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq is all about.
Nina didn't start out with the intention of producing a book, but simply wanted to satisfy the urge that drives all good journalists - curiosity. She kept on hearing reports from Iraq that a certain number of soldiers were wounded in actions that were taking place around that country, but realized that she was seeing no images of the them at all. Furthermore, she could find no listings of the wounded from the Department of Defense or any other source. The other thing that she couldn't find in the beginning was any interest in the story from magazines or other publications. So she set out by herself to track down likely subjects, using the modern journalist's best friend, Google, as a starting point. She described her method in a recent interview: "I would plug certain words like amputee, wounded, arm, brain damage, soldier comes home, and I would find local newspaper stories, and try and figure out if the soldier was probably back from hospital by then. I would also look in the stories for whatever names would be involved, sometimes a politician, sometimes a bank, sometimes a friend of the family, or I'd call the local newspaper reporter, anything to get a phone number for the family." This detective work, plus the permission from Newsweek to let her use their name, got her the access she needed to get started.

There have been 7,500 American servicemen and women who have been wounded in action and there is another estimated 18,000 others who have been injured in combat support. These numbers are totaled from the first eighteen months of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Washington Post maintains a website, Faces of the Fallen, which lists all casualties by month and year.

"Some war stories will never make the nightly news" according to Mike Tucker and Petra Epperlein, directors of the movie Gunner Palace, and compilers of Baghdad Diaries. Trailers of the movie Gunner Palace can be viewed via Yahoo. This is a story told by the troops in a personal and emotional way that most of the public has never witnessed before in our history. Alternet did a piece pertaining to the movie called Brokedown Palace. The availability of knowledge and the technology we now have, gives us a window to war that we've always needed and there is no doubt in my mind, this is part of the r-evolution via information. This sharing of information and placing faces on the war is so instrumental in promoting mind-changes of our public citizens, and in turn, our elected officials! I really like this quote from one of the soldiers of the movie, "For y'all this is just a show, but we live in this movie."

Patricia Foulkrod has produced and directed a documentary entitled The Ground Truth: The Human Cost of War, and now she is producing another entitled The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends. In this documentary, Foulkrod shows the realities confronting the troops upon their return home. This documentary is in the lineup for this years Sundance Film Festival documentary competition.
Despite the national cry to "Support Our Troops," soldiers are returning home alone and isolated - their trauma often exacerbated by an underfunded VA system. As military reports indicate, many soldiers are coming home with severe depression, drug, alcohol, and marital problems; some are taking their own life. Yet, the military and most Americans continue to react as if these soldiers are having a bad day... a day we want to assume will soon get better.

The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends provides an opportunity for a new awareness and national dialogue regarding our consciousness of killing. The film invites the American people to learn and take responsibility for the inescapable and enormous human price that is paid when we send people to kill. It asks that we deeply comprehend the physical, mental, and spiritual cost of killing in war, and to ask ourselves are we willing to pay it.

Again, in Foulkrod's journalism, she succeeds in putting a face on the war. I know many of you are thinking how disturbing it is to view death, destruction, and inhumanity. Yes, it is very disturbing and extremely depressing. But we must all become associated with the real aspects of war rather than the glorified, hero idolized renditions the Hollywood media spins out with Wayne and Schwarzenegger as indestructable idols.

Iraqi veteran Sean Huze, who also appears in Foulkrod's documentary, has become an aspiring playwright. His first debut was The Sandstorm: Stories from the Front, and he also has another play about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder entitled "The Dragon Slayer", which will premiere in Los Angeles this March. Another veteran, Paul Rieckhoff, back in June 2004 along with a couple of other veterans, some volunteers and massive credit-card debt., founded Operation Truth (which is now called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) IAVA is dedicated to the troops and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the civilian supporters of these troops. IAVA is about real news from real troops who have been in combat and who still remain in the war zones. And then there is veteran Jimmy Massey, who is a co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The IVAW has been instrumental in getting the "truth" out to the public concerning the wars in the middle east. And the supporters of these few individuals I've mentioned is in the millions and growing. I am proud of the conscience efforts of all these people and their commitment is not unappreciated.

I wish we could have had the availability of the web back during my hitch in Uncle Sam's service, but I don't think I was as smart in my early twenties as these guys are now! I suppose it's an evolutionary thing or maybe it's just an IQ thing! But if I can spread the truth through this humble blog, no matter how minute the audience, then I've done a small service to all of us. If just one person shares this information, then perhaps there will be two or three more who will also pass it on. And who knows, eventually, perhaps the entire world will see and hear the truth and we will begin to see another piece of the information puzzle uncovered. The puzzle of humanity!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Cesar Chavez Legacy

The Los Angeles Times ran an investigative series of articles by Miriam Pawel concerning problems within the United Farm Workers Union. The articles entitled, UFW: A BROKEN CONTRACT, shows the UFW in a very bad light and echo findings of other previous articles which contained disparaging remarks toward the UFW. It is noted on the LA Times site that the quotes and historical references used in the articles are drawn from letters, board minutes, memos and statements and tape recordings made during the 1970s and 1980s. It is also noted that this related material can be found within the UFW archives at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Here are the articles from the LA Times (and yes they do require registration):

Some have accused Miriam Pawel's four part series in the Los Angeles Times as lacking historical perspective. And the United Farm Worker's Union has issued a preliminary statement with a promise for a more detailed refutation.
The following quote is from this month's online edition of Monthly Review which has a reprint of Michael Yates' article from The Nation. Yates was a volunteer within the Farm Worker Movement back in the 70's, and is currently an associate editor for Monthy Review.
An argument can be made that the United States much more desperately needs a social movement than it does another trade union, though a better case can be made that both are necessary prerequisites for social change. In any case, it must be understood that unions and movements are not the same; they must coexist and cooperate, but they also must have considerable autonomy. By their nature, unions have to be more narrowly defined than movements; they serve basically as defensive agents in the fight against employers. Movements, on the other hand, must be more broadly based, offensive organizations, trying to forge a new society. It would seem impossible for either to function effectively if both are controlled by the same person, and neither will last very long if founded upon personal rule of a charismatic leader. - Michael D. Yates (1977)

Yates has written extensibly and is considered a radical economist and a labor educator. Left Hook has an interview with Yates online and his on-going autobiography is entitled Working to Live, Living to Work.

Now while embroiled within all the negative publicity, the UFW has decided to break away from the AFL-CIO and is joining the Change to Win Coalition. How this will all play out is indeed questionable but the history of the UFW and Cesar Chavez has inspired millions of people in their fight for social justice and civil rights, through the practice of nonviolent tactics such as fasts, boycotts, and strikes. Cesar Chavez been called an ordinary person who did extraordinary things, and he has even been heralded as a real American Hero. I have always had much respect for Chavez and he has definitely been one of my heroes. Perhaps having a single charismatic leader does have a vulnerability, but there is much to be said for leaders such as Chavez and Martin Luther King. There was so much inspiration and so many other carriers of the torch have been born out of their dedication and organizing. So in respect of Cesar and the movement he was such a huge part of, I would love to see the UFW become very transparent concerning all these allegations of misdealings with funders, donors, and it's dues paying members. It's the least any organized labor union can do for it's members...open the doors of the organization and let the light of truth be known! I long for the day that our labor organizations will respond to their membership's cry for transparency and we will hear them utter the words of Chavez, Si Se Puede!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Redneck Rambler

I would love to share a small piece of honesty; a glimpse of reality from the viewpoint of one of the most entertaining and real people I've had the privilege to meet on the web. In his own words, "Please don't paint my ridiculous political and philosophical flatulence as "advice". I have no advice for anyone. Just a big mouth and a lot of opinions." Joe Bageant is a ray of sunshine in the middle of the ever present storms of oppression we working people currently find ourselves. I can't be sure if it's the redneck in me that I see in Joe, the mirroring of my radical 60's and 70's lifestyle, or the memories of my youth below the Mason Dixon Line that his writing rekindles, which draws me into the weave of his stories and philosophy, and transfixes me to this computer screen. It's probably a little of each of the above, but above all, I believe it's the recognition of the truth in his words that draws me back for more from Winchester, Virginia. Thanks Sharyn for the turn on! Pun intended!

I read an interview of Joe by Richard Oxman, who writes extensibly on practically everything that is interesting, and it is one of the best interviews I've read in, well, just about forever! Joe talks about his experience in the magazine industry and what he calls the "paint-by-number garbage" of the media.

I have published hundreds and hundreds of magazine articles in my time, but have published nothing but paint-by-number garbage since the mid-1980s. That is all you can sell. So now I say, screw the money. Give me the web. Any time I want to speak the truth, as I know it, I do it on the web...

Like I said, give me the web. There may not be any money in it, but by god that's where the big dogs run these days. That's where the real balls and ideas are, and that's where ALL the young talent is today, if you can wade through the tripe to find them.

Joe has a book coming out this year and I for one look forward to adding it to my library (coffee table). The book, Drink, Pray, Fight, and Fuck: Dispatches From America's Class Wars, I'm predicting will be an absolute bestseller among us downtrodden, working class, media misinformed, dysfunctional rednecks!

Please don't paint my ridiculous political and philosophical flatulence as "advice". I have no advice for anyone. Just a big mouth and a lot of opinions. As for “bringing someone around,” in this bitter age of hardened political battle lines, I don't think that is about to happen. At least not very often. The business of productive political dialogue between opposing views is mostly capitalist state generated illusionary horseshit. That doesn't happen any more. Yet the illusion is maintained that it is still part of the process. The lines are drawn, the neo-conservatives are slipping on their brass knuckles and hoods, while the left is playing dialectic games at Starbucks and weeping like a bunch of mock turtles about the elections. It was all over long before the elections.

We have to ask ourselves how in the hell can the classes in America live in such parallel universes? The rich liberals and neoconservatives, the West Coast lefties and the massive unacknowledged working class in this country? How can we remain so oblivious and unconnected with our fellow Americans? Answer: Americans, rich or poor, now live in a culture entirely perceived through, simulacra -- media images and illusions. We live inside a self-referential media hologram of a nation that has not existed for quite some time now. Our national reality is held together by images, the originals of which have been lost or never existed. The well off with their upscale consumer aesthetic, live inside gated Disneyesque communities with gleaming uninhabited front porches representing some bucolic notion of the Great American home and family. The working class, true to its sports culture aesthetic, is a spectator to politics -- politics which are so entirely imagistic as to be holograms of a process that has not existed for decades in America, if ever. Social realism is a television commercial for America, a simulacrum republic of eagles, church spires, heroic firemen and "freedom of choice" between holograms. America’s citizens have been reduced to balkanized consumer units by the corporate state’s culture producing machinery. We are all transfixed on and within the hologram and cannot see one another in the living breathing flesh.

There is hope yet, and it's our watch people! Thanks Brother Joe! :)

Monday, January 16, 2006

That Day in '68

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience, but where
he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sanitation workers go on strike
turns into dignity and equality fight
Call in Dr. King to help support the poor
Syndicated media will boost the tour

He gave his last sermon
the night before
"I've been to the mountaintop"
He assured we would endure

The next day saw his death
on the balcony of the Lorraine
the guilty party, a man called James Ray
though he was not alone they say

Smoke and screams
windows crashing around
riots and violence
call the troops into town

Peace and non-violence
were his way
Everyone realized
We shouldn't behave this way

The towns have quieted
Dr. King is bemoaned
He's in Atlanta
his final earthly home

The sanitation workers
were organized by AFSCME
it wasn't the end
but the beginning of history

The Civil Rights Bill
Johnson has passed
Thank you Martin Luther
for the dedication that lasts

Friday, January 13, 2006

Undercurrents of R-Evolution

Are we seeing a change in consciousness throughout the globe? Are people beginning to understand how the corporate empire is abusing the people of the world in the name of profits? Anti-corporation waves are building throughout the globe and the currents are strong in the southern hemisphere of the Americas. Just last month Evo Morales accomplished a landslide victory (54%) over seven other challengers to become the new democratically elected president of Bolivia. Morales' platform appealed to the poor because he opposes the policies of the administration in the U.S., as well as the IMF and World Bank, which favor foreign corporations which exploit the country's natural resources and working people. Argentina's president Kirchner has paid off the country's debt of $9.8 billion that it owed to the IMF, and effectively liberated them from the IMF's imposed economic constraints.
"With this payment, we are burying a significant part of an ignominious past," said Argentina's Peronist president, Néstor Kirchner, when he announced the final repayment last week. The centre-left Kirchner is commanding a stunning 80% approval rating in opinion polls, thanks in part to his hard-nosed attitude towards the IMF and his friendly ties with anti-Bush Latin American leaders such as Fidel Castro and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. In a recent address to the nation, Chávez described the new close ties between Kirchner's Argentina and oil-rich Venezuela as the "Axis of Good", a description that may not sit well with Washington officials, especially given Argentina may be considering the transfer of some of its advanced nuclear power technology to Venezuela.

Of course we are all aware of Hugo Chavez' attitudes toward the Bush regime and the corporate exploitation of the people. Harry Belafonte recently spoke out in support of Chavez and voiced his thoughts on president Bush.
Harry Belafonte has really gotten under the right-wingers' and racists' skins -- and that's a good thing. As part of a thirteen-member African American delegation to Venezuela, Belafonte called George Bush "the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world" ... a sentiment shared by a huge chunk of world opinion.

Equador's president Gutierrez has been thrown out of office by a grass-roots revolution when he continued to dance with U.S. oil companies. The corporatists are calling the South American current an "Axis of Socialism" and they're really beginning to worry about this wave spreading across the globe. The economic and political currents are actively and quickly changing as the people's awareness continues to grow and it's the people who are progressively changing their governments. It's got the global capitalists calling meetings of their think tanks and creating new initiatives and NGOs in an attempt to curb these grass-roots, people powered movements and to ask the question, "Where Is Latin America Headed?"

And it's not only in Latin America that we can see these undercurrents of rebellion against the corporate agendas. The undercurrents have been seen in Africa as well with their disapproval of the "Imperial Agenda". In Asia, while the U.S. promotes the free trade agendas of APEC, there is a powerful momentum building toward the formation of an East Asian Community. Of course we have the 'news consuming' situation in the Middle East. And Europe and the EU is still out waiting for the jury's decision. And we can't forget the people within the U.S. who are just as sick of the corporatism, which was apparent in the New York Transit Worker strike. People are getting fed up with the failing economic system which only rewards the few rather than all of the people and it's very apparent that this feeling is a world-wide awakening.

Why is this happening? It could have something to do with the income ratio of the one-fifth of the world's population in the wealthiest countries to the one-fifth in the poorest went from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1995. Or maybe it's because federal taxes paid by U.S. corporations is now less than 10 percent, down from 21 percent in 2001 and over 50 percent during World War II; one-third of America's largest and most profitable corporations paid zero taxes -- or actually received credits -- in at least one of the last three years. Why does the world keep rebelling against the U.S. policies abroad? Perhaps it's because out of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations; of those, 47 are U.S.-based. Or maybe it's because transnational corporations have taken control of much of the production and trade in developing countries. Just consider the ration between CEO pay as compared to an average manufacturing employee. Back in 1980 the average American chief executive earned 40 times as much as the average manufacturing employee. For the top tier of American CEOs, the ratio is now 475:1 and would be vastly greater if assets, in addition to income, were taken into account. By way of comparison, the ratio in Britain is 24:1, in France 15:1, in Sweden 13:1.

Change is innevitable and yes it is a bit scary and the uncertainty of what comes next is a very real concern. But the r-evolution is happening and there is no stopping it and there really seems to be no way to actually steer it. It is alive and it adapts and changes as it sees fit and it is being controlled by the people of the world, not just through the direction of one or two or three individuals. It comes in waves and it is devouring past principles and policies which no longer constitute the best interests of the planet's sustainability or it's populations. It is my honest opinion that the "times, they are a changin" and I humbly quote one of my heroes from my lost youth.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'

Forgotten Heroes of "The Pile"

We watch daily as worker's rights steadily erode and along with those rights goes the right to safe workplaces and enviroments. Looking back to 9/11, I remember all the volunteers who poured into New York City to help in the search for survivors and then victims, followed by the massive cleanup which followed. These volunteers came because their hearts went out for the family's of the people who were caught in the middle of this tragedy. They did it because they could feel the heart-wrenching anguish, terror, and suffering of the people, not for any thought of financial gains or wages. And to think now our country refuses to meet these people's medical needs which have arisen from the unsafe enviroment at ground zero is enough to make me want to take some sort of action. I simply can't believe these self-serving, publically elected, politicians can be so heartless as to push these workers aside and just say to them "I'm sorry, but you're on your own".

Matthew Wheeland writes in AlterNet about the Sierra Club's new television series and the airing of the Sierra Chronicles. The first episode in on the forgotten heroes of 9/11. It's an exceptional documentary and if you possibly can, please take a few and watch the trailer at least. The full episode (30 minutes) is available.

The New Standard has done a three part series about the failure of the EPA to warn an estimated 40,000 rescue and recovery workers at "ground zero" or as it was referred to by the workers, The Pile. Part I of the series is entitled Ground Zero .
Ground Zero workers -- lacking proper training and accurate official safety information -- had little incentive to wear the “uncomfortable and unmanageable” respiratory gear.

Part II is entitled Caught In the Smoke.
On the eve of a renewed push for a government response to the health and economic needs of 9/11's heroes and the victims of its poisonous aftermath, experts and activists explain why so many feel frustrated and abandoned.

Part III is entitled Lingering Threats.
In the eyes of many people who live and work near the Manhattan site of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the government’s response to their demands for more testing and decontamination have been woefully inadequate.

Many have suggested that Christine Todd who headed the EPA at the time of 9/11 was coerced by the white house administration to declare the enviromental quality of the area around the WTC as being safe in order to speed up the re-opening of the stock exchange, the schools, and the local businesses to gain a level of normalty and to move ahead. If this turns out to be true, then what about this quote from Todd? "The defining feature of the conservative viewpoint is a faith in the ability, and a respect for the right, of individuals to make their own decisions - economic, social, and spiritual - about their lives." I suppose she is saying the heroes who searched for survivors and cleaned up the destruction at ground zero had the right to make their own decision to help, therefore they don't deserve any medical help for their exposure of who knows how many toxins, from the government who lied about the safety of the site only for economical reasons.

In fact, New York City residents sued the EPA for their lies and their in/actions concerning the aftermath of 9/11.
The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the law when they, "made materially misleading statements regarding the safety of air quality in Lower Manhattan shortly after September 11, 2001, failed to follow federal laws mandating that EPA take lead responsibility for the cleanup of buildings and residences in response to terroristic attacks, delegated all responsibility for the cleanup to the City of New York which was ill-equipped to handle the situation, failed to properly supervise and oversee the cleanup efforts by the City of New York, referred the public to cleanup guidelines issued by the City of New York which were contrary to EPA standards and grossly inadequate to properly cleanup the hazardous substances, failed to properly assess the complete geographic scope of the hazard, and failed to remediate the problems through their voluntary cleanup program."

And just last month the EPA announced that it will proceed with a plan to test inside some Manhattan buildings for WTC dust. But most criticize the program because it doesn't do nearly enough! Also Clinton and Nadler have sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office requesting an investigation into EPA's “failure to establish an effective, science-based testing and clean-up plan” of 9-11-related contamination remaining downtown".

The white house administration seems to have different priorities when it comes to the treatment of corporate interests as compared to worker's interests.
Following the devastating chemical accident in Bhopal, India, in 1984 (15,000 deaths are blamed on the Union Carbide plant's gas leak), Congress passed a series of laws aiming to minimize risks of similar accidents in the United States, and to document vulnerabilities. In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that there were some 123 factories where accidents could endanger up to 1 million people. After the 9/11 attacks, the EPA, then headed by Christine Todd Whitman, sought to regulate security at those high-risk plants. The White House intervened to oppose regulation. The reason? The administration was getting flack from chemical business groups unhappy about new regulatory demands. The EPA was forced to back off.

The Sierra Club has published a report of the deception and the pollution at Ground Zero. The report shows how the administration, first praises the rescue and recovery workers and the thousands of others who came back into the area to rebuild, and then abandon the same workers when they suffer health effects. The report is exellent and it even mentions the possible hazards in post Katrina and it's cleanup. The report is Pollution and Deception at Ground Zero Revisited: Why It Could Happen Again. We haven't forgotten guys and we've got your back! It's our watch!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Corporate Soldiers

Soldiers for hire have been a part of our history for thousands of years but never has the use of "mercenaries" been so utilized or accepted as they are now. There is an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 private security personnel employed by private contractors in Iraq which represents about 15% of the total U.S. presence. These Private Military Companies have contracts with corporations, diplomats, and journalists and they have zero accountability to the U.S. military and do not have to abide by the local laws. These for-hire soldiers are commonly refered to as "shooters" by the civilians they escort away from the safe zones. Some of the people employed by these PMCs can earn as much as $1,000 per day. The numbers of these privatized soldiers has increased dramatically since the end of the Cold War. However not all of these Private Military Companies supply just "shooters", but some support weapon systems, technical assistance, and logistic support. It has become the norm that these contractors accompany the military into combat zones. They have basically become a necessity for war and their numbers are steadily growing.

There seems to be a problem with this military outsourcing as far as the accountability of these corporate soldiers, the chain of command when utilized in the same warzone as the U.S. military, and their mission effectiveness. The high level of unaccountability is atrocious and I understand we're talking about a warzone but these are outsourced private contractors who seemingly don't bear any accountability of the welfare of their employees or any wrong doing their employees may be involved with. The use of these contractors raises some disturbing questions in regard to the growing reliance on civilians in military training and operations, as well as their presence in privatized international security missions and peacekeeping operations. The employees are operating within the same warzone as the military under the same risks, yet there is little to no coordination when it comes to sharing intelligence other than the buddy to buddy system. Many of these people are ex-military and usually special forces trained and they tend to have friends within the U.S. military with whom they share knowledge. This seems to be the biggest source of intelligence.

There is an extraordinary PBS Frontline documentary about this new privatized army entitled Private Warriors. What I found interesting in the documentary was the fact Halliburton's affiliates were busy building base camps even before the U.S. had decided to go to war. Now isn't that interesting? And Camp Anaconda aka Camp KBR (Kellog, Brown, & Root, a Halliburton affiliate) is one extraordinary installation which seems to go completely overboard in my opinion. We've certainly come a long way since my days in uniform!

Just how did we evolve into the accepted and wide-spread use of a privatized military force and is this just a glimpse of the future. Will we one day see the government outsource the use of force to the corporate soldiers? Can the private military companies be a legitimate international entity within modern conflicts? It all sounds a little absurd to me but that's what really bothers me! In the past, the things I found absurd have been the very things which have become the norm. This war on terrorism has definitely created jobs and opportunities but the sad thing about the war on terrorism is the fact it has created these opportunities which support a war machine! A machine which must be constantly maintained through questionable corporate/government contracts and fueled by the need for more war! The sale of weapons and high-tech military equipment increased to a yearly figure of $37 billion dollars in 2004 which was the highest level since 2000. The U.S. is the largest exporter of military weapons and equipment with Lockheed Martin and Boeing holding top spot.
Despite having some of the world's strongest laws regulating the arms trade, almost half of these weapons went to countries plagued with ongoing conflict and governed by undemocratic regimes with poor human rights records.

We sell these weapons to poor countries which are already in cultural turmoil and then we supply training for their military forces. The U.S. trains approximately 100,000 foreign soldiers annually. According to this special report, the State Department's 2002 Human Rights Report cited 51 of the countries, (38%) which received training, for their poor human rights records. So we supply them weapons, and then train them in their use so that down the road we can legitimately wage war on them because of their un-democratic and inhumane practices. The machine has to be fed and it is a self-serving entity and we have to wean the people away from this pseudo-economy before it becomes habitual!

The war machine of the future seems to be destined to be fueled by global capitalism and the need for more and larger profits. I remember when mercenaries were frowned upon by society as merely being profiteering opportunists with no allegiance for a cause. I guess once the mercenaries are incorporated, renamed, and structured under a capitalist agenda similar to a consulting firm, it justifies the existence and use of such soldiers of fortune? We've come a long way in building our civilization haven't we? And these privatized security/military corporations not only are involved in international issues but there has been an increase in their use in the U.S. in lockouts and union busting at Coca Cola. With the increase in, and the acceptance of, these corporate armies, we may just witness a New Face of Unionbusting. Striking workers at Visteon Corporation were confronted by security guards employed by Huffmaster Security, as were members of the American Flint Glass Worker Union. Another example would be Vance who has a history of violent worker repression here in the U.S. Now they are also in Iraq supplying fully armed guards for Siemens and General Electric. These hired "private security" or "private military" have been used since the early days of union organizing as far back as the 1800s. And they were used for strike breaking and even murder in order to keep the unions from gaining a stronghold. Pinkerton National Detective Agency was one of the first utilized by union-busting companies.
Pinkerton National Detective Agency in thwarting organizing drives, creating divisions in union ranks, and undermining community support for unionization and industrial action. Undercover agents used a variety of methods to achieve these ends. One was infiltrating the union ranks. They took jobs on the shop floor of thousands of American companies in order to spy on workers, to gauge union sympathies and to identify union activists. Their findings were reported to company managers and owners who would use the information to construct strategies to avoid unionization. These operatives were also remarkably successful in penetrating union leadership roles.

What we should pay close attention to whether we're talking about a security or military functioning style of privatized guards, is the fact through history they have always been the corporate's army used only to gain more corporate profits. They have never been worried about human rights, morality, or justice, and by relying on corporations to supply private armies in warzones or in peace keeping roles, we open the door for even more injustice through the hands of corporate profiteering.

A very extensive list of Private Military Companies and Privitized Military Firms, as well as reports and commentaries on them, can be found at Topsy.org and Sourcewatch maintains a contractors list for the reconstruction of Iraq. Hmmm...I was shocked and awed that I couldn't find one which was named GUNS 'R' US

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The President vs. The Constitution

There has been a significant increase in the opposition of the extension of the Patriot Act. New information concerning whether the anti-terrorism measures are as critical to national security as Bush insists they are. The fact our current administration waited until the "last minute" to push the reauthorization through is eyebrow raising to say the least. If the Patriot Act is so very important to national security, why not discuss and pressure the legislature in 2005 about the importance of reauthorizing these seemingly critical laws against terrorism? Our elected officials have had four years to review and discuss the laws contained in the Act, but instead they chose to wait until the very last minute to extend it through January. Our politicians again were able to turn the whole thing into another political ploy that as usual, places the citizens into merely a spectator position.

Within the Patriot Act are many provisions which if allowed to remain, will continue to destroy the Bill of Rights. Our Fourth Amendment guarantees Americans certain rights against improper search and seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

As the Act exists now, the FBI can issue their own order without the court's approval. They can demand that (doctors, travel agencies, video rental stores, credit card companies, financial planners, internet service providers, libraries, banks, and practically anything else you can possibly think of,) turn over financial and personal records of any American. The FBI's authority comes from the Intelligence Authorization Act which alters the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This gives the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from practically anywhere on anyone without proving reasonable "just cause". Under the IAA, all a FBI agent has to do is draft a so-called National Security Letter stating the information requested is relevant to a national security investigation. There has also been recent media revelations that the president authorized the National Security Agency to collect signals intelligence communications involving U.S. citizens within the country, without a warrant or court order. This too has raised numerous questions of the legality and constitutionality of the president's actions. Bush states that he believes his order is fully supported by the Constitution and the laws of the United States due to presidential powers and his authorization to use "all necessary and appropriate force" in the search for those responsible for 9/11. Just how do we interpret what this "all necessary and appropriate force" authorizes, or whose responsibility is it to interpret the range of steps the president can take under this blanket authority which seemingly has no boundaries?

The president contends that War Powers allow him and anyone he authorizes to operate without court oversight as long as the national security is threatened. The War Powers Clause itself is questionable due to the fact that since World War II, presidents have declared they have constitutional authority as commander in chief to use the military for police actions without a formal declaration of war.

Then on September 18, 2001, history was made when Congress granted the president to proceed with his War on Terrorism. Congress granted the president the authority to
"use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

In other words, Congress granted the executive branch of the government a blank check of sorts in an undefined, unbordered, unrestrained war on an abstract concept of terror. Once Congress had given the president this authority, he laid out his intentions in an address to the American people.
"Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

That is definitely a very broad statement concerning the planned war on terror, and although we can see the beginning; the end of this objective remains obscure. There are no lines defining where, when, or what we can do or should do in this war based on an abstract concept of what and how terror, or a terrorist is defined. It falls entirely within the executive branch of our government to decide who is a terrorist and what constitutes terrorism, and this pooling of power absolutely destroys our country's checks and balances which were put in place in order to keep a concentration of power out of our government. The checks were put in place so each branch could monitor the power of the other branches of government and the balances are there to limit the powers of each branch. Without these checks and balances, the American people, their freedom, and their rights become jeopardized.

This imbalance of power has broken down these checks and balances of power and what we see today is a concentration of power within the executive branch of our government. This condition has been described as the Unitary Executive Doctrine or Theory. This doctrine favors nearly unlimited executive power and the president has used the doctrine in his signing statements to quietly expand presidential authority. This doctrine stems from a theory called "departmentalism" or "coordinate construction". According to legal scholars Christopher Yoo, Steven Calabresi, and Anthony Colangelo, this theory gives all three branches of government the power to interpret the Constitution and the president must interpret laws just as the courts must. John Yoo has continuously promoted placing more power within the executive branch since 9/11 and it's very apparent that he's content to say exactly What Bush Wants to Hear. Granting the power of interpreting laws to the other branches of government, via the Unitary Executive Doctrine, goes against the long-standing notion of "judicial supremecy" which has allowed the court, since 1803, to be the final arbiter of what is and is not the law.

Also contributing to this concentration of power is the president's "signing statements". These signing statements have received very little media attention but they greatly expand presidential power. They basically say that the president will interpret the law in question in a manner consistent with his constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch. The use of "signing statements" to gain presidential power was aggresively pursued by Reagan and every president since has used such statements to create a sort of alternative legislative history. Attorney General Ed Meese explained in 1986:
To make sure that the President's own understanding of what's in a bill is the same . . . is given consideration at the time of statutory construction later on by a court, we have now arranged with West Publishing Company that the presidential statement on the signing of a bill will accompany the legislative history from Congress so that all can be available to the court for future construction of what that statute really means.

President Bush has set a record when it comes to these "signing statements", as he has inked more than 500 "signing statements" since taking office. One of the latest instances is the one he signed pertaining to the torture bill or the McCain Amendment. It states that Bush will view the limits on torture within the context of his broader powers to protect national security. Or basically this means that if he feels there is no compelling reason to follow the anti-torture law, he can ignore it in the name of national security. He quietly reserves the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief. Christoper S. Kelley's paper entitled The Unitary Executive explores what the term "unitary executive" means and how the president's "signing statements" have enabled him a much higher degree of executive power.

How Much Authority does the president actually have over the Supreme Court's executive power precedent? And how is it that a president can violate Congressional laws when he alone decides it's in the best interest of national security? The president's recent actions make it apparent that he views his administration as having a license to overrule Congress and bypass the courts based on his interpretations of the Constitution. Even if that means violating long-established laws, treaties, and legislation that he himself has signed. And the president has co-conspirators also. At least seven House Democrats knew about NSA's secret spying on U.S. citizens for more than four years and didn't say a word!

And this concentration of power isn't only concerning the civil liberty communities, but other groups are advocating amendments to some of the unchecked powers. The National Association of Manufacturers, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are also questioning the validity of some of the president's actions. Last October, Senator Arlen Specter, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed his concerns about Section 505 (National Security Letter Provision within the Patriot Act). According to some reports, the FBI currently issues more than 30,000 NSL letters a year due to Section 505 lowering the standard necessary to issue an NSL. As Anita Ramasastry says, "When business leaders and civil libertarians speak as one, it’s high time for Congress to pay attention."

When the president can sign a bill and then declare that he'll obey it if and when he feels like, we are slipping into dangerous territory in my opinion. And since Alito seems to have played a key role in setting up this situation, perhaps the confirmation hearings are the right place for the debate on this practice of "unitary executive power" and it's constitutionality to play out. It's our watch people, let's get it right for once! ;)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Justice and Equality in Capitalism?

Sadly, the notion of "of the people, by the people, and for the people" is in its final throes. A corrupt, plutocratic government "of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich" sucks the marrow, leaving the rest of America to hungrily gnaw the bones. Bearing a striking resemblance to the feudal lords of the Middle Ages, America's plutocrats plunder and hoard the wealth of the land while their serfs fight over the remaining scraps. -Jason Miller -

Injustice thrives in our societies today but how can injustice thrive in societies whose basic principles and laws are meant to provide equality and justice for all? We must first understand how we define justice. Justice has many definitions depending on who you happen to be listening to at any particular time. Wikipedia defines justice as a concept involving the fair, moral, and impartial treatment of all persons —often seen as the continued effort to do what is right. Where we tend to run into differences of opinion when defining justice is in the very fact that the concept of justice is an abstract. There is nothing conrete about the details and in order for one or more to agree on what the definition of justice should be, they have to share some form of common experience that is relative to a certain definition. This shared experience helps formulate a more detailed structure of what justice means to the group who happens to be sharing these common experiences.

This leads to the formation of different groups who define justice in different ways. However, some aspects of the definitions adhered to by a certain group could possibly be synonymous with those of other groups even though the groups don't share common experiences. For example, two opposing groups could still believe that justice would include such things as the government not arresting it's citizens arbitrarily, sanctioning their bondage by others, persecuting them for their religion or speech, seizing their property, or preventing their travel. But how the two groups apply these shared aspects in their definition of justice can still be controversial depending on which group has more power to influence public opinion.

For instance, hypothetically speaking, if the most influential member of my community (owns the majority of the property in town) happens to think I had something to do with defacing some of his dilapidated, bug infested houses in a project which lies adjacent to the industrial complex, I will automatically be detained for questioning at his request and will have to prove my innocence. But on the other hand, if I happen to suspect him of violating people's rights, practicing sex discrimination, and using his slumlord style of power to violate rental contracts, I haven't a chance in hell of getting anything done, unless I can get enough concerned citizens to join together and literally take over city hall. Both of us have the same rights under the laws of our country, state, county, and city. But yet, there is an inequality of justice which doesn't exist within the words of the law both of us are subject to, but this injustice exists never the less.

So we have justice which is built around capitalism and the unequal power that property bestows on certain individuals and groups and we have justice which is built around social contracts to help try to actually bring meaning to the phrase, "and justice for all". Freedom within our societies has very little to do with equality, justice, or public welfare but rather the "term" freedom as used within our current structure pertains more to goods, capital, or commodities. Many have tried and many have failed in their attempts to humanize capitalism. Capitalism is based on class and competition, therefore society under this system is guaranteed of inequality. And this inequality is passed down through the family institution and is innevitably reproduced from one generation to the next as well as from one region to another. This leads to a very decisive inequality of opportunity.
The entire history of social improvement has been a series of transitions, by which one custom or institution after another, from being a supposed primary necessity of social existence, has passed into the rank of a universally stigmatized injustice and tyranny. - John Stewart Mill -

There have been huge increases over the last few years in the number of people getting involved in social justice groups, organizations, and NGOs. These people believe in the importance of human rights, enviromental issues, equal opportunities, neighborliness, engagement, reciprocity, stewardship, responsibility, spirituality, and quality of life benefits, other than just financial and status incentives. There is emphasis placed on convictions and fundamental values rather than just numbers and theories which spill out of the corporate mouth pieces. The capitalist proponents see social justice advocates as being misinformed and think they can remedy that by offering us more accurate data and information. From the capitalist point of view, social justice advocates are radical left, liberal, secularist, heathens who are determined to destroy their nations and their pseudo democratic freedoms and ideals loosely woven around a religious structure.

Common sense and wisdom cannot be bought and they cannot be learned. Wisdom doesn't come from science or economics but rather from human beings who are living within the current systems which promote inequality and injustice. These people are willing to discuss through an open dialogue the need for a new social contract for the entire world, not just individual countries. They constantly come under ridicule and threats to their economic as well as their physical well being is not uncommon. But yet these activists keep on struggling against the adversities while maintaining a vision of humanity. Their vision contains power which motivates and guides other like minded caring people. We are all potential creators and we all have the ability to imagine what does not exist, and then set in motion the energy needed to turn those imaginations into reality. To those who believe in the vision, they see knowledge as being the means of changing the world. But just the receiving of knowledge by a majority of the people isn't enough. Participation in developing ways of understanding and a democratization of knowledge is also a must!
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