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Thursday, May 15, 2003

 
Take Action!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this is no time to give in to despair and cynicism. That's just what the bad guys want: that we'll be so shocked and awed by their power, arrogance, and contempt for the law (especially as embodied by the Constitution), we'll just roll over and play dead. Let's not give them what they want.

I'm making it easy for you to do some concrete things to try and stem the tide of creepy 1984-ish policies and agendas.

Freedom to Read Protection Act

Proposed by Bernie Sanders (D-VT), this act would would restrict a key provision of the USA PATRIOT Act by exempting libraries and bookstores from the laws that allow the FBI to conduct these searches of personal records. As it stands, the FBI can now search library records to find out what you've been reading, and librarians could be imprisoned for telling you about the search. Does this sound American to you?

Send a free fax to your representative (via the ACLU).

Virtual Support Our Troops Rally

Scroll down to my previous post and get in touch with your representatives in Washington.

Stop the FCC

On June 2, the FCC is planning to lift restrictions on media ownership that could result in all your local newspapers, radio and TV stations, and cable provider to be owned by a single company.

This would be a death knell for the checks and balances of a competitive media marketplace. We've already seen what the erosion of an independent press has done to reporting: the mainstream media did a terrible job of reporting on the Iraq war and funtioned mainly as propaganda for the state. (Anyone remember Pravda?) It's hard to believe that the people in Washington aren't satisfied with what they've already done to the notion of an independent media, but they're going all out to make it possible for the Rupert Murdochs to own the media lock, stock, and barrel. ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox could all be owned by a single corporation. It's already bad enough, but the FCC's proposed rule change takes that last step toward complete corporate control over the news most of us get.

Please visit MoveOn and take action!

Urge Senators to Support the Filibuster Against Owens

Act for Change makes it easy for you to urge your senators to oppose 5th Circuit Court nominee Priscilla Owens. It's crucial that you do so. Right now the GOP is thinking of going to court to block the filibusters against Estrada and Owens, and Frist is trying to change the Senate rules so that a filibuster can be broken by a simple majority. Democratic Senators need your support to keep going. Please let them know that they do have your support.



Call for the UN to Participate in Iraq's Transition Government

Visit Code Pink and find out how you can help pressure Congress to get the UN involved in Iraq's government. Read about it, copy the sample letter, if you wish, and then paste the letter into an e-mail using the addresses below, or telephone Sen. Levin and Rep. Pelosi.

Carl Levin: e-mail: senator2@levin.senate.gov; phone: (202) 224-622

Nancy Pelosi: e-mail: sf.nancy@mail.house.gov; phone (202) 225-4965

Support Janeane Garofalo

She's been hit with a boycott by the right wing for her outspoken anti-war comments, and her new TV show is being threatened. Go to Take Back the Media and use their e-mail form to get in touch with ABC. The page is a bit cluttered, so you may have to skim through it to find the e-mail link. They have other contact info as well.

Okay, that's it for today ... but I'll be on the lookout for ways you can make your voice heard.




 
Virtual March to Support the Troops

Via Body and Soul comes word of a Virtual March to Support the Troops, as promoted by To the Barricades! and originated by people at The Watch.

The utter and shameless hypocrisy of this administration is nowhere better exemplified than by Bush's proposed budget cuts for veterans, even as he whipped up war fever with talk of patriotism, freedom, and our boys and girls in uniform. The budget calls for $10 billion worth of cuts over ten years, starting with a cut of $463 million next year. The budget will cut GI Bill benefits for soldiers currently serving in Iraq and could mean the loss of thousands of doctors in the VA system, according to some veterans' groups. Also getting the ax to the tune of $150 million is aid to schools attended by military dependents. Retirement benefits to veterans of former wars may also be at risk.

I've read stories in various newspapers of families of troops stationed in Iraq who have had to go to private charities and/or rely on food stamps in order to feed themselves. Some families relied on church programs for essentials such as baby formula and milk.

On May 22, call or e-mail your elected officials in Washington and ask them to insist on full funding for the VA be kept intact. Ask them to maintain school funding and adequate health care for veterans.

Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Or go to Congress.org for phone numbers and e-mail or snail mail addresses.

In Michigan:

Senator Levin: (202) 224-622; e-mail senator2@levin.senate.gov
Senator Stabenow: (202) 224-4822; e-mail senator@stabenow.senate.gov

We anti-war types know how to do something more practical than waving flags and tying yellow ribbons on mailboxes. Let's show 'em how it's done.






Wednesday, May 14, 2003

 
Trouble in Blogland

... or at least in my neck of the woods. I had a couple of difficult days with the blog and was unable to post new entries. Since I'm completely at sea when it comes to all things techie, I floundered about in ignorance until finally I figured out that my spouse had changed the settings for cookies. Unfortunately, this dovetailed with my attempts to insert the code that would allow comments to be posted on my blog. I assumed that the code didn't work for some reason, when actually, I couldn't upload anything because of a too-high security setting on cookies. I tinkered with the code (foolishly, as I'm hopeless in that arena) and managed to disappear some posts. Somehow or another, I lost all my links, and since that was the case, I thought, what the heck, I may as well try a new template since I have to rebuild the entire links section anyway. Sigh.

Mercury must be in retrograde.

Anyway, sorry for the hiatus.



 
Back in the USSR

Did you know about Loyalty Day? I thought perhaps it was the invention of George W. Bush, designed to exploit Americans' seemingly endless willingness to wave the flag and cheer our troops on, but it turns out to have its origins in anti-Communism. May Day was the day the Soviet Union used to roll out its military equipment for all the world to see--remember? (I understand that May Day is the Labor Day of many European countries.) So, of course, the jingoists back home countered with Loyalty Day, which officially became a national day in 1958.

Anyway, W. issued a proclamation on May 1 that's quite an ironic read, given the shredding of the Constitution by his minions, not to mention the recent slaughter of Iraq civilians (and the misadventure in Iraq is mentioned by name): "every life counts" and "we resolve to uphold the vision of our forefathers" are two phrases that particularly stuck in my throat.

In any case, his trotting out yet another glib paean to principles he and his administration refuse to uphold reminded me of nothing so much of the late Soviet Union. And I'm not the only one who found an unnerving analogy here. Matt Taibbi was similarly spooked (warning: contains adult content). He describes Bush's "Top Gun" speech on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln and says of the similarities to the USSR: "Think about it. Huge weapons on display, in foreground and background. The leader who has never fought dressed in full military regalia. Crowds of adoring soldiers and "shock worker" types dressed in colorful costumes, carefully arranged for the cameras. A terrible, excruciatingly dull speech, 20 minutes of incoherent, redundant patriotism (Bush used the words "free" or "freedom" 19 times in an 1800-word speech) and chimpanzoid chest-pounding." And on May Day.

He goes on to say, "The genius of the Soviet system–and now the genius of ours–was that it appealed not to the hatreds and passions of its people, but to other, more dependable qualities: laziness, banality, drunkenness, cowardice. ... It was pervasive; its essence ran through the entire society, and after a while did not need to be imposed from above." That's exactly what scares me!

And now we have a military command--NorthCom--set up solely to deal with domestic "protection." That is, a command whose only mission is involvement in domestic security. I don't know about you, but at this point I'm thinking USSR, jackboots, Israel's IDF ... Somehow the government argues that this in no way conflicts with the Posse Comitatus act, which prohibits the military from acting as a domestic police force. To me it seems all too likely that the distinction will be increasingly blurred, a possibility that also has the ACLU worried. There's a slippery slope here that, far from being the logical fallacy we were taught about in composition class, seems almost inevitable, given the tendency of the military to expand both its reach and its role. Add to this increased powers of domestic spying, thanks to the Patriot Act and other nefarious instruments, and I don't think I'm being paranoid about what kind of nation ours is turning into.

But I'm late getting on board with this whole Soviet Union thing. Some people recognized what was happening a year ago. The expansion of the government's spying powers sends chills down my spine, yet when I've talked to conservatives, their response is often, "Why do you care if you have nothing to hide?" I'll tell you why I care: the Constitutional protections that were designed to protect us from the abuses of our own government are being tossed aside as mere inconveniences that get in the way--ostensibly of protecting us from terrorism, but actually from increased, and increasingly pervasive, government control. Just the other day, the Senate approved new measures to expand the FBI's use of surveillance, before Congress has even evaluated whether the government has used its Patriot-Act-given powers wisely, an evaluation mandated by the Act but resisted by the so-called "Justice" Department. Some day, when it's all gone so far that nothing is left of what was once our democratic republic, perhaps people naive enough to believe that the government is always restrained will better understand what they were so willing to throw away.

Anybody know the words to the "Internationale"?





[edit]
[5/8/2003 1:21:51 PM | Kris D'Arcy]


Salam Pax is back! Yes, the blogger from Baghdad survived and continues to give us his impressions of life in the post-war city.

[edit]
[5/7/2003 8:44:45 AM | Kris D'Arcy]


For Bushies, Wishing Makes It So



Okay, maybe it's more like "the political convenience of having the masses believe it" makes it so ...



Donald Rumsfeld, in Afghanistan: The bulk of the country is secure, and "we have moved ... to a period of stability."



Ret. Gen. Jay Garner: "There is no humanitarian crisis" in Iraq.



George W. Bush: When Iraqis look into the faces of American soldiers, "they see strength and kindness and goodwill.”



What universe are these people living in?



Afghanistan:



"Deadly Attacks Threaten Afghan Peace Process" ("Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, said the central Asian nation was still unable to cope with the violence because an international security force is confined to the capital, Kabul, and its environs.")



"Taliban Fighters Infiltrating Back Into Afghanistan from Pakistan"



"First Anti-American Protest Held in Afghan Capital"



"Afghanistan: Fundamentalist Influences Resurging"



"Afghanistan is Not A-OK" ("The international community has allowed warlords and local military commanders to take control of much of the country," [Human Rights Watch] representative Loubna Freih told the UN Human Rights Commission, now ending its annual six-week session in Geneva. She said that instead of providing security, the warlords were terrorizing the local population in many parts of the country, with kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, armed robbery, extortion and beatings widespread.)



Humanitarian crisis: see my post of May 5.



American soldiers:



"The chick was in the way."



"13 Dead After US Troops Open Fire on Iraqi Protesters"



"U.S. Troops Fire on Iraq Protesters Again"



"The affair has angered British Army officials who believe that the US troops lack the vital experience which the British acquired – painfully at first – in Northern Ireland. 'Don't talk to me about the US army,' said one British military source. 'Let's just say that they face a very steep leaning curve.'"



"Unlike the American Troops, We Look the Iraqis in the Eye"





"Mosul Residents Tiring of US Presence" ("Other locals blamed the shootings on the jumpiness of occupation troops whose welcome in Mosul, as in other parts of Iraq, now seems to be wearing out.")



"Hostility toward U.S. troops is running high in Baghdad" ("In interviews, Baghdad residents say they regard the U.S. officials here as remote. The Americans — military and civilian alike — are barracked behind barbed wire inside Saddam's Republican Palace ... A soldier pointing a gun at residents whom he suspects of either looting or perhaps planning an attack is a common sight.")



[edit]
[5/7/2003 7:20:07 AM | Kris D'Arcy]


It Can't Happen Here ... Can It?



Those huge anti-war protests we saw in Spain before the invasion of Iraq may soon look like a quaint throwback to the good old days of freedom of expression. An ominous change has been proposed to the Spanish military criminal code. Article 49 of the draft, produced by the Defence ministry and quoted in Spanish daily El Pa�on 22 April 2002, reads as follows:



"A person who, in a situation of armed conflict of an international nature in which Spain is involved, with the aim of discrediting Spain´s participation in (the conflict), publicly carries out acts against it ... will be punished with a sentence of between one and six years in prison. The same penalty will apply to a person who ... divulges false news or information with the aim of weakening the morale of the population or to provoke disloyalty or a lack of spirit among members of the Spanish military".



The sanctions would apply not only to actions opposing Spanish military involvement, but also to actions carried out against the involvement of Spain's allies. Civilians could face military trials.



Well, thank goodness we're protected by our Constitution. Right? Right? We should definitely not be bothered by a few little unfortunate incidents that really don't erode our freedom of speech in the heinous way proposed by the Spanish.



Stuff like this and this. And remember this student? And this man? How about what happened to Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon?



Oh, you say, but those aren't the acts of the government; those are the acts of individuals. True. But if individuals are so loath to allow people the right to speak their minds--if they are willing to cancel appearances and impose censorship because of a person's expressed beliefs--won't they then be quite willing to have the government impose such censorship? I submit that we have to worry when so many U.S. citizens seem completely unaware of the value of freedom of speech.



And, in fact, the Bush administration, other government bodies, and even local authorities have acted to curtail the freedom of speech.



Take, for example, the Orwellian-sounding "First Amendment Zones" insisted upon by our president. These fenced-off zones, usually far from where the president is speaking, are the only places where demonstrators are allowed to express their disagreement with the president's policies. The distance of the zones from the actual speech-making ensures the protestors' invisibility.



A man in Colorado was threatened with a charge of criminal action if he did not remove an upside-down flag from his store window. Action by the ACLU resulted in the protection of this man's "peaceful symbolic expression." But once again, an amendment to prohibit flag-burning is being proposed, sponsored in the Senate by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and in the House by Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) and John Murtha (D-PA). Go here to e-mail your elected officials and urge them to oppose such an amendment!



Visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation for a sobering analysis of the proposed "Patriot Act II."



The FCC is about to allow more media mergers, with the result, write Jeffrey Chester and Don Hazen of AlterNet, that "it will then soon be possible for a single conglomerate to control most of a community's major media outlets, including cable systems and broadband Internet service providers." This is bad news for those of us who believe in the freedom of the press. Rupert Murdoch is poised to buy Direct TV, the country's most powerful satellite provider (the one we use, in fact), and use it to expand his control of broadcast and cable markets. What are the chances of any liberal or progressive channels getting access to the airwaves? Without freedom of the press, democracy simply cannot survive. Visit MediaReform.net to voice your opposition to the FCC's proposed rule changes.



I could go on, but I'd wear out your patience. How ironic that Mr. Bush and his ilk are so bent on establishing democracy in Iraq while simultaneously trashing it here at home.





[edit]
[5/6/2003 9:33:35 PM | Kris D'Arcy]


Looking for other PeaceBlogs?



Also, try the "virtual peace rally," Faces for Peace.







[





Tuesday, May 13, 2003

 
Back in the USSR

Did you know about Loyalty Day? I thought perhaps it was the invention of George W. Bush, designed to exploit Americans' seemingly endless willingness to wave the flag and cheer our troops on, but it turns out to have its origins in anti-Communism. May Day was the day the Soviet Union used to roll out its military equipment for all the world to see--remember? (I understand that May Day is the Labor Day of many European countries.) So, of course, the jingoists back home countered with Loyalty Day, which officially became a national day in 1958.

Anyway, W. issued a proclamation on May 1 that's quite an ironic read, given the shredding of the Constitution by his minions, not to mention the recent slaughter of Iraq civilians (and the misadventure in Iraq is mentioned by name): "every life counts" and "we resolve to uphold the vision of our forefathers" are two phrases that particularly stuck in my throat.

In any case, his trotting out yet another glib paean to principles he and his administration refuse to uphold reminded me of nothing so much of the late Soviet Union. And I'm not the only one who found an unnerving analogy here. Matt Taibbi was similarly spooked (warning: contains adult content). He describes Bush's "Top Gun" speech on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln and asks us to think about the similarities to the USSR: "Think about it. Huge weapons on display, in foreground and background. The leader who has never fought dressed in full military regalia. Crowds of adoring soldiers and "shock worker" types dressed in colorful costumes, carefully arranged for the cameras. A terrible, excruciatingly dull speech, 20 minutes of incoherent, redundant patriotism (Bush used the words "free" or "freedom" 19 times in an 1800-word speech) and chimpanzoid chest-pounding." And on May Day.

He goes on to say, "The genius of the Soviet system–and now the genius of ours–was that it appealed not to the hatreds and passions of its people, but to other, more dependable qualities: laziness, banality, drunkenness, cowardice. ... It was pervasive; its essence ran through the entire society, and after a while did not need to be imposed from above." Exactly what scares me!

And now we have a military command--NorthCom--set up solely to deal with domestic "protection." That is, a command whose only mission is involvement in domestic security. I don't know about you, but at this point I'm thinking USSR, jackboots, Israel's IDF ... Somehow the government argues that this in no way conflicts with the Posse Comitatus act, which prohibits the military from acting as a domestic police force. To me it seems all too likely that the distinction will be increasingly blurred, a possibility that also has the ACLU worried. There's a slippery slope here that, far from being the logical fallacy we were taught about in composition class, seems almost inevitable, given the tendency of the military to expand both its reach and its role. Add to this increased powers of domestic spying, thanks to the Patriot Act and other nefarious instruments, and I don't think I'm being paranoid about what kind of nation ours is turning into.

But I'm late getting on board with this whole Soviet Union thing. Some people recognized what was happening a year ago. The expansion of the government's spying powers sends chills down my spine, yet when I've talked to conservatives, their response is often, "Why do you care if you have nothing to hide?" I'll tell you why I care: the Constitutional protections that were designed to protect us from the abuses of our own government are being tossed aside as mere inconveniences that get in the way--ostensibly of protecting us from terrorism, but actually from increased, and increasingly pervasive, government control. Just the other day, the Senate approved new measures to expand the FBI's use of surveillance, before Congress has even evaluated whether the government has used its Patriot-Act-given powers wisely, an evaluation mandated by the Act but resisted by the so-called "Justice" Department. Some day, when it's all gone so far that nothing is left of what was once our democratic republic, perhaps people naive enough to believe that the government is always restrained will better understand what they were so willing to throw away.

Anybody know the words to the "Internationale"?









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