Friday, April 29, 2005

Outsourcing Torture

In the Emperor's press conference last night, the following exchange took place between a reporter and his eminence:

REPORTER: Mr. President, under the law, how would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S. agents scoop up terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country for interrogation? Would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to an American here?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: That's a hypothetical, Mark. We operate within the law, and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people. But let me say something. The United States government has an obligation to protect the American people. It's in our country's interest to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way. And we will do so within the law, and we'll do so in honoring our commitment not to torture people. And we expect the countries where we send somebody to not to torture, as well. But you bet, when we find somebody who might do harm to the American people, we will detain them and ask others from their country of origin to detain them. It makes sense. The American people expect us to do that. We -- we still at war.

Disregarding the fear-mongering rhetoric designed to dodge the question and the poor grammar, it is important to focus on the one sentence that actually answered the question -- "We operate within the law, and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture people."

We do? Perhaps I have not conducted a broad enough search of corporate media bullshit, but I have not come across any articles about renditioning so-called "terror" suspects to Switzerland or even Costa Rica.

What I have found, however, are stories about the U.S. sending so-called "suspects" to, among other places, Saudia Arabia, Egypt and Syria, all of which use torture. Yes, Syria, a country the U.S. accuses of "embracing terrorism as an instrument of policy". Notwithstanding Syria's alleged sponsorship of terrorism, the U.S. outsources its dirty work to Syria.

Take the case of Maher Arar, the Syrian-born Canadian citizen, who made the tragic mistake of traveling on a flight that had a layover in the United States. Two years ago, the software engineer was pulled off a plane and interrogated by U.S. officials while on a stopover in New York. He was then jailed and secretly deported to Syria, the country he left when he was 16 years old, where he was held and tortured for almost a year without charge in an underground cell not much larger than a grave. The following is his account of his time in Syria:

Really, I mean, when I arrived there, I just couldn't believe it. I thought first it was a dream. I was crying all the time. I was disoriented. I wished I had something in my hand to kill myself. Because I knew I was going to be tortured and this was my -- that's all I was thinking about when I was on the plane. And I arrived there, I was crying all time. So, one of them started questioning me and the others were taking notes. The first day it was mainly routine questions, between 8 and 12. The second day, that's when the beatings started because, you know, on the first day, they did not find anything strange about what I told them and they started beating me with a cable, threaded cable, and they would beat me for three, four times. They would stop again and they would ask me questions again and they always kept telling me you are a liar and things like that. So, the beating continued for the first two weeks. The most -- the most intensive -- the intensive beating was really the first week and then after that, it was mostly slapping, punching on the face and hitting. So, on the
third day when they didn't find anything, they -- in my view, they just wanted to please the Americans and they had to find something on me. So, because I was accused of being an al Qaeda member, which is nowadays synonymous with Afghanistan, they told me you've been to a training camp in Afghanistan. And I said, “No.” And they started beating me.

The Syrian government eventually released him after Canada pressured them to let him go -- admitting that Mr. Arar seemed completely innocent and had no connection to Al Qaeda. Mr. Arar is currently suing the U.S. government.

In response to questions from the case, the best response John Ashcroft could come up with is that he "received assurances from the Syrians they wouldn't torture the guy." Hmmm... then why send Arar to Syria in the first place? Why not to Canada, where he was headed? Because there is law and order in Canada.

Lest there be any doubt about what the U.S. knows about Syria's use of torture, the following excerpt from the State Department's 2004 Human Rights Report on Syria belies Ashcroft's incredible naivete:

c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits such practices, and the Penal Code provides punishment for abusers. Under Article 28 of the Constitution, "no one may be tortured physically or mentally or treated in a humiliating manner." However, there was credible evidence that security forces continued to use torture frequently. There were reports of death in prison due to torture (see Section 1.a.). During the year, HRAS reported numerous cases of security forces using torture on prisoners in custody, including the case of five Kurdish students detained by the police in April and reportedly beaten and subjected to electric shocks for 3 days (see Section 5). The torture of political detainees was a common occurrence. AI reported the case of four young men arrested in April of 2003 in Daraa and held in Saidnay prison where they were subjected to various forms of torture and ill-treatment, including having their fingers crushed; receiving beatings to their face and legs; having cold water thrown on them; being forced to stand for long periods of time during the night; hearing loud
screams and beatings of other detainees; being stripped naked in front of others; and being prevented from praying and growing a beard. Former prisoners and detainees, as well as the HRAS, reported that torture methods included administering electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling; hyperextending the spine; bending the detainees into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts; and using a backward-bending chair to asphyxiate the victim or fracture the victim's spine. Torture was most likely to occur while detainees were being held at one of the many detention centers run by the various security services throughout the country, particularly while the authorities were attempting to extract a confession or information. For example, in July, a Syrian-Canadian citizen reportedly was tortured while being questioned by security services (see Section 1.e). (

American jobs are being outsourced abroad because multi-national corporations can get away with paying people $1 a day to make Nikes and the items that stock the shelves at Wal-Mart. This is the way that American corporations hide the ugly reality of what it takes to maintain perpetually ascending profits to keep their shareholders happy. Likewise, American intelligence is outsourcing torture to so-called enemies of the U.S. in order to hide the ugly reality of what the U.S. is doing in its struggle to maintain international hegemony.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Proceed With Caution

If you are pro-war, please see the consequences of your philosophies:

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Religion And The Two-Party State

The current nonsense about banning filibusters is another example of how the American two-party state benefits the religious right and other fear mongers of the Republican party.

Bill Frist, the House Majority Leader, spoke to fundamentalist Christians throughout the country this weekend about the evils of filibustering and how the maneuver is being used by faithless Democrats to attack people of faith. Although Mr. Frist's move is troubling in and of itself, it is only a small piece of the way the religious right has capitalized on the two-party state.

When there are only two options, leaders can wield the us v. them sword with great effectiveness -- You're with us or you're with the terrorists, as our great Emperor once said. During the presidential campaign, the NRA painted the difference between Bush and Kerry as an epic battle between good and evil. The right-to-(white)-life movement hailed the triumph of God and values after the Emperor gained another four years on the throne. And, if you sincerely believe in God and all these people are telling you that to vote for someone who is pro-choice is to vote for Satan, you are going to vote for God. That is to be expected. And, the religious right has succeeded in equating Republicanism with God.

But, this has created some serious perversions in Christian theology. I am neither Christian nor religious, but I find it extremely difficult to believe that Jesus would be pro-corporation (see the bankruptcy law and see Christian laws re usury), pro-rich people (isn't there something about a rich man having a tougher time getting into heaven than a camel fitting through the eye of a needle?), anti-healthcare for the masses (didn't he turn stones into bread or fish or something like that to feed the poor?) and pro-war (isn't Christianity supposedly about mercy and forgiveness and turning the other cheek?). Am I missing something?

With the two-party state, how do you account for Christians who are pro-life, but anti-war? You don't. Where does the anti-gay marriage Christian who believes in healthcare for all register a vote that is congruous with her values? Nowhere. What if your local grocery store forced you to buy junk food in order to get the nutritious food you want? If you want broccoli, you have to buy hohos too. If you are pro-life, you have to be pro-war too. If you are against gay marriage, you have to buy the anti-environment twinkies.

And so the emotional/intellectual conflict begins. The person becomes fat and stupid, notwithstanding the serious intent to eat nutritiously. He then must rationalize why twinkies are just as nutritious as broccoli and militantly discounts all facts to the contrary.

It's not hard to understand how America got to where it is. What remains to be seen is whether a third grocery store will open that allows you to separate the broccoli from the twinkies.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Notorious Honor Number 2

What is going on with this country?

First, the U.S. ranks number 4 in the world for executing its own citizens (see my post "Notorious Honor").

Now, the BBC reports that the U.S. jails more of its citizens than any other country. ( More than f'ing China that has over a billion people! One in 138 American citizens is now in jail. Our tax dollars are being used to build more prisons than colleges to make room for non-violent drug offenders.

Speaks volumes about our culture and where it is going.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Did You Know

That the No Child Left Behind Act requires all high schools that receive federal funding to turn over personal information regarding each student to the military.

Title 20, Chapter 70, Section 7908 of the United States Code reads as follows:

(a) Policy
(1) Access to student recruiting information
Notwithstanding section 1232g (a)(5)(B) of this title and except as provided in paragraph (2), each local educational agency receiving assistance under this chapter shall provide, on a request made by military recruiters or an institution of higher education, access to secondary school students names, addresses, and telephone listings.
(2) Consent
A secondary school student or the parent of the student may request that the student’s name, address, and telephone listing described in paragraph (1) not be released without prior written parental consent, and the local educational agency or private school shall notify parents of the option to make a request and shall comply with any request.
(3) Same access to students
Each local educational agency receiving assistance under this chapter shall provide military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as is provided generally to post secondary educational institutions or to prospective employers of those students.

Unfortunately, many schools do not inform parents of this law or of their right to opt-out.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The War On Drugs

Courtesy of shows like Cops, the American stereotype of a drug dealer is a black male with sagging pants, standing against a chain-link fence at a school waiting for the next unsuspecting five-year-old to buy crack. The explanation for overcrowding the nation's jails with non-violent drug offenders (and spending taxpayer money on building more jails) is the common refrain about keeping our kids safe.

Well, looks like the war isn't working - duh! The insurgency fighting the government's so-called war on drugs has found a stronger, more powerful ally -- the pharmaceutical industry.

The Partnership For A Drug-Free America released a study revealing that 1 in 5 kids has abused a prescription painkiller, often found in their parents' medicine cabinets -- a bigger number than those who experimented with crack, LSD, ecstacy or cocaine. The same study found that marijuana use among kids declined last year from 42 percent to 37 percent.

Not surprising given the advertisements that dominate television programming - a man's voice is placed over a video clip of a couple riding bicycles - "Do you get tired at night? Do you wake up in the morning feeling tired? Do you get annoyed when you are stuck in traffic? Well, you might be suffering from life-can-be-stressful syndrome, commonly found in men and women ages 5-100. Ask your doctor about 'Numbyourbrain' - just one pill a day will have you back to the normal you." Then the voice lowers and the man accelerates the speed of his speech, reciting "side effects include liver dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, diarrhea...." Of course marijuana use is down - how can hardworking marijuana growers compete with such effective advertising?

Chris Rock jokes in one of his stand-up specials (I think it's "Never Scared") that it's not that the government doesn't want you to take drugs - it wants you to take the drugs its campaign supporters make. Vioxx increases the risk of heart attacks and Celebrex causes an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, but these painkillers remain legal. ( In contrast, marijuana is illegal to the public and there is an attack on California's medicinal marijuana laws.

I am really curious - do the same pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control pills on the grounds that it offends their moral values also refuse to fill prescriptions for Vioxx and Celebrex because they value life and don't want to put people at risk? Probably not.

If a parent leaves a gun unlocked and something goes tragically wrong, that parent will face criminal charges for, at a minimum, criminal neglect. If the war on drugs is serious about keeping the nation's children out of harm's way, then the parents of the one in five children who abused painkillers found in the parents' medicine cabinet should be put in jail with all the other drug dealers who crowd the nation's jails. Perhaps Cops will start featuring America's new drug pushers and drug abusers in its shows.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

No Longer Special

While the world oohs and aahs over the new pope, Israelis are mulling an issue much closer to home for them -- is democracy in the Arab world good for them?

An interesting article in Haaretz Daily discusses the ramifications of bringing democracy to the Arab world and highlights the difficulty in defining democracy (please see my post Is The U.S. Really A Democracy?). (

The following excerpt from the article sums up the dilemma in which the Israelis find themselves:

Israel has contrasting interests: On one hand, democratic neighbors will be less threatening and will reduce the danger of war; on the other hand, Israel will lose its unique character in the region. The "shared values" that tie it to America will belong to other countries, as well.

By framing the issue as perpetual war v. being the favored son, the Israelis are missing the point. The question is not whether Arabs should or should not have democracy and whether Israel will benefit from democratic regime change. The more important question is now that the United States has colonized Iraq and Afghanistan, is Israel as strategically valuable? (

At this odd and unstable time in the state of Semitic World affairs (the Middle East is an imperialist term coined by the British to describe places in relation to England - since Arabs and Israelis are both Semitic peoples, the Semitic World is a more accurate and appropriate term), it is time for Israel and its Arab neighbors to wake up and redefine their nations as something other than pawns in the imperial chess game -- a chess game set up by the British and French in the Versailles Treaty that has divided the two peoples who had worked so well together in the past. Although Israel has been the favored pawn, it always has been a pawn nonetheless.

Sharon's coming of age and willingness to even discuss, let alone embark, on the Gaza disengagement plan illustrates the implicit recognition that Israel and the Arabs must reach their own solutions. The ability of the Palestinians and Israelis to hold to a truce for even a day shows that neither side needs the U.S. to dictate the terms of their relations the way the British and French did in the 1940's. The Semitic world is the center of civilization. While Europe was in the dark ages, Arabs and Jews lived together in Spain and North Africa in one of the most intellectually and culturally revolutionary times in history.

The question for Israel is not whether Arab democracy is a benefit. The question is whether it can forge positive relationships in the Semitic World without the interference of its U.S. master.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tattle Tales

An effective tool employed by communist China and Russia to create the climate of fear necessary to control their vast populations was divide and conquer. Divide people from their families and friends, colleagues and neighbors by encouraging them to report those who do not agree with the government or who may be committing illegal acts. Those governments encouraged children to tell on their parents and family members to turn on each other - all in the name of patriotism and loyalty to the state.

After September 11, the federal government proposed the TIPS program, which was designed to encourage UPS and FedEx delivery people and others to report "suspicious" activity. After massive outrage, it was quietly dropped, but it looks like the states have created their own version where the Chinese had the most luck -- with the kids.

A report in USA Today explained that, last week, the Houston County school board in Georgia became the state's first school district to enroll in the national Student CrimeStoppers program, started in 1983. Students can earn up to $500 for alerting school officials about firearms. They can get up to $100 for fingering classmates involved in vandalism, theft or drugs.
( With all the deadly school shootings, you would think that self-preservation would be enough to motivate children to turn in the crazies in their schoools.

I think the goal of the program is worthwhile, but the slippery slope it creates is troubling. A generation of children who are trained to snitch on those around them is scary. At some point, some will start abusing the system, getting paid for telling half-truths about people they don't like. That was the McCarthy era, the Salem witch hunts and other embarrassing events that we should hope not to relive.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

What Happened To Humanity?

I thought long and hard about sending the link to this blog to my Republican friends out of concern about offending them. After pondering it for a while, however, I realized that it is too easy to preach to the choir and it is always a good reality check to open up your thoughts to opposing views. So, I did so. One friend has already posted comments to some of my posts and I appreciate his input.

Another responded with a number of links to websites offering alternative opinions (which I read with great interest), including and The friend who sent the links, however, threw a curve ball at me that made me take a step back -- he told me he saw no point in debating with someone as far "left" as I am. Wow - when did I become part of the far left?

I grew up in a Republican family and was a devout Republican throughout college. Law school made me rethink my Republican leanings and I began to explore political philosophy. Soon after graduation, I stumbled upon Ayn Rand and, 10 books later, began leaning in the Libertarian direction. Now, a few years after devouring Rand's writings, I can't say that there is any political label that adequately sums up who I am. Indeed, I don't think that anyone can find one label that ever fully encompasses everything they believe. If they can, they are fundamentalists.

So, it got me pondering about the state of American political discourse. Left v. Right, Republican v. Democrat, Conservative v. Liberal, Us v. Them. When did it become so simplistic and how did I become the opposite of my Republican friend?

From what little I watch of corporate media, I get the impression the line divides as follows: Liberals are pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-gun, anti-death penalty, pro-environment and anti-war. In contrast, Republicans are pro-life, against gay marriage, pro-NRA, aren't concerned about endangered species and are pro-war.

Hmmmm.... does anyone fall neatly into either one? I believe abortion is murder, I think gay marriage is an oxymoron (although I don't see why civil unions should be objectionable), I am cool with guns, I am for the death penalty, I don't want people polluting the earth from which the water I drink is drawn and I believe in war only to the extent it is necessary to defend against a real threat (which Iraq was not). And, I am on the fence about affirmative action.

I bet there are "leftists" out there who would accuse me of being "conservative" based upon these attributes alone. However, I just don't understand why people obsess over the differences when the similarities are more important. A right wing and left wing person presumably are equally against polluting the environment and killing all that sustains us (that's why there aren't trash dumps in rich neighborhoods). The short-sightedness of outsourcing American jobs is not a matter that should divide the liberal from the conservative - each presumably cares about his job. Going to war on credit is something that should be of concern to anyone who would not let his or her spouse spend recklessly on credit at the expense of clothing and educating their children. Protecting the Constitution is something all Americans presumably care about - I have never heard of a Republican campaigning on his contempt for the Constitution.

In a time when the nation is so polarized, it is important to take a step back and think about the issues that really matter. I want to make sure that future generations have clean water to drink and an intact ozone layer. I don't want the Constitution to be a fiction that is discussed in history class. I want Americans to have jobs and to be paid a living wage. I don't want to live in a country where a handful have money and the rest are robbed of their pensions and left to scrounge without a safety net. And, I don't want the value of the dollars I earn to fall in value because the administration acts like a teenager with a credit card. Will America be better if gays can't marry but poor people are left starving on the streets?

It is not about right or left. It is about humanity.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Sticking It To The Middle Class

An essential ingredient for a true democracy is a vibrant middle class.

This is a basic principle in political science, although America's political leaders seem not to know. The unprecedented attacks on the middle class, championed by the right wing, are a threat to the very democracy they claim to cherish. The latest attack is the We Love The Credit Card Companies Act, popularly known as the Bankruptcy Reform Bill, which passed both houses of Congress and is on its way to the Emperor for his signature.

Under current bankruptcy law, individuals can seek debt relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code if certain basic requirements are met. Although not all debts can be erased (like student loans), the discharge of debts afforded by bankruptcy law is designed to lift the burden of consumer debt and provide citizens with a "fresh start". The Congress Was Bought By The Credit Card Industry Bill does away with this. (

According to the Washington Post, the central feature of the new bill is that it takes away much of the discretion bankruptcy judges have in deciding who is eligible to wipe out substantial portions of debt by filing under Chapter 7 and who should be forced into filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which requires some repayment of obligations over several years. Instead it would require judges to calculate eligibility by applying a formula, based on income and expenses, to would-be filers whose annual income is above the median in the region in which they live. Those who are required to file under Chapter 13 would have to make repayment for five years. Under current law, those payments cease after three years, even if the debt is not fully repaid. The new law provides that child support payments will go first to credit card companies in many cases, rather than to children.

The corporate media describe the bill as a success in combating fraud, but evidence from the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accounting Office, the FDIC, the non-partisan American Bankruptcy Institute and numerous academic studies belies such claims. One academic study found that about half of bankruptcy filings are the result of medical costs (another aspect of the attack on the middle class - unaffordable healthcare). Another 40 percent are due to job loss, divorce, or a death in the family. Most of the others are due to natural disasters, service in Iraq or identity theft. At most, 3.6 percent, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, involve anyone getting out of any payments that they could have made.

Congress had the opportunity to soften the blow of the new bankruptcy law for the 96.4 percent who are legitimately in distress, but each of the amendments to the bill was struck down. Our elected so-called representatives (please see my posting re lobbies) voted against
  • closing off the trust loophole for millionaires (assets in trusts cannot be touched in bankruptcy)
  • creating a minimum homestead exemption to save the homes of the elderly
  • protecting employees and retirees from corporate practices that deprive them of their earnings and retirement savings when a business files for bankruptcy
  • discouraging predatory lending practices
  • exempting debtors from means testing if their financial problems were caused by identity theft
  • limiting the amount of interest that can be charged on any extension of credit to 30 percent
  • protecting homeowners from medical debts.
  • protecting soldiers from the debts incurred as a result of going to war.


For those who mastered the art of connecting the dots during childhood, you will see that this bill is only part of the attack on the middle class. More and more middle class jobs are being outsourced, healthcare is less afforable and accessible and social security may be "reformed" so that you get less when you are old.

The message from the government is clear -- do not lose your job, do not get sick, do not go into the military and do not allow your identity to be stolen (as if you can control who hacks into Lexis Nexis). ( If such things happen, it is your fault, you are the bankruptcy-abusing criminal and you will not receive any of the Christian mercy Terri Schiavo got.

Say goodbye to the middle class and say goodbye to democracy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Did You Know

That Iran once had a demoratically elected goverment.

Muhammad Mossadeq, the leader of the National Front, was elected prime minister in April 1951. One month later, he nationalized Iran's oil industry, much to the chagrin of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (a consortium of British and American oil interests).

In 1953, the CIA backed a coup de etat that removed Mossadegh from power and installed the Shah, whose oppressive regime ruled for over 25 years. Although the oil industry remained nationalized, the Shah negotiated a deal with foreign oil companies whereby the companies managed Iran's oil operations for a substantial profit.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Beacon On The Hill

If America is the shining beacon on the hill, an example to be emulated by the rest of the world, the light of that beacon must shine the brightest from Las Vegas -- a city that exemplifies everything that America is and is becoming.

A city of bright lights, prostitution, gambling and enormous buffets, Las Vegas is the ultimate playground for adults. It is a place where men flock to strip clubs and brothels, women wear the sluttiest outfits in their closets in the hope of receiving attention from a broader spectrum of horny males and morbidly obese people indulge themselves on $9.99 all-you-can eat buffets. It is the center of the universe for all those chasing the pipe dream of hitting the jackpot.

Behind all the blinking lights and ringing slot machines, however, it is an incredibly sad and depressing city. Las Vegas does not sustain $300-per-night hotels on the miles-long strip with winners - the town thrives and survives on losers. Loser men who chase fleeting feelings of manhood through strippers and prostitutes; women whose bodies are worth more than their humanity; pathetic senior citizens gambling their social security checks in the hopes of experiencing some excitement in the twilight hours of their lives (Harrahs was the first casino to stop cashing welfare checks). The blinking lights add excitement to their otherwise empty existence.

Las Vegas is Super Sized America. The enormous football field buffet, hotels that give you new towels each day, all the alcohol you can drink as long as you obediently pay homage to the slot machine god, massive electricity use, never-ending construction in a town that has to buy water from neighboring states and there is no recycling program in place.

When foreigners turn their heads toward the beacon on the hill, they will see the light shining from the top of the Luxor pyramid.

And that light emanates from the city that symbolizes the cancer that consumes the American body politic. Left untreated, the cancer will obliterate the desert, the water, and left in its wake will remain nothing more than hollow bodies that once housed souls (one only need to travel to Atlantic City to see a place ravaged by the cancer).

The brightness of the beacon on the hill blinds its viewers from the darkness that dominates the landscape.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Is The U.S. Really A Demoracy?

With all the Bush rhetoric about freedom and democracy, it is important to reflect upon the meaning of democracy.

de·moc·ra·cy ( P ) Pronunciation Key (d-mkr-s)n. pl. de·moc·ra·cies
  1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
  2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
  3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power. Majority rule.
  4. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

Government by the people and for the people? What about lobbies?

lob·by ( P ) Pronunciation Key (lb)n. pl. lob·bies

  1. A hall, foyer, or waiting room at or near the entrance to a building, such as a hotel or theater.
  2. A public room next to the assembly chamber of a legislative body.
  3. A group of persons engaged in trying to influence legislators or other public officials in favor of a specific cause: the banking lobby; the labor lobby.

"Lobbying", the sanitized euphemism for corruption, has become part of everyday political speak without any outrage at its significance. Lobbyists are those who use money to undermine the demoractic will of the people. In other countries, money that is used to buy favors is called a "bribe" - in the U.S. it is called a PAC donation.

The media openly discuss successful lobbyists with no shame because Americans have been de-sensitized to the rampant corruption that lobbying represents. The insurance industry fights efforts to make healthcare affordable to the majority of Americans, but people continue to believe that their representatives represent them. Contrary to widespread public disagreement, Bush is moving forward with his plans to privatize social security, a move that serves the interests of his friends in the banking and securities industries.

Governor Schwarze-nazi of California, the world's fifth largest economy, has sold the golden state to the highest bidders. He has accepted more than $1 million from insurance interests, which he rewarded with "reform" of workers compensation law. He accepted more than $1 million from health care and pharmaceutical companies and then vetoed a host of bills that would have helped Californians, and the state government, purchase cheaper drugs in Canada.

Schwarze-nazi's first act upon entering office was to repeal an increase in the car-registration fee, a top priority of auto dealers and vetoed legislation, termed the "Car Buyer's Bill of Rights," that would have cracked down on questionable practices in the auto sales industry. He also campaigned for a ballot measure backed by car dealers stripping away consumer groups' right to sue when dealers break the law. Why this zeal to protect car dealers? The automotive industry has given Schwarze-nazi more than $1 million. And, after all this, he accuses teachers and nurses of being "special interests".

How can democracy exist if the government is for sale to the highest bidder? How can the U.S. be called a democracy if the government does not answer to the people but, rather, to corporations? Is there a point to vote if your elected representative is more interested in your insurance company's interests than yours? Corruption is not compatible with democracy.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The New Wild West

The twisted logic of the Iraq War is now coming home to roost. Yesterday, the Florida legislature passed a bill allowing people to use deadly force in a public place if they have a reasonable belief that they are in danger of death or great bodily harm. The so-called "stand your ground" bill is on its way to Governor Jeb Bush who is expected to sign it. (

It is one thing to kill an intruder who comes into your home. It is quite another to murder someone out on the streets.

While this law may have superficial appeal, the long-term consequences cannot be understated. Can this law serve as a defense to a murder charge? Will a white man walking down the street be permitted to kill a black man on the ground that he reasonably believed the black man to appear menacing? What happens to the innocent bystanders? Do they have recourse against the person who uses his or her fear as a justification for lawlessness?

This isn't about gun rights. This is about peace and order in society.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Notorious Honor

The United States joins the ranks of China, Iran and Vietnam in Amnesty International's top four nations that executed the largest number of its citizens. According to Amnesty International, "In 2004, 97 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Vietnam and the USA".

The nation that has charged itself with the duty to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world executes more people than Saudi Arabia -- a country that has public beheadings every Friday.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Taking The Law Into Their Own Hands

The Minuteman Project is up and running and we should be very scared.

Founded by Vietnam veteran Jim Gilchrist, this group of American "patriots" has taken arms to patrol America's border with Mexico.

Although the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over immigration, Mr. Gilchrist contends that the Minutemen are performing a job that, in his view, "the government refuses to do." By tracking illegal immigrants and reporting their presence to the Border Patrol, the Minutemen purport to heed the call of "the vast majority of Americans" who are fed up with "illegals and immigrants taking our jobs when millions of Americans cannot find full-time work, alien gangs trafficking in drugs and committing crimes, illegals crowding our schools and bankrupting our hospitals, increased urban sprawl and traffic congestion, and so on."

Since when have Americans lined up for jobs gardening or picking strawberries? Let's be serious - illegal immigrants are not responsible for L.A. traffic congestion.

Despite the innocuous descriptions of the organization and the disclaimer that it will not accept assistance from or interference by racist groups, the racist hysteria that propels the White Minutemen to action is best illustrated by the following solicitation for volunteers:

Accordingly, the men and women volunteering for this mission are those who
are willing to sacrifice their time, and the comforts of a cozy home, to muster for something much more important than acquiring more "toys" to play with while their nation is devoured and plundered by the menace of tens of millions of invading illegal aliens.

Future generations will inherit a tangle of rancorous, unassimilated, squabbling cultures with no common bond to hold them together, and a certain guarantee of the death of this nation as a harmonious "melting pot." The result: political, economic and social mayhem. Historians will write about how a lax America let its unique and coveted form of government and society sink into a quagmire of mutual acrimony among the various sub-nations that will comprise the new self-destructing

America is being devoured and plundered? Only by violators of federal securities and tax laws.

When various Black organizations (Nation of Islam, Black Panthers) took up arms to defend the Black community from lynchings and other arbitrary acts of violence, the FBI came down on them with a vengeance, admonishing Americans about the supremacy of the rule of law. In contrast, it is okay for White Americans, in the name of protecting America from non-White cultures that don't assimmilate, to create a de facto police force without objection from the government. What's next? Will the Minutemen take to the streets to combat drugs, prostitution and other common street crimes?

If the U.S. government does not do anything to stop these self-appointed police forces, we should expect to see more of these vigilante militias take it upon themselves to enforce laws that they believe are going unenforced. Quite an ominous prospect for persons of color who will likely be within their line of sight.