Friday, September 30, 2005

Torture & The 3 Stages of Denial

{ Excerpt from the latest Ted Rall op ed: }
In his 2000 book Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture John Conroy presciently describes the surprising means by which democracies are actually more susceptible to becoming "torture societies" than dictatorships: Where "notorious regimes have fallen, there has been a public acknowledgement that people were tortured. In democracies of long standing in which torture has taken place, however, denial takes hold and official acknowledgement is extremely slow in coming, if it appears at all." Conroy goes on to describe the "fairly predictable" stages of governmental response:

  • First, writes Conroy, comes "absolute and complete denial." Rumsfeld told Congress in 2004 that the U.S. had followed Geneva "to the letter" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • "The second stage," he says, is "to minimize the abuse." Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh compared the murder and mayhem at Abu Ghraib to fraternity hazing rituals.

  • Next is "to disparage the victims." Bush Administration officials and right-wing pundits call the victims of torture in U.S. custody "terrorists," implying that detainees--who are not charged because there is no evidence against them--deserve whatever they get.

    Dick Cheneycalled victims of torture at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (who, under U.S. law, are presumed innocent) "the worst of a very bad lot." Rumsfeld called them "the worst of the worst."

Other government tactics include charging "that those who take up the cause of those tortured are aiding the enemies of the state" (Right-wing bloggers have smeared me as a "terrorist sympathizer" because I argue against torture); denying that torture is still occurring (numerous Bush Administration officials claimed that Abu Ghraib marked the end of the practice); placing "the blame on a few bad apples" (the classic Fox News-Bush trope); and pointing out that "someone else does or has done much worse things" (the beheadings of Western hostages by Iraqi jihadi organizations was used to justify torturing Iraqis who didn't belong to those groups).
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

{see Ted Rall's whole essay online at }

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Justice for Torturer

Lynndie England was declared guilty by a military court. We all know why because we've all seen the photos.

She's guilty -- and yet responsibility for ordering and condoning torture runs very high up the chain of command, as far as it can go.
Lynndie herself stated in a May 11, 2004 interview with Denver CBS affiliate television station KCNC-TV, that she was "instructed by persons in higher ranks" to commit the acts of abuse for psyop reasons, and that she should keep doing it, because it worked as intended. England noted that she felt "weird" when a commanding officer asked her to do such things as "stand there, give the thumbs up, and smile". However, England felt that she was doing "nothing out of the ordinary". Ms. England later went for a plea bargain by admitting to criminal offenses.

Most of us know that there is an ongoing cover-up of that guilt high up the chain of command. General Karpinski, in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison at the time, was removed from that post and demoted to Colonel after an investigation, yet she was never charged, much less court martialed. Above her head were several others never investigated, including Rumsfeld. Karpinski is still unwilling to see that while she "didn't know" what was going on, nevertheless it was precisely her job as prison boss to know what was going on. Now, filled with righteous resentment, the ex-General has lashed out at Rumsfeld and the rest of the chain for undermining her authority. In a revealing interview in which she gives away State secrets, Karpinski insisted that she later realized that the torture was imported along with civilian contractors who had just been fired by the Justice Department for prisoner abuse in Utah, then sent by the same Justice Department over to Abu Ghraib. Similar techniques seen in the photos were already used elsewhere:

"These torture techniques were being implemented and used down at Guantanamo Bay and, of course, now we have lots of statements that say they were used in Afghanistan as well."

When asked if she thinks that the truth has been uncovered and that justice is served, Karpinski answered "No." She firmly denounced the coverup:

"We're never going to know the truth until they do an independent commission or look into this independently," Karpinski maintains. "This is about instructions delivered with full authority and knowledge of the Secretary of Defense and probably Cheney. I don't know if the President was involved or not. I don't care. All I know is, those instructions were communicated from the Secretary of Defense's office, from the Pentagon, through Cambone, through Miller, to Abu Ghraib."

[see the whole interview at

Guilt is distributed in other directions besides up the chain; it is also spread around at other military prisons where torture was and still is routinely inflicted. It extends certainly to the CIA extradition flights of arrested persons out of American territory to pro-torture territory. Facts are not being faced here. Abu Ghraib was normal rather than an aberration.

Something is rotten in the State, and removing one bad apple has not removed the moldering cause of this stench.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Poet to Laura Bush: I won't attend.

Laura Bush
First Lady
The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents - all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children. Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students - long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.

When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit - and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person's unique story and song.

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country - with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain - did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism - the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness - as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing - against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.

Sharon Olds

No Place for a Poet at a Banquet of Shame

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Dharma Bums

"See the whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn't really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least fancy new cars, certain hair oils and deodorants and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of 'em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures."

--Jack Kerouac remembering a drunken speech by Gary Snyder in 1955

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Bronx Loves Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chávez Gets a Cheer in the Bronx

BY PABLO BACHELET, Miami Herald, Sun., Sept. 18, 2005

NEW YORK - Clad in dark slacks and his signature red
shirt representing his ''Bolivarian revolution,''
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez took his magnetic
charisma to a South Bronx community gathering Saturday
-- and the people loved it.

He kissed, hugged and mixed it up with gusto with a
Dominican music band, almost as if he were courting

His audience included representatives of faith-based
groups and charter schools. They came intrigued that a
president from another country would trek uptown, away
from the wealth and power in Manhattan. And they got a
firsthand taste of Chávez's talent for mingling with
ordinary people, a trait that has made him wildly
popular among Venezuela's poor.

''You'd better put in there that I got a kiss from
Chávez,'' said Catherine Scott, a 59-year-old black
Spanish teacher as she wiped tears from her eyes. ''I
never even got a kiss from [President] Clinton,'' she
added, laughing at her joke.

Fifteen organizations had set up tables in The Point
Community Development Corp. on Garrison Avenue,
displaying their work much like in a fifth-graders'
exhibition. The event had been arranged by Rep. José
Serrano, a New York Democrat who, a decade earlier,
brought Cuban leader Fidel Castro to the Bronx.


Castro, whom Chávez openly admires, spoke then for
about 30 minutes, mostly about baseball. Chávez spent
more than two hours at the center, in Hunt Point in
the South Bronx, moving from table to table in a
chaotic cluster of aides, journalists, bodyguards and
beaming Bronx residents taking pictures.

He asked Heidi Hynes, the executive director of the
Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center if her
organization was headquartered nearby. He wanted to
know what the kids did, and who Mary Mitchell was.

''And what is your budget?'' he asked.

Hynes replied that it was around $300,000 a year.

Chávez turned around and told an aide to take down the
name. He instructed the Venezuelan Embassy in
Washington to make a donation.

Hynes said her center had been visited by famous
athletes but never by a top-level politician. The
Bangladeshi ambassador to the United Nations came
once. ''We're delighted to be able to host a foreign
dignitary in the Bronx,'' she said.

Serrano said it was Chávez who had insisted on meeting
with community leaders of the Bronx, a community of
1.7 million people, and, to many, still a symbol of
America's urban underclass.

Speaking with about a dozen journalists, he said there
was ''more soul and power'' in The Point than in the
U.N. General Assembly. Chávez had spent the previous
two days meeting with world leaders and made his mark
by delivering a blistering attack on the United
Nations and the Bush administration Thursday.

He then hoisted up 2-year-old Marquez Hunter. He
kissed him and said in his elementary English, ''This
is my boy!'' pointing to the startled child, then he
added: ''This is my summit, this was his summit.'' The
cameras flashed.


Chávez's arrival in New York was delayed by nearly two
days, marred until the very end by his long feud with
the Bush administration, which he accuses of plotting
to overthrow him. His staff quarreled over visas for
his security detail. Venezuelan officials complained
that Chávez's security chief and his doctor were not
let off the plane for lack of visas.

He met with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, no friend of
the United States. But on Saturday, Chávez was focused
on folks like Lucretia Jones, who heads Mothers on the
Move, a group that seeks equal opportunities in
education and housing. She had only a vague notion of
Chávez before Saturday. She had first heard about him
during the April 2002 coup. Chávez was briefly
overthrown, but returned triumphantly two days later.

Jones heard about Chávez again last month, when Rev.
Pat Robertson caused an uproar when he called on the
United States to assassinate the Venezuelan leader.

The Palo Monte, a group of musicians from the
Dominican Republic, were playing catchy, fast-paced
tunes. Chávez mingled with them.

He played a güira, a sort of aluminum cylindrical
percussion instrument, and then grabbed two maracas,
essentially large rattlers. As Chávez swayed to the
music, the band sang, ''¡Ooh, ah, Chávez no se va!''
(Chávez is not leaving).


But Chávez also showed his confrontational side.

The Venezuelan said the final U.N. declaration, which
was worked out amid much diplomatic haggling, was
``very suspect.''

''They're trying to legalize the imperialist
currents,'' he said.

And the Bronx cheered again.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

How Americans Twisted Christianity

The Christian Paradox
How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong
By Bill McKibben

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.”

That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up. . . .

{continues at link above}

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bush & Rove Exploit New Orleans

As of this week, Judith Miller is still in prison. The NY Times reporter who didn't reveal the source for an article she never published is being punished and forgotten. Meanwhile, everyone found out that the guilty source is Karl Rove. As of this week, Bush Jr. appointed Rove to head the relief operations in New Orleans. These people are brazen because they know that the status quo will continue to look the other way.

A contingent of Americans who are still conscious is heading to Washington D.C. for yet another mass protest. The remaining 99.7% are too busy, too poor, too depressed, or too young.

Will no one rid us of this buffoon?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Psychopaths make best capitalists

"The logical extension of business is murder" said Charlie Chaplin. And news today reports a psych study that tends to support this conclusion:

"A team of U.S. scientists has found the emotionally impaired are more willing to gamble for high stakes and that people with brain damage may make good financial decisions . . . .

"One of the researchers, Antione Bechara, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Iowa, said the best stock market investors might plausibly be called "functional psychopaths."

Monday, September 19, 2005

News from Behind The Facade

{excerpt from John Pilger . . . }

" . . .so much of western scholarship has taken the humanity out of the study of nations, of people, congealing it with jargon and reducing it to an esotericism called "international relations", the grand chess game of western power that scores nations as useful or not, expendable or not. (Listen to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw talk about "failed nations": the pure invention of Anglo-American IR zealots.) It is this rampant orthodoxy that determines how power speaks and how its historians and reporters report.

Such orthodoxy, says Richard Falk, professor of International Relations at Princeton and a distinguished dissenter, "which is so widely accepted among political scientists as to be virtually unchallengeable in academic journals, regards law and morality as irrelevant to the identification of rational policy." Thus, western foreign policy is formulated "through a self-righteous, one-way, moral/legal screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence..." This is the filter through which most people get their serious news. It is the reason why the most obvious truths, such as the dominance of western state terrorism over the minuscule al-Qaeda variety, is never reported. It is the reason why America's destruction of 35 democracies in 30 countries (historian William Blum's latest count), is unknown to the American public. . . ."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Maher to Bush

Bill Maher's closing--an open message to George Bush:

"Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you any
more. There's no more money to spend--you used up all
of that. You can't start another war because you used
up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your
term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping
poor people. Listen to your Mom. The cupboard's
bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking
to you. Mission accomplished.

"Now it's time to do what you've always done best:
lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your
military service and the oil company and the baseball
team time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy
job. How about cowboy or space man? Now I know what
you're saying: there's so many other things that you
as President could involve yourself in. Please don't.
I know, I know. There's a lot left to do. There's a
war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on
yachts. Turning the space program over to the church.
And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos
the vote.

"But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why?
Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've
performed so poorly I'm surprised that you haven't
given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that
walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty
president, but even he never conceded an entire city
to rising water and snakes.

"On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies,
the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a
piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans.
Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't
love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse
it could be if you were on the other side.

"So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying
is: 'Take a hint.' "

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New Orleans as Experiment by FEMA

FEMA won't accept Amtrak's help in evacuations

FEMA turns away experienced firefighters

FEMA turns back Wal-Mart supply trucks

FEMA prevents Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel

FEMA won't let Red Cross deliver food

FEMA bars morticians from entering New Orleans

FEMA blocks 500-boat citizen flotilla from delivering aid

FEMA fails to utilize Navy ship with 600-bed hospital on board

FEMA to Chicago: Send just one truck

FEMA turns away generators

FEMA: "First Responders Urged Not To Respond"

(That last one is also real — not satire, but straight from FEMA's website.)
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
{See link above for sources and full text for each of the items above. The overall picture this generates is not so much one of gross incompetence, but rather of an experiment to see what will happen when an American city is utterly destroyed in the foreseeable future. FEMA plans to observe the chaos, to cultivate it, and then to calculate for future social control over the ruins.}

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

New Orleans begins to glow

Like a badly healed wound
The city begins to glow
With the fires of an insurrection

Prolapsed rose-colored grapes
Staining white enamel sinks
Overflowing with astringent fluids

An unshorn radiant garden
Just within the electrified fence
Proudhon's torso covered with droppings
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

--Samuel Appelbaum, poem 52 from the book Chtcheglov, 1998.

Monday, September 12, 2005

New Orleans as New World

Sucker's Bets for the New Century
By Bill McKibben

Over and over last week, people said that the scenes from the convention center, the highway overpasses, and the other suddenly infamous Crescent City venues didn't "look like America," that they seemed instead to be straight from the Third World. That was almost literally accurate, for poor, black New Orleans (whose life had never previously been of any interest to the larger public) is not so different from other poor and black parts of the world: its infant mortality and life expectancy rates, its educational achievement statistics mirroring scores of African and Latin American enclaves.

But it was accurate in another way, too, one full of portent for the future. A decade ago, environmental researcher Norman Myers began trying to add up the number of humans at risk of losing their homes from global warming. He looked at all the obvious places -- coastal China, India, Bangladesh, the tiny island states of the Pacific and Indian oceans, the Nile delta, Mozambique, on and on -- and predicted that by 2050 it was entirely possible that 150 million people could be "environmental refugees," forced from their homes by rising waters. That's more than the number of political refugees sent scurrying by the bloody century we've just endured.
{continues at link above...}

See also:
Brace for More Katrinas, Say Experts Agence France Presse

Sunday, September 11, 2005

There are left the mountains...

"All cities, all states, all reigns are mortal. Everything, either by nature or by accident, ends at some time. And so a citizen who is living in the final stage of a country's existence should not feel as sorry for one's country as for oneself. What happened to one's country was inevitable; but to be born at a time when such a disaster had to happen was his misfortune"
--Guicciardini Ricordi

Shine Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mold of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire,
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste, haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains: shine, perishing republic.

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught-they say-God, when he walked on earth.

-- Robinson Jeffers, 1926

Saturday, September 10, 2005

New Orleans & Baghdad

When the US military first filed in to occupy New Orleans, the news anchor on CNN said that they were ordered to hold their guns down in a particular way, because "we don't want this to look like Iraq."
This semi-conscious parallel between occupying a country on the outskirts of the New World Order vs occupying a city in the belly of the beast was offered without a trace of irony or cognizance.
The mission of the military is not to rescue but to protect the system of private property -- practically and in principle. Thus one held a gun to the head of a woman who had taken pants from a store for her family: "Drop the clothes!" She dropped them and they floated away in the flood waters. The pants themselves were no doubt covered by business insurance and were not the real concern. The issue is the Idea of private property which underpins the capitalist enterprise. The status quo wants that protected above all, even at the cost of human lives.
Thus the similarity between these two occupations.

P.S. From Ted Rall's essay :

"It only took a few days for New Orleans to descend into anarchy, for the survivors of Katrina to lose hope, for disgusted Americans to conclude that their leaders are too staggeringly stupid, incompetent and uncaring to protect them from bad weather, much less a terrorist attack. Now think about this: the citizens of cities under U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan have been suffering under similar conditions, exacerbated by an identical lack of planning by the same U.S. officials, for nearly 900 days. New Orleans is Baghdad plus water minus two and a half years.

Still wondering why they hate us?"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Drowned City

The unnatural disaster of New Orleans is a preview of the 21st century, where global warming ushers in severe storms and rising sea levels. Coastal cities in many parts of the world will likewise be evacuated, rebuilt, and then once again evacuated. Ultimately, the hierarchical systems that maintain "order" will fail, as suggested by events in New Orleans. Civilization will revert to the combination of both spontaneous cooperation and barbaric violence revealed today.

This submerging world ahead was envisioned by J. G. Ballard in his early novel of 1962 The Drowned World. Ballard thinks far beyond the mere mechanics of how global warming will have altered geography. The particular interest in his works in the psychodrama and social conflict that ensue after cities are ruined.

"The bulk of the city had long since vanished, and only the steel-supported buildings of the central commercial and financial areas had survived the encroaching flood waters. The brick houses and single-storey factories of the suburbs had disappeared completely below the drifting tides of silt. Where these broke surface giant forests reared up into the burning dull-green sky, smothering the former wheatfields of temperate Europe and North America. Impenetrable Mato Grossos sometimes three hundred feet high, they were a nightmare world of competing organic forms returning rapidly to their Paleozoic past, and the only avenues of transit for the United Nations military units were through the lagoon systems that had superimposed themselves on the former cities. But even these were now being clogged with silt and then submerged."

-- J. G. Ballard The Drowned World, pg 19 & 21.