1.10.2015

Good & Evil

We all know terrorists are evil. We know they are full of hate. We know they commit acts of barbarism. And, most importantly, we know we are not like them. Their actions are senseless, we are sensible. Their ideology is primitive, we are civilized.
"Every historical change creates it's own mythology." - Bronislaw Malinowski, Myth in Primitive Psychology (1926)
Back in 1864 over 700 U.S. soldiers attacked an Indian camp and slaughtered nearly every man, woman and child in it. The soldiers scalped the women and children, many were mutilated, and the genitals of men and women were cut off and used as trophies.  In earlier wars with similar atrocities, Andrew Jackson instituted a policy where the noses of the vanquished were cut off to tally the dead. Jackson was promoted and lead the Seminole Wars to capture land and recapture runaway slaves. He became a national hero and his face is on our twenty-dollar bill today. The remaining Native Americans live on reservations.

There are many things that seem senseless to the sensible. But we are not always sensible. Sometimes we are senseless. Sometimes we are evil.
"Seldom does anyone admit that he is evil; seldom does he even admit that he does evil. One of the great dangers of humanity is our tendency to project our own evil onto others." - Jeffrey Burton Russell, Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (1987)
It is said that even the Devil has convinced himself he is doing the right thing. The terrorists have convinced themselves they are doing the right thing. We have convinced ourselves we are doing the right thing.

Evil doesn't happen in a vacuum. In America our response is retaliation, retribution; wage wars (more than any other nation on earth) and incarcerate (more than any other nation on earth). We pick off the thorns while the roots grow deeper. We don't confront evil, we try to erase it. But evil is inside everyone - with enough provocation or indoctrination we are all capable of it - so the only way to erase it is to erase all life. By fighting evil we become evil.
"Evil is life turning against itself." - Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973)
So, how do you defeat evil? You don't. We beat the Nazis but their ideology never went away and is currently making a big resurgence. The KKK has never left us and is growing again today. Islamic terrorism will always be here too. So, what do you do? You look inward and find your inner-strength.
"But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." - Jesus
America is the richest, most powerful nation on earth. We can lead by example. We can stop being afraid and start being strong, being better. Defeat evil by being good. Turn toward life. Instead of retribution and retaliation use rehabilitation and humanitarianism. Instead of violence use benevolence. There will still be evil but there will no longer be fertile ground for it to grow.
Step outside. It's a beautiful day.
Now, look inside. What do you see?

EDIT: I've corrected an error in the timeline of my history of the Sand Creek Massacre which was pointed out by a commenter. 

Do Not Respect Authority

Back when I was a teen I was one of the "weird kids" that hung out with other "weird kids" in a small rural area. I was pulled over regularly and asked what I was up to. One time I got a speeding ticket even though I wasn't speeding. My friend that was in the car with me had his father - who worked for a law firm recreating accident scenes - prove in traffic court that it was actually physically impossibly for my car to have been going the speed the cop said he clocked me at (I was on a steep uphill road with lots of turns and a stop sign at the end, and driving a crappy car). We had video, charts, definitive proof the cop was lying. The judge stated that while I may not have been going the speed the cop said he clocked me at, I still could have technically been speeding and so found me guilty anyway.

While this "injustice" I suffered is minuscule in terms of what has been in the news lately, it was a clear message I was fortunate to learn at a young age: The justice system is not about justice, it's about authority. That's why these cops are protesting Mayor DiBlasio, protesting community criticism of police practices, protesting all question of their righteous authority. They're not getting the respect their authoritarian ideology deserves.

Police turning their backs on NYC mayor during a funeral.


Any deviation is a threat to the system from my black clothes and long hair (as a teen) to being black with nappy hair (the ultimate offense, and one that cannot be reformed by getting a new wardrobe and a haircut) they will make sure you know your kind isn't welcome in their world. You are a threat to the system.

After my traffic court trial, my mother, still believing in a just system, told me I should go to the police officer and tell him "thank you" for doing his dangerous job. I didn't want to, but still did, and did it with proper respect. He didn't even look at me and acted like I didn't exist when I spoke to him. My mother was shocked. I understood. I challenged his authority, I lost, now I needed to get lost.

ATF Flag raised above the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX.
Around that time I saw video of the LAPD beating Rodney Kind and the AFT raising their flag over the burning embers of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco Texas. The message sunk in. It's not about enforcing the law, it's about enforcing dominion. It's not the water cannons of the 1960's but it's the daily trials that lead Eric Garner to exclaim, "I told you the last time, please just leave me alone."


What DiBlasio said to his black son needs to be taught to all children regardless of race. The police are not here to protect us, they are here to protect the system from us. If you believe the system works for you, you feel safe. But things change

You may not always be on the right side of the system.

The recent NYPD "slow down" exposes the true purpose of policing as it is currently used in our country. Apparently most policing is unnecessary. They are just to keep the little people in check. Don't get out of line. I could go on with so many more stories of my own experiences (and I've never actually been arrested, just had the misfortune of being around police) but in short it all boils down to every interaction I've ever had with a cop was not a good one. The closest I can say to a "good one" was being pulled over for speeding two years ago and the cop just gave me a warning. But that time I was speeding… I did break the law. So, he just let a law breaker go because now days I'm a "respectable" looking person, not a threat. What does that say about our system? It's OK for one type of person to commit crimes. It's unacceptable for other types to even exist.

7.26.2013

CONFLICTING ARGUMENT


In the prosecutions closing arguments for the trial of Bradley Manning there appears to be conflicting portrayals of Manning's character and abilities:
Bradley Manning purposely joined the Army and deployed to Iraq to use his extensive computer skills to disclose protected U.S. secrets
Versus:
[Chief Prosecutor Army Maj. Ashden Fein] described Assange as his cheerleader, urging him to provide more material, working with him to override secret passwords and other obstacles on classified documents. Eventually, Fein said, Manning came to embrace Assange's ideology against government secrecy.
So, Manning joined the service to betray secrets, yet didn't embrace the ideology of opposing government secrecy until after working with Assange? He possessed "extensive computer skills" yet needed guidance in obtaining many documents?

Also:
"He was not a naive soldier," Fein said.
Versus:
Manning spent untold hours [...] "wiping" his computer clean, thinking he could "hide his tracks."
He was not naive and yet naively thought he could clear his tracks? He had extensive computer knowledge and still had these delusions? It's a possibility I guess, but it's worth considering the portrayal of Manning and what it says about the character of the prosecution as well.

On a related note: Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, whom President Barack Obama once personally lobbied to have remain in jail, has been pardoned and released.

And: The Obama Administration has charged six whistleblowers with the Espionage Act - twice as many as had been charged in the entirety of US history.

And: A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that James Risen (two-time Pulitzer Prize winner) would receive no First Amendment protection safeguarding the confidentiality of his sources.
Notice a trend?

11.07.2012

Good News GOP!

The election is finally over... Yay. 

Anyone who even mentions 2016 is evil and shall be condemned to hell.

8.12.2012

Operation Chickenhawk, Part II

Once again we have a couple of GOP Chickenhawks running for office by rattling their sabres for more war and cutting veterans services. Send men and women off to battle but screw 'em when they come home, right?

(click image to enlarge)

7.18.2011

Carbon Emissions - Dangerous or Not?

The latest crazy person to claim carbon emissions aren't dangerous is Mitt Romney:
"I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies."
He continued to say "we can agree to disagree..."

Um, no, we can't. Well, I guess he can agree to disagree with himself.

But, to end the debate I propose an easy experiment anyone who doubts the dangers of carbon emissions can do at home: Find the nearest tailpipe and use it like a breathing tube for a few minutes. If after about five minutes you still think carbon emissions aren't harmful I'll let it rest and "agree to disagree".

Tastes like freedom!

7.04.2011

Hot Commodity

Down the drain.
I'm sure you're familiar with the food crisis going on in many parts of the world, the current rising oil prices here in the US, and the rise in gold prices. Hopefully you're aware that all these are primarily a result of commodities trading.

"The sheer amount of investor money flooding into commodities markets is overshadowing any supply and demand numbers."

Whether this is good or bad is a topic for another discussion. The topic here is the growing trend of privatizing our world's water supply and the future of our most precious and essential natural resource becoming a commodity which is traded on Wall Street.

First, the problem:

Everyone agrees that we are in the midst of a global freshwater crisis. Around the world, rivers, lakes, and aquifers are dwindling faster than Mother Nature can possibly replenish them; industrial and household chemicals are rapidly polluting what’s left. Meanwhile, global population is ticking skyward. Goldman Sachs estimates that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, and the United Nations expects demand to outstrip supply by more than 30 percent come 2040.

Yes, I made Goldman Sachs bold because I think it's important to highlight the fact an investment bank of is tracking these issues.

Now, the solution... if you want to call it that:

Proponents of privatization say markets are the best way to solve that problem: only the invisible hand can bring supply and demand into harmony, and only market pricing will drive water use down enough to make a dent in water scarcity. But the benefits of the market come at a price. By definition, a commodity is sold to the highest bidder, not the customer with the most compelling moral claim.

Who is buying up our water supply? You'll recognize these names I'm sure:
"Back in September 2010, J.P. Morgan purchased SouthWest Water, a large national water company. The Carlyle Group announced it plans to purchase the Park Water Company, which owns water systems in California and Missoula, Montana."

Yup, the most powerful companies on the planet are buying up our water supply and as the crisis worsens, these will be the companies deciding on prices and availability. Some things are worth more than money. To a moral human being this means it should not be a for-profit commodity. To a corporation, this means it's worth more than all the money in the world.

The reasons why our local governments are selling their water utilities are varied but much of it is due to immediate financial troubles being "fixed" by selling off these public utilities - just as we've seen with prisons, schools and about everything else. Why fix our budgets when we can just pawn off our resources? That works, right? Everyone knows people who pawn off their possessions are making sound financial decisions.

One thing to note is that this privatization does not result in better access or prices, it is often worse and much more expensive. Here's a few links to browse:

Under the plan, the combined monthly wastewater and water bill for the average residential user would climb from the current $63.29 to $117.67 in 2013

Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens is about to make a killing by selling water he doesn’t own.

Aqua America - Strategies of a Water Profiteer

3.20.2011

Selling Stability

Winning hearts & minds.
Engagement in Libya is not about humanitarian concerns. If it was, why would we have been selling them and other abusive regimes weapons with the intent of securing these regimes?

While much has been made of the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, and the brutal force used against these protesters and rebels, there has been only the passing reference to our role in propping up these regimes which we now find ourselves in the sticky situation of having to condemn. The "Made in U.S.A." label on tear gas canisters used against Egyptian protesters made headlines but little else in this regard has.


(click on image to enlarge)

Libya:
The Bush administration approved the sale of $3 million of materials to Libya in 2006 and $5.3 million in 2007. In 2008, Libya was allowed to import $46 million in armaments from the U.S. The approved goods included nearly 400 shipments of explosive and incendiary materials, 25,000 aircraft parts, 56,000 military electronics components and nearly 1,000 items of optical targeting and other guidance equipment.

In the months before Libyans revolted the U.S. government was moving to do business with his regime on an increasing scale by quietly approving a $77 million dollar deal to deliver at least 50 refurbished armored troop carriers to the dictator's military. Congress balked, concerned the deal would improve Libyan army mobility and questioning the Obama administration's support for the agreement, which would have benefited British defense company BAE.


Saudi Arabia:
Obama administration intends to make biggest ever US arms deal with Saudis.

State department official Andrew Shapiro said "It will send a strong message to countries in the region that we are committed to support the security of our key partners and allies in the Arabian Gulf and broader Middle East."

The Bush administration [made] an arms-sale package to Saudi Arabia and five other Persian Gulf countries [United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman] that may total more than $20 billion. Included in the package are advanced satellite-guided bombs, fighter-aircraft upgrades and new naval vessels.


As for why we have gone into Libya while ignoring numerous other atrocities around the globe:
ExxonMobil signed a heads of agreement to execute an Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement (EPSA) with Libya's National Oil Corporation to initiate exploration activity offshore Libya in the Sirte Basin.

BP in February suspended its preparations for onshore drilling after violence broke out across the North African country. Since then, troops loyal to Col. Moammar Ghadhafi's regime have steadily rolled back the rebel advance and re-taken control of most of the country.

Why France and the UK led the way into Libya:
Libya possesses 1,800 kilometers of Mediterranean coastline. The country produces 2 percent of the world's oil, with 85 percent of exports going to Europe. Libyan nationals have been prominent jihadists in Iraq. Since the beginning of the Great Recession and the slump in global demand in 2008, Libya has allocated $200 billion toward new infrastructure spending.


None of this is about the protection of human life no matter how warm and fuzzy it may feel to think it is. One final note: Who is it we claim to be protecting anyway?
Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered US allies in the fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60% of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to become suicide bombers or take part in other attacks, senior American military officials say.


Oh great. This won't come back to bite us in the ass.

3.15.2011

Left is Right

Yes, I Photoshopped this. The sign originally said: "Free Tibet".

64% of Americans say Afghan war isn’t worth fighting.


Yet, back in 2001 things were different. Those of us who were against this war were told we hate America. We were only 6% of Americans who thought this war was not worth it.
This is not Photoshopped.
This is what Freedom™ looks like.
This is one among many important issues that we on the so-called liberal fringe have been vindicated on - even if this vindication comes in the form of great tragedy while we endure continued derision and/or invisibility in the media, political discourse and nation at large.

Protests have been spreading around the country as citizens fight back against union busting efforts, privatization of essential industries and the erasure of democracy by their elected leadership. More Americans are realizing that millions of jobs have been lost to developing and third world countries and economic disparity is at the highest it's been in nearly a century and only getting worse with the top 10% of Americans owning 70% of the wealth, 6 banks controlling 64% of our GDP (up from 17% in 15 years), and corporate profits setting new records while actual joblessness remains around 20%. Yet, a small percentage of us who protest WTO gatherings, NAFTA, deregulation of essential industries and financial markets have been called "commies" and other derogatory names. Even the guy who wrote the book "The Supply Side Revolution" and Reagan cabinet member Paul Craig Roberts admits what a failure these "trickle-down" policies have been.

The environment is another issue that us "tree-huggers" have been on the losing side of opinion for a long time. Our current crop of government leadership is doing all it can to defund and eradicate environmental regulations and investment in clean energy. They even mandated the use of Styro-Foarm and plastic in what can only be seen as a childish act of frivolity. In fact, concern about climate change is declining in America. Yet our impact on the environment has never been more obvious. We're causing earthquakes in Arkansas, we're ruining our fresh water supplies and destroying mountains, causing disease and illness from air pollution and so much more.

With more than 60% of bankruptcies due to medical bills in the US, essential industries becoming more and more privatized and profit driven (life and liberty should not be commodities), more subsidizing of the rich while taking from the poor and countless other issues us "radical liberals" yammer on about endlessly starting to affect larger percentages of Americans I wonder when and if we will ever be welcomed back into the public dialogue. Earlier generations of liberals struggled and fought to bring our fellow countrymen the civil rights movement, labor movement, child labor laws, clean air and water, Social Security and Medicaid, labor unions, desegregation, public education and a few other things that helped make our country strong, fair and looked up to. If we start wearing teabags on our head and carrying automatic weapons to protests can we be invited back to the discussion table?

1.26.2011

Racist Overcompensation

Why do so many Americans have a distain for truth? There are so many items I could mention here but the one I'll focus on here is the truth about race in our nation.

From the Texas School Board changing the name of slavery to "Atlantic Triangular Trade" in their school books, to Glenn Beck hosting a rally on the same date and place as MLK's famous speech to South Carolina celebrating their secession, (while claiming secession had nothing to do with slavery), it's really alarming how much a large portion of our nation is trying to erase the success of human rights and civil rights in this country.

From the smearing of Shirley Sherrod as a racist all the while ignoring her inspiring story which emerged from an era when institutionalized racism against black farmers was all too real, to the vilification of ACORN with a slanderous and fictional video, to hyped claims about a rising New Black Panthers movement there is an obvious attempt at elevating the idea of reverse racism as a national issue.

One word sums up all the attempts at revising our nation's history and understanding of racial issues is this:

Overcompensation n. An attempt to make up for a character trait by overexaggerating its opposite.

Also known as: Projection, appropriation, narcissism, ignorance.
The conservatives out there who are claiming reverse racism while revising the history of institutionalized and real racism are suffering from the most common traits of denial and lying: The guilty person may speak more than natural, adding unnecessary details to convince you. The guilty person gets defensive. The guilty person will deflect the issue and tell stories that are deliberately aimed at not answering the question you asked. And, the guilty person will reverse the accusation.

A perfect example was this "discussion" with Tea Party promoter Sal Russo on "Hardball" trying to change the subject when discussing Michele Bachmann's ridiculous claims on the Founding Fathers' supposed efforts at eradicating slavery.



Bachmann claims:
"The very founders that wrote those documents [The Constitution] worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."

As anyone with at least a few years of education will recall the Civil War was almost 100 years after "those documents" were written. And, as anyone with a bit more book learning will tell you, those founders owned slaves too. (Though, Bachmann also claims our nation was founded as a Christian nation so this isn't the only issue she gets totally wrong in early American history).

I can understand why people would want to make themselves think their distain for truth and other human beings is justified and that past atrocities committed in our name never happened but I find it really hard to believe that their efforts seem to actually work. How their listeners can go along with such obvious lies and live in such ignorance of our history is as fascinating as it is frightening. History has a way of repeating itself if it is not remembered and learned from. Just as Holocaust deniers are shunned from a civil conversation, deniers of slavery and institutionalized racism should be shunned as well.

All the political discussions of our economic policies, foreign affairs and social services have valid and important arguments from both conservative and liberal circles but the opinions of people so deluded about the world they live in cannot be taken as anything more than what they are: The opinions of an ignorant person. We wouldn't take medical advice from an anti-vaccine crusader or a pharmaceutical marketing team, infrastructure advice from an anarchist or nutritional advice from an anorexic so why do voters, TV news watchers and a large percentage of Americans listen to these people?

Just like so many issues in this nation, race and our handling of its effects on society need to be discussed by sincere people if we are to continue along our proud journey of elevating the human condition so lets stop supporting the voices of people who prefer a time when women, minorities and the poor were oppressed. And if anyone feels threatened by the reverse racism of hostile words or affirmative action I'd recommend picking up a book or traveling to one of many oppressive places on the planet to learn what real oppression is.