Friday, June 30, 2006

SCOTUS GITMO Verdict Smokescreen for Bush Iraq Ploy

[Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s] recent call for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and amnesty for Iraq insurgents is a sign of big trouble for the Bush administration. So why aren't we hearing or reading about this every day as part of the discussion on bringing the troops home?TPM Café, Crissie’s Blog, 6/30/06

It was an extraordinary moment, fraught with the arrogant hyperbole and arrant hypocrisy that has characterized this adventure all along.Newsweek Reporter Chris Dickey’s description of US Interim head of Iraq Paul Bremer’s secretive and sudden exit from Baghdad

The aftermath of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that GITMO inmates have rights to a fair trial under international law established by Geneva Conventions has produced an abundance of punditry not seen since the cries of inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina filled the media airways. An objective observer would see that the priority of the two stories isn’t even up for question. Hurricane Katrina was damaging to thousands of lives, and correcting the problem of how to help in such a calamity in the future is immediately pressing.

The verdict in favor of a fair and open trial for some 400 detainees at Guantanamo prison, instead of a secret military tribunal with all of the trappings that implies—no access to attorney, no confrontation of evidence in the charges, and no publicity of a verdict—simply means that any of these inmates who are truly a danger to Americans will have his or her day in court. They’re not letting anyone out of Guantanamo based on the Supreme Court decision yesterday.

In fact, one of the pundits proposed as an expert on the Supreme Court decision, Anthony Napolitano of Fox News, a former judge from New Jersey, explained that the use of military tribunals gave the Bush administration a way to hold trial proceedings against captured foreigners who might pose a threat to Americans, without divulging US government classified material. When Napolitano was asked his opinion of what the US would do if it had the choice of prosecuting one of the GITMO detainees by exposing classified information, or whether the government would prefer not to publicize the classified info, his answer was that the government would most certainly opt not to release anything classified in the interest of national security. Then what would happen to the individual if he was not going to be prosecuted in a lawful open trial? Napolitano simply said that the detainee probably would be sent back to Afghanistan for justice under their system.

Meanwhile, back in reality-land, the real problem of US occupation of Iraq, the moment-by-moment endangerment of human lives, coalition and Iraqi, goes on without a policy burp in sight. The usual rhetoric of fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here is compounded by the flatulent expulsion of the latest in a series of idiotic Dr. Seuess-like logical statements to justify the continuation of US presence in the middle east: John McCain’s comparison of getting out of Iraq with getting out of Vietnam, the gist of which is that when the US vacated Vietnam suddenly, they didn’t follow us back home.

This begs the question of who exactly will “follow” us from Iraq? The connection of terrorists around the world with any headquarters of terrorism in Iraq has never been substantiated. The acknowledged information of US intel authorities has been that cells of terrorist organizations of one back ground or another exist in at least 60 countries globally. US, British, and other coalition presence in Iraq has not stopped terrorist activities in other countries, where the Iraqi insurgents didn’t “follow them home” but others already were there to wreak havoc.

The argument of US occupation of Iraq in order to prevent terrorism in America has always been an empty, specious point of view—politically motivated and not based on any reality.

But this discussion does keep short-term-attention-span John Q. Public distracted from the issue at hand—empire waging colonialism by the US powers-that-be in order to gain an economic sphere of influence in the oil-rich Middle East. Even the most ADD-addled citizen knows that there is some connection between VP Cheney and Haliburton, the company that has reaped enormous revenue by dipping its conglomerated hand into every rebuilding and construction effort for which US taxpayers are overpaying in Iraq.

Now to the case at hand—what is the actual understanding between the US government, i.e. the Bush Administration, and the Iraqi elected government?

In the middle of a war that both the Maliki government and the U.S. forces are trying to win, supposedly by working together, many in Baghdad and Washington would rather not get too explicit about the terms of the relationship. It’s as if this marriage were a romance, and a prenup might spoil all that. But this isn’t a marriage, and so far the U.S.-Iraqi relationship isn’t even a real partnership. It still looks like, and is, an occupation by foreign powers, a quasi-colonial undertaking.The Rule of Order 17, Newsweek, Christopher Dickey, Shadowlands, 6/29/06

Chris is my friend--he is a veteran foreign correspondent, and a professional. And he is always “on the money,” in that his understanding of the Middle East and the politics involved gives him an unusual view—objectivity with morality. How lucky we are to be the recipient of his hard work, investigative reporting, and intelligent perspective.

Here is his summation, brilliant for its historical reference:

There is a famous quote from the brilliant, troubled and troublesome British Orientalist T. E. Lawrence that one hears quoted often by Americans in Iraq. “Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly,” they tell each other knowingly—without knowing, perhaps, how grossly condescending they sound. But, like many another famous quote, this one has been edited down by the facile repetition of simple minds. What Lawrence actually said was, “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.”
That last line is the one to remember.
--The Rule of Order 17, Newsweek, Christopher Dickey, Shadowlands, 6/29/06

And the media talking-head pundits continue to talk about Supreme Court decisions, politics, and the George W view of reality. We must not be deceived by the Deceiver. We the people must keep our attention focused--we need to "re-deploy" our priorities for the best interests of us all--protection of the helpless among us, and feeding those who are hungry. The rest will follow properly.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Big Pharma Can’t Buy Everyone Off?

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? – Eleanor Roosevelt

Aetna Inc. said Thursday that it would buy discounted copies of the cholesterol drug Zocor from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. rather than accept an offer from Merck & Co. to sell its branded pill for less than the generic.—Bloomberg News-Los Angeles Times, 6/23/06

After yesterday’s report on Merck discounting Zocor to $10 for members of some large insurance plans, vs. $50 for the release of a new generic version, the assumption was that the steamrollering effect against generic drugs was getting well underway. Today’s announcement by Aetna is a stiff stopgap against the tide.

Aetna found that a price break on Zocor wasn't worth sending patients a message that they could get a brand-name drug for less than generics, [Eric Elliott, Aetna's pharmacy manager] said. Any erosion in the use of generics would drive up total spending on drugs.--Bloomberg News-Los Angeles Times, 6/23/06

Either someone has a conscience in the big pharma world of drug manufacturers and medical insurers—or else someone dropped the ball in the scheme of payoffs and promises.

Do I seem cynical? Zocor generated $4.4 billion last year for Merck. How far would a drug company go to insure income like that to continue or grow for its patented products? It’s still too early to tell.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Drug Companies Endanger Lives For Money

It seems like a day doesn’t go by when a news item appears that shows how the pharmaceutical industry is cooking up new ways to increase their profits by screwing their customers. The latest bit of chicanery will probably go largely unnoticed except by those consumers who are directly affected by the increased costs for their prescriptions.

It's a novel approach in the long battle between brand-name drugs and their generic rivals: Merck & Co. is slashing the price of its cholesterol drug Zocor so low for one insurance plan that members will actually pay less for the original pills than for the generic.

Some consumer advocates fear that the practice will spark a movement among pharmaceutical companies, compounding other pressures they fear will weaken the generic industry and compromise the country's source of low-cost drugs.—AP-L.A. Times 6/21/06

In a convoluted, murky system of patents and lawsuits, cheap generic versions of expensive drugs whose patents have expired are allowed a six-month exclusive release on the market without competition. Merck has initiated a possible precedent which will hamper the generic manufacturers from being able to continue to compete at the lowers prices, thus ultimately gouging the consumer pocketbook to enrich the big pharma giants.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused Merck of engaging in predatory pricing and called its actions "a legal bribe." He has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the deal between Merck and UnitedHealth. "Merck is taking an end run around the generic drugs laws to make sure there are no generic drugs," Schumer said. AP-L.A. Times 6/21/06

As usual, in the big pharma bully-ploy of shoulder-shrugging as if there were no knowledge of anything up it’s sleeve, Merck reps plead ignorance:

Merck's vice president of public policy, Ian Spatz, said the arrangement with UnitedHealth was nothing more than typical marketplace price competition.

… Federal agencies are already examining whether other drug company practices are hurting consumers' access to generic drugs. The FTC is examining whether brand-name manufacturers are muting competition by authorizing generic versions of their own drugs to coincide with the launch of a rival generic.--AP-L.A. Times 6/21/06

Hopeful rhetoric, and our vigilance is a needed added ingredient to our
protection from bullies. After all, if we can't afford the drugs we need, it endangers our health.

Next time you see a TV commercial or read a magazine ad extolling the wonders of modern patented medicine, remember that curing human ills was not the incentive behind its development. ‘Twas greed, pure and simple.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Vaccines and Bush’s Power Grab

“I don’t know how you equate a story about the president grabbing power with pharmaceutical corporations increasing production of vaccines.”

That’s the reaction I would expect from a reader of the heading of this post.

I do know, however, the exact coinciding element of these items, and the overriding effect on American society that ensues. The vaccine manufacturers don’t care about the individuals for which their product is made. The US government does not care about the people by whom it is elected and sworn to serve. We the people are indeed the masters of our destinies. We better learn this lesson fast, because we are not nearly as organized as those who would hijack our destinies.

Case in point: I was very gratified, subsequent to my post of June 7 to read a new piece in the New York Review of Books that thoroughly delineated my premise of Bush re-balancing the constitutional balance of powers in his favor. This clear summary of the almost machine-like step-by-step process of usurping constitutional rights guarantees with a nod toward tightening security controls after the events of 9/11, is a blueprint of what might have happened in the unwritten chapters prior to the opening of the grim view of an ultra-fascist future: 1984.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, the White House has made an unprecedented reach for power. It has systematically attempted to defy, control, or threaten the institutions that could challenge it: Congress, the courts, and the press. It has attempted to upset the balance of power among the three branches of government provided for in the Constitution; but its most aggressive and consistent assaults have been against the legislative branch: Bush has time and again said that he feels free to carry out a law as he sees fit, not as Congress wrote it. Through secrecy and contemptuous treatment of Congress, the Bush White House has made the executive branch less accountable than at any time in modern American history. And because of the complaisance of Congress, it has largely succeeded in its efforts.Elizabeth Drew, New York Review of Books June 22, 2006

Gratified I was, like the prognosticator who predicts a major natural disaster and then it happens and thousands are killed. Happy I was not, because the old quote from the opening of the movie, Spartacus, which I saw at age ten 46 years ago, seemed so remote and ancient, and frankly, implausible: The age of the dictator is at hand. And now it seems so imminent.

In the detailed and profound New York Review article, Ms. Drew answers the questions that fall off the reader’s lips. Like why is congress so malleable and unable to counteract Bush’s aggressive moves, which are questionable on constitutional grounds?

Why have the members of Congress been so timorous in the face of the steady encroachment on their constitutional power by the executive branch? Conversations with many people in or close to Congress produced several reasons. Most members of Congress don't think in broad constitutional terms; their chief preoccupations are raising money and getting reelected. Their conversations with their constituents are about the more practical issues on voters' minds: the prices of gasoline, prescription drugs, and college tuition. Or about voters' increasing discontent with the Iraq war.-- Elizabeth Drew, New York Review of Books June 22, 2006

That was easy—our representatives are scared! Just like their constituents.

You can understand that your government doesn’t work for you. Now see how the drug companies don’t give a shit about you either. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun last week, vaccine manufacturers were seeing less profit potential in keeping up the pace. Then the US government stepped in, granted a windfall $1 billion for bird-flu spec r & d, which means better dinners and first-class air fare for the drug company mucky-mucks for a while anyway, since there ain’t much they can work with to make a bird-flu vaccine when there ain’t no bird-flu going around!

"There's an increased government investment," said Dr. Gary Nabel, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' vaccine research center. "That translates into more support for the research and more support for the purchase of vaccines. And that, in turn, increases the interest of companies."--New life seen for vaccine industry, Jonathan D. Rockoff, Baltimore Sun

How does that help us in terms of health care and lower prices for drugs etc? What a stupid question. That isn’t the point. How does the drug company get richer—that’s the point. And as usual Merck--major drug company, manufacturer of Vioxx which was taken off the market due to improprieties in development and injuries to consumers--is on the threshold of great ideas for the big bottom line:

"There really is a large potential," said Christine Fanelle, a spokeswoman for Merck & Co.'s vaccine division, based in West Point, Pa. "The adult and adolescent markets are untapped for vaccines."--New life...

Never mind whether or not this untapped market needs these vaccines or not. And this particular post doesn’t even touch the controversy of vaccine safety, which is enormous.

Just the wording of the officials is enough:

"Over the next five years it's a booming market for vaccines," said Zach Wagner, senior pharmaceuticals analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis.-- New life...

We don’t hear about lives being saved, health care costs being reduced—just “booming market” booms in our heads.

Hope you sleep well tonight—you better believe Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, all of congress, and the big pharma spokespeople are going to sleep deep and soundly, and wake up refreshed in the morning ready to go after us--we the people--another day.

If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Baghdad

"When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities."—Deepak Chopra

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."--Einstein

My last post was five days ago and suddenly the news is full of topics for blogger fodder. There are the inflammatory Coulter remarks, which I have a problem further publicizing due to that old cliché about correct name spelling despite the message. Today Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq. I don’t think this was meant to be a joyful surprise, like a birthday surprise party—more along the lines of not letting the thousands of locals who want him dead surprise.

And of course there was the ultimate bad-breakfast news to wake up to that an ace criminal still lurking around the White House is at long last getting off scott-free—Rove won’t be indicted in the Plamegate leak case. From what I’ve read about the prosecutor, Fitzgerald, he doesn’t have a slam-dunk (to re-use that awkward phrase) case and he won’t go to court without one.

Fun blogger stuff all. But I like to make my life difficult, so instead of proceeding with one of these obvious lines, I’d rather focus on an event in our household this morning that, when it’s all summed up, is more fascinating than anything you saw in the news today. This “happening” has to do with the same correlations of occurrences that I have written about before—coincidences—and how there is no such thing:

“A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged.”

If you remove the words, “although accidental seems to have been” and insert “was” in the definition, you have the antonym, which is a design, plan, or scheme. I don’t like to think that the universe, and the forces which push and pull at our lives for some ultimate good, are “scheming.” Neither do I like the choice of language of religion which would call a certain confluence of events, “Divine Providence.” For me, Providence will always be the armpit of New England.

I will relate this story, from beginning to end, and you tell me how it could be a random series of events that just “happened to happen”—a coincidence—rather than some sort of design, perhaps induced through the intent of individuals.

A decade and a half ago, in the search for answers to a developmental issue with a young relative, my wife met a worker at a speech center who was very helpful. I will call this person Nancy Doe, for the sake of this story. Nancy and my wife were communicating often for a while at that time.
Further down the educational development of this young boy, my wife discovered a technologically cutting-edge computer-based program from Scientific Learning Corporation called “Fast Forward.” This amazing program could help young people with learning and reading processing problems become more adept—at learning, reading, and processing language. It worked on the youngster in question. A speech therapist also needed to monitor the computer program, although the entire use of “Fast Forward” took place on a PC in the child’s own home—he wore headphones and clicked answers with a mouse.

More time passes—over ten years--and another young relative is having learning and reading difficulties. My wife suggests the “Fast Forward” program to this mom, and sends some information in an email. After a while, this young mom is not moving ahead to look into the “Fast Forward” program, so my wife decides to give her more information, since now the young boy has to go to summer school in order to stay in the same grade.

Here is the delineation of events, as they happened, that made me write this post:

Yesterday, while my wife was looking at her emails, for no reason, the computer made a small “beep” noise and all of her inbox messages, over 800 of them (talk about not doing spring cleaning!) disappeared. I was summoned in a voice of semi-panic to see what was happening in digital cyber-ville. First it looked like most of the messages went into the “delete” folder, but not all of them did. Then there were some messages that she wanted that she had forwarded to herself, so those were intact in the “sent” folder.

As she went through that folder looking for several messages, she came across the email from a few months back that she had sent to her relative about “Fast Forward.” So she forwarded the email again, to remind her to look into the program.

This morning, my wife and this relative again spoke about “Fast Forward,” and my wife volunteered to call some places to find out who the speech therapist was who helped the young boy years ago. She looked in the yellow pages, and one ad jumped out at her because it indicated “help in the home.” So she called this number and a familiar woman’s voice from the past answered, “Nancy Doe speaking. May I help you?” My wife choked on her tea and simply said who she was, and they reconnected after all these years. Nancy said she was substituting for someone and usually wasn’t the person who answered the phone, and what a coincidence this was!

That’s not the end. My wife does spiritual counseling, readings, and seminars. She told Nancy Doe what is doing along these lines, and Nancy said, “I’m a spiritual medium. And I recently meditated for help in finding out how to further my career.” So they spoke about that for a while. My wife told Nancy the name of her web site:, at which point in the conversation Nancy shrieked in amazement. She had several flyers and a newspaper ad about my wife’s web site at home, but hadn’t had the time yet to look into the information.

So it starts with the strange computer glitch for no reason, goes to an email, a return phone call, and just happening to find one listing out of dozens in the yellow pages to whom to make a phone call. Coincindences? Divine scheming? Or the unfolding of a perfect universe?

I believe in free will, and I also believe in the positive energy of good intentions. And even the most grounded physics expert will tell you that energy can’t be destroyed.

"It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure."--Einstein

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Decider needs to Decide to Get Out of Iraq

Two and one half years ago, reporting the capture of Saddam Hussein, George Bush talked about a turning point in the US occupation of Iraq:

All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.

Since then, the media and the US war mongers promoted Zarqawi’s name as the head point man for Al Qaeda inside of Iraq. Nevermind that he was a native Jordanian, that titular Al Qaeda #1 Bin Laden didn't appoint Zarqawi, that all Zarqawi seemed to want was a perverse infamy and perpetual violence for its own sake, almost to the point of having no cause for the effort.

Bush said about Zarqawi's killing

Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al Qaeda. It's a victory in the global war on terror, and it is an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide of this struggle. [my emphasis]

Maybe, maybe not. Newsweek reporter and terrorist and Middle East expert Chris Dickey says it's unclear what the future brings after the latest events:

Conceivably, the effect will be to weaken the insurgency as a whole. But it’s also possible that the homegrown Iraqi rebels, now free of Zarqawi’s evil image, may actually grow in political power and military strength. Following the classic pattern established by many other guerrilla groups in history, they may work through "peaceful" front organizations that actually take part in the Parliament, while also continuing to attack in the field. “Fight and talk" is often a successful strategy for guerrillas looking to assure their people's rights. Zarqawi made talking almost impossible.

Then there is the outright conclusion that Zarqawi already did his deeds in Iraq, and was aspiring to more fertile and monumental goals--in Europe. According to Steven Simon, a senior fellow in Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations:

...if Zarqawi’s death can boost public support a little, that’s got to be good—certainly for the administration. But how long will it last is another story because the fundamentals are bad. The levels of violence overall are extremely high and are likely to remain so.

...the demise of this one actor—as influential as he has been—is not going to turn things around. I can’t emphasize too much that with Zarqawi, the damage had already been done.

In fact, shortly after Bush's remarks this morning, the wheels were already in motion:

At least 37 Iraqis died in Baghdad bombings Thursday, even as the Iraqi parliament ended a stalemate by finally naming key security ministers.

All the posturing, and all the punditing won't change the simple fact--human lives are at stake--Iraqi, American, leaders and citizens. All human lives, every last one of them precious. It would be good not to lose sight of that, and end the incursion as soon as possible.

THAT would "turn the tide!"

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Nazis in the CIA, McCarthy & Bush

Elizabeth Holtzman, a former congresswoman from New York and member of the panel, the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, said the documents showed that the C.I.A "failed to lift a finger" to hunt Eichmann and "force us to confront not only the moral harm but the practical harm" of relying on intelligence from ex-Nazis.

The United States government, preoccupied with the cold war, had no policy at the time of pursuing Nazi war criminals. The records also show that American intelligence officials protected many former Nazis for their perceived value in combating the Soviet threat.

But Ms. Holtzman, speaking at a news briefing at the National Archives on Tuesday, said information from the former Nazis was often tainted both by their "personal agendas" and their vulnerability to blackmail. "Using bad people can have very bad consequences," Ms. Holtzman said. She and other group members suggested that the findings should be a cautionary tale for intelligence agencies today.-- C.I.A. Knew Where Eichmann Was Hiding, Documents Show, NY Times, Scott Shane 6/7/06

I don’t believe in random coincidences. The ringing mantra lesson of the Holocaust is “Never Again.” Yet the ringing is false—the genocides of Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, the mega-war in the Congo—point to lessons not learned, and us as poor students.

The coincidence is the confluence of warnings about the repetition of mistakes at high governmental levels. Documents recently released show US government complicity in keeping secret the whereabouts of Nazi war criminals, in order to use these former enemies of humanity as spies for the CIA against communist East Germany and the Soviet Union. This amoral rationale to let Nazis escape justice backfired in the worst way:

In another case, Ohio University historian Norman Goda discussed records showing how former Nazi SS intelligence officer Heinz Felfe, who was recruited by the Soviet KGB after the war, was able to join the West German intelligence service set up by the United States. He eventually rose to become chief of the division responsible for surveillance of the Soviets, the records show.

"He was no common mole," Goda said in a press briefing at the National Archives Building. Felfe was in charge of operations against the Soviets while "he took his orders from the Soviets."

Goda said Felfe caused "massive damage ... as large an intelligence disaster as occurred during the Cold War."CNN CIA papers: U.S. failed to pursue Nazi, Pam Benson 6/7/06

As this evidence comes to light, so does a new book about Senator Joseph McCarthy, the 1950’s communist witch hunter. Shooting Star: The Brief Arc of Joe McCarthy by veteran reporter Tom Wicker, is reviewed in the New York Review of Books by another veteran reporter of the New York Times, Anthony Lewis. While a modern-day best-selling author, Ann Coulter, can grab headlines by making outrageous and scurrilous remarks about any public figure, she is seen as a fringe radical partisan, even by those who support her inane drivel. McCarthy, on the other hand, as a US senator, was taken completely seriously in that role by everyone on up to and including President Eisenhower, who cowered before every appointment he made lest McCarthy would attack the individual as a communist. Such was the fear and dread and ignorance that permeated the innocent citizenry in those days.

The key factor of “McCarthyism,” as the witch hunt came to be known, was fear. As Lewis points out in his conclusion of the review of Wicker’s version of McCarthy’s reign:

He deals well with the underlying question: Why did this unlikely figure have such an impact on American life? After the war, he writes, Americans believed that

with their know-how and determi­nation and faultless intentions, [they] could do anything...and were bound inevitably to tri­umph__Failure whether in com­bat or diplomacy could not, there­fore, be an American failure, for there was no such thing; failure could only result from subver­sion, espionage by the evil empire, and treason —betrayal in high places.

Something like those feelings did exist among many Americans in the post-I war period; they were exacerbated by the Soviet Union's surprise success in acquiring nuclear weapons, a success abetted by Soviet spies. They were combined with another persisting ele­ment in the American tradition: fear.—New York Review of Books June 8, 2006

The full circle is that 50 years ago Americans were told to be afraid of the Russians and the A-Bomb landing in Kansas. The CIA hired Nazis to spy on communists in the US, only to have these Nazi spies give the Russians more inside info than the Russian or East German spies could have gotten on their own.

A half century has passed, and the watchword more than ever is “FEAR.” The Bush/Cheney regime strives to keep the citizen/mob in a state of fear in order to more easily manipulate policy to further consolidate their power: civil rights are quashed in the name of defense in the “war on terror;” the bird flu pandemic threat is promoted daily across the media which justifies the expenditure of billions of taxpayer dollars to a few republican-campaign-supportive drug conglomerates for a vague r & d for a spurious vaccine which can’t happen until the pandemic is under way. The regime even has former gadfly John McCain deliriously spouting the ridiculous coda “we need to fight the terrorists over there, rather than on the streets of Scottsdale” or wherever, to numb us up on why it’s OK to spend $1 billion every couple of days to keep the futile Iraq occupation going. Meanwhile, the domestic terrorist threat is ignored and Homeland Security cuts funding by 40% to the two cities most likely to get hit—New York and Washington, D.C.

A tyrannical, unaccountable big government has exercised its muscle to amass power as much as possible—that’s why the constitution has the three-way checks-and-balances separation of powers built into the system. The founding fathers assumed each branch would utilize its prerogative and thereby keep in check the other two—they didn’t figure on congress dropping the ball while a cohesive right-wing single-minded executive branch barrels on ahead full steam.

We have abrogated our responsibility as citizens in our society. We have let tyranny overrun us without a peep—as if it didn’t matter to each and every one of us personally. There is an election this fall. Congress is up for grabs and we can make changes. In the Orange County vote tally from yesterday’s primary election, around 25% of registered voters cast ballots.

While the pick of candidates and issues may seem slim, it’s better than none. And all those who are running are potential representatives of us. But only 1 out of 4 cares to make any choice at all.

In the Lewis review of Wicker’s book, the closing quote is from Edward R. Murrow’s broadcast about the McCarthy hearings:

The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our al­lies abroad, and given consider­able comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it—and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Didn’t They Spit on Jesse Owens, Too?

Legendary Olympic Track Star Jesse Owens, from Wikipedia:

Owens was cheered enthusiastically by 110,000 people in Berlin's Olympic Stadium and later ordinary Germans sought his autograph when they saw him in the streets. However back in New York, after the ticker-tape parade in his honor, Owens had to ride the freight elevator to attend a reception for him at the Waldorf-Astoria.

He later recounted:

When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn't ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn't live where I wanted. I wasn't invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn't invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.

70 years—a generation ago—and things are…worse today:

Surge in Racist Mood Raises Concerns on Eve of World Cup
By JERE LONGMAN Published: June 4, 2006, NY TIMES

...Players and antiracism experts said they expected offensive behavior during the tournament, including monkey-like chanting; derisive singing; the hanging of banners that reflect neofascist and racist beliefs; and perhaps the tossing of bananas or banana peels, all familiar occurrences during matches in Spain, Italy, eastern Germany and eastern Europe.

"For us it's quite clear this is a reflection of underlying tensions that exist in European societies," said Piara Powar, director of the London-based antiracist soccer organization Kick It Out. He said that in Eastern Europe, "poverty, unemployment is a problem."

"Indigenous people are looking for easy answers to blame," he said. "Often newcomers bear the brunt of the blame."

"...Indigenous people blame newcomers"--Now why does that sound like the anti-immigration chant heard around the good ole USA these days?

There’s more:

As he left the soccer field after a club match in the eastern German city of Halle on March 25, the Nigerian forward Adebowale Ogungbure was spit upon, jeered with racial remarks and mocked with monkey noises. In rebuke, he placed two fingers under his nose to simulate a Hitler mustache and thrust his arm in a Nazi salute.

In a move to quell mockery of this sort, German authorities immediately investigated… Ogungbure!

But a charge of unconstitutional behavior against him was soon dropped because his gesture had been meant to renounce extremist activity.

"I regret what I did," Ogungbure said in a telephone interview from Leipzig. "I should have walked away. I'm a professional, but I'm a human, too. They don't spit on dogs. Why should they spit on me? I felt like a nobody."

A professional athlete drops his veil to stoop to human emotionalism. How low we have sunk since Jesse Owens:

When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany. --from Wikipedia

Since people are all the same everywhere, the base human nature of prejudice, and the ignorant anger it spawns, is common to us all, as is the potential to acheive understanding and tolerance for each other that will overcome bigotry and hatred.