Democracy has been taken for granted at a time when it is most endangered. Neo-Conservatives are organized to replace it with oligarchy, to replace consent for the rule of law with fascistic allegiance to the executive branch disguised as "patriotism." As a team made up of a political philosopher and a writer, we consider otherwise repressed information from a critical perspective in the hope of elevating the quality of our political dialogue so that it is worthy of a truly democratic society.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Johnny Carson: 1926-2005

He represented to me possibly the last time there was any class to a late night host. Nobody was better with guests from "regular America." One of few people in the celebrity world I can honestly say I admired for his work. And while the newspaper cartoons tomorrow will probably all contain the gates of heaven saying, "Heeeeeere's Johnny," eh, well, why not? Good on ye, Johnny Carson.
U.S. and Torture: What is it Going to Take for Americans to Act?

The American use of torture against its enemies, in amount, degree, and widespread use, has been coming to light ever so slowly, and not in the television news media. This today from The New York Times's Frank Rich:

"But a not-so-funny thing happened to the Graner case on its way to trial. Since the early bombshells from Abu Ghraib last year, the torture story has all but vanished from television, even as there have been continued revelations in the major newspapers and magazines like The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and Vanity Fair. If a story isn't on TV in America, it doesn't exist in our culture.

"The latest chapter unfolding in Texas during that pre-inaugural week in January was broadcast on the evening news almost exclusively in brief, mechanical summary, when it was broadcast at all. But it's not as if it lacked drama; it was 'Judgment at Nuremberg' turned upside down. Specialist Graner's defense lawyer, Guy Womack, explained it this way in his closing courtroom statement: 'In Nuremberg, it was the generals being prosecuted. We were going after the order-givers. Here the government is going after the order-takers.' As T. R. Reid reported in The Washington Post, the trial's judge, Col. James L. Pohl of the Army, 'refused to allow witnesses to discuss which officers were aware of events in cellblock One-Alpha, or what orders they had given.' While Mr. Womack's client, the ringleader of the abuses seen in the Abu Ghraib photographs, deserved everything that was coming to him and then some, there have yet to be any criminal charges leveled against any of the prison's officers, let alone anyone higher up in the chain of command." [...]

Please do yourself a favor and read the entire piece here. [Requires a free, one time registration]

Aside: I find it absolutely uncanny that the History Channel is running its grand guignol "The French Revolution" doco at this time. Tune in, and consider what form of "National Razor" might be necessary in our own country some day.

Friday, January 21, 2005

U.S. and Them: Sources Indicate We're Already Well Underway in Iran

In the current (24 & 31 January) issue of The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh, in an engrossing and troubling article, asserts that President Bush, before his re-election, signed a series of executive orders authorizing secret groups and Special Forces units to begin (or continue, depending on who you hear) covert operations "in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia" (Hersh 41). Donald Rumsfeld is enabled to control the operations "off the books--free from legal restrictions" (41). Hersh reports that in his interviews he has been told that the next target is Iran.

Of course, this raises myriad questions, and, sadly, most Americans won't even care. Can they be persauded to care? Perhaps. But this issue is thorny to be sure. One thing, however, that is not thorny, is that the Bush camp is dead wrong in its tactics. With a demoralized military that more and more makes its lack of faith in Rumsfeld known, an attrocious and unforgivable national debt, an ever unashamedly fascist regime isolating our country from sensible international diplomacy and reasoned discourse, and with more than a passing presidential belief that he somehow represents biblical prophecy, future days do not look bright.

The problem with a potential U.S. invasion of Iran is manifold, but let's begin with some basics: even if we buy in to the assumption that the youthful majority of Iranians want some form of democracy rather than the mullahs currently dictating so much Iranian policy and fabrication (that Iran has been less than upfront about its various nuclear practices is not generally in question), the United States can hardly put forth a solid plan for progress there anymore than it could[n't] in the sorrowful quagmire that is now Iraq. We proved we didn't grasp what it is to be an Iraqi; how can we assert an understanding of the Iranian mindset (even if most Americans see only "Arabs")? Do the youth of Iran suddenly love us in ways their parents and grandparents did not when we were helping their brutal dictator, the Shah, get out of the country ready to overthrow him? Do the youth of Iran love us in ways that will show swift, measurable, and democratic results should we "Iraq them"? And how many Farsi translaters do we have, even if they are gay or lesbian?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Whoops! Sorry About That Bombing!

Yeah, well, what can I say? We sure goofed on that one! But you can bet that the dickweed responsible for this will find the right guy we need to fire for it, I-tell-you-what! You know, you have to admit, we took the high road and owned up to our mistake right away and have, by now, paid at least a few cable-TV pundits to say, "Amen for that," on our behalf.

Let me be absolutely clear on this matter: When the United States of America accidentally bombs the wrong place, we admit it! We are God-fearing Christians, after all. I've dispatched Condi and Turd Blossom to put our best face on this, and they're suiting up as I write this. Depending on who you listen to, either four or five or fourteen or no people were killed in this s.n.a.f.u., but none of them were Americans or, you know, British, heh, so rest easy, America. We're in charge up in here. We're still fighting the good fight.

As you were!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Jobless Claims Surge

From Reuters today, by Andrea Hopkins

[...] "The number of Americans filing first-time claims for state unemployment insurance aid rose 43,000 to 364,000 in the week ended Jan. 1, up from a revised 321,000 in the previous week, the Labor Department said.

"It was the largest one-week gain in nearly three years and far surpassed Wall Street expectations for a rise to 331,000 from the originally reported 326,000 in the prior week." [...]

Entire article available here.

Even if the Feds find ways to poo poo this data (as they have already) as some sort of holiday blip, I have a hard time seeing a surge of this degree as a blip, and I doubt those unfortunate 364,000 first time unemployment insurance seekers feel like blips. One thing many of my former students had a tough time understanding (and many people in general) in regard to unemployment figures is that the numbers refer to first time unemployment insurance seekers, not folks who have had to file a second or third time. As of Monday at 5pm, I joined these ranks after my dot com laid off five of us. I hadn't seen it coming. I had my own office, business cards, keys, and company passwords. The company did not make as much money during the holiday season as it had hoped, and our positions were eliminated in a cost-saving measure. Hello, 2005.

I am in the process of being reflective this week, attempting to see beyond this. I haven't been destroyed by a tsunami; I have a roof over my head; I have a pretty good support network and a great therapist...the Jayhawks remain undefeated, etc. My supervisor, who was also laid off, just had colon cancer surgery, so my thoughts and support are certainly with her. I've been told by the CEO that if the company is able to get back on its feet financially he will readily meet with me about rehiring. I really liked my job, but I have to move forward in whatever way I can. I'm giving myself this week, and then I will hit the paperwork that so many of my fellow Americans are also having to do this time of year. By now I should be an expert at it.

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