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10/29/2003

Language

      4:53 am

    Sometimes the small things that say the most. Despite the onging references to these suicide bombings and attacks as “terrorist” or “foreign terrorists” by the Bush administration, the language AP is using has begun to reflect a different interpretation of recent events, leading their story with:

    “Two American soldiers were killed when their Abrams battle tank was damaged by resistance fighters”

    Should attacks which also indescriminately kill nearby civilians be considered “resistance” or “terrorist"? Certainly the US air bombing campaign killed many civilians as well - though the goal was to destroy troops and strategic infrastructure. Now the credibility of the premise of the invasion has been lost, and there doesn’t appear to be any hope for a quick transition to democracy nor of a speedy withdrawl of US forces.

    Undoubtedly many Iraqis blame the US attack for the chaos. Now the quagmire begins in earnest, for if the United States remains, this resistance will continue and probably escalate, at the cost of many lives and billions of imaginary dollars, and if the United States leaves, an ugly civil war may ensue.

    What “should” be done now? First, perhaps an apology is in order as a prelude to some honest dialogue:

    “We believed Iraq had secret weapons of mass destruction, felt threatened, and invaded to protect ourselves and our interests. It appears that we were wrong. Many people have since died and many people’s lives have been disrupted as a result of our mistaken intelligence and overly aggressive defense strategy. We are truly sorry. We are also sorry because we do not have the resources to repair the damage we have done. We don’t know what to do. Let’s start talking and looking for solutions. Anyone have any ideas?”

    10/15/2003

    Unpopularity contest

        8:15 am

      Today Reuters reports that the Iraq war is resulting in increased terror recruits. This outcome must have been obvious to the Administration even before the war began. Perhaps they believed their own misinformation about weapons of mass destruction. Many opposed the Iraq war on ethical grounds, knowing that many civilians and soldiers on both sides would be killed. But even for those lacking such refined ethics, the other negative results, including the expense, chaos and resentment, could have easily been anticipated. What a reckless White House.

      10/12/2003

      Israel Submarine Launchpad

          3:21 am

        The LA times is reporting that Israel now has added nuclear weapons capability to US supplied cruise missiles which can be launched from submarines. This information is coming from anonymous Bush administation officials and confirmed by an anonymous Israeli official, and therefore there can be little doubt that this is being disclosed intentionally for political purposes.

        If the United States had any credible interest in universal arms control this revelation would trigger an immediate re-evalution of the US policy of sharing military technology and equipment with Israel, though of course the implicit US cooperation with the development of Israeli nuclear weapons deployment systems exposes the tragic depth of this military alliance.

        The LA times reports that this information was being released at this time to caution Israel’s enemys, particularly Iran. Yet this type of “warning” is more likely to encourage further development of nuclear weapons in the surrounded countries who are well aware of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and will now feel even more threatened by it, especially after Israel’s ‘retaliation’ against Syria for a Palistinian suicide bombing attack inside Israel. What guarantee do any of the surrounding countries have that Israel will not retaliate against them in the event of a major annonymous terrorist attack within Israel? As a matter of policy and with rare exception, Israel retaliates for each attack, even if the perpetrators of the initial attack cannot be identified. If this same logic of retaliation without confirmation were to be employed on the larger arena of weapons of mass destruction, the results would be catastrophic.

        The political logic of self-interest indicates an increasingly unstable and dangerous arms race will ensue in the Middle East. The strategy of striving for global military dominance is misguided and cruel, for it may lead to enourmous casualties in the event of war. There is very little realistic possibility of containing the world’s weapons of mass destruction within one strategic alliance, yet that is the only outcome of the struggle for supremacy that is stable. It is far better, safer, and kind to negotiate for peace by reciprical moves towards disarmament. In a nuclear age, pride and arrogance are deadly sins.

        10/8/2003

        Fantasy

            12:32 am

          Well the decision has been made - we want to live in the movies. How much further to the right can things go before we all fall off the edge into oblivion? Well, many movie stars are huge egomaniacs. Perhaps if the terminator has this quality, he will be more likely to think for himself and disobey his party handlers from time to time, but that is making some ambitious assumptions.

          10/7/2003

          Election Song: Get out the vote

              5:17 am

            Here’s the latest song, Get out the vote, for todays California election. This country style tune is all of 50 seconds long, complete with vocal harmonies, banjo, bass, and mandolin, and a simple message: Get out the vote!
            You can listen and or download.

            Get out the vote

            Chorus:
            Get out get out the vote, get out get out the vote
            get out get out the vote, and let your voice be heard!

            Verse:
            Well if you believe in Democracy, and counting up every vote
            it’s time to get out to the polls
            cause this ones gonna be close

            So get out the vote …
            and let your voice be heard

            10/6/2003

            Fantasy or Reality

                3:27 am

              When the conditions of life get to be too much, it’s natural to want to retreat into worlds of imagination. Some people go to the movies, others get drunk or stoned, some simply go bowling, and still others go to war.

              When the population can be enticed to elect a governor famous for playing the “terminator", it’s a simple deduction to realize that people are having a very difficult time dealing with reality.

              California’s last movie star governor, the “Bedtime for Bonzo” gipper, wasn’t known for intense violence in his films, yet many remember his hot temper:

              ‘If It Takes a bloodbath, let?s get it over with. No more appeasement.’– Ronald Reagan, then governor of California Calling for a final solution to student activists (1970)

              Of course times have changed and so has the intensity of media images of violence. Reagon went on to become the star wars president, pumping up military spending and deregulating the finance industry leading to the savings and loan crisis and the biggest US deficit in history. It is interesting to note the parallels between the California economic crisis - brought on as a result of Republican led energy deregulation - and the federal financial crisis Reagan’s administration created with the banking deregulation. California, the state with an enourmous economy surpassing most nations, and with the most electoral votes in America, is a valuable target for the republicans, and so to strenthen their body politic, they turn to the body builder.

              A vote for Schwarzenegger may feel like a vote for a much needed vacation into a video game fantasy world, but in fact it will further serve to centralize of power and wealth in the hands of the most powerful and wealthiest Californians. It might make for a good movie though.

              10/5/2003

              Pre-emptive Fuse

                  11:27 am

                The new standard of aggressive defense established by the Bush administration post 9-11 are now official Israeli policy. Now we see Israeli attacks deep inside Syria in “retaliation” for a Palistinian suicide bomber. We would hope this rather obvious progression of the pre-emptive doctrine would provide some feedback which the Bush administration badly needs - seeing the aggresive defense costume being worn by another nation could provide some insight into how absurd and inflammatory the pre-emptive rationale is. Unfortunately, the Bush administration seems to support this action, pointing the finger of blame instead at Syria. From Israel we hear some familiar words,

                “Any country who harbors terrorism, who trains (terrorists), supports and encourages them will be responsible to answer for their actions,” government spokesman Avi Pazner said.

                Sound familiar? This simplistic description of reality is extremely dangerous in a nuclear age, for in general, everyone imagines their ’side’ to be right and the other to be the terrorist. What happens if Syria perceives Israel to be the ‘terrorist’ in this situation? There is no international body deciding who are the real terrorists, it is completely up to each government to decide this for themselves, and then to feel justified in taking dramatic action to protect themselves from their projections. Sooner or later one of these ambitious attacks may be against a nation secretely harboring a bomb in their arsenal. Diplomacy requires time, and the pre-emptive doctrine doesn’t allow for negotiation and subtlety. The new logic of war will encourage a first strike strategy in many conflicts; the pre-emptive doctrine reduces an already short decision making window beyond any range of safety and thoughtful consideration.

                Basically, unless this trend is changed and soon, the future of many people looks very grim.

                10/3/2003

                A rose by any other name

                    9:39 am

                  What does it mean when Schwarzenegger denies that he admires Hitler?

                  It is very easy for the world to see how absurd were the premises of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party after the gruesome results became known to the world. But what is more challenging is to learn from historical events and apply that insight to current events. Yet what a person “learns” from history is unfortunately often little more than a thinly veiled form of self-expression.

                  For a few years, it seemed that everyone had “learned” that the Vietnam war was a mistake. However, on closer examination, it became clear that the “lesson” was in fact several divergent and incompatible lessons. Some believed that wars for global domination are destructive, cruel, and ultimately self-defeating. Others learned that “never again will we fight with one hand tied behind our back” (which tied hand are they referring to? Nuclear bombs? The unimplimented parking lot solution? Certainly no hands were tied at My Lai in 1968). The lesson best learned by the spin doctors of both Bush administrations was to control media access to war zones to prevent public disgust and political opposition from emerging. “We don’t do body counts” said General Tommy Franks.

                  But what about Schwarzenegger and how he despises Adolf Hitler? Considering the recent news revelations these comments are at minimum a requirement for his political survival. I don’t doubt his sincerity either. He probably does feel this way, having undoubtedly seen, like all of us have, the horrifying pictures from the concentration camps and knowing of the devastating results of WWII. Yet in condemning Hitler, if it is to be meaningful in any way, it is helpful to examine those qualities that Hitler personified that we despise and to do our best to remove them from our own politics and personal lives.

                  And of course there is plenty of work to do here. Here are some of those qualities I associate with Hitler:
                  1) Unquestionable Centralized Authority. Whether we can associate Schwarzenegger’s actual politics with his movie characters is questionable at best, but it is interesting to consider, for certainly Schwarzeneggar’s appeal to the voters is largely based on the appeal of the imaginary characters he portrays. Schwarzenegger’s terminator character is the ultimate example of centralized military authority. Who does this character answer too? No one of course. You might say he is a sort of mystical savior/father figure, to whom we rely upon for protection in exchange for our own participation and responsibility. Similarly, who does the Bush administration answer too? The United Nations did not support the Iraq invasion, and world opinion was clearly against it, yet the Republican government went ahead with an unprecidented pre-emptive war anyway, on the bogus premise of eradicating weapons of mass destruction which appearantly did not exist.
                  2) Devaluation of other people based on group identity.
                  For Hitler it was Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and non-aryans. Schwarzenegger is accused of sexually harassing women over the years. Obviously there is an enourmous difference of scale here, but it is worth noting that many of us share this habit of more or less consciously disrespecting or scapegoating other people based on their group identity.
                  3) Indiscrimante killing of civilians for political objectives.
                  It should be remembered that when Hitler came to power he did not announce that he was going to order the massacre Jews in concentration camps or attempt to conquer the world. Looking back, it is easy to condemn what many supported as a reasonable solution at the time. Similarly, when the Republican government announces that they want to develop smaller tactical nuclear weapons for potential use in battle situations (as opposed to the 10,000 plus larger models which exist merely as threats to prevent wars and cannot be - just trust us on this one - detonated), there are several ways we can frame this. If someday these weapons lower the imaginary psycological ceiling preventing first use and are if fact used this could escalate into a major nuclear exchange, which conceivably could kill as many people (or more) within a few hours as were killed over several years in Nazi concentration camps. The principle of indiscrimate killing of civilians is embedded in each and every nuclear weapon deployed. These weapons cannot be used without violating human rights and the Geneva convention, and yet they are central to the global military strategy of the United States.

                  So what does it mean to condemn Hitler if we don’t condemn those attitudes that define him? Ultimately democracy is about sharing power. Attempts to centralize power or weapons systems in the hands of a trusted few has one major flaw - the trusted few cannot be trusted, as the temptations of power are too great. The changes brought about by Schwarzenegger’s republican party have dramatically centralized power and weakened the civil rights of American citizens. And it is mainly in this sense that there is some meaning in focusing on the issue of whether or not Schwarzenegger admires or condemns Adolf Hitler. It is not the past which is at stake but the present and the future.

                  Military power, a cornerstone of Republican ideology, is by definition based on inequality, even if its use is rhetorically justified as necessary to create democratic societys, as in Iraq for example. The military method itself is anything but democratic, there are few jury trials, rather it is shoot first, ask questions later.

                  Why not ask the question now - what principles in our own society are comparable with the fundamental attitudes and ambitions of the Hitler’s Nazi party? I suggest that these ideologies are contained within the western world’s weapons of mass destruction which many nations ironically rely upon to defend themselves against exactly such authoritarian threats.

                  10/2/2003

                  North Korea and human evolution

                      4:31 am

                    Certainly North Korea paid close attention to what happened to their “axis of evil” partner Iraq after they no longer had any weapons of mass destruction. The North Korean decision to produce nuclear weapons is tragic and more of the same madness that the world already has too much of, though it is possible without much imagination to imagine why this would seem a logical choice for that country. Yet whether or not these weapons will increase the safety or security of North Korea (at the expense of the rest of the world) remains uncertain. This policy will simultanously make North Korea more of a regional and international target and a more dangerous target to risk attacking.

                    The safest course must go beyond merely trying to “deal with” the North Korea “crisis". What we need is to immediately take strong steps toward negotiated global nuclear disarmament. The United States must lead here by example and not merely by threats, manipulations, and invasions of other countries. A globally negotiated shared state of nuclear power would be more stable than what we have now: one global superpower, the well armed and economically weakened remnants of another, and several other major nations involved in their own internal and external struggles.

                    Ultimately, these weapons must be completely abandoned, as any actual use would be deplorable, and the ongoing postering and threatened use is destabilizing in the long run as it encourages other nations to increase their own arseral - as North Korea is doing now.

                    George Bush was once arrested for drunk driving. Is it fair or right to trust the lives of millions of people worldwide to his good judgement? Despite the largest worldwide peace demonstrations in history, he took the decision to wage a pre-emptive war in Iraq to rid the world of Saddam Husain’s weapons of mass destruction - which appearantly did not exist - at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives.

                    And beyond George Bush, Vladimir Putin and the other world leaders, how many generals and other military men have access to these weapons? This issue of weapons of mass destruction goes beyond their potential access by terrorists - which of course remains an extremely serious problem - to their potential access by established members of the military, who may be suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, economic pressures, bribery, blackmail, family struggles, delusional nationalistic political ideologies, etc., etc.

                    Even the currently accepted use of nuclear weapons as deterents or “big stick” threats is dangerous. This concentrated destructive power can easily be misused with tragic results. Perhaps human evolution will ultimately prove to be flawed, for we have advanced technologically while still retaining our greed, distrust, and desire for power and dominance. Even if an accident or an incident doesn’t happen for a hundred years, from an evolutionary perspective we are in great danger. Several nations are driving under the influence of this radioactive poison, yet the potential fallout threatens the entire world and is therefore a collective problem. It should be resolved collectively.

                    How many people have you met who you feel are so well balanced that you could trust them with a weapon of such magnitude? Creationism not withstanding, most people believe that human beings evolved from primates. If our ability to reason really has surpassed that of our ancestors, we should use that ability now to remove this common threat peacefully.

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