Sunday, October 25, 2009

Obedience Training

Miss Montessori,

Ella came home from school last week upset because she had not wanted to pledge her allegiance to the flag in class. She informed us that if she didn't recite the pledge, she would get in trouble. Dawson and I have tried very hard to teach our children to think for themselves and question everything that is taught to them and most of our children, including Ella, have many problems with pledging their allegiance to a piece of cloth that they feel they owe nothing to.

The Pledge of Allegiance was created in 1892 and did not originally contain the words, "one nation, under god". The phrase “under God” was added in the late 1940’s and made popular in the 1950’s.When Congress added the words “under God,” to the Pledge in 1954, it was actually a political move to try to gain favor with the Christian electorate, not for a religious purposes. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy. Frances did not deem it necessary to insert God into the text because unlike many Christians today, he understood that we needed a separation of church and state. He understood that the founding fathers created this separation to protect us all from religious tyranny and the majority.Frances was later kicked out of the church for practicing socialism. He believed very strongly that "all men are created equal". He didn't just preach such utopian ideas, he wanted to see a society where we were all equal, socially and economically.

When it comes to the history of this county, I believe in giving my children the facts, not sugar coded utpoain stories and to the extent that the Pledge is about history, it is false. Many of our people were enslaved and denied any voice in our government, not to mention the fact that this country was stolen from the Native Americans and dosen't even belong to us.Given our history and the double standards that exist between races, classes, ages, sexual orientation, religions and gender, "with liberty and justice for all" is just not a true statement. As “history,” the Pledge is facile and absurd. I believe that children should be taught real history rather than be forced to stand up and repeat the same phrase over and over.

As I mentioned before, I want nothing more than for my children to be free thinkers and I don't think that pledging blind loyalty for one's country is something that I want my children to be participating in. It used to be mandatory to salute the flag at the end of the pledge, Hitler liked the official pledge salute so much that he later adopted it for his own use to espouse blind loyalty and nationalism to his country. Because of this we no longer salute the flag like we originally did.

Some people in our family believe in God and some don't, Ella does not and it makes her extremely uncomfortable to pledge her allegiance to one nation under God. I don't think that children should have to pledge their allegiance to something they may not believe in. If a public institution like a school requires or expects them to do so, that's the state and the society dictating an exercise.That's We the People, without whom the public institution could not exist, directing an oath that should be heartfelt. If it's not heartfelt, why even bother?

We have told Ella that the decision to pledge her allegiance to the flag is hers alone to make. She is a smart and beautiful little girl who has her own thoughts and beliefs about the world around her. We ask that you please respect her decision and support her in her free thinking.

Peace,
~Crystal Busenbark~

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Capital of Inspiration


"New York is a tremendous generator of inspiration. It is a capital of inspiration... You feel at a place where reality is most intense."
~David Lehman


"If I'd lived in Roman times, I'd have lived in Rome. Where else?
Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself."
~John Lennon

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Actually Happened in Fatah's Elections?

The US government has been meddling in the Palestinian internal affairs since at least 2003. Its effort is to transform the Palestinian national movement for liberation and independence into a more compliant or puppet government, willing to accede to Israel’s political and security demands.

The tactics employed by the U.S. include military, security, diplomatic, and political components. With the ascension of Hamas after the 2006 legislative election, U.S. strategy has been fixed on unraveling the election results. Its aim for a political comeback of the pro-American camp within the Palestinian political body has been initiated with the convening of Fatah’s national conference this last week.

During the week of August 4, 2009, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement Fatah, convened its sixth national conference in its 44-year history. Fatahhas historically been considered the largest Palestinian faction, but that perception changed when it lost the legislative elections to Hamas in January 2006. As the group wrapped up its conference after eight days, it announced the results of its elections. The international media, particularly western outlets, framed the election as “fresh” and “new” faces ascending to power in the movement. But what actually happened in the vote?

Fatah’s internal structure is unlike most political parties or resistance movements. It is not hierarchical and its members’ loyalty largely follows a system of patronage and factionalism embodied in a 23-member Central Committee. The Central Committee is technically supposed to reflect a system of collective leadership and the political program of a national liberation movement. Even its founder, the late Yasser Arafat, who led the organization from its inception in 1965 until his death in 2004, did not have an official title beyond that of a member of the committee and commander-in-chief of its military wing. But over time, in the eyes of many Palestinians, Fatah’s leadership has symbolized, a system of cronyism, corruption, collaboration with Israel, and political failures, especially since the Oslo process.

Although its internal charter calls for a national conference every four years to elect its leadership, the major questions at the eve of this conference were: Why did it take Fatah two decades to convene this one? Did the election of Fatah’s new leadership reflect the aspirations of the Palestinian people and a new and fresh approach to the political process? And finally, who are the backers of the main individuals who were recently elected to lead it?

Fatah’s Central Committee led by Arafat made the strategic decision in 1988 to negotiate a political settlement with Israel, and accept the United States government as the main broker. For two decades, especially in the aftermath of the 1993 Oslo accords, the Palestinian issue gradually receded from the international agenda, becoming an almost exclusive affair between the U.S, Israel, and the Palestinian leadership whether it was the PLO or after 1994, the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Most neutral Middle East analysts observe that American negotiators throughout several administrations (both Democratic and Republican) have mostly adopted the Israeli point of view and placed most of the pressure on the Palestinian leadership (whether Bill Clinton with Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, or George W. Bush with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.)

During the first term of the Bush administration, Arafat, as the head of the PA, was isolated, while Washington promoted those within the Palestinian leadership such as Mahmoud Abbas (imposed on Arafat as prime minister in 2003), and former security chief Muhammad Dahlan, both of whom embraced the American strategy in the region. In 2005, Bush declared his freedom and democracy agenda, demanding elections in the Palestinian territories, and hoping for a Fatah victory to implement his vision.

However, the administration soon abandoned its agenda of promoting democracy in the Arab world when Hamas won a landslide victory in the January 2006 legislative elections. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed shock about the results saying, “No one saw it coming.” A Department of Defense official told David Rose of Vanity Fair in 2008, “Everyone blamed everyone else,” “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the f*@# recommended this?"

Ever since that election, the American administration employed three different but overlapping strategies in order to undo the results. These efforts by the State Department, the White House and the Defense Department, were scantily planned and poorly coordinated.

Throughout 2006 and the first half of 2007, the State Department used its diplomatic resources and political muscle to topple the democratically-elected Palestinian government led by Hamas. In an April 2008 report, Vanity Fair disclosed that an American talking point memo emerged after a U.S. diplomat accidentally left it behind in a Palestinian Authority building in Ramallah. The document echoed Rice’s demand that Abbas dissolve the national unity government and take on Hamas.

Meanwhile, as detailed by Vanity Fair, neo-con and NSC deputy director Elliot Abrams was plotting a coup in Gaza against Hamas with former Gaza security chief Muhammad Dahlan in the spring of 2007. It included coordination with Israel, several Arab countries such as UAE and Jordan, payments to Dahlan of over $30 million, the training of five hundred security personnel, a campaign to destabilize Gaza, and a torture program against Hamas members and other Islamists.

Dahlan admitted as much to the magazine’s writer, David Rose, saying that he told his American counterpart who was pushing for a confrontation with Hamas, “If I am going to confront them, I need substantial resources. As things stand, we do not have the capability.”

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on June 7, 2007, that the American administration had asked Israel to authorize a large Egyptian arms shipment, including dozens of armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. Rose explains that Abrams’s plan stressed the need to bolster Fatah’s forces in order to “deter” Hamas. According to a senior administration official the “desired outcome” was to give Abbas “the capability to take the required strategic political decisions (i.e. fulfilling the Israeli conditions for a political settlement) and dismissing the (Hamas led) cabinet, establishing an emergency cabinet.”

But Dick Cheney’s Middle East advisor, David Wurmser, admitted the failed effort when he told the magazine, “It looked to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted (by Hamas) before it could happen.”

The third effort, was mainly overseen by the Pentagon, and led by Lt. General Keith Dayton. In a speech before the pro-Israel think tank, the Washington Institute on Near East Policy (WINEP) in May 2009, he said that the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator, which he has been leading since December 2005, is “an effort to assist the Palestinians in reforming their security services.” But according to the notes of a meeting between Dayton and a Palestinian security chief in Ramallah in early 2007, the real purpose of the mission was revealed when Dayton said, "We also need to build up your forces in order to take on Hamas.”

Since 2007, Congress has given Dayton $161 million dollars to implement his plan. In addition, this year Congress appropriated an additional $209 million dollars to Dayton for the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, to accelerate his program after receiving high marks from Israeli security chiefs. In the past year alone, more than 1,000 Hamas and Islamic Jihad members have been arrested and detained without trials, with many tortured and killed under interrogation, by U.S.-trained Palestinian security personnel in the West Bank. Amnesty International and many other human rights organizations have condemned these actions and called for an immediate halt to the human rights abuses of Palestinian detainees in PA prisons.

In his WINEP speech Dayton acknowledged this crackdown when he said, “I don't know how many of you are aware, but over the last year-and-a-half, the Palestinians have engaged upon a series of what they call security offensives throughout the West Bank, surprisingly well coordinated with the Israeli army.” He further admitted that during the 22-day Gaza war last winter, U.S.-trained Palestinian security forces prevented Palestinians in the West Bank from organizing mass protests against the Israeli army, which ironically allowed for the reduction of the Israeli military presence in the West Bank in order to redeploy those troops to Gaza. Dayton added, “As a matter of fact, a good portion of the Israeli army went off to Gaza from the West Bank— think about that for a minute, and the (Israeli military) commander (of the West Bank) was absent for eight straight days.”

After a failed coup and brutal military offensive failed to dislodge Hamas from Gaza, the Israeli and U.S. strategy sought to intensify its pressure against Hamas through a suffocating economic siege in Gaza, massive security detentions in the West Bank, financial squeeze in the region and political isolation internationally. Meanwhile, according to several Hamas spokesmen, including the deposed prime minister Ismael Haniyya in Gaza and political chief Khaled Meshal in Damascus, the main obstacle to any national reconciliation with Fatah has been the detention of hundreds of Hamas members and the PA’s security collaboration with the military occupation overseen by Dayton.

The next phase in this effort is to reinvent Fatah and present it as a viable political alternative to Hamas and other resistance movements by improving the living conditions in the West Bank in contrast to Gaza’s devastating siege. But more important, the plan envisions a new Fatah that is considered a reliable partner willing to accomodate Israel’s conditions for a political settlement. The sixth Fatah conference and accompanying elections was thus convened to dispose of its corrupt and dysfunctional image.

For over a year, the Central Committee, the highest body in its structure, could not agree on many major issues, including where to hold the conference (the final decision was to hold it in the occupied Palestinian territories, which means that Israel has a veto on which delegates from abroad would be allowed to participate). They also squabbled about which delegates would be appointed to the conference, which would determine the composition of the new leadership, as well as the political program and the role of armed resistance against the occupation. Abbas and his inner circle vetoed the decision of the committee, and decided to hold the conference in Bethlehem, virtually hand-picking all the participants to guarantee the election outcome.

Historically, the delegates to Fatah’s national conference were elected or appointed by the Central Committee, but at least fifty-one percent came from the military apparatus. Since most of the military wing has either been disbanded or wanted by the Israelis, a large number of the delegates to this conference were security personnel substituting for the military ones. This fact guaranteed that the election results would be skewed towards the security chiefs and their supporters.

The original number of delegates was supposed to be around 700. Then it increased to 1,250 but eventually mushroomed to 2,355. Less than ten percent were actually indirectly elected by the virtue of their positions, while the overwhelming majority was appointed by a small group in Ramallah led mainly by Abbas and other power brokers such as Dahlan and former West Bank security chief Jibreel Rujoub, who used to hang the picture of former CIA director George Tenet above his desk alongside that of Arafat.

The number of Central Committee members was also increased from 21 to 23, with 19 directly elected by the delegates. Abbas was to appoint four members later, but he himself was chosen by acclamation, to avoid embarrassment if he does not garner first place in a direct election. The 18 individuals who were elected at the end of the week-long conference comprised four from the “old guard” who are considered close to Abbas, and 14 new members, three of whom are former security chiefs who’ve been close to the CIA. These include Dahlan, Rujoub, and Tawfiq Tirawi, a former intelligence chief, who is currently heading a security training academy in Jericho under the supervision of Gen. Dayton.

From the outset, this conference was heavily tilted towards delegates from the West Bank. Unlike previous conferences, Palestinians in the Diaspora were hardly represented since Israel allowed only a few people to enter from abroad. While Gaza’s population is equal to that of the West Bank, less than 400 people were selected as delegates from Gaza, while there were over three times as many delegates from the West Bank.

But most of the Gaza delegates did not even attend because Hamas prevented them from leaving the strip, demanding in return that hundreds of its detained members in the West Bank be freed by the PA, which it summarily refused. In short, aside from Dahlan, who no longer lives in Gaza, not a single elected person is from or lives in Gaza. This prompted the entire Fatah leadership in Gaza, including former Central Committee member Zakariya al-Agha, to resign en mass one day after the conference, protesting not only the results, but also the whole election process.

Similarly, Fatah members abroad did not fare well. Only two people were elected to the Central Committee, though more than two-thirds of Palestinians (eight million) live outside of the Palestinian territories, many in squalid refugee camps, with the “right of return”, considered a hot- button issue in future negotiations, up in the air. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of the new members were either from the West Bank or already living in Ramallah as part of Abbas’ closest aides, affirming the American-led ‘West Bank first’ strategy.

Some of the historic old guard who oppose Abbas’s political program such as Central Committee secretary Farouk Kaddoumi or Hani Al-Hassan did not even attend or run as candidates. Kaddoumi condemned the conference, questioned its legitimacy, and went as far as accusing Abbas and Dahlan of plotting with the Israelis to poison Arafat, eventually causing his death.

Other former members who ran as candidates were defeated and cried foul. Former prime minister and negotiator Ahmad Qurai (Abu Alaa) questioned the credentials of the delegates and the integrity of the election procedure. When Abbas chief of staff, Tayeb Abdel-Rahim lost, he demanded a recount and was eventually declared a winner, after the election committee claimed he was actually tied for last. Many delegates, especially female candidates, all of whom lost, criticized this blatant cronyism. Nevertheless, several popular and “clean” candidates were able to win a seat such as Marwan Bargouthi, who is serving five life sentences in Israel, and Mahmoud Al-Aloul, a former mayor of Nablus.

As Palestinians watched this conference unfold, many were hoping that it would be the beginning of a national reconciliation and the establishment of a unity government. However, it seems that as a result of this conference Fatah itself may further disintegrate, as its Gaza leaders and Abu Alaa are threatening to launch a new faction called “Fatah Awakening,” further increasing division and tension within the Palestinian ranks.

The next step in the strategy of the pro-American camp is to hold presidential and legislative elections in the Palestinian territories next January, hoping to present a rejuvenated Fatah as an alternative to Hamas and other resistance movements. Jonathan Steele of the Guardian further exposed on June 22, 2007 the U.S. "hard coup" of June ’07, as well as its political strategy. He detailed US officials' conversations with several Arab regimes. These were, among others, “ ‘to maintain President Abbas and Fatah as the center of gravity on the Palestinian scene’, ‘avoid wasting time in accommodating Hamas,’ ‘undermining Hamas’s political status,’ and ‘calling for early elections."

In the words of Gen. Dayton, the Palestinian personnel trained by the U.S pledge after their graduation that they “were not sent here to learn how to fight Israel, but were rather sent here to learn how to keep law and order.” The main purpose of these security battalions is to halt any resistance to or rejection of the occupation including non-violent means. He then added that senior Israeli military commanders frequently ask him, "How many more of these new Palestinians can you generate, and how quickly?”

Many of the questions, posed by ordinary Palestinians before the conference, remain unanswered. What is Fatah’s political program in light of the current Israeli intransigence and pre-conditions? What of national reconciliation with other Palestinian factions and the establishment of a national unity government? What is the role of resistance against the occupation, the suffocating siege against Gaza, and most importantly, the continuous collaboration with the Israeli security agencies and military against their own citizens?

These questions persist while Israel’s occupation and its brutal policies, the expansion of settlements, the separation wall, the detention of over 11,000 Palestinians, the expropriation of land, the depopulation of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, and the denial of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, continue unabated.

Simply put, the U.S. wants a Palestinian leadership that will answer these questions in a way that is satisfactory to Israel. As one State Department official said to Vanity Fair regarding American objectives in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, “We care about results, and we support whatever son of a bitch we have to support. Dahlan was the son of a bitch we happened to know best" ~By Esam AL-Amin

Monday, August 17, 2009

If There Wasn't Something Missing

"Joshua, get off the computer."

The flashing images on the screen continued unabated as Joshua blocked out his fathers voice. It wasn't necessarily that Bio-Menace was an entrancing game, simply that he found it easier to patiently hope his father would go away than to acknowledge his existence.

"Joshua, I told you at dinner that your mother and I were going to go welcome the new neighbors and that we expected you to come with us. You can either save your game now and come back to it when we get back or I can turn it off at the surge protector and you can be grounded for the rest of the night."

Although he attempted to maintain his air of indifference Joshua knew better than to risk calling his father's bluff, he pressed the F5 key to quick save his game just in case.

"1... 2..."

"I am! I just saved! Jeez dad, why do you need me to go with you anyway? I don't give a hoot who the new neighbors are."

Trying to keep a lid on his frustration his father mentally counted backward from 10 before responding with some bait to catch his sons attention. "They have a pretty cute daughter about your age, isn't that reason enough to come along?"

Although his 13 year old hormones reacted unconsciously at the thought of a new girl in the vicinity Joshua knew better than to let his excitement show. Counting backward from 10 before responding he took a low blow "Dad, it's creepy for you to think a girl my age is cute."

Rolling his eyes Joseph turned away, leaving his son in the computer room as he walked down the hall to get get his shoes on. Pulling his lanky body up out of the swivel computer chair Joshua padded down the hall after his father. Meeting up with his parents in the kitchen his dad handed him a hefty watermelon. "For me?" he asked in mock surprise.

"Very funny" his father replied as he held his wife's hand to help her down the stairs. Following along behind the embarrassingly affectionate couple Joshua skipped putting on his shoes in favor of the slippers he was already wearing, he figured he'd be able to break away back to the comforts of home once the grown-ups got lost in their superficial chit-chat. Crossing the street diagonally to the north west it was only 50 or so paces before Joshua found himself standing in front of the new neighbors porch. His parents were already at the door making their introductions so he hung back a few feet closer to their ghetto van waiting impatiently for his chance to pass the giant fruit off on someone and make his escape.

Since he was the closest to the driveway he was the first to see the noisy gaggle of children come around from the back of the house to ride on their bikes in the drive. Quickly noting that these three girls were all quite a bit younger than him he turned his attention back to the adults who were coming off the step and onto the front lawn.

His father politely introduced him to these strangers, Sue and Jay by name, and it was to Jay that Joshua was able to hand off his burden. They seemed like nice enough people, although Jays simple T-shirt and jeans were a stark contrast to Joseph's Sunday best. The strong odor of cigarette smoke clung to Sue like a second skin, a fact that make Joshua smile because he knew it would make his parents far more uncomfortable than it aught to. Laughing quietly to himself at his parents awkward attempts at conversation with these obvious 'non-members' Joshua turned himself about to head for home.

In the fading light of the setting sun he was stopped dead in his tracks by what he saw behind him. Not a dozen feet away, riding a bike that was clearly too small for her, was the most exquisite beauty he had ever seen. Her long legs were tanned a perfect gold and were gloriously displayed by the tiny shorts she wore... in fact on closer inspection she wasn't wearing shorts at all but a skimpy pair of checkered boxers. Her golden hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her eyes sparkled in the failing light like a pair of flawlessly cut sapphires.

As she rode in figure eights on the driveway her sisters darted about on all sides, their giggles filling the air. Their merriment must have been infectious because Joshua found himself laughing out loud at their squeals as each took turns standing in front of their sister and jumping out of the way moments before they were struck. Perhaps it was his laughter that caught her attention causing her eyes to glance up at his own for the first time.

In the years that followed, even for the rest of his life, Joshua never forgot that moment. The way that he felt when his eyes met hers shattered any preconceived notions he had held on life. For him the entire world dropped away, existence winking out like a light, leaving no trace beyond this young woman in whose presence Joshua had been completely reduced to a thoughtless lump of jelly. In all of his years he had never imagined that such perfection could exist in this world.

While the young nerdy kid stood staring at her Ann wondered to herself why these three had come to introduce themselves without the gorgeous blond boy she had seen washing his truck in their driveway while she had unpacked that afternoon. It wasn't that this kid was unattractive, he had a goofy sort of charm and adorable puppy-dog eyes, as much as it was the fact that she had spent most of the evening wondering how she could introduce herself to the mysterious hunk who must have been this boys older brother. Although Joshua wasn't anything to rave about her naturally flirtatious nature kicked in and she found herself smiling and laughing just to see his reaction.

It was the laugh that broke into his trance, if someone had asked him right then what her laugh sounded like he would have confidently stated that it was what it sounded like when angels sang. He gaped at her, astonished by her glory, for a few moments more before he was able to bring himself back down to earth enough to shut his mouth and smile back at her. Her smile widened as she stopped her bike, both legs long enough to touch the ground on either side, and unnecessarily readjusted her ponytail.

He wanted more than anything to introduce himself, in fact the only thing he wanted more was to be able to impress her... something he didn't begin to trust himself to do under the full bore of her enchantment. The gears in his mind spun at a break neck speed to find something interesting or witty to say to her but his thoughts were so jumbled together that he wasn't at all sure he could even remember his own name.

Collecting himself enough to realize that he would quickly look goofy standing there gawking, he spun on his heel and made what he hoped didn't look like a mad dash for his front door. Once inside he leaned back against the closed door, his mind and his emotions spinning about inside of him as though caught in a tornado. Who was this amazing beauty, this perfect angel? How could he be so stupid as to wear slippers instead of shoes like a civilized person? What excuse could he come up with to be able to see her again? Why hadn't he been able to come up with a single thing to say to her instead of running away like a scared puppy? Would she ever be interested in him or would she see right past him like most of the girls his age? These and a thousand other questions played volleyball with his brain as his heart alternated between racing and nearly stopping altogether. Stumbling downstairs to his room, any thoughts of computer games obliterated from his mind, he attempted to focus on a single thought... what could he possibly do to make her fall in love with him?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Socialized Health Care for Dummies

health care

Our health care in America is a joke. It might be wonderful for a select few but for the rest of us it's downright awful. We are currently ranked 36th in the world with every other country who has universal health care ranking above us. We have 46 million people without insurance, doctors wasting time filling out insurance forms, insurance companies dreaming up ways to avoid paying out to people who faithfully paid their premiums for years and 50% of the 1,458,000 personal bankruptcies in the US in 2001 were due to medical bills. Health care should be considered a universal human right that should be made available to all persons regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or ability to pay. What it comes down to is countries who offer universal health care have happier citizens who live longer and are healthier.

For those who still are not convinced, I have provided some arguments that are posed to my friends and I almost daily, along with our replies:

"I, for one, do not trust our incompetent government to do anything, especially run our health care."

I hope anyone that argues that they don't trust the government to run health care is at least consistent and fights just as hard to get the government to disband the armed forces. If you can't trust the government to try and save lives, you shouldn't trust them to take them either.

That goes for the death penalty too, and really, the entire legal system. An error in the legal system especially as it pertains to the death penalty is, at least in my opinion, much more horrible. Your government making a mistake and purposefully killing someone is much worse than making your wait times for medical care slightly longer.

Most people’s views don’t jive with the facts of socialized health care in Canada or Europe, or of the role and usefulness of government in those countries. Many Americans seem to have an automatic fear of government which is based not on reason or clear facts, but of convoluted theories and misrepresentations of the real facts. Actually many government officials and representative are in bed with the insurance companies. So long as people profit when sick people don't get medical treatment, the system will stay broken, and quite inhumane.

"In Canada as well as England and other countries with socialized health care, you sometimes spend months waiting before seeing a physician. Many people would die just waiting in an emergency room."

Socialized health care has been proven to be far more efficient, fair, humane, and equal. It is not at all perfect, and needs improvement, but the US would be wise to adopt a more social health system rather than a private profit based one where insurance company bureaucrats are making medical decisions.

Although a few people do die waiting for treatment we have far more people who suffer and die because they go untreated due to lack of insurance. Not only is that statement about waiting for care patently misleading - (one only waits for non-emergency or elective specialty care which is based on the same principle as ER triage). Europe and Canada are doing very, very well under socialism. In fact the more socialist the country (Denmark, Sweden) the better off they are. Better education, health, longer life-expectancy, lower infant mortality, more productive, less crime, (because the poor have options and support from the community they don't have to resort to crime and violence out of necessity).

Those stories in which people die waiting for treatment, a rare occurrence, are flaunted about by the conservative news outlets, like Fox, which are owned by giant corporations and run by the elite few who make more money than God. This ruling class will do whatever they need to in order to keep the money pouring into their bank accounts. They recognize that higher taxes would drain them of some of their precious wealth and so they use their media power to spread the idea that covering their asses is in everyone's best interests. For example, the CEO of Fox holds stock in almost every major health insurance company; it would obviously be in his direct best interest to keep people from supporting universalized health care as he would end up losing millions when the insurance companies are forced to lower their costs to stay in business. So, of course, he is going to twist the truth and use scare tactics (in the form of hosts like Bill O'Reiley and Glenn Beck) to keep the populace complacent.

"Medicaid and medicare are a mess. Have you ever been on Medicaid?"

Yes we have and it is wonderful. The only reason that Medicaid and Medicare are a mess is due to a major lack of funding; they consistently have their budgets cut... thus why Medicaid has been forced to stop offering adults any dental and optical coverage. The US government already provides the best health care in the US for government employees and veterans, and the elderly (Medicare). It's cheaper, more efficient and provides a higher level of care than is available through private insurance.

"The US treasurer himself said the bottom line is that Obama's plan will cost $1 T more than taxpayers currently spend!"

Actually government health care has proven to be far cheaper and far more accessible than private. For one, overhead costs would be cut due to reduced staffing needs (administration, billing departments, etc.) than currently exist in hospitals and private health insurance companies. Also, socialized health care is not trying to generate a profit, just break even.

The fact is the US has by far the most expensive health care system in the world, has a lower level of care, lower life expectancy, and has far higher percentage of people without any access to care at all. More people in the United States are totally without access than the entire population of Canada. The US is currently paying out the nose for emergency care when it could be paying far, far less for European/Canadian type preventative care which is far cheaper in the long run for all involved. It's better to have free, easy access to a doctor whenever you need it than to have to wait until it develops into a serious, more expensive, problem to get help.

The way it works in Canada is that you get free access to basic health care, for specialty care you may be caused to wait depending on the status of your condition. If it is life-threatening you get immediate, free treatment. For elective or non-serious conditions you may well have to wait, but that is no different from how triage works in a hospital normally - those who need the care the most get treated first. Dentistry, prescriptions, optometric care are privatized and covered at different degrees depending on the province you reside in, but either way are far, far cheaper than in the US.

"Shouldn't the reform come from insurance companies, the doctors and hospitals who so ridiculously overcharge"

Unfortunately the insurance companies, doctors and hospitals will not reform, especially without government intervention. They are corporations whose primary purpose is to make the most possible money for their shareholders. The best way to drive their prices down is to offer some sort of alternative, where people do not have to pay exorbitant fees in order to receive treatment. Once they start to lose customers they will reform in order to stay in business.

"I have a doctor friend in Switzerland who had to go over the border to practice to make any money, because they were paid the same as every other average doctor, no matter how good they strove to be."

The fact that they weren't making 'any money' is a fallacy, obviously the other doctors in Switzerland are able to survive off of their wages. Another reason this argument is ridiculous is due to the fact that American doctors spend years paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, whereas in a socialized country such as Switzerland their government pays for their college education and doctors graduate debt free.

Under our current system doctors are paid money based on how many patients they can squeeze into a day, to make even more money they are also paid a commission by pharmaceutical companies for each prescription they write. In socialized countries doctors are paid based on how well they care for their patients as well as their patients overall health. In other words our doctors are paid more if we are sick, by being able to write more prescriptions and taking follow up appointments, whereas their doctors are paid more the better their patients fare.

It is irrational that anyone should make a profit on top of what medical care costs. Doctors and nurses should be paid. Pay the costs, but making money on people who are ill is immoral. HMO's and businesses making money on people who are ill are vultures.

"Many people don't have insurance because they choose to spend the money on another area of their life, not that they can't afford it. They just think the government 'owes' this to them. They refuse to get jobs, because then they would have to give up the freebies. I don't want to pay for your health care."

If health care weren't at all tied to employment it would be the same as education - a right that all people (and their children) have regardless of their employment. Are we going to punish children because their parent can't afford health insurance, maybe can't work or even won't?

Many Americans seem to have a warped view on how social programs work. Their anecdotal evidence is a poor reason to go up against the reality of how socialized health care (and education for that matter) actually functions. The percentage of people in the US who abuse social programs, in the 'they' group, are minuscule, especially when compared to how many people in the US are uninsured, uninsurable, and under-insured, and have serious health and employment problems because they are simply less lucky than others. This view seems rather limited and selfish.

"Socialized health care is not only economically unsound, it is immoral. Stealing is wrong, even if it's for a good cause."

'Stealing is wrong.' Yes. So how about industrial waste and environmental degradation that is stealing our health in the first place? How about pesticides and herbicides that are in our food, and all for maximization of profit? Do you realize how much industrialization has increased the cancer rates in developing and developed countries? Causing this whole health care problem in the first place is our particular brand of capitalism.

Do you pay taxes at all? Because that's the government 'stealing' from you, that's forced charity. As the US becomes more and more liberal, which it will, more and more people will start to see why socialism works and will overcome the McCarthyist fear they have of the word socialism. The selfish might, at that time, want to find a nice island to isolate themselves from all the evil forced charity that will be imposed on their 'extremely moral' selves. As for theft, if taxes are theft, then you'd best be prepared to give up much. Police, fire, roads, schools etc.

"The reason health care was so cheap earlier in the last century was because there was less government involvement. Medicare and Medicaid has been a horrible disaster for our country and have increased the cost of health care to what it is today."

As for profit, look back 20 years. Medical care before the rise of the HMO was cheaper, and the people who made money then were doctors, nurses, hospitals, and people doing medical care, not the insurance companies and drug companies. Ask any doctor who has practiced medicine between 1980 and 2009 when and where they made more money. Doctors are making less money now, nurses pay more money for their own insurance (and they work for hospitals and insurance companies.) And people who hold these views obviously don’t have a chronic or debilitating illness or they would understand what it means to be robbed of their money, homes and quality of life.

Things were much simpler in the 'last part of the last century', they have become significantly more complicated by insurance companies. In reality the 'invention' of the HMO may be the most insidious creation ever developed. Insurance companies have developed entire systems and protocols to stop providing for people they insure so that they may retain more 'profit'... the profit of the insurance company is entirely created to decrease the service provided to the insured. If that's not immoral, what is? Health care isn't about simple economics, it’s about quality of life. If quality of life is money to you, then I hope when you snuggle up with it, it gives you lots of warm fuzzies.

"Big government is the problem!"

Back in the day, you had to subscribe for police coverage, fire coverage, and other things that we now consider city costs. How is medical care much different? Everyone in America is one major illness away from bankruptcy, and if you check yourself or a loved one into a nursing/rest home, you can kiss every dime you ever made or ever saved goodbye. And the poor? They already get the best medical coverage in America. Medicaid: The Unlimited Gold Pot at the end of the social ladder.

When a society has its basic needs cared for and doesn't need to struggle to feed their family when making $6 an hour at Mc Donald's, when they don't have to go bankrupt to pay for a surgery, when they can afford to send their children to university, when their government spends money on the welfare of humans and not on imperialistic military goals then you've got a society where social equality is possible, and where people don't die of tooth infections which spread and get into the blood stream because someone couldn't afford to go to the dentist.

"Socialism is nothing more than moral cannibalism. It is evil and it always destroys the people who live with it."

Unfortunately, a Euro/Canadian style health care system isn't even on the table in Congress right now. All they're trying to do is fix the uninsured/under-insured problem by having affordable coverage. Health Insurance companies currently can charge whatever they want and then refuse to pay for people's medical needs because that way they make less money. As long as medical care is for-profit, it is bad for Americans (unless you run a health insurance company). They want to make money, not help people get better.

Obama is not a socialist. He's not even a liberal. He's a centrist. Almost the entire democratic party and certainly its policies are centrist ones. And again Obama's plan isn't socialized medicine. It's just introducing some much needed regulation so insurance can't decline to cover treatment or choose what kinds of treatments it will cover, as well as a public plan which would force insurance companies to lower their rates to a reasonable level. That's all. No socialization, it's American-style health insurance which people will still have to purchase. It's still a terrible idea, but not nearly as terrible as what is currently in place.

Is socialism evil? No, what's evil is basing a society on extreme selfishness, on giving power to those who are just lucky and born into a situation where they can succeed, and where the majority of people exist mostly to supply the ruling class with ever more money. Unregulated capitalism is as bad an idea as Leninist communism. What we need a healthy balance of the two extremes, and that is socialism. Where personal freedom & human equality are sacrosanct.

"Socialism worked real well for the Soviet Union or Cuba or North Korea didn't it?"

Actually if you look at these examples they are not socialists at all, but communists. Communism is no more socialism than American capitalism is Nazism. You live in a society, and must either learn to live with the fact that we as humans are interconnected, need each other, and never succeed in a vacuum. You need us, though because you're just one person, we don't really need you as much. Socialism is a natural result of our basic nature as social primates. If we care for our community, they will in turn care for us and we all profit. What I see as really immoral is the power that rich people have over the poor to control their lives, to refuse them medical treatment, education, and equality simply because they weren't born powerful. All the while American society is becoming more fractured, most are getting poorer, while the few rich are getting even richer, and turning into an oligarchy.

A special thanks to my friends Craig Fitzner, Mark Olsen, Jillian Phippen and Derek Johnson.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Sacred Vagina

The traditional design of most patriarchal religious buildings of worship imitate the female body. Thus, there is an outer and inner entrance, labia majora and labia minora, a central vaginal aisle towards the alter, two curved ovarian structures on either side, and in the sacred center, the alter or womb, where the miracle takes place, where males give birth.

The central ceremony of patriarchal religions is one in which men take over the yoni-power of creation by giving birth symbolically. No wonder male religious leaders so often say that humans were born in sin - because we were born to female creatures. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be reborn through men.

No wonder priests and ministers in skirts sprinkle imitation birth fluid over our heads, give us new names and promise rebirth into everlasting life. No wonder the male priesthood tried to keep women away from the alter, just as women are kept away from the control of our own powers of reproduction. Symbolic or real, it's all devoted to controlling the power that resides in the female body.

~Excerpt taken from The Vagina Monologues~

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Help End The Siege In Gaza

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We all know the story of the atrocities committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people. There is no question that the occupation is illegal, that there have been innumerable human rights violations, that Israel is continuing to build settlements and their apartheid wall is reaching ever farther into Palestinian land. We are going on 60 years now of what most people would consider ethnic cleansing, while the world at large sits idly by unable or unwilling to stand up to the American backed Israeli war machine.

blockade

More than 300,000 Israeli settlers are now living on illegal settlements on Palestinian land. It is against international law for an occupying country to transfer it's own civilians into an occupied territory, the same as they also cannot forcibly remove those people inhabiting the occupied territory... but Israel has completely ignored these laws. The Israeli Occupation Authority (IOA) issues demolition orders on Palestinian homes on a daily basis, leaving thousands of refugees. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) then move in with bulldozers and demolish the homes and use the land to build settlements and highways that only settlers are allowed to travel on.

Israel has decided that things such as fruit, shoes and books are "luxuries" that the Palestinian people do not deserve and have effectively blocked these items and many others from entering into the occupied territories. Human rights organizations and even the United Nations are denied access to the Palestinian people, 90% of whom are now suffering from malnutrition. The Palestinian refugees, over half of whom are children, have limited or no access to clean drinking water, health care, education or even food and clothing.

palestine

The time is long past that the people of the world need to stand up in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Palestine. Whether or not our individual nations are willing to make a stand against the Israeli government does not dissolve our responsibilities as individuals to do what is right. As is often the case in these matters people are bound to ask themselves what they could possibly do to help others halfway across the world, to justify that their voice and their opinions matter not at all in the great scheme of things, to 'feel bad' for the weak and the oppressed but to do nothing more. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

prayer

In exactly this spirit of non-complacency Norman Finkelstein and other prominent activists are enlisting various Palestinian solidarity groups in their planning of an international march on Gaza in an effort to end the blockade of the territory. It is their plan to bring thousands of demonstrators from across the globe to march alongside Gazans as they breach the blockade imposed upon the population together as one people. According to a draft statement of purposes and principles "This march draws inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi. Those of us residing in the United States also draw inspiration from the civil rights movement." According to the statement the march will be set for January 1st, 2010. "We will march the Long Mile across Erez checkpoint alongside the people of Gaza in a nonviolent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade. We conceive this march as the first step in a protracted nonviolent campaign ... If we bring thousands to Gaza and millions more around the world watch the march on the internet, we can end the siege without a drop of blood being shed."

free-palestine-end-occupation

Regarding the march Finkelstein was quoted as saying "If the likes of Jimmy Carter, Noam Chomsky, Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela are at the head of the march; if behind them are students holding high signs of the schools from which they hail - Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge; if behind them are the ill and the lame, the young and the innocent of Gaza; if behind them are hundreds of thousands of others, unarmed and unafraid, wanting only to enforce the law; if around the world hundreds of thousands are watching the internet to see what happens - Israel can't shoot."

My friends and I are planning to form our own delegation to visit Israel and the occupied territories in December and to join in the march on Gaza, to help break the siege and bring this horrible violence and occupation to an end. Please do everything you can to show your support for this worldwide movement by spreading the word, donating to help fund the delegations, or by adding your support and presence to our numbers. If you are interested in joining our delegation or to learn more about what can be done to aid the Palestinian people, please feel free to e-mail me at Crystal.HighRoad@Gmail.Com

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Fall Of An Empire

The hottest new host on Fox News this year, Glenn Beck, has launched The 9-12 Project, a site dedicated to sharing core principles and values that Americans are said to live by.The website defines essential American qualities such as believing in god, being opposed to income tax, being pro marriage (as long as your straight) and many other gems.

Beck claims that The 9-12 Project is designed to bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001. The day after America was attacked when we were not obsessed with Red States, Blue States or political parties. We were united as Americans, standing together to protect the values and principles of the "greatest nation ever created".
It’s really just more of the same that we’ve seen from the hard right recently, the whole "Socialism is bad, our money is being stolen for us, Barack is a Communist, etc." While some of those points might be true, what they continue to overlook is that Bush created the mess the country is in today, and Bush was the one that ran up the foreign debt and started the bailouts. But no, it’s only bad now a new, black guy takes over the mess.

In the show launching the The 9-12 Project, Beck interviewed Chuck Norris, who earlier this year said that thousands of militia were preparing for a military takeover of the United States. If that doesn’t say batshit crazy, I’m not sure what else can.
Here is a list of Beck's 9 principles that he is telling Americans from all walks of life that they should live by:

The 9 Principles

1. America Is Good.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
If, like me, you find this to all be some kind of tripped out right wing nut jobs brain fart, there is another way. Davis Fleetwood, a political comedian and in my opinion, true genius, came up with his own project, The 9/10 Project. Fleetwood's project asserts that the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the coordinated terror tactics of the U.S. Federal government in the months and years following have had the intended effect of turning the populace of the United States into a herd of servile, submissive stooges.
The 9/10 Project is a movement for those individuals who acknowledge that the United States is still, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “The Greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and who are opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.The 9/10 Project acknowledges that the United States of America is now an EMPIRE and we all know that empires fall, that's just how it is. Rather than wage endless wars to remain king of the hill, The 9/10 Project favors the peaceful break-up of the United States of America.

The 9/10 Project is for citizens of the world who have borne witness to the growing imperial reach of the United States in the post 9/11 era and have reached the only logical conclusion one came come to "the long-term survival of the human species requires the United States of America to dismantle peacefully and immediately". We acknowledge that the founding fathers were certainly “on to something” but it is time to hit the reset button. Small is the new big.

The 9/10 Project asserts that if we American citizens continue to pursue the “rags to riches” myth of the American Dream we do so at our own peril. We do so willfully ignoring the dark underbelly of said dream that lurks like a storm cloud in the form of a sense of entitlement bloated to the point of bursting as if on steroids. A sense of entitlement that we can, literally and figuratively, no longer afford. A sense of entitlement that has us clawing and scratching our way through our pathetic little existence. In a culture of competition that has backed us into a corner the only escape from which seems to be more competition, more violence; or borrowing from another Peter to pay off another Paul and for what?

So we Americans can remain blithely ignorant between the direct connections that links the blood soaked desserts of the Middle East and our beloved S.U.V.’s and McMansions with newly remodeled kitchens ready for a photo spread in Martha Stewart Living? Really? Is that where we are on the evolutionary scale?

The 9-10 Project is designed to bring us all back to the place we were before 9/11: when the liberal intellectual elite in the U.S. was not afraid to declare loud and clear that is was ashamed of its government. A time when a culture war held the promise of cleaving a wedge between those of us truly on the left and the gun show loving Glen Beck apostles that make Fox News a profitable network.

Here are the 9/10 projects 9 basic principles:

1. (The United States of) America is BAD.

2. Face it, GOD is a lie. However… if, in fact, there is a CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, she/he certainly did not write a book of laws for us to live by.

GOD George W. Bush claimed, many times, to be in dialogue with, and take guidance from, God. If he had said he took guidance from Tinker bell, it would have turned into a national emergency, or at the very least, a ratings monster of a reality television program. Rational individuals and mathematicians everywhere know that existence of Tinkerbell is just as likely as the existence of an all knowing creator who wrote the best selling book of all time… Furthermore, those daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations. America’s war on terror is finally being revealed for what it really is: a Jihad.

3. Fair trade! Show me a human who can spend an hour in WAL-MART or TARGET and emerge without blood on their hands and I will show you an honest human.

Honesty I hope that I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider to be the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man. But the finely woven fabric (created by cheap child labor in some country with dark skinned children and faces covered in dust) of the Mossimo® Ripstop Cargo Short” just speaks to me in a way that says: Summer! Plus, my calves look great in them AND (omg!) I got 20% off because I opened a new Target charge account.

4. Gay marriage? Sure it should be legal. However, be careful what you wish for. The family is not “sacred”; it is one of their most powerful traps.

Marriage is one of the more powerful trap’s exalted by the religious right that keeps us is subservience to a make believe God, an economy that relies on you spinning your wheels in the rat race, and a government that aims to control you. By all means, marry if you must, but when the moon is full and the mood strikes you, feel free to go and rape your slave women. Or slave men. Depending on your orientation. Whatever. It is all good, and those high yellow kids are so cute and make great clothing models for Benetton.

5. Laws were meant to be broken.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Justice is blind is a great slogan invented by Madison Avenue geniuses employed to keep people with their heads down and doing what they are told. Why? The trust funds, Heidi Fleiss harems, dinner reservations at The French Laundry, and other “rights and privileges” enjoyed by the wealthiest 1% are predicated on a massive and sustained outbreak of fear. Are they scared enough yet, or do we need to see some more towers come down, bitches?!?!

6. “The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a sham of historical proportions the consequences of which gave rise to death, incarceration, and the popularity of Glenn Beck.”

“The basic credo of the American way of life is encapsulated in that tidy and well sounding phrase ‘I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ With that as a scoring rubric, the U.S.A. puts the F back in Fantastic Fucking Failure.

A: Life.

Fact:
22,000 Americans died last year from lack of health insurance. Not because they were sick, but 22,000 dead because they had no insurance. The number of Canadians, and citizens of Europe who died from lack of health care insurance, last year: ZERO.

B: Liberty.

Fact:
The USA incarcerates 2.3 million prisoners at a (2006) rate of 738 per 100,000. For China, the rate is 118 prisoners per 100,000 people less than one sixth the rate in “the land of the free.” No other country comes close to the American rate of incarceration. Are American Citizens that bad?

C: The pursuit of happiness

Fact:
The United States ranks 23rd on the “happy planet index”. Above the so-called best country in the world include such smaller, socialist leaning countries as Denmark, Switzerland, and France.

7. I work just as hard as the average CEO. It is only the arbitrary criteria set by the ruling class that smiles benevolently on the fact that corporate CEO’s earn, on average, 543 times that of the average worker.

Equity “If we are to be truly free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained we must engage in Non-violent, meme warfare that would end the U.S.A.

8. It is not Un-American to assert that America must cease to exist.

Dissent “If there should come a time when the only hope for the survival of the American dream is the destruction of the nation that gave birth to her, then matricide is indeed a form of patriotism.” – Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father.

9. Fuck Wall Street, but make love to Mother Nature.

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues” – Dr. Suess, The Lorax

While Fleetwood's 9-10 project may seem extreme to some it actually draws the logical conclusions that mankind will eventually come to: that the American project has failed and it is time to move on to something better. America has become an empire and, unfortunately, all empires are destined to fall. The fall of this evil machine will inevitably take one of two forms: either enough people will wake up from the junk food and television induced god-fearing coma that most Americans live their lives in, learn to think on their own, and rise up against the powers that be in revolution or in the not too distant future we will have exploited and abused one population to many and the world themselves will tear us to shreds like a pack of ravenous wolves.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Vulcans Take Lessons From The Zionists

In the run-up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration had failed miserably to win any international support or backing for the war from the UN Security Council. There was a wide spread global consensus that this upcoming war being waged by the US was going to be an illegal one. But the US was not going to give up hope just yet. President George Bush knew that he had a comrade in Tony Blair and Britain would soon join the so called "coalition of the willing". Britain and Spain as well as a handful of others were more than willing to support and endorse Bush's war on terrorism despite opposition from virtually every other country.The Bush-Blair announcement of the new "road map" was timed and orchestrated for maximum global visibility, it highlighted the links between Iraq and the Israel-Palestine conflict just days before the Iraq war was launched. It was Bush's intent to raise sympathy for Israel in their ongoing struggle with the "terrorist" state of Palestine. He was hoping to instill in the minds of the people a connection between Israel's struggle with terrorism and their infallibility with America's victimization and the war on terror he was about to begin himself.

In May 2003, just 2 months after the US invasion of Iraq, the UN Security Council recognized the US and their allies as "occupying powers", with all the accompanying international legal obligations. Under the fourth Geneva Convention the Palestinians and the people of Iraq were now both considered "protected populations", living under foreign occupation.
Long before the US invasion of Iraq the Pentagon was looking to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians as the model for their forthcoming invasion and occupation. They saw clearly how every since the 1967 Israeli occupation began Israel had been able to get away with serious violations of international law, with almost 4 decades of experience under their belt, Israel had perfected the art of violating human rights. The Bush administration was impressed by the laundry list of international crimes that Israel had somehow manged to get away with, including: Illegal imprisonment, assassinations, expulsions, house demolitions, torture, the destruction of agricultural land and civilian property, extended curfews and closures, and other forms of collective punishment as well as what most would consider, ethnic cleansing.

Increasingly, the two occupations have come to resemble each other, as the occupiers have actively collaborated to consolidate their control over angry populations. In April of 2002, over a year before the US invasion of Iraq, Israeli troops were sent to re-claim the West Bank. The Israeli attack on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin led to the deaths of dozens of civilians including 9 children and 7 women. Rather than viewing this as the atrocity it truly was, the United States saw the Jenin attack as a model for its planned invasion of Iraq. US military officials met with the Israeli military to learn the urban warfare techniques that Israel had used in Jenin. Two years later the US would use these tactics in their attack on Fallujah, including the wide spread killing of women and children. Ironically the use of white phosphorous on the Fallujahan civilian population then became a tactic that Israel copied in their 2006 war in Lebanon.
Not only did the US receive a lesson in urban warfare, they also gained a valuable insight into the art of torturing Arabs, a practice that Israel had long since mastered. Palestinian detainees have reported to being subjected to the same techniques the US has used in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere in the global war on terror. Some of these include: Sleep and toilet deprivation, being hooded for long periods of time, beatings, being forced to remain in painful positions, sexual humiliation, and the use of dogs to cause fear.

The truly valuable information gleaned from Israel's years of occupation was the advice and training in tactics designed to exploit specific national , cultural, and religious Arab traditions. What the US labeled "spreading democracy" was viewed by the Arab world as nothing more than a parallel occupation to the US backed Israeli occupation of Palestine.

An even clearer connection emerged in 2006 during Israel's war against Lebanon and Hezbollah. The Israeli goals of attempting to wipe out and destroy all resistance to its control and domination of the region matched almost word for word the United States goals being fought out in Iraq, the two strategies even had similar origins.
In the early 1990's a group of neo-conservative American analysts and policy makers set forth a vision for US foreign policy known as The Project For The New American Century. In 1996 several of the PNAC authors traveled to Israel at the request of a US oriented Israeli politician who was in the process of running for the office of Prime Minister. They drafted a strategy paper that they entitled "Making a Clean Break: Defending the Realm". It proposed a focus on military power rather than diplomacy, let all of Israel's neighbors know that force rather than negotiations would be the new basis of relationships, and make a clean break with all earlier peace processes. When Israel went to war against Lebanon, many people saw the clean break strategy coming to bloody life.

In 1998 George W. Bush was introduced to this same group of people that penned the PNAC as well as the Making a Clean Break strategy. This group became know collectively as "The Vulcans" and was spearheaded by soon to be US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The name "The Vulcans" alludes to a huge statue of Vulcan, the Roman God of fire and metalworking , in Rice’s home town of Birmingham, Alabama. Vulcan was known as a cold, unfeeling and analytical God, attributes the group all shared, wanted to emulate and eventually be associated with.When Bush took office in 2000, The Vulcans were all given key cabinet positions of power and put in charge of US foreign policy. Some of the most well known Vulcans were Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State; Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense and President of the World Bank; Richard Armitage, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; Robert Blackwill, U.S. Ambassador to India and later U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor; Stephen Hadley, U.S. National Security Advisor; Dov Zakheim, Comptroller of the Pentagon and Robert Zoellick , U.S. Trade Representative, United States Deputy Secretary of State and nominated as World Bank president in May 2007.

Ironically George W. Bush was originally mild on military matters, his proposed budget plan had even less money going into military spending than Al Gore, he also proposed greater nuclear arms reductions than Gore and made statements such as , “I don’t want to try to put our troops in all places at all times. I don’t want to be the world’s policeman.” and "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us, that's why we have to be humble. " and "I want to empower the people. I want to help people help themselves, not have government tell people what to do. I just don't think it's the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, we do it this way, so should you.”
This humble foreign policy outlined by Bush during his campaign, however, was quickly dropped after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in favor of a more aggressive policy written and put forth by The Vulcans. This policy was later dubbed the Bush Doctrine and bore a strong resemblance to Making a Clean Break, Israel's foreign policy , probably because they were both written by the same group of people.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We're Straight, They're Skewed

I have a lot of friends who are gay and lesbian and I wanted to stand with them in solidarity against the LDS church. The main argument the church has given is that their reaction was one that had nothing to do with sexual orientation, that they would have done the same thing with anyone who had been acting inappropriately - which a kiss on the cheek apparently qualifies as. This is a bald faced lie, anyone who has ever actually been to temple square can tell you there are constantly couples in various states of heterosexual public displays of affection.

From a purely legal stand point the LDS church was within their rights to ask the couple to leave their property and press charges when their request was ignored. However, it seems to me that the issue at the heart of this controversy is one that needs the attention of both the local community and the national public eye. Where do property rights end and civil rights begin?

Civil disobedience has often been the vehicle for social change. Our nation may have never seen the civil rights movement if large groups of African-Americans had held more respect for private property above their own dignity. Remember, it was a PRIVATELY OWNED bus that Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of.

Even public works were segregated, bathrooms, water fountains, etc. Only by standing up for their civil rights, in defiance of the rights of bigot property owners, were the wheels of social change set into motion. Only by swarming privately owned establishments who refused to serve 'blacks' and refusing to leave were activists able to bring the terrible biases into the public eye and usher in the civil rights movement.
The protest itself was an amazing experience. I brought my two younger children along with me because I wanted them to have the experience, they are three and six and on the way up to Salt Lake we explained to them how two boys had been arrested because one boy had kissed the other on the cheek. Naturally their reaction was that this was a stupid reason for the police to arrest someone, I told them that I agreed and that other people who thought so too were all meeting in Salt Lake to kiss each other to show how stupid we thought this was.

When we got to the Main Street Plaza there were about 100 protesters already gathered, many of them fighting with a half dozen bigots with giant signs telling us that we were unnatural, godless, unamerican, against religion and that homosexuality was just as inappropriate as pornography and prostitution - all of which was news to me! Yelling matches broke out between the bigots and the protesters until eventually the crowd simply wound its way around them to enter the plaza... as we passed I could hear some protesters telling the sign holders that they loved them despite their close-mindedness. The throng gathered all throughout the plaza, holding hands, talking, laughing and dancing. The majority surrounded the reflecting pool at the foot of the Salt Lake temple. Randomly people would kiss one another while the surrounding crowd cheered them on. Moving about amongst the protesters a number of journalists were taking pictures and interviewing the smiling kissers.As the hour wore on people started to not only kiss their partners and friends, but many would randomly walk up to complete strangers and ask if they could kiss. The air was filled with laughter and shouts of encouragement. To the church's credit their security guards stayed to the background, not interfering or hassling any of the gathered protesters. Salt Lake City police officers also made an appearance but seemed to be more concerned with staying under the shade of a tree than with the going ons around them. My children truly seemed to enjoy all the attention and high spirits, the happiness of those gathered together in a common purpose was infectious. In all I kissed eight different people: many of my closest friends, including my best friend Cammie Chatwin who rode up with us, and several complete strangers. The photo background of choice was to get same sex couples kissing with the LDS temple as a backdrop.I am proud that even in this deeply red state there are still people courageous enough to stand up for what's right, regardless of the law. Disappointment in gay rights protesters is no different than being disappointed in women who were arrested for putting their votes into ballot boxes when it was against the law, or for African-Americans who refused to go to the back of the bus, or for early Americans who threw tea into a harbor as a giant 'screw off' to the powers that be for their unfair taxation without representation. I believe we have the moral duty to break laws that enable sexism, racism and bigotry and was more than happy to stand with my friends in doing so.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Honduras And The School Of Coups

A controversial facility at Ft. Benning, Ga., formerly known as the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA), is still training Honduran officers despite claims by the Obama administration that it cut military ties to Honduras after its democratically elected president was overthrown on June 28.

A day after an SOA trained army general ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint, President Barack Obama stated that "the coup was not legal" and that Zelaya remained "the democratically elected president."

The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires that U.S. military aid and training be suspended when a country undergoes a military coup, and the Obama administration has indicated those steps have been taken. However, Lee Rials, public affairs officer for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, confirmed Monday that Honduran officers are still being trained at the school."Yes, they're in class now." Rials said. When asked about the Obama administration's suspension of aid and training to Honduras, Rials said, "Well, all I know is they're here, and they're in class."The decision to continue training the Hondurans is "purely government policy," he said adding that it's possible that other U.S. military schools are training them too."We're not the only place." Rials did not know exactly how many Hondurans were currently enrolled, but he said at least two officers are currently in the school's Command and General Staff course, its premier year- long program.

"I don't know the exact number because we've had some classes just completed and some more starting," he said. "There's no more plans for anybody to come. Everything that was in place already, is still in place. Nobody's directed that they go home or that anything cease."

The school trained 431 Honduran officers from 2001 to 2008, and some 88 were projected for this year, said Rials, who couldn't provide their names. Since 2005, the Department of Defense has barred the release of their names after it was revealed that the school had enrolled well- known human
rights abusers.
The general who overthrew Zelaya, Romeo Orlando Vásquez, is a two- time graduate of SOA, which critics have nicknamed the "School of Coups" because it trained so many coup leaders, including two other Honduran graduates, Gen. Juan Melgar Castro and Gen. Policarpo Paz Garcia. Vasquez is not the only SOA graduate linked to the current coup or employed by the de facto government. Others are:

* Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, the head of the Honduran air force, who arranged to have Zelaya flown into exile in Costa Rica.

* Gen. Nelson Willy Mejia, the newly appointed director of immigration, who is not only an SOA graduate, but a former SOA instructor. One year after he was awarded the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal, he faced charges in connection with the infamous death squad, Battalion 3- 16, for
which he was an intelligence officer.

* Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza Membreño, the Honduran army's top lawyer who admitted that flying Zelaya into exile was a crime, telling the Miama Herald that ''In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime," but it will be justified.

* Lt. Col. Ramiro Archaga Paz, the army's director of public relations, who has denied harassment of protesters and maintained that the army is not involved in internal security.

*Col. Jorge Rodas Gamero, a two- time SOA graduate, who is the minister of security, a post he also held in Zelaya's government.

The "School of Assassins" has a very impressive roster of alumni, it is a Who's Who of the most infamous dictators, death-squad directors and mass murderers in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. Panama's Gen. Manuel Noriega, who now resides in a Florida prison for international narcotics trafficking, is an SOA alum. So was the godfather of the Salvadoran death squads, Roberto D'Aubuisson, who masterminded the 1980 murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero and hundreds of other killings. So was the violent former dictator of Bolivia Gen. Hugo Banzer. The list goes on and on.

According to the Center for International Policy, The School of the Americas had been questioned for years, as it trained many military personnel before and during the years of the dirty wars in the Southern Cone and the civil war years in Central America, in which the armed forces within several Latin American countries ruled or had disproportionate government influence and committed serious human rights violations in those countries. SOA graduates continue to surface in news reports regarding both current and new human rights violations.

On September 20th 1996 the Pentagon released seven training manuals prepared by the U.S. military and used between 1987 and 1991 in Latin America and in intelligence training courses at the U.S. School of the Americas . The manuals were based in part on lesson plans used by the school as far back as 1982. These manuals taught repressive techniques and promoted the violation of human rights throughout Latin America and around the globe. The manuals contain instructions in motivation by fear, bounties for the deaths of enemies, false imprisonment, torture, execution, and kidnapping a target's family members.These manuals taught tactics that come right out of a Soviet gulag and have no place in civilized society. The Pentagon later admitted that these manuals were a "mistake".

After an investigation the Department of Defense discontinued the use of the manuals, directed their recovery to the practical extent, and destroyed the copies in the field. U.S. Southern Command advised governments in Latin America that the manuals contained passages that did not represent U.S. government policy, and pursued recovery of the manuals from the governments and some individual students. It should be noted that David Addington and Dick Cheney retained personal copies of the training manuals.Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Bolivia have all come out condemning the school and its practices, refusing to send any more of their soldiers to be trained there. The fact that this school exists today defies comprehension and sets a new low for America. So much for the Obama administration's policies of transparency and upholding of democracy. Not surprisingly there are already groups that have formed to protest the continued existence of the SOA whose mission it is to see their doors closed forever. For further information on how you can help keep our tax dollars from funding this US terrorist camp click here.