Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

September 2, 2008

Amy Goodman Arrested at RNC

Filed under: culture, politics, protest — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 8:39 am

Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, was arrested at the Republican National Convention on Monday.

According to the Washington Post, Goodman has been released.

Goodman’s arrest is the culmination of a long series of events leading up to the RNC.  The FBI attempted to infiltrate “vegan potlucks” back in MarchThen there were a series of preemptive raids the weekend before the RNC.  Finally, we are seeing an escalation of mass arrest tactics used at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

It is usually shrill hyperbole to call the United States a police state.  However, if what is happening in the Twin Cities does not constitute a police state, then what does?

Arresting journalists is a typical tactic of third-world dicatorships.  Now we are seeing it imported.

Glenn Greenwald has more.

June 18, 2008

FISA: Not This Again

Filed under: politics, protest — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 8:42 am

Glenn Greenwald writes about Steny Hoyer’s back room dealing to enable telecom amnesty.

Keith Olbermann had a special comment about the matter back in February.

As is usually the case, I’ve eventually come around to Olbermann’s use of terminology.  There is increasingly no other way to describe our government other than fascist.  Back in February, I thought the word was too much of a distraction.  However, as the 5-4 decision to restore Habeas Corpus demonstrates, we are only hanging on by a thread.  5-4, think about what that means.  Four judges on the Supreme Court endorse the notion that the leader can jail a person without any charge, indefinitely.  Their dissent isn’t based on any constitutional principle but rather the chilling belief that placing our complete trust in the executive leader is the only way to keep us safe.  Their utter contempt for the legal system which they are a part of is palpable.  So I ask this not the least bit rhetorically: how would a fascist argue differently?  Can anyone demonstrate a tangible difference in the thinking beyond the superficial?

Next comes Steny Hoyer, working to ensure if the glorious leader told you to break the law, then it is legal.  As Glenn Greenwald shows, Hoyer argued for the rule of law when it applied to Libby and now stands opposed to it.  That rank corruption and cynicism is only exceeded by his seeming plan to vote against the legislation once he feverishly ensures there are enough votes to guarantee its passage.

The only way to change this behavior, including but not limited to lying about the role they are playing, is to make them pay a political cost.  With an election closing in, this is the best time to affect change.  The plan to run an advertising campaign against Hoyer seems to be as good of a tactic as any.  Complaining about Hoyer on a blog is fine, but injecting something into the mainstream media via advertising is sure to get notice, not just from Hoyer, but from all the people like him.  Please consider donating some money to Act Blue for the campaign.  This isn’t a democrat versus republican issue, it is a people versus the fascists issue.  Do you want the government secretly spying on you without warrants?  Do you want the leader to be able to throw you in jail without charge indefinitely?  Do you want those who break the law to be able to get away with it if they are politically connected?  One set of laws and rules for us, another set for our rulers?  Unless you do something about it, your tacit answer to all those questions is yes.

$5?  Is that really going to break the bank?

Here are some quotes to ponder while you decide:

Eternal vigiliance is the price of liberty.

Freedom isn’t free.

October 21, 2007

9/11 Truth Movement, Bill Maher, and Freedom of Speech

Filed under: culture, media, politics, protest — Tags: — codesmithy @ 12:27 pm

As is all the rage in on the Internet, Bill Maher sent some hecklers from the 9/11 Truth Movement packing. I can’t construct a complete narrative of situation, but one key point seems to be the 9/14/07 show. His first show after the 9/11 anniversary where he highlights the failure to do anything at the site and also dismisses the 9/11 Truth Movement as conspiracy theorists and in need of medication. I don’t know how members of the 9/11 Truth Movement were attempting to raise the topic, but I imagine it was for the online overtime segment where they take questions “from the Internet for the Internet.”

I happen to wholly disagree with the 9/11 Truth Movement and basically share Maher’s view on what caused the towers to collapse. I watched “Zeitgeist” (no, I won’t link to it but it is the top hit on google when you search for zeitgeist.) I’ve also watched parts of “Loose Change.” So, I do feel like I’ve given the 9/11 Truth Movement the benefit of the doubt, however I remain unconvinced. Believing the 9/11 Truth Movement means watching the towers fall, and believing it is a controlled demolition. A controlled demolition that starts right below where the planes impacted. Believing the government is so competent that it orchestrate a complicated attack on its own citizenry, however when the attack comes, the leader of that government sits stone-faced with “My Pet Goat” in his lap.

What do I believe? I believe what I saw. Two planes struck the towers and after an intense blaze burned for approximately two hours, fell. This is supported by testimony of fire experts and consistent with the video record. One can watch interviews with the engineers of the building. They designed it to withstand the impact of an airplane. However, in their analysis, they didn’t consider the effect the fire would have. I believe the Bush administration could have done a better job of acting on the intelligence information that they had in their possession. If they had notified the TSA that terrorist might be hijacking planes, then extra significance might have been placed on four of the hijackers who were stopped by airport screeners. Would it have been enough? I don’t think anyone can truly know, but I think it demonstrates that the government could have done a better job with the same exact resources and powers at its disposal.

So, how does this lead into freedom of speech? In order for freedom of speech to mean anything, one has to defend the people they disagree with. I don’t believe members of the 9/11 Truth Movement should be thrown in jail or be threatened, or have violence advocated or performed against their person for their views. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t consider them, for lack of a better term, crackpots.

Nevertheless, I have to question the methods and the targets of the 9/11 Truth Movement. One, Bill Maher is a host for a T.V. show on HBO. I mean really, Bill Maher? HBO is arguably the best premium cable channel, but it is still a premium cable channel. Its reach is small, can’t you target CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS or PBS? I’m sure Bill O’Reilly would love to hear from you, I can literally envision some of things he will say right now (holocaust deniers, loony left, etc.). Second, wouldn’t it be better to target politicians? I mean, they have the power, and unlike Maher, are directly accountable to the public.

Ultimately, I think forcibly escorting the protesters out was the right thing. Especially since protesters in that situation seem incapable of listening. Although, some of Maher’s comments during the fiasco, I feel were uncalled for. Particularly, he shouldn’t have called for security to rough the protester up, because that is a violation of someone’s freedom of speech or at least the principle that it is supposed to embody in our society. No, he is not an actor of the government, but there are limits and inciting violence is one of those limits.

September 29, 2007

“These are places no one wants to go to, but someone has to go.”

Filed under: media, protest — codesmithy @ 10:59 am

Kenji Nagai was 50 years old. He was one of at least nine people killed during the government crackdown in Burma/Myanmar in response to peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.

Mr. Nagai was most likely killed because he had camera. Burmese state television has accused foreign journalists of pumping out a “skyful of lies.”

September 27, 2007

Burma/Myanmar Protests

Filed under: politics, protest — codesmithy @ 11:18 am

Burma has experienced a large pro-democracy protest and a subsequent crackdown by the military junta.

As the BBC article notes, US President George W. Bush has announced a tightening of existing US economic sanctions against Burma.  I really don’t understand how economic sanctions are supposed to help the situation.   Dispatching a small group of U.N. peace keepers to protect the protesters would seem like a better route.  However, such an action would likely be blocked by China.

Burma would seem to be on its own.  I have hope that peaceful, non-violent protest may affect change.  However, I do not see how it works in the face of the abject tyranny and violent crackdowns.  In order to work, the non-violent protest would have to compel the soldiers not to fire on the unarmed civilians.  Historically, this seldom seems to occur.

However, the future of humanity rests on ordinary people seeing themselves and each other outside the systems in which they are placed, and then doing the right thing.  In this sense, Burma’s situation is not unique.  There is no indication that some outside power will come and save humanity.  As sad as it is to say, I don’t have much faith that the world will do much more than what is proposed by George W. Bush.  Burma will have to find a way forward without outside intervention.  Their solution should serve as a lesson to us all.

September 6, 2007

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment on Bush Iraq Visit

Filed under: culture, impeachment, politics, protest — codesmithy @ 7:47 am

Crooks and Liars has video of Keith Olbermann’s special comment regarding Bush’s surprise visit to Iraq. Some would call it a photo opportunity. Visiting the base in the Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province, the one province Reid called “lost.” To Bush, it is a sign of success in the face of harsh criticism. A sign of things getting better. However, security in Anbar came at the cost of strengthening Sunni tribal leaders, factions that work against a strong central government. In that sense, even Bush successes are failures, although I doubt one could get him to agree on that fact.

Bush also said that he would consider bringing some of our troops home. A safe bet, since current troop levels are unsustainable, and brutal to those personnel already enlisted. Part of the ludicrous desperation is apparent in bribing people to join the military with $20,000 to meet recruiting goals. Also, given that many more people are coming home wounded from this war and will need long-term medical care, the total burden for this misadventure is astronomical.

The problems with Iraq have been present since we invaded. The problems with Iraq have persisted until the present. Bush cannot and will not bring this war to a satisfactory conclusion. In fact, his only strategy, if one could call it that, is to keep troops there until enough people are dead that the situation will be contained. The status quo of this war is sickening, because it demonstrates the utter lack of backbone on both sides of the aisle and between the government and the people. The Republicans for not drafting. Democrats for not forcing a withdrawal. The American people, the consumers, not citizens of this democracy, that refuse to do what is necessary (mass protest and demonstrations) because they have not been personally blighted by this president. And who are the victims of all this, the brave men and women who are willing to fight and defend this country in spite of the fact that we are sending them over there to die with a strategy that we know is doomed to failure. Finally, the innocent Iraqis that never asked to be shocked and awed, the euphemisms for bombed and terrorized.

This war needs to end. On a timescale much shorter than the president is pursuing. We should remove this president through impeachment (Cheney first) if he refuses to do so. How many more people have to die before you do something? When will we start being citizens of this country again?

September 5, 2007

George Carlin – The Truth About America

Filed under: culture, politics, protest — codesmithy @ 7:53 am

Digg posted the following video:

Although, I like George Carlin as a comedian and I agree with what he is saying: Americans are getting shafted by the elites, I dislike some of the attitudes that he displays.  When it comes to education, he is right, the elites have no real interest in people thinking.  They are more interested in people learning skills and coming to work for them.  And of course, they would like to externalize the cost of training their employees to the rest of society.

However, that isn’t what makes people dumb.  People actively choose to be ignorant.  The government isn’t responsible for making anyone learn, all it can do is provide the facilities to do so.  The cycle of grade inflation is people driven.  The root cause is the culture of entitlement, that showing up is reason enough to get a good grade.  It isn’t the Illuminati keeping people down.  It is the American people resting on their laurels.  The belief that this nation is unquestionably #1, despite the multitude of indicators showing that it isn’t.

However, the real ball and chain is debt.  Mortgaging the future for the instant gratification of now.  Americans are the worst at this.  We have no self-control.  It goes to the reason we are so fat, why we love fad diets, why we love the lottery and other forms of gambling, fall for get-rich-quick-schemes and why we were willing to sell-out our neighbor down the street for that cheaper Chinese hairdryer at Wal-Mart.

So, the elites might be screwing us, but they’ve had awful lot of help.  We were the ones that bent over and pulled down our collective pants.  We are the ones that became so afraid of losing our salad-shooters and taco holders that we let the rule-of-law go down the toilet.  We could restore these powers if the opposing party didn’t think the populace was so stupid that they would turn on them the second another attack came, in spite of the fact that anyone who has listened to what the intelligence community has had to say on the subject understands the policies the executive branch has been pursuing for the last four years has made the country less safe.

So, what George Carlin says is only half true.  It isn’t that we don’t know problems exist.  People were more than happy to clap and agree with him.  The problem is that when it comes down to actually doing something we act like the cowardly sheep we are.   Not every protest has to work.  In fact, it is probably better that it doesn’t, because then the elites would have to use their imagination of what people might try if a few nonsensical ideas were put into action.

However, if history is any guide general strikes are the most effective means of protest.  People have been wrongly imprisoned, beat-up and killed for staging general strikes.  That should give some indication of how afraid people in power are of a general strikes and how effective they are, hell a general strike won the 40-hour work week.  If everyone who was against this war went on general strike, our troops would be home quick.  If everyone who was for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney went on strike, they would be out of office.  The fact that Americans do not put their convictions into action is what allows the system to persist.  The fact that we consistently don’t is the whole truth about America and why democracy is so weak in our country.

August 25, 2007

Quebec Police Caught Trying to Instigate Crackdown (Foiled)

Filed under: protest — codesmithy @ 10:38 am

Something to keep in mind when protesting is that the government, by definition, has a monopoly on legal violence. Although, the government is supposed to guarantee rights like freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, quite often, people who work for the state would much rather that people didn’t exercise those rights. Let’s call it a look but don’t touch brand of democracy.

Somewhat infuriatingly, there are people who demand to use their rights. The state is left with a dilemma, what to do with people that they don’t like but haven’t broken the law. Well, if the protesters were to attack the police, then the police could crackdown on the protest and the protesters. However, what happens if none of the protesters want to attack the police? Obviously, you put some undercover cops in the crowd to attack the police. Problem solved. It takes the chance bit right out of it. Also, it is extraordinarily useful because the state will go after the leaders. Obviously, the leaders of the protest were inciting violence because it happened ipso facto.

All is well, unless someone notices what the state is up to. Which is what happened in Quebec. Here is the video.

The Quebec police even admitted that the three they arrested were cops. Although, the police denied that the three were there to instigate violence.

Police said the three undercover officers were only at the protest to locate and identify non-peaceful protesters in order to prevent any incidents.

Exactly, that is why they picked up the rocks and refused to drop them. Although, I love how the police department tried to spin it.

Police said the three were told to monitor protesters who were not peacefully demonstrating to prevent any violent incidents, but they were called out as undercover agents when they refused to throw objects.

If Canada really wants to become a police state then they should learn from their neighbors to the South and set up “free-speech zones.” Basically, the state builds a prison and tells all the protesters that if they want to exercise their rights, they have to go inside. It is much more efficient.

On a more serious note, there cannot be any serious debate on this topic. Unrelenting ridicule is the only civil solution for those that willingly spout absurdities. Those that believe that this is isolated, deny or apologize for it need to open their eyes. Situations like this are written about in “The Grapes of Wrath” and the precedent likely goes back much further.

Update:  A few things that I didn’t address.  The fact these guys were wearing the same issue boots as the cops.  I believe the boots were a way to reliably identify the cops from the regular protesters during the crackdown.  It is not really a reflection of their intelligence since I don’t think anyone would have noticed if they hadn’t been caught or weren’t aware of police tactics.  It is not a case of these guys not thinking about their foot apparel.

The last thing is the probability the people that they picked up were not the cops is ludicrous.  I realize the police statement left some ambiguity to the issue.  Given 1) They weren’t charged. 2) The boot issue.  3) Their behavior of going into the police line as opposed to leaving.  4) How protective of their identity they were to the other protesters, but obviously not scared of getting caught by the police (which is the exact opposite behavior we’d expect).  There are likely others.  But the conclusion is the that there is no reasonable doubt that these guys were cops.  The ambiguity is just a word game and reading more into it is giving them too much credit.

August 22, 2007

The Best Op-Ed on the Iraq War to Date

Filed under: politics, protest — codesmithy @ 7:23 am

“The War as We Saw It” is a NY Times Op-Ed written by seven members of 82nd Airborne Division.  The piece demonstrates the challenges and obstacles U.S. policy in the region faces.  It confirms predictions made before the policy was implemented, is consistent with the history of such occupations and best explains data we are currently seeing out of Iraq.  In comparing year-over-year averages, the situation does not look much improved and is still trending upwards.  Did anyone honestly think adding the amount of troops that we did and trying to aligning ourselves with militias with questionable loyalties was a serious change in direction?

This Op-Ed differs in outlook from a “A War We Just Might Win” by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack and the accompanied media blitz.  There is a piece Paul Rieckhoff “Trust Airborne or Brookings Institute?” which does a good job of going over credibility of the two articles.  I recommend checking out the discussion as well to get a sense of the true spectrum of opinion on this matter.  It is also where “oldmole” demonstrates his credentials as a thread warrior.

The most important aspect of this op-ed is that it is for the people, so we know what it going on.  It is very unlikely that it will affect the political leaders of this country.  They will stand behind the O’Hanlon and Pollack pieces and whatever the Petraeus report finds.  The Petraeus report itself is unlikely to find anything that can not be  spun given that it is being written by the White House.  Regardless, there will always be war apologists asking for more time.  This war will not end until enough people are marching on the streets of Washington D.C. demanding it to end.  The 2006 election proves how weak internal change is for the elites that run the country.  We can even look back at the Vietnam war and look what that took.  The leaders have to be pushed externally, and it is up to the people to do it; not through elections, but through protest.

July 18, 2007

James Madison on Impeachment

Filed under: history, politics, protest — codesmithy @ 10:25 am

As a note from history, the prospect of the president abusing his pardoning power was brought up during the framing of the constitution.

In the same convention George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to “pardon crimes which were advised by himself” or, before indictment or conviction, “to stop inquiry and prevent detection.” James Madison responded:

[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty…

I don’t see the spiritual difference between preventive pardoning and obstruction of justice followed by commutation, since they are both quid pro quo’s for protection. This president has passed the bar for impeachment long ago. If we don’t impeach now, then that part of constitution is effectively dead, just like our copyright laws. There will always be some reason, not to impeach the president, at least not over something as important as war, civil liberties, the fundamental function of our democracy, and governmental transparency. Have at the president, if he has a personal failing and later lies about.

I don’t mean to Godwin the post, but here is what Adolph Hitler had to say about the matter of big lies and small. This isn’t meant to compare Bush with Hitler, but rather give some insight into lies and the government, which I think we can all agree Hitler was an expert at lying to people.  The war in this case being the big lie, versus a more relatable lie of infidelity.

Hitler went further. He explained in Mein Kampf that it really was more worthwhile to tell big lies rather than small ones:

in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously…

The true test of a democracy and a people is its ability to recognize men of this ilk and ultimately to oust them. It takes a lot of mental wrangling to overcome the cognitive dissonance, trust of authority, and ingrained assumptions. It is important to look for neutral opinions in the world, and see what they have to say about the situation.

Don’t think for a second, that this administration is in its last throes. Or that it is lame-duck. If they do nothing in Iran, we luck out. But is that really a chance that we want to take? The war plan for Iran has been on the back burner for years. Honestly, we could militarily defeat Iranian government in a matter of months, we’d just be locked down in an insurgency like we’ve been in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, I ask you to think through the scenario from a disinterested perspective.  American people get sick of the war, and don’t care if democracy is brought into the region, they just want out. U.S.A. withdraws. A power vacuum arises, but the government supports, through the covert CIA operations, a couple of puppet regimes in the region and gain access to the oil for our corporations (like we did with the Shah). Democrats will initially win some seats, but with potential political repercussions from these foreign operations (terrorism), people will demand tough action, and are likely to elect tougher Republicans to protect them.  At that point, four to eight years down the road, people will consider Bush to be an aberration or our first great protector (aka I guess we really should have stayed the course, because now we are fighting them over here instead of fighting them over there). No view will have to dominate, and both will probably exist. However, there are reasons why Guiliani and Romney are talking about expanding on policies already in place by Bush. The only candidate on the Republican side speaking against it is Ron Paul, and he seems to be the only one on the Republican side actually enlightened about the foreign policy issues. But in this disinterested view, invading Iran is not completely irrational from a certain stand-point. Morally corrupt, yes. Irrational, no.

In closing, I will reiterate the three points. One, a founding father says Libby commutation is grounds for impeachment, not doing so is a dereliction of duty. Two, this administration still has plenty of time to do a lot of damage.  Three, an invasion of Iran is not as far-fetched as might be initially believed, both from a foreign-policy perspective or a domestic one.

Serious Protest

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