Monday, May 30, 2005

Has Dick Cheney Ever Been To Guantanamo Bay?

He apparently is offended by the Amnesty International Report that singles the U.S. out as one of the greatest human rights violators in the world, and points specifically to the problems at Guantanamo Bay, which it called a modern-day gulag. Here's a quote from the CNN story . . .
"I think the fact of the matter is, the United States has done more to advance the cause of freedom, has liberated more people from tyranny over the course of the 20th century and up to the present day than any other nation in the history of the world," he said.
I very much doubt this is true. It was a mixed bag in World War II. Sure we helped defeat the Nazis (some would say reluctantly at first), but we also unecessarily murdered thousands and unleashed a new evil on the world when we dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Since then we've propped up all sorts of evil regimes, from the Shah of Iran to Pinochet in Chile. We certainly weren't doing anything to liberate people in Korea or Vietnam. As for Afghanistan and Iraq, which Cheney specifically mentioned, I find it odd that a majority of the people in both countries would want their liberators out of their land and would either support or refuse to oppose an anti-American insurgency.

Cheney is just an old, white, rich tyrant who would have died of a heart attack decades ago if he had the same health plan as the average American. Reading about the Larry King (speaking of old, white and rich) interview, reminded me of the cool bumper sticker I made awhile back . . .

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Weak Spot in America's War Machine

Millions of people throughout the world marched against the possibility of war with Iraq in early 2003, including hundreds of thousands of Americans. The notion of going to war wasn't particularly popular with even those Americans who would never think of attending a political protest. But against all logic, evidence and popular opinion, Bush went to war anyway. His regime has murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and has sent over 1600 Americans to their death.

At first, after the war began, many Americans fell into line. (Refusing to whole-heartedly support a war once it has started is considered traitorous by many Americans - the equivalent of not supporting the troops and nearly the equivalent of supporting enemy troops.) But Americans are now learning the same lesson generations learned 30 years ago, and a majority now opposes the war once again, or at least believes we should pull our troops out. Yet the Bush regime refuses to compromise, blasting all critics of their murderous adventure, and refusing to talk about an exit strategy. Were this a more democratic country, we might have an opposition party that represented the majority of Americans who want us to leave Iraq. Instead, the Democrats are . . . fundraising? "compromising" with the Republicans by allowing right-wing judges throgh the Senate? trying to rid their Party of the word "choice" as Howard Dean recently said? holding out false hope for progressives who still cling to the Democrats?

Beyond the two Parties, the anti-war movement continues. It is not strong, but it is still alive. Counter-recruitment is breathing new life into the movement.

Military recruitment is a huge weak spot for the American war machine because it is where the right-wing foreign policy fantasies meet reality. The notion that U.S. soldiers are fighting for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even against terrorism is increasingly difficult to sell, particularly to those who must put their bodies on the line for those rotten, spoiled hawks in Washington. The barage of lies about American foreign policy is getting harder to cover up, and even the corporate media is having trouble changing the subject fast enough (e.g., everyone heard about Newsweeks huge mistake, but many of us later learned that the underlying facts may have been completely accurate).

On this note we are seeing a lot of counter-recruitment efforts across the country. These range from offering alternatives to military service for young people, to protesting military recruiters and forcing them off of college campuses, to calling on school boards to end ROTC programs in high schools. I was able to speak this Saturday at a College Not Combat rally in the Mission. They were kicking off a campaign to have the Board of Supervisors (the equivalent of the city council for San Francisco) pass a resolution that would call on the removal of recruiters from schools. It isn't clear what effect this would actually have on the recruiters, but it would certainly send a powerful message.

The military has been missing its recruitment goals for the past several months, and in combination with the increasing number of deserters, and the number of soldiers killed and injured, we may see this war end just as the Vietnam war ended - in a loss not for Americans, but for U.S. imperialism.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

May 2005 - The Hardest Month Since July 2001

Illness - the latest is bronchitis. Living in a new place - not much sleep. Now I'm moving again after only one month. Work has been as busy as ever. On top of all that, Washington's right-ward march continues with few apologies - the media is tagging along. The whole deal reminds me of the Montgomery Burns autobiography: Will There Ever Be A Rainbow. Will there?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Fox News Makes Me Cough

I was watching the O'Reilly Factor - only because I was flipping through the channels and I didn't see his enormous head on the screen; he had a woman of color filling in for him. I don't know her name, but she was debating with a criminal defense attorney an announcement by a theme park that they were going to keep sex offenders out of their park. The defense attorney was arguing that it was a bad blanket rule - particularly depending on the actual offense and how many years ago it happened. As the debate became heated, the defense attorney asked, "Why don't we just have people wear big scarlet letters on their clothes?" And the female O'Reilly said, "Why don't we? We don't have enough of that sort of thing." This made me laugh out loud, which made me cough (because I'm getting over a cold).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

George Galloway, My New Hero, Shows Democrats What A Real Opposition Looks Like

Galloway, a British member of Parliament, testified before a Senate panel to answer charges that he had profited from the "oil for food" program. When he was asked if he met with Saddam Husein he said he had met with Saddam "exactly as many times as Donald Rumsfeld has met with him ... The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and give him maps." His simple, honest statements stunned Senators and put them on the defensive. Here's more from the CNN story ...

Galloway, an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, called the Senate panel's investigation the "mother of all smokescreens" used to divert attention from the "pack of lies" that led to the 2003 invasion.

"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11, 2001," he told Coleman.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong. And 100,000 people have paid with their lives -- 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies, 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever, on a pack of lies."

He added: "Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported."

Americans would be so lucky to have more of this kind of debate in Washington. Unfortunately, except for the occasional bold statement by Senator Byrd, we are left with an impotent, unprincipled Democratic Party. It should be noted that the Labour Party is slipping as well. Galloway was expelled from Labour for telling soldiers they shouldn't fight in Iraq. Good for him.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Unruly Dogs

The Mission and The Castro - I sort of live in both places - both have a high-pressure dog culture. For most people to afford a home or rent in these areas, they can't really have kids - dogs are a lot cheaper - and it is difficult for gay couples to have kids anyway (straight couples sometimes have to work to avoid having kids - or so I hear). Anyway, this has been a challenge for me because Sebastian is maladjusted - he's a spaz and he will sometimes attack other dogs. I have an appointment with a dog trainer, but I've considered canceling it, debating whether it is worth the cost.

This morning, I took Sebastian out and was reminded why I need some professional help. A block from the house we came across a woman in a wheelchair with a small dog in her lap. Sebastian didn't notice the dog at first, but when he did he started to pull and stand on his legs (something he can do when he is on a leash by merely pulling away), then he started yapping (he has this type of bark in these circumstances that is like a high-pitched, metered scream). The woman in the wheelchair had the usual response as I tried to hold Sebastian back, "It's o.k. he's a nice dog," referring to the dog on her lap. Oh good, I thought, then he won't get upset when my dog bites his little face.

Then I kept walking and half a block later we came across an older woman, walking another tiny dog. Sebastian had the same reaction, but this woman wanted to talk to me about something. I was distracted by my dog, so I didn't respond the way I wanted to.


The first thing this woman said was, "I'm surprised she didn't fall and crush your dog." She was referring to the woman up the street in the wheelchair, who happened to be obese. Everyone in the area noticed our interactions because of all the noise Sebastian was making, and this second woman had been watching as well. "I don't trust fat people. I used to live by this bakery," she continued. I can't quote her much more, because again I was distracted, but basically she wanted to tell me how much she hated overweight people.

My coworker has criticized people, jokes, and movies as "sizeist" from time to time. I've caught myself a few times on this issue as well, but it is difficult sometimes because I do think that obesity is a particular problem in America because of our culture and because of official politics. There is a culture of driving everywhere in many parts of the country - even to the drive-thru Starbucks. In part, I think, this culture is related to official politics that is guided by private industry as opposed to the public good. We build roads because it is better for the auto industry and the petro-chemical industry as opposed to funding public transportation and encouraging walking and bike-riding. Free market competition leads to big-box stores with huge parking lots, because they mean more profits for bigger, more powerful corporations. So sometimes, I cricize all of this indirectly by describing suburban, white, Republicans driving SUV's as "fat." Maybe this isn't productive, but I'm not sure.

My coworker, for instance, says she heard the movie Super Size Me was sizeist. But I think to the extent it was critical of obesity, it was making a broader point about how accepting this free market, corporate rule is making us all unhealthy. Isn't obesity inherently unhealthy? I don't know. But, either way, this woman on the street was not making a political point; she was just a crazy bigot.


Speaking of movies, obesity and isms, I saw the movie Palindromes last night. I thought it was great - which is what I think about all of Solondz's movies - but it also had an obese actress, as well as several actors with disabilities. Was it making fun of them? The audience certainly laughed at the mere appearance of a large, African-American woman, and a lot of humor seemed to come from the diverse group living with Mama Sunshine - a little person (I think she had no arms), a blind albino (is "albino" an offensive word?) woman, a young man with down syndrome, and others. In the context of the entire film, I don't think these images were meant as low-brow humor, but I'm still contemplating.

What I definitely liked about the film: The situations in his films are often unbelievable, but you become invested because they are rooted in reality. So, in this case, I think, he did a good job of using typical, drab, American backgrounds as settings for his over-the-top situations and dialogue. The girl's botched abortion took place in a mini-mall that could have been in the suburbs of any bland American city (e.g., Houston, Tulsa, or Phoenix). The discussion between the twisted truck driver and his underage companion took place in a diner with no distinguishing features - it looked like the kind of place that might be attached to a hotel in a large town near an anonymous interstate highway. But they were discussing what their story might be if cops asked them who they were - in fact they were on their way to murder a doctor that performed abortions. The clincher was that the dialogue was humorous - pulling together all of those elements is one of the reasons I like Solondz's films so much.


Speaking of depressing diners, I ate at one in San Francisco recently. When you don't know a city very well, sometimes you end up eating at places because you don't know where else to go. The place had lighted images of food and sodas above a posted menu on the wall, but the images had faded and yellowed, and the lights were dim so it just made the whole scene kind of creepy. There were two other people in a place that could have accomodated 100, and the music was light rock from the 70's and 80's (e.g., Air Supply) completing the mood. But I was hungry so I had to deal with it. Here's what I ate . . .

Monday, May 09, 2005

An Urgent Problem

It's immigration, apparently. Our Governor, an immigrant himself, says that the Bigots on the Border (otherwise known as the minutemen) are only doing a job the federal government won't do.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle story.

Here is Schwarzenegger's quote: "No one, Democrats and Republicans alike, really wants to go in there and really tackle the problem and then come up with a comprehensive solution to what we do with the undocumented immigrants that are in this country," he said. "It's not a lack of money. When we can afford the war in Iraq, we can afford to control our own borders."

What do we do with those undocumented immigrants? I have some possible solutions . . .

1. Talk to them and make some new friends.

2. Ensure they get a living wage, along with everyone else. Punish employers who ignore this rule.

3. Pull our troops out of Iraq, and use the billions of savings to improve public schools for undocumented immigrants and everyone else.

4. Open the borders to make it easier for them to visit family members who happen to live down south.

5. Ensure that they have the same liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights as citizens.

6. Elect one of them as governor to replace Mr. Schwarzenegger.

As usual, with this new debate on immigration, there are few reasons given for why there is such a crisis, and what exactly the problem is. To me, this makes it crystal clear that it is all about scapegoating and racism.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sebastian Learning to Live in the Mission

It isn't all burritos and hugs you know.