Thursday, February 28, 2008


There’s a great website that all people interested in government illegalities and inconsistencies should know about. It’s called “Wikileaks” and so explosive does it seem to U.S. Government authorities that a judge recently tried to close it down by issuing an injunction order to the service provider which issued the domain name. That means that you can no longer access Wikileaks by going to BUT, you can go to and find the same information. Hurray for unfettered access to the internet and all those who provide it.
            To give its flavor, here’s a little item that appeared in one of the documents at Wikileaks, the one containing U.S. Rules of Engagmenet (ROE) for Iraq. The document mentioned that U.S. forces can chase suspect enemies from Iraq into both Syria and Iran. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed-Ali Hosseini, immediately objected: "Any entrance to the Iranian soil by any U.S. military force to trail suspects would be against international laws and could be legally pursuable," the official IRNA news agency quoted Hosseini as saying.
            Of course, the United States does not bother to be restrained much by international law. But it is deeply concerned about its lawlessness being publicly bruited about. It immediately called the leak of its classified document on Wikileaks “irresponsible.”
“While we will not comment on whether this is, in fact, an official document, we do consider the deliberate release of what Wikileaks believes to be a classified document is irresponsible and, if valid, could put U.S. military personnel at risk," said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, spokesman for the command. (all quotes from article by Bi Mingxin, Feb. 12 Xinhua, as seen on Wikileaks.)
So there you have it. War crimes or invading other countries in contravention of international law are perfectly ok to U.S. officials. But leaking the classified rules (or even documents which someone believes to be classified) which allow such crimes—that is somehow unfair and irresponsible. Brave New World anyone?
Lawrence DiStasi

Monday, February 25, 2008

On Patriotism

The conservative assault on Barack Obama has already begun. Recently, Michelle Obama, the candidate’s wife, spoke about this being “the first time she has been proud of America.” The Right jumped on this like a rabid dog. “She doesn’t love America!” “She’s another liberal who wants to only knock our country.” And John McCain’s blonde, botoxed wife passionately observed that she, unlike Michelle, has loved America all her life. We were to get the message: John McCain loves America too, in a white way, a respectful way that no black man ever could because like Michelle Obama, we are meant to infer, black Americans have a grudge against America. And every American knows they have a right to that grudge, given the disgusting way they’ve been treated since being enslaved here; which is why they can’t be allowed to say it.
            Nor is his wife’s comment the only patriotic deficiency being totted up against Obama. CNN reported on Feb. 24 that “the Ilinois senator does not wear an American flag lapel pin,” and has been observed “failing to put his hand over his heart while singing the national anthem.” Omygod! Not only is this upstart crow an African, he doesn’t conform to the standard of loudly proclaiming his patriotism with flag pins and the childish hand-over-the-heart gesture that has become de rigeur among politicians and other blowhards trying to prove their super-patriotism. And Americans gasp in disbelief. Doesn’t wear a lapel flag! Doesn’t put his hand over his heart! An apostate! A savage! No doubt an atheist who drinks latte as well!
            And we have to ask (especially after the latest, a photograph, possibly altered, showing Obama in Africa in white headdress looking like an Arab terrorist) is this country ever going to get over this orgy of jingoistic bullshit? Are Americans ever going to look beneath the puerile gestures and proclamations of undying love for USA! USA! to see that those who indulge in such pathetic gestures are the ones who should be investigated to see what it is, exactly, they are trying to disguise? Could it be, for example, that George W. Bush’s super-patriotic stance is designed to cover the war crimes he’s been committing in our names since he first took office? Could it be that he’s trying to cover the fact that he was AWOL from his reserve air force unit half the time; invaded another country without cause or provocation in violation of international law; approved torture techniques in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions; approved spying on his own countrymen in violation of the Constitution? Could it be that all the fools who wear lapel pins in Congress are covering up their crimes: taking bribes from lobbyists, adding pork to legislation to pay off their bribers; going along with the corporatocracy in funding the most bloated war machine in history not to protect “the American homeland” but to protect the foreign business interests of the oligarchs who control them?
            For my money, I applaud Obama for not wearing that stupid lapel pin, for not indulging in that schoolboy hand-over-heart gesture. Perhaps we finally have an adult running for president, a man who would prefer to focus on finally seeing to it that America, in Martin Luther King’s words, finally lives up to its creed: that all men, even those who don’t salute the flag of empire, are created equal. That all women, even those who are un-blonde, deserve a time when they can, at long last, proclaim their pride in an America that has, in recent years, more often made them ashamed. Perhaps that would initiate a patriotism worth the name.
Lawrence DiStasi

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It’s Gun Control, Stupid!

Another week. Another senseless shooting at a college campus. Another
young man with a history of mental illness--the kid with the
unpronounceable name spent time in a mental institution after high
school because he'd become unmanageable--who is able to simply go
into a gun shop and buy the most lethal weapons available. No real
background check; they only check to see if the person has a criminal
record. Steven Kazmierczak didn't. So he was able to buy a glock
pistol and a shotgun to add to his previous handgun arsenal.

Then he showed up on campus and started to kill geology students at

Now clearly the guy was mentally ill. But I am stunned by the most
common comment: we can't stop this type of thing. We're all
vulnerable. Some crazy wants to do this, it's impossible to stop.

Well yes. Always assuming that the crazy lives in the United States
of America, where morons in the National Rifle Association are able
to gut any meaningful gun control laws by appealing to the
Constitution's Second Amendment. We have a right to bear arms, they
shout. And Charleston Heston takes his stand menacing anyone who
tries to take his gun away--from his "cold, dead hand." They'll have
to kill me first.

No one wants to kill Moses. No legislator is brave enough to
challenge the gun control lobby. So Steven Kazmierczak is able to buy
his guns and blast away. After all, it's his second amendment right.
Is that so? Does the Constitution give Americans, even crazy ones,
the right to shoot randomly, lethally, with the best weaponry
available, at perfect strangers? Apparently so. After all, it's in
the Constitution (though in fact, the Constitution gives the right to
bear arms only to militias).

And Americans say, What can we do? Only a moronic nation would allow
this to go on. Only a nation controlled by idiots would defend the
right of such people to kill. Only a nation steeped in killing itself
would allow its crazies to slaughter innocents and call it freedom.
Will such a nation ever wake up? Learn to read its own founding
document? The signs are not good.

Lawrence DiStasi


Why Does W Hate our Freedom?

In the Good Book it’s stated
That evil’s to be hated
But for those with no conscience
This is all nonsense
For Greed is Good
In their neighborhood
And the birth of Nations
Is through the Corporations
For the uninitiated, the last six years seem to be an aberration where we are being told that we need to give up our rights of habeas corpus, and our 4th Amendment rights. In other words, we must to give up our freedoms to stay free. There are several points to be made and surely I will miss a few, but let me try.
When corporations broke the law by spying on each of us that uses electronics like telephones, but including TV, cell phones, Internet, pagers and blackberries, the President insisted on providing retroactive immunity for the telephone companies, including Big Brother Bell. Now this is from a president that in April 2004 (at Buffalo) stated:
“…Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, Constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution….”
According to Mark Klein, the whistle-blower who reported this NSA operation, the facility at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco (Room 641A) was built in 2003, well before Bush spoke in Buffalo. Qwest refused to participate in this illegal spying on Americans and was soon prosecuted by the Federal Government for unrelated charges. Now is that ironic or what? Big Brother Bell can spy on us illegally and without the record of a FISA court order and be paid for it, but it is an offer you had better not refuse. Qwest refused. Collaborators can use the information and will be protected retroactively from prosecution and lawsuits. Clearly, the President was disingenuous at best in suggesting that he got court orders. Direct lie?…”Not exactly” as the Hertz ad goes. What is most revealing about this set of transactions is that the telephone companies unanimously agreed to obey the law and stop spying when the government fell behind in making payments. As long as they were being paid, they were OK with breaking the law. Not incidentally, this high-speed fiber-optic arrangement went far beyond spying on foreign nationals. It was/is called the Total Information Awareness Program headed up by Vice Admiral Poindexter (of Iran Contra fame). Poindexter is an experienced, recycled and ethics challenged operative. Are you shocked? If we pay, they spy on us.
This is one example of how Bush has embraced corporatism. Others abound, including outsourcing the Hurricane Katrina disaster aftermath (we cannot call it a recovery effort. Want to buy a toxic trailer?). He outsourced intelligence gathering at Abu Ghraib and myriad additional activities in Iraq to the tune of 180,000 non-military, including Blackwater, on our government corporate payroll for the Iraq adventure alone. He has outsourced much of our military health care to corporate contract labor and eliminated military positions. Our State Department mercenaries are also above the law. As I have reminded you before, Cheney is still on the corporate payroll for Halliburton, but this does not suggest a conflict of interest. Instead, it demonstrates a primary corporate interest. Similarly when creating an energy policy, Cheney met with energy companies who proceeded to run up the energy charges in California and laugh about it. If it were not for audiotapes showing their disdain for the law as well as Californians, we might have to guess that Cheney had a hand in the process. Bush enacted a drug policy that eliminated competition in pricing for government drug programs and established blocks and penalties for prescriptions coming in from Canada. This alone costs Americans billions of tax dollars each year, but it protects corporations from competition by a government that talks constantly about free trade and open markets. Bush has surrounded himself with cronies and incompetents who are protected from scrutiny and as long as the circle of contributions to Bush and favors to corporations remains unbroken, the curtain shall not rise. Daylight and transparency tend to discourage the growth of these viruses, but they flourish in darkness.
Even in the days following Katrina, Bush sought to eliminate union wage scales for the cleanup work and cheap imported labor was quick to the scene. Unions seem to be feared by the Bush administration. Who knows, they might limit the profit potential of corporations or shrink the circle of contributions to the Administration?
Another area of concern is the merging of Church and State. Not only have we endured the scandals at the Air Force Academy pushing evangelical Christianity, but we have had Major General Boykin caught preaching to congregations while in uniform and then “punished” by promotion to Lieutenant General. Blend these signs with the “Faith Based Initiative,” and you have the makings of a cozy relationship not seen with western governments since the twenties and thirties in Italy.
In fact, that brings us to other chilling parallels with the ultimate corporatist, Benito Mussolini. Military adventurism for Il Duce culminated in the botched invasion of sovereign Ethiopia. Does that parallel the invasion of sovereign Iraq? Too often, amateurs have equated Fascism with Totalitarianism. They are independent variables. Mussolini himself defined Fascism as corporatism. He also kissed up to the Pope and called Italy, “Catholic.” Benito Mussolini also hated freedom because he saw that as a threat to Italy and he claimed to give the people only enough “elbow room” for them not to revolt against the state. Dissent is discouraged. And is it not poetic, that we have the freedom to shop, but not to get involved in state policies? Another distraction is the use of a scapegoat or a boogeyman so that all the people have a common enemy. Elitism and corporatism go together for he ultimate good of the state. The corporate leaders become the elite and therefore the ordinary citizen does not have to concern himself with civic affairs except that we must all be very afraid of the boogeyman. Be very afraid of “Islamofascists” that represent an absurdity in terms since they are, by nature, the antithesis of corporatism. That gives us a boogeyman just as effective as the Socialists and Communists of Mussolini’s Italy.
Remember that dissent was the enemy of the Fascist state and that efforts were made to root out dissent. Benito was a uniter and not a divider. There are other characteristics of the fascist state that may not yet have materialized. Rigged elections, for example, were common in Mussolini’s Italy. Thank goodness that they have not happened here. Why does W hate our freedom? Freedom simply cramps his style. That is where dissent comes from, too. So if you lose your right to habeas corpus and privacy and security of your person and property, maybe the boogeyman won’t come…but then, maybe he is already here. Look up the definition of Fascism. It is fascinating.
“Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Think “Ma Bell” becoming Big Brother Bell. We can still vote in frequently fair elections. Work to make elections fair and Vote, damn it, Vote.
George Giacoppe

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Whatever Happened to the War?

Last week, according to the Pew Research Center, national news media provided 2% of their coverage on the wars. They spent twice as much coverage on Heath Ledger, five times as much on the stimulus plan, and 20 times as much on the 2008 campaign.
When asked what they had heard about in the news lately, readers responded with Obama – 24%, Clinton – 23%, Ledger – 11%, Britney Spears – 6% and on down to Mitt Romney 3%. They did NOT MENTION THE IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN WARS!
Even when asked what they might be interested in reading or hearing about, only 6% mentioned the war.
No one anywhere mentioned the corollaries of war – the effect on veterans and their families, the provision of benefits and services, the reconstitution of the vastly depleted forces, both federal and state.
I spend hours daily reviewing news stories from all over the nation. It is getting harder and harder to find substantive news stories on the war or veterans. There are more stories on naming parks and post offices for dead veterans than there are on failing hospitals and programs for live veterans.
In Congress there are more unfunded provisions for veterans than there are funded ones, and there is much more opened-and-died-in-committee legislation than there is legislation with any substantial benefit for today’s veterans commensurate with their sacrifice.
So whatever happened to the war?
Let’s start with the first war – Afghanistan.
THEY’RE BAAAACK!! The Taliban is back in force. They control many areas in the south and along the Pakistan border. They are increasingly infiltrating the cities with suicide bombers and paramilitary fighters. A suicide bomber killed the deputy governor of Helmand province last week.
They have engaged in set-piece battles with NATO forces, particularly in the south. NATO casualties are rising, as are Afghani casualties, military and civilian. The condition of women is returning rapidly to the situation under the old Taliban, and female school teachers and women running businesses are increasingly being targeted for terrorist assaults and assassinations.
The only progress seems to be that opium is once again a bumper crop, and Mullah Mohammed, bowing to international pressure, has told his forces to stop beheading the people they terrorize and shoot them or hang them instead. - That’s it after almost six years?
Then of course there is Iraq.
The surge has worked – in Baghdad at least. The killings are down – not done, but down. They may be coming back up.
We are arming the Iraqi forces with modern American weapons, although we know that those forces are infiltrated by the militias.
We are bribing the Sunni leadership to do what they already know they must do and would probably have done without our money, and that is get rid of the Al Qaida-in-Iraq thugs.
In the Shia area the state of women has reverted not just to pre-Saddam conditions, but to pre-20th century conditions.
The Maliki government is effectively forming our foreign policy in the region in that they refuse to do anything that we want them to do that might upset either the Shia mullahs or their Iranian neighbors. While we are paying the Sunni tribal leaders to supports us, and they are so far, Maliki is denying them even proportional parity in government.
There are disturbing reports that violence is increasing in the unattended countryside. The southern area around Basra is falling apart after the pull-back of the British forces. American casualties almost doubled in January over December.
Then there is the war as it is waged right here in the US of A
Given that half of America doesn’t even seem to care to participate, even to give the war a thought from day to day, the remaining half are waging a war here at home over what it means to be patriotic, what the Constitution says about war and the powers of government, what the United States’ obligations are under international treaties, how we should conduct ourselves in the world, and what we owe those who stand up and sign up.
“Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.“
Adlai Stevenson
The divide seems to be between those who believe that the Constitution requires that in order to protect our freedoms we must not give them away willy-nilly, and those who believe that the Constitution is unclear, and who are afraid and are willing to sacrifice freedoms for a sense of security – real or not.
These are troublesome differences, because they speak to two completely different nations. One proudly free and democratic, and one willing to define something less than the historical concept of freedom and democracy as a new “freedom”.
"It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear."
—General Douglas MacArthur
The cliché, “Freedom is not Free” is batted about with obviously varying meaning. To some that means “Freedom is not Free so please send your kid to fight wherever the CINC says to go.”
We seem to forget that the original meaning was, “Freedom is not Free so all of you step up – all of you do your share – all of you sacrifice – all of you accept that you will always live under some insecurity.” Why? Because it is truly worth it.
And don’t forget that also means that “Freedom is not Free because we owe those who defend us daily everything that a grateful nation can offer.” This does not mean collecting an additional $1.2B from Tricare recipients, while giving away $150B, mostly to banks who gambled and lost, and to people who can’t control their spending.
We must pay a price for freedom, but we must not pay the price of real freedom to gain false freedom. Breaking down the protections and the checks and balances provisions of our Constitution are not worth it.
A unitary executive, not beholden to the peoples’ representatives, is what our fathers fought against two centuries ago. Representatives who represent themselves rather than us are likewise not the legislative construct for which our fathers risked their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor.” A judiciary that can set aside not only the clear precepts of the Constitution, but also can ignore two centuries of precedent would be anathema to those who gave us the precious gift called America.
We will prevail
We will come through this trying time, because we have proven again and again that we are strong enough to do so – that the structure of our nation as given us by our fathers is tough and resilient. To do that we will have to stop fighting each other and start writing the next chapter of our blessedly free world.
"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
Thomas Jefferson

Sandy Cook
10 Feb 2008