Friday, July 28, 2006

Taking the Survey

I have recently become a regular visitor and commentor at Ice Station Tango, a blog I highly recommend. J. Allbrighton aka Station Agent is blessed with an acerbic wit and the common sense to recognize the magnitude of the crisis in America. Today he posted a set of twelve survey questions on religion. I thought you might like to look at my responses.

Here's the survey:
1) What religion are you?

2) How important is religion to you?

3) Have you ever changed religions?

4) Is your spouse the same/different religion?

5) Do you agree that church and state are separate in America? Should they be? Why or why not?

6) Have other people's religious beliefs interfered with your life, if so, how?

7) Students should:
a) Not study religion in school.
b) Study their own religion in school.
c) Study all religion in school.
8) Who are some of the overtly religious Politcians you can think of who have used their faith to positively effect America.

9) Who are some of the overtly religious politicians you can think of who have hurt America by pursuing their religious beliefs over the public interest.

10) Should religious institutions be tax exempt? Why or why not?

11) It seems like America will never resolve this issue. Is 230 years enough already? Should America break up, or are we better off sticking together as one nation whether or not we can agree if it's under God or not?

12) Do you think religion has too much effect on government/laws/society? Not enough? Just right?
And my responses:

1)I am a devout evangelical atheist. For those unfamiliar with the term, my non-belief gives me just as much right to jam my ideas down YOUR throat as your belief gives you the right to jam your ideas down mine.

2)Extremely important. With hundreds of fanatical groups competing to jam their unsupportable fantasies down my throat, how could it not be?

3)I think I almost believed in God once during a particularly intense orgasm. For a lubriciously spasmodic few seconds I was a fundamentalist agnostic (of the Western Orthodox branch. I had to give it up because of their unremitting hatred of the Eastern Orthodox fundags)

4)See 3)

5)The separation of church and state in America is a unilateral arrangement accepted by State and ignored or exploited by Church. The Constitution made a poor choice of preposition when it guaranteed freedom of religion and not freedom from religion. Religion is a vast unregulated business enterprise that sells a product that requires neither manufacture, storage, distribution, nor maintenance. Its moral principles are the equal to purveyors of hard drugs and those who live off the avails of forced child prostitution.

6)-If you believe the sanitized version, Islamic fanatics on 9/11/01 killed thousands and plunged America into an endless war where thousands more have died, hundreds of billions have been spent, and the Bill of Rights and international law have been torn to tatters. If you believe the Loose Change scenario, change 'Islamic fanatics' to 'Dominionist fanatics.'

7)Students should be taught that the concept of God has been used by despots as a tool to control the masses since the beginning of recorded history. Any pinhead too obtuse to grasp this simple fact should be held back.

(This space intentionally left blank.)

9)George W. Bu**sh**, Pat Robertson, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Ralph Reed, and pretty much all the rest of the sanctimonious bastards.

10)Tax the crap out of them. Seize all their assets and distribute them to the poor. Hypocrites who have been preaching about alms and charity for millenia shouldn't be getting blowjobs from hookers in the back of chauffeur-driven limousines, nor building multi-million dollar crystal cathedrals.

11)Give them Utah. Confiscate any technology that isn't mentioned in the Old Testament, let them go back to herding sheep, or living on locusts and honey. The morons don't believe in science, why should they benefit from it?

12)Gee, I don't know. That's a tough question. Can I think it over and get back to you? It's so hard to make up one's mind without the threat of hellfire and brimstone or the promise of 72 virgins in Paradise.

AND THE BONUS ANSWER IS: 13)This is fun. Any chance of more surveys like this in the future?

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." -- Pascal

Hey, folks, get on over to Ice Station Tango and take Station Agent's survey on religion. The sample will be so skewed Station Agent will have as much chance of a scientifically objective result as he has of living off those south polar date palms he's been trying to grow. But it should be a lot of fun.

Postscript: I kind of like that Haloscan replaced 8) with the sunglasses smiley at question 8. It was unplanned but not unwanted. See, serendipity can happen to atheists too!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What Went Wrong?

The criminal regime of BushCo™ has effectively pulled off a coup d'état, having seized control of all three branches of government and the mass media. This is the result of a concerted and clandestine effort that has been going on at least since the 1930's, aimed at establishing a Fascist dictatorship under the control of the large corporate interests. With every setback the cabal has learned and adapted their strategy accordingly, playing their cards ever closer to the vest. After 9/11 they seized the opportunity to come out into the open, and fly their true flag. That flag is a skull and crossbones drenched in blood, and these pirates occupy the quarterdeck of the US ship of state.

Without giving too much credit to their evil genius, how do we account for their success in destroying a democracy that has stood for 230 years? In my opinion it is down to two things. The first is a critical error made by the founding fathers, a failure to define treason in a way that corresponds to the values and objectives of a democracy.

In a monarchy, treason can readily be defined as acts against the head of state, or a member of the royal family. Add to this the element of conspiracy with a foreign government or a domestic group bent on revolution and you have very close to the legal definition current in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Except that the British law, dating from 1351, quaintly throws in "if a man do violate the King’s companion, or the King’s eldest daughter unmarried, or the wife of the King’s eldest son and heir." It is also from this 1351 statute that the US treason law gets the language about giving aid and comfort to an enemy of the state. For more, see the Wikipedia article.

This is all well and good in a monarchy, but in a 'nation of laws, not men' something very different is required. In a democracy, it should be the Constitution and the SYSTEM of laws that are protected, not whatever government happens to be in power. Oddly it is the Constitution itself that fails in this protection. Treason is in fact the only crime specifically mentioned within the Constitution, in an article III provision that limits the legal definition of the act.
Article Three defines treason as only levying war against the United States or "in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort," and requires the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or a confession in open court for conviction. This safeguard may not be foolproof since Congress has, at times passed statutes creating treasonlike offences with different names (such as sedition in the 1789 Alien and Sedition Acts, or espionage and sabotage in the 1917 Espionage Act)
This very narrow definition of treason fails most grievously in that it virtually requires the United States to be at war with a foreign power. And, as I said before, it fails to protect the system of government in which Americans so appropriately take pride.

Some acts that I think should be considered treasonous, but aren't would include;
1)The Bush use of signing statements, clearly designed to usurp the authority of the legislature and the Supreme Court.
2)Bush's appointment of partisan ideologues to the court, for the same reason.
3)Bush's 'Faith-based Initiative', a blatant attempt to negate the principle of separation of Church and State. BTW, that was before 9/11/01.
4)The assumption of war powers without a declaration of war by the Congress.
Under this last heading, I would include a)the NSA wiretapping, b)the suspension of habeas corpus for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and undisclosed locations, c)the rendition and torture of said detainees contrary to international treaties to which the US is a signatory.
5)Election fraud. Note that in 2000 this was brought about due to Bush's father's appointment of partisan ideologues to the Supreme Court.

This last point should be seen as especially egregious, and a particularly obvious attack on the system of government in A DEMOCRACY. As Wikipedia points out, the British added this category of treason in 1702:
Another Act, the Treason Act 1702 (1 Anne stat. 2 c. 21), provides for a fifth category of treason, namely:
  • "if any person or persons ... shall endeavour to deprive or hinder any person who shall be the next in succession to the crown ... from succeeding after the decease of her Majesty (whom God long preserve) to the imperial crown of this realm and the dominions and territories thereunto belonging".
So, if stealing two elections isn't treason, what the ƒµ¢€ is? And wait a sec, didn't I say that the successful coup d'état was down to two things? What, pray tell, is that second thing?

That second thing is the consistent failure of the American public to demand retribution when someone does blatantly attempt to overthrow, not the government, but the SYSTEM of government. As I pointed out here, the so-called business plot was swept under the rug. Nixon's crimes went largely unpunished, and the American public accepted that. Bush Sr.'s Iran/Contra scam, which illegally diverted US military hardware into enemy hands also went largely unpunished. Bush Sr. himself managed to avoid indictment, claiming to have been 'out of the loop', went on to become President, and pardoned some of the criminals whose activities he had clandestinely directed (or so some believe.)

Complicit in this wholesale sweeping of dirt under what is now the lumpiest rug in the world has been the mainstream media, whose obsession with the 24-hr news cycle compells them to move on to a new story before finding out how the old story turned out.

"All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values."
-- Marshall McLuhan

Derelict in their clear duty to yell, scream, protest, whine and cajole about Republican malfeasance until the media does pay attention are the Democratic party, with few exceptions. When it comes time to raise campaign funds, they feed at the same corporate trough as their swinish Repug brethren.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
-- Edmund Burke


Friday, July 21, 2006

When Wolves Dress Like Sheep

Back in the days of 'civilized' warfare (now there's an oxymoron for you), it was considered to be a reprehensible act for a combatant to be out of uniform. In the midst of the current crisis we can see why. When suicide bombers or any other operative of a terrorist organization pose a threat to a nation, they provide a reason for the targetted nation to break the rules. If my enemies look like civilians then it stands to reason that civilians come to look like enemies.

The consequences of this are tragic in the extreme. When the Viet Cong attacked American troops in the jungles of Vietnam dressed in a manner not distinguishable from the local peasants, it led to My Lai. In Iraq the pattern is repeated exactly at Haditha. In southern Lebanon today, innocents are dying and being maimed by Israeli soldiers because they are in areas believed to harbour members of Hezbollah. In America George W. Bush has been able to virtually cancel the Bill of Rights largely due to the fact that his GWOT (Global War on Terror) is not directed against one particular nation state, nor against a directed concerted effort by a uniform-wearing entity.

Sadly, the leaders of today's Islamic extremist organizations seem well aware that their own people are becoming victims of their terrorist policies. They make no effort to mitigate the deadly consequences of their actions, in fact they welcome the deaths of their own people. Every innocent Muslim killed by American soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan or killed by Israeli soldiers in Lebanon or Gaza is a glorious martyr and a macabre recruiting tool to enable further extremism. It is the most sickening aspect of this new brand of asymmetrical warfare.

When wolves dressed like sheep infiltrate the flock, and the panicked shepherd kills some of the flock trying to find the marauders, who is to blame, the shepherd or the wolves? This is a particularly tough question, and defies a simplistic yes or no, all or nothing answer. Many bloggers on the left are rightly condemning Israel now for a response to Hezbollah that seems on the face of it to be way out of proportion. The mere fact that Hezbollah terrorists do not wear uniforms, while falling well short of providing an excuse for Israeli behaviour, does at least provide an explanation. How much one accepts that explanation is up to the individual.

Postscript: You may feel as I do that this post has an unsatisfactory incomplete feel to it. As I said, there is no simple answer to this dilemma, and I won't insult you by trying to manufacture one.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Political Parallax Revisited

(Revised and expanded, July 11, 6:55 pm)
In my June 19 post, Been Right So Long (It Looks Like Left To Me), I began a discussion about the steady creep to the right that has been going on in the US, and the effect of Political Parallax that makes it hard to perceive that shift. I feel I got diverted by my desire to demonstrate that shift in some quantifiable way, and never really completed the theme I had set out. So, lets start out on a different tack and see where it takes us.

I think there has been an effort by the corporatist faction in America to consolidate power, which in its methods and objectives approaches an undeclared low-grade civil war. Whoa, hold on a minute, that's a little extreme!, you might well respond. And without the following information, I run the risk of coming off as a radical leftist nutter. Sherman, fire up the Wayback Machine.

Perhaps some of you have heard of the Business Plot, an attempt by the right wing in 1933 to overthrow the government of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The plot came unglued when it tried to recruit Major General Smedley D. Butler into its ranks, and he blew the whistle. Congress formed the McCormack-Dickstein committee to investigate.
In his testimony, Butler claimed that a group of several men had approached him as part of a plot to overthrow Roosevelt in a military coup. Gerald MacGuire vehemently denied any such plot. In their final report, the Congressional committee supported Butler's allegations on the existence of the plot, [2] but no prosecutions or further investigations followed, and the matter was mostly forgotten.
Many records detailing these events have been destroyed, but it seems clear that in the depth of the great depression, "some American business leaders viewed fascism as a viable system to both preserve their interests and end the economic woes of the Depression." The matter was 'mostly forgotten', but details remaining are extremely alarming. Allegations of $30 Million in funding and a supposed private army of 500,000 men, the involvement of the duPont family, J. P. Morgan, Remington Arms, the Singer Sewing Machine fortune as named backers, for instance. This was not small potatoes. Suffice to say this is the most intriguing article I have yet read in Wikipedia, and is well worth a full reading.

Fast forward to 1940. Nazi Germany has absorbed Austria and the Sudetenland, and invaded Poland and France. Prominent Republicans such as Charles Lindberg support the Fuhrer, and American corporations cash in on neutrality while doing business with the Reich. The Republican campaign slogan that year; "A vote for Roosevelt is a vote for war." The Democratic response; "A vote for Wilkie is a vote for Hitler." Damn, the Dems still knew how to play hardball back then. For Prescott Bush's activities during WWII, click here.

It required the shock of Pearl Harbour to allow Roosevelt to overcome Republican opposition to American involvement in WWII, and we all know the result. It is in the aftermath of the Second World War that we see the next move from the corporatists, which may be the political play of the 20th century.

By far the worst play of WWII was when Hitler broke the nonagression pact he had with Josef Stalin. Forget what the movies and US-biased history books tell you, it was not the western alliance that broke Hitler's war machine, it was the Soviet Union. But here's the thing; Stalin, while a valiant ally in the war, stands out as one of history's biggest meanest bastards. Estimates of the number of Soviet citizens killed by Stalin range as high as 20 Million. Most died by starvation as the result of disastrous agricultural policies that removed subsistence farmers from their land in misguided collectivisation efforts. Many more died as a result of Stalin's extreme paranoia, taken out and shot or tortured to death in the infamous gulags. Stalin was evil.

And here's where we finally get back to the theme of political parallax and the best political play of the 20th century. Because in the post-war era, a great lie was sold to the American people, one I believe a vast majority of Americans still believe today. That lie was a great propaganda coup, providing the right wing with a magic hammer with which to beat its enemies mercilessly. That lie led to the cold war. That lie was that the evils of Stalin's Soviet Union were somehow the inevitable result of Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Which anyone even passingly familiar with socialist doctrine can tell you is absurd.
A simple comparison that clarifies the effects of this great lie is this; The Red Scare was to post-war America as International Jewry was to Nazi Germany. The great threat that justifies all excesses. The great brush to paint all our enemies. The Red Scare.

This great lie also enabled another great lie, this one caught by Howard Zinn, and outlined in this April 2006 article in the Progressive Magazine;

"Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that--not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor--is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power...
...If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there--the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"--do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars."
So what did the corporatists gain from this? First, the military industrial complex grew unabated and exponentially despite the warning of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Second, advocates of social programs like public health care? - pinkos, that's right, pinkos painted pink by the great brush. Labour unions? - ditto, more pinkos. Thus, the McCarthy era, purging America of its 'Commie sympathizers.' In a nation that prided itself on the freedom its citizens had to advocate any political position, one entire end of the political spectrum had become off limits.

And the greatest of all benefits for the corporatist right was the wonderful ratchet effect that resulted, where political positions could only move to the right and never to the left, coming to a point in the 1980's when the very word 'liberal' came to be treated as if it were an obscenity. The 'L' word, ohmygawd! Olivia Ward did a piece on that subject in a recent Toronto Star, entitled, "How 'Liberalism' Became a Bad Word." I disagree with some of what she says (mostly in that she sees this as a very recent phenomenon, but it's an interesting read. This demonization of liberalism may be the second most effective political play of the 20th century.

The threat of communism, now labelled The Domino Theory, was a major factor in the justification (often after the fact, as the American public was not informed prior to many of the following 'foreign policy' initiatives) for;
>The overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, installation of Shah of Iran
>The ouster of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatamala, replaced by Gen. Castillo Armas
>The Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba
>The replacement of Chile's Salvador Allende by Augosto Pinochet
>US involvement in Vietnam
>The Iran/Contra affair in Nicaragua

I'm sure my readers will have more examples of American imperialism during the cold war, but this is a good start. Consider that Mossadegh, Arbenz, and Allende were all popular, democratically elected leaders, all replaced by the bloodiest of dictators. And though the Shah, Armas and Pinochet were guilty of the worst human rights violations, few people in the US condemn them because they were friendly to American business interests.

One indicator of how successful this campaign has been is how many Americans learn about Churchill's Iron Curtain speech, and how few learn of Vice President Henry Wallace's 1944 New York Times Article warning of the dangers of fascists within America. "The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

In the opening pages of Tom Clancy's Patriot Games the hero, Jack Ryan is visiting London. Unfamiliar with the English practice of driving on the left side of the road he checks to the left, where he expects traffic, then steps out onto the road and is nearly killed by a bus coming from the right. It seems to me a fitting image of what has happened to the US in the last 7 or 8 decades. While paranoically obsessing about a perceived threat from the left, America has left itself wide open for a takeover from the corporate right.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

New Name - Same Old Me

Just a short note to announce that I have recently updated my blogger profile and changed my posting name from Daniel Webster Gerous to SadButTrue. I have been using the latter name for some time in comment threads that do not use the blogger interface, ie. haloscan etc. It came to my attention that a snowboard afficionado was using the name DanGerous, and I concede that it is more fitting a name for such an individual. This also allows me to publish a contact email for those readers who wish to get in touch with me privately. It also occurred to me that having two names was only diminishing what small presence I have on the blogosphere.
Also, I know I haven't posted for a while, this is due to a seriously painful ear canal infection I've been fighting. (If curling up in the corner and moaning can be considered fighting) It is just now beginning to respond to antibiotic treatment, so I should have something new in the next couple of days.
Thanks to sans-culotte and Len Hart of Existentialist Cowboy for adding me to their blogrolls recently.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day

Growing up in Canada I learned at a young age of your Constitution and the protections it afforded your citizens. While still in grade school I was appalled to find that Canada did not have a similar document, when the mere effort of writing and signing one was all that was required. Now decades later I see that your nation of 'laws not men' is being usurped by men who consider themselves to be above the law. They are only distinguishable from the hereditary despots of your pre-revolutionary period in that they are worse. I explain how they are worse here.

Your nation is defined by its constitution. It is to that document and its brethren that you owe your loyalty and patriotism. Every country in the world has a flag, even the most brutal of tyrannies. A piece of cloth is not worthy of your allegiance, let alone a pledge thereof. Spacious skies? Not unique, in fact it is in the nature of skies everywhere to be spacious. Most countries have amber waves of grain too, and many have purple mountains. Few have a document with the magnificent clarity and life-affirming conviction of your Declaration of Independence. Very few have the legal protection for the individual embodied in your Bill of Rights. It is exactly that protection that has allowed so many of your citizens to realize their full potential no matter their original station, and literally go from rags to riches, or from log cabin to the White House. Is social mobility not key to the American Dream?

George W. Bush came not from a log cabin but from a background of wealth and privilege. His clear agenda is to protect that privilege for himself and others in the Corporatocracy regardless of the cost to your country as a whole. He has spared no effort to put an end to the tradition of law that has guided your country for over two centuries. And, as John Locke said, "Where law ends, tyranny begins."

Webster's defines a tyrant as, "an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution." Bush's assertion of 'unitary executive' authority makes him fit that definition perfectly. Not in some nebulous future, but right here, right now, present tense. It is the plain duty of your citizens to oppose him right here and right now.

I'm sorry, I seem to have gotten carried away. Really all I meant to do was wish everyone a happy Independence Day, and to remind you all to drive safely. If you're outside having the traditional barbecue, be sure to wear an adequate sunblock. Still, if you do display the Stars and Stripes today, maybe it should be upside-down. If this is not a fitting occasion for a distress signal, I don't know what would be.