Archive for October, 2007

Survivalists

I found a new site today, and I’m looking forward to digging in. It looks like a brand new blog with lots of valuable information.

There is always one in every family. The one that gets pointed out as weird or crazy or paranoid during family gatherings. I am the one in my family. I am always trying to remind family members to buy extra food or even a first-aid kit. Essentials that most modern people don’t think they need. In this essay I seek to give some clarification to the survivalist archetype.

He makes this one particular point that I completely agree with:

I also see the survivalist as a keeper of traditions. I feel it is extremely important to keep alive the primitive skills that our ancestors depended upon. These very advanced primitive skills include: Fire making, shelter building, hunting/fishing, edible and medicinal plant foraging and making clothing, tools. I am hardly a master of these skills but I am studying them one by one. When I think back at our ancestors and I think of all the knowledge they had to have to simply live it amazes me. They had to know: which plants make anything from rope to medicine, which rocks makes sparks, which can be sharpened, which can be used to break other rocks, which trees are best for all their needs, the habits of animals, the weather, weaving natural materials into clothing and tents. It truly is mind boggling especially in juxtaposition with the specialized modern mind who barely can cook with a microwave. Where typing is the only real skill one has, to earn a living. Even after a little bit of study you have a hard time saying the word “primitive”, cause the level of skill involved is really beyond anything modern man can comprehend.

The question is: how many people would be able to survive without all the technological comforts we’ve grown accustomed to? Could you feed your family and keep them clothed and warm if you did not have a car, a house and money?

One amazing book I read last year was Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (W.W. Norton, 1997). In the prologue he begins to lay out the argument that so-called primitive people are in all probability more intelligent than so-called civilized people. They can survive under conditions that would cause most of us to perish. Even our more recent ancestors were probably a lot scrappier than the average Joe today. They had to be, just to survive. So do yourself a favor and brush up on some basic skills. If you never need them, no harm done. And get to know your neighbors, because they might know how to do some very important things, too. In the old days, before we got to be such smarty-pants, that’s how communities functioned.

Here We Go Again

You may have seen the recent Zogby International poll results which conclude: “52% Support US Military Strike in Iran”. You may say to yourself, WT*? I like to find nuance in things like this, but unfortunately, it probably does mean that people have been misinformed about extremely important matters again.

A majority of likely voters – 52% – would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.

The survey results come at a time of increasing U.S. scrutiny of Iran. According to reports from the Associated Press, earlier this month Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran of “lying” about the aim of its nuclear program and Vice President Dick Cheney has raised the prospect of “serious consequences” if the U.S. were to discover Iran was attempting to develop a nuclear weapon. Last week, the Bush administration also announced new sanctions against Iran.

That’s rich. They seem to be following the exact same plan they used to drum up the war with Iraq, and most unbelievably, it seems to be working. How on earth can they have any credibility? Why do people still listen to them?

I believe the answer has several components. 1) A certain portion of the population is hopelessly afraid. Bush refers to this as his “base”, and the administration whips them into hysteria pretty easily. 2) The media gets away with blatant bias. Tony Snow recently bragged that people should learn from Fox instead of complaining how successful they are. (He also claims that the White House has a lot of “intellectual vigor” and the president has actually “gotta make some choices”. Whatever, Tony.)

So so far we have a group of suggestible, histrionic, desperately afraid people being completely catered to by media organizations that don’t adhere to journalistic standards and also sleep with the White House. But the Big Reason this all keeps going and going and going is 3) the mainstream press has been delivering Republican scripts for years, and nobody will talk about it. Read Bob Somerby and understand. Nothing will ever change as long as this continues.

Why aren’t neo-cons and Republicans on the defensive? In large part, it’s because they get puffed—and Democrats get jeered—within the sprawling public discussion constructed by the “mainstream” press. Josh is always eager to throw you bones from the world of Fox, and Rush, and Republican scandal. But he has refused to discuss this larger story, going all the way back to the mainstream War Against Gore. And yet, this larger story helps explain the matter that has his reader justifiably puzzled. It helps explain why there’s a good chance that a Republican will get elected next year.

Why are Republicans on the offensive? Duh! Within the boundaries of our “mainstream” discourse, Democrats are quite easy to ridicule—and Republicans are very hard. You can’t explain that if you’ve spent the part decade—as Josh has done—refusing to discuss what happened to Gore. (And to Bill Clinton before him. And to those who followed, including Dean, Edwards, Hillary Clinton.) But let’s say it again: Within the boundaries of our public discussion, Democrats are constant figures of ridicule—and Republicans simply are not. This framework is being extended today, even as liberals like Josh refuse to discuss it. In large part, that’s why it’s easy for scum-bags like Giuliani to go around mocking Big Dems. And that is why it’s much, much harder for Dems to return the favor.

For those who live in the world known to Josh, it’s almost impossible to explain this matter. But let’s consider a bit of what’s happening, right now, in our gong-show “mainstream” discourse.

This is an intellectual scotoma, a blind spot to most people. But once you clear it up, you will notice this bias everywhere.

The High Costs of Torture

Torture is morally depraved. In peacetime, we call people who torture and kill without remorse “psychopaths”, do we not? We never, ever should have abandoned the Geneva Conventions and started down this road, but unfortunately, we have. Now, surprise surprise, begin to come the political consequences: skeptical allies, pressure from human rights organizations, troubled nominations, legal jeopardy, embarrassment, political challenges, skewering in popular culture, negative press, etc.

Other consequences will be forthcoming. Personal consequences. What do you suppose happens to American soldiers who have been ordered to torture people?

When we start wars and send people off to fight them, we put them in impossible situations. When they come home, we hope they will resume a normal life. This just strikes me as a little naive. Please educate yourself about the Geneva Conventions. There are things we can do to help. Visit this site to find out more.

Missing Nukes: Detailed Review

A comprehensive summary of the missing nukes story can be found here. The official story does not comport with what’s known about military procedures for handling nuclear weapons.

Stormer also makes a key point, which is not exactly a secret: “There is a strict chain of custody for all such weapons. Nuclear weapons handling is spelled out in great detail in Air Force regulations, to the credit of that service. Every person who orders the movement of these weapons, handles them, breaks seals or moves any nuclear weapon must sign off for tracking purposes.” [7]

Stormer continues:

“Two armed munitions specialists are required to work as a team with all nuclear weapons. All individuals working with nuclear weapons must meet very strict security standards and be tested for loyalty — this is known as a ‘[Nuclear Weapons] Personnel Reliability Program [DoDD 5210 42].’ They work in restricted areas within eyeshot of one another and are reviewed constantly.”[8]

Stormer unwraps the whole Pentagon cover-up by pointing out some logical facts and military procedures. First he reveals that: “All security forces assigned [to handle and protect nuclear weapons] are authorized to use deadly force to protect the weapons from any threat [including would-be thieves].” [9]

The article goes on to raise questions about electronic monitoring, command and control (C2) and the computerized tracking system, all of which should (theoretically) prevent nuclear weapons getting misplaced like a set of car keys.

Most interestingly, the author reviews the rash of mysterious deaths, reorganizations and reprimands that have taken place around this event.

This story is very creepy. If you go see, scroll down to the notes. Some of the people involved have backgrounds in meteorology-related disciplines, and one might speculate what that’s all about. It reminded me that Nova did a show on the earth’s magnetic field, which has been weakening and may be poised for a sudden reversal. Apparently this phenomenon has occurred many times over the earth’s history, but it would wreck havoc on our lives.

You could perhaps take comfort in the knowledge that these reversals happen infrequently—on average every 250,000 years—but maybe not when you consider that it’s been over 700,000 years since the last reversal, and the next one may be currently underway.

Sometimes it just feels like all hell is about to break loose.

The Department of I Told You So

I don’t enjoy the world of finance and economics. At all. However, I started reading some economics blogs regularly over the summer, when it really seemed that the wheels were starting to come off. This summer I spoke with someone I know in finance who Assured Me (in the special way that only people who make money off other people’s money can) that this economy is truly robust and vigorous. It seemed to him a little pathetic, I think, that people like me persisted in complaining about the economy, as if we just can’t figure out how to open combination padlocks or something. I did protest, though probably not very effectively, money not really being my thing.

Anyway, I would just like to call your attention to Nouriel Roubini’s blog, because apparently he has been vindicated in his dire predictions. Ha!

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

This is unbelievable.

By launching the “Write Congress to Right Justice” campaign back in June, the Committee sought to give employees an avenue to report politicization within the Department, without fear of retaliation, in the wake of the U.S. Attorney firing scandal. While anonymous tips were not allowed, confidentiality was assured to all who requested it.

In a mass Friday e-mail sent to all parties who submitted tips or complaints, the recipients’ addresses were left visible, and the message was copied to the Vice President. An attempt at recalling the message revealed the addresses again.

Honest to God.

Big Beatifaction

All right, I know I’ve posted a lot about religion the past few days, but here’s a follow-up to The Politics of Sainthood.

Yesterday the Vatican beatified 498 priests and nuns killed during the Spanish Civil War era (1936-39), which means the church considers these men and women martyrs.

The church says the priests and nuns, as well as a handful of lay religious people, were killed decades ago by pro-leftist forces because of their Catholicism - “heroic witnesses of the faith,” as the pope called them yesterday.

Many in Spain’s Catholic Church sided with the Fascists led by General Francisco Franco, who overthrew the elected leftist government, eventually won the war, and ruled as a dictator for nearly four decades, granting wide power and influence to the church. Spain remains deeply polarized today, and the nation is struggling to come to terms with its past.

Coincidentally, this week the Spanish Parliament will vote on a “historical memory” law. The law will acknowledge Franco atrocities, fund the exhumation of mass graves and pay reparations to victims. But the Vatican insisted that yesterday’s beatification ceremony, the largest in church history, was simply not political.

“To beatify a martyr, or a group of martyrs, has no political meaning, but only exclusively a religious one,” Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, a member of the ultraconservative Opus Dei organization, which is especially dominant in Spain, told an Italian newspaper.

Just like that, like Moses parted the Red Sea, does Harranz separate religion and politics. Miraculously. Those Opus Dei guys are something else, I tell you.

Protesters fought, and Benedict, although not attending the Mass, appeared at the end to bless the audience.

Spain was once one of the most Catholic countries in Europe. The current government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has trimmed Catholic Church budgets in public schools and pushed a liberal social agenda that includes the legalization of gay marriage and making it easier to obtain abortions and divorces.

It’s obvious that this beatification is a political statement, a ringing endorsement of right-wing power, conveniently timed to rally the political right and deflate the political left. For Cardinal Harranz to deny the politics is a…what’s the word…a Lie. Yes, that’s it. Completely disingenuous.

Ray Dubuque can explain better than I why politics and religion cannot be so easily parted.

Amazing Documentary

Behold.

I watched the whole thing, and it was worth every minute. Watch the people of the lie in action. Watch them destroy lives. See them dressed in expensive suits and bedecked uniforms, sitting at polished conference tables or in flag-draped television studios, standing at podiums. Lying.

Torture, Guantanamo Bay, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Powell, Yoo, Gonzalez, American soldiers, Afghanis, JAGs, attorneys, military brass, McCain, Levin, memos…the whole pail of worms.

Dangerous People

A couple of nuns have recently been sprung from jail. Their crimes? Breaking into the Minuteman III nuclear missile site in Colorado a few years ago and bleeding on it. Sister Carol Gilbert served 30 months, and Sister Ardeth Platte served 41 months.

The nuns’ protest at the missile site was not an off-the-cuff act. They are members of Plowshares, a worldwide peace organization that calls attention to the dangers of militarism and seeks the dismantling of all nuclear weapons. The sisters’ hammers and wire cutters served as symbols of disarmament and referred to Isaiah 2:4 which reads: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” This time I found the nuns truly inspiring and courageous.

This editorial goes on to describe how the author grew to appreciate the wisdom of the social justice movement and the inanity of American foreign and domestic policy. Along the way she traveled to Central America, South America and the former Soviet Union.

These experiences changed me. I learned not to trust political leaders’ motives, especially when they decided to stomp into a country “to save it from evil dictators.” I also came to understand that our government cared more about corporate profits than people, including the American people. This was the same message that Sisters Ardeth and Carol had delivered 27 years before and they, together with Sister Jackie Hudson, subsequently put their lives on the line for that message.

Of course, she encountered the familiar resistance and upside-down thinking which permeates our society and has for years.

The Nuclear Weapons Freeze of the 1980s came from Americans’ response to the Reagan administration’s decision to escalate the country’s weapons of mass destruction stockpile. As I helped circulate petitions on the street corners of my city, an old man yelled at me: “You people don’t know what you’re doing,” he said. “We have to keep the U.S. safe with these weapons.”

Someone made a film to document the Sisters’ experience.

Most people have not had the opportunities I did to learn these lessons about social justice. Somehow, those of us who have been enlightened must find ways to share the truth with those who are not exposed to it.

One way to start is to view the new film about the Sisters Ardeth, Carol and Jackie Hudson titled “Conviction” by Brenda Truelson Fox of Boulder, CO. It illustrates the sisters’ commitment to disarmament and the price they paid as a result. Former president of the U.S. National Association of Evangelists Ted Haggard and anti-nuclear weapons advocate Helen Caldicott, MD, are featured. Copies of the 43-minute film are available through the website Zero to Sixty Productions: www.ztsp.org.

Click through to the Plowshares site to read the gory details of the nuns’ trial. It seems that the judge desired to turn the screws. Charming.

Whistleblowers

The situation at Guantanamo Bay is deplorable. The Guardian reports that a military lawyer has had enough and will be testifying before the US Supreme Court on December 5th.

The whistleblower, an army major inside the military court system which the United States has established at Guantanamo Bay, has described the detention of one prisoner, a hospital administrator from Sudan, as “unconscionable”.

His critique will be the centrepiece of a hearing on 5 December before the US Supreme Court when another attempt is made to shut the prison down. So nervous is the Bush administration of the latest attack – and another Supreme Court ruling against it – that it is preparing a whole new system of military courts to deal with those still imprisoned.

Nice response…a workaround.

I would just like to point out that whistleblowers take action knowing it will result in tremendous personal costs. Their level of disgust in the face of evil must become unbearable, so that exposing the evil actually feels better than losing their jobs, friends, colleagues and putting themselves and their families at risk. We owe them our gratitude. We owe them at least to pay attention to the problems they’ve exposed.