Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry X-Mas


Here's wishing you a True-Blue Christmas! BlogForArizona will be on holiday until after the New Year, although there may be one or two posts in there if I get intolerably inspired.

Early next year, look for these new topics: independent non-profit healthcare insurance, living wage laws, Local First initiatives, recent developments in the Southwestern water rights settlement and how it might affect you, and what progressive goals may be met using the local rule of cities in Arizona.

As always, if you are an Arizona Progressive and wish to write for BlogForArizona, either just one article, or on an on-going basis, please contact the editor at MBryan@aol.com. I'm always anxious to hear something on these pages other than the sound of my own voice! Though, let's be honest, I find that euphonious, too...

As we say in those parts of Arizona made subversively cosmopolitan by our living there, "Buon Natale e Buon Capo d'Anno! Ciao, Bella!"

Monday, December 20, 2004

Rep. J.D. Hayworth Votes Himself into the 2006 Governor's Race

J.D. Hayworth, Congressman for AZ CD 5, has voted himself a windfall in the Gubernatorial race of 2006. Hayworth voted in favor the omnibus spending package earlier this month which contained a provision allowing the transfer of funds in a Federal Campaign Committee to another Committee for a different office. This means that Haworth will be able to use over a quarter of a million from his Federal funds that he did not use this year to his Gubernatorial race in 2006.

The Congressman claims that he did not know the effect this change in the law would have on his own electoral position. His spokesperson ingenuously claims that he assumed that he presumed that such transfers were prohibited by state law by default. But a survey of state laws shows that only 11 states have any sort of restriction on such transfers. Only Alaska, Arizona, California (special elections only), Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Carolina and Washington restrict such transfers in any way. So the excuse that he assumed there was a restriction by default is clearly a smokescreen.

Arizona does have restrictions under ARS§16-905 (H)(2), but they are toothless in regards to intra-candidate transfers for future elections:

"H. A candidate's campaign committee or an individual's exploratory committee shall not make a loan and shall not transfer or contribute money to any other campaign or exploratory committee that is designated pursuant to this chapter or 2 United States Code section 431 except as follows:

1. An exploratory committee may transfer monies to a subsequent candidate's campaign committee of the individual designating the exploratory committee, subject to the limits of subsection B of this section.

2. A candidate's campaign committee may transfer or contribute monies to another campaign committee designated by the same candidate as follows:

(a) Subject to the contribution limits of this section, transfer or contribute monies from one committee to another if both committees have been designated for an election in the same year.

(b) Without application of the contribution limits of this section, transfer or contribute monies from one committee to another designated for an election in a subsequent year"


Under AZ law, there is no restriction on dollar amounts transfered between campaigns for the same candidate for a future election. A quick phone call to any attorney would have told Hayworth that, and it is an insult to voters' intelligence to claim that he did not know the ramifications of the change to Federal law upon his own situation. J.D. Hayworth used his office to vote himself a quarter million dollar exploratory committee for the Governorship in 2006.

Anyone who thinks the campaign finance system is irreparably broken and needs to be fixed certainly shouldn't be looking at Hayworth as the next Governor. Hayworth was involved in the attempt to dismantle or subvert Clean Elections, and his self-serving vote, and transparently false explanation of that vote, are proof that Hayworth is already irretreivably compromised.

DfA Meetup Flyer

This customizable DFA Meetup Flyer is very useful to anyone who is hosting or helping plan for a DFA meetup. I just love all those clever Deaniacs out there plugging away at making political organization easier and more accessable for ordinary people.

Not One Damn Dime Day - Jan 20, 2005

Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One! Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one damn dime for nothing for 24 hours.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target... Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter). For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down.

The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

"Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.

"Not One Damn Dime Day" is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way. Now 1,200 brave young Americans and (some estimate) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan - a way to come home.

There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed. For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Site Update

You might note several changes on this site. I have recently completed (hopefully... ) an update that had been hanging over my head since the General Election.

Besides some trivial cosmetic changes, including color pallete tweaking and a layout revision, the most notable change is the new mascot at the top of the sidebar. Clicking on him will take you to a new shop with merchandise based on the theme of membership in Arizona's reality-based community. Please take a look, the design is fun to wear, and purchases help the blog by providing money and meme propagation.

The second major change is a raft of new RSS feeds. I changed the method by which I acquire feeds and have provided key feeds that I use myself. There are now local Arizona news sources, national political, international and business feeds from major media such as NYT, Washington Post and WSJ, and key independent media/internet resources. If you have a favorite feed you would like to see here, just drop me a line.

Finally, though certainly not least, you probably noticed that Reverend Gerry Straatemeier has signed up as a guest poster and will be posting to the site. My best guest posters have always been frequent readers, so if you feel like you would like to have a say on BlogForArizona, please write and let me know.

Rick Romley

Phoenix's New Times profiles Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley. There's more to the man than you might expect. In any case, Arizona progressives should know Romley; he is sure to be moving into the forefront of Republican politics here in Arizona now that he has laid down the mantle of his prosecutorial office. Romley has stated that he will either run for Governor (I hope not, he polls very well and has high favorables - better that the blustering and noxious Hayworth run against Napolitano) or Congressional District 5 (as the likelihood of a Democrat competing in 5 is so low, Romley is good second best) in 2006. He is also said to be in the eye of the Bush Administration to replace Anthony Principi at Veterans Affairs or for Romley's most coveted national post, Drug Czar. In any case, Romley will be a force to be reckoned with in Arizona politics. As his profile makes clear, his legacy and his character contain much that is positive and deserving of admiration, such as support for reproductive rights, victims' rights, and hate crimes law, despite things deserving criticism, and there are many. It's time to start do our homework in preparation for a challenge from this strong potential opponent.

Overhauling of Clean Elections Proceeding

Legislative overhaul of the Clean Elections system in the works by legislators. Thanksfully it takes 3/4 of the legislature to amend a citizen's initiative, or the Republican majority would be savaging our model legislation. The Clean Elections system is supported by more progressive Republicans such as Senator McCain, but there is a contingent of the party, centered around failed Gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon and the Goldwater Institute, who want badly to destroy or cripple the system. It is these folks who sponsored the failed and inept "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" initiative this last cycle. Don't count on them being so incompetent as to get their designs tossed on a constitutional technicality next time. They are attacking the system at every turn during the legislative tune-up of the system, though luckily the need for bi-partisan support prevents the worst of their designs. Contact your district's elected officials in both the legislature and the party and tell them that you like Clean Elections and what sort of responsible reforms you support. It's our law; don't let the legislature deface it.

An Eskimo Sued My SUV...

You probably haven't realized it, but your way of life is being sued. Americans' profligate energy use, leading to vast CO2 emissions, unchecked by the Kyoto Protocol, are being challenged as an abuse of the basic human rights of the Inuit and other circum-polar peoples, whose cultures are in danger of being wiped out by global warming. Sothey are suing us in the hope that we can be made to stop.

I certainly have my doubts that this Administration will in any way be detered by and international coalition of tribal peoples and a toothless international tribunal, but I wish them well. Surely any finding in their favor would be a loud and principled statement against negligent human modification of the global enviroment, focusing needed media attention on the problem of climate change.

Um - You don't think that this could mean that I would have to give up MY Ford F150 pickup truck, do you? And my laptop, surely I could still use my laptop? And air-conditioning in the summer... I can't give up air-conditioning in the Arizona summer! Who do these walrus-eatin' wogs think they are anyway? You'd think they'd give us a prize for warming it up a bit up there. Sheesh. Damn foreigners. They want to wreck our way of life! They hate our freedom! Terrorist Eskimos! The Navy Seals had better start training in Arctic conditions... I forsee the need for some regime change comin'!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Senator Kyl, Enemy of Freedom, and the Intelligence 'Reform' Act

Today I looked at the 'Intelligence Reform' act in some depth. I honestly didn't follow the process very closely when the bill was being rushed through Congress. I don't expect that this government will ever be able to do a better job of keeping America safe as long as it is bought and paid for by moneyed interests. Until we reform campaign finance, the government's primary interest will be putting our taxes in the pockets of those moneyed interests.

Surprisingly, it turns out that I haven't been nearly cynical enough.

Not only does this bill contain some very troubling provisions which shred the concept of probable cause into confetti and leave it on the floor of the FISA courts, expands the guilt by association law of the PATRIOT Act, making it a crime to be a member of an organization labeled as 'terrorist' (which we've now seen in the case of al-Manar television is not limited to people blowing things up, or paying to blow things up), establishes federal control over state drivers licensing, creating a de facto national ID card (a provision so noxious that even the throughly noxious Grover Norquist opposed it as an undesirable intrusion upon civil liberties), and in one final spasm of disgraceful water-carrying for the corrupt Bush Administration, created an eviscerated, butt-cover of a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in place of one which was meant to idependent and robust.

That final nail in coffin of this DOA 'reform' bill comes compliments of our own Arizona Senator Kyl. He offered the amendment which ripped the guts out of the Board and turned it into a strawman. To what purpose did Kyl transform our loyal watch dog into the President's lap-dog? One can only speculate, but it does prompt a question - why does Kyl hate our freedoms?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Getting Out Of Iraq

A plan for Getting Out Of Iraq now, not 5 or 50 years from now, is proposed by Erik Leaver of Foreign Policy in Focus.

We have all heard, from both sides of the aisle, that America cannot "just cut and run" from Iraq often enough for it to seem like wisdom. We are told that the result would chaos and unacceptable consequent costs. Well, many unacceptable costs are building up anyhow, and we still seem no closer to the exit sign in Iraq. I consider just pulling up stakes and leaving to be an tenable solution, so long as it is done in a manner designed to minimize the risks of political and security turmoil in Iraq. At base, I find it arrogant and condescending to think that the Iraqis could not arrange their affairs without our 'guidance'. As Bush rails so self-righteously about those who think that a Muslim people cannot have democracy, he back-handedly confirms their inability to create that democracy on their own, without our armoured foot on their necks.

De-occupation makes sense militarily, too. Those places with the least American troops or patrols are the quiestest. Other nations occupy areas of the country with different ethnic and religious demographics, true, but their rules of engagement are also much less confrontational. Iraqis have been working out a livable political order for themselves for millenia, there is no reason to suppose they cannot do so today, especially with our active assistance. If we treated the Iraqis as if they were already a people with rights, dignity and self-determination, instead of just giving lip-service to the ideas, we would accelerate the healing of Iraq civil society immensely. America can leave Iraq without leaving chaos behind if a sensible withdrawl strategies were pursued to minimize or eliminate the consequences. Here are Leaver's main points with my commentary on each:

1) Decrease U.S. troops and end offensive operations: the presence of our troops is a significant irritant to Iraqi nationalism and the deep seated cultural outrage at having any part of the Umma occupied. Reducing troop levels will result in lowered levels of violence. We cannot afford any more Fallujahs - no more offensive operations. Station troops in rural areas and along sensitive borders, not in population centers. The insurgency must be dealt with politically, not by saturation bombing Iraqi cities.

2) Declare that the U.S. has no intention to maintain a permanent or long-term military presence or bases in Iraq: This is exactly what Kerry did during the debates, and he was wise to do it. Many Iraqis fear that we want to continue to dominate their country and station troops there for years to comes, if not forever. Laying that fear to rest will help stabilize the political situation. Part and parcel is to stop building permanent bases and plow under what we have built so far.

3) Do more to restore services: The poor level of electrical, water, and sewer services is causing untold misery and death among Iraqis, not to mention much resentment. Many see this as a continuation of an economic embargo that many Iraqis conclude was of genocidal intent. Rebuilding Iraq is the best way to rebuild credibility. It is also necessary to restarting the Iraqi economy and reducing unemployment.

4) Postpone national elections and hold elections for provincial governments: One of the most unfortunate deviations from Army doctrine on 'nation building' is that one should have local elections first, building up to regional and finally national elections. But the Bush Administration cancelled plans for local elections. Why? Could be they did not want local governments to become centers of resistance. Regardless, it was a huge mistake. Such elections increase the legitimacy of both local leaders and the occupational government. They groom leadership for the future and test the credibility of new political partys for voters and as partners in reconstruction and nation building. Had local elections been held, much of the insurgency's leadership might have been put to the service of democratizing Iraq, instead of shooting at our soldiers. We should take the lessons of Germany, Japan, Italy, and Korea and put them to use.

5) Impose conditions on U.S. spending for the Iraq War: For the branch which wields the power of the purse, the Congress has been very spendthrift; essentially the Congress has written a blank check for the Administration to fight this war and then rebuild, and isn't even watching where the funds are going. That must end. Congress is the only body which can hold the Administration's feet to the fire, investigate, and measure performance of the reconstruction and of military operations. They must do so, or America will continue to pour billions down the drain with nothing to show for it and no idea if we are making progress. The only way is to tie allocations to performance of measurable goals, and to put the Iraq war back in the budget. Citizens need to know how this war is affecting America's financial position. Finally, local Iraqi governments need to have full control of reconstruction money, subject to stern auditing, to begin rebuilding the economy and reduce the unemployment and hopelessness that fuels the insurgency.

These steps will mean that that the Administration will be unable to retain a grip on the political life, legal structures, and levers of power that it fully intends to hang on to. Why has reconstruction gone so slowly? To give the U.S. Embassy a carrot of billions in pre-approved aid to dole out. Why has access to the political process been so rigorously controlled and why is the Administration pushing to hold elections so soon? To advantage arriviste ex-patriot parties who would leave in place the extremely market-friendly laws which Paul Bremmer put in place (and got a medal for). Why are we building huge military bases at the cost of billions of taxpayer dollars? Because we intend to have troops stationed in Iraq to project military power across the Middle East. All of these long-term ambitions would have to be abandoned as Neo-Con pipe dreams. So this Administration cannot, and will not, take Leaver's sound advice. Not because it wouldn't work better, or because Iraq would fall into chaos, but because then Iraq's fate would then be in the hands of the Iraqis alone - and that is the one outcome the Bush Administration will not tolerate.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Rev. Gerry: Cotton and Immigration

Good morning, everyone,

I’m thinking about submitting an application next week to NOT grow cotton on my little acre outside of Tucson. Then I will use the proceeds to pay my 2 teenagers NOT to pick the cotton we don’t grow. This should substantially improve their clothing allowance, which they can spend on cotton clothing our government spent money to subsidize – I hate to think what it would cost at full value.

In the 1930’s depression and dustbowls, 30% of Americans were farmers, and “price supports” were instituted to help agricultural families make it through some very hard times. Today’s farm subsidies, held in place by a very powerful agribusiness lobby supporting both major political parties, are quite a different matter. According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) online database, US taxpayers (that’s us) have spent more than 131 Billion dollars on farm welfare (yes, that’s one hundred and thirty one Billion with a B) from 1995 to 2003 (since NAFTA was enacted).

In 2003 alone, the federal farm support program totaled $16.4 billion. For comparison, federal spending for the education of all US children in 2003 was about $50 billion. Total federal spending on child hunger in the US in 2003 - Food Stamps, WIC, and School Lunch programs - was about $30 billion.

When I read about farm subsidies, somehow I think about, say, Iowa. But right here in Pima County, from 1995 through 2003, EWG lists one Marana business as receiving over 2 MILLION dollars, mostly in cotton subsidies. In total, farms subsidies in Pima County totaled $19,244,000 in from 1995-2003. AZ Starnet also has a list of 20 farmers in Pima County who were given around 13 million dollars by US taxpayers from 1995 to 2002, just to NOT grow things.

The farm program helps US farms export products more cheaply than farmers abroad can bring them to market. How? A large part of their profit comes as a gift from the US government. This makes our neighbors mad at us, as it destroys their economies and brings starvation to their people. The farm welfare programs thus make US farm production financially attractive. Then, when availability goes up and prices go down, the government shells out more of our money to those same farmers to not grow crops. And some considerable money is also doled out each year to those farmers who have crop shortfalls because of dry weather and other “disasters.” Some farmers get disaster relief every year because they always have disasters. ( i.e. drought in the desert).

In the case of cotton, which we grow a lot of here in Arizona, Bush Sr. instituted the “Step 2 Program” in 1990. This program bestows tax dollars to US exporters of cotton products (yarn, fabrics) if they will buy US-grown cotton, which is artificially higher in price because of – you guessed it – the money we give cotton farmers not to grow cotton, like the 20 farms in Pima County. From 1995-2003, that added $2.16 Billion in Step 2 money to the other farm giveaways, according to the Farm Subsidy database. Oh, what good I could do with that money!

U.S. government backing of cotton prices is an international trade bone of contention. Several African nations, along with Brazil and some other countries, have demanded an end to American cotton subsidy programs because of severe economic damage to millions of small-scale African cotton farmers. Brazil singled out the "Step 2 Program” in its 2003 challenge to U.S. cotton subsidies. During the years that we gave out $131 billion in farm subsidies, annual cotton production in Mexico dropped from 318,000 hectares in 1995 to 74,000 hectares in 2003 (USDA), in part because they could not compete with our subsidized prices.

Cotton is of course not the only problem, though that is what we grow locally. Overall corn production in Mexico supports some 18 million people. Corn is the staple food of Mexico, consumed directly as maize. Roughly 3 million Mexican people are employed directly in the cultivation of corn, and more than 40 percent of the Mexican agricultural labor force works in corn. According to Public Citizen, U.S. corn is now typically dumped in the Mexican market at up to 30% below the cost of local production. By 2002, 8 years after NAFTA, US corn exports to Mexico have doubled, and Mexico was the second largest consumer of exported American corn after Japan. What do you suppose happened to the farmers and workers?

I ask you, what would happen to our border “problem” if we sent our $131 Billion in farm subsidy money to Mexico, and other points South, and across the seas, so they could fairly farm their cotton, corn, and other crops at home? What if their farmers and workers could stay with their families rather than desperately risk death in the desert to find work in the US?

I am not proposing that this could actually happen. But it is important to keep in perspective how we ourselves are creating the flood of hungry immigrants crossing our Southern borders. It is a problem to have loose borders. It is a problem to have people dying by droves to get here. There are many social problems to deal with as a result of so many undocumented persons in the US. When we are thinking of ideas to resolve these problems, why can’t we factor our part in their plight into our solution?

And while we are figuring out what to do, maybe some of our subsidized Pima County farmers could be induced to cough up part of their bounty to help take care of the hungry travelers, or even to invest it in places that put people to work in Mexico. Maybe they already do. If so, I will sing their praises from the highest rooftops. If not, maybe it’s like we teach our children in kindergarten: clean up after yourself.

In peace, gerry
Rev. Gerry Straatemeier, MSW
--
"There is no difficulty that enough LOVE will not conquer, no disease that enough LOVE will not heal, no door that enough LOVE will not open, no gulf that enough LOVE will not bridge, no wall that enough LOVE will not throw down, no sin that enough LOVE will not redeem..." Emmet Fox

The Ohio Vote

Whether you believe Kerry can still win on a recount in Ohio is irrelevant. We don't KNOW that he can't. Wouldn't you prefer to KNOW than to believe in ignorance? Isn't that what being a member of the 'reality-based' community is all about?

Send your Congresscritters an email today to let them know what you think. Only one form to fill out to send to both Senators, your Representative, and every member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

DraftHoward.com TV Ad


Watch the new ad airing in support of Dean's candidacy for DNC chairman. It almost goes without saying, now that Dean has unambiguously stated on Meet the Press that he would prefer to chair the DNC than to run for President again in 2008, he has my full support. I hope you will give him yours, especially if you happen to be a DNC member with one of those 447 votes. You can sign the petition supporting his bid for the chairmanship, if you haven't already.

Thursday, there will be a DFA Meetup at the Democratic Party HQ starting at 7pm. There will be a food drive, so bring non-perishable donations. Tom Ryan will be speaking about electoral integrity. Hope to see you there.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Announcing Sedona Democratic Volunteers' Group

Fellow Democrats,

You helped John Kerry carry Sedona and were part of one of the strongest volunteer groups in AZ.

You helped bring about change, a shift in Sedona's politics; Gore lost Sedona by 5% in 2000. Kerry won by 10%.

You are invited to join SDV, the Sedona Democratic Volunteers' group at Yahoo! Groups, a free, easy-to-use email group service. SDV aims to keep the energy and involvement going. As Bill Moyers points out the religious right is not just on the move, but has already gained enormous power. We can't afford to wait two years to become active again.

SDV is an electronic meeting place, a listserv, for Sedona's Democrats and Independent Progressives. Meet your neighbors in an active political dialog on-line.

** Be a part of an on-line community of Sedona and Verde Valley citizens.

** Keep in touch with issues -- national and local -- as they emerge.

** Follow and contribute to Sedona and Verde Valley news and discussions.

** Bring your issues, visions for a better future, share your views and engage in dialog with your fellow progressives.

** SDV is about interaction. Recruit help and support for your issues, coordinate a letter writing campaigns, circulate a petition.... Or if you wish just observe the dialog.

** We'll poll local and regional candidates about issues important to us and publish the results.

**Gretchen Adelson will join the dialog from DC once we get going with observations about her organizing work in Flagstaff, Sedona and Las Vegas.

There are no dues. It's free. Yahoo does tack on ads at the ends of posts that is how the service is paid for.

Please take a moment to review this message on how the group works.

To learn more about the SDV group, visit
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SDV

To start sending messages to members of this group, simply
send email to
SDV@yahoogroups.com

If you do not wish to belong to SDV, you may
unsubscribe by sending an email to
SDV-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
To see and modify all of your groups, go to
http://groups.yahoo.com/mygroups

Warm regards,
Your SDV Moderators,
Dick Searle & Steve Williamson

Rev. Gerry: 2 Fascinating Stories of Hope from Africa

Good morning everyone,

Two stories today fire the imagination, both from Africa. On the surface, they have to do with the environment, and are powerful in their own right for only that. But underneath, they are both stories of the people reclaiming their heritage and creating a participatory democracy from a deep sense of shared ownership. These are powerful grassroots movements, giving us models of innovation with which to consider our own plight.

First are two stories story about Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai winning the Nobel Peace Prize, (“Plant a tree, grow a democracy,” and “A plea for new thinking”). Her leadership has resulted in the planting on 25 MILLION trees in Kenya, with support from international charities, and as a result building citizen-activist-owners of Kenyan resources. She did not do this without having to confront the powerful at great risk to life and limb. The story aptly draws a parallel between Kenyans taking back their land and building a true democracy, and our own modern world: “Under the rule of a despot in Kenya, Maathai observed what is true everywhere: Where public resources are handed over like booty to private interests - whether forests and minerals in Kenya or timber, oil, the broadcast airwaves, the Social Security Administration, or the unpolluted air in America - the spirit of democracy suffers.”

The second story, below it, is a Namibian project of the World Wide Fund for Nature. Locally managed wildlife conservancies have, radically, already put 1/10 of Namibia’s land under conservatory management, directly profiting the impoverished local people, who understand maintaining these resources for future generations. "My vision is that wildlife can help people out of poverty in Africa. But we should learn from places where there was wildlife once, and now there isn't any more. We have to sustain the resource."

Somebody wrote that we moderns are desperately flapping around like wildlife caught in an oil spill. I liked the metaphor, though not the condition. We are confronting a peaked out carbon-based economic system and divisive, polarized, politics promoting ongoing global warfare to feed the military-industrial complex that will, beyond rational comprehension, ensure oil’s earliest depletion.

That which we own communally, our water to drink, our air to breathe, our open spaces, our endangered fish and fowl and fauna and flora, our ozone layer, our glaciers and oceans and trees, our airwaves - even our common history, the education of our children, our control of our own thoughts and bodies - are less and less ours to direct, and our basic democratic freedoms are increasingly in question. But so far, we own the winds and no one has clouded over the sun, and between us all we have vast economic resources. We are possessed of the unlimited possibilities of the human spirit to create something better, and we have received the wake-up call to get to work.

So, I think a question we must ask ourselves is whether we will flop around with oil-soaked wings and gills, suffocating slowly in the inexorable tide of a ruthless force more powerful, or whether we might take a page from this kind of ingenuity to create ever-expanding pockets of sanity and peace for our future generations.

in peace, gerry
Rev. Gerry Straatemeier, MSW
Co-chair, Gandhi/King Season for Nonviolence, S. AZ


References:
Plant a Tree, grow a Democracy
Paul Vitello, December 12, 2004

see also: A Plea for new Thinking

The Nobel Peace Prize winner links the pursuit of peace with environmentalism and a shift in humanity's thinking. OSLO, Norway - To the beat of African drums, Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai received her Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, telling the audience of royals, celebrities and diplomats that protecting the world's resources is linked to halting violence.

"Today, we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system," the first African woman and first environmental activist to win the peace prize said.


See also:
Where the animals can build a community.

Africans are striving to make their wildlife their greatest asset, reports Michael McCarthy in Torra, Namibia

In Namibia in southern Africa, however, it is not an industrial facility on which the locals are staking their economic futures: it is a wilderness and its wildlife. It is a great and splendid array of elephants and rhinos, of giraffes and lions, of gemsbok, kudu and springbok.

A community based on wild animals, as British communities were once based on cars, cotton, coal or shipbuilding? It sounds preposterous, a fantasy.

But it is happening in Torra, and in the coming century it may be the only way forward for conservation in Africa, the continent where the world's most spectacular wildlife and the world's poorest people are on collision course.

PHOENIX MAYOR PHIL GORDON GETS IT

Mayor Phil Gordon's views on corporate tax subsidies shows that he certainly gets it. Hailed as one of the 100 to watch by the New Democrats Network, Gordon's sensible approach to economic development is in line with the latest jurisprudence on tax subsidies as a violation of the Commerce Clause. Not only are the tax bribes that have become so commonplace in the competition for increasingly scarce jobs harmful to taxpayers, but also to the communities that surrender to socialized corporate bribery.

The campaign didn't work too well for Nancy Regan, but at the risk of sounding simplistic, governments need to "Just Say No" to socialized bribery and make their cities and towns compete on the basis of the real factors of production which attract and grow economies.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Recommended Diaries

If you want to go "Aha!" a lot, the Kos Diaries of Sterling Newberry are your meat. His posts are informative, useful, and well-written. Anyone interested in practical politics, economics, and law will find something toothsome.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Neo-Christians

Jimmy Carter on the Neo-Christian movement. Hint: Jimmy doesn't think these folks are really Christians at all.

Rather than the commonly feared scenario of relgion taking over the state, a political party has taken over major segments of a religion for purely political ends; the result looks very much the same as religion taking over the state when the party responsible holds nearly absolute power over the Federal government. But in the process of adapting relgion to poltical ends, doctine has been twisted in ways Jesus would have never approved of and the traditional values of Christians have been discarded for ones more in line with corporate-imperial America's values.

Dean on Meet the Press

Howard Dean on Meet the Press the Sunday morning. Don't miss it. He'll be discussing the future of the Democratic Party and will likely speak about his candidacy for DNC Chair.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Governor Janet Napolitano on the Radio - Call In!

Governor Napolitano will be on the radio on the following dates and times:

TUESDAY, DEC. 14th: 7:30-8:30 AM
KEZ 99.9 FM "Beth and Bill"
602-260-0999

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 15th: 11AM-12 PM
KJZZ 91.5 FM NPR's "Here and Now"
480-774-8200
Questions can be emailed to news@kjzz.org
ATTN: Terry Ward prior to Wednesday's show.

TUESDAY, DEC. 28th: 9-9:50 AM
KTAR 620 AM "Leibowitz"
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Suggested Topics:

One Book for Every First Grade Student in Arizona
During December every first grade student in Arizona will receive a book from the Governor to take home and enjoy with family and friends as they learn how to read. This effort aims to increase student literacy and encourage families to read together. This program was made possible through a private-public partnership.

Water Listening Forums
The Governor will be hosting Water Listening Forums in Tucson, Flagstaff and Phoenix over the next several weeks to provide an opportunity for citizens to give their input on the Arizona Drought Preparedness Plan and the Arizona Statewide Water Conservation Plan.

Workforce Investment Programs
The Governor is working hard to stimulate the economy in Arizona. Find out about the federal workforce money the Governor is directing into your communities.

Once Again, With Feeling... Oil For Food Not The Sec Gen's Responsibility

Here are the simple facts, which anyone can confirm with a minimal degree of due diligence. The Sec Gen does not control the Security Council. The Security Council created and administered the program through the 661 Committee. The 661 Committee, created by the SC with representatives from each of the veto holding SC countries, approved the daily activities of the Oil for Food program and approved every cent spent in the program. Any discrepancies or fraud is their fault. In fact it is partially our fault, since we sit on the 661 Commiittee.

All the Sec Gen could do is advise and refer matters to the 661 Committee. The Secretariat (which Annan DOES control) several times DID bring corruption issues and discrepencies to the attention of the Security Council and the 661 Committee, both bodies in which we have a veto, and we did nothing.

The vast majority of the money which passed illegally to Iraq (20 to 40 billion) was gotten by smuggling oil to Turkey and Jordan, of which we tacitly approved, and which had nothing to do with Oil for Food. Nothing. We knew it was happening, we deemed it our strategic interest to allow it to happen. We maintain a fleet in the Gulf and are the strongest naval power in the region. Tankers smuggling oil to Turkey sailed right under our noses, and we did nothing. How is Kofi Annan or the UN responsible for that?

Trying to implicate Annan for the Oil for Food program's failures is like trying to hold Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert accountable for the pro-torture memos written in the White House Council's Office. They simply haven't got anything to do with one another. This is a shameless smear campaign by Rove and the GOP, and nothing more.

As to Annan's son, his working at a UN contractor and getting deferred compensation is certainly no worse than the VP getting the same from Halliburton, which just passed 10 billion dollars in contracts in Iraq from the government while the VP is on their payroll. Impeach Cheney, then talk to me about Annan, hypocrites.

This whole thing is almost as bad as the Swift Boat Idiots for Slander campaign against Kerry. Only this time, it is leveled against not a war hero charging that his service was a cynical fraud, but against a noble public servant, doing his best to steer the UN in some of the most troubled times that organization has faced, charging that he has used his position for crass personal gain and to give succor to tyrants. There is a venom-dripping evil and cynical stink about both compaigns that simply reeks of Karl Rove and what he and this Administration have made the GOP into.

Traitor West

Carol West demonstrates what is wrong with the Democratic party. Her recent decisive vote to make Republican Kathleen Dunbar Tucson's Vice-Mayor, in preference to fellow Democrat Steve Leal, was unanimously condemned by the Pima County Executive Committee of the Democratic party. The Committee requests West reconsider her vote.

The excuse given by West for her treachery is that she felt the Mayor 'deserved' a Vice-Mayor who would genuinely support his wretchedly wrong-headed policies. Oh, really? And what do the Democratic voters who gave you their votes deserve, Carol? I'll tell you. They deserve a Counselperson who will put loyalty to their party, and to the voters who put you in office, and to your fellow Democratic Concilmembers, above giving the damn Mayor what he 'deserves'.

Contact City Councilwoman West and tell her what you deserve:

The Honorable Carol West

Tucson City Councilwoman, Ward 2

7575 E. Speedway

Tucson, AZ 85710

791-4687


And if she doesn't fix the mess she's made, perhaps it is time for one or more Democrats who understand loyalty to step up and save Ms. West the trouble of giving Republicans everything they deserve in the future. We deserve better than what West has given us.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Rev. Gerry: Anti-Fundamentalism

Ah, I just love it when someone smarter than me and more influential than me (Adam Werbach, here) says the same things I do. Well, not that I am alone in this, it’s like there’s an awakening happening everywhere simultaneously that could not gain traction had we not been trounced. But a lot of other people brand us as traitors to the cause of being mad at wrongdoing. As though being mad would win us brownie points. Or elections. Or change the wrongdoers. And if we were not trounced cleanly, but stolen from, and even if we can right that wrong, our story still remains incoherent and divisive. There has been a shift in progressives, not towards the middle, but towards a realization of transcendent interconnectedness. This interconnectedness proclaims an emphasis on the interests of all stakeholders, and our philosophy must clearly announce it.

I’m not talking about wimping out of bringing strong political pressure to bear on decision makers. I’m not talking about buckling under an avalanche of anti-environmental policy. I’m not talking about shutting up when the Rove-rumor mill, having dined on America for its meat and potatoes, now goes for the United Nations for dessert. I’m talking about courageously facing our present impasse, and using the apparent darkness in which we find ourselves as a chrysalis to bring forth a new vision and a new social contract, based on Unconditional Love with a capital L and Equality with a capital E. "We hold these truths to be self evident that all (men) are created equal."

What if we had a political movement without rancor and without an enemy? A movement informed by unconditional positive regard? A movement that knows that, deep inside, we are all one interconnected whole and that we cannot diminish "them" without diminishing "us?" MLK said famously, "You can kill me, but you can’t make me hate you." Ask Nelson Mandela if it is powerful "enough."

I have been working on a new vision of progressive politics for my own better understanding, and hoping for a dialogue about our possibilities. A coherent politics of hope and meaning that responds to the yearning of hungry hearts for something larger, something more. More than wallets and bank accounts, more than reality TV shows or video games or the various "adrenaline-sins" enjoyed by even the poorest in our affluent society. A vision that mixes love and politics, mixes joy and laughter and politics, mixes basic honesty and fairness and goodness with politics, mixes the arts and politics, mixes belief in the unlimited possibilities of the human spirit with politics, mixes the golden rule and politics. We do share a coherent vision of a world that works for everyone (Bucky Fuller), and we know it is possible. That’s what’s so depressing about being trounced. How shall we reach our destination?

I started with the notion that the philosophical underpinnings of the old "left" are no longer workable. They are based in an angry "us vs. them," and require victims and victimizers, winners and losers. It requires division and precludes shared interest. And it says that being rich and successful is wrong. I do not mean to underplay the debilitating power of cold and heartless victimizers to cause harm and suffering to the planet itself and to untold numbers of individuals and families upon it. But one does not have to be a victimizer to be successful, corporately or individually. This is not a zero sum game. That’s the shift in possibility.

I also don’t think we will be made powerful by playing at their game of divide and conquer. They are better at it, more indentured to it, more ruthless, and more aggressive. I simply think we must use the power of aikido, rather than the power of direct aggression to win the world we want to see. We must change the game. We must be very smart and very clear. And we must start with ourselves.

I propose that one of the most basic expressions of progressive ideals, that speaks directly to "forming a more perfect Union," is the golden rule. And I do believe we should speak to "ideals" rather than "values." Do unto others as you would have others do unto you – love your neighbor as yourself. This ideal is embraced by every major body of religious thought, as well as by humanists and atheists. It works well to express everything we hope for in a world that works, from social justice to individual rights to environmental sustainability to world peace. It is taught in every elementary school classroom and inhabits our collective unconscious. It brings up for me a social contract based on equality, respect, fair play, honesty, self-restraint, responsibility, reciprocity. (Like a good neighborhood, more on that later.)

Now, we know that the warm sun can easily and effortlessly cause someone to remove a cape that a strong wind will only make them hold closer to themselves. So what if we applied the Golden Rule to our political strategy? What if ALL of our language was about what we were FOR and none about what we are against? Protesting AGAINST a war is quite different than BUILDING PEACE. If peace is what we want, then peace is what we will have to be, to paraphrase Gandhi.

I think it’s actually possible that when we on "opposite" sides rant about immoral "welfare mothers" or immoral "corporate welfare," that we are merely expressing two sides of the same fearful, divisive worldview – that someone is going to win and someone is going to lose, that there’s not enough to go around. We add to the fear that is already corroding our common hope. What you and I know is that there is enough for everyone to prosper – and it will be evident enough if everyone does their FAIR SHARE.

Here’s a direct quote form Adam Werbach"s November 3 Theses:
"The progressive vision must be a direct challenge to fundamentalism in all its forms: political, religious, and economic. It must match fundamentalism’s power without replicating its authoritariansim. It must appeal to the values of liberty, equality, community, justice, unconditional love, shared prosperity, and ecological restoration, among many others."

How validating is that?

How can we move the true majority away from the cold comfort of a fundamentalist, authoritarian, male-dominance, robber-baron, winner-takes-all, "bring ‘em on," Wild West mentality? I mean, did anyone read Dickens in high school? Maybe it’s time to feature Scrooge films.

Next time, I would like to explore the notion of "fair share," as an expression of the Golden Rule.

In peace, Gerry

Classified Space Program in Intel Bill?

Key Democrat Calls Spy Bill's Mystery Program a National Security Threat. There is wide speculation in the intelligence and defense community that the highly expensive classified program in the Intel Bill is a system for satellite defense, or possibly even offensive capabilities to attack enemy and commercial intelligence satellites. As I noted in an earlier post this sort of military venture in outer space could start an new arms race we cannot afford. Pushing this sort of program through as a secret provision, precluding any open debate on a topic of such critical importance, while not surprising from this government, is, none-the-less, anti-democratic and unacceptable.

Humor: CA's letter to Bush

Dear President Bush:
 
Congratulations on your victory over all us who don't believe in a violent, vengeful, and Caucasian Jesus.  Actually, we're a bit ticked off here in blueland, so we're leaving you for the New Canada.  In case you are not aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, all of the Northeast states, and possibly urban Ohio.     
 
We spoke to God, and she agrees that this split will be beneficial to almost everybody.   You redland folks will have to work on your pathological lying about important stuff and other dysfunction, and live up to that "independent" talk without the billion$ of subsidies from the blue states.  We blueland folks will have to clean up professional sports and Hollywood.  In fact, God is so excited about it that God is going to shift the whole country at 4:30 EST this Friday, so let everyone know that they need to get back to their state of choice by then.  We get the Pacific Coast, but God is letting you have the KKK and country music, except for the Dixie Chicks,  Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles' country stuff.    
 
Just so we're clear, the New Canada will be solidly with the poor and the middle class, as egalitarian as Norway, and anti-preemptive war.   Speaking of war, we're going to need all the Blue state citizens back from Iraq.  If you need people to fight there, just ask your patriotic evangelical voters.  Perhaps they will actually put their patriotism where theirs mouths are,  unlike you, Cheney, Delay....   Evangelicals have lots of kids who they're willing to send to Iraq because of those weapons of mass destruction.  And they won't protest if you don't show pictures of their kids' caskets coming home.  
 
So you get all the former slave states, and we get the Governator and the salmon.   We would love you to take Britney Spears off our hands, though.  She IS from the South, right?
 
Since we get New York, you'll have to come up with your own late night TV shows.   Maybe Ann Coulter for Letterman and  the Jerry Falwell show for the Daily Show.   Maybe you could ask your people at Fox for replacements for Leno and O'Brien.    They've got some very funny people.
 
We wish you all the best in the next four years and we hope, really hope, you will find those missing weapons of mass destruction. Seriously. Soon. 
 
Sincerely,   
 
California

(Ed. Can Arizona come with if the rest of the state boots out Maricopa? Please?)

McCain Disdains Coleman

McCarthyesque Senator Norm Coleman of MN calls for Annan's resignation before even concluding his own subcommittee's investigation. The worst part of the GOP have already convicted Annan, without even waiting for the Senate's investigation or the Volker Commission's findings.

This is one of those times when I miss Senator Wellstone the most and lament that such a silly hack has replaced him. Sadder still is that a compromised and opportunistic Sentator like McCain must substitute for any real voice of moral authority in the Senate.

Harry Reid: The Wrong Stuff

MSNBC - Transcript for Dec. 5:

So Harry Reid can support Antonin Scalia as chief justice?

"MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to judicial nominations. Again, Harry Reid on National Public Radio, November 19: 'If they'--the Bush White House--'for example, gave us Clarence Thomas as chief justice, I personally feel that would be wrong. If they give us Antonin Scalia, that's a little different question. I may not agree with some of his opinions, but I agree with the brilliance of his mind.'

Could you support Antonin Scalia to be chief justice of the Supreme Court?

SEN. REID: If he can overcome the ethics problems that have arisen since he was selected as a justice of the Supreme Court. And those ethics problems--you've talked about them; every people talk--every reporter's talked about them in town--where he took trips that were probably not in keeping with the code of judicial ethics. So we have to get over this. I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that this is one smart guy. And I disagree with many of the results that he arrives at, but his reason for arriving at those results are very hard to dispute. So... "


It's begining to look a little spineless around the Minority Leader's office. Is there anything the GOP could try that would be unacceptable to Sen. Reid?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Arizona Soldier Fights 'Stop Loss'

An Arizona National Guard soldier is among the 8 challenging the Army's "stop loss" policy. The soldier, whose name has been kept secret due to fear of retribution by the military, has already completed his tour, but is being forced to prolong his service in Iraq beyond the period he contracted for. Many consider this a backdoor draft, and decry the impact on soldier's families and on the soldier's life plans and carreer plans, post-military. Of course, extending soldiers' tours in Iraq also exposes them to additional and escallating risk and a great deal of stress. The New York Times describes the Arizona soldier as despondent over his inability to return home to his family as planned.

I am making an assumption, which could be incorrect, that the Arizonan is the the soldier referred to in the complaint as John Doe 5 (JD5), because he is one of only three in the National Guard, and the other Guardsmen, John Does 1 and 2, either enlisted in Texas (1) or trained in the New York City Police Academy (2), making their stories inconsistent with residence in Arizona, while none of the biographical information given for JD5 is inconsistent with Arizona residence.

Assuming my deduction is correct, it is easy to see why JD5 is dispondent over being unable to return to his family. JD5 is on his second marriage and has two children. JD5's first wife was brutally murdered at home with the children in the house. The anniversary of their mother's death is coming in January and he wants to be there for his children. As well, his new wife and oldest child are both apparently suffering depression or other emotional trauma as a result of their separation, both being on anti-depressants. The man's family obviously needs him.

JD5 joined the Guard following 9/11 on a 3 year enlistment which expired in October 2004. Before he departed for home his was informed that his enlistment was being unilaterally extended under the Stop Loss policy, first implemented when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense during the first Gulf War. The policy derives from 10 U.S.C §12305 (a) which provides that "the President may suspend any provision of law relating to promotion, retirement, of separation applicable to any member of the armed for forces..." In fact, the President used the power granted therein to issue an Executive Order immediately following 9/11 concerning calling up the Ready Reserve. The Order activates several provisions of Title 10 and 14 which allow the President to recall and retain military personnel in national emergencies.

Call it what you will, I call it a draft. The shamefull part of it, is that what was intended to allow response to a national emergency or an armed attack on the U.S. is being used to fight an aggressive and discretionary war. The fact the Congress is not objecting to the misuse of these provisions is scandalous. I recognize that the Administration is on fairly firm legal ground. The courts may decide to punt this football, as the so often do with foreign and military affairs, as a political question, or one constitutionally assigned to one of the other branches of government. The only relief these soldiers are likely to obtain come from us, the citizens, getting fed up with their mistreatment. Unfortunately, some 59 million of us seem to be just fine with everything the Bush Administration has done so far using the excuse of national security.

Monday, December 06, 2004

An Election Poem

From Kumbamade on ProgressForAZ

The election is over, the results are now known.
The will of the people has clearly been shown
We should show by our thoughts and our words and our deeds
That unity's just what our country now needs.
Let's all get together. Let bitterness pass.
I'll hug your elephant.
You kiss my ass.

Race: The White Elephant in the Room

'The White Elephant in the Room' is strongly recommended reading which substantively counters much of the post-election information about how and why Bush won. The speed at which it was 'determined' that Evangelicals were a crucial factor has always been suspect in my mind, though I have bought into the 'Values Voter' meme, too. As well, the inroads Bush was purported to have made among minority voters always seemed suspect to me; now we now they are.

There was no more telling factor in this race than the simple divide between whites and minorities. Bush made his strongest gains among relatively non-religious whites. Why that is, and what it portends for future races is the key to understanding the lessons of 10/2/04.

Neo-Cons in Space

The Bush Administration seeks changes that may destroy our national security, economic well-being, and the stability of the world order. These changes are going on way over your head – 50 miles above to be precise. The Neo-Cons aim to make outer space the new theater of war. Their blind ambitions threaten to ignite a new and ruinously expensive arms race that could destroy the international norms that have made outer space a vital and growing part of the world’s civilian economy and a lynchpin of America’s long-term security.

Pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization undertook a study of our vulnerabilities and military capabilities in space. Donald Rumsfeld chaired the Commission until a few weeks before their report was issued, when Bush appointed him Secretary of Defense. Given this fact, little about the Commission’s report will surprise you.

The Commission report warned of significant vulnerabilities in both civilian and military space assets that must be addressed. As there have not been any attacks on space borne assets to date, it is difficult to quantify how serious or how likely various threats might be. The Commission supports their recommendations with worse-case assumptions out of any proportion to likely threats. They insisting we prepare to meet a possible ‘Pearl Harbor in space’ where no enemy is known to exist. In their estimation, that preparation entails nothing less than the head-long introduction of weapons into space.

The world’s consensus is that spaced borne weaponry is inconsistent with the "peaceful purposes" for which space is reserved by the Outer Space Treaty. However, the current legal regime does not specifically disallow weaponization of space, except for nuclear weapons and other WMD. Thus, this Administration advances an extreme interpretation that space based weapons systems are consistent with "peaceful uses" so long as they are not used for aggressive military operations. This means that development and deployment of first-strike capable anti-satellite and ground targeting weapons systems in orbit would be lawful as long as they are only used in a defensive capacity – and we all now know how flexible the concept of defense can become.

What kind of weapons might we see deployed in space? Anti-satellite weapons to destroy or disable an enemy’s space assets, and systems to protect our own satellites. Space-based weapons platforms carrying lasers, particle beams, kinetic weapons, and other systems to disrupt or destroy targets on the ground or in the atmosphere. Contrary to common conception it does not include "Star Wars", the National Missile Defense (NMD) system. Only sensors and command and control systems of NMD would be in orbit as the system is currently concieved.

The Commission report is unequivocal in its judgment that deployment of weapons in space is purely a winning proposition, enhancing the security of our space-based assets and extending the reach and speed of our military options. Military planners see a golden moment in history and they want to seize it. No other nation can deploy military space systems that could match ours, and being first to the high ground of space allows us to dictate the terms of access. We are presented an opportunity to unilaterally shift the fulcrum of the world’s strategic military balance in our favor. The Commission makes it plain that they believe weaponization of space will assure U.S. military predominance and preparedness for the forseeable future.

The question we must ask, is whether we should allow it. Will the militarization of space enhance or degrade our long-term security? One obvious reason not to place weapons in space is that despite any temporary strategic advantage we might gain, proliferation and an arms race are inevitable, though not necessarily immediate. Consider the obvious military advantages conveyed by the GPS system as an example. Even though it is not a weapons system, the military advantages conveyed by ownership of the system are so great that even our European allies felt compelled to reproduce the system under their control in the form of the new Gallileo system. Europe and Japan may be the only other powers currently capable of deploying equivalent space weapons systems, but our alliances with them will not deter them from competing with us in space; their long-term strategic security will demand it.

Other nations, such as Russia, China, possibly India, or even Canada would soon follow, and there is little we could do to stop them without seriously provoking these major powers. In the long run, we will have achieved nothing but to increase insecurity in the world, and in our alliances. Just as it seems likely that a world free of nuclear weapons is now forever out of reach, the hope of space as a realm of peaceful cooperation among all mankind may recede beyond retrieval. Knowing that some strategic advantages are so alluring that it is beyond our wisdom to willingly surrender them, we must manifest sufficient wisdom to never seek such advantages in the first place.

The ensuing arms race would also be ruinously expensive. Already our military expenditures consume 50% of all discretionary federal spending. In a time of record deficits, a monstrous national debt, and structural trade imbalances with most of the world that threatens the very soundness of our currency, it is madness to invite an arms race we cannot sustain financially. We would also be robbing other nations of needed development capital and ourselves of foreign investment as other nations are compelled by national interest to follow us into space with military systems, slowing an already sluggish global economy still further.

The world’s strategic posture is precarious even without orbiting weapons. A nuclear holocaust of unimaginable scope is still only minutes away at all times; an accidental lauch, or terrorist with a nuclear bomb could still destroy us. Space borne weapons systems are inherently vulnerable, leading to a ‘use it or lose it’ mentality. Wargames involving space assets indicate they are a destabilizing factor. They frequently escalate conflicts that would have been manageable in their absence – often resulting in nuclear exchanges. The fog of war only becomes denser in outer space, leaving us more vulnerable to destabilizing attacks by non-state actors intent on precipitating military conflicts. Weapons in space are an invitation to terrorism, not a solution.

As other nations’ militaries inevitably follow us into space the basic understandings about free access to space are certain to be compromised, if not destroyed. The core rules of free and open navigation of outer space are indispensable to its productive and peaceful use. It is seldom considered any more, but the overflight regime, which allows even an enemies spacecraft to overfly another nation’s territory, is not a given. It was the result of wise policy and deft diplomacy by the Eisenhower Administration at the height of the Cold War. The ability to overfly a nation in an unrestricted manner, even to the point of spying upon that nation from space, is the bedrock of the commercial, scientific, and military uses of outer space. The overflight regime has also made enormous contributions to world peace. The ability to remotely verify treaty obligations without intrusive inspections is a vital tool of diplomacy. Once spacecraft with ground targeting weapons systems capable of nearly instantaneous and devastating attack are in orbit, the overflight norms will be severely strained.

What other norms that preserve the use of space as the common heritage of mankind might also buckle under the strain? How long before earth’s orbits, the moon, the LeGrange points begin to be carved up, or fought over, surrendering to the de facto territoriality that results from military preparations. Military aviation has steadily enhanced sovereign control of every nation’s airspace for sound and inescapable security reasons, as we saw vividly on 9/11/2001. Military astronautics will likewise force nations to exert greater control over orbital space, limiting or even restricting access for sound national security reasons. Commercial uses of space may become so problematic and expensive that the industy could cease to grow or even fail. Scientific progress could be irreparably hampered.

There is a need, and considerable merit, in hardening our space systems against malicious disruption or attack by preparing appropriate counter-measures and redundancies. Our economy and our national security rely on space assets more every day. We must prepare and protect ourselves and our vital national interests in space. But we mustn’t rush forward to claim the new frontier at the point of a sword, creating instability, waste and insecurity in the process. Several new treaties codifying the exclusion of weapons from space have been proposed and it is in America’s best national security interests to lead the effort to ratify such a treaty. The Bush Administration stands ready to take one giant leap of faith that mankind may not be able to retreat from. Our descendants will not thank us for over-reacting to imagined threats, or for over-reaching to snatch at short-term gains while missing the greater chance to ensure that war never achieves escape velocity.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Fallujah in Pictures

Fallujah in Pictures. Take a good hard look at your tax dollars at work. "Cake walk" indeed.

Arizona second-stingiest to schools

Arizona has the second-stingiest school funding in the nation. The GOP controlled legislature gives us yet another reason to be be proud to be a citizen of Arizona; we are 50th out of 51 in K-12 education spending in the nation. We can hold our heads high and proclaim, "At least we spend more than Utah!" Sends shiver down my spine. I'm so proud I could just burst.

I just know this is going to increase the cache of my all-Arizona education among the nation's employers! I went to K-12 in Arizona, got my BA in AZ, and my JD in AZ. How are we going to ever be a competitive economy in this world when employers will look at people like myself and think, "Sure he's college educated, a lawyer, got decent grades... but come on, this is Arizona we're talkin' about... I mean jeez, their school system sucks. Let me see those other resumes."

As a taxpayer, I feel ripped off. And as a citizen, I feel cheated that my government would let things get this bad. We spend only 2/3 of the average national per-pupil expenditure. We pay our teachers 5 grand less than the national average. If we aren't spending money on education, where the hell is it going? We are 17th in state and local tax burden in the nation. How does that figure?

17th in taxes, 50th in education spending. Chew on that.

Then call you state and county reps and senators. Even if you are Republican, I assume you are capable of reproducing or, in fact, have done so, and those children need education to succeed in life. Why are you letting your political representatives stick you with the 17th highest tax burden and the next to worst funded educational system? 17th, and we can't afford all day Kindergarten? Right.

The only possible reason is that the GOP majority simply doesn't care about our kid's futures.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Arizona's Iraq War Dead




We should never lose sight of the simple fact that the lives of every soldier is in the hands of their Commander in Chief. His duty is to make every effort to ensure that they are not needlessly placed in harms way and that they are provided the equipment and training and strategy they need to suceed. If they fail, the blame lies always with the Commander; never with those who gave their last full measure.

Bush's decisions, to prosecute a voluntary war of aggression against an impotent and already neutralized foe, and then to utterly neglect the prudent planning for the aftermath of that war, to go in fast and cheap without the mass and equipment needed for the mission, cost these citizen-soldiers their lives. The blood of every American soldier who dies in Iraq is on Bush's hands as much as it is on the hands of the Iraqi irregulars: no wonder he refuses to attend their funerals.

Here are the names of the brave and selfless Arizonans to date who won't be coming back to their families because of Bush's lies and poor judgement. Read their names and honor their sacrifices. They died for duty and their nation's honor. My sorrow and condolences to their families and friends.

Campoy, Isaac - Specialist
Cataudella, Sean K. - Sergeant
Cooke, Eric F. - Command Sergeant Major
Downey, Michael A. - Lance Corporal
Ehrlich, Andrew C. - Specialist
Halal, Michael J. - Lance Corporal
Karol, Spencer Timothy - Specialist
Keith, Quinn A. - Lance Corporal
Lapka, Christopher J. - Corporal
Laskowski, Matthew C. - Chief Warrant Officer
Latham, William T. - Staff Sergeant
Lawrence, Jeffrey D. - Corporal
McIntosh, Joshua - Hospitalman
Merila, Michael M. - Specialist
Nicolas, Dominique J. - Corporal
Onwordi, Justin B. - Specialist
Owen, Michael G. - Sergeant
Padilla-Ramirez, Fernando - Sergeant
Peterson, Alyssa R. - Specialist
Piestewa, Lori Ann - Private 1st Class
Prewitt, Tyler D. - Sergeant
Ramsey, Carson J. - Private
Reeder, Edward T. - Gunnery Sergeant
Shondee Jr., Harry N. - Private 1st Class
Sisung, David - Petty Officer 3rd Class
Thomas, Carl - Sergeant
Unruh, Robert Oliver - Specialist
White, Nathan Dennis - Lieutenant
Williams, Michael Jason - Lance Corporal
Wong, Elijah Tai Wah - Sergeant
Zurheide Jr., Robert Paul - Lance Corporal

Propaganda on Propaganda (On Propaganda?)

I just read Open Letter To The Democratic Party: How You Could Have Had My Vote after having seen a Tucson Weekly editorial letter by a frequent correspondent of mine, and fellow Tucson Blogger, Kevin Baker.

Wow. I was impressed.

I found the "open letter" to be an ingenious piece of propaganda. I don't know if the young lady who supposedly wrote the letter actually exists (I assume not), but if she does, Rove needs to hire her immediately and pay her much more than the 30K she claims to pull down now, 'cause she's really good :)

The best propaganda not only confirms the beliefs of your own partisans, it also convinces your enemies to take actions that are harmful to their own interests. The best propaganda takes as it's subject matter your enemies greatest strengths, and tears them down, or plays to your greatest strength, while sapping the enemies power in that sphere of operations. Karl Rove is often noted for doing this masterfully. And this letter is consistent with, if not a part of, the post-election strategy of the Rove Machine. If it was not produced as part of the overall campaign, it plugs into it masterfully.

This post-election campaign, and this letter, operate on the topic of propaganda itself. Since the election, there has been a steady lamentation by Democrats trying to figure out what went wrong; this provides a wonderful window of opportunity for the best sort propaganda - that which changes the enemy's behavior to his detriment. Rove wants Democrats to surrender willingly the gains the Left have made this election season in dissemination and production of its own propaganda.

Air America Radio, Michael Moore, and other liberal propagandists are denigrated, accused of lies and hatred, and most especially of repulsing voters, and thereby of losing the election for the Democrats. This meme is now being endlessly flogged by the Right's propaganda machine, spreading into mainstream media, and, not coincidentally, is the heart of this "open letter".

By making liberals feel that the new capabilities of their propaganda machine have had deleterious effects on the election, Rove seeks to have the Left disarm unilaterally. Nowhere is it suggested that the hate-mongering liars of Right wing radio, television, and print media have hurt the Republicans, even though, objectively, their violations of common decency and journalistic ethics are infinitely greater than anything the Left currently attempts. The flacks of the Right decry the 'Bush hating.' and the supposed scorn of the Left for Christian’s values, and for the cultural traits of Southernersor 'Heartlanders'. They point to our organs of propaganda as the source of such off-putting, election-losing, opinions. Yet never is it suggested that the Republicans could expand their appeal and become a true majority party, rather than one with a hair's breadth of a mandate, by putting Rush on ameliorative, rather than recreational, meds, by shooting Sean Hannity in the head, and by locking raving harridan, Ann Coulter, in the basement of an insane asylum. The Right would improve its electoral fortunes by having Rupert Murdoch put his media properties, including Fox News, into a non-partisan receivership, don't you think?

They obviously think we're daft. And some Democrats are buying it. Left wingers are now heard to advocate for moderating the tone, dampening criticism, and reducing the harshness of Democratic rhetoric.

Fuck that.

This whole campaign - getting the Left to muzzle its most effective critics and to renounce and hound the most effective polemicists of the Left, such as the magnificent bastard Michael Moore, to nominate party leaders too pusillanimous to directly criticize and oppose the President and the GOP majority, and characterizing criticism of behavior and policy with criticism of identity - is an crafty attempt to weaken the Left still further.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Al Qaeda: The Mouse That Roared

The lastest objective analysis of the Al Qaeda network concludes that it isn't nearly as large and sophisticated as it is portrayed by the media. In fact, it is a sad fact that we know so little about it, and it is so elusive, precisely because it is so small and disorganized.

Yes, they and the terrorist cells they have inspired and trained in the past are still dangerous and still likely to cause harm. But more and more it becomes apparent that, 3 1/2 years after 9/11, it is time to realize that terrorism is primarily an international law enforcement issue. InterPol not the Navy Seals are the model for anti-terrorist work. The all-out worldwide military mobilization against terror this Adminsitration exploits is like swatting a fly with a 40mm HEAP round.

I am weary of the sick joke that terror inspired security procedures have become. The shoe demanding, traveller harrassing, breast fondling mouth-breathers of airport security services have become a standard fare of standups. I'm agog at the stupidity of guards with metal detectors in the municipal buildings of every podunk township busily confiscating nail files and booting up laptops to ensure they don't harbour a bomb. All this while I can still concieve of dozens of ways to cause havoc and death in places without a single guard, lock, camera or sensor.

Yet my soul is stained by the torture rooms in Abu Ghraib and the stink of rotting civilian corpses in the streets of Fallujah keeps me awake at night. This how we respond to terrorism? By becoming the sort of banally evil automatons who follow orders to march into hell and get promotions for doing so? I have nightmares about the next terrorist attack, which will come when no one expects it, where no one expects it, and by means no one anticipated (except perhaps in the PDB, where it will be studiously ignored). But I have come to terms with the fact that no matter how well we guard the doors, or how securely we lock the windows, or how advanced the alarms systems are, the mice will still get in the pantry.

We are living in a creeping police state and constant state of resigned anxiety: the alert level never drops below yellow, and never will. And if it does, that will be the day one of these hate-poisoned bastards will blow up a chemical factory and unleash a Bhopal on America. This is the reality that globalization, development, and technology has brought us: an unending litany of ways we are vulnerable, both to even the least of our enemies and our own worst tendencies.

There are only two possible outcomes of this new, post-9/11, reality. One is that we cope. We learn to apply appropriate counter-measures and precautions, set up sane and effective institutions, make the needed legal changes to address the problem, and get on with life, accepting the no solution is perfect. The other is that we let this latest 'War on' become an all-consuming, self-perpetuating, reality-distorting, political mine-field like the War on Drugs. Suddenly, it dawns on everyone that we have some sociological equivalent of the largest incarcerated population on earth, or that we're often spending more on prisons than on schools, or that entire sectors of our population have had their lives sucked up and spit out perpetuating sick cycles of hatred and greed and fear and exploitation that lie at the heart of every war. And nobody will know the way back. No one can point to the exit. There will be a cancer feeding off of us, growing and metastasizing, and it will have become so familiar that most will think the tumour is just a normal appendage - like the police state that has grown up around the 'Drug War', like the civil rights we've laid down in service to a 'drug-free America'.

The irony is that every time we go 'War on' we think we are fighting an enemy when we are really fighting ourselves. In the 'War on Drugs' that conundrum is obvious, there would be no supply without a demand. The shadow-boxing aspects of the 'War on Terror' aren't so obvious. But one has to ask why the media portrayal of a nigh-on omnipotent, ever-present, lurking and growing Al Qaeda finds such an enthusiastic and voracious audience despite a lack of any evidence? What is it about that terrible evil lurking out there waiting to pounce that is so compelling to us that we swallow it down unhesitatingly, uncritically?

The American psyche has ever embraced enthusiastically the 'other'. The embodiment of evil, corruption, primitive urges, bestial habits, and malign designs. Indians, blacks, jews, asians, hispanics, homosexuals, communists, the have each played and, in some cases, continue to play the 'other'. Now the most compelling enbodiment of the 'other' is a fundamentalist Muslim with a bomb strapped to his chest. But what trait is in us that this 'other' allows us to externalize so that we may ignore our own indulgence in it?

Intolerance. Intolerance of differences in others. Intolerance of other ways of thinking. Intolerance of different beliefs and different values. They are all part and parcel of the Fundamentalist Muslim. A hatred of secularism, which is really just the means to tolerance of other faiths, is a hallmark of both the terrorist enemy and the loudest advocates of making 'war' on him. Intolerance of political opposition leads the terrorist to violence, and leads the Republican to run over musical CDs with a steamroller - yesterday. What might it inspire tomorrow? Intolerance of other cultures and other values leads to English only laws, Prop 200 and other 'anti-immigrant' demonstrations, Freedom Fries, and the perennial appeal to 'American values', 'family values', and 'Christian values' with never the slightest doubt that all Americans, families, or Christians actually share the values or beliefs the panderers are pedling.

What defines the Conservative movement of the last 30 years more than anything? Intolerance. Al Qaeda and their ilk make the perfect enemy of the Conservative because they share the same disease at heart. Conservatives can project their most unattractive feature upon the enemy in the 'War on Terror' and hide their own deformity by denouncing it in others. They can continue to quietly indulge their appetite for inequality, authoritarianism, and hatred of differences so long as they can quote a body count in their wonderful little 'War on'. Assuredly, they cannot afford to allow such a condition to end unless there is a more useful enemy at hand. And that is why America cannot afford to get sucked into a perpetual 'War on Terror'; it distracts from the Conservative movement's most repellent feature. If they are able to institutionalize the 'War on Terror' as the 'War on Drugs' has been, Karl Rove will get his wish, a political realignment and a lock on power for the Republican party. Americans will be given leave en mass to ignore the beams in their own eyes as they damn the mote in Mohammad's, and America will cease to be the nation we know and love.




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