Saturday, March 31, 2007

Iraq Occupation compared to WWII

Republican apologists, when defending this administration and its policies in Iraq often invoke the memory of World War II. So, it is always interesting when I am reading for class and come over little tidbits. Here is a quotation from an essay, specifically on German Women in post-war West Germany, but dealing with attitudes towards occupation:

Nevertheless, although Inge symbolizes the moral decline of her society, she is not to blame for this decline. Rather, foreign occupation is. In the final meeting of most of the book's central characters, an American officer who is one of the moral anchors of the tale admits that the military occupation was hypocritical and corrupting. "The occupation was a dictatorship, even if in democratic garb.... We arrived here with the Bible in one hand and the knout in the other.... We believed ourselves to be missionaries, but we did not love those under our charge.... Our efforts were marked by the motto: '...and unless you are willing I shall have to use force.'" When a German in the circle remarks that Hitler had employed a similar motto, the American responds that Hitler hadn't claimed democracy-- and he hadn't been a foreigner. Neither the officer nor the author of the book are apologists for Nazism; this comparison of Hitler and the occupation government--to Hitler's apparent advantage-- is thus astonishing. The message is clear: West Germany must attain national sovereignty and the Yanks must go home.
(Elizabeth Heineman, The Hour of the Woman; from The Miracle Years, Hanna Schissler, ed.)
This does provoke some thought on our current situation in Iraq. Actually, just replace Hitler, German(y), and Nazism with Saddam Hussein, Iraq(i), and Baathism and the attitude is the same. We have one replaced one dictatorship for another, just this one has the trappings of democracy and is led by a foreign power.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Why the Anti-Immigration Folks are Idiots

All the reasons they give are completely ludicrous. They are only excuses to hold back the inevitable, the result of globalization and free trade. Our government policies and the stance of those like Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo border on racist. Immigration policies have always focused on those our society found racial inferior, poor and unclean. It is how we reacted to the Irish, the Italians, the Russians, Ukrainians and Poles. It is how we reacted to the Chinese and the Japanese. It is now the way we are reacting towards Mexicans.

If it was not racist, those who support the wall along the border with Mexico to stop the flow of illegal immigration and drug trafficking would also support a wall with Canada. Terrorists can just as easily cross into the US through Canada as they can through Mexico. Heck, they could fly in on an international flight from an airport with lax community and commit similar attacks as on 9/ll. You are not going to stop terrorists by stopping Mexicans.

Also, if you want to stop the flow of illegal immigration, why accept Cuban immigrants who do not come to this country legally? Oh, they come over to escape a communist regime that is oppressing them, so as long as they make it to land they are OK? Refugees then, well then why until recently have we only let 500 Iraqi refugees into our country? Sure we the limit to over 2,000 but that is not going to help at all when over 1,500 are leaving their homes every day.

With that example there is no doubt that the immigration and asylum policies of this country are racist, except when it is meant as a political attack on an ‘enemy’ that has consistently defeated us despite our power. If Cuba were free, and Cubans were still attempting to come over in their barely seaworthy craft, the anti-immigration people would be just as shrill in their protests against them as their protests against Mexicans. They do not want more brown people in this country, whether Latino or Muslim. To them Latino’s are poor, dirty and criminal prone while Muslims hate us and want to blow us up. All these excuses are used to cover up their bigotry.

They claim that illegal immigrants are a burden to our welfare and social security system. This would be true if they did not contribute to that system, but they do like any other tax payer in this country! As for a comparison, I do not remember any outcry when it was revealed that two uncles of Elian Gonzalez living in Florida had been on the welfare system for years without even lifting a finger to look for a job. Where was the outrage over that? Oh right, Castro excuses them for that.

If you want to know who the real culprits are for destroying our social security look at the Republicans. They have been trying to undermine the system for years. Not to mention dipping into the money that should be set aside only for that purpose. And Democrats do not get a free ride on this either, since they initiated the ‘borrowing’ from that money.

There are complaints that our population is getting to old, that we are not reproducing enough to support a social security system that will soon become overburdened. Well, if you want more young people in this country let more people immigrate here. Typically the majority of people coming to our country are younger folk rather than entire extended families. They will pay into the system and relieve the age problem of our population.

And don’t give me that crap that Mexicans are taking our jobs. Indians, Chinese, Pakistani, you name it, are taking our jobs and they are not even coming to our country. Our corporations are outsourcing those jobs because they care about low costs and profits first and the people of this country second. If you are afraid Mexican laborers are lowering wages, then that is what a minimum wage law is for, which Republicans are always attacking claiming it hurts business which is a total crock of crap.

The stance that President Bush has taken on immigration is one of the few, if only, positions I agree with him on, though if for different reasons. Creating a regulated but unlimited guest worker program is the only way to deal with the problem. It will allow immigrants to enter this country legally, work in jobs Americans will not typically take, and lower the costs of policing. Also, it will end instances of slave like conditions since employers often take advantage of these immigrants and work them for little pay because, being illegal, the immigrant is not likely to complain to authorities.

One must also realize that with globalization and free trade, we are in the middle of constructing a unified global economy. Technically, this is not what companies want because it would mean eventually the stabilization and equalization of the economy around the world cutting out their chances for paying low wages. Immigrants are also going to follow where the money is, especially if they cannot get much from where they are currently living. We are part of that global economy now, which not only means free trade for goods but also requires the free movement of people. Immigration is a flood that no dam can hold back, so either waste your time trying to stop the inevitable flood, or devise and set into place a system that can effectively deal with it.

News you may have missed 3/23/2007

Sterilized Gypsy Women Speak Out

In America when we think of racism we refer to historically recent developments such as racism towards African-Americans or Hispanics. In Europe such attitudes towards Gypsy’s (Roma) go back as long as anti-Semitism. Also, let me remind everyone that the eugenics movement which led to sterilization started in the United States only to be imported into Europe by Nazi Germany.

Continued Pillaging of Antiquities in Iraq

Yet another casualty of our inability to secure the country. Such pillaging occurs in locals with a high rate of poverty and low security. It will be generations before Iraq is reinstated to any hint of its former self. It will be many more generations before objects of its past and culture will be tracked down after being dispersed around the world through the black market.

Court Strikes Down Internet Porn Law

Protecting children my ass. This law was only an attempt by the moral misjority to force upon everyone their way of life. Not to mention that forcing identity confirmation through use of a credit card number on free sites is just another chance for that information to be stolen. Let parent police the activity of their children, that’s what they are for, get a filter.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Spoiled Brat Foreign Policy

Lou Dobbs can be quite a confusing character. I agree with a lot of his positions, but he goes crazy when it comes to the illegal immigration issue. Just last week, I decided to watch his show for a bit and it was segment after segment about illegal immigration and how it is destroying our country. Then in between all these segments he had one about Cuban immigrants, and just after going on and on about how amnesty was bad for Mexican illegals, he suggested that all Cuban illegals who made it onto our shores should be rewarded with citizenship because of their ingenuity! WTF?

Anyway, it is clear that he sees the plight of Cubans different from that of Mexicans. So, this creates two subjects that I will address: 1) Our foreign policy towards ‘enemy’ nations and 2) illegal immigration. Today I will address the former since I can get a lengthy post from both subjects.

So, why do I make reference to ‘spoiled brat foreign policy’? This is not in reference to all foreign policy of this country, but only a few instances in which our stance has no rational reason. Specifically, and most notably, this concerns our stances towards Cuba, Iran, and Vietnam.

For Cuba what happened was Castro refused, upon his rise to power, to play by the rules set by the United States government. It also happens that the US government was not so happy about him overthrowing the government of the friendly, but thoroughly corrupt, Batista. Batista was friendly to the US, US economic interests, and US corporate interests. Because of this, our government overlooked the poor treatment the Cuban people received from Batista. Castro came to power on the promise that he would help the people of Cuba and not serve the interests of the corporations. This he did, but at the expense of corporate interests, which of course lost all their assets to the communist Cuban government. Since Castro didn’t play by the American rules, our government refuses to do business with his country.

For Cuba there may also be the fact that our government and our people were upset over this seeming betrayal. Since the Spanish American war our country has viewed Cuba as our little brother in their fight for freedom and independence. It seems that our country was unable to accept the fact that Cuba had grown up and had every right to go on its own.

In Iran there was the similar situation of a US friendly dictator in power who was overthrown by a popular uprising. As any situation, this may not have been a problem if the new government had not socialized the oil industry. Again, Iran didn’t play by our rules, so they are being penalized for it. The standoff we are experiencing today with Iran is part of our governments temper tantrum over not getting its way.

Vietnam is a different case, especially since we now have diplomatic and economic relations with the country. This does not mean that they didn’t get treated poorly by our government though. After Vietnam came under the NV government our country supported the government in Cambodia despite the fact that it was communist. In retaliation for an attack by Cambodia, Vietnam invaded in overthrew Pol Pot who murdered millions of his own people. Of course, the fact that Pol Pot had committed genocide was no problem for our government as long as he was allied with our government. Support of Pol Pot in opposition to Vietnam had no actual strategic purpose except as retaliation for Vietnam’s unwillingness to cave to US pressure and revenge for victory over our military.

Looking at these examples it seems the factor of economic system and the ability of corporations to do business in these countries shapes US foreign policy. Iran and Cuba refuse to be dominated by foreign companies and instead government controls their major industries. Vietnam has been forgiven because they have allowed a loosening of their economy and are leaning towards capitalism.

So, our country is unable to engage in meaningful dialogue with these countries because they won’t play by our rules. No country, especially ours, should engage in foreign policy that resembles the attitude of a spoiled brat who has been refused their dessert. We consistently flog our country’s embrace of diversity, but that embrace only exists when diverse economic systems are the same as ours. If we don't engage these countries with diplomacy, and just attack them for not following our rules, then at best nothing will happen but, more likely, peace will deteriorate.

Addendum 3/17/2007:
Our stance towards Cuba has also been rather infantile. Almost from the day we decided we couldn't deal with Castro, our relations with Cuba have been dependent on his death. For the past fifty years our country has justified its sanctions on the country and its refusal to deal with the country on the premise that Castro will be dead tomorrow and then everything will be fine. For the past fifty years Castro has defied the United States government and continued to live. For some reason we forget the fact that he is a survivor, and our obsession with his always impending death was shown when he stepped aside from power to enter the hospital. He has been there for months now, and who knows, he may be on his way out, but I wouldn't put it past him to get healthy and step back into power. Also, just because he dies does not mean communism will be abandoned. It is just as likely that rulers will continue his legacy, and if that is so, what then?

News you may have missed

Muslims in Europe
BBC News online has dedicated an entire section to this subject. I came across this by accident since it is unfortunately buried on the website. The articles include analysis of the challenges Europe in general faces from the growing Muslim population.

Hamas, Fatah unity government
The political process seems to be moving forward in Palestine. Of course Israel continues to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the popularly elected government and calls for the continued economic embargo/punishment of the Palestinian people.

Revoke Hitler’s German Citizenship?
While I do not think this is a good idea, those advancing it are convinced it sends a strong symbolic message. Is it a message, however, against dictatorship and genocide, or is it a message stating that it is OK to forget ones history?

Pakistan Unrest and Protest
Musharraf, dear friend to our country, seems to be losing more support in his country. He has become more dictatorial as opposition rises, and as he attempts to maintain his political power. If he maintains that power, I do not see him as being able to maintain control over the entire country, which will likely fall under the control of Al Qaeda and its allies. If he does fall, well then we have the possibility of a new government hostile to the US taking power. Either way, we’re screwed.

Zimbabwe Crisis
Robert Mugabe, ‘President’ of Zimbabwe has been cracking down on his opposition lately, and it seems other countries are doing little more than criticizing the move at this point. It would be nice to see some action on the part of the AU or the UN, but I won’t hold my breath.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Addressing Problems in the Middle East - Israel

*Note: I'm on Spring Break and suffering from a bit of insomnia, so bonus post for this weekend.

I’ve thought about this and posted on other blogs before, so now I am going to just reiterate and maybe expand on my ideas and positions a bit.

There have been many sticking points in the Muslim world over Israel ever since it became an independent nation in 1948. Though it may seem there is still a lot of anger, Muslim nations and peoples have come a long way to tolerating, if not outright accepting, the existence of Israel.

Two major sticking points, however, are still able to rally Muslims to the anti-Israeli cause. These are the continued domination of Israel over the Palestinian people and the question of who gets to control Jerusalem.

First, a Palestinian state should be allowed to exist, without interference from Israel or any outside force militarily or politically. This means not punishing the Palestinian people when they elect political wings of terrorist groups such as Hamas, to office. Such is a normal occurrence in politics, even in Europe. Sinn Fein is the political arm of the IRA (Irish Republican Army), and Batasuna the political arm of ETA (Basque Separatists) in Spain.

This leads me to a slight detour on the nature of terrorist groups. Some, like Al Qaeda, have aims at causing terror against other cultures, hence their ‘war’ against the United States. Others, whether they be Hamas, the IRA, or ETA are organizations that have come into being because political solutions to their problems do not exist, and therefore they turn to means violent means to gain independence. Let us also not forget that before independence, Israeli’s turned to terrorist tactics against the British.

My point here, however, is that we must stop grouping all types of terrorists as one type and start recognizing that terrorist groups can be categorized differently depending upon their goals. This leads us back to groups such as Hamas, which rather than being punished for trying to become part of a peaceful political system, should be encouraged while at the same time encouraging them to give up their military wing. In fact, this is the only way it can be done, and the sooner the parties involved come to that conclusion and act upon it, rather than punishing them for it, the sooner peace will be had.

So, Hamas must be allowed to be a legitimate and accepted political party, and Palestine must be allowed to become an autonomous, independent state. However, this cannot happen until one major hurdle is overcome. This is the question of who controls Jerusalem.

They continually argue over whether Israel should control the whole, or both countries should get part of the city. Jews want it for Israel because it is their holy city, and Muslims want it for Palestine because it is also their holy city. And do not forget the Christians who, unlike in many other conflicts, seem to be stuck in the middle with no platform for their opinion.

My solution is to let none of them have it. Instead make it into a religious city-state, like the Vatican, ruled by all three of the religions. Yes, I know this is just going to lead to more bickering and more problems, but what solution is perfect? In my opinion this is the best. Let all three religions have an equal stake in governance. Then let each religion work out how they will share that power with all their denominations.

With these solutions in place I believe violence and unrest in the Middle East will be toned down significantly. There will still be extremely belligerent Fundamentalist Muslims who will scream death to Israel, but there will no longer be as great an audience to their hatred.

**As with all my posts, this is train of thought based on my knowledge, though I did use wikipedia to fact check a few of my points not to mention spellings. I encourage everyone to head over there since there is a wealth of information to fill in on subjects I only mention, especially events concerning ETA and Batasuna, which are much overlooked in the world press.

Friday, March 09, 2007

History for Sheeple, Lesson #1

The talking points mimicked by those who support neo-conservative politicians, pundits and their agenda (even if they most definitely do not understand the totality of that agenda), is annoying at the very least, and frightening in that it indicates both a lack of knowledge and empathy on the part of many of our nations citizens. The most disturbing of these, at least for me, is the repetition of the neo-con version of history, propagated by those without a background in the historical field, but only the wish to create and maintain a vision of history acceptable to their own narrow, egocentric worldview. Since I am myself a student of history I am compelled to offer these ‘lessons’ if you will in, clearing up willful misconceptions of history held by those on the extreme right. I will try and address such topics that are either a current talking point in the media or are just generalized misconceptions that have now become quite orthodox among the mass of ditto-head blog commenters.

For the first installment, my focus is on the confusion the right-wing masses when it comes to political systems. If you have called a liberal or progressive, both a fascist and a communist then you are guilty of this confusion, especially if you did so in the same sentence. I’m going to have to break this down into a few parts, so if you cannot be bothered to read the rest, and want a simpler and more humorous explanation, go here:

First off, one cannot call the same person both a communist and a fascist since both have been historically opposed to each other. Fascists hate communists, communists hate fascists, the only time they got along was the non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and we all know how well that went. To make it simple, Fascism is a right-wing ideology, and communism left-wing. The only similarity between communism and fascism is totalitarian form of government, which for communism is not part of doctrine and for fascism is actually quite debatable, especially in the case of Nazi Germany.

Communism, I must also note, is more of an economic system than a political system. Communism is opposed to Capitalism, not to Democracy. Actually, if communism were to adhere to pure Marxist ideology, it would be a democratic system, maybe even a pure democracy. Fascism, on the other hand, is capitalism gone wild, allowing for the economic and social hegemony of corporations.

What happened to communism, how it was perverted or misused, can be broken down into those who influenced such parts:

Leninism: Upon overthrowing the revolutionary government in Russia, the Bolsheviks needed to consolidate power. A major hurdle was for the new communist government were the royalist forces, who were funded by the West which opposed the new communist government fearing it to be a threat to their own capitalist hegemony. In response, Lenin took steps to focus the government in fewer hands so as to maintain power and be able to respond to threats. He also gave the excuse that the people of Russia were not yet ready, so he would hold onto power until a time when the people were ready to exercise it themselves. This of course, is a crock of crap, but it was enough. In short, upon gaining power the revolutionaries went from revolutionary leftists to reactionary conservatives who wished to maintain power.

Stalinism: I do not know if there is any other ruler who was so thoroughly totalitarian in their rule. No one but Stalin held the reigns of power, the party couldn’t control him. Even if he suspected someone was against him, they were dead. Good example of a government masquerading as communist when it actually is not.

Maoist: Like Lenin, lost sight of the cause in the interest of maintaining power. Was good at helping the people and bringing them together in living the communist life, but became reactionary once power was attained. Not only that, he could not govern. All his policies were attempts to revive the glory and the ability Mao showed at overcoming adversity. However, the fact that the communist government in China has been able to adapt and incorporate capitalist systems shows a difference from the Russian system, if not the Russian people, since it is still in existence.

Ho Chi Minh: Vietnamese ‘communism’ was definitely the most pragmatic of all the systems. The fact that Vietnam became communist is the fault of the West since they refused, after WWI, to give up their colonies. Ho Chi Minh actually admired the United States, and even quoted from the Declaration of Independence during an address on the occasion of the forming of the North Vietnamese government. They were quite independent from other communist powers, defied both Russia and China, even while facing the US in war, and invading Cambodia and deposing Pol Pot causing retaliation from both the US and China. Ho Chi Minh did not mean Vietnam to embrace a totalitarian communist ideology, but one of democracy. Seventy years of war, including the final 10 years which included our support of the illegitimate government in South Vietnam, is what caused the establishment of a more totalitarian state rather than a democratic one.

So, what is the explanation for the right-wing throwing all these negative labels at liberals? My theory is that the right is incapable of dealing with any system of thought that is not binary. Good and Evil, white and black, male and female are all examples of binary thought. Binary thought lacks the complexity needed to explain everything that does not fit into their narrow categories. Conservatives, of course, think that are gods own gift and can see themselves as only good. Therefore their opposition must, logically confined to their system of thought, be evil. Also, they do not see Nazism, thus fascism, as good, so it must be evil and therefore a liberal ideology. The logic only works, of course, in this narrow worldview.

Now, I hope that this little history lesson has cleared things up (for those who are capable of more than binary thought, anyway). Remember, if we are going to start throwing negative political system labels at each other, liberals are communist and conservatives are fascists.

Friday, March 02, 2007

An Appeal to Moderates and Independents

In normal times, both the Democratic and Republican parties have, for the most part, represented mainstream American views. The past six years, however, have revealed us a Republican party that has unabashedly pandered to the ultra-conservative base at the exclusion of all others, including even moderate members in its ranks. It should be clear to everyone that the Republican Party has been hijacked not only by ultra-conservatives but by immoral and crooked politicians whose only objective is power, even if it means the destruction of our great nation.

How am I so sure of these frightening developments? Let me break it down:

First, extreme right Republicans make a point of making clear their religion at every opportunity, as long as it is an acceptable protestant religion. They talk about protecting freedom of religion, yet their party has a definite problem with those who do not follow a religion they consider the proper one. Even one of their own, Mitt Romney, is the target of criticism from members in his party since he is a Mormon. I must also point out the blatant hypocrisy with the recent attack by the right on Barack Obama concerning his religion. First they claim he attended a Madrassa when he was young, and when that turned out to be if not a blatant lie, then at the very least completely false, they attack the church he attends since it states in its mission the importance of supporting the African-American community. Their logic as to why this is something to be critical of is laughable since the church naturally does serve the African-American community, as other churches have served the community at large, and may I also point out that they served the white community while excluding the African-American community even as recent as 50 years ago! Considering this fact, the mission statement of Obama’s church is not surprising nor should it be seen as negative.

Second, Republicans no longer accept a moderate agenda but an ultra-conservative one. They have squelched the moderate voice in their own party, so it is no wonder that those like Senator Webb switched parties. Have you ever wondered why the Republican Party seems to be in line, while the Democratic Party cannot seem to stop bickering? It is because the Republican Party refuses to allow diversity of opinion or discussion within its ranks while the Democratic Party allows it, though at the expense of the strength of being unified.

Third, I call the Republican politicians immoral and crooked because their only end is power and they will use any means to obtain and maintain that power. Outing Valerie Plame Wilson was part of this since her husband presented evidence that countered their reasons for the invasion of Iraq. Invading Iraq was meant to increase their stranglehold on our country, and Wilson was interfering. They wrap themselves in the flag and claim they support the troops, but as the recent exposure of conditions at Walter Reed shows, they could care less. This is part of a greater problem in which this administration consistently cuts funding for Veterans across the board. Their hypocrisy should also be quite clear since while they were in power they criticized obstructionism by the Democratic Party and threatened to eliminate the ability of the minority party to filibuster if the Democratic Party attempted that tactic. What do they do in the first few weeks of the Democratic Party? They start filibustering and obstructing Democratic legislation to put a check on this administration. It should be clear that these Republicans care for nothing more than power and plunder.

Fourth, Republicans have brought the level of discourse to a frightening low and disgusting level in this country. Since when was it acceptable to call anyone a ‘faggot’ in what should be a respectable event? It seems, in the ranks of conservatives, that Anne Coulter is allowed to say such things about former Democratic senator John Edwards, yet the entire right wing goes ballistic when a few anonymous posters at the Huffington Post expressed regret that our VP, Bird-shot Cheney, was not killed in the Afghanistan terrorist attack. Though no person should express such wishes, they are not as harmless as Coulter calling Democratic politicians gay (including Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and now John Edwards) and also calling for the killing of liberals, including a suggestion that a Supreme Court Justice be poisoned.

Fifth, the conservatives continually pound on the ‘tax and spend liberal’ talking point when they have not had one balanced budget under this president. In fact, this administration has added more to the deficit than all previous presidents combined! All this administration and the Republican party has to show from all this deficit spending is a mess in Iraq, a deteriorating economy, poor services for our brave veterans, and billions missing in Iraq whether to the corruption of the Iraqi government or to the raping of the tax payers by corporations who received no bid contracts. Fiscal conservatives no longer have a voice in the Republican Party, instead it is the Democratic Party who is attempting to reign in spending by establishing in the House on the first day a pay as you go policy.

What the Republican Party has become is no longer American, it is an abomination. They represent now only two constituencies: The extreme fundamentalist Christians who wish to enshrine their fringe values as the law creating a Christian version of the Taliban; and their corporate donors who they award with no bid contracts, corporate welfare and relaxed federal regulation standards. I call on moderates and independents to support the Democratic Party, or at the very least support a third party rather than casting a vote with the Republican Party that does not care about your values, only about your vote. Force the Republican Party to recognize that moderates and independents are as important, if not more important than the fringe constituencies which they have currently sold themselves to at the expense of the majority of our great country.