Saturday, August 20, 2005


There's that word again—"warrior"

A month ago I was moved to write about the "Warrior Citizen" award. The resurrection of the term "warrior" seemed bizarre if not downright ominous.

I thought that post had put the kibosh on any further loose usage of the word until I came upon an AP story by Andrew Welsh-Huggins in which he quotes the mayor of Columbus, Ohio—a Democrat who wants to run for governor—

"There is a growing sense of opposition to the policies that led us to this war, but also growing support for the warriors," said Coleman.

Coleman's own son is with the Marines in Iraq, so maybe the word means something special to him.

It certainly means something special to me. Every time I see the word I have flashbacks from old Tarzan movies where natives run about with spears, or scenes from the cowboy-and-Indian movies—and of course, who could forget "Road Warrior"? In short the word connotes tribalism.

Lately there's been some speculation as to whether the nation-state is ending its useful life in the face of global economic forces that engulf it—a silly idea since you obviously need a nation-state to control the populations while the "global economic forces" get on with their mysterious work.

But these theorists see a new social order that may be referred to as "neo-tribalism." Peter Leyden, sort of a Blue state futurist, writes

Picture a world in the next century organized not around nation-states but around a new form of tribes sharing the same culture and values. It's a world where you pledge allegiance not to a republic, but to a clan.

Why wait till the next century? Iraq offers as fine an example of this mode of social organization as may be found anywhere.

These tribes could carry out most of the functions that we now associate with nations or governments. A person at the farthest outpost of the world could use the technologies for day-to-day contact and support from the larger group based far away.

They could get all the same news, entertainment and casual gossip that would reinforce their identities from afar. They could even rely on the group for all levels of education, much of their health care through advanced telemedicine and even their personal security.

People's tribal identities would be so apparent, and tribal affiliations so strong, that no one would physically harm you unless they wanted to incur the wrath of the entire clan. The tribal police of the future would travel the planet pursuing justice for their members, much as gangs do today.

Actually they would not be police; police operate to enforce the rules of the tribe. They would be warriors, just like warrior-ants. Alternatively, you might call them suicide-bombers.

Some fear that such a scenario would inevitably tend toward a riot of parochial sects warring among themselves. They fear the emergence of tribalism in the old sense -- a new form of barbarism.

Count me among them.

But that scenario leaves out the equally powerful forces that are integrating the world. For every step toward more parochial localism, there's a step toward more universal globalism.

This end of the nation-state might not be such a disaster in the long run. In the digital future, we might even see international peace.

Like they don't have internet and cellphones in Iraq?

Well, one thing is for sure—they have plenty of warriors.

Related post
The Reservists' award (7/7/05)


Objectionable content?

Bryan of Brutal Naivety called my attention to a new feature on the Blogspot blogs—the "Flag?" button. This button offers you, the reader, the opportunity to flag the content of the blog as "objectionable." Blogspot keeps track of the number of times that readers flag a blog, and after some unstated number of flags, they decide what action to take.

It's really not a terrible policy, since the only real consequence of a flag-waving readership is that the blog may be "delisted," which means that Blogspot will not promote the site.

For some of us the absence of any "objectionable" flags may suggest that we're not doing the job right.

Friday, August 19, 2005


In case you were looking to the Democrats for your salvation

I think it is barely possible that in 2006 or 2008 the Democrats could overcome the effects of gerrymandering, vote fraud and public stupidity to regain one or both houses of Congress. And given the incredible screw-ups of this administration, it is even more likely that a Democrat will win the Presidency. (This is under the assumption that the Cheney administration will not stage an attack on the "homeland" that will necessitate the end of representative democracy as we know it.)

But I am afraid the country is well and truly lost, and I cannot envision a scenario with a more hopeful outcome. It would require a mass desire for change and a mass belief in the possibility of change and realistic options for change. And the one thing you will not get from the Democrats is change. Oh, you would see some improvements around the edges, but they would be cosmetic, not substantive.

Here's what the Democrats won't do—

I'm not saying that you won't be able to find individual Democratic Congressmen and Senators who would support these actions and policies, but they are a minority of a minority.

What a Democratic victory will bring is this

A new consensus is emerging among leading Democrats: Winning congressional and presidential races in the post-9/11 world requires candidates who are willing to use military might and keep the nation safe. The emerging strategy is to support a more aggressive foreign policy that focuses on threats being neglected by the Bush administration, but avoid taking a contentious stance on Iraq, according to an analysis published in the Boston Globe last week.

Even Democrats associated with liberal positions are calling for a larger military, proposing that threats of force be used to stop nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea, and pressing for potential military intervention to ease famine and oppression, according to the analysis.

Despite pressure from some liberal groups for a quick exit from Iraq, several of the party's White House aspirants and congressional leaders have called for intensified efforts to stabilize the nation before troops come home.

Having the strongest military in the world is the first step, but we also have to have a strong commitment to using our military in smart ways that further peace, stability, and security around the world," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, argued last month at the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in Columbus, OH. Clinton, a possible 2008 presidential contender, has called for adding 80,000 troops to the armed services.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden, D-DE, also a potential presidential candidate, has laid out a doctrine of rebuilding alliances while making clear that “force will be used — without asking anyone's permission — when circumstances warrant.”

The new message has grown out of a series of party caucuses, conferences on national security, and polling by Democratic think tanks. “If you're not credible on security, it doesn't matter if you have better ideas on health care and education and everything else," explained Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank.

Liberal groups such as are urging an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, while Howard Dean has mostly remained silent on foreign affairs since becoming chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The top Democrats in the House and Senate issued a report in July that criticized Bush administration efforts to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. The report called for the United States to engage in more direct negotiations with Iran and North Korea, and for such talks to be reinforced with military pressure, including “the possibility of repeated and unwarned strikes.”

At the DLC convention Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, noted that John Kerry lost the presidential race in 2004 primarily “because we did not have a compelling national-security message." He urged Democrats to return to the foreign policy visions of Democratic presidents Woodrow Wilson, Harry S. Truman, and John F. Kennedy. “We must be prepared to strategically use our military, as a party, for good, and against other transnational threats in addition to the threat of terrorism," he said.

Can I vote for this scum? One moment while I consider the alternative ... Oh! You bet!

Related posts
My nominee for President in 2008 (11/9/04)
Another reason I won't be supporting Hillary for President in 2008 (12/13/04)
Newt nominates Hillary (4/15/05)


Joke of the Day

Rep. Charles Taylor, R-NC, said he actually voted against the bill [CAFTA], but that a problem with the electronic voting system failed to record it. —as told by the Vermont Guardian

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Question of the Day

We all inhabit an army camp, mobilized to lend support to the permanent state of war readiness. Are we all military dependents, wearers of civilian camouflage?
—Catherine Lutz, anthropologist, as quoted in Robert Jensen's "America's Good Germans"

Hope of the Day

... the Bush regime is in an impossible position. It would like to withdraw in a dignified manner, asserting some semblance of victory. But, if it tries to do this, it will face ferocious anger and deception on the part of the war party at home. And if it does not, it will face ferocious anger on the part of the withdrawal party. It will end up satisfying neither, lose face precipitously, and be remembered in ignominy. —Immanuel Wallerstein, Fernand Braudel Center, Binghamton University in Uruknet

First Venezuelan oil shipment to Uruguay

On August 10 Uruguayan President Vasquez signed a mutually beneficial economic agreement with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez that has undoubtedly left some Neocons with flecks of froth about their wolfish mouths.1 According to China's Xinhuanet,
Venezuela is to provide low-cost crude oil for refining at Uruguayan refineries for 25 years. The processed oil will be used to meet Uruguay's energy needs with the rest to be exported to South American countries.

In return, Uruguay will export a large amount of agricultural, telecommunications and service products to Venezuela.

Other joint efforts in the works include plans for an alcohol distillation project with Uruguay near its northeastern border with Brazil and a cement plant which will export from Uruguay to Venezuela 10 million US dollars worth of cement annually.

In the political field, the two presidents agreed to strengthen consultation and cooperation to help promote the process of South America's integration.

Chavez wasted no time in implementing the agreement. Cuba's Prensa Latina reports that almost a million barrels of crude were delivered today.

The Cuban report also mentions Venezuelan interest in direct investment in Uruguay—

During Chavez´s recent visit to Uruguay on August 10, both parties announced the agreement might envisage future Venezuelan investment in Uruguay´s oil refineries.

Washington is concerned that Chavez is using some of Venezuela's oil money "to exercise influence or gain influence over some of its neighbours." It is always a worry for Washington when democratically elected governments, as opposed to multinational oil companies, gain influence.

The U.S., of course, eschews such methods. Direct invasion is now considered superior to diplomacy—or even bribery.


1According to Eva Golinger of,

Porter Goss, the Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) named Venezuela as the leading Latin American nation to be alarmed about in 2005. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding “Global Intelligence Challenges 2005: Meeting Long-Term Challenges with a Long-Term Strategy”, Goss classified Venezuela as a “potential area for instability” for this year. Considering Venezuela as a “flashpoint” in 2005, the CIA Director alleged that President Chávez “is consolidating his power by using technically legal tactics to target his opponents and meddling in the region.” Goss also raised alarm that Chávez is “supported by [Fidel] Castro.”
As so frequently happens in the Bush administration, there is a semantic crisis. The CIA, Pentagon and State Department have rushed to their dictionaries to find the mot juste
Venezuela is the only country referred to in this list of five as a cause of concern because of actions the Government is pursuing. Goss’s choice of the wording “technically legal tactics” evidences the U.S. administration’s push to label Venezuela as an “authoritarian democracy” or an “elected dictatorship.” Various State Department officials and communications media have been fiddling with implementing this change in semantics regarding Venezuela’s “peculiar situation” over the past year. Recently, Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer began referring to Venezuela as an “authoritarian democracy” a term contradictory in itself.

Furthermore, the use of the term “technically legal tactics” demonstrates the Bush Administration’s conundrum with Venezuela. While the U.S. Government has on numerous occasions publicly acknowledged that President Chávez has been democratically elected twice and won a transparent recall referendum by a landslide in August 2004, it has also launched a well coordinated campaign to isolate Venezuela internationally, labeling Chávez as a “negative force to the region” and a “threat to democracy.” The “technically legal” also shows that the CIA is struggling to find a way to justify regime change in Venezuela: “technically” Chávez’s actions are “legal”, but... [fill in the blanks].


Statistic of the Day

Earlier this year, a survey of 1,682 adults by Peter D. Hart Research found that the majority of Americans would vote to join a union if they were free to do so without intimidation from their employer. Among nonunion workers, 53 percent reported they'd vote to join a union.

That is the highest level of support for unions since the poll began asking the question more than 20 years ago. In 1984, only 30 percent answered in the affirmative.
—Rick Bender, guest column in Seattle Times


What I bet you don't know about Mississippi

It's been a refreshing morning. I've been perusing some of the recent news of the court systems—state and federal. Some of the outcomes are dubious; others laughable. Occasionally justice prevails, though it's usually overturned on appeal.

Justice did not prevail in the case of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, who was just exonerated by a jury in his federal bribery trial. He was tried along with two lesser judges and the attorney accused of being the briber. Judge Diaz won a clean acquittal while the jury hung on a number of charges faced by his codefendants.

But the feds are not letting Diaz off so easily. He hardly had time to bask in his innocence before the feds brought a tax evasion indictment they had waiting in the wings, just in case the bribery charge failed. This was the technique, you will recall, that was used to bring down Al Capone, and is therefore especially appropriate for Mississippi judges.

Normally I would withhold judgment. But Judge Diaz' wife has already pled guilty to one count of tax evasion, and she certainly didn't evade taxes on bribes all on her own.

But I didn't get your attention to discuss the sordid state of the courts in Mississippi. You probably knew that already. What I bet you don't know is how little it matters in Mississippi what you do—at least if you're a public official.

According to Holbrook Mohr of the AP, even if Judge Diaz is convicted on the tax-evasion charge, it will have no bearing on his fitness to continue as a Mississippi judge. Mohr makes the point that most felony convictions would be grounds for removal from the bench. But there are a few exceptions. To wit—

manslaughter, federal tax-code violations, corruption or embezzlement in office or gambling with money that comes into an official's hands because of his office.
Why even I could stay out of trouble in a system like that!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


"An activist in reporter's clothing"

Back in the Nixon 70s another Miller was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury. Tom Miller, who then wrote for the "alternative press," refused and went to court. He feels his experience may have some relevance for bloggers who, like him, may be participants in the events they cover. He describes those times for the LA Times
In the summer of 1971, I lived in Arizona and was writing about the antiwar movement and its cultural offspring. I also began covering regional struggles — farmworkers and copper miners, immigrants and environmentalists — and had my hands full writing for the underground press and some sea-level publications. Because my beliefs were similar to the people I was writing about, they trusted me.

The grand jury that subpoenaed me that summer was not just any grand jury. This was one set up by Richard Nixon's Justice Department expressly to look into "subversive" activity. Tucson had a virile antiwar movement and frequent demonstrations.

I was no conventional reporter like Earl Caldwell. I was freelance (strike one), writing for the underground press (strike two) and openly sympathetic to my subjects (foul ball). I wanted to show the court that I, too, was entitled to 1st Amendment protection, so I set out to show that not only was I a writer but that the creative — although amateurish — underground press was as valid as a professional daily. The Constitution does not ask for circulation figures or rule out sloppiness. (Bloggers take note.)

The judge quashed the Justice Department's subpoena, but the appellate decision upon which the judge based his ruling was later reversed by the Supreme Court. I believe Tom Miller would be in jail were he in similar circumstances today. But he tries to cheer the rest of us on—

... the Justice Department's arrogant belief that it had the power to decide who deserves to be called a journalist continues to echo. Frey [Miller's judge] would no doubt be apoplectic at the mere notion of the Constitution protecting the electronic descendants of Thomas Paine. For democracy to flourish, however, the 1st Amendment must be more flexible than the parchment upon which it was written. Odious though many bloggers may be, ... courts will need to accept them as journalists — for the same reasons the court recognized my privilege to protect my sources.
Odious? Did he say "odious"?

The other opinion

Regarding the Pentagon-sponsored "America Supports You Freedom Walk," the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense feels there are only two opinions: the Pentagon's and "the other." According to the aptly named Jon Fogg of the Washington Times,
Mrs. Barber said organizers and police expect anti-war backlash. "It would be naive to do anything in Washington and not expect the other opinion," she said.

Protesting the walk, she said, would be tantamount to "protesting the events of September 11 or protesting our veterans."

While the "nonpartisan" nature of the event along with the requirement to preregister in order to participate have been widely reported, this hasn't—

... the Defense Department will screen participants before the walk and hopes the event will serve as a model across the country. "The goal for 2006 is for each state to hold a freedom walk," she said.
This will keep the Freedom Walk in line with other "nonpartisan" events this administration has sponsored, such as the Bush "town meetings" on Social Security.

Previous post
Pentagon to march on the Mall (8/10/05)

Monday, August 15, 2005


On the road again ...

I'm away from my familiar surroundings—dirty coffee cups and piles of papers—which makes it difficult to write. I'll return to normal sometime Wednesday.

Tell the Post to withdraw their support for Pentagon march

The Pentagon's "America Supports You Freedom Walk" in supposed commemoration of 9/11 is enjoying the co-sponsorship of the Washington Post. The Post claims that they are only supporting it because it is a "nonpartisan" event.

Well, excuse me, but could the Post please name any government-sponsored event to date that has been "nonpartisan." Is there any reason to think this march is anything other than a pro-war rally, complete with country singer and war enthusiast Clint Black? (It is a part of the administration's rhetoric that the soldiers in Iraq are "fighting for freedom.")

The American Friends Service Committee is sponsoring an email campaign asking the Post to withdraw its sponsorship of this event. For whatever good it will do, please support it.

Previous post
Pentagon to march on the Mall (8/10/05)


A quantum parable

There was once a Cossack who saw a rabbi walking through the town square nearly every day at about the same time. One day he asked curiously: "Where are you going, rabbi?"

The rabbi answered: "I am not sure."

"You pass this way every day at this time. Surely you know where you're going."

When the rabbi insisted that he did not know, the Cossack became irritated, then suspicious, and finally took the rabbi to jail. Just as he was locking the cell, the rabbi faced him and said gently: "You see, I didn't know."

—Amit Goswami, The Self-Aware Universe, 1993, p. 42.

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