Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Good little soldier

Gov. Bush Takes Blame for Slow Wilma Aid

"Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Compare and contrast

The following headlines from this morning's news:

Few CIA charges expected in prisoner deaths

Rice and Straw demand action over Hariri killing

For extra credit, explain why one negates the legitimacy of the other.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I try not to judge, so you do it for me.

Someone got here by searching the phrase "abortion: the other white meat." I have to go shower.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Stop screaming sir, we're from the government.

Please bear in mind I wrote the following while legally impaired. I considered revising, but thought what the hell, maybe this will encourage people to come visit. I'm all about the civil discourse.

So I’m sitting in the airport (bar) waiting for my flight (and drinking). There’s no punch line there.

Last week I went to a little conference on the Geneva Convention in the War or Terror or Anyone Else We Choose to Wage War Upon. One of the speakers was John Yoo, which is a large part of the reason I attended; after all, I have all this spoiling produce in my refrigerator. He spoke last, and it was interesting how he (mis)characterized the opposition to torture, and also how he attempted to justify his position. I’m unsure if he genuinely believes in his position (and is stupid) or is locked into a position not necessarily of his choosing (and is without a shred of intellectual honesty).

What was interesting about his talk was how he seemed to be trying to move the discussion through a process of subtraction; that is to say, he tried to define our response toward captives by discussing them and the war in terms of what they are not. He characterized his opposition as misunderstanding the nature of the conflict, trying to define it as a criminal enterprise when it’s actually a war. The counter arguments never really made that point, so it looked like a clear straw man, but let’s move on. So it’s not a police action, it’s a war.

But then he moved on to say that the rules of war don’t apply, because Al-Qaeda isn’t really a state, and besides that they’re not signatory to the Geneva Convention. So we don’t have to apply the Geneva Convention to our treatment toward them. So civil law doesn’t apply, and now the laws of war don’t apply; he didn’t say that this gives the US carte blanche to torture, but rather that this should open the door to a national dialogue about prisoner treatment.

However, when prodded about the secrecy surrounding how prisoners are actually being treated by the administration and exactly what official policy states, Yoo informed us that it’s not really our business for reasons of national security. We’re just supposed to trust in our elected officials. Summarizing to this point, it’s not a criminal action but a war, but war rules don’t apply, so we should talk about what rules do apply, but we shouldn’t ask to be informed about what realities we’re really talking about making rules for. What was sort of glossed over is that the veil of secrecy would prevent any enforcement or oversight of any resulting rules, but now I'm just piling on.

What was lost in all the muck is that we do have rules governing how we treat prisoners. Lyndee England, Charles Graner and their merry band of sadists are not in prison because of a lack of clear authority concerning how we treat prisoners, on the contrary there is a large body of law and tradition making it clear that we treat prisoners with compassion and humanity.

Yoo stated that this is a different kind of conflict than any we waged previously, and that bleeding heart liberals don’t understand the critical nature of intelligence in conducting the War on Terror. What I would put forward is that Yoo and his ilk fail to understand the critical nature of ideology in conducting the War on Terror. Since the Revolution we as a nation have been concerned with demonstrating that we are ideologically superior, that we hold fast to the moral high ground. Right now we’re engaged with an enemy whose basic position is that we are a nation of exploiters and desecrators. That we have no respect for Muslims as nations or individuals. John Yoo seems dedicated to proving them right, and it's hard to see how that is going to gain us any ground.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mailbag fun!

Well, it was nice hitting the road for a few days, but it's good to be home. While I was getting smashed in the airport bar waiting for a flight I started a post about a conference I attended titled "The Geneva Convention and the War on Terror and Anyone Else We Designate" featuring John Yoo, one of the authors of the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel torture memo from 2002. Hopefully that'll be ready to go soon, until then enjoy more fun from the mailbag.

Why yes, I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night: "You people are extinct. Your ancestors died out centuries ago. Why should I pay for you to collect welfare?"

I'm a native American too! "But Native Americans are immigrants themselves! Of course, the legal definition of the word 'indigenous' and its use in international compacts means nothing, in fact I expect the UN will change its declarations to accomodate my personal view of the world any day now."

Why don't you appreciate the inner beauty of Republicans? "Individuality bad, assimilation good."

More inner beauty: "Isn't there someplace where you people can go and not encounter discrimination? If you choose not to go there, the discrimination you receive is your fault."

The mating call of the conservative (or "they're poor because they want to be"): "In the past you people had no utilities, no cars, and no DVD players, so complaining about poverty and asking for me to sympathize is clearly asking too much of me as a human being."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Big numbers

Well, apparently mindboggling crimes against humanity draw big traffic. Morbid curiosity, maybe. I'm always a little disappointed that people don't comment, given the number who traipse through here on a daily basis. I find it hard to believe anyone's that interested in me running my cakehole nonstop.

I do get some pretty darned fascinating email, so keep that coming. I'm thinking about putting together another episode of Mailbag fun! so stay tuned for that. I will be out of town the next few days so posting will be... well, about normal. Heh.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy Genocide Day!

In honor of the initiation of five centuries of genocide, I'm going to break my long silence and comment on this anonymous blog in regards to Ward Churchill. These comments should not be construed as representing the position of any tribe, Indian activist group, corporation, educational institution, or sports team.

Chris Clarke posted earlier in the week about Ward Churchill, particularly about issues of concern to Indians which Churchill has helped to keep in the public consciousness. He closed with a comment that we've reached a state where the FBI no longer has to go to great lengths to marginalize Native activists, that liberals seem to have taken that role upon themselves. There's also an interview with Churchill over there which you should read.

The original post provoked a comment alluding to the lack of evidence of specific instances of Churchill being marginalized by progressives. I think that misses the mark in that it assumes that marginalization is necessarily an active process, which it certainly can be. I would respond that shunning or just plain ignoring constitute marginalization every bit as much as the active attempts to discredit which followed the publicizing of Churchill's 9/11 essay. Wake up people, Churchill published the essay three years before it got any widespread attention. Someone please present me with an argument that Churchill had not been marginalized prior to the implosion of the right. Indian issues just plain aren't important to most, unless there's some sort of overlap with an outside group. Like, say, during election season in South Dakota.

I don't really care about that right now, though. The problem most people have with Churchill is that he tends to operate way out on a ledge, where they aren't comfortable going. He tends to frame issues in very extreme terms. He's inflammatory. He's abrasive. So am I, I'm not criticizing.

One of Churchill's favorite buzzwords is "genocide." I'm a big fan myself. But most of America gets uncomfortable, defensive, or downright hostile when anyone brings up genocide. I've actually had people tell me that I'm anti-semitic if I use the term genocide in reference to anything other than the Holocaust. Well, fuck you.

Purely from a numbers standpoint, it's scary. Scholarly estimates put the population of North America prior to contact anywhere between 1.8 and 12 million. I personally put the most stock in extrapolation based on known population density for foragers in various environments, which puts the number somewhere around 4-5 million. Pretty good middle of the road number. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Indian population stood at 237,000, meaning that the Indian population had been reduced by 94 percent. In contrast, during the Holocaust 66 percent of Jews in Nazi occupied countries were killed. Before anyone goes off, I'm not in any way trying to minimize the genocide perpetrated during World War II, I'm providing context within which people can understand that what happened to indigenous people in the United States was, and is, genocide.

For apologists who want to point out that European imported disease killed sixty percent of the native population, I would point out two things. One, if you know what you're doing is killing people and you continue to do it, you're fucking culpable. Two, assuming that sixty percent of four million died of disease that leaves us a remaining population of 2.4 million, meaning EuroAmericans directly reduced the remaining population by a mere ninety percent.

And this was not a mystery or surprise to anyone. Modern anthropology did a lot of growing up in the U.S., as "salvage anthropology" in the late 19th and early 20th century. Budding young anthros like Cushing, Benedict, and Kroeber rushed out to document Indian cultures before all Indians were dead. The old label of the "Vanishing American" indicates the bland acceptance of the U.S. that it's policies were leading inexorably to the conclusion of centuries of genocide.

And how did public sentiment run during these times? This comment appeared in an editorial that was published in the Aberdeen, South Dakota weekly paper in December of 1890: "The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are." The editorial was written by L. Frank Baum. Ignore the fat bastard behind the curtain.

"I never met an Indian I didn't kill, and never killed an Indian I didn't scalp." Andrew Jackson, President of the United States and architect of the Trail of Tears.

"The only good Indian I ever saw was dead." General Philip Sheridan.

But I digress. It should not be assumed that the little problem of genocide was somehow restricted to times of open warfare between tribes and the U.S. In 1974 Dr. Connie Uri began a personal investigation into the unusual number of sterilizations of Indian women which were occurring at the Claremore, Oklahoma IHS facilities. Her interviews uncovered several hundred sterilizations taking place over a two year period at this facility alone, involving both tubal ligation and hysterectomies. Her findings prompted a number of investigations throughout Indian Country, which found an alarming number of Indian women who had been sterilized; many of them testified that their consent had been coerced, or that the doctors had misrepresented the purpose of the surgery. Congress eventually commissioned the GAO to investigate; the GAO found no wrongdoing. And did not interview a single Indian woman.

Let's say that together: they did not interview a single Indian woman.

They did recommend that the IHS review its consent procedures. The GAO also found 3,400 Indian women who had been sterilized. What they neglected to publicize was that these 3,400 women were from four service areas over a two year period. There are twelve service areas. One study estimates that by 1976 42 percent of Indian women of childbearing age had been sterilized.

"Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group." Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

While we're talking about Convention, go take a look at ratifications and reservations. Please note that the U.S. did not ratify until 1988. Please also note this reservation: "That the term 'intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such' appearing in article II means the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such by the acts specified in article II." This is fancy lawyer talk, it essentially means that in order for the U.S. to be guilty of genocide, it has to specifically intend to commit genocide. In personal terms it's analogous to me shooting someone, but with the stipulation that I can't be found guilty of murder unless I specifically intend for them to die. If I shoot you and hope you live, I'm not guilty of murder even if you die, because I lack the intent. It basically makes it impossible to pursue a charge of genocide against the U.S. under the Charter.

Anway, I'm tired and need to do some actual work. Maybe some other time we'll go into boarding schools and stolen children. Happy Genocide Day.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Putting the "you" in "Eugenics"

Okay, by now we all know that Bill Bennett is a douchebag. Everyone who is not a Republican or an idiot should also well aware of the racism inherent in his comments, I wanted to blather on a bit about what it says about abortion.

I have read a lot of really intelligent commentary concerning the problems with the anti-choice position; not trusting the moral agency of women, lack of consistency in the application of the “culture of life” position, that sort of thing. I think the problem is that those comments address the outward statement of purpose, trying to protect life, rather than the real purpose, which I personally think is social control.

Not necessarily control over women, I think that’s largely incidental, but control over society in general. It’s not that the anti-choicers don’t think women are capable of making appropriate personal moral choices, it’s that they don’t think women will make choices that will benefit them personally. And they’re not against terminating pregnancies in general, they’re against terminating certain pregnancies. Those just aren’t statements that are politically practical, so they have to be made into generalities that demonstrate a high degree of inconsistency as a side effect.

Let me back up a bit. A number of years ago when I was doing this show four nights a week on Usenet, we attracted a white supremacist shitbag named Kevin Strom (whom I will most definitely not link to, but you can Google him up; snarky comments relating to the irony of master racers looking like guys who are regularly beat up for their lunch money will be appreciated). Pursuing a know-thy-enemy strategy I looked over his website and found, much to my interest, that white supremacists are rabidly against abortion. The reason for this is that the group most likely to obtain an abortion is teenage white girls. Their position is that abortion disproportionately affects whites, and is therefore bad.

Now let’s look at the caller comment which sparked Bennett: “lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency.” The mistake which the two share is in presuming that abortion affects the overall population, which it does not, at least not to the extent they think it does. Generally speaking, abortion is not going to impact the total number of children a woman is going to choose to bear, it’s only going to postpone the births of those children until a later date. It’s not particularly reasonable to assume that a woman would have elected to have three children instead of two, if not for that pesky abortion.

When I look at conservative positions on most social issues, what I see is manifestation of this impulse to maintain the dominant position in society at all costs. Immigration – keep out brown people. Affirmative Action – maintain white privilege. Abortion – keep the white babies coming. Bennett’s sin, in the eyes of the White House, was in revealing the hidden underbelly of conservative social policy. Not anti-abortion per se, after all look at all the good things abortion could accomplish if used in the right way. Of course, that would be completely reprehensible (wink, wink).

The White House came out with its rather tepid announcement that Bennett’s remark was “inappropriate.” Not reprehensible, stupid, irresponsible, or any one of a number of harsher labels that apply, but inappropriate. Like telling an off-color joke at a swanky party, or farting in an elevator. I don’t think they’re at all put off by the comment itself, just by the venue; Bennett was stupid enough to say this on the radio rather than the privacy of a $1500 per plate fundraiser or a Klan rally.

Sometime soon we’ll get into the elemental fear of the conservative – if they become a minority, they’ll be treated in turn just as they treat minorities.