April 4, 2008 archive

Friday Philosophy: A fair game on a level field

A question was asked this morning.  “What am I reading?”  Because of my poor eyesight, the current answer is all too often, “Not much.”

But I’ve had a burr under my saddle for about 10 days and I decided to remedy that.

It all started with NLinStPaul‘s essay, Right Brain Consciousness about Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor.   Well, I’m as much a brain geek as the next layperson, so I was interested.  I made the following comment last week:

What of someone who habitually combines what are traditionally thought of left-brain and right-brain activity?  And what of the place of cross-fertilization?

From wikipedia:

The corpus callosum is a structure of the mammalian brain in the longitudinal fissure that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres. It is the largest white matter structure in the brain, consisting of 200-250 million contralateral axonal projections. It is a wide, flat bundle of axons beneath the cortex. Much of the inter-hemispheric communication in the brain is conducted across the corpus callosum.

Of much more substantial popular impact was a 1982 Science article claiming to be the first report of a reliable sex difference in human brain morphology, and arguing for relevance to cognitive gender differences.

Oh, really?  My interest is piqued.

What The Reverand Said

I know that a month ago Obama’s pastor said somethings that have the media just cannot move past.  They say how appalling it is that an American would say such negative things about their country.  They especially have a hard on for his statement that the US brought the attack on themselves.  Of course, that would be a no-no to the corporate media and they just cannot understand why he would say such a thing.

Please, these people are idiots!  we are observing the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King and his accomplishments.  as we should, there is not a more deserving person than he.  I know you want to know where this is going…

A year before his death the Rev. Martin Luther king, jr, made a speech on the war in Vietnam, in that speech he said “….that he felt he must speak out against the biggest purveyor of violence in the world…..my own government…”  (this a paraphrase}.  So my point is that even MLK made speeches about the policies of the US.  His words were different than those of Rev. Wright, but none the less the sentiment is the same.

So may I suggest unless the media wants to degrade an American hero, then let the speech go, on both of these men.  The country is trying to move pass the crap of the media, but there are some that want to keep beating a dead mule.  This is no longer newsworthy, it is no bordering on propaganda.

Four at Four

  1. According to the Washington Post the Basra Assault Exposed U.S. and Iraqi Limits. “When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an offensive in Basra last week, he consulted only his inner circle of advisers. There were no debates in parliament or among his political allies. Senior American officials were notified only a few days before the operation began… The offensive, which triggered clashes across southern Iraq and in Baghdad that left about 600 people dead, unveiled the weaknesses of Maliki’s U.S.-backed government and his brash style of leadership.” Personally, I do not believe Maliki thought up of the confrontation in Basra in a vacuum.

    “On many levels, the offensive strengthened the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The United States has spent more than $22 billion to build up Iraq’s security forces, but they were unable to quell the militias.” Not only where Iraq’s military no match to the militias, The New York Times reports “More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week… Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.” This is not their war and the Iraqis know this. They aren’t going to fight for Bush’s agenda.

    The WaPo story suggests the biggest winner in the Basra wasn’t Sadr, but “it was Iran that helped broker an end to the clashes, enhancing its image and illustrating its influence over Iraq’s political players.”

    This is what I think happened. The Bush administration pressured Maliki to confront fellow Shi’ite Sadr to either prove Iraq’s security forces were ‘up to their job’ or to provoke Iran in some way. Either success or defeat would fit the Bush administration’s political agenda. According to WaPo, an anonymous senior official in Iraq’s Defense Ministry claimed “as the fighting progressed… the militias received weapons from Iran, including mortars and other large weapons”. The Iranians deny these charges.

    While it is seemingly okay for British and American forces to back their surrogate in the fight, Iran is depicted as meddling in the factional fight. According to this official, the militias had between 12,000 and 15,000 fighters, about the the same number as Iraqi troops. But, “if the British and American forces were not there, the Mahdi Army would have gained a victory,” he said. Meanwhile, according to the Post, “Many Sunnis now view Iran as a greater enemy than the United States.” We are taking sides in a centuries old disagreement about Islam.

Four at Four continues below the fold with stories about Iraq’s Christian refugees, 81% of Americans disapprove of where we’re headed as a country, and a profile of the artist who made the iconic migrant crossing highway sign.

U.S. Government Culpability in Death of Martin Luther King

On this 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., there’s been a lot of speechifying and article-writing. But I have seen precious little that recounts the campaign of the United States government to discredit and vilify Dr. King. The activities of the FBI’s Cointelpro program were documented by the United States Senate in its Church Committee Report. The “likelihood” that King was shot by James Earl Ray “as a result of a conspiracy” was the conclusion of the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1975. Unlike the JFK case, the HSCA documents on the MLK assassination remain classified to this day.

Yet we will hear nothing about these facts in today’s mainstream news. It’s unlikely that much will even be said at the liberal blogs. Yet, outside of the work of Dr. King himself, it’s the most salient fact about this day of dark remembrance.

I am charging the U.S. government, and most specifically the FBI, with culpability in the assassination of Martin Luther King. What does “culpability” mean?

Afraid of Reality

We live in a time, far from unique in human history, in which the “leaders” of our society simply cannot bring themselves to face reality. Two examples:

Via Crooks and Liars

Turley:”…It’s really amazing, Congress, including the Democrats, have avoided any type of investigation into torture because they do not want to deal with the fact that the president ordered war crimes. But, evidence keeps on coming out. The only thing we don’t have is a group picture with a detainee attached to electrical wires.”

Via stormchaser

The scientists investigated how much climate changes as a result of each individual emission of carbon dioxide, and found that each increment of emission leads to another increment of warming.[…] With emissions set to zero in the simulations, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere slowly fell as carbon “sinks” such as the oceans and land vegetation absorbed the gas. Surprisingly, however, the model predicted that global temperatures would remain high for at least 500 years after carbon dioxide emissions ceased.


Matthews and Caldeira found that to prevent the Earth from heating further, carbon dioxide emissions would, effectively, need to be eliminated.

….it is difficult when an entire world’s transportation and financial system is built upon fossil fuels. This includes the hungry populations of emerging nations like China and India that want their chance at the riches the West has enjoyed since the 1950’s.

There’s one less angry funny man in New Orleans

also at Orange

I’ll keep this short, because frankly, I never met him.

Professor Ashley Morris is one of the wittiest, sharpest bloggers on life in New Orleans, post-Katrina.  For the past few years, I’ve been making it a point to check out his blog two or three times a week, which is how I learned that on Wednesday, New Orleans lost a champion.

Vanity Fair: The Green Light

From the introduction:

The Green Light

As the first anniversary of 9/11 approached, and a prized Guantánamo detainee wouldn’t talk, the Bush administration’s highest-ranking lawyers argued for extreme interrogation techniques, circumventing international law, the Geneva Conventions, and the army’s own Field Manual. The attorneys would even fly to Guantánamo to ratchet up the pressure-then blame abuses on the military. Philippe Sands follows the torture trail, and holds out the possibility of war crimes charges.

Here is an excerpt, please take the time to read the entire article as well as, Rorschach and Awe, a piece on how the torture techniques were developed by “scientists” in the employ of your goverment.

On September 25, as the process of elaborating new interrogation techniques reached a critical point, a delegation of the administration’s most senior lawyers arrived at Guantánamo. The group included the president’s lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, who had by then received the Yoo-Bybee Memo; Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, David Addington, who had contributed to the writing of that memo; the C.I.A.’s John Rizzo, who had asked for a Justice Department sign-off on individual techniques, including waterboarding, and received the second (and still secret) Yoo-Bybee Memo; and Jim Haynes, Rumsfeld’s counsel. They were all well aware of al-Qahtani. “They wanted to know what we were doing to get to this guy,” Dunlavey told me, “and Addington was interested in how we were managing it.” I asked what they had to say. “They brought ideas with them which had been given from sources in D.C.,” Dunlavey said. “They came down to observe and talk.” Throughout this whole period, Dunlavey went on, Rumsfeld was “directly and regularly involved.”

Beaver confirmed the account of the visit. Addington talked a great deal, and it was obvious to her that he was a “very powerful man” and “definitely the guy in charge,” with a booming voice and confident style. Gonzales was quiet. Haynes, a friend and protégé of Addington’s, seemed especially interested in the military commissions, which were to decide the fate of individual detainees. They met with the intelligence people and talked about new interrogation methods. They also witnessed some interrogations. Beaver spent time with the group. Talking about the episode even long afterward made her visibly anxious. Her hand tapped and she moved restlessly in her chair. She recalled the message they had received from the visitors: Do “whatever needed to be done.” That was a green light from the very top-the lawyers for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the C.I.A.

Q&A on Tibet w/poll

Original article, subtitled Elisabeth Martens interviewed in “Le Courrier”, by Bénito Perez via Dissidentvoice.org.

Elisabeth Martens was interviewed by Bénito Perez for Le Courrier in Geneva on 27 March 2008. Here is the entire interview in which she directly answers all questions on the history, recent events, repression, the Dalai Lama, and the social problems of Tibet.

Speaking of dissident voices, this is an article which sheds light on what’s going on in Tibet. Be warned…it does not take a pro-Tibetan independence position, which is what makes it interesting. We also get a view of Tibetan history we aren’t often told about.

Thoughts on Tibet on the Anniversary of King’s Assassination

Today we remember how loved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was, and is. But we forget how hated he was during his lifetime. We forget the awful slip of the tongue that some employed to belittle him and call him “coon” instead of “King”. We forget the constant death threats, the government surveillance.

We forget that some people’s first reaction upon hearing Dr. King was shot was one of relief, not grief.

But to get an insight into that hate all one has to do is peruse today’s headlines and see the level of vitriol hurled against the Dalai Lama by the Chinese government.

For Dr. King

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

I’m thinking about times almost forty years ago when I sang, “We Shall Overcome.”  I’m remembering how I felt when I sang it, holding hands, swaying, anticipation in the air.  I loved the idea of walking hand in hand, black and white together, and at the same time there was always a tension, a tightness in my jaw and in the pit of my stomach, the presence of fear.  The song’s purpose was to get ready to do what had to be done.  I’m committed to nonviolence, I recall thinking, but there are those who are not.  They shot James Meredith, and lynched Emmitt Till, and burned Greyhound buses, and unlike me, they don’t want me to be safe.  Uncertainty about what will happen tightens my jaw, while my heart commits me to the cause.

Remembering these fears rekindles my old thoughts.  I remember the policemen in the church parking lot writing down the license plate numbers as if it were the Apalachin Crime Convention.  My mind flashes from people sitting in a restaurant who stop eating to stare and sneer, to the incomprehensible Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, to the repeated, threatening phone calls, to kids on a school bus yelling hate names through the windows, to the Klan and the police, and wondering how they were different.  I think about the person who ran over my dog.

I’m remembering singing “our song” in Port Gibson during the boycott trial and fearfully contemplating the long, dark ride home to Jackson on the Natchez Trace, an unlit, two-lane road that avoids all towns.

I’m remembering the Woolworth’s lunch counter and the bus station in Jackson, notorious before my arrival, at which friends were seriously injured.  I’m remembering the two unequal, racially labeled water fountains at the Courthouse in Laurel, and the three bathroom doors upstairs at the Mayflower Restaurant.  I’m remembering a black man pumping the gasoline, that his boss won’t let him touch the $5 I try to hand him.

I’m remembering a Mississippi judge hissing that he doesn’t have to put up with Communists– he’s talking about me– in his Court.  I’m remembering the Neshoba County Fair and what it must have been like on the night Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner were all killed, how everyone there must have known about it.

Awash in this flood of distant memories, my remembrance of my own feelings is more opaque.  I was learning to be a good lawyer, and I was an optimist, believing that eventually, we would confront and overcome racism and poverty and oppression and violence.  But I was also numb while my unworkable marriage was sliding slowly, unconsciously and miserably to ultimate dissolution by another southern Court.

Then, in 1973, I started to represent inmates of the sprawling Mississippi State Hospital because Barry Powell, an excellent lawyer and mentor, “discovered” it and convinced himself and me that the issues should be litigated.  Most of the people warehoused there, it turned out, were safe to release, but the staff was too small to have any idea who was safe and who might be risky.  For obvious cases, like the four older women who played remarkably skilled bridge using sign language to bid and hadn’t seen a doctor in 7 years, release was accomplished simply, by my inquiry if they could go home and my veiled threat of a judicial proceeding if they couldn’t.

The harder cases were like Mr. O’Reilly (not his real name), who also wanted to be released.  Doctors thought Mr. O’Reilly might be mentally ill because he still believed that ten years before somebody, a relative most likely, stole a million dollars worth of gold coins from his trailer in rural Oktibehha County and he was mad about it.  According to the doctor, Mr. O’Reilly didn’t have any insight into his delusional system and his obvious anger made him dangerous.

Mr. O’Reilly was tall and sunburnt from years of taking major tranquilizers and being outside, and he walked with his back arched, elbows back, hands on the small of his back, another side effect of the drugs.  I explained the situation to Mr. O’Reilly.  I told him that the doctor didn’t believe the million dollar story, and that frankly, I didn’t either.  In fact, I doubted there were ever $50 worth of gold coins in his entire county, and that when he acted angry about the situation, he was scaring the doctor.  He laughed, “So is that what all the fuss’s about?  How come nobody told me this before?”  I shrugged.  He said, “Well, I guess I’ll be going home then,” and he shambled off, doing the phenothiazine walk.

At the time the Hospital Staff decided who would be released by individually interviewing all the inmates who requested release.  When asked, Mr. O’Reilly said he came in complaining about the theft of a million dollars worth of gold coins, that he didn’t blame anybody for not believing him, and that he doubted the story made sense.  Was he mad about it?   No, he said, just sad that he didn’t understand the problem earlier.  Could he go home?

After Mr. O’Reilly was released, the Mississippi Mental Health Commissioner, Reginald White, told me that he thought I was doing “litigation therapy” and that he was surprised that people who were so obviously disoriented when they arrived were now going home.  Did I think it was because of the intensive attention I was giving them?  Or was it just time, the drugs, spontaneous change, and “millieu therapy”?  At the time I didn’t have any idea.  I just wanted inmates who wanted to go home to be released.

And this past January, almost forty years later, with my wife of almost 30 years and two of my three children, I attended an Interfaith Service commemorating Dr. King’s Holiday in Hudson, New York.  After wonderful gospel music by the Shiloh Baptist Church choir, a sermon, singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, prayer and scripture, the time came at last to sing “our song.”  It had been a long time.  My eyes grew wet.  I could feel an aching in my throat and in my heart my continuous, decades long love of justice, fairness, and equality.  And there was no fear.  Instead, there was only my unbounded joy that now, at last, my kids would learn and experience the magic of “our song.”  It was their turn to inherit the possibility of accomplishing the unthinkable, and it was their opportunity to forge a deep, personal heart connection with the community and movement for human dignity and justice.

“We Shall Overcome” has never been sweeter to me.  I can feel how very far I have traveled.  Although there remains an enormous journey to complete, the holiday celebration brought me the gift of seeing for the first time that my kids will soon be able, by themselves, to carry the movement on.  Forty years ago I never could have guessed how special, how complete and wonderful that would feel.

Docudharma Times Friday April 4

Mother, do you think they’ll drop the bomb?

Mother, do you think they’ll like this song?

Mother, do you think they’ll try to break my balls?

Ooooowaa Mother, should I build a wall?

Mother, should I run for President?

Mother, should I trust the government?

Friday’s Headlines: U.S. Economy Shed 80,000 Jobs in March: The Other Side of the Mountaintop: Zanu-PF discusses Mugabe future: Journalists charged in Zimbabwe: Al-Qaida deputy goes online to justify attacks: Hu Jia: China’s enemy within: Irish cabinet backs Cowen as next Taoiseach: Kosovo guerrilla leader Ramush Haradinaj is set free: More Than 1,000 in Iraq’s Forces Quit Basra Fight: Israeli minister’s aide shot from Gaza: Argentina farmers suspend strike

Basra Assault Exposed U.S., Iraqi Limits

Anti-Sadr Gambit Seen Aiding Cleric

BAGHDAD, April 3 — When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched an offensive in Basra last week, he consulted only his inner circle of advisers. There were no debates in parliament or among his political allies. Senior American officials were notified only a few days before the operation began.

He was determined to show, his advisers said, that Iraq’s central government could exert order over a lawless, strategic port city ruled by extremist militias.

Back From The Meeting From Hell: Better Late Than Never Here’s The News

My Arch-Enemy (Rep. Steve King) Strikes Again

(I apologize in advance for writing about a different King on the anniversary of Dr. King’s death)

Everyone should have an arch-enemy, right?  Someone who is the very antithesis of everything you stand for and believe in?  I’ve been looking for just the right candidate in an arch-enemy and a clear frontrunner has emerged:  Rep. Steve King of Iowa’s 5th congressional district.

King, a Republican (duh!), was recently in the news for his remarks about Barack Obama.  He said if Obama was elected president that al-Qaida “would be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they would declare victory in this war on terror.”  King also said of terrorists’ reaction to a potential Obama victory that “he will certainly be viewed as a savior for them.”  A savior for terrorists, Congressman?  Remarks like this are, sadly, just another day at the office for King.

Load more