January 16, 2011 archive

For Dr. King

This diary is a re-publication of an essay from April, 2008.  It seems worth publishing again in honor of Dr. King.

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.

Revisiting The End Of The World

Neither the weary, disciplined […] soldiers, ranked along the west bank, nor the anxious, helter-skelter tribes amassing on the east bank could have been giving much thought to their place in history. But this moment of slack, this relative calm before the pandemonium to follow, gives us the chance to study the actors on both sides of this river and to look backward on what has been and forward to what will be.

[I]ts foundations were unassailable, sturdily sunk in a storied past and steadily built on for eleven centuries and more. There was, of course, the prophecy. Someone, usually someone in his cups, could always be counted on to bring up that old saw: the Prophecy of the Twelve Eagles, each eagle representing a century, leaving us with- stubby fingers counting out the decades in a puddle of wine- only seventy years remaining! Give or take a decade! Predictable laughter at the silliness of the whole idea. But in seventy years exactly, the empire would be gone.

[it] hardly foresaw its doom.

On Contradiction, Or, Will Obama Lose An Argument With Himself?

There have been many unlikely things that have happened this past month or so: some of them appearing as legislation, some of them appearing in the form of Republicans who set new records for running away from the words they used to get elected-and some of them appearing in the markets, where, believe it or not, many Europeans finds themselves wishing for our economic situation right about now.

There are even improbable sports stories: our frequently hapless Seattle Seahawks, the only team to ever make the NFL Playoffs with a losing record, are today preparing to knock the Chicago Bears out of their bid to play in the Super Bowl, having crushed the defending holders of the Lombardi Trophy just last week before the 12th Man in Seattle.

But as improbable as all that is, the one thing I never thought I would see is Barack Obama getting into a political argument with himself over Social Security-and then losing the argument.

Even more improbably, it looks like there’s just about a week left for him to come to a decision…and it looks like you’re going to have to help him make up his mind.

A Nation Scorned.

Ah yes. Being female, as all females are e’er defined by this wrath made legend, I know this tale. No one endures scorn well, once they have involved their heart in another. The one thing the human psyche cannot abide is being ignored. Feeling unimportant. Worthless.

We patch the cracks of the agony of rejection by focusing on the minutia that is imperfect in the objects of our affection, trying to cover the pain of bereavement with anger. Any tiny flaw has to become more important than all the things that made us swoon, flaws that become our armor against knowing who we love do not value us.  For women never truly un-love once their heart has been taken, and it is far too easy to let the things we adored drag us back into the misery of missing what scorned us.

As any female can attest, men scorned are no different. Their methods are not the same, but their armor is twice as effective, and just as vicious ultimately. A woman who scorns a man ceases to exist to him. The difference, is that there is no way back to a man scorned.

So. What happens when a nation in its entire is scorned? Will we rage at the flaws, or turn our backs forever, when neither natural human reaction can be effective against the systematic disenfranchisement of a whole population?


Six In The Morning

America The Only Industrialized Nation Whose Conservative Political Party Works To Deny  Health Care For Its Citizens        

The Truth and Consequences of Repeal

Get ready for more theater on Capitol Hill. House Republicans plan to push through legislation this week to repeal the health care reform law.In deference to the new vows of civility, the tone of the debate may be a bit more restrained. But Republicans have already said that they will not strip the word “killing” from the bill – which is titled, “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” Civility apparently goes only so far.

While repeal will certainly pass the House, it has no chance in the Senate. So House Republicans are already planning other ways to undermine the reforms, like denying agencies enough money to hire personnel to carry out the program.

Ethnic Minorities of Southern Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a land of many ethnic minorities!


Some of the ethnic minorities of Afghanistan are the Pushtun, Uzbek, Turkmen, Tajik, Aimaq, Baluchi, Afghan Hindus, Afghan Sikhs, Hazara, Nuristani, Pahai, Brahui, Pamiri, Kyrgyz, Arab, Gujjar, Kurd, Tatar, Wakhi, Ashkunu, Kamkata-viri, Vasi-vari, Tregami, Kalasha-ala, Hindko, Shughni, Munji, Ishkashimi and Qizilbash.

(Americans who have an opinion about anything related to Afghanistan are invited to write a brief essay about each of those tribes!)

The many ethnic minorites of Afghanistan are mainly united by their national cuisine, in which fetal remains of dogs and bunnies are suspended in aspic and either baked or eaten raw.


And it’s just this unique combination of xenophobia, delicious food, mutual incomprehension and hostility among more than 30 ethnic minorities, and five-star accomodations that makes Afghanistan an eternally popular destination for military tourists!


Note: I gleaned most of the information in this essay from online sources in Brahui, a Dravidic language which originated in South India and gradually lost about 85% of its original vocabulary during 2000 years of exile in Afghanistan, and apart from the usual difficulties of translating hybrid-pidgin-gibberish, some additional inaccuracies may have been introduced by taqiyya, or taqiyah, which is either a short round cap or the Islamic practice of lying about more or less everything to avoid religious persecution.


Late Night Karaoke

Destroying the village to save it.

A working farm village in Tarok Kalache, Afghanistan.


The village of Tarok Kalache was laden with IEDs and homemade explosives (HME) comprised of 50-gal drums of deadly munitions. Special Operations forces conducted a successful clearing raid on the village. Then Flynn introduced the Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC), a rocket-projected explosive line charge which provides a “close-in” breaching capability for maneuver forces. The plan was for one team to clear a 600-meter path with MICLICs from one of his combat outposts to Tarok Kalache. “It was the only way I could give the men confidence to go back out.”


Not long after, Flynn shared one insight into the burden of command: “I literally cringed when we dropped bombs on these places — not because I cared about the enemy we were killing or the HME [home-made explosives] destroyed, but I knew the reconstruction would consume the remainder of my deployed life.”

Unsound, or no method at all?

“I looked at him, lost in astonishment. There he was before me, in motley, as though he had absconded from a troupe of mimes, enthusiastic, fabulous. His very existence was improbable, inexplicable, and altogether bewildering. He was an insoluble problem. It was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had succeeded in getting so far, how he had managed to remain– why he did not instantly disappear. `I went a little farther,’ he said, `then still a little farther–till I had gone so far that I don’t know how I’ll ever get back. Never mind. Plenty time. I can manage. You take Kurtz away quick–quick–I tell you.’ The glamour of youth enveloped his parti-coloured rags, his destitution, his loneliness, the essential desolation of his futile wanderings. For months–for years–his life hadn’t been worth a day’s purchase; and there he was gallantly, thoughtlessly alive, to all appearances indestructible solely by the virtue of his few years and of his unreflecting audacity. I was seduced into something like admiration– like envy. Glamour urged him on, glamour kept him unscathed. He surely wanted nothing from the wilderness but space to breathe in and to push on through. His need was to exist, and to move onwards at the greatest possible risk, and with a maximum of privation. If the absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of adventure had ever ruled a human being, it ruled this bepatched youth. I almost envied him the possession of this modest and clear flame. It seemed to have consumed all thought of self so completely, that even while he was talking to you, you forgot that it was he– the man before your eyes–who had gone through these things. I did not envy him his devotion to Kurtz, though. He had not meditated over it. It came to him, and he accepted it with a sort of eager fatalism. I must say that to me it appeared about the most dangerous thing in every way he had come upon so far.

I know, I know.  The heads.  You’re looking at the heads.

On Rugged Individualism, Or, Meet The Ghost Of Government Past

It is about time for the 112th House to come back into session, and the first thing on the agenda appears to be an effort to take away any healthcare reform that have been passed by this Administration.

Next comes an effort to slash Social Security and Medicare, an effort to reverse financial reforms, and proposals to “slash” spending-but only on domestic discretionary items.

If the House majority had its way there would be no restrictions on offshore drilling, no rules designed to prevent climate change-in fact, few if any environmental protections at all…and all of this is intended to bring to life the philosophy that government, for all intents and purposes, should just go away and leave us all alone.

I don’t buy into that kind of thinking-not even a little bit-and today we’re going to look around the world and see if we can’t figure out why.

Torture: Known and Unknown

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld accused of torture

from Global Research, January 14, 2011 Press TV  

A US rights group has filed a lawsuit charging former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with involvement in torturing former prisoners in American prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) catapulted the torture case into prominence on Thursday after it lodged an appeal to a court in the District of Columbia, alleging that Rumsfeld and some senior US military officials were quite aware of a torture case involving nine detainees between 2002 and 2004 in American prisons in the two countries, AFP reported.

The case initially was brought forth in December 2006, but later on was withdrawn by a federal court in March 2007 on the grounds that the ex-defense secretary and other top American military officials were immune from prosecution.

The US-based human rights group stated that under the Constitution and international law, torture is strictly prohibited and commanders are obliged to act when they know or should have known of such abuses.

The ACLU argued that the 78-year-old Rumsfeld and other military officials were repeatedly notified of abuse and torture at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan by the International Red Cross and other reports as well as complaints by human rights organizations, thus they are directly responsible for the abuses.

The group further touched upon a case involving a prisoner identified as Ali.V, adding that prisoners, who were later released without charge, “were beaten, tortured, and sexually abused.”

Meanwhile, three judges at an appeals court in the District of Columbia said the case has a little chance to succeed.

The remarks came as a group of activists, each wearing black hoods and orange jumpsuits representing the prisoners at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay staged a rally in front of the court room on Thursday to protest against negligence over the torture case.

Rumsfeld is currently putting finishing touches on the release of his memoire book titled “Known and unknown”, which is due to hit bookshelves in the US on 8 February.


Shooting Safeguards. A Society Armed


copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Once again, Americans are up in arms or perchance, better armed and dangerous.  Only little more than a week into 2011, citizens have had to confront their fears, feelings, all at gunpoint.  It began on a calm, clear Saturday.  In a Safeway Store Tucson parking lot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords held one of her customary Congress on the Corner events.  It was January 8, 2011.  Friends and admirers from each political Party turned out.  Suddenly, cordial chatter turned icy cold. gunshots shattered the calm.  People were slaughtered.  Some survived.   However, as a nation, we were all wounded.

Retorts followed.  Seemingly, a culture was changed, or was it?  Just as has occurred, many times in the recent past, people quickly took sides.  Blame was ballied about.  Solutions were also presented.  Some argued for stricter gun control laws.  Others used the occasion to validate a need for less restrictive restraints on gun ownership.  Persons who held a position similar to the most prominent victim proposed a need to protect themselves.

Staying “Too Big to Fail” is a business strategy.

The “too-big-to-fail” banks brought the world economy within hours of utter collapse in September 2008 through a chain reaction of insolvency and counter-party risk.  The fuse was lit, only to be serially and temporarily retarded by massive government infusions of taxpayer money approximating the size of our entire GDP.  A prudent response would have been to dismantle any risk-taking institution that might be considered to be “too big to fail” in any future scenario, to create a more distributed (not all eggs in one basket), and more robust system that could easily withstand isolated failures.  This was not done.  In fact, just the opposite occurred.  The banks took the massive infusions of cash and became even  fewer, bigger, and more prone to systemic failure.

Goldman Sachs:

“We consider our size an asset that we try hard to preserve.”

Or as Lloyd Blankfein might say: We embiggen ourselves!  

Simon Johnson explains the “logic” and purpose of becoming “even bigger and failer” after the first near total collapse of the global economy:

As John Cochrane, a University of Chicago professor and frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal puts it, “The incentive for the banks is to be as big, as systemically dangerous as possible.”

This is how big banks ensure they will be bailed out.

Financial terrorism using the threat of a “financial weapons of mass destruction” is a feature, not a bug.  Holding Americans (and the rest of the world) hostage to financial terrorism is a feature that the Obama administration clearly supports by inviting the perpetrators of financial terrorism into key posts in the White House.  Try crashing those gates, Kos!  You might need some help from non-Democrats.

The Federal Reserve is fully committed to Wall Street, as well.  Fueling asset speculation by giving cheap (to the banks) taxpayer-backed money to the rich, while not one of its two mandates (of full employment and price stability) is now the Fed’s primary goal.  The Fed has abandoned its mandates of full employment and price stability in favor of letting the rich get richer by gambling with our money.  

This comment (from the previous link) explains the Fed’s strategy:

The Fed agenda is quite simple: fuel asset speculation in the hope of provoking a price inflation that will validate outstanding debt. Why can’t this work? Because the debt is owed by wage earners whose incomes are undermined by globalization.

Of course, as the comment implies, a lot of the speculation is being done in emerging markets overseas (draining away productive capacity and jobs at home) and in commodities, such as food and fuel, making everyday living ever more painful for 90% of us, while the lugals save their own bacon and embiggen themselves.

Don’t expect home prices to rise or even stabilize, even after 50-some-odd straight months of housing price declines.  We’re still a long way from rock bottom.  Of course, it’s not just the wage earners whose assets are impaired.  The government and all of its government-sponsored entities, including the six largest banks and Fannie and Freddie, will simply be the last to fold.

The real economy, including the surplus eaters (you and I), can literally drop dead.  Now.

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