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User Journal

Journal Journal: Musings on the Primaries

I recently read an article I found chilling. It compared the Nazi party's rise to power with the current state of things in the U.S. I know, I know, it's been done to death. However, this article is different in that it tries to compare the perspective of then's average German-on-the-street with now's average American-on-the-couch. It also offers a comparative historical perspective between Roosevelt and Hitler. It makes for an interesting read, so take 10-15 minutes and check it out:

I have this to say in its regard: fascist totalitarianists have learned since the days of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. American neofascists practice distributed totalitarianism, since the American people have been taught to fear a dictatorial figure who heads cult of personality. Establish a dictator (at least, at this phase in the game) and you tip your hand! It's much better to have a figurehead who serves as a firewall between the people and their wrath. Like Bush. He's Alfred E. Neuman and Zaphod Beeblebrox all rolled into one. Like Neuman, he rarely appears in the real substance of the magazine he fronts. Like Beeblebrox, he's great at distracting attention away from the real power. People who equate Bush with Hitler have totally missed the boat. Bush clearly has no real capacity for leadership, at least not in the way Hitler had (before Hitler went totally sideways, at least). He's neither charismatic nor organized enough to be similar to Hitler. Watch Bush. Watch as he flounces around his photo ops and press conferences like a trained chimp. He flips the bird. He thumbs his nose. He says totally idiotic bullshit. I mean, have you listened to his malapropisms and flubbed speeches? I think this is all carefully engineered. I don't mean he deliberately flubs his speeches, but I think the people who elevated him knew exactly how he'd behave. What did anyone expect from a spoiled, self-indulgent, coke-addled fratboy? Again, he serves as a very efficient distraction from the guys who really run the show -- like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove & Ken Melman. Now those are the real Neo-fascists. Most of Bush's opponents focus on him alone and rant about his stupidity, but relatively few focus on the powers behind the throne. Again, Bush serves as the firewall. Only recently (meaning the past 2-3 years) has anyone realized just how big a threat Cheney and Rove really are and have begun to squeak up -- now, after it's already too late.

Here's the real turd in the punchbowl: I think it's likely that the leadership elements of *both* parties are in cahoots. There's too much going on between the two parties that reminds me of the politics in Dune. Baron Harkonnen's plan was to win the allegiance of the people of Arrakis by playing good-cop-bad-cop with Rabban and Feyd-Rautha. First brutalize them with Rabban, then replace the monster with Feyd-Rautha, who will be worshipped as a savior. Both will squeeze the population, but Feyd will do it in a charming, charismatic way the people will allow because after all, at least Feyd's not Rabban!

There are too many questions that have ugly potential answers, answers that hint that we are indeed in an era of "post-partisanship"-- meaning the party leaders are making back-room decisions as to who will run the country. For example: why did John Kerry concede the race for president the morning after the general election? This especially in light of the number of shenanigans perpetrated by GOP shill Ken Blackwell. Along with Diebold's clear intent to commit electronic vote fraud (i.e., the leak of an email from Diebold's CEO to Bush guaranteeing Ohio going GOP in '04) the blatant theft of the 2004 election was the biggest news story of the past decade. Why hasn't any major U.S. news media outlet covered it? Why haven't the Democrats discussed this issue at all? Ever? Why haven't they pressed and demanded answers? Why haven't they tried to implement election reforms? Why, in the face of a mountain of evidence of fraud, are electronic voting machines still being used in any state at all?
This article makes a good introduction to the 2004 election debacle. If you want to know more, read Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast.

To underscore my point, watch the following two videos of a student who was tackled, tasered and arrested after he asked John Kerry some pointed questions during a recent appearance at University of Florida. He has since been cleared of all criminal charges. After all, he committed no crime I could see.
Notice how the police arresting him *never* answer his question about why they're arresting him? They just keep telling him "stop resisting arrest".

The Democrats make a big show of opposing the Republicans but back down when it comes to any material opposition. The Democratic leadership has said "impeachment is not on the table". This can hardly be coincidence. To further underscore my point, let's take a moment to look at the current candidates for president.

Let me take a moment to point out the only two candidates on either side of the current runoffs who have any real substance have been virtually ignored by the media. These guys are solid in both their political opinions and in their dedication to upholding the constitution. These are Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. Kucinch gets kudos for fighting the media blackout on him, while I give Ron Paul credit for the guts it took to say what needed to be said: that we keep fucking ourselves on the world stage by playing politics with the Middle East, which results in "blowback".

But I digress. We're talking about the front-runners. First, the Repugnicans: every one of the leading candidates are running on the platform of "If you liked Bush, you're going to love me. I'm gonna be Bush, but more and louder!" Romney especially, but even McCain is bellicose and thundering. Giulinani even has the stones to run on the "vote for me or there'll be another 9/11" ticket, and has suggested that a vote for a Democrat makes you as bad as a terrorist.

The Democrats are just as much to blame. Take a moment to look at Hillary Clinton's stance on things. For one, she's pro-war. She has refused to answer straight when asked about her "yes" vote on the war powers / Iraq funding bill. Listen to her speeches - she sounds more like a moderate Republican candidate than an ostensibly liberal one. Second, there's the matter of her campaign funding. She's been getting a great deal of funding from GOP sources. Wait, WHAT?! There's something fishy here. Just wait, it gets better.

I've made my choice for candidate for entirely cynical and pragmatic reasons. After twelve years in the Green Party, I registered as a Democrat for the primaries so I can delude myself with the fantasy that my vote might be counted, and I want to cling to the shred of a hope of a fantasy that Barack Obama will get the nomination, even though it's a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be nominated - and has been since she decided to run. But don't make the mistake of thinking I hate Hillary, never minding the fact she voted for the war. See if you can follow my logic here: Hillary Clinton's name brings up an incredible amount of hatred in a major percentage of the American population (regardless of whether or not she's deserving). Even before she decided to run for president, all a right-wing radio host had to do on a slow day was say "Hillary Clinton" and their station switchboard would light up like a Christmas tree. Limbaugh dittoheads just love any opportunity they get to spew vitriol about her. She's had 16 years' worth of shit smeared on her by right-wing punditry and it's there's no way she's going to wash off in 20 months. Republicans know this, hence one of the many reasons she's getting funded by them (I'm sure there are other, shadier reasons, but that's the most obvious).

By contrast, take Barack Obama. If (by some miracle) he gets the nomination, we can hope for a Democrat in the White House. For one, he's got a clean slate. By way of example, Obama has refused to give interviews to FOX news after they cooked up a phony story about him attending a madrassah-- brilliant move, in my opinion. Now FOX news can't say shit about him and the more stuff they concoct to make him look bad, the more the FOX "anchors" come across like the GOP shills they are. Right-wing radio jocks don't have anything to say about him other than "...uh, well, he doesn't have the experience...HILLARY DOOM CLINTON EVIL CALL GIMME ATTENTION". Obama's already proven attractive to independents and cross-over voters dissatisfied with this cycle's Republican slate. When one takes all this into consideration, one could estimate around a 65-35 split in Obama's favor in November.

If Hillary Clinton gets the nomination, expect a GOP presidency again in 2008. Why? Because the election in November will be too close to call, yet again. It'll be a very close 50/50 split, which is easy to fudge with electronic vote fraud. The only way a Democratic candidate is going to take the White House in 2008 is by a landslide-- because you can only fix so many votes before suspicion is replaced by righteous anger in the minds of the voting public. A three to eight percent margin is fudgeable. There's plausible deniablity. Even the suspicious voters have a smidgen of doubt in the back of their mind saying "well, maybe it really is just a conspiracy theory because it'd be really scary if the electoral system is this FUBARed!" Right wing pundits can dismiss any complainers as "sore losers" and "conspiracy nuts". But if the election is taken with well over a 10% margin, it becomes a lot harder for GOP shills to bullshit their way through. That doesn't mean they won't try, however.

I want to see the GOP try to fudge it in their favor again, this time with even more arrogance than the last time. They think they can get away with anything-- and frankly, up to this point they have. But arogance breeds mistakes, and I want to watch while Ken Melman and Bill O'Reilly try to explain how a 15-30% margin in favor of the Democrats suddenly turned into a 2% margin for the Republicans. Because it can't be done. I want the American people disillusioned and angry enough to reject their electronic ballots and demand a better, fraud-proof election system. I want the American people angry enough to demand the criminals responsible for the past seasons of fraud be tried for treason. Maybe it's just a pipe dream, but I'm voting for Obama anyway. Besides, of the two front runners, he's the only candidate to have voted "no" on the war powers bill. If it came to a toss-up between Hillary Clinton and Ron Paul, I'd swallow my pride and vote Republican because I cannot reconcile my ethics to cast a ballot for someone who voted "yes". Since that will never happen I'll have to see who comes up for November and wait to cross that ethical bridge when I come to it.

At any rate, I plan to re-register Independent once this farce is over, since the Green Party has more or less imploded...
User Journal

Journal Journal: Why the Private Medicine System Doesn't Work

These thoughts have been rattling around in my head for several weeks now, after having attended a National Hemophilia Council conference and then most recently, having seen "Sicko". The debates I've gotten into over the past several days have made it necessary to move my thoughts from out of my head and onto the page so I can think about something else for a while.

Health care is expensive. We all know this. The increasing cost of health care is fast becoming the #1 issue facing the American public, if it's isn't already. Along with Iraq war, the situation surrounding health care and health insurance is the chief topic of discussion in the national discourse.

Argument #1. Medicine is expensive because medical school is expensive, and doctors have to pay for their training somehow.

Yes, med school is expensive. But it is only expensive for the prospective med school student because the U.S. government allows it to be. The U.S. stands alone among Western nations in its opinion that medical care is not considered a public service.

Medical training is only minimally subsidized by tax dollars. Med school (and health care in general) would be affordable if the U.S. government placed as much value on medicine as they do on the military industrial complex. Consider the no-bid contracts to Halliburton or the other greedy piglets suckling at the teat of government funds. Review the reports from the Office of the Inspector General in regard to Halliburton property in Iraq and you'll see just how much of our tax money Cheney's cronies have run off with. Halliburton can't account for 75% of the items it supposedly purchased with tax dollars -- and this isn't just office supplies. This is stuff like bulldozers, tractor trailers, computer equipment, etc. But somehow nobody squeaks about "fraud" or "waste". These thieves hide under the blanket of "support the troops" while they bleed the nation dry of funds that could be used for other, more constructive uses. All this while the real soldiers fighting the war have to deal with reductions in combat pay, removal of death benefits and reduced funding to the VA. Go fight and die, but don't get wounded because we don't have the money to take care of you.

But I digress. Another cost most folks don't consider is the vicious circle that medical costs increase to meet the increasing cost of keeping costs high. Wait, wha-aa...? Let me say it in a different way: the higher costs to consumers get, the more lobbyists have to be hired to explain to Congress why costs should be allowed to be so high, and the more "campaign contributions" have to be made, all of which in turn increases costs to consumers.

Argument #2. Health care is expensive because drug companies have to spend a great deal of money in research and development, and drugs are expensive.

This argument holds as much water as your average Kleenex(tm), because drug and medical research is the one aspect of the medical industry that is heavily subsidized by the government. The drug companies don't tell you about the real costs to them -- lobbyists and advertisements, both of which are entirely superfluous. Drugs are wildly profitable, especially if you need the drug to survive. Like HIV/AIDS or cancer patients. Or hemophiliacs.

Take, for example, the situation hemophiliacs have to deal with in this country. The average hemophiliac runs a tab of $250,000 to $500,000 a year in clotting factor alone. Not preventative care, not doctor visits, not emergency room costs, just the drug they have to take to keep from bleeding to death. Severe hemophilia cases run well over $1,000,000 a year in factor. This isn't something they caught from indiscreet sexual encounters, this is a genetic disorder. But U.S. drug manufacturers make a killing of folks with this disability. Drug manufacturers in the U.S. keep the cost to create a unit of factor a closely-guarded secret. Why? Because they might get hauled into court for price gouging if it ever got out. In every western nation but the U.S., factor is fully subsidized by the government. Everywhere but here Hemophiliacs don't have to pay a red cent for having been born with a handicap. Yet here they can't get insurance coverage -- or if they do they burn through a lifetime's worth of coverage in 18 months.

When drugs are as profitable as they are in the private business model, consumer safety becomes secondary to the product's marketability. Drugs which address universal insecurities like impotence and baldness pretty much sell themselves. Addictive drugs are even better, because they create their own need. Addictive drugs like Vicodin, the most abused prescription painkiller in the U.S. Is it only coincidence then that Vicodin is also one of the most highly-prescribed prescription painkillers in the U.S.?

Argument #3. We live in a highly litigious society and lawsuits drive up costs. It is expensive to make a mistake in the medical system.

True enough. But have you ever stopped to consider the reasons behind why there are so many medical suits? The profitability of the practice of law is only part of the reason. Consider that when illness become profitable, those who practice medicine will be financially motivated to keep people ill. When people realize their doctors aren't out to heal them, but rather are out to keep them ill; when people realize they're being given expensive operations that aren't really necessary and have driven them into bankruptcy; when people realize their loved ones were allowed to die because they didn't have the funds to pay the usurious rates charged by the industry; when people realize their insurance carrier has dropped them for a bullshit reason because they had the audacity to get sick, then they seek the legal aid within a system that is, sadly, only likely to exploit them further.

Take for example, a well-known hospital chain: Tenet Health. The newspapers from over the past ten years have been full of news on Tenet. They've been repeatedly investigated for performing unnecessary and expensive procedures on patients -- like open heart surgery. Yet every time they manage to be dragged into court, they fire a few doctors, settle out of court and have to admit no wrongdoing. Then it's back to business-as-usual. Telling you about me, you'd better believe I'd be pissed if I found out a doctor prescribed open heart surgery when I didn't need it, especially if I'd been forced into bankruptcy because of it -- and you'd better believe I'd want to sue

Then of course there's all the suits that come up because an insurance carrier decides to start gaming their clients. If you get sick enough, and you're not independently wealthy or famous, you'd better believe your insurance company will drop you like a hot potato. They'll find some bullshit excuse for why they won't cover your costs and why they've decided to drop your coverage. This leaves you and many others only one available recourse: legal action. You have to force the insurance company to do what they originally promised. All these legal actions are costly to everyone involved, government included. But somehow, in the end, the victims bear the blame -- and the current sentiment is to remove the few tools consumers have to seek redress for the wrongs done them.

Argument #4. Health care costs are high because we place a high value on life, and it is expensive to provide the best care possible. The for-profit model is the only one that allows the freedom to provide the best care.

Let's face it -- it is unprofitable to cure an illness. On the other hand, it is wildly profitable to treat an illness, especially in a fully privatized system. The trick is getting someone into the system for as long as you can to milk as much money from them as possible. Survival is an instinct, and if necessary people will pay for their continued survival. The Mafia figured this one out a while back.

When profit is the motive, all other considerations become secondary. This is why the for-profit model is flawed, especially when it comes to medicine: it puts the motivations in all the wrong places. That's why a private system will never discover a cure for HIV/AIDS -- cure the disease and you cut off a major source of income. It is not profitable to provide permanent solutions, so only those with a vast enough income can pay for permanent solutions. Like LASIK. Wonderful solution to bad vision. But only those with a large enough discretionary income can pay for the surgery because insurance companies consider it "cosmetic" and refuse to cover the procedure. If you have your bad vision fixed permanently, you no longer have to pay for glasses every year and contacts every month. It's the same reason why the most efficient car engines aren't allowed into the U.S. -- car manufacturers make too much money on replacement parts and kickbacks from oil companies. A fine business model your goal is to sell cars, but a poor one if your ostensible motivation is to heal those who are ill.

Then of course there's preventative care. If your goal is to make money, as it is in a private for-profit system, it's not profitable to prevent illness. People get sick, you get rich. Why prevent illness in that case? Why educate the public in preventing illness themselves? If you encourage people to eat bad food and discourage people from exercise and regular check-ups, then they get sick more easily and again, when people get sick, you get rich.

When the above is considered-- along with all the empirical evidence that has been gathered ever since the system began to be privatized in 1971, it becomes clear that the for-profit model does not work for medicine. There are other business models that can be applied: Co-operatives, Non-Profit and Not-For-Profits are all viable models of private businesses .

Then there are the dirty words which I favor: "socialized medicine".

The majority of the American public has a near-Pavlovian negative response when anyone says "socialized medicine". The first response is "It's too expensive!" Many things are expensive, but we consider them necessities. What else is expensive that has highly trained professionals? The fire department. The police department. The armed services. All these services are considered invaluable to the public and their provision is considered part of being a citizen. Fully privatized police & fire departments existed in the 19th century. If you didn't pay, you didn't get service. 19th century firemen would stand around and let your house burn if you didn't have that little brass shield nailed up on your front door. Likewise fully privatized armed forces have existed for centuries. They're called "mercenaries" and they have a black reputation for a reason -- you can't trust them to defend you if their loyalty is to the highest bidder.

Having a national armed service to repel enemies is an important public service and is an integral part of being a nation-state. But have you ever heard anyone cry foul over the armed services being socialized? Or the fire department? Have you ever heard anyone suggest that police departments should be replaced by private security companies? Rarely, if at all. Why? Because we believe that these public necessities are a fundamental part of our democracy. We realize, at some level, that to privatize these necessities would be to remove public accountability and acknowledge as a society that one's citizenship is only as good as one's income. We would, in short, return to the feudal system from which we revolted at the nation's founding.

How, then, would we pay for socialized medicine? Easy. Considering how profligately we pour money into companies like Halliburton with virtually no oversight, we can start by holding military-industrial contractors accountable for their waste, fraud and abuse. That would free up a great deal of money. Once that's been taken care of, we can begin figuring out where other money is being wasted. To quote Neal Stephenson: "...the first thing an organism does is control its sphincters". We are not in control of the sphincters of national finance. Enforce the law. One of the Constitutional definitions of treason is war profiteering. Prosecute companies like Halliburton for treason on those grounds, seize their funds, and then watch how many tax dollars are freed up for other, more constructive purposes.

Finally, I believe should be considered as an investment in our society. We protect our citizens because it is to the benefit of society. If everyone has to worry about having their possessions stolen and their houses burned down, they can't contribute to the betterment of our nation. We educate our population because a well-educated workforce is a more productive workforce and is a good investment in advancing our society in every conceivable way. The better educated a workforce is, the more innovative it is and the more technological advances it makes. The same goes for medical care: if it is viewed as a long-term societal investment like police, fire, education, etc., the benefits outweigh the costs. A healthy workforce is a more productive workforce, from a purely economic standpoint.

If nothing else, take my argument as saying this: "The more we privatize, the more we remove things from public accountability, and the more the system is moved from the ballot to the wallet." That is all.

Mekkis, The Eyeconoclast
User Journal

Journal Journal: An Analysis of Iran, Iraq & International Terrorism: Par 1

The saber-rattling between the United States and Iran has grown deafening of late, which has gotten me thinking. I find it important to analyze world politics from many perspectives, because not to do so is to allow someone else to do their thinking for you; to accept unthinkingly the line handed to you by those in power. I think it is acceptable to believe that that those in power are going to sell a line that most benefits them.

With this in mind, I turn my thoughts toward Iran. First, let's look at the U.S.'s current concerns: first, Iran's nuclear program; second, Iran's financing of international terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.

It is not hard to determine the motives behind either activity, but for the moment let us focus on their nuclear program. As an exercise, let's take the Iranian perspective on events in the past six years. President George W. Bush's infamous speech identified Iran as one of the three countries that form the "Axis of Evil", with Iraq and North Korea being the other two. Never mind that Iran and Iraq had virtually no diplomatic ties with each other due to the bitter war between them during the 1980s, and North Korea has virtually no diplomatic nor trading ties with anyone, President Bush insinuated that these three countries allied with one another to destroy the United States, much as the Axis Powers were during World War II. Iran/U.S. relations had warmed somewhat during the Bush I and Clinton years; therefore this must have come as a surprise-- and a bad one at that.

Not long thereafter, the United States declared war on Iraq and invaded, using pretexts that were quickly debunked. Within the context of the past four years, said pretexts for war have only been proven increasingly false. The invasion was done with the acquiescense (if not actual support) of the United Nations, and therefore in Iran's perspective, the Western World in general. Then the "Memogate" scandal of 2004 (when an aide within Britain's Blair Administration leaked a document about the run-up to the Iraq war) made it apparent that the United States had been devoted to attacking & invading Iraq virtually from the moment the Bush Administration took office. Add to this the construction of U.S. military bases in Turkey, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. When all these events are taken in context of the "Axis of Evil" speech, the U.S. intent toward Iran must seem very ominous.

Nor has the U.S. had a clean record with Iran. During the 1950s, Iran had a democratic revolution. The Iranian people threw out its dictator, the Shah, and subsequently elected a democratic government. Naturally, the ability of the Iranian people to choose their own fates must have been a threat to U.S. and British interests in the region. This was due to the fact that a conglomerate of U.S. and (mostly) British companies controlled the oil-producing areas within Iran at the time and had supported the Shah. Add to this the proximity of Iran to the U.S.S.R., and it becomes obvious that Iranian self-determination could not be tolerated-- at least by the U.S. Enter Kermit Roosevelt. Roosevelt holds the distinction of being the CIA operative who single-handedly destabilized Iran's fledgeling democracy and created conditions under which the U.S. could re-install the previous dictatorship. Which naturally, they did. The Shah, grateful at having been returned to the Peacock Throne from exile in the casinos of Monaco, went back to the gleeful brutalization of his subjects-- offering Western oil companies free reign within Iran's oil fields as repayment. To put you in the proper mindset, imagine if France had helped to destabilize America's fledgeling democracy immediately after the War for Independence and turned the colonies back over to British rule-- who then offered the French free reign in fur trapping and timber extraction. That would have rankled, wouldn't it've?

Keep this in mind when, twenty-five years later, Iran's religious revolution took place. The Ayatollah Khomeni demanded Western companies be thrown out, and Iran (horror of horrors) nationalized its oil production. The general reaction of Americans to Iranian students chanting "Death to America" was "Where did all this come from?". The general cluelessness must have rankled Iran still further: how could the people of a nation so powerful have such a short memory? Could they really be that dim and ignorant? (Keep in mind Iran, also known as Persia, has a history stretching back further than ancient Greece.) Then, shortly thereafter, came the hostage crisis. Unfortunate business, all round. Nevertheless, the dentention of hostages within the embassy for over a year pales in comparison to a quarter-century of torture and murder conducted by the Shah while the U.S. looked the other way. Really puts it into perspective, doesn't it?

Let's fast-forward to the current "nuclear crisis". Iran has declared an interest in developing nuclear power, as allowed under international law. It has begun enriching uranium in an attempt to do this. The U.S. has stated its suspicion that Iran is using this nuclear power program to secretly develop a nuclear weapon and has demanded Iran stop enriching fuel, and has demanded the U.N. conduct inspections. Iran has allowed the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency very limited inspections and has refused to cooperate further. The U.S. has threatened to use the U.N. to levy sanctions, but this would have limited effect. One, Russia gets a lot of its oil from Iran. Russia has veto power, and it has declared it would not support sanctions. The same goes for China. Even if the U.S. were able to twist arms enough to get a sanctions passed, Iran's pretty self-sufficient and it could continue trading, albeit illicitly. So the enrichment continues and the saber-rattling grows louder...

Let's pause a moment and look at nuclear weapons. Let's assume Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and considering all the factors I've just discussed why wouldn't they? The purpose of a nuclear weapon has long been defined as a "shield" rather than a "sword". It is as a deterrent to warfare, conventional or otherwise. The horror that nuclear weapons presents is so grave that they are considered a "weapon of last resort" and a country crazy/stupid enough to use one offensively would be targeted for retaliation by all the other nuclear powers and totally annihilated. Generations of that nation's people would be left twisted and starving. Such a horror would rule out use as an offensive weapon, and it would rule out even the provision of nuclear weapons to a third party crazy/stupid enough to employ them (such as a terrorist organization). This is because such provision could be tracked back to the nation responsible and again, it --and possibly several other suspect nations -- would be targeted for annihilation. No, a nuclear weapon is as a deterrent against conventional warfare, because no nation would blame a nation for using one againt enemy troops on its own soil. Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, therefore, would make it much more difficult for the U.S. to invade Iran as it did Iraq.

So long story short: from the Iranian perspective, the U.S. has a bad history with Iran over the past fifty years or so. It has a history of aggression against countries who have resources it wants, and a history of trying to bamboozle, bullshit and/or bully the rest of the Western World into allowing it its way. It has bases surrounding Iran, its president has shown hostile intent and refused all diplomatic entreaties, including a personal letter president-to-president -- and now, is openly discussing the possibility of nuclear attack. The U.N. has shown itself to be at best, helpless to stop U.S. aggression, and at worst, a rubber stamp for Western interests.

When taking all of this into consideration, you tell me: why should Iran cooperate with U.S. and U.N. demands?

Next Episode: an analysis of Iran's funding of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, plus a bonus! An analysis of holocaust denial in the Muslim world in context of Iran.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Superbowl Blues

I have lots of stuff on my mind this Superbowl Sunday. So many things that the lashing and whirling of my mind woke me up out of a deep sleep. Woke me up to discover I was clenching my teeth so hard I had muscle cramps in my jaw. Good thing I got that biteguard from the dentist last year. Otherwise I'd have nothing but gums left. I find all the things on my mind sapping my energy, my motivation, and all the color seems to be draining out of the world. All these are warning signs that I'm getting depressed again. Sometimes I'm not sure whether I'm depressed or simply recognizing the idiocy of my fellow Americans. Why is it so difficult people to just "get along" on this planet? Is it just me thinking that so many Americans are willfully ignorant-- and aggressive about maintaining that willful ignorance?

I have a college education. I work a job in programming. I make $13 per hour. I recognize the fact that I have a lot more than most people in this country. I don't have an extravagant lifestyle, I have no credit cards, nothing outstanding but my student loans and yet somehow I can barely make even the most basic of bills. I don't even have enough money for groceries let alone what it takes to get my 20-year-old car fixed. Then I think about all the people in this country who are far, far worse off. And when I look at the future of this country, this "New American Century" as forged by Bush & Co., I find no hope.

To be frank, I'm downright ashamed to be an American. I find the behavior of the government under this president to be appalling and even worse is the fact that the majority of people refuse to hold it accountable. Alito's nomination makes me want to fucking puke, because it means the fascists have a deathgrip on every branch of government and they'll be damned if they'll let go. Prepare to kiss your civil rights goodbye, everyone. We're going back to the good ol' days of the Robber Barons. Alito, Thomas, Scalia and all the other goose-stepping "judges" Bush has had installed in every court at every level are standing by to wind the clock back 100 years.

First thing to go? Workers' Rights. Never mind the "Roe v. Wade" smokescreen the fascists have been using to whip up support from the Jesus-People, this "new order" is about fucking over the common person and stripping them of any right to demand anything, even the ability to stand up and say "no". Say good-bye to the minimum wage law, OSHA safety regulations, health benefits, pensions, public education. Say hello to unskilled, ignorant masses toiling at sweatshop-style labor in hazardous conditions for wages equivalent to those in the third world. While, of course, the tycoons responsible for this travesty get to rest comfortable in the knowledge that the government they bought will protect them from the unwashed masses. Those same masses they ensured would remain unwashed and ignorant by buying out the free press and cutting funds to public education. Watch these greedy fucks lean back and stick their thumbs into their waistcoats, buttons straining over their prodigious guts. Watch as they chomp their fat black cigars - which despite Freud's protests is most definitely representational of a phallus; that in particular being Satan's and at which these tycoons greedily suck like piglets. Stand by as they pull said member out of their mouths to shove it squarely in the ass of John Q. Public. Feel that? Bush would have you believe that feeling is freedom.

This year's State of the Union Address felt more like a three-ring circus combined with Hitler's speech at the Reichstag. Since when does the Supreme Court show up for the State of the Union Address? Oh, that's right! When the Neocons feel it necessary to flaunt the power they've usurped. It's not enough to emasculate the system, they have to rub our noses in it too. And the American public applauds them as they do! Am I weird for wishing with all my being that the House of Representatives would spontaneously explode from all that raw evil being in one building? Is it unpatriotic of me to demand where in the fuck my rights went? Oh yeah, that's right. Just over a year ago they evaporated irretreivably into the ether thanks to Diebold's rigged voting machines. I find it interesting that the Nevada Gaming Commission stated "...a voter would have a better chance of ensuring their vote is counted fairly on a slot machine than on one of Diebold's electronic voting machines." ...and Nevada still went red in '04. What irony.

Oh wait. Ha HA, I forgot. Hastert says these are just sour grapes! I guess I've just been taken in by a conspiracy theory! That's it, I can relax, right? Never mind that I spent a three-hour seminar at DefCon in the summer of '04 watching a woman with a pHd in computer engineering point out every instance of jiggered source code and then go on to demonstrate exactly how Diebold could use said jiggered code to count the votes any goddamned way they wanted.

Where is she now, you may ask? Prison. She was arrested for "revealing confidential business information". Arrested like Cindy Sheehan, who was frog-marched in handcuffs from the floor of the House of Representatives just before the State of the Union Address. What for? "Unlawful Conduct". For fuck's sake, she was wearing an anti-war tee-shirt! Not vocally protesting, not making a scene! Sheehan was wearing a tee-shirt. If that's not a violation of First Amendment rights, what is? Anyone? Hello? Was anyone watching C-Span?

The media watchdog has been neutered, ladies and gentlemen. None of the outrage made it into the news. The Sheehan story was plastered over with a veneer of calm. I heard no discussion about the violation of her rights in mainstream media. In fact, FOX and the Washington Post were practically cheering the DCPD for arresting Sheehan! What the fuck?! To add insult to injury, the Diebold story goes undiscussed-- and then anyone who challenges the results of the 2004 election or voices suspicion of electronic voting machines is instantly decried as a "radical leftist conspiracy theorist". Makes me want to goddamned VOMIT. And the Hastert has the GALL to accuse the opposition of "sour grapes", of "conspiracy theorism". Let me clue you in, Denny-boy: just because someone connects the dots and forms a THEORY doesn't mean it ain't HAPPENING.

So go back to the glow of your television sets, Working-Class America. Go back to watching steroid addicts beat each other senseless over a pigskin in that sanitized, farcical simulacrum of war we call "Superbowl XL". Watch your million-dollar commercials and chuckle as you stuff fistfuls of Doritos and Budwiser into your collective mouths. Let your T.V. numb you. Don't worry about the aching in your ass, that's just freedom.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Meditations on Material Society

Yesterday I went dumpster-diving.

It's funny how this happened, the connection of events that led my lady friend, myself and our two friends to digging through an apartment complex dumpster-- but never mind, that's what happened yesterday evening. Here in Davis, leases end in mid-August. Hence this is the time when the students who could afford to stay in town over the summer have to move out and go elsewhere -- back to the dorms, across town, under the rock from which they crawled out, whatever. So people move out at the last minute and toss whatever they find inconvenient.

From the first dumpster I found a pair of restaurant-grade Calphalon pots (clean & in pristine condition!), several textbooks, a gorgeous crystal bowl with a ceramic stem, a steel CD rack, a solid silver dipper, and the gem: a Siemens C56 cell phone, its account deactivated but otherwise still in perfect working order. Some friends who were walking with us found a lot more. The odd thing was that all this stuff had been mixed in with "real" garbage -- e.g., rotting food and kitchen & bathroom waste. Thankfully most of the slimy/gooey stuff was bagged up so for the most part I didn't actually have to come in contact with it, but the goods in with it were things you might find at a consignment store, not a dumpster. This especially since a thrift store was barely two blocks up the street.

The retail cost of all the crap the four of us pulled out was well over $1,000. Out of curiosity, Robyn and I decided to investigate other dumpsters in other apartment complexes. Much to my chagrin we found even more; about twenty pounds of freshly laundered clothing (male and female), a spice rack full of spices, a bathroom vanity full of candles & essential oils, a full set of dinnerware, several more textbooks, an unused hard drive (still in its packaging!), a bicycle frame, two 55-gallon aquariums (both broken) and lots of other things. We left the bike frame, the broken aquariums and a lot of the clothing but took the rest.

Three dumpsters and a pile of loot later I found myself in navel-gazing mode. I first assumed someone had to have been in an emergency move-out frame-of-mind in order to throw away such high quality things, especially when in such pristine condition. Nonetheless I discovered that the more I dug out, the more bitterness I felt. The more I found, the more intense my sense of disgust and loathing at the society in which I live -- a society which would rather trash or destroy something rather than give it to someone for free. Giving something to someone for free, especially if they're needy, is viewed with contempt...

"You'll only encourage them." (Never mind that the majority of those in poverty are children...) "Don't help that man, it's his own fault he's poor," (Never mind that most adult homeless are mentally ill or handicapped...)

The universities are all full of spoiled mommas' boys and daddys' girls. Gotta get the next thing, gotta get what's trendy. Nothing but convenience and instant gratification means anything to them. Even the tarantula I've kept for three years was a dumpster find, terrarium and all. Now that I think of it, I'm surprised I never found a kitten or a puppy in the dumpster as well.

What does it say about a society that must enforce reckless spending and waste as a means of preventing collapse? We're told the economy must grow at a particular rate to avoid economic disaster, so we're encouraged to dispose of our things-- no matter how high-quality-- and go out to buy more. Gotta keep the economy strong in order to maintain our nation's "superiority". This *is* God's chosen nation, after all, so it's your Christian duty to shop, shop, shop.

It stuns me to think of all the other people in the world who could benefit from what these spoiled children think of as "trash", never mind the resources that went into the creation of goods that wind up in those dumpsters. We say: "Quick, we need your land! We need your labor! Sacrifice your children to the factories! Never mind the horrendous working conditions, we need the you to make stuff faster because we can't throw it fast enough!" Because, after all, it's our God-given right to hold the world at nuke-point while we gobble all the resources on the planet-- just so we can shit them back out into our landfills. Then we get to go to church and pray to Jesus so he can pat us on our heads and make us feel better about ourselves.

...then we have the gall to ask why they hate us.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Those Damned Jesus People... 15

Okay, that tears it.

I have to vent about those fucking Jesus People, AKA "Christers". I've absolutely had it up to here with them.

Oh, I'm sure the evangelical community will take my expression of vehemence as yet another excuse to cry "oppression!" because there's nothing so righteous as a vicitmized Christian. *spits* The lengths these people go to in order to claim victimhood -- it truly makes me feel like vomiting.

"What's the reason for this rant?" you ask, twisting your hat in your hands and nervously edging away from the tall, hairy fellow with a maniacal glint in his eye and a dollop of foam beginning to form at each corner of his mouth. "Whatever got you so worked up?"

Oh, just about the constant hectoring I got from them working next door to one of those stripmall "ministries", to begin with... But that's a long story, too long for me to tell here. Suffice to say I am infuriated with their constant attempts to re-form the United States into a specifically Christian environment, one where non-Christians are forced to live as if they *are* Christians and are barely tolerated until they convert. Which they eventually will given the constant pressure they'll be under from everyone and everything they encounter.

Let's take the latest outrage, the attempt to ban the teaching of evolution theory in public school biology classes. Ban, you say? "I thought it was just Intelligent Design they wanted taught as a competing theory!" The science classroom is no place for religion. The place for creationism is in the church. If every competing religion's creation myth had to be taught alongside genetic science and evolution theory, there would be no time to discuss coursework! This is beside the fact that the first thing anyone learns in any given science class is that theories are fallible; one must continally test theories as one works-- hence evolution is not a religion as many claim, it is a theory.

On "All Things Considered" I heard one youth pastor inculcating his 'flock', attempting to disprove the idea of evolution by asking if anyone's ever seen a 'CatDog' -- and using that as an excuse to rail about how that the fact that animals don't instantly change for the observer disproves evolution. I ask that man to buy a jar of fruitflies and then track the iterations of their breeding. Keep one in a closet and the other in a lit room. He'll notice that the future generations of fruitflies kept in the closet will have lost the powers of sight within a few weeks.

But then again, facts have never played much part in sermons.

I suppose the thing that really gets under my skin is the absolute lack of respect for other ideologies. There's a very slim tolerance, to be sure, tolerance in the sense they don't firebomb people who don't subscribe to their ideology. But let's take the whole gay marriage issue. I got into a debate with a Christer once about this. His whole reason for lobbying against gay marriage was that marriage was "a contract with God" and homosexuality was "against God". Well, technically, eating pork, shellfish and cheeseburgers is against God too but apparently that's not AS against God as being a homosexual. I digress however. The point I made to him was that marriage, in a legal sense, is nothing more than a legal contract, an binding and exclusive incorporation of two individual citizens. If the Constitution and Bill of Rights state that all citizens are equal under the law and cannot be discriminated against according to gender, race, religion or what-have-you, then specifying that said contract can only exist between citizens of differing genders goes against the Constitution - e.g., is *UNCONSTITUTIONAL*. He said that he couldn't support anything that went against his god. I suggested that he may not worship Allah, Vishnu or Zoroaster, but I don't hear him attempting to deny marriage to these followers of supposedly false religions. He said they were still enjoining a contract with their Gods. "What about Atheists?" I asked. "They're allowed to get married and they don't believe in any God." The conversation just sort of... stopped at that point and he walked out of the room. I didn't take much to tell he was pissed off and didn't want to talk about it anymore.

These sort of conversations drive me totally batty. Whenever I seem to be making a point against which a Christer can't form an argument, they shut down and walk away rather than consider the option that their opinion may be flawed. Like the above guy: instead of grudgingly agreeing that yes, believe it or not, "faggots" have human rights too, he shut down and refused to talk about it further.

He has a right to disagree-- on religious or any other principles-- with a person's homosexual "lifestyle". This is America, people have the right to disagree on principle with a lot of things. I disagree on principle with charging interest - and supposedly, so does the Christian Bible -- but that doesn't stop institutions claiming "Christian lending principles" from charging interest either. I guess they subscribe more to the part of the Bible that states "God helps those who help themselves". But disagreeing on principle, regardless of the solidity of your religious and/or philisophical convictions does not give you the right to interfere with another person's Constitutional rights.

Now that I think of it, here's a quandary to stump the Jesus People. Their arguments go something like this: it was God's Will that the United States became the "Greatest Nation on Earth" and that God influences Constitution through His will. If the Constitution deems that all citizens are equal and cannot legally be subject to any sort of discrimination, does that mean God made a mistake?

I'm getting a bit cranky here, I know. But let's take another instance of something that drives me batshit. Turns out that the majority of military chaplains are Evangelical Christians -- 60% of all chaplains by last count. Well, those chaplains are pissed off that the military has a ban on proselytizing and are suing the military for discrimination. Once again the oppressed Christian bit. Real cute. Personally, I can imagine nothing more aggravating than having to deal with someone-- usually a superior officer in the case of most chaplains-- following me around a combat zone and attempting to convert me. Or trying to convert me while I vent during a counseling session. Yeah, real morale builder there. Not that I've ever been in the military mind you, but hey, Jews are asked to fight on the Sabbath -- Muslims must place the call of duty above and beyond the sacrosanct call to prayer... But Evangelicals are being oppresed by being asked to put aside their religious prejudices in order to minister to the soliders equally? Fuckin' A.

That's all for now, but as this a pet peeve of mine I'm sure it'll come up again. It's like an acute case of vomiting - something's always coming up.

--Mekkis, the Eyeconoclast--

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