Monday, January 14, 2008

The Oppression of Northern Winter and American "Democracy"

IN THIS ISSUE:
- Longing for the southern deserts--Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
- Kucinich out of the Money and Media Primaries
- HOMO HYPOCRITCUS: Cracked Pot Calls Kettle Black
- Why Not One State for Israelis and Palestinians? / The Lobby/AIPAC
- Lantos' Tarnished Legacy
- Jefferson and the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
- Feral Cat Fallout

WINTER AND THOUGHTS OF SOUTHERN CLIMES

I’ve been sick for a few weeks and feeling like the winter has put me on restriction. The path to the shed where I store some of my firewood is beginning to look like an Olympic bobsled run. The two benefits of northern winters that I have been able to discern are the beauty of the stark, snow covered Baker County landscapes and the birds that have been driven from the mountains in search of food. The feeders are busy with Chickadees, House and Gold Finches, Pine Siskins, and Dark-eyed Juncos. The Flickers and the occasional Downy Woodpecker have also returned.
Mountain Chickadee
Male Northern Red-shafted Flicker

At such times my memories of the southern deserts begin to stir and a barely resistible wanderlust overcomes me. Given that these old haunts are also in the grip of drought this year, I realize that the wild flowers will be few and far between, and the urges subside. The fact that I’ve got a flock of chickens to look after helps too. There are the wildflower photos from my 2005 trip however, so I’ve dragged them out to see if they can brighten the day. They can!

THIS WEEK, MY FIRST STOP WAS ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT.

Over the next few blogs, I’ll post some of the sights, primarily wildflowers, that I encountered on that 2005 trip. While it was a very good wildflower year, it was just good in Organ Pipe, and my timing wasn’t perfect. I was fortunate to be able to visit twice, so there were still good flowers to be found. Here is a look at the terrain and the first few.


Above is a picture of the Ajo Mountains, in the eastern portion of the park. The large cactus on the left is the Saguaro. The one on the right is the Organ Pipe cactus, for which the park is named.

If you arrive in mid-May, it can be quite hot, and many of the annuals will be gone, but many cacti will be in bloom, including the Saguaro and the Organ Pipe.

Above and below are Saguaros in Bloom (Carnegia gigantea)


Many desert animals, including birds, bats, and ground squirrels, depend upon these giant cacti for food and/or shelter. Gila woodpeckers, Flickers, small owls, and other birds make their homes in them.


Above and below are photos of the Organ Pipe cactus blossom. It opens at night and closes after sunrise, so you must be up early to see it. The scientific name is Stenocereus thurberi. The cactus was named for George Thurber, a phamacist turned self-taught botanist, who served in that capacity for the U.S. Boundary Commission in the Organ Pipe area from 1850 to 1854.

And lastly for this issue, below is Mammillaria grahamii, Graham's Fishhook or Nipple Cactus. These small beautiful cacti are easily missed if not in bloom or fruit. The delicate pink blooms are followed by 1/2 to 1 inch, bright red, club like fruit. The name Mammillaria refers to the nipple like bumps found on the stem just under the stellate array of spines, and the fishhooks are the central, spines with curved tips.


CORPORATE AND POLITICAL MASTERS KEEP KUCINICH OUT OF THE MONEY AND MEDIA PRIMARIES

Michael Parenti has been speaking and writing about our sham “democracy” for a long time (e.g. “Democracy for the Few” 1980; "Inventing Reality" 1993, etc.) and recently has been informing us about the money and media primaries that the corporations and other powerful interest groups use to manipulate elections in our country. (See http://buffalobeast.com/116/parenti%20interview.htm
and http://aud1.kpfa.org/data/20080110-Thu1700.mp3 )

Parenti reminds us:

Remember, we have three primaries in this country. We have the voting primary. We have the money primary, in which the candidates actually parade how much money they've been able to gather as a demonstration that they are serious and mainstream and top contenders. And the third primary that we have is the media primary. The media anoints and appoints certain people as front-runners.

Regarding Congressman Kucinich, he told an interviewer last month, before the Iowa caucuses that:

Dennis Kucinich is losing neither the media primary nor the money primary because he was never even in them, not as a serious candidate. So they don't take him seriously. He is a very serious candidate, but not coming up with many millions of dollars and not winning the corporate media's attention and being frozen out, he in effect is not even in the primary.

Since that article was written, as unbelievable and outrageous as it may seem, Kucinich has been kept out of the Des Moines Register Debate, the ABC New Hampshire debate and has just been uninvited from the NBC debate in Las Vegas (1/15/08). He was originally invited by the “Democratic Debates” consultant because he had met NBC’s criteria, but realizing the threat he posed to both military profiteering and the corrupt concentrated corporate media, NBC changed the criteria so as to exclude him.

Congressman Kucinich has been almost totally ignored by the mainstream media, including the elitist and so status quo National Public Radio. In the two NPR reports I have heard about the Michigan primary, one yesterday and one today (Now 3 reports, as of 1/15/08), NPR reporters did not mention Kucinich or the fact that he was on the Michigan ballot. They, like the papers focus on Hillary as the only “major” candidate on the Michigan ballot and mention that Obama and Edwards are not on it. Newspaper articles are similar, in that they either don’t mention him, or they do so dismissively, as in “Michigan voters will see Clinton on a list with three candidates who have been afterthoughts this season: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH), former Alaska Gov. Mike Gravel and Sen. Christopher Dodd (CT).” (Washington Post) Afterthoughts this season? The season has barely started and the media won’t let Kucinich into the media primary!
If you read Kucinich’s views on media reform, campaign finance reform, health care, military, corporate power, etc., you can understand why the corporate media want to kill his campaign. (See: http://www.dennis4president.com/go/resources/issues-library/ ) The same applies to Libertarian Republican candidate Ron Paul, who also has been left out of a debate or two and who has been largely ignored by much of the media.

So here we are, after a couple of caucuses and a single primary, the media has already decided for us who gets to run for President and who doesn’t. That’s American democracy for you—a model for the world!

Kucinich on media reform:
I am working for serious media reform, including substantial free airtime for candidates and parties. Given the high cost of campaigns, the power of corporate special interests, and the fact that the networks are given free use of the public's airwaves, I believe that the networks should be required to give something back other than "reality" shows.

Media conglomerates are currently among the most powerful lobbyists against media reform, but I believe that were the media to provide substantive coverage of politics it would actually boost both media ratings and voter turnout.

In addition to requiring free airtime for political campaigns, we need to create a greater diversity of viewpoints in the media by breaking up the major media conglomerates, encouraging competition and quality as well as diversity. We should place new caps on media ownership and ban the granting of exceptions to those caps. We should limit the number of media outlets one corporation can own in a given medium, such as radio, print, or television. We should strictly prohibit cross-ownership and vertical integration.

I believe the people should be involved in the maintenance of their airwaves, creating public media outlets controlled by community boards similar to the model of Pacifica Radio. Funding for public broadcasting channels on television and radio should be greatly expanded, assuring the existence of media outlets free of the influence of advertisers.

I aim to promote knowledge of the public process through which citizens can challenge the licenses of local broadcast outlets failing to provide local coverage and coverage directed at the whole community, or outlets airing excessive violence.

Not-for-profit groups should be allowed to obtain low-power FM radio-station licenses. The development of new, community-based, noncommercial broadcasting outlets should be encouraged
.“ And more.

In a press release, the Kucinich campaign wrote:
<Kucinich is the only remaining Democratic Presidential candidate who: voted against the original Iraq War authorization in 2002 and every war-funding measure since; voted against the so-called Patriot Act; advocates a national, not-for-profit health system that covers all Americans; has called for the repeal of NAFTA and withdrawal from the WTO; and proposes a national back-to-work program (Works Green Administration) patterned after the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The Kucinich campaign, which filed an emergency complaint with the Federal Communications Commission last week because of ABC’s decision to exclude the candidate from a nationally televised debate, is considering legal action to address “the blatant disregard of the public interest in silencing public debate that dissents with the views of NBC, its parent company, GE, and all of the military contractors and their candidate-funding corporate interests. Corporate control of the media is one issue. Corporate media control of the information that is allowed to reach American citizens is much more dangerous, much more sinister, and much more un-American.”
“When ‘big media’ exert their unbridled control over what Americans can see, hear, and read, then the Constitutional power and right of the citizens to vote is being vetoed by multi-billion corporations that want the votes to go their way,” the Kucinich campaign said.
>
(See http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/73663/ and
http://www.dennis4president.com/go/homepage-items/nbc-un%11plugs-kucinich-from-presidential-debate/ )

HOMO HYPOCRITICUS
CRACKED POT CALLS KETTLE BLACK: BUSH STILL SAYING THE MOST INCREDIBLE THINGS

Speaking in the United Arab Emirates on January 13th, George W. Bush, the most notorious thug, terrorist, and war criminal of the 21st century, said that Iran is "the world's leading state-sponsor of terror" and that Tehran threatens nations everywhere. ( http://wiredispatch.com/news/?id=3643 ) Bush's false and hypocritical statements go completely unchallenged by the media. The fact that we have invaded, intervened, or overthrown leaders in around 60 countries since 1945, including Iran ( See “Killing Hope” http://members.aol.com/Bblum6/American_holocaust.htm ), while Iran has invaded no one during that period, is apparently irrelevant to them. The American people may just be ignorant on the issue, as most of them couldn’t find Iran on a map, but Bush, the god-guided psychopath, is intentionally lying, as he nearly always does.

Some think that despite the NIE stating that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program after we invaded Iraq, Bush is still intent on invading Iran, and is using his current mid-east peace charade to give Arab leaders a glint of hope to offer their people in an attempt to keep them pacified in the event he does attack. He recently expressed little faith in the commonly offered conclusions drawn from the NIE. Continued US claims of Iranian support for Iraqi resistance fighters and the recently concocted, gulf of Tonkin style pretext, involving tiny Iranian speedboats and huge US warships in the gulf tend to at least support the idea that “all options are still on the table” even when the whole world knows Bush is again lying.

Bush’s effort to create apartheid style “Bantustans” or “open air prisons” for the Palestinians, a.k.a. the “piss process” by those who have been paying attention, is actually seen as a bad fantasy by most Palestinians that are not on the payroll of the “quisling” Abbas. Israel’s Olmert has recently been quoted as saying "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights [ also for the Palestinians in the territories], then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished." (See Bowen “Apartheid-style fight for democracy looms” http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/articles/article0074934.html )
Palestinians in Gaza--an open prison

What the Israelis are afraid of are that the Palestinian refugee’s right of return will be honored and that Americans will one day wake up, turn off the TV and radio shows about the holocaust, and ask why it is that Israel should be allowed to create an exclusive, ethnically and religiously based Jewish state supported by billions of our tax dollars, while a religious and ethnic pluralism, hyperdiversity, and wide-open borders are forced on us.

WHY NOT ONE STATE?
Israel Destroying Palestinian Homes

As explained by Ali Abunumah, a Palestinian refugee and founder of electricintifada.net, the “One State Declaration, [was] authored by a group of Palestinian, Israeli and international and activists, affirms that ‘The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status.’ ‘It envisages a system of government founded on "the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens.’

It is precisely this basic insistence on equality that is perceived by Zionists as an existential threat to Israel, undermining its discriminatory foundations which privilege its Jewish citizens over all others. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was refreshingly frank when he recently admitted that Israel was "finished" if it faced a struggle for equal rights by Palestinians.

But whereas transforming a regime of institutionalized racism, or apartheid, into a democracy was viewed as a triumph for human rights and international law in South Africa and Northern Ireland, it is rejected out of hand in the Israeli case as a breach of what is essentially a sacred right to ethno-religious supremacy (euphemistically rendered as Israel's ‘right to be a Jewish state.’)

Palestinians are urged by an endless parade of Western envoys and political hucksters -- the latest among them Tony Blair -- to make do with what the African National Congress rightly rejected when offered it by South Africa's apartheid regime: a patch-work Bantustan made up of isolated ghettoes that falls far below the minimum requirements of justice.
” (See: “Democracy: An existential threat?” http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9187.shtml )

Above: Fortified checkpoints (“terminals”) and gates are a key element of the Apartheid Wall and the ghettoization of the Palestinian people. Racist oppression and daily humiliation is intensifying as the Occupation builds a series of fortified checkpoints. Spread throughout Palestine they control and regulate all movement. This picture reveals an overview of Qalandiya fortified checkpoint and the ghettoization of Ramallah and Qalandiya. (Caption & Photo from http://stopthewall.org )

So why is it that Israel is honored for creating an ethnically and religiously based state, while we are taught that the moral and ethical imperatives are pluralism, diversity and freedom from religion? It really gets back to the money primary that candidates need to succeed in so as to win elections. A pertinent example goes back to the Presidential campaign of 1947-48 and Harry Truman. JFK and Gore Vidal both agreed that that Truman accepted a $2 million campaign contribution (a very large sum in 1947) from the Zionists in return for recognizing an Israeli state, one which claimed a disproportionate amount, and the majority of, Palestinian lands. Nothing much has changed since, except that now the friends of Israel also successfully target any candidate who is not seen as being loyal to the Zionist agenda and a pro-Israel foreign policy.

Anyone who has seen the pandering to AIPAC by Clinton, Obama, and other candidates realizes that, 60 years later, campaign contributions from the Israel Lobby are as important as ever in the money primary. As pointed out in a recent Oregonian op-ed piece by professor John J. Mearsheimer, “Each of the main contenders emphatically favors giving Israel extraordinary material and diplomatic support — continuing the more than $3 billion in foreign aid each year to a country whose per capita income is now 29th in the world. They also believe that this aid should be given unconditionally. None of them criticizes Israel’s conduct, even when its actions threaten U.S. interests, are at odds with American values or even when they are harmful to Israel itself. In short, the candidates believe that the U.S. should support Israel no matter what it does.
Such pandering is hardly surprising. . . .

See: “ISRAEL'S FALSE FRIENDS” http://www.oregonlive.com/commentary/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/editorial/1200102915113270.xml&coll=7&thispage=1
Israeli Soldier Threatening Palestinian Woman

LANTOS' TARNISHED LEGACY

Speaking of the Israel Lobby, Israel’s good friend, and frenzied Iraq and Iran War promoter, Hungarian Jewish immigrant Representative Tom Lantos (D. CA) is leaving Congress. Wow, every once in a while, good things do happen! (See: Zunes, “Lantos' Tarnished Legacy” http://www.antiwar.com/zunes/?articleid=12195

VIOLENT RADICALIZATION AND HOMEGROWN TERRORISM PREVENTION ACT

One of the most successful tools used by oppressors like Bush and the Israeli government, not to mention Hitler and some Democrats, is to turn truth on its head through repetitious lying and the Orwellian misuse of words to get people to believe things like the strong are weak and the victims are aggressors. If a country like Israel takes or illegally occupies the land of the Palestinians by terror and military force, and the largely unarmed Palestinians resist by the few means at their disposal, then to defuse the righteous anger of Americans and others about Israeli injustices, we are constantly told that Palestinians are terrorists, not freedom fighters, and that the Israelis are victims who are rightfully defending themselves from pathological Palestinian aggression. If Iranians resist American imperial intervention and the overthrow of their democratically elected governments, then they must be seen as state terrorists and a danger to their neighbors, even though it is we, and not they, who have the history of unrestrained aggression towards many nations in the world. Resistance must be seen to be futile, and anyone who resists in any form must be seen as an “extremist.” Truth becomes a subjective concept to be created by the powerful.

On the home front, leaders in both political parties realize that things have become so corrupt, economic inequality so vast, and questions about Israel’s barbaric behavior so serious, that significant resistance could be just around the corner. In an attempt to head off the inevitable, Congresswoman, Jane Harman (D. CA) introduced the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.” It passed the house by a 404 to 6 vote and has no serious opposition as yet in the Senate.
Representative Jane Harman of the Israel Lobby

According to Paul Craig Roberts, the law “will create a commission tasked with identifying extremist people, groups, and ideas. The commission will hold hearings around the country, taking testimony and compiling a list of dangerous people and beliefs.” Roberts and others, myself included, think that these “extremists” will include, among others, “civil libertarians, critics of Israel, 9/11 skeptics, critics of the administration’s wars and foreign policies, critics of the administration’s use of kidnapping, rendition, torture and violation of the Geneva Conventions, and critics of the administration’s spying on Americans. Anyone in the way of a powerful interest group--such as environmentalists opposing politically connected developers--is also a candidate. . . . “ I qualify under several categories, how ‘bout you?

One definition in the act is of the phrase “ideologically based violence, i.e. ”the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs.” With reference to this definition, Col. Dan Smith, in a Counterpunch article, writes:
"The history of democracy is that over time, government encroaches so much into the lives of its people that government itself becomes the problem. Consider that in the 1770s, had the U.S. been a country with a law that criminalized the "threatened use of violence," every one of the Founding Fathers who participated in the Boston Tea Party organized into the Minute Men detachments or refused to accede to the British soldiers foraging on private property would have been guilty of "violent radicalization" and of promoting "ideologically based violence."
What has become an "extremist belief" in some circles within the government is democracy.


Indeed! Col. Smith echoes one of the greatest men in American History, Thomas Jefferson. In an 1787 letter to a friend, Jefferson wrote in support of Shay’s Rebellion: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Is that advocacy an implied threat of force? Would our present government feel a need to throw Jefferson in Jail?

Jefferson was also the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, which in the third paragraph states:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive. . . ., it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. [and] when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

“Throw off” is a physical act and a use of force. Did any of the principles think that violence would not be needed to enforce the independence they sought? Would the signers of the Declaration be imprisoned under the law introduced by Jane Harman?

(See: “The Politics of Paranoia” [Must Read] http://www.counterpunch.org/smith10252007.html and “Thinking For Yourself Is Now A Crime!”
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article19002.htm )

So who is Jane Harman? Besides being chair of the Homeland Security subcommittee in the House, according to an October 20, 2006 article in Time Magazine and another in the Washington Post, the Justice Department and FBI are “examining whether Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Harman's behalf” in order to get Harman reappointed to head up the House Intelligence Committee. In return, it was alleged that Harman would get the Justice Department to go easy on two AIPAC lobbyists charged with receiving classified information from a Pentagon analyst. [AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, perhaps the most effective lobby in the U.S.] (See: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1549069,00.html and http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/24/AR2006102401446.html )

Although she has downplayed her cheerleading for the Iraq war, she has been a rabidly pro-Israel supporter of U.S. aggression in the Middle East, including economic sanctions against Iran (to protect Israel), and has been described as “neocon-lite.” In September of 2006, Representative Harman, who is Jewish, hosted a fundraising dinner attended by 120 wealthy AIPAC donors, as well as Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. George W. Bush appointed Chertoff, who is also Jewish, to head the Department of Homeland Security.

Somehow, all of this doesn’t make me feel too secure.

FERAL CAT FALLOUT

Although I have been chastised by a very few for my article on feral cats, little in the way of rational thought has come this way. The best one of the major proponents could do was to tell another that I was mean and angry. Better to demean, dismiss and ignore than to engage in rational debate I guess. The anthropologists refer to two of the time-tested methods of social control in tribal and other societies as being gossip and exclusion. Why should things be different in Baker City?

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