Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fast Blast: News 1.27.11

Hello all, here's the latest and greatest (or worst) from around the world:

-CNN gets dirty: CNN received exclusive information on the dirty inner workings of the FBI, including severe misconduct by agents and supervisors. For example, an FBI agent sharing top secret information with his news reporter girlfriend then threatening to release a sex tape they made...a supervisor masturbating and downloading porn, a "leadership position" employee using the FBI database to check up on two exotic dancers, then inviting to his office after hours. By the way, none of these people were fired, they received suspensions because, as Director Candice Will said, "You know, our employees are human, as we all are. We all make mistakes. So, our discipline is intended to reflect that" Maybe some philanthropic psychiatrist (say that 10 times fast) could explain to me why so many high up government officials are sexually deviant. Could it be that our stiff (pun intended), self righteous, corporately religious facade is just that? That the bulk of our government officials are overpaid, corrupt puppets of a corpotacracy controlling our country? Just a thought...

-WikiLeaks fire-side twitter chats: WikiLeaks announced that they will begin public discussions on Tuesday February 1st via email and twitter. If you have a question, you can contact them on Twitter (tag: #wlquest) or They haven't disclosed who will be answering the questions or for how long but email questions close at 6.00pm GMT on Saturday January 29th and the first conference will begin video recording for broadcast at at 11.30am GMT on Tuesday February 1st. Also, if you happen to have a media outlet and are feeling a little adventurous: "WikiLeaks is looking for the most reliable and trustworthy organisations to collaborate with on our upcoming releases. If you would like to register your interest please fill out the form below [on website]. Should an appropriate collaboration opportunity present itself we will be in touch." Looks like the underground monster wants to come out and play in the sunlight...this will be very interesting to see...

-Obama-tube: Since we're on the subject of online chats (not the FBI kind), Obama will be on YouTube at 2:30 pm ET today answering questions about the State of the Union speech, and just the state of our union in general. The event is a part of the White House's attempt to reach out to young Americans.

-No surprise: America's war on terror is failing miserably. A member of the independent Brooklyn based news organization, Vice, traveled to Pakistan to report on the growing violence. The reporter spoke to Pakistanis who complained that our war in neighbouring Afghanistan has taken a horrific toll on their society: a never-ending stream of refugees, weapons, militants, and randomly, heroin. The devastation caused by our dick stick foreign policy is the catalyst for suicide bombings and heightened terrorist activity. No longer are the new members of Al Qaeda fighting for extremist Islamic law. They have abandoned it. The young, angry members now seek revenge for the trespasses against their people and their country. As Shabir Ahmed Khan, the Peshawar secretary of Jamaat-i-Islami fumed to the reporter, "If Westerners are going to kill and murder us, then we will have to fight back. No one has the right to dictate over a free country. They force their political and social policies on us, which they have no right to."

-Afghan's new US parliament: on the cozy subject of the middle east, Afghanistan inaugurated the new parliament yesterday, after a standoff between Karzai and the incoming parliament. Karzai had refused to seat the new parliament due to complaints of horrendous fraud at the elections four months ago. But, as per usual, under the watchful eye of Big Uncle Sam, the new parliament was seated and the White House proudly hails it as "a significant milestone." And another one bites the dust.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

People's choice

I was heading to work today (God may get a day off, but I don't) and switched on NPR.
Yonatan Shapira's voice came over the airwaves. He, like many activists living in war torn areas, is a hero or a traitor, depending on which side you stand on.
Shapira is a former Israeli pilot and author of the "pilots' letter," signed by 27 IAF pilots in 2003, documenting their refusal to fly over occupied territories.
Now he's a main player in the boycott of Israel-also recently in the news for spray painting "Free all the Ghettos" and "Free Gaza/Palestine" on one of the remaining walls of the Warsaw ghetto. Although I don't agree with his methods, I agree with his message:

"I am not saying there is a comparison with the monstrosity of Nazi death camps, but I am saying we must talk about the silence in Israel and the world when people are confined in a ghetto-like place...

Delegations of young Israelis [come here] to see the history of our people but also are subjected to militaristic and nationalistic brainwashing on a daily basis. Maybe if they see what we wrote here today they will remember that oppression is oppression, occupation is occupation, and crimes against humanity are crimes against humanity, whether they have been committed here in Warsaw or in Gaza."

The boycott of Israel is not a new idea. In the 60s, South Africa called for countries around the world to boycott the government as the people fought to end Apartheid.
20 years later, the US jumped on the bandwagon and Apartheid coincidentally ended soon after.

The sad truth? We still have that power. Our infrastructure hasn't been updated since Johnny came home from "over there," our economy may be more broken than a heroine addict off to a fifth stint in rehab, we may have the diplomatic skills of an embittered ogre, but we still pull our obese weight around the world.
We are still the trend setters for much of the world, and we still dictate, to a certain extent, the tone and flow of global politics.

How is that possible, when as a people, we don't do a damn thing? Again, I don't advocate that we go spray paint monuments of the civil or revolutionary war, but some notion of giving a shit would be nice.
The host of the NPR show remarked (using South Africa as his example) that it takes Americans a while to absorb and react to happenings in the world.
That sounds like a special needs kid not a country of 300 million "great Americans."
But that's just it. We're the best without ever having competed against other cultures. Somehow, throughout our short lifetime, the US has come to the place of power we now hold.
We are where we are due to the actions and ideas of people who lived long before us. Our government is not a product of us anymore, it is a product of production. What we work hard for is turned into dollars and cents and used against us. Nice huh?
Almost makes you wanna boycott those corporate shit I am advocating something...

Just as with Shapira, the choice of what happens with any boycott lies with the people. That's the tricky thing with political activism. It comes about due to the willingness to change the current political environment. Shapira said on NPR that he isn't gonna wait around for things to change, he wants to effect change by forcing Israel to pay attention to their actions and stand accountable.
Here in California, the BDS movement (Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement) has a ballot measure in the works that would require the state's retirement funds to divest from Israel. What would that do if it passed? Unlike with South Africa, the US has an incredibly complex and fragile relationship with Israel. Considering our current cluster fuck status in the middle east, we cling to their bought loyalty like kudzu.
But if that passes, it won't pass silently. Like I said, we have that power. Shapira quite poetically implored Americans to exercise that power and boycott Israeli businesses backed by the government, or "openly upholding the status quo."
My only problem with his call to action: what about us? We don't even have the balls to stand up to our own oppressors, how the fuck can anyone expect us to stand up to theirs?
Or is it easier somehow?
Do we feel that their problems are more pressing because they're wrapped in barbed wire?
As Carl Jung once prophetically wrote, "People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul."
The ills of Israel and Palestine are far more complex than ours. We have two simple enemies: the corporate stronghold and our own apathy. If we can rid of the latter, we can get rid of the former. It's people's choice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fast blast: News 1.19.11

I'm introducing a new news update. Since there's oh so much shit going on in the world, it's difficult to decide on just one topic to cover. Erego, I'm going to do periodic fast blasts, where I give updates on several news stories from the day, from various sources, bullet point style.
This way, you can get more info in less time so there's more time to go change the world.

Lieberman announces retirement: The Democratic turned independent turned Republican turned whatever the fuck he wants to be called has decided he's happy with what he's accomplished and won't be returning for another term in 2012. In 2000, he was Al Gore's running mate and 8 years later he ran across the aisle to support McCain - not my favorite guy in the world and certainly don't see eye to eye with him on everything, but his apparent ease at choosing his own values over his parties is a trend I'd like to see more of.
Chinese President Hu visiting White House: In a seemingly more diplomatic and amicable meeting than the one in November, Hu and Obama hold a joint press conference discussing the two superpowers' diplomatic relationship. Obama said earlier today that this trip marks the foundation for the next 30 years of ties between the two countries. Of course, not to be outshone, Americas corporate interests (such as GE, Coca-Cola and Boeing) have made time with the presidents to discuss business deals with the US reaching more than $48 billion. Other topics on the table at tonight's state dinner include human rights, trade, currency and North Korea.
Health Care bill up for repeal: The House will more than likely vote to repeal, the Senate won't. Either way, Obama will exercise his veto if it gets to him. Most Republicans have come to terms with the implausibility of a straight repeal but say they will try to cut funding to parts of the bill or eliminate specific provisions in the months ahead. Aka, Republicans will probably lose this battle, but they refuse to lose the fight in fucking you over. Democrats are always happy to help - welcome to your government :)
Palin still on the war path: After suggestions that she should "sit down and shut up," Palin angrily contends that she won't. Unfortunately, even after her incendiary "blood libel" mishap and various other tweets, facebook posts and blogs, Palin's political career isn't dwindling as fast as respect for her is. She's a disaster, has no experience or real knowledge of national let alone international politics. However, her constituents represent the dangerous group of Americans who are exactly the same: not educated on social or political issues, don't care about international diplomacy, don't like change and cling to the rights they like and dismiss the ones that get in the way. If she gains a seat of any political power, our devolution as a country will take one giant leap closer to a deadly tail spin.
Iran trigger happy with executions: Since the beginning of the year, Iran has executed 57 prisoners, averaging one every 8 hours. This is only the reported executions. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran suggests that particularly Kurdish activists are among the many unreported hangings. The reasons why this sudden surge of executions is unclear, but it can only be assumed that Iran wants to show muscle, and indifference to UN and other human rights organizations.
Bolivia pushes to lift ban on coca: The leaves which are used to make cocaine are currently on the UN's list of banned substances. Bolivians are pushing to have that revoked, saying that the leaves have health benefits. Of course the US will oppose this move at revocation. In my humble opinion, if you legalized all drugs that can be snorted, sniffed, popped, injected, and smoked, you could open up a billion dollar industry that would ultimately reduce crime, increase jobs and income and scale back at least some of our dependence on corporate drug companies' poison.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Political unrest to mark MLK day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To mark this day, there will of course be speeches, commemorations, parades, moments of silence and reflection.
Around the world, it is marked with a stark reminder that people like MLK are more of a nostalgic whisper from the past, a ghostly memory of hope for change and more importantly, movement for change.
It seems that as of late, the world has been erupting with a social and political fire - England, France, Sudan, Tunisia, Pakistan. For better or worse, people around the world seem lock stock tied to their political situations...well, except here.
For example, Tunisia, which now finds itself in a state of political anarchy, found its way to tear gas and water hoses via unemployment, rising food prices and corruption.
Tunisia's unemployment rate is around 13.3%, an improvement since last year's 14.1%.
The US: 9.1%, a slight improvement from last years 9.7% (US Department of Labor).
Some claim that the unrest in Tunisia is a direct result of WikiLeaks releasing information on the extent of corruption in the inner circles of government. State Department official P.J. Crowley contends that is a lie. Crowley claims that the Tunisian people knew of the corruption in their government for a long time. "They alone are the catalysts of this unfolding drama."
So, why did people all of a sudden lose it? The president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country on Friday after protests mounted over the past month.
Demonstrations ratcheted up a notch in December when a 26-year-old unemployed man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire, protesting the lack of jobs. He died a few weeks later. Some say it's merely a result of jobless people, feeling lost and desperate with families to care for and bills to pay.
Either way, the country is now in a state of severe political unrest, with supplies being cut off due to violence, looting and a few murders. While this is clearly not what the people wanted, it sends a loud and clear message to whoever will take over the unity government, scheduled to be announced today.
Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton ironically projected the "importance of addressing popular concerns about the lack of civil liberties and economic opportunities, and the need to move forward with credible democratic elections."
Is anyone else drawing parallels in their mind? The eeriness of that close-to-home statement is not lost on me. I'm guessing Clinton can see it too, although she'd never admit it.
Don't we have a right to civil liberties, economic opportunity and a credible election? Aren't these things that we have been robbed of in the past 50 years?
While I do not advocate burning buildings, looting or any of the violence associated with the current unrest in Tunisia, it'd be nice to at least see someone go up there and protest. Actually protest. Not just get a few signs from Office Depot, get a permission slip to speak your mind and walk around an empty street for a few hours. A legitimate protest - one where you don't get a permission slip because you wanna stir things up, you want to interrupt people mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-lunch or dinner. You don't want people to ignore the injustice around them anymore. People need to know what their own country is doing and they need to give a shit, they need to get involved, do something.
I'm sure far too many Americans are reading about Tunisia as if it's far off problems have no effect on their lives, as if their issues see no parallel in ours.
As a great man once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Their injustice is a mirror of ours. We share that plight. The question is, can we do something about it? Can we take their anger and funnel it into constructive change? Can we move forward?
How long will we sit on our island and pretend it isn't long will we apathetically push aside proof of injustice and social unrest?
Of the people, for the people and by the people. We are the people. Do something.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Delayed justice system

Remember when you were a kid and you were punished when you did bad things? You couldn't just steal, lie, hit, spit, punch, grab, kick, scream or cheat without facing the consequences.
In the words of Lewis Black, "It's always the worst time to be a kid, because adults never know what the fuck they're doing."
Sad but true. Justice was supposed to be blind, impartial, a proud goddess of equality, truth and well, justice. Turns out that since hankering down in the land of opportunity some 200-odd years ago, the elegant ideals of Lady Justice have deteriorated into a a greed fueled whore-dom. Well, looks like some of her corporate buddies must've left some bills on her dresser.
Let's aptly transition to another corporate whore: Tom Delay. Not sure if you remember craggy faced Tom or not, but in 2002, he funneled $190,000 into Republican candidates for the House and Senate...well Tom, what do you have to say about that?
"I can't feel remorseful for something I don't think I did."
Reminds me a bit of Rumsfeld, being questioned before a tribunal: "I don't recall, I can't remember. Could you rephrase that question?"
Yep, he's a good ole boy - a contemporary and main supporter of Newt Gingrich and one of the deciding factors in the '94 turnover of the House and Senate. A shifty character, that in 2005, stepped aside as House majority leader, due to the conspiracy and money-laundering charges, only to evade trial, claiming the indictment was due to a partisan prosecutor. When you're that far right, everyone's partisan - there's a thick fog of bullshit, deceit, backstabbing and lies so you can't see two feet in front of you, not to mention, across the aisle.
And as he finally went to trial, a possible 99 years sentence for money laundering and 20 years for the conspiracy charge, he pranced off with 3 years and 10 years probation.
I'll take bets now on whether he'll even spend the whole year in jail. I'd love to bet you the nearly $8 million Delay claims to have spent on legal counsel so far. A counsel who claimed that the prosecution was basing their accusations on the redrawing of several Texas district lines in 2002 that cost many Democrats their seats.
Wow, that's a crap argument!
Even if that were true, how do you get from penciling in Republicans to bolstering their seats with nearly $200,000 of laundered money? Sounds like they tried to belittle his crimes to mere kindergarten levels.
And it worked.
Conveniently, Delay is also off the hook for his mysterious ties to Jack Abramoff, the model lobbyist who plead guilty to being a waste of life.
So kids, what have we learned today?
Well, whatever you want, as long as you have big brother corporation behind you. That's a cracker jack tale, isn't it? From Wall Street to Cell Block 8, the only message we're sending loud and clear is that corruption is only illegal if you're poor. Oh, and most of us will only get poorer, by the way...the economic forecast is cloudy with a high chance of cluster fuck pit falls. Grab your umbrellas!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Greatest country in the world?

I usually peruse a few sites and headlines before deciding on one story to cover. Today I couldn't choose just one...
-US to send 1,400 more Marines to Afghanistan
-Hedge Funds spend $10 Million to help GOP win election
-Census: 48 million Americans living in poverty.
As I read through these three, I had a brain aneurysm. I was somewhere in the hellish purgatory between the emotional states of anger, disbelief and sadness. How? Why? What the fuck is going on? Who the fuck is letting all this shit happen? Who authorized - how could they - 48 million? 1,400 more - after the bloodiest year on record? $10 million? Who's responsible for all this?
That's when I got that sick feeling in my stomach - like I'd scraped the cheese off a large pizza and slid it down my throat all at once. Yep, it's our fault.
Not to get too Catholic, and self deprecating, but let's be honest. We have disintegrated fast. No one forced us to stand and watch as our country spiraled into a shit hole, clawing at our rights and freedoms as it got sucked into the vortex of liberty's lamentation.
1 in 6 Americans now lives in poverty. Ummm...what? A significant number over the age of 65 due to the rise in medical costs. Simultaneously, if you head on over to, you can see that our Middle East check is above $1,134,426,550,000 and climbing rapidly. Is that trillion? Fuck, I don't think they even taught us how to abstractly count that high in calculus. Then again, I was privileged enough to get a good education - the poor kids coming up these days probably will never know what calculus even means. It will be just as abstract and distant as the thought of socialized medicine and getting to see their grandpa's 80th birthday, because we will have become too poor, fat, diseased and apathetic to make it much further.
They'll get a half rate education and then be sent away to offer their lives at the altar of corporate gains, hoping at least to get a few semesters of free education out of it. And if they do make it to the other side, they'll come home to flag waving dick sticks who pocket $10 million so that they can reciprocally keep the cycle of top 1% wealth, arrogance, and back stabbing thievery going.
God bless the USA!
Really?! How the hell did this happen? When did we get to the point, as a people, that we allow our own government, to kill our children, financially torture almost 50 million people and use our hard earned money to finance a corporate playground of deceit and destruction? Are we really OK with this?
Can we glance over these headlines without stopping to question...
Is this right?
Is this normal now?!
Is the extent of corporate influence only matched by the extent of our apathy?
How many more headlines do we have to read before our brains disallow this behaviour?
Alone, it doesn't seem like we can do a damn thing. But, after all, it's WE the people, isn't it? You don't have to have a precise, day by day plan as to how to overthrow the evils of the world, but for fucks sake, something...Do something.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Death not in vain, inshallah...

Well, another one bites the dust.
And I'm not just talking about how the GOP took over the House this morning, a chronically smiling Nancy Pelosi at hand, grinning as if she had no central nervous system.
No, I'm referring to the murder of Salman Taseer, one of Pakistan's most outspoken, liberal and popular governors, of the Punjab region. He was shot by one of his security guards, 26 times, while leaving an outdoor market place in Islamabad on Tuesday.
The reason behind this atrocious crime? God...or Allah, or whatever the hell you wanna call him. You know the guy, the one who sits up on a cloud and through his omniscient wisdom, has become the leading cause of death on this planet.
In his name, the blasphemy law: a law that makes it illegal to insult Islam, punishable by death. A law that recently inched more into the spotlight after a 45 year old Christian woman was sentenced to death in November, after having a discussion on the Muslim faith with some co-workers.
According to the late Taseer, this law was "not a God made law." He publicly spoke out against the law, condemning it as a "law which gives an excuse to extremists and reactionaries to target weak people and minorities."
The law's founder, military dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq had imprisoned Taseer in the 1980s and up until his death, Taseer remained the secular, progressive politician extremely loved and hated by the split factions of Pakistan.
His bodyguard, an elite force security guard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, was interviewed shortly after a news crew arrived at the scene of the crime. In a calm, cultish tone (aka brainwashed) he explained, “I am a slave of the Prophet, and the punishment for one who commits blasphemy is death."
Well, that's fair and simple then. Case closed. I mean, look at his face in that picture - he looks more like a guy walking back from a successful day at the races than someone who just brutally murdered someone. Damn God, you sure do put a smile on people's faces!
Not to sound a conspiracy alarm or anything, but who the fuck is this guy? How does he get assigned to the western worlds equivalent of Eric Hoffer?
Oh, the plot per usual...
Just five months ago, a provincial police official banned Qadri from working as security for VIP personnel.
The director inspector general of Punjab Police said that due to his extremist views, it was dangerous for him to be in charge of guarding important officials.
But wait, it gets better.
Pakistani intelligence officials had warned officials about Qadri back in 2004 when they discovered his connection with the Sunni extremist group, Dawat-e-Islam.
Four years later, in 2008, having joined the police force in 2002, Qadri was selected to be a part of the elite force course, despite these warnings from intelligence. There are 468 elite force guards who are apparently chosen at random to guard various high ranking officials.
Qadri was assigned to Taseer on Tuesday. He certainly didn't waste any time did he?
In such a tumultuous country as Pakistan, should you do anything "randomly?"
Particularly when it concerns the security of high ranking officials.
In this aftermath, the government is in an understandable state of mayhem. With the US constantly up its ass about fighting extremists, one of their most popular secular warriors murdered, and losing their majority in the coalition government, it's safe to say the shit has hit the fan.
So, how will this play out? Will this cause supporters of Taseer to back down, or fight back with vengeful fervor?
As a country with thousands of our own lives on the line, we have a lot to lose and gain in the coming months. For now, it'd be best if we could focus on some legitimate, honest diplomacy. But since I don't think we know how to do that, I'll have to settle with empty sentiments and bullshit condolences thinly veiling our immediate motives.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone. It's that time again - a clean slate, fresh start, new beginning. A day that is more philosophical than it is rooted in any calendar. After all, January 1st means pretty much jack squat in the natural world. Thousands of years ago, the Babylonians would celebrate the new year at the spring solstice, which makes more sense if it's rebirth and renewal we're after.
Either way, January 1st has become our new beginning. Philosophically, we make it into a starting point, as if time stopped here for a moment, contemplated its existence, then continued on. We make it a time to reflect on what we'd like to see differently in the year to come: lose a few pounds, quit smoking, fix your marriage, be more assertive, etc. We mark it as the day to begin to change, to become better. While that's admirable, research suggests that most new years resolutions fail within the first month.
Do we aim too high? Is our philosophical musing on this specific time debunked by our natural rhythm declaring nothing radical has changed? Do we merely slip back into "life" once we've exhausted the "Happy New Year" greetings?
My hypothesis: we're lazy, unaccountable and impatient. Not a very festive outlook, I know. Let's say you want to lose weight, the most popular resolution. You pay to join a gym or buy a new pair of sneaks, pump yourself up and head out tomorrow or next week sometime. Only problem is, just like with anything in life, the good don't come easy. The gym's too crowded and someone stole the other 5lb weight you need. You can only run to the end of the block and you feel defeated. You rush home to see if you've lost any weight and of course, you haven't. You start googling weight loss remedies and find a really convincing one that promises a Gisele Bundchen frame for two pills a day and no exercise. Sweet. You buy it. It doesn't work. You try the next gadget, or the next gizmo, continuously avoiding the truth that the only way to lose weight is to get up off your ass, eat right and stick to it with some determination and grit.
Ironically, that same mentality could be used to discuss the coming year in politics and social issues. We want things to change but we don't want to have to work for them, we want them to happen five minutes ago and when they don't, it's everyone's fault but ours. Hmmmm, tricky to effect change with that attitude.
Instead, wouldn't it make more sense if we went out and did something about it. After all, as far as I know, no one ever dropped pounds by complaining about them. And oh we excel at bitching about government. One might even say it's a national past time. But in the past generation, we've lost our drive, our go-get-'em attitude. When was the last time anyone went to or organized a protest? When was the last time anyone saw one or heard of one? In the cluster fuck world we live in and our increasingly precarious role in it, we should be filling streets, selling out on poster board, clogging phone lines in Washington.
That takes dedication tho. It requires will power and determination. Do we have that? Can we unclog our minds like we aspire to unclog our arteries? Can we move beyond that trip step first month and on to real change?
As with any new years resolution, it starts with an idea which moves to the action part of your brain causing you to google something, search for a group, a movement or fuck, start your own. And continue to climb that proverbial ladder of resolution until things start to change. Do not give up because it's hard. If it's hard, it's worth it.
It's your mind, your country, your future.
I wish you all the happiest of years...Do something.