Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dick Cheney: Werewolf of Wyoming

If you claim that the crime you admit to is not a crime, should that prevent your prosecution? Dick Cheney seems to think so. On the heels of a bipartisan report from the Senate Armed Services Committee that stated that the actions of Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez and Cheney aide David Addington, "led directly" to the violation of laws and treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, most of the named parties attempted to hide behind legal interpretations designed to give cover for torture.

Cheney, give him credit for being so self defined, went one step further, admitting in a televised interview, that he condoned and sanctioned waterboarding. His cavalier attitude in this admission brushes off worldwide condemnation of the practice as torture. In admitting that he not only approved this action, he admitted to a war crime.

Waterboarding has been defined as torture since the time of the Spanish Inquisition, when the practice is reputed to have been developed. Refined over time, the United States actually prosecuted Japanese soldiers for this very action after World War II. During the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg the defense of "following orders," was no defense at all. What about those giving orders?

If Cheney's seeming claim that nothing is a crime if you don't believe it is, is allowed to stand then every sociopath in prison could claim the same defense.

Therein lies the answer to Cheney's admission. Only a relatively small minority could imagine even attempting to rationalize torture. Only a sociopath could order it. To brag about it puts one in a whole new category.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Leftist on Rick Warren: Who Cares?

All morning I have been hearing that "the Left" is upset about the pick of Rick Warren to participate in the Obama inauguration. Let us use this point to begin to understand something about American politics.

There is NO LEFT in American politics. The left has been completely driven to the margins of politics during the past 30 years of America's giant jump to the right. How thoroughly the right captured the whole debate can be seen in the fact that liberals (really just slightly, if that, left of center moderates) are defined as "the Left."

Actual leftists, such as this writer, see Warren or any other religious figure at the inauguration as inappropriate due to its violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Liberals, on the other hand, are upset because he represents a different constituency. Liberals would be okay with a minister at the inauguration as long as he or she was sufficiently aligned with their theology. I, on the other hand, would be upset about any minister, even if it was Little Richard. It is the inauguration of a president not the coronation of a Pope. Keep religion out of it, up to and including preventing civil rights icon, the Rev. Joseph Lowery from praying. Yes, I said it.

It is not just a rejection of religion that leads to my "Who Cares," headline. It is the fact that at a moment when the Vice President has just admitted to war crimes all we can chatter about is a minister speaking at the inauguration. That, and the possibility that a Kennedy will be appointed to the House of Lords.

Bitching about every little choice of position, especially one as trivial as which minister will speak at the inauguration is missing the point.

We have been damaged and harmed as a nation by the wrong headed policies of the right over the past thirty, and especially the last eight years. It is important that we begin to move in the correct direction. There is much to do. There is much to undo.

The LEFT, or what is left of it, must not be caught up in the ridiculous minutiae of the moment. It is time to think long term and regroup. Before the true left, not the barely left of center moderates, can have any voice, it must recognize that for too long we have had to settle for whatever the Democrats managed to offer to us. Now is the time to force the center to hear the left.

To shift the debate, the focus on irrelevance must cease. Yes, it bothers me that Rich Warren is a homophobic bigot. So get out and reverse Prop 8.

Look for more on "The Difference Between Leftists and Liberals," by Ray Bawarchi, on this blog and other media sources in the near future.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Once again the workers get the shaft. Wall Street gets $700 billion, no strings attached. The government has essentially been privatized under the Bush Administration to line the pockets of Bush's self confessed "base," the haves and the have mores. The former head of the NASDAQ, Bernard Madoff, has been running a giant Ponzi scheme. Before he confessed to his sons what he had done he made sure to pay out $200-300 million in bonuses and gifts to those close to him.

Now comes the automobile industry bailout. Opinions about whether the bailout is a good idea aside, (although it does seem a little like investing in typewriters at the dawn of computers) there is an underlying effort to protect the wealthy while screwing the workers. Mostly Republican senators from anti-union southern states (where not coincidentally, major foreign auto plants are headquartered, due to taxpayer subsidies) have been arguing that the major problem of the auto industry is that the workers represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) are adequately compensated.

Seeing an excuse to engage in union busting, these politicians are betraying their constituents and their duty to the nation.

There may be good reasons to oppose the auto bailout, but it is not because the workers are too well paid. It seems that we have reached a point in this country where most people are just grist for the mill. The workers represented by the UAW engaged in good faith negotiations to get the compensation they now have. On several occasions they have made concessions to the auto companies and given back agreed upon benefits in order to help their corporate bosses.

Why is it that those with the least must take all the brunt of the economic collapse? Workers take pay cuts and private equity firms get a cash bailout. According to recent stats, ten percent of the nation is behind on their mortgage payments, yet the banks are getting the money while the people are getting the streets. No accountability for the rich, but the poor must demonstrate that they "earn" what they get.

Ever had your credit card rate raised even though you make all your payments on time?
Why is it that banks can unilaterally alter the terms of a contract? Again, their investments must be protected, but the general public cannot even trust a contract with a corporation that is sufficiently large.

One of the factors that continues to hamper the revival of the economy is that banks are not lending. They've received their bailout money, but there is no money being loaned for homes, for business, for AUTO's. The rich man who owns the bank has been bailed out by us all. Now we must once again prove worthy to subsist.

Has any one considered that the problem is capitalism?

The Bottom of Our Shoes

Bush's surprise visit to Iraq, turned into a surprise on him. An Iraqi journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, a correspondent for Al Baghdadia, tossed his shoes at Bush. The ultimate insult in Iraq, it means the recipient is considered lower than dirt. Mr. al-Zaidi is now being held by the Maliki government although it is unclear what law he has broken.

Bush, glib as always, commented that the shoe was a "size 10." The shoe would have had to have been Shaquille O' Neal's (size 22) to have matched the world's disdain. But the Decider doesn't get it. He's been living in a brush bubble in Crawford.

The media seems to be missing the message in this story. The U.S. press seems to be covering the story primarily as a filler. Mostly, it is approached as a bizarre type of human interest story. As I write this, Contessa Brewer is asking on MSNBC if the shoes were his own or if he brought in an extra pair. What next, a penetrating discussion of the brand of shoe? An Iraqi journalist commented that al-Zaidi has "ruined his career."

Nothing could be further off. Muntader al-Zaidi has likely already become a household name throughout the Middle East and soon, throughout the world. The story here is that someone has finally had the nerve to express the outrage the Bush Administration so richly deserves. George Bush has nearly destroyed the world and he must be remembered as such.

Bush's current effort to rewrite history must not be allowed to pass. For eight years George Bush has shown complete disregard for the opinions and people of the world. He has shredded the Constitution, claimed the powers of a king and ruined the reputation of America in the world.

As al-Zaidi threw his shoes he proclaimed in Arabic, "This is a gift from the Iraqi's, this is the farewell kiss, you dog!" On the second shoe: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Muntader al-Zaidi spoke for the Iraqi people and that is why thousands are now in the streets of Baghdad protesting his detention.

Those of us who have opposed Bush as he lied us into war, opened prisons to circumvent U.S. law (Guantanamo), rationalized torture and generally dared an impotent Congress to stop him, now are coming to terms with the fact that he has gotten away with it. I used to think there would be leaders who would step forward to oppose him, that his crimes would eventually be exposed, even that he might have to answer for his crimes against humanity before a War Crimes Tribunal. Now, it is clear that he will return to his silver plated life and a village in Texas will regain its idiot.

Muntader al-Zaini has shown us the way. The Iraqi insult of the bottom of the shoe must become our own. No need to throw it, just show it. Should any of us be so unfortunate as to find ourselves in the presence of the "W", present the bottom of your shoe, and hold it as high as you can reach.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Workers of the World: Wake from a Deep Sleep

The occupation of Republic Windows and Doors in Illinois by its employees is significant for being the first signs of life in the labor movement in the United States in quite some time. Since the Reagan years, organized labor has been in trouble and on the decline. Now, a group of workers, already aware that they are being laid off, are demanding promised vacation pay and severance packages.

Enter the Bank of Amerika. Refusing to finance a loan for the payout to the workers, BofA, does its part to delay the recovery of the economy. But they are not the only culprits here.

According to the New York Times, the family of Richard Gilman bought up the stock of Republic in 2006 and 2007 and then formed a new windows business, Echo Windows, LLC to open in Iowa. Their goal was to cut fixed-costs. In essence, the owners of Republic decided to move their plant to another state to cut the costs of labor.

This is the heart of the collapse of the American economy. Corporations, manufacturers, independent companies, have all opted to increase the bottom line at the expense of the workers. Showing no loyalty to the very employees that made their companies successful, business has opted to move in order to increase profit margins.

It wasn't that Republic Windows and Doors was a failure or making an obsolete product. They were makers of Energy Star Windows, efficient and affordable, and had orders to fill. Economically, however, it was viable for the company to fold up, move to a place with lower labor costs, and begin anew.

Economically viable, but economically necessary? How many U.S. companies have moved operations to other nations in order to increase profit margins? At the heart of the U.S. economic difficulty is that the workers have been pulled down in a race to the bottom in order that profit margins will increase. We make nothing, we're paid nothing and now we'll buy nothing.

How about using some of the bailout money to allow the workers of Republic to become the owners of the company? Could Bank of Amerika turn loose of some of the bailout money under those conditions? Or will they just keep buying other banks?

Bush: Will the Plunder Never Stop?

Is there nothing that George Bush will not ruin before leaving office? In his flurry of last minute directives designed to leave a lasting legacy of damage to the Republic, Bush has now decided (he is "the Decider," after all) that perchlorate should be exempted from regulation in drinking water.

Is he kidding us? The gall of this guy. After lying the country into Iraq, botching the response to Katrina, soiling the countries reputation with torture, and destroying the economy to boot (okay, Wall Street helped with that) while giving away the Treasury to banks, he now wants to allow poisons and carcinogens into our drinking water.

The legacy continues to grow.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. mnn.com. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer