An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Friday, December 29, 2006

Now you tell us

President Ford speaks from the grave

Lost amid the tributes to a mediocre President we find that Ford thought that Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney made a mistake when they launched the war in Iraq. The Washington Post published a transcript of an interview Ford did with Bob Woodward a couple of years ago.

From the article:
"I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."

Ford spoke candidly on the condition that his comments not be published until after his death. While alive he felt no obligation to oppose what he thought was a mistake, and one which would (and has) cost tens of thousands of lives? Cheney and Rumsfeld worked for Ford. Rumsfeld served as Secretary of Defense and Cheney remained Ford's chief of staff, as he had been under Richard Nixon after Haldeman's fall in the Watergate scandal. This is not, we learn from the same interview, the only instance of Ford's personal friendship trumping the good of the country. He admitted that his personal friendship with Nixon strongly influenced his decision to pardon the former President who attempted to turn the U.S. into a dictatorship. At the time Ford claimed that personal considerations played no part in his decision.

This draws a sickeningly familiar picture of an increasingly socially isolated ruling class that cares more for itself and its members than the people or nation it pretends to care about. What effect, realistically, would Ford's opposition to the war have had, if he had made his comments public in 2003? We will never know. We do know that he did not care enough about a disastrous mistake to denounce it at the time (nevermind over 100 public officials resigned or otherwise did make public statements in opposition to the war in 2003, some ruining their own careers in an effort to stop the madness.) Ford would have faced no financial hardships were he to have voiced opposition to the reigning Administration. In his silence Ford has not proven any different than any Democrat or Republican who opposes a reprehensible rush to war built on a foundation of lies only when "safe" to do so.

Update Dec. 30, 2006:

I had not realized that Ford played a part in the years long massacre of East Timorese by Indonesia under Suharto. Other bloggers have not only pointed this out but one also provided a scan of primary source document in which Ford gave Suharto the OK to invade. For those who do not already know about this part of history, in 1975 Indonesia East Timor, an Island in the Indonesian archipelago that attempted to declare its independence. The resulting carnage and killing of the civilian population rivaled that of Cambodia under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge going on at the same time. The East Timorese posed no threat to anyone. The Indonesians wiped out about 200,000 people (or one third of the island's population). Dennis Perrin in Red State Son writes about wiping out history in general and sanitizing Ford's presidency in particular:

"Now, a civilized country that dealt with its history honestly would mention the above in any overview of that period. And had Gerald Ford been, say, a Chinese premier who ordered a client army to wipe out a third of a smaller country's population, I'm guessing that would be mentioned in American news outlets upon his death. But being the U.S. president who ended a "national nightmare," Ford's direct hand in mass murder is completely ignored. I have yet to find any mainstream mention of this, ..."

And by the way, liberals and supporters of the democrats stop patting yourselves on the back for how much "better" democrats are than republicans. President Carter subsequently sold arms to Indonesia knowing full well what Suharto was going to do with them.

And I must thank Dennis Perrin for a description of the political power in the United and its relationship with the media as "The owners of the country and their stenographers." So remember, democrats and republicans work for the same bosses.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Evangelicals Über Alles?

Whose church would Jesus burn down?

Earlier today I read an interview with a former Air Force officer, Mikey Weinstein, who has founded and led an organization called the "Military Religious Freedom Foundation." The interview, These people should be court-martialed appears in (subscription required, or you may have to view an ad).

I hope I sound paranoid and delusional when I say that I can imagine a time when I live to see a 20-something kid in a uniform pointing an automatic rifle in my face and begging me to accept Jesus as my personal savior so he doesn't have to pull the trigger. I did not imagine anything like that before today. Thanks for that image, Mr. Weinstein.

Last week (Dec. 2006) evangelicals released a video filmed "... inside the Pentagon that featured uniformed senior military officers talking about their evangelical faith ... " And on Monday Weinstein held a press conference to denounce it. Alex Koppelman of Salon interviewed him on Tuesday. The interview is worth a read in its entirety, even if you have to view an advertisement in In it Weinstein does not mince words, describing the evangelicals who now make up about 40% of the military as "virulently dominionist" and compares the present situation with the plot of the movie Three days of the Condor in which there existed "A CIA within the CIA." I found the following passage particularly disturbing:

These are the people who, when I talk to senior members of the military at the flag-level rank -- I don't know if you're familiar with what that means, that means admiral or general -- that have looked at me and said, "Come on, Mikey, what's your problem? We have the cure to cancer. If you had the cure to cancer, wouldn't you want to spread the word?" They don't realize when they say it, they don't have the mental wherewithal to understand that to a person who isn't an evangelical Christian, you're calling our faith a cancer.

Among the cancerous faiths the evangelicals wish to cure you will find "Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians [and] Roman Catholics." And look whose burning in hell: "Mikey, OK, Anne Frank, Dr. Seuss, Jack Benny, Gandhi," evangelical Christians tell Weinstein, "they're all burning eternally in the fires of hell." Charming.

Aside from the obnoxiousness of some annoying person trying to "save" you, what's the problem? Where is the danger? Weinstein explains:

The U.S. military, which I [Weinstein] consider a noble and honorable institution, is technologically the most lethal organization ever created by Homo sapiens. When you have the leadership believing that to be a good soldier, good Marine, good airman or sailor you have to be not just a Christian but the right type of Christian, we're no better than al-Qaida. And it's hideous, beyond belief. My kids were called "fucking Jews" and accused of total complicity, they and their people, in the execution of Jesus Christ, by superiors up and down the chain of command at the Air Force Academy. [Emphasis added].

Oh, and it gets worse.

...after the press conference in the morning, I've had nine death threats since about 10 o'clock last night. I usually get about two or three a week. They're very grotesque, everything from wanting to gas all the Jews in America and send the corpses back to Israel * to threatening to blow me up, threatening my house will be blown up, raping my wife, blowing up my house. We've had our tires slashed, we've had feces and beer bottles thrown at the house, we've had dead animals placed on the front door of the house.

I was in Topeka, on a book tour, and the local Episcopal priest came out to support me and five hours later his church was burned down. And the local synagogue in Topeka, where I was to speak that night, was desecrated with spray paint saying, "Fuck you, Jews" and "KKK," all that stuff.

And whose church would Jesus blow up? Peace, love and happiness ... unless you're not one of us in which case the evangelicals can hack you into pieces and feed you to the dogs with righteous impunity. Does my whacko fantasy of conversion at gunpoint still look paranoid and far-fetched? I hope so.

Blatant partisan bias: Vote for democrats. Yes, even if they are a bunch of spineless gits who have to read three days of opinion poll results before they figure it's safe to flush their toilets. I know they're useless and I know they're every bit a bunch of corporate lackeys like any Republican. But vote for them anyway. My pagan/wiccan/tool-of-the-devil crystal ball is showing me some seriously weird and disturbing images lately. If you're not even a little nervous then you're just not paying attention.

* Update December 20, 2006: Only today did I realize the significance of the threat "to gas all the Jews in America and send the corpses back to Israel." The evangelicals believe that in order to provoke the apocalypse all Jews must return to an Isreal that has been restored to its biblical borders. The bible does not specify whether the Jews are alive when they return. That's the evangelical part of the threat: the sending the corpses "back" to Israel .

For more information about evangelicals, their influence in U.S. politics and the religious beliefs which lead them to support Israel see Is Death too good for us? and follow the links to the articles cited.

Intellectual Freedom Blog

Why we do this with a 2010 update.

This started out as a solo operation. As of June 2010 I have a co-blogger, who prefers to use the initials AR. I just use my first name: Steven. I am a librarian. I believe in freedom of speech in all its forms. I believe that censorship and the dissemination of lies constitute a major threat. And yes, I realize how pompous I sound.

AR has a wide-ranging background in life and in education. He works with audio-visual technology and he acquires a tremendous amount of news and information in multiple languages. He has graciously accepted my request to post here as our e-mail discussions have proven very interesting and I frequently thought "I'd like to see this on the blog." Now it will appear here.

This is what I mean by 2+2=4:


"Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4. If that is granted, all else follows."
---George Orwell, 1984

"If you accept his assumptions, even a madman sounds reasonable."
---Proverb of uncertain origin, possibly Russian.

"We're the teachers and two plus two can add up to five if it's our classroom."
---Jim Kouf, Gang Related

"Two plus two equals four! Two plus two equals four! Two plus two equals four!"
---Trul, from The Cyberiad by by Stanislaw Lem.

Some posts that I consider somewhat better than others:

Who was Martin Niemöller and why you should care.
Who was Ignaz Mezei and why you should care
Censorship and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11
Control the pictures
Critical thinking and polemical film
Democracy in 2004 the state we're in
Democracy in 2005 new meaning
The Ghost of Henry Kissenger
The Prisoner
The Revenge Fantasy
Signing statements - the quiet coup.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
Woodward's fall
Idiocy highlights
Older Examples

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Taxing unproductive learning

[The following is a letter to the editor I wrote to which they "printed." It was written in response to an piece titled, Iraq Study Group: Learn Arabic you morons!]

How many people remember the 80s? Anyone remember the time before the Reagan administration started to tax scholarships and financial aid? I was a grad student in the 80s (and Reagan's attack on financial aid drove me out of graduate school). I remember the implementation of taxes on financial aid. The exemptions prove very interesting: medicine, dentistry, the "hard sciences (i.e.: chemistry, physics), Business, Finance, Economics. The tax on financial aid, especially at the graduate level, penalized people for studying subjects without a clear, proven economic usefulness. In the peculiarly American contempt for education that does not have an obvious and simple link to a high income after school the Reagan administration taxed all "unproductive" learning as some sort of self-indulgent luxury that the society would not support by exempting grants to pay for it from taxes. This expressed contempt for other languages and cultures by discouraging the people who would like to study them.

One would think that someone somewhere in power would realize this. That the next place in the world where a U.S. administration may take an interest no one can predict. The attack on education that started in the 80s continues to this day and it bears fruit in the present mess that the Bush administration forced us into. Maybe while people in power are trying to figure out how to sort out the mess the Neocons made they can also do the pretty simple act of restoring support, or at least stop taxing support, for education.