30 December 2008

My Take On The Current Israeli-Hamas Fighting

Posted this as a reply to a topic related to the current fighting between Israel and Hamas on the IPeace group on the Ning social network this morning.

The opinions below are entirely my own, and are my responsibility, especially in whatever errors of fact and judgment found therein.

Be seeing you.

Personally, haven't followed this story much, but, from have followed of it, am disgusted with the levels of cynicism on both Hamas' and the Olmert government's parts.

It seems to me that neither side has ever shown much more than a token rhetorical commitment to having a cease-fire, let alone peace, between the two, and that both were looking for an excuse, any excuse, to re-start hostilities at the earliest possible date.

Add on to that, the rhetoric and actions of various interested outside parties like the US, Iran and Syria, none of which have any real interest, so it would seem, in finding any real solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, for ideological and strategic reasons of their own.

There are also other non-state groups and individuals, like Hizbollah in Lebanon, Al-Qaida, AIPAC and various Christian fundamentalists in the US, who have added their rhetorical weights behind either Hamas or the Olmert goverment in Israel, and who would also love seeing this conflict widen and deepen to achieve their respective ideals and goals.

All of these parties are playing a cynical game, with their own publics and the world public at large, and Israeli and Palestinian civilians are paying the price for their leaders', and those of the various states and groups that have mentioned here, willingness to bomb, bomb, bomb each other to bits, and send up howls of righteous indignation, while secretly saying to themselves and their closest followers, "Another one dead. Good."

This is far from the first time that such a game has been played, especially in the Middle East, and, unfortunately, it won't be the last.

These parties and their allies are all too happy to play in each other's blood, so long as the blood in which they play doesn't belong to anyone to whom they are close, and will continue to do it for as long as they see some sort of benefit and reward.

Had I the power and resources to carry this out, I would isolate these parties completely. No diplomatic relations, no money, no trade, and not even humanitarian assistance would go to them. Communications of all sorts between them and the outside world would be entirely cut off, and they would be left to fester and rot in their own filth and misery.

For those Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and Iranians who wished to leave, I would, in conjunction with other members of the international community, ensure that provisions were made by the international community to resettle those people in various countries.

This isolation would continue until the various parties involved agreed to an immediate and binding cease-fire, immediately followed by a massive demobilisation of their regular and paramilitary armed forces, and the beginning of a UN-supervised disarmament of these parties' armed forces, including their various police forces, and the simultaneous immediate commencement between these parties and their backers, as well as their immediate neighbours, like Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, of talks aimed at a long-term settlement of the various problems between them.

No member of the various delegations would be permitted to stall or walk out of these negotiations, and those who tried would be immediately arrested and detained until they returned to the talks and ceased engaging in obstructive behaviour.

As for their leaders and supporters back home, the various sanctions placed upon them would continue for as long as they continued to indulge themselves in rhetoric and actions designed to further worsen the crisis, and to obstruct any efforts at making a lasting peace agreement.

If they kept on indulging themselves, the more and tougher the sanctions would become, and the more suffering they would have to endure.

As for their supporters abroad, the international community would have to take swift and decisive action. They wouldn't be allowed to send money nor goods to the various parties, either directly or through third countries, and, as for going to enlist in the various parties' armed forces, they would, as much as possibly could, be stopped and arrested wherever they were, and detained until the crisis had passed.

As for those providing rhetorical support, depending on the level and type of rhetoric used, criminal and civil charges would be placed against those advocating violent actions in either Israel, Palestine, or in any other country. At the very least, those people would be looking at long periods of time spent in court and severe financial penalties, if not gaol or prison time.

I realise that what am proposing here is both extremely harsh and, because of the grand scale involved, ultimately impractical and destined to failure, precisely because so many people and resources would have to be mobilised to carry it off successfully.

However, at the very least, some form of sanctions against both Hamas and Israel may be needed to get them to stop fighting, if not to the negotiation table.

Ultimately, the international community's goal should be, in my opinion, to make a long-lasting peace between the Israelis, Palestinians and their neighbours based on what will benefit the vast majority of people in their respective societies, and that will ensure the most beneficial use and sharing of resources between them.

This isn't, and won't be, an easy or short process to undergo. But, I believe it is a necessary one if the international community at all levels wants to see an end to the fighting between Israel and its Arab enemies.

But, so long as the Israeli government and Hamas are allowed to continue attacking each other's peoples, and little or nothing is done, outside of rhetorical protests, the cycle of cynical game-playing and bloodshed between them will continue.

Finally, to the various partisans of the Israeli and Palestinian sides outside of Israel and Palestine, I say this;if you must continue your rhetorical and other forms of support for your sides' various policies and actions, I would remind you that you are outsiders in this struggle, and, since you don't live in the region, this isn't your fight at all.

Whatever your motivations and ideas behind your rhetoric and actions are, they only worsen an already horrid situation and contribute nothing positive whatsoever to its ending.

If you feel you must go to either Israel or Palestine, enlist in their armed forces and fight, I will not encourage you to do so. But, at least, you'd be putting your beliefs into action, and taking a direct share and risk in doing so.

If not, then please, please, don't make the situation any worse than it already is, by indulging yourselves in inflammatory rhetoric and actions designed to further encourage the Israeli government's or Hamas' leaders in their barbaric policies, rhetoric and actions.

It's not your fight, and never was.

Instead, I would suggest that you, along with others, start putting sufficient pressure on your own governments to ensure that they either pressure the Israeli government and Hamas to immediately stop fighting, or, at the very least, firmly and totally stay out of the affair, and not supply anything, whether money, arms or other goods, that will help the parties involved to continue it.

If one cannot help better the situation, for God's Sake, please don't make it any worse.

23 November 2008

Autism Blog Comments Article By Yours Truly

Could be wrong, but I think that every aspiring writer, artist, or other creative type has at least the occasionaly day-dream about being discovered by a working writer, editor, agent or producer, and being given a chance by that person to show a sample of some of his or her stuff to the world.

Well, it happened to me last Thursday evening, when I went onto one of Lisa Jo Rudy's old blog posts on the Autism section of About.com, the link to which is enclosed, here,http://autism.about.com/b/2008/05/26/autism-parents-and-two-kinds-of-love.htm,
which was, in its turn, a discussion of a New York magazine article, “The New Wave of Autism Rights Activists” by Andrew Solomon, the link to which is here at http://nymag.com/news/features/47225/index1.html.

So, I went back to Ms. Rudy's blog, and, mind you, was in a bit of a furious tizzy at some of the various comments I had seen, as well as at various posts on an autism forum that had joined several days prior to seeing these articles, and dashed off a lengthy commentary on the sorts of nastiness between the various camps in the Autism community, to whose on-going debates am still a newbie, I'll admit.

Well, I was pretty surprised and flattered when I received an e-mail from Ms. Rudy the next morning, saying how much she enjoyed my comments and asking me if I would mind having them printed in an article of their own on her blog.

I immediately said Yes, and quite a bit more beyond that, I can assure you, and, yesterday afternoon, they were.

Am just tickled pink, as can be imagined, by this, and by the positive comments about them(5 thus far, as of last night), left on that post.

Now, whether or not this will ever lead to anything else beyond this, I will have to wait and see on.

It may not, in which case, that's fine, as I can continue doing whatever it is I do anyhow.

If it does, well, I will have to see and decide upon if and when, and only thus, more such opportunities come my way.

Can get myself worked up over what may appear to be a new opportunity for self-expression, and yes, -advancement, as I would love nothing more than to be able to support myself by writing and other creative pursuits.

But, as my therapist has often told me in the past, "Let's cross that bridge, when we come to it", and not before, which I think is sound advice.

So, am enjoying this for what it is, and while it lasts, and am trying not to expect anything more to come from it, which can be quite hard for me, but is necessary, I think.

Anyhow, enough blather about all that.

Here's the link to the article,http://autism.about.com/b/2008/11/22/an-adult-with-autism-makes-a-case-for-moderation-in-the-autism-wars.htm#gB3.

Would very like like to thank Ms. Lisa Jo Rudy for reading these comments in an old post, seeing whatever merit they may have, and for publishing them in her blog at About.com.

That was, and is, a very kind and gracious set of things for her to do, particularly as she didn't have to take either the time or trouble to do them.

Ms. Rudy, you've my thanks and gratitude for doing this.

In closing, I would like also like to thank a Twitter friend/follower of mine, "disability", who designs and constructs web-sites for disabled people, and who has Cerebral Palsy himself.

If it weren't for the links that he posts from his site(am going to give you the address to the site's Autism section here, http://www.disabilityresourcelinks.com/autism/, I would never have found Ms. Rudy's article, and the last two posts here simply wouldn't exist.

So, many thanks to "disability" for the links, and bravo to him for all he does!!!

Please read the articles at the various links, see what you think of the various arguments, including my own, presented therein, and decide for yourselves.

Be seeing you.

18 November 2008

On The 30th Anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre

To-day marks the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre, in which a little over 900 people, who were members of the San Francisco-based People's Temple, either committed suicide by drinking a cynanide-laced, imitation Kool-Aid brand soft drink called Flavor-Aid, were injected with poison, or were shot by members of the People's Temple security force at the settlement in western Guyana, at the behest of the church's leader, the Reverend Jim Jones.

The settlement had been established in Guyana two years prior to the massacre, as a refuge from what Jones and the People's Temple's members considered to be a ruthlessly racist and fascist-minded America, and it was hoped by those same people that a new, egalitarian, socialist society could be successfully founded and run there.

Because of media and US government investigations into the Temple's finances and other practises, as well as allegations by former People's Temple members of various forms of abuse by the church's leadership, all of which culminated in a visit by Congressman Leo Ryan to Jonestown a few days before the massacre, which ended when Congressman Ryan, the staffers accompaning him, and a number of news media personnel, were gunned down by People's Temple security personnel,as they waited for an airplane to take them back to the US, at Kaituma airstrip, only a few miles from Jonestown, on 17th November, 1978.

In the fear and paranoia already running rampant among Jones, the people immediately around him, and among many of the ordinary church members, Jones made the decision that, in light of what had happened to Ryan and the other members of his party, it would be best for the settlers at Jonestown, himself included, to commit an act of “revolutionary suicide against the conditions of an inhumane world,” as Jones himself put it in his address to his followers that day, rather than, and most especially in the case of the People's Temple's children, being subjected to potential interrogation and torture by American troops, whom Jones imagined would be dispatched to Guyana once news of Ryan's death had got out.

That, along with a high-ranking People's Temple leader, who killed herself and three children in Georgetown, Guyana's capital, that same day, is what happened 30 years ago to-day.

The temple dissolved itself very shortly thereafter.

But, the cultural after-effects linger to this day, especially in the many popular culture references to the Jonestown Massacre(at least two theatrical and television films giving a fictionalised depiction of the People's Temple and the Jonestown Massacre have been made, and there have been any number of depictions of fictional cults based on the People's Temple that have appeared in many more films and television programmes since then), especially in the phrase, “Drinking the Kool-Aid”, which means an unthinking willingness to swallow what beliefs a given belief system has.

However, there were real people who died in Jonestown and in Georgetown on 18th November, 1978, and who died, not necessarily because they were a bunch of wackos with bizarre beliefs.

That's the most superficial and wrong-headed take on the Jonestown Massacre, I think.

The People's Temple, especially what it became in the early-to mid-1970's, was an outgrowth of, first, the idealism and hope for change brought about by the civil rights movement of the 1950's and '60's, and, second, of the despair, fear and cynicism brought about by the Viet-Nam War, the political, social and cultural conflicts born of that war, and the revelations in the early and mid-1970's about Watergate, the CIA's dirty deeds in many parts of the world as revealed in the Church Comission report of 1975, and many other similar events.

Many People's Temple members, leaders and led alike, had begun as activists and supporters of the civil rights movement, the anti-Viet-Nam War movement, and other, similar contemporary movements, or, at the very least, had the experience of being African-American or Latino and poor in a country that barely tolerated their existence before and during that period.

In that regard, they were actually quite similar to many Americans who lived through that period, who had felt that initial rush of optimism that America and the world could be changed for the better, and who saw those hopes dashed, not just once, or twice, but again, and again, and again.

Some of the People's Temple's contemporaries continued on in their involvement with the Democratic Party or various civil rights, feminist and other organisations; others still went farther left-ward, whether to the various political sects like the Bay Area Maoist Alliance(to-day's Revolutionary Communist Party),and a few even went so far as to join urban guerrilla groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army, to-day most famous for kidnapping Patty Hearst in 1975, and most of whom were killed in a shoot-out with police in Oakland, California in 1976.

Others yet, simply dropped out of politics entirely, and either went into self-improvement belief systems like Gestalt or Esalen, or tried to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives.

Cynicism and boredom, along with a feeling of doom throughout much of general American culture, thanks to the ever-present shadow of nuclear anihilation in the middle part of the Cold War years(please remember that this is around the same time that the survivalist movement got its start), were the hallmarks of the day in American culture.

Every major institution that most Americans had been raised to believe in and trust had been shown wanting in the 1960's and '70's, and, when combined with Nixon's two electoral victories in 1968 and 1972, and the Watergate scandal that toppled his presidency in 1974, I think that a fair number of Americans, People's Temple members included, could understandably become very, very cynical about the American political and social systems, and their capacities for any meaningful change.

Most Americans who felt that way, however, didn't take the People's Temple route, just as they didn't take the Weathermen's or Symbionese Liberation Army's route, either.

Nonetheless, those People's Temple leaders and members, even with the extreme version of those beliefs, weren't alien creatures dropped down from another planet, lunatics just released from an insane asylum, nor vicious criminals out of a comic book or thriller novel, like the Executioner series then popular and widely sold in supermarkets and other such stores in 1970's America.

They were people who, in their disappointment, frustration, rage, and fear at what had happened in America in the 1960's and '70's, and who were afraid that America would become even more viciously reactionary and racist, ended up following a man who had a set of beliefs in the ideals of equality and socialism, which later on ended up evolving into a declared belief in communism.

However, this same man, the Reverend Jim Jones, was also paranoid, and, as time went on, and the Temple's members and resources grew, one who let the power he had over the member's lives and resources corrupt him in ways great and small.

Jones and his flock didn't just wake up one morning and decide, “You know what??? To-day's a GREAT day to kill ourselves!!! Whaddya think???”.

This was the end of a process of years of feeling persecuted and hounded, and, in the last two years of the Temple's existence, those feelings would certainly seem to have had at least some objective backing by the US government's, and media, investigations into the church's financial and other practises, all of which culminated in Congressman Leo Ryan's ill-fated visit to Jonestown in November, 1978.

I am, by no means, defending Jones's, or the People's Temple's, beliefs and practises.

From what little I know of them, there was much going on within the church that was indefensible, at the very least.

What I am trying to do is explain, however badly on my part, how and why the People's Temple's leaders and members felt the ways they did, and their rationale behind the suicides and murders that took place in Jonestown and Georgetown, Guyana on 18th November, 1978.

I had no family, friends nor acquaintances whom I lost there on that day.

I've no intimate, nor, as far as I know, even distant, connections to the People's Temple and its members.

I was just a little over a month older than 14 on that day, and was living with my mother, father, and two of my sisters in a trailer outside of Reno, Nevada, when this happened.

This was simply another tv news story to me, and, when the television movie starring Powers Boothe as the Reverend Jim Jones appeared in 1981, it was another tv film, albeit one I thought, at the time, that was quite well done, to me as well.

It wasn't until seeing a documentary on the People's Temple and the Jonestown Massacre on PBS two years ago that I became interested in the People's Temple and the Jonestown Massacre, and it was in the course of noodling around for information about both on-line that I came across this site, “Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple,” at http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/, that I began acquiring what little sense I have about the People's Temple, its leaders and members, what happened throughout the church's existence, and how it came to its grisly end.

There are documents, textual, pictoral and audio, on there, and on other sites linked to it, from a variety of viewpoints, including those who were People's Temple members, defectors from the Temple, and many others, including some from a perspective not generally given at all in accounts of the People's Temple and the Jonestown Massacre-the Guyanan perspective.

To those who would say, “So who cares what the Guyanans thought about this???”, I would rejoinder that the settling of Jonestown, and the Jonestown Massacre, happened in Guyana, on Guyanan soil, and that it was Guyana Defence Force troops who first came into Jonestown after the massacre, and saw what had taken place there.

Therefore, this event is as much a part of Guyanan history as it is American, and any viewpoint that doesn't take this into account is incomplete, at best.

It was on this site that I began to see the People's Temple members as they were, fellow Americans and fellow human beings with whom I had this in common-we had been through, from very different angles, yes, many, if not all, of the same historical circumstances and events.

What particularly struck me was coming across, in the photos section of the web-site, photographs of children and teen-agers, many of whom either would be my age, or just barely older or younger than I am to-day, and realising that, for them, there never would be a growing-up.

That stopped, along with their lives, at an agricultural settlement in western Guyana on 18th November, 1978.

They didn't deserve to have this happen to them, whatever the beliefs, follies and crimes of their elders, and none of these people, whatever their role in the People's Temple, and whatever their deeds or mis-deeds, deserve simply to be dismissed as a bunch of nuts who threw their lives away for nothing.

Yes, they threw their lives away for a paranoid, frightened leader who had long ago succumbed to the temptations of egotism and arrogance that power, even a relatively small-scale power such as Jones had, over the lives and destinies of others; a man who, in his frightened foolishness, ordered murderously foolish deeds, including the mass suicide-murder of himself and his followers.

They were wrong, and wrong-headed, to follow such a man.

But, they weren't mere nuts.

They were human beings, as full of grace and graceless, as you and I.

Their death was a sad, needless one.

Jones, in life, preached a form, of egalitarianism that later became socialist, and finally, communist, in form.

But, at the end of the day, he didn't practise what he preached very well. Not at all.

So, in closing, I would say this to my friends and colleagues on the Left.

Don't always take someone for the genuine article because he or she has a fine rap that gets all of the brothers, sisters and comrades jumping up and down for joy.

Watch his or her actions, and especially the way in he or she treats those around him or her, carefully.

If there is too much of a conflict between the fine words used by this person, and the shabby ways in which he or she treats those around him or her, walk away from them, and have nothing more to do with them.

Encourage others to do the same, as well, especially if the leader involved has knows what he or she is doing is wrong, and has absolutely no intention of changing his or her ways.

Jones wasn't the first, nor the last, leader who used socialist ideals and beliefs, just as other politicians and leaders have used their respective ideals and beliefs, to justify the worst offences of which they were capable.

But, we can, and must, avoid letting people of Jones' calibre lead others down the garden path to no-where, and we must avoid succumbing to the same temptations that power, especially unbridled power, can bring.

To those readers who are not on the Left, I would say this, please remember that people,even idealistic, well-intentioned, reasonably intelligent people, are quite capable of making decisions and taking actions that, in the end, result in sheer horror.

To me, these are the lessons of Jonestown.

Others are free to draw their own conclusions from this, but these are the ones I take away.

Here Endeth The Lesson, and Be Seeing You.

14 November 2008

An Apology For The Mis-Information About The Anti-Prop 8 Protests

Earlier this afternoon, I posted a trio of links about various and sundry anti-Prop 8 protests to be found, both nationally and in the Las Vegas and Reno areas.

Well, I left the house and headed over to where the protest was going to be held, only to find out that they are scheduled for to-morrow afternoon, not to-day.

This, some of you may already know.

To them, and to the rest of you out there, I wish to apologise, because it was my stupid misunderstanding of the day and my rush in posting the links so I could get out the door to attend the protest that caused that.

No-one held a gun to my head. I got in a hurry-scurry mode, and passed out bad info.

That is my fault, and I wish to sincerely apologise to all of you out there for doing that.

Thank You for your time and attention.

Yours, D.

Three Links To GLBTQ Anti-Proposition 8 Protests, Both Nationally and in Nevada, To-Day

Here are a trio of links, which I got from a People For The American Way e-mail this afternoon, to Join The Impact!!! web-pages for info about anti-Proposition 8 protests being held nation-wide to-day.

The first is to the national page, http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/?t=anon, where one can click on the name of one's state or other territory to be taken to the appropriate page for more information on where and when these protests are taking place in one's area.

The second is to the Nevada page, where one can find the times and locations of anti-Prop 8 protests in either the Las Vegas or Reno areas, at http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/page/Nevada, and the third's to the Las Vegas, Nevada page at http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/page/Las+Vegas, where one can find the protest location, complete with Google Map of the area in which it will be held, and start and stop times for the protest.

If you can't make it to any of these, please diffuse this information as widely as you can, if you are able and willing to.

Be seeing you, or at least some of you, at the protests, and thanks for reading this.

08 November 2008

An Apology To My Californian Friends and Readers

Received a graciously critical reply to the message enclosed along with the Courage Campaign Repeal Prop 8 link I sent out this afternoon from an old and dear friend of mine, who justifiably criticised the use of certain nasty terms in it, as well as its loose grip on the facts regarding civil unions and its pedantic tone.

Have already apologised to her in my reply to her message, and promised that I would send out a similar apology to you all as soon as I was done with my reply to her.

So, here it is, in plural form, addressed to each and every one of you who read the earlier message.

The only defensible reason I can and will give for the use of those terms is that, in confronting the many attitudes that support Prop 8 and other measures, including Nevada's own Defense of Marriage Act, far too often, these attitudes are disguised by language like "Defense of", and "Protection of" "Traditional Values", "Family Values" and the like.

All of these are euphemisms, as you and I, and indeed, the other people to whom I sent this message already well know.

For me, the idea in using those terms is to strip away the euphemisms masking the attitudes and beliefs underneath.

I don't endorse those attitudes nor their expression, either verbally, rhetorically nor physically.

My intention was, and is, to say to those who may hold such attitudes, "All right, you don't like such people. Fine. Doesn't give you the right to keep them from making an honest living, getting married, having kids, or doing anything else that isn't harmful to you or anyone else."

Thinking about it now, this is the approach that I'd have best taken to start.

So, when this reply is done, I will publish what I've just written above, along with apologies for the use of those terms and the factual errors about civil unions, in my next blog post, which I will publish this evening.

I will offer no excuses for the terms nor for the errors, period.

Will also do so in a shortened version which I will send to the others to whom I sent this message.

The more I think about it, the more I can see that the use of such terms, while meant to strip away the polite veneer masking the ugliness underneath, not only hurts those who are direct targets of those terms, and worse, and alienates those who support the victims of such abuse, such as yourself, but also, by using them in an attack on those who do hold those beliefs, only strengthens those beliefs, because no one likes being called a son of a bitch, even if one is a son of a bitch, and only gives rise to a "Screw you!!!" mentality on the part of the person or persons being called that.

Now that I think about it, I think that I can see, however dimly, that, by stripping away any legitimacy of belief or choice on such people's part, I deny them the same amount of humanity and capacity for change that I would like for myself and others to enjoy.

In short, am doing, albeit rhetorically, the same damned thing some of 'em do to others-taking away their rights and humanity.

That, too, will be acknowledged in the follow-up essay to come, and in the message I send out to the others.

I also apologise for the pedantic tone of the essay.

Thought I was writing a corker of an essay, when, in fact, I pulled a bone-head stunt.

For perpetrating something like this, and for wasting your time, I most sincerely apologise.

It wasn't my intention to cause anyone any harm in any way, and most certainly not to waste time, energy and effort on your parts by indulging myself in bad rhetoric.

I did, and that's my responsibility.

I can be an over-enthusiastic jack-ass at times, and this was definitely one of them.

If you can forgive me for this, I would be honoured.

If not, I entirely understand.

Life's too short to put up with junk, even well-intentioned junk, and that was what I put out this afternoon.

Be seeing you.

Yours, D.

To My Californian Friends

This is the text, very slightly edited for blog form, of a message I included along with a link to the Courage Campaign's Repeal Prop 8 petition web-page link, and sent to some friends of mine of who live in California this afternoon.

Have already signed the petition, though, since am a Nevadan, have scant confidence that it will qualify to be placed on the petition, and rightfully so.

Nonetheless, I think that, by sending the link to them, and by including the message to them that went with it here, I can do my tiny bit for the cause of greater equality and democracy, not only in California or Nevada, but in the US as well.

Hey there!!!!

Hope you're all doing better than well out there.

Mr. Amigo and I are still alive and still kicking back here.

Anyhow, just wanted to give you a link to the Courage Campaign's Repeal Prop 8 web-page, in the hopes that you might sign the petition to repeal Proposition 8 there.

Now, you may be asking yourselves, why have I singled you out here??? Well, mainly because you live in California, and this is, at least in my opinion, an affair of no small importance to your state and its people, including yourselves.

So, you may be asking yourselves and me, "Why should I care whether or not a bunch of nancy-boys and carpet-chewers get to marry???".

OK, here's the answer: marriage rights confer, not just the right for one individual to permanently co-habit with another(if that were the case, one might as well not bother getting married at all), but confer the power of attorney in legal, medical, and financial arenas, if one of the partners involved becomes incapacitated or dies.

Well, I don't know about you, but it seems to me that that's a pretty whopping amount of rights and duties involved there, and married status carries with those a certain amount of legal protections and privileges(tax deductions, for example)not given to singles or people living outside of legally-recognised wedlock.

Civil unions, which are the proposed substitute for marriage rights for gays and lesbians, don't, as far as I know, include the same amount, if any, of those same rights, duties, privileges and protections, as does marriage, period.

One could say that civil unions are the legal equivalent of saccharine or near beer-a poor substitute that only barely approximates the look, taste and feel of the real thing, and, like all such substitutes, is at best, a poor copy of it.

Also, this fight for marriage rights for gays and lesbians is, I believe, part of a much longer, broader struggle for greater equality and democracy in this country that has taken place from the very beginning of our Republic.

How so???

Please don't forget that, when this Union was founded in 1789, only propertied European-American males above the age of 21 could vote, women's social, economic and political statuses were tied to their fathers' or husbands, and African-Americans and Native Americans had no rights whatsoever under the Constitution, and were counted as being only 3/4ths of a person in the various national and state censuses.

It took well over a century of fighting, first with Dorr's Rebellion in Rhode Island in 1838, to end the property qualification for European-American males suffrage, a brutal and bloody Civil War, and the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution before African-Americans were no longer legally regarded as mere property, the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, before women 21 years and older could vote, and the passage of the 1964 Voting Rights Act that ended the system of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means of suppressing African-American suffrage in the American South, among many other struggles, many of which continue to-day, to bring about even a partial realisation of the promise of a more perfect union, founded on liberty and justice for all.

There are those out there who have, for reasons of their own, deep-rooted antipathies towards gays and lesbians.

These reasons may be religiously, culturally or aestethically-based.

So be it.

Some of you may share some of those reasons and the feelings behind them. I don't know.

To those who do, I say this.

Your objections to homosexuality and lesbianism are yours, for reasons that best make sense to you. Fine and dandy.

What isn't fine and dandy is when those objections, in whatever form, are made into public policy and law, because they affect EVERYONE, in some way or another, in this culture, and not just the objects of one's disdain.

This isn't just not allowing some mincing bum-stuffer or bull-dyke into one's own home. That's a private area, in which one has a certain amount of discretion.

But, when one's prejudices are made into law, as Proposition 8 has been, that impacts on people whom one will never meet, let alone know, not just for to-day or in the short term, but quite possibly for generations yet to come, and it makes the legal system the enforcement arm for those prejudices, thus prostituting it in the furtherance of bigotry, and making a damned lie out of the promises made in the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the various state constitutions about equality before the law and all that.

It's the enshrining of power and privileges for one segment of the population over another, and it is wrong for many reasons, but especially because it makes(again)a DAMNED lie out of the promises made by this country to its citizens.

To let Proposition 8 stand unchallenged, one might as well endorse a return to the social orders of 1789, or 1837, 1860, 1866, 1919, or 1963, and openly, proudly, say so and mean it.

At least then, one would be entirely consistent in one's devotion to a social and political order rooted in power and privileges for some, and a good, swift kick in the arse for others.

I have one final point to cover, and that is my enjoining you to please remember that those who deny rights, privileges and responsibilities to others may, at one point in time or another, find those same things denied to them, whether "gently"(there can be no truly gentle denial of rights, privileges and responsibilities, only a less brutal one)or brutally, and the reasons, justifications and excuses for that will be just as paper-thin, and just as wrong, and wrong-headed, in so many ways, it ain't even funny.

If you'd not be a slave, don't be a master, to paraphrase a saying by Abraham Lincoln.

Any political system that calls itself a democracy, whether of the liberal, representative type found in the US and much of the developed world, or the old socialist "People's Democracies" of the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, must ensure that the rights and needs of all of its people are put first and foremost in its ideas and practises.

Those that, for whatever reasons, don't, are, at best, limited democracies, and, at worst, grotesque, lying parodies of democracies.

This recent Presidential election was, I believe, a chance for us to truly strengthen and deepen our democracy in the US.

Here's another chance, albeit on a slightly smaller stage and a different issue, for you and yours to keep on doing those in your state.

The link follows below.

I thank you for the time and trouble you've taken in reading at least some of this, and my apologies to you for its length.


Be seeing you.

06 November 2008

Petition To Open The Presidential Debates Link

If you happen to have a Facebook account, please head on over to the following link below to sign a petition urging that the presidential debates be opened up to any and all viable presidential candidates in future elections, not just the Republican and Democratic ones.

Why is this important???

Because, one of the best ways of strengthening and deepening our democracy here in the US, is to ensure that the American people get to see and hear from as wide a range of presidential candidates from the various parties, major and minor, as possible.

That way, potential voters will have a solid idea of the range of ideological, policy and other choices available to them before going to the polls.

One may not like some of the candidates and what they represent when seen in the debates, but it is better to see and dislike them, than to not even know they exist at all.

The address follows below. Be seeing you.


05 November 2008

On Obama's Victory

In the aftermath of Obama's victory last night, I have the following things to say: the first being-OUTSTANDING!!!!

This is a victory that was long in coming, and not just for Obama's supporters, Democrats, and their sympathisers, but for the vast majority of the American people, who are lower-middle-class, working-class and poor, and who have generally been either ignored, used as pawns, or lied to in this country for much of its history.

That said, one thing to remember about Obama, and that he is a centre-Left Democrat, not a socialist, not a communist, and most definitely not an anarchist.

This means that one would be best advised not to expect huge changes in US domestic and foreign policies right off the bat, and that, depending on how and where one stands on any number of given issues, that there will be disappointments, and even times where one may stand up and scream at the top of one's lungs, "What the Fuck are you thinking???!!!" about some of them.

The New Millennium and the New Jerusalem are not here, and we'll not be led into them by Obama, nor anyone else.

But, especially after the last twenty-eight years of the Reagan Revolution and Republican dominance of American political ideology and politics, especially since the Congressional elections of 1994 and the Presidential election of 2000, there is now, both in the White House and on Capitol Hill, a breed of folks who are willing and, I hope, able to take on the many important issues that seriously need addressing in this country that have gotten short shrift for so long.

Many of these problems are of long-standing and will NOT be solved within the first three or six months of the Obama Administration, nor even within the confines of a first Obama Administration.

There will be no magic-wand waving, automatic problem-solving solutions served up, like a short-order cook serving up a plate of liver and onions to go, by the new Administration, and one is best advised to take that into account from the get-go.

All that said, the Obama victory represents to me, not just the expulsion of the Republicans from the White House, and the further decrease of their power in the House and Senate, but a victory over some of the worst and nastiest parts of our collective psychology.

For all the race- and religion-baiting that went on in the campaign, Obama's victory proved that those tactics work less and less well in many parts of the US.

Screaming "Nigger!!!" at the top of one's lungs, however directly or indirectly, and bashing people for being "socialists", "communists", etc, don't quite have the Pavlovian-reflex, "Can't let THAT happen!!!" response from much of the American voting public that they used to get, and thank God for that.

Much of the appeal of the Reagan Revolution, as well as the Goldwater and George Wallace campaigns before it, were rooted in a nostalgia for a seemingly simpler time in American history, with MGM-esque ideals of small, mainly-, if not all-white, towns, where Just Plain Folks worked hard, went to church on Sunday, obeyed all the laws and rules, and everyone knew their place and got along.

That picture of 19th and early 20th Century America was, at best, a half-truth, and, at worst, a damned lie told, by the folks at MGM and other Hollywood studios, to sell movie tickets, and by politicians and pundits to advance their agendas.

We know what those agendas are, because so much of what was in them has been made into reality over these 27 years past.

Either way, the American people, at least a goodly percentage of them, bought into this, in one way or another, and, as a result, this country is in quite a mess at home and abroad.

The time for nostalgia for a time and place that never really existed is long over.

There is the present, and the future, and, depending on the ideas, words and actions that the Obama Administration, Congress, the various state and local governments, business and other institutions, and we so-called ordinary Americans decide to undertake, we can, by mid-century, either have a soundly functioning, though imperfect, nation that continues to improve, a badly functioning one that barely works in any area of endeavour at all, or, worst of all, a Balkanised collection of successor states born of failures of ideas, policies and actions at every level, including and especially the popular level.

These are the choices that we and our posterity face that stand out most strongly to me in the years and decades ahead.

The changes that I believe are necessary to have the US better live up to the ideals and promises made by our Founding Fathers and their successors, right down to the present day, must in one form or another be implemented, and they probably won't be implemented in either a first, or, if it should come to pass, a second Obama Administration.

Many of them, I hope, will at least get their starts during that time, and will be further improved upon and deepened over the course of time.

But, only if our governing classes, business classes, media classes, and especially we, the American people, are willing and able to do that.

If either none, or too few, of any of us are, we will find ourselves far worse off than we are now down the road, and we will have no-one, and I repeat NO-ONE, but ourselves to blame for that situation.

John McCain, however bitter and at times nasty, he and his campaign could get during the election campaign, gave, in my view, a lovely and gracious concession speech last night.

For that, if nothing else, he has my respect.

I would hope that some of his supporters might feel the same way and act in a likewise manner.
However, I don't expect many of them to do so.

What I do expect out of them is to at least disagree with the Obama Administration and its supporters in a relatively civilised manner, without resorting to racial or religious bigotry.

If they cannot do that, they are worthy of neither attention nor respect whatsoever.

No one political party, faction, racial, ethnic, religious or economic group is entitled to for-ever hang onto power in the US Constitution, as far as I know, and that includes Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, or any other party presently active in the US political system.

Oh, there are those that have tried, but, in the end, have failed to do that

In time, the Democrats will eventually lose power, as happens in any reasonably functioning representative democratic system of government, and be succeeded by either the Republicans or one of the many minor parties.

But, in the meantime, they are in power, and it's my sincerest hope that they will use it wisely and well.

If not, they will deserve to lose power, as have the Republicans.

To my fellow Democrats, and to my colleagues and comrades on the greater American Left, we now have a chance to make this country, and to help make this planet, safer, saner, better places than when we found them.

Let's not blow it.

To the Republicans and other conservatives, I say this; the best conservatives, it seems to me, wish to keep the very best aspects of their societies and cultures going. That can best be done by recognising that the larger the number of people in their culture who can either only barely earn a living or not earn a living at all, the more violent, crime-and-vice-ridden, and ultimately unstable it will be, especially over the long-term.

They don't, as Thomas Paine remarked about Edmund Burke's attitude towards the French monarchy overthrown by the French Revolution, "pity the plumage but forget about the dying bird."

They recognise that the more economically and socially secure their people, and not just the upper classes and their supporters, are, the more stable and happier their society will be.

Those who fail to recognise that fact, and insist that solutions involving more police, more prisons, and/or the exclusive use of military force in foreign and domestic affairs, are the ONLY solutions worth considering, are setting themselves and their posterity up for a very hard fall indeed.

There is much work to be done, and it is time to get to it.

Be seeing you.

04 November 2008

To-Day's The Day

That's right. It's Election Day in these fifty United States, plus Puerto Rico and the various territories associated with the US.

So, if you're eligible to vote, and haven't already done so, especially in those parts of the US like my home state of Nevada, where one can vote early(which I did on Thursday last), go do it to-day.

Don't procrastinate about this. MAKE the time and take the trouble to vote, because of the importance of this particular election's out-come to not only the US, but the world.

I voted for Obama/Biden, and I would urge all those who call themselves progressives, whether of a moderate, liberal or radical stripe, to do likewise.

If you can't bring yourself to do that, at least vote for Nader/Gonzalez, Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party's Presidential nominee, or the various nominees for the Peace and Freedom Party, Communist Party USA, Socialist Workers' Party, or any of the other Left parties that may be on the ballot in your particular part of the Union.

If you're of a rightist bent, then vote for Bob Barr, the Libertarian Presidential nominee, the American(Independent American Party in Nevada)Party's nominee, or whomever else you feel will do the job.

As for McCain/Palin, I won't endorse votin' for 'em. But, if that's whom you support the most strongly, then vote for 'em, nonetheless.

Either way, and for whomever you go and vote, just get out there and vote as soon as possible.

Authoritarian types love small electoral turn-outs, because those results, and those constituencies that do participate, are just that much easier to control.

So, what are you waiting for??? An engraved invitation from the Czar of All the Russias???? Well, forget about that, 'cos, the Czar's long-gone, and so's his staff, so forget about the invite.

Just go down to your local polling place, get in line, and take the time and trouble to cast your vote for the candidates and causes you want.

Do it TO-DAY, 'cos to-morrow's gonna be too damn little, too damn late, and the polls will be closed.

Vote, so at the very least, you'll have earnt the right to bitch about the results, policies and out-comes of this election, and the people put in as a result thereof.

If you don't, that's on your head, and yours alone.

Finally, to any Californians reading this, please vote NO on Prop. 8. Marriage is for everyone, or at least should be.

That's it from here.

Go vote, and be seeing you.

31 October 2008

Hallowe’en Early Voting Turn-Out In Las Vegas

Just wanted to let y'all know really fast that, while I was out walking around my neighbourhood with a neighbour of mine, she happened to espy a long line of people extending out of the Albertson's supermarket at the intersection of Bonanza and Lamb, here in North-East Las Vegas.

When she inquired as to what they were doing, I guessed that they were turning out to vote in the current election.

After I parted from my neighbour a few minutes later, I went across the street to go into a nearby drugstore and pick up, at very last minute, some Hallowe'en candy for any of the local squabs that might come a-knockin' this All-Hallows Eve.

Before I did that, went up to a campaign worker at the line's end, and asked if this was the line for voting.

She replied in the affirmative, and mentioned to me that, while the polls were being advertised as closing at 7:00 PM PDT, polling would continue at that location beyond that time.

Shortly thereafter, an election observer called out the news that the line at the Albertson's located on Nellis and Vegas Valley was considerably shorter than the one at Bonanza and Lamb, and those who could get there might wish to do that.

The campaign worker with whom I'd been speaking went up to him and asked him about the polling hours, to which he replied that anyone who was still in line at 7:00 PM would be allowed to vote then.

From there, went into the drugstore, got the Hallowe'en candy, and pissed off home to write this.

I can tell you, from my own experience yesterday, and from seeing the line outside the Albertson's to-night that, if the early voting turn-out's any indication of what it might be on Election Day proper, I have a feeling that it will be a very high percentage of the eligible electorate in Southern Nevada, if not the rest of the state.

Makes for a refreshing change from the usual miserably low turn-outs here, especially in local elections.

Happy Hallowe'en, and Be Seeing You.

22 October 2008

Joe The Plumber, Or Dog-Whistle Politics, Part Two

Originally wrote this as a comment to the last essay-lette I wrote on this topic, and posted to a blog on my page at I-Power. The commentator left three YouTube videos featuring Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, as well as a couple of text comments indicating that he agreed with Mr. Wurzelbacher.

Well, saw the last of those video comments, an interview he gave the Toledo Blade after the last Presidential debate, and, to be blunt, Mr. Wurzelbacher didn't say anything in it, that I haven't heard, read nor seen on-line a thousand or so times before, whether out of the mouths of politicians, pundits or so-called ordinary folks like Mr. Wurzelbacher.

Frankly, that kind of logic, thought and rhetoric bores me to tears and then some, because they are so familiar.

Half of what Wurzelbacher says in the Toledo Blade interview is practically imbibed along with mother's milk in many European-American lower-middle-class and working-class households, and is based, like it or not, in a couple of sentiments also commonly found in those homes, the first being "Thank God We're White", and the second, as articulated by the late James Baldwin in a 1987 Playboy essay, "Poverty is for niggers."

All the talk about personal responsibility, pulling oneself by one's own boot-straps, and all the rest of that comes from those sentiments, plus a feeling of entitlement to whatever resources that are available, and all the rest of it is just so much blah-blah designed to cover that.

I've no respect for Nazi-skinheads and assorted other racists, but I will say that, though some of them also try and goop their nastiness over by saying that it's about "White Pride" rather than good old-fashioned race hatred just like Mother used to make, I prefer their brand of logic and rhetoric, simply because they make no bones about their hatred, don't try to pretend they're good, and one knows exactly from where they're coming.

That's the only area in which I find people like that preferable, but, nonetheless, they are, for the most part, relatively honest about it.

There are, and have been, for the past two, nearly three decades, now, a decidedly upwardly skewed redistribution of wealth in this country, and a fair part of the world besides, and Mr. Wurzelbacher and other folks like him either don't see it, or don't want to see it, plain and simple.

Hell, if they could get in on the gravy train, they would, and with both hands outstretched as far as possible to get every little bit they could.

But, they've neither the education, the skills, nor the social and business connections required to make that happen, and, some very great exceptions aside, never will, plain and simple.

Doesn't stop 'em from dreamin', though.

Point is, considering that incomes for the vast majority of Americans, middle and lower-middle-class, working-class and poor have essentially stagnated or barely kept pace with rising costs in every area of life over the past thirty-forty years, such dreams are silly and wrong-headed.

Tax cuts for the one percent of Americans who belong to the upper and upper-middle-classes don't trickle down much to the rest of us, as, in many cases, the money that comes from those cuts is socked away in tax shelters and other forms of investments designed to benefit their holders, but that are essentially held back from the rest of the economy.

Those at the top layer of American society have no real love or regard for folks like Mr. Wurzelbacher, you, My dear Picidae, me, nor anyone else outside of their social circles whom they don't know, and why should they???

They don't know us, except as a sort of generalised mass of people, and one, and I don't care from part of the ideological spectrum one comes, can love people en masse and mean it.

Love is an emotion, as fickle and changeable as any other.

Respect and regard, while more reliable, come only through a certain amount of inter-personal contact, which most upper-class Americans have with lower-class ones only in the roles of master and man, employer and employee, and whatever other term one might want to use for that kind of relationship.

Hard to have anything in the way of genuine respect for someone when they are, though it is rarely explicitly said, one's social and economic inferior, and vice versa.

There's dependence, sure, fear for one's position and one's living, definitely, and a combination of the two built into every interaction between people from different classes.

But, I would say that it's pretty rare to find examples of genuine regard and respect between members of those classes, because of the way in which social and economic relations in this country are, and have been, from the beginning of this country.

Add in race, gender, sexual orientation, and any number of other factors one could care to name, and the anxiety levels and social tensions rise accordingly.

Ultimately, the idea that all Americans are just one big group of "pals" who are more or less equal in terms of rights, duties, etc, is a pretty laughable con-job.

There are significant differences between Americans, as in any other human group, that can be named, and won't bore you with a laundry list of those, and those differences are found within these various groups, as well as between them, and to over-look those and say that some Americans don't have it better than others, is an epic con-job, especially on one's self if one actually believes it.

Many of these differences are ones that have been created by past generations of Americans to benefit themselves and theirs at others' expense.

This continent was conquered, plain and simple, by fair means and foul, by Europeans and their descendants, who used every trick in the book that they knew to do it, and then some.

American capitalism couldn't have enjoyed half of the expansion it did in the mid-and late 19th Century and early-to-mid-20th Century without the use of cheap labour, whether it was slave labour in the pre-Civil War South, working-class Americans fresh off the farm and European immigrant labour in the Northeast and Midwest, or Chinese, Mexican and working-class European-American labour in the West, to pump out goods at very low cost.

Our economic, political and military ascendancy began in those years, grew, even if the Great Depression put a bit of a bite on it in the 1930's, during and after the First World War, and was essentially sealed by the Allied victory in World War Two, and our dominance in those areas, in much of the world anyway, came about because our industrial, agricultural and other resource bases weren't heavily damaged or destroyed outright, as the other powers', whether Allied or Axis, had been during that war.

It is those factors, I believe, that has made the US as rich as it has been.

But, with all that wealth, there generally came not greater wisdom nor compassion, but greater greed, malice and the desire to not only hold on to what we had, but to grab still more, and, if it came at others' expense, whether individually or collectively, no matter, as long as we got it.

While the vast majority of the blame for this should rightly be put at the feet of the US governing and business classes, there were, and are, plenty of so-called ordinary Americans who went along with these policies and actions for reasons of their own, some of which I've already outlined here, and who did so, whether by not resisting actions like the Viet-Nam and Iraq Wars, voting for candidates whose ideas and policies were designed to benefit the upper classes and their supporters while punishing those members of the lower classes, especially if they weren't European-American in origin, or who, in word and deed, supported segregation, whether of the de jure sort found in the American South, or the de facto kind found in the rest of the Union, and who resent and resist any changes, however small and late-coming, that have been made in that area of American life since the mid-1950's.

They have their fair share of the blame for the sort of mess we're in now, and have it coming, straight up, no chaser.

This doesn't mean that there aren't resentful, angry chuckleheads in the African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Native American, or Pacific Islander communities, who aren't also prejudiced and hateful. There are.

But, with the exception of a small handful of such individuals, those communities have historically been much more on the receiving end of the dirty end of the stick than have most European-Americans, and especially most upper- and middle-class European Americans, and that's something that people like Mr. Wurzelbacher either don't see, or refuse to see.

Poverty, oppression and marginalisation have traditionally been, as Mr. Baldwin put it, "for niggers,", but also for immigrants, so-called poor white trash, and any other person or group that fell outside of the so-called American mainstream, and these sentiments continue, albeit in generally more muted form than in previous decades, to hang about, like the proverbial bad penny in one's wallet.

That's why I don't believe Joe Wurzelbacher, and others like him.

There's just too much God-Damned historical baggage in back of what he says for me to take him at his word, and, considering the McCain campaign's use of Mr. Wurzelbacher and his comments for all they're worth, I see its use of him and his comments as just another ploy to keep on keepin' on with one variant or another of the same tired old monkey business that's taken place in the US since its foundation.

Thanks, but no thanks, Wurzelbacher. No sale here.

As for McCain, Palin, et al, sorry, folks, but this dog ain't a-comin' when y'all call, and I sure as Hell's ain't a-gonna hunt for y'all.

So, take that right-wing populist dog whistle y'all got in your back pocket, and go put it somewhere far out of sight.

19 October 2008

"The Orphan", Part Three

From there, it'd been a relatively simple matter of driving down to New Pawtucket, signing up at the Outcomes Insurers office, selling off the jeep at a used car lot, and locating a cheap lodging to spend the two days to a week needed before the freighter bound for his eventual destination in Dystopia(which, according to the Outcomes Insurers personnel officer with whom Christopher spoke, couldn't be divulged for security reasons)sailed.

The three days of waiting for the ship's call were long and tedious, as was the voyage itself, during which he shared a cabin with three other figures, none of whom seemed much interested in talking about themselves, nor anything else.

That actually suited Christopher just fine, as he didn't much like the looks of his present company, and he'd enough in the way of anxieties about where they'd end up, what they'd be facing, and how Mary, the newbies and the garage were doing back home, to keep him occupied.

After two days, which seemed like two weeks to Christopher, the ship landed at its port of call, Port Victory in what had once been the People's Socialist Republic of Oceania.

Oceania, like its immediate neighbours, Eurasia and Eastasia, had been settled by figures who patterned themselves after the situations and characters in George Orwell's “1984”, right down to having the omnipresent Party and Big Brother. It had also been at ceaseless war with either one of its two neighbours since independence from Centralia in 2002, and had conquered Eurasia and Eastasia only a few months before joining its former coloniser in attacking Pacifica in late April, 2007.

That went even more disastrously for Oceania than Centralia, as its best military units had been destroyed or captured, and, in the war's closing days, New London, both the capital of Airstrip One and of Oceania as a whole, was heavily bombed, rocketed and pounded by Pacifican aircraft, missiles and naval artillery.

In the war's aftermath, Big Brother and the Party lost a great deal of face, and not even the dreaded People's Security Bureau could keep all sorts of dissidents, especially those in the Armed Forces, from moving against the State, which they did.

By the time, Christopher and his companions arrived in Oceania, its Eurasian and Eastasian possessions had completely broken off from it, and Oceania itself was divided among nearly a dozen or so contending factions, some led by former Party bosses, others by former dissidents, and all of whom desired to gain power and liquidate their opposition.

Christopher knew almost nothing about any of this, nor, if asked, would he have particularly cared. He was there to do his job, stay alive and in one piece, collect his money at job's end, and go home, and that was it.

He'd managed that part well enough, and had even made a few friends among his platoon mates, though Christopher really didn't want to buddy up with anyone in particular, as he'd no intention of
re-upping once his six-week tour ended.

Still, he realised that he needed someone besides himself to watch his back, if he was going to make it through the tour at all.

Its first three weeks had gone well enough for the platoon and Christopher, and they'd pushed hard into the areas held by their foes to the North and North-East of Port Victory.

At the fourth week's beginning, however, the enemy's resistance toughened up considerably, with 12 out of the platoon's 20 members killed, wounded or missing, and the unit ending up cut off from the rest of the army and trapped in a little village some 5 feet due south of O'Brien Mills, the north-western Oceanian city that'd been their objective not long ago.

Christopher and the rest of the platoon had held off their attackers for two days and a night, before being called into the wrecked village Party meeting hall that served as their headquarters on the second day's evening.

There, the platoon's commander, a vintage blond eagle-eye Action Man named Captain McKenzie told his surviving troops that, after finding out from their high command in Port Victory that there was no way any relief units could be sent to get them out of the village, he'd decided to dissolve the unit, and disperse its members in the hopes that at least one or two of them might make it back to Port Victory.

“Gentlemen,”(Christopher always chuckled at the memory of McKenzie's always calling his men that, even if most of them, including himself, could hardly be called that), Captain McKenzie drawled in his fruity upper-class tones, “I see no need for all of us to die in this beastly little place, eh??? So, gentlemen, I am giving you all one last order, and that is to fuck off out of here as quickly as possible. If any of us are lucky enough to make it back home(meaning Port Victory), and I run into you, I'll stand each and every one of you a drink or two. If not, It has been a pleasure serving with you. Good-bye, and Good Luck to each and every one of you.”

Even now, as Christopher was making his way across the plains of another devastated nation some 50 yards west of that little village, there were two memories of that night that amazed him, the first being McKenzie's using “fuck off”, as the Captain never, at least in his ear-shot, ever used profanity of any kind, and the other being the time and trouble McKenzie took, after giving his farewell benediction, to shake the hand of each and every one of his men, including Christopher, and individually wishing them good luck, before departing into the night with Sergeant Cacciatore, a vintage GI Joe Action Soldier.

There might be a lot of figures who could say a lot of bad things about McKenzie, Christopher often reflected to himself, but he wasn't one of them, especially since the Captain had done it all, as he seemed to do practically everything, with grace and style.

Christopher, who left the shattered ex-Party hall a few minutes after McKenzie and most of the others had gone, never saw him, Cacciatore, nor any of the others who'd gone before him and his two squad-mates, Robinson and Tamura, ever again.

He hoped they were still alive, but Christopher somehow doubted it, considering what happened to Robinson and Tamura after the trio left the village.

17 October 2008

Yahoo News Article Link About Kidnapped 6 Year-Old Las Vegas Nevada Boy

This is a Yahoo News article on the 6 year-old boy who was snatched from his East Las Vegas home two days ago.

Please re-post as widely as you can, and, if you know where he is and his current circumstances, please contact the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department sooner than quickest.

He shouldn't have to suffer for the mistakes and crimes of his grandfather.

Thank you for your kind attention and be seeing you.


16 October 2008

Joe The Plumber, Or Dog-Whistle Politics

Was just thinking about Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, and how his interaction with Obama was used in last night's Presidential debate.

Frankly, it disgusted me then, and it disgusts me now, because Joe the Plumber, Joe Six-Pack, and all the other Regular Joes out there are quite commonly used by right-wing politicians to advance a kind of right-wing populist ideology and rhetoric that superficially advances lower-middle-class and working-class people, but, when it comes right down to policies and implementation, benefits the upper classes.

To hear McCain, a scion of the American military leadership class and a long-time member of the American governing classes, mention "Joe the Plumber"(I think he only used Wurzelbach's proper surname once, and that was when he first brought Mr. Wurzelbach up in the debate), as often as he did during the debate pissed me the Hell off, because McCain isn't lower-middle-class or working-class in origin, nor, I will bet, does he spend a whole lot of time with so-called ordinary, reg'lar folks, when and if he can help it.

To me, it's the same kind of dog-whistle politics, as the McCain/Palin campaign's attacks on Obama for his connection, however tenuous, to William Ayres.

"Oooo, gotta watch out fer those lefty-pinko-commie-America-hatin'-Muslim terrorists, don'cha know(wink)???!!!"

Yeah, sure, right.

The fact is, if McCain, Palin and their ilk really love and admire the American middle and working classes, why the Hell have they either worked so hard to get out of those classes, and why do they pursue the kinds of ideas and policies they do.

Quite simple to me, really.

These people have no love, respect, admiration, etc, for Joe the Plumber, Joe Six-Pack, GI Joe, GI Joe, Fighting Man From Head To Toe, whatever one wants to call the so-called average American, except, perhaps, in the comfortably abstract.

Joe What's His Fuck is really more a source of votes, government and business revenue, and, in war-time, a source of cheap, readily expendable cannon fodder to these people, than anyone or anything valuable at all.

But, there are quite a number of so-called ordinary Americans, the Joe and Jane Six-Packs out there, who will fall for this each and every time an election comes 'round.

The reasons for this are various, and will go into them in the next essay-lette I post here.

For now, will sign off by saying that dog-whistle politics only work so long as the dogs come running to the whistle.

Be seeing you.

28 September 2008

New York Times Article Link: "Sarah Palin and the Rape Kits"

The following's a link to a New York Times Editorial Observer article by Dorothy Samuels, published on 25th September, 2008, which alleges that Sarah Palin, while serving as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, along with the town's police chief, Charlie Fannon, signed off of a policy in which rape victims were billed by the town's hospital for the cost of the rape kits used in investigating their cases.

While Palin apparently said nothing about this policy, Fannon, in an interview with Wasilla's local newspaper, "complained that the state was requiring the town to spend $5,000 to $14,000 a year to cover the costs. "I just don't want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer," the chief explained."

When the Alaska State Legislature heard about Wasilla's policy on billing victims for the rape kits, it passed a bill in 2000 killing that policy.

When I first read the article, I was incensed, and, in fact, have only gotten angrier still.

Whatever the reasons behind it, and, according to Ms. Samuels' article, there's speculation in the blogosphere that the billing policy is rooted in Ms. Palin's pro-life orientation, I won't speculate on what they might have been.

But, I would say that, generally speaking, this measure reflects the sort of penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude that are found in not only the town of Wasilla, or the state of Alaska, but, more broadly speaking, in much of the American West, including my home town and state of Nevada, the United States, and indeed, the English-speaking world.

Historically, there has been a general attitude in the English-speaking world that, unless a given problem is either hitting the rich and influential classes hard, or is so enormous that it absolutely has to be dealt with, of "We shall muddle through".

Combine that with the inevitable whining, and there's a lot of it, anytime any government programme, especially those intended for the poor and working classes and other marginalised groups, comes up, "But, it'll cost moooonnnneeeeyyyy!!!!", and I think one can see the pattern here.

The pattern can be summed up thusly, "Me first, and don't you DARE make me pay one cent of taxes for it!!!"

These attitudes, spawned by the kinds of social and economic attitudes that come out of both capitalism and of being a conquest society, and folks, outside of Merrie Olde England itself, the rest of the English-speaking world is made up of conquest societies, in which the countries' original inhabitants were conquered, subjugated or eliminated, and workers brought in by either fair means or foul, to provide the labour needed to build those polities as cheaply as possible, make for a kind of disgustingly arrogant, entitled mentality which, at its core, wants government services and money as much as the next person, but doesn't want to pay for any of it, whatsoever.

These attitudes, while found perhaps everywhere in the English-speaking world, are found most starkly in the US, though Australians are no slouches when it comes to this sort of arrogance either, and especially in the American South and West, including Alaska, where they are on greater and more open display than in either the North or Midwest.

Doesn't mean, BTW, that one can't find those attitudes in the latter regions of the US. It's just that in those societies, being more economically diversified and better developed in their social infrastructures, the competition for resources aren't quite as stark, and the attitudes that come with it not quite as dramatically displayed much of the time.

The economies of the Southern and Western portions of the US have traditionally been, although there has been a greater amount of industrial diversification in those regions in recent decades, traditionally based on either agriculture, including ranching, extractive industries, like mining or oil, or hospitality-based industries, like casino gambling.

These industries, and those at the top and upper middle levels of them, have generally prospered, and, in so doing, have amassed enough resources and power to obtain the kind of political and social positions that they'd not have had in more economically diverse parts of the world.

This means they have what is essentially a monopoly on political and social power in the regions they control, and everyone else can say what they like about it, but they're the ones in charge, and in many ways, overtly and subtly, most people in these regions go along with it, either out of hope of getting in on some of the action, fear of losing what they have, despair of ever changing the situation, or simply knowing only this situation and none other.

In turn, this means that local political, social and economic elites, especially in small towns like Wasilla, have both greater power and influence than they would otherwise have, but, at the same time, they still have to bow, scrape and truckle before the local, and, considering that many of these industries have been and are owned by individuals and companies from other parts of the world, outsider Lords Of Creation.

Not a happy situation to be in, sure. But, it's a lot happier than being on the very bottom, or close to, of these societies.

In the end, this means that such societies, and the individuals within them, are going to reflect those circumstances in their own ways, and, most of the time, the ideas, policies and actions made by most people in them are going to be to get as much as one can and to keep as much as one can, at everyone else's expense.

It is, in my opinion, this set of circumstances that ultimately lie behind policy decisions and implementations like Wasilla's charging rape victims for the cost of rape kits used in their cases, and it is frankly disgusting.

'Nuff said. The link's below. Please read and decide for yourselves, and be seeing you.


26 September 2008

First Obama-McCain Debate Reactions

Got through watching the first Presidential debates a little while ago.

Before I go any further here, three advisory points need to be stated: 1, am an Obama supporter, 2, missed the debate's first ten minutes, and 3, there were times during the debate that I got so excited/angry, what have you, that I missed small parts of the debate.

That said, and as much as I hate to say it, Folks, McCain in some areas came off the better in areas like tax policies, and in some of his points on various budgetary and militarily-related policies.

Obama really needed to bring up more specifics, not only in those areas, but overall, and, though he eventually began hitting back harder at McCain as the debate went on, at least at first, I thought he was still too much in the grips of the sort of Senate collegiality in his initial dealings with McCain.

McCain, on the other hand, had far less compunction about bringing up his opponent's lack of experience, judgement, not having been to Iraq for 900 days or so, and not at all to Afghanistan, and constantly repeated the phrase, "What Senator Obama doesn't understand," so much so in the latter case, that, even if I didn't like McCain or the Republican Party in general, I would have disliked him for being a smug, arrogant jerk, and I think that's what, in many instances, he came off as being.

McCain oft trumpeted his years of experience in the Senate, and, twice close to the debate's end(it may have been more than that), his experiences as a POW and Viet-Nam War veteran, and how they helped him shape policies towards veterans of that war and establishing diplomatic relations with Viet-Nam.

Both men, and Senator Obama himself admitted this, came off sounding very distressingly alike to me on issues like the recent Russian-Georgian conflict, and the need for nuclear power and "clean" coal as components in achieving energy independence.

Both favoured support for Mikhail Saakishivili's government and its actions towards South Ossetia, and for possible eventual Georgian and Ukrainian membership in NATO, while omitting the fact that it was a Georgian military offensive against South Ossetia that started the conflict, though McCain, in his mentioned praise of Saakishivili stated, though not explicitly, the sort of connections and support the Senator has for the man and his policies.

Obama, in an attempt to play a sort of catch-up with McCain on this issue, mentioned that he'd warned the Administration in April that there were Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia, which, from what background info have acquired about the issue over the past four years, comes off as really being rather dumb, because there have been Russian, Georgian(until recently)and either South Ossetian or Abkhazian peacekeepers in those respective regions since at least the last bouts of serious fighting between the South Ossetians, Abkhazians and Georgians 4 years ago.

I can imagine whatever Secretary or Under-Secretary he approached at the State Department about this revelation raising an eye-brow, saying, "Really???!!! Well, we'll look into the matter," and then, after Senator Obama left, saying to him- or herself, "Stupid fuck."

Sorry if this is harsh, but that revelation on Obama's part didn't impress me in the slightest.

On the other hand, ultimately, McCain struck me as an experienced, yes, but also all too arrogant, man, who, in some areas, is still stuck in the ideologies and practises of the mid-20th Century, while Obama struck me as being a capable enough fellow in many areas, but one who really needs to forget the senatorial collegiality and hit McCain back, and hit him back hard and fast, with specific inconsistencies, gaffes and errors in McCain's record over the the past 26 years, though he did score somewhat in bringing up McCain's rendition of "Bomb Iran" at a political gathering fairly recently, I believe.

Obama, for all the charges his many detractors, including McCain in talking about Obama's Senate voting record, of him being some sort of liberal, radical wing-nut, came off as what I believe he essentially is, a mainly moderate to liberal, but mainly moderate, Democrat, whereas McCain came across as the sort of tough-talking, take-no-prisoners sort of Republican candidate that there's been so much of in this country since the 1950's at least.

To be honest, I was a John Edwards voter at my local Democratic Party primary caucus back in January of this year, and I tend, though my politics can be all over the place at times, depending on the issue and my given state of mind at any one time, and so, I tend to sit farther to the left than Senator Obama is and would be on many issues.

Also, being on Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income and Medicare, as well as, through the State of Nevada, Food Stamps and Medicaid, I worry about the sorts of policies, especially in light of the proposed financial bailout currently under discussion in Washington, and actions that will happen, especially under a McCain Administration, which, while it might not be identical in every respect to the current Administration's policies, or those of the Reagan and first Bush Admininistrations' with their stated animosity towards Social Security and other social programmes, might result in severe cut-backs or even elimination of, in one way or another, those programmes.

So, yes, I support Obama because, one, unlike Hilary Clinton, he has been a staunch critic of the Iraq War and its conduct, which I think he well maintained in the debate to-night, and two, because, while I would like to get off of Social Security if I can, I do not want to trade one form of poverty for another, much more insecure form of it, and that is what I fear might happen if McCain gets into the White House.

Sorry to get off the subject here, Folks, but I felt I had to say the above, so you know from where I stand.

Anyhow, that's it for me, for now, as ill-reasoned as it might be.

Will let you know more as I further reflect on this, and the other debates to come.

In the meantime, thanks for your kind attention and be seeing you.

25 September 2008

Las Vegas Nevada Area Anti-Bailout Protests

Thanks to notices that have received from Democrats. com and TrueMajority.org, have the address and time of one Las Vegas, Nevada-area anti-bailout demo, and said info can be seen immediately below. The spelling in the text below is reproduced from the original post on those sites.

Protest the tax money giveaway to Wall Street
September 25, 2008
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Stand with your neighbors and say NO Bush Bailout!


For those of you viewing this from other parts of the Las Vegas Valley or from outside the Las Vegas Metropolitan Area, please go to either the appropriate page at Democrats.org, or to the following page at TrueMajority.org(they're the same, really)-http://truemajority.wiredforchange.com/o/8/t/107/event/search.jsp?distributed_event_KEY=5, and enter in your zip code to find out the address and time of the nearest anti-bailout demo near you.

Am going to check a Code Pink notice that received last night, and find out if that group has any similar events planned for to-day. When I find out, will post here.

If you can't make any of the demos, please re-post this info on your blogs, pass them along in e-mails to friends, etc.

Thanks for your attention, and be seeing you.

24 September 2008

A Bulletin, A Video and A Link From A MySpace Friend Of Mine

From my MySpace friend Rule 22 come this video from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and a link to his own site.

Please check out both, but especially check out Jon Stewart's hilarious takes on the Treasury Secretary's bailout plan, and Da Prez's analysis of the current economic situation.

Stewart and his writing staff have got both dead to rights, which, given the grimness of the current economic crisis, is actually quite sad.

Be seeing you.

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Rule 22
Date: Sep 24, 2008 5:43 PM

Jon Stewart fuckin rules


So I did some math and...
The $700,000,000,000 slated for the bailout works out to about
$2,325 per person or
$5,340 per tax payer

Invest in Rule 22 merchandise. Once the economy crashes Rule 22 shirts will be the new currency. Please pay in euros haha.

Two Presidential Debate Petition Site Addresses

Just a quick shot here. For those of you out there who think the scheduled Presidential debate should continue on Friday, please head over to Demand The Debate.com and http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/economic_debate/?r_by=944-102472-gyWDVfx&rc=confemail, and sign the petitions urging Sens. Obama and McCain to do just that.

Yes, the economic situation is very bad.

But, at the same time, it's damned important that the American people hear from these candidates precisely what they intend to do about it, as well as what their respective administrations' economic policies would be, should either man get into the White House.

Finally, please feel free to pass these address along by any possible means.

Thanks for the time and trouble you taken to read this, and be seeing you again quite soon.

22 June 2008

Going Off-Line For A Little Bit As Of To-Morrow

Been having trouble with the OS on my computer's hard drive since Tuesday last, and, despite a few attempts at reinstalling it back onto the hard drive since, these problems are still on-going.

So, a computer-knowledgable friend of mine is coming over to my place to-morrow(don't know when he-ll be here yet), and will take the computer back to his place for examine and repair it.

That means will be off-line for the next two weeks while the examination and repairs are going on.

Now, I will try and access the net from some local public library computers during that time, to check e-mail, quickly pop in here and on some other social networking sites am a part of, and to, perhaps, leave some very quickly written progress up-dates on this matter, and to keep faith with y'all that I ain't ignoring or mad at any of ya, or that I've suddenly decided to turn into a complete dick overnight.

It's just that I might be able to only access the 'Net from my local library once or twice a week, that's all.

In the meantime, if you wish to leave messages, comments, etc, please do so. But, please keep in mind that I might not be able to immediately respond to them.

Doesn't mean I won't respond to 'em at all. Just means that I might be a bit slower than the average bear at getting back to you for a little while.

In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and yours out there, and hope everything in your lives is either doing better than well, or at least as well as the circumstances allow.

Be seeing you.

21 June 2008

Just a quick note here to let you know that have been big problems with my computer and its operating system for some time now, and especially since Tuesday last.

Hence, my prolonged absence here.

Am currently accessing the 'Net via an operating system on a CD given to me by an excellent friend of mine, who's also helping me work on repairing the damn thing.

Point is that am very limited right now in what I can and can't do on the 'Net, until such time as these problems are corrected in one form or another.

So,there probably won't be many posts here for a while.

Sorry about all this, and hope that those of you out there who look at this blog even on just the occasional basis will understand.

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and yours out there, and be seeing you once the computer and I are back up to full good working order, whenever that may be.

16 June 2008

YouTube Cat Video: "Scottish Fold"

Yet another YouTube cute cat video here, with this being from a Japanese YouTube poster,
Panda0000000, entitled "Scottish Fold", which features a beautiful Scottish Fold kitten being held up on display for the camera, causing much consternation and mewing on the kitten's part.

Anyhow, the kitten's just too damned cute for words. So, have a look for yourselves, hope you enjoy it, and be seeing you.

14 June 2008

YouTube Video: "Techno Kittens"

To-day being Caturday(when one lives with a cat or cats, every day's Caturday), here's a video I just found on YouTube, posted by a Vysokji called "Techno Kittens", which features a group of kittens sitting on a couch and apparently moving their heads in time with a techno dance tune.

Don't know if that's really the case, but, hey, there're kittens in the video, so what more do you want???

Enjoy and be seeing you.

13 June 2008

AP YouTube Video: McCain Denounces Supreme Court Decision On "Enemy Combatants" Right Of Appeal In US Courts

The following is an Associated Press video of an excerpt from a speech given by John McCain to-day, I believe, in which he denounces the Supreme Court for its decision to allow detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to appeal any decisions made by military tribunals in their cases there in US civilian courts.

For my money, this strikes me as being a bit of a turnaround from McCain's oft-stated positions on the treatment of "enemy combatants" detained there, and I think he both grossly over-simplifies and omits some facts about the Bush Administration's policies and practises there, as well as the fact that this Administration has made no bones about neither recognising the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war as applying to the detainees, or about the use of various forms of physical and mental abuse on them.

Anyway, enough editorialising on my part.

The video follows below, and, as always, be seeing you.

11 June 2008

AP YouTube Video "Will Clinton's Base Jump To McCain?"

From the Associated Press's YouTube channel comes this video, "Will Clinton's Base Jump To McCain??", which is about whether or not some of Senator Rodham-Clinton's supporters in the Democratic primary will jump over and vote for John McCain on 4th November.

One of the text comments, by one allencrider, states, "If you AP folks followed recent polls, you would have known that female democrats have moved to Obama in a big way. You're simply manufacturing news, and that sucks," and I think there may be some small merit to that contention.

On the other hand it's also entirely possible that some of Clinton's supporters, whatever their motivations for doing so, will vote for McCain come November, and it's a possibility for which I hope the Obama camp will prepare itself.

Be seeing you.

Link To BBC Footage Of Canadian PM Harper’s Apology

Just saw this YouTube video, posted by the BBC, of a short excerpt from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's public apology, before the Canadian Parliament, for the Canadian federal government's policy of taking away First Nations'(the Canadian name for their native peoples)children to be educated in religiously-run schools and given an education designed to assimilate them into the Canadian variant of European culture and customs, while destroying their native cultures and customs.

Know very little about PM Harper, save that he is much more of an American-style conservative than previous PMs have been, and, from what little I've read and heard of him and his policies, can't say that I care for either.

That said, and it's hard to judge from such a short excerpt as the one posted by the Beeb to their YouTube account, I would say that I think such an apology to our native peoples is well over-due down here as well, because we pursued similar policies towards native education at around the same time that the Canadian government did, and with identical aims.

Haven't read any articles detailing the whole speech and the various reactions of Canadian First Nations' individuals to it, so won't comment any further on it until I know more.

Unfortunately, the BBC's disabled the embed function in their YouTube account, so will enclose the link, http://youtube.com/watch?v=j5lu71livnU, so you can copy and paste into your Web browser window, press Enter, and go there and see it for yourselves.

Be seeing you, as always.

My Reply To A Form Letter From The AJWS

I am subscribed to, and get the occasional on-line form letter from, the American Jewish World Service, which is an organisation that has devoted itself, and admirably so, to exposing, bringing to the attention of the world's elites and peoples over the past few years, and in putting pressure on the Sudanese government and Chinese governments about the atrocities and crimes being commited in Darfur.

That said, received a letter from them this afternoon, asking if I would sign an open letter to President Bush asking him not to attend the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Beijing come August.

Well, and it was really a split-second decision I made here, I decided not to, and enclosed a reply to this letter, the text of which follows below, stating why.

To be honest, I have considerable regard for China and its people, even if their government is a fairly beastly one, and, especially after the comments made by Ms. Sharon Stone about the 6th May earthquake in Sichuan province being a sort of karmic pay-back(mentioned in the response below)for the Chinese occupation of Tibet and its government's treatment of the Dalai Lama, a fairly low opinion of the Dalai Lama's Western supporters, such as Ms. Stone and Mr. Richard Gere, and you better believe that much of that reply was motivated by that dis-taste, as well as by the contentions I make below.

Should China be in Tibet and supporting the Sudanese government??? No, of course not.

But, neither should we be in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor should we be supporting some of the people we do around the world, either.

We here in the States don't often seem to see that much of the world, rightly or wrongly, resents our pompous lecturing about human rights, democracy and freedom, while feeling perfectly free to sell arms and give money to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and unconditionally supporting the State of Israel's policies and actions towards the Palestinians.

Whatever the motivations behind such resentments, there is at least a grain of truth in the perception that the US can often be a hypocritical bully on the world stage, and that's a pity, because, in the end, that grain only helps germinate more resentment and anger towards the US and its citizens, and allows many people who'd otherwise have little defensible reason for hating the US to happily do that.

One last quick note here, and that's the name of the head of the AJWS, whose name was signed at the original message's bottom is Ruth Messinger. The only reason I mention that, is because I address her as "Ms. Messinger" at the message's beginning, and I don't want people wondering, "Who the Hell is this Messinger woman??".

Now that you know that perhaps over-much bit of detail, on with the message, and be seeing you.

Ms. Messinger: With all due respect, am gonna have to dissent here on three grounds, the first of which is that President Bush, as he's made quite demonstrably clear over the years, will do what he wants, regardless of what others think and feel.

Hence, our involvement in the idiotic mess called the Iraq War, and for the horrors that we subject "enemy combatants" to at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. So, I rather doubt that he will pay much in the way of attention to any open letter, not even if sixty million people signed it.

Reason number two is, quite frankly, that such a refusal would, especially after the earthquake of 6th May, and Sharon Stone's stupid, pig-ignorant and utterly crass comments about Tibet and the earthquake being a sort of "karmic" pay-back for China's nasty little occupation of Tibet, be seen, not just by the Chinese government, but by many so-called ordinary Chinese, as another piece of beastly Yankee hypocritical swinishness, and I think they would have something of a point there. In the end, it would probably back-fire on us more than it would hurt the PRC, and especially its government, which, at least domestically, is rather more popular than it's been for quite some time now.

The third and final reason's, and please pardon the circular line of reasoning here, our own involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the bellicose noises that our Administration's been making about Iran for the past few years, have severely undercut whatever moral authority the US had before we went into those areas in the eyes of not just the Chinese government and people, but of much of the world as well.

Symbolic gestures like the one proposed in this open letter are all well and good, but, if the parties making them lack the kind of moral and other forms of credibility to back them up, the point is entirely lost.

If you were to reply to this message, you might say that such gestures are better than doing nothing at all. Most of the time, I'd agree with you.

But, in this case, I can't, for which I apologise.

Symbolic actions have their place, but, better by far, are actions that put direct pressure on the American, Chinese, Sudanese and other governments involved in the Darfur, as well as the United Nations and various Darfuri rebel groups, to end the fighting and atrocities in that region for good and all.

A lame-duck US President with a massively and deservedly tarnished reputation not attending the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics will have little to no effect on either Chinese policies towards Darfur and the Sudan, as well as Tibet, nor end the suffering on the ground in Darfur one iota.

Therefore, I must respectfully decline to go along with this campaign.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours, Donald Rilea.