Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Carlin dead at 71

I've just read a brief article on the Yahoo homepage informing us that influential comedian, author, and all-around curmudgeon George Carlin has passed away today as a result of heart failure. He was 71.

I'm not an authority on the man, so I'll keep it brief. Carlin was an important and revolutionary voice in the world of standup comedy, and indeed of entertainment in general. Absolutely nothing was taboo to him, a trait that would lead to his greatest success as well as to some bitter legal battles. He was cut from the cloth of Lenny Bruce, and inspired such modern-day socio-political ranters as Lewis Black and, to an extent, Bill Maher.

Carlin is quoted (I paraphrase here) as saying that he believes in nothing...not religion, not this country, not good, not any sort of man-made institution. For all of that, accounts indicate that he was not a mean-spirited person; it would be most accurate, I suppose, to say that he believed in a need for the drawdown of bullshit, or rather, what he considered bullshit.

I'd say rest in peace, but he probably isn't. RIP anyway, George.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Issues to Care About: Volume I

Over the next couple of weeks (and for as long afterward as I'm able) I'll be posting a series of blogs that seek to cut through the smears, flotsam, and other non-issues that will likely again dominate this nation's presidential campaign. If you're sick, tired, and disillusioned with flag pins and tribal African headdresses, read on. If you're not, read on anyway...this is for everyone.

President Bush Takes Covert Steps Towards Martial Law

Precisely 22 months ago, President Bush privately (indeed, almost secretly) signed into law the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. The law, in effect, permits President Bush to not only position troops anywhere in the United States, but also to take control of national guard soldiers without the consent of state or local authorities in order to "suppress public disorder." The president's signing of the law essentially revises a 200-year-old law known as the Insurrection Act and repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which reads: "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both." This act has been the United States' citizens' most explicitly stated protection against the possibility of tyranny enforced by a declaration of martial law, a tactic commonly utilized nowadays by authoritarian governments to brutally put down populist movements against unpopular rule.

Getting specific, Section 333 of the JW Defense Authorization Act reads: "...the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in federal service--to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a national disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (or "refuse" or "fail in") maintaining public order--in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

Thusly, with one swipe of the pen, no clearly referenced author, and dangerously vague prose, the President has been granted sweeping powers to not only utilize the United States armed forces for the purpose of quashing dissidence, but also to determine what constitutes this "insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

In 2007, Major General Timothy Lowenberg (Adjutant General of the Washington National Guard, as well as Director of the Washington Military Department) testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the "Insurrection Act Rider and State Control of the National Guard." Speaking out in particular against Section 1076, the General asserted and confirmed that the law had effectively stricken irrelevant "one hundred years of law and policy...without any publicly or privately acknowledged author or proponent of the change."

Not only that, but a domestic military organization has already been established; Northern Command (NORTHCOM) was approved by Secretary of Defense Gates on March 15th, 2007. Simply put, President Bush has seen fit to declare himself dictator.

While there has been absolutely no mention of this in the mainstream media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), noting that "Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty," has introduced Senate Bill 513, which seeks to repeal Section 1076 of the John Warner Act.

As of now, the bill has yet to move beyond the introduction phase, according to When and if, however, the bill comes up for consideration, it must be drafted into law so that this President, and the others to follow, will not retain the ability and the "right" to arbitrarily enact an authoritarian rule.

Note: Credit for the story and quotes is due to author Frank Morales, as well as the student and faculty researchers for Censored 2008. Many of my forthcoming posts will be based on selections from the Censored series, as well as from the writings of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Charlie Savage, and Jeremy Scahill, and I thank them for their diligence in upholding and fighting for the tenets of open government, freedom of information and of the press, and for democracy in general.

Response to comments on my last blog

Note: I suggest to anyone reading this that they first reference the two comments left in response to my June 2nd blog regarding the apparent lack of hard evidence linking Bin Laden to 9/11. I posted the following in the comment section, but decided that the contents merited a presence on the main page.

My intention in posting this fact was not to accuse anybody of anything, or to in fact suggest that Osama Bin Laden did NOT have anything to do with the attacks. What I am saying, however, is that, when facts like this come up, it should make us more than a bit suspicious.

It may seem like a "strong enough connection," but it apparently is not strong enough for the FBI to use as evidence against him. Judging the situation by the seemingly overwhelming evidence against the man, it seems to me more than a bit odd that this nation's highest-ranking investigative organization has yet to officially declare that there is sufficient evidence linking Bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks.

Responding specifically to the latest comment, your guess is as good as mine. It's pretty clear by now, however, that if we were going to focus an extended war effort on any country, it should be Afghanistan. The connections to Iraq were completely fabricated, a fact that has been exhaustively documented by both more and less able persons than myself.

Monday, June 2, 2008

No direct evidence linking Bin Laden to 9/11?

To begin, I feel compelled to point out that I don't seek to put forth any conspiratorial implications or to point fingers, but simply to state a few facts and ask a question. It goes without saying that it is our right and our duty as American citizens to point out such discrepancies as the one I'm about to address, and to follow such observations with questions, though not necessarily accusations.

That having been said...

As of the present time, the FBI explicitly states that Osama Bin Laden is wanted for his participation in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Sufficient evidence for this has been uncovered, and the Bureau is actively seeking his capture and conviction for those particular crimes.Mention of his involvement with the 9/11 atrocities, however, are nowhere to be found in official FBI statements. When Ed Haas, journalist and editor for the Muckraker Report, inquired about this curious fact, he was told by an FBI official that "The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Osama Bin Laden's Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connective [him] to 9/11."

Keeping that in mind, let's go back a bit, specifically to December 2001, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a press release alongside the airing of the video in which Bin Laden is supposed to have claimed credit for the orchestration of 9/11, says "There was no doubt of Bin Laden's responsibility for the 9/11 attacks even before the tape was discovered." In spite of this statement and the federal government's assertion that it was invading Afghanistan in order to root out Bin Laden for his crimes associated with 9/11, there is neither an official government authentication of the tape nor any hard evidence linking Bin Laden to the attacks.

This is interesting at least, and disconcerting at most. Nearly seven years have passed since the Middle East invasions, and there is still no real, tangible evidence; the media has blacklisted any guest that could potentially speak of any sort of cover-up. Perhaps most glaring, however, about the entire situation is that an administration that has gone to extreme, illicit, and amoral lengths to sell this war to the American people would withhold any sort of information that justifies their actions in the Middle East.