Monday, November 22, 2010

"Way Out of Line"

Apparently, last week Jon Stewart complained on air that calling George Bush a War Criminal was technically correct but politically incorrect. He called it "way out of line", charging that it's "a conversation-stopper, not a conversation-starter".
First, let me hasten to point out the traditional American weasel words "way out of line", which merit some notice. In a context with established rules of propriety, describing an inappropriate action in a social situation, this might be an OK idiom to use, but in political speech, even commentary, it seems simply intended to ignore an inconvenient point of view.
I don't think I'm in a minority when I take "Way out of line" to mean "I disapprove and I'm not going to discuss why." I find that sort of ad hominem censorship counterproductive to political freedom.

Nevertheless, this single blurb on mainstream television has raised a lot of awareness about Bush and the US Government's extensive record of Human Rights violations, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in the past decade, but these crimes are not without antecedent. One can directly attribute more killing, terrorism sponsorship, and squelching democracy outside its borders to the US than just about any other nation. The term "Banana Republic" describes repressive regimes sponsored by the US specifically to stamp out democracy and individual rights to create a climate more favorable to exploitive corporate operations like the United Fruit Company. In 1910, Sam Zemurray of the Cuyamel Fruit Company, which along with United & Standard controlled the market in Honduras and interfered, often violently, in politics there, simply hired merecenaries and had a coup.

In 1933, during a hostile takeover of the United Fruit Company, Zemurray assumed control. It was not long after that, during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, that the United Fruit Company persuaded the US Government to form the CIA, and promptly in 1954 they sponsored a coup in Guatemala against Jacob Arbenz Guzman, effectively ending representative democracy there. This democracy had to be ended because Guzman's government did not take kindly to the United Fruit Company's antitrust hoarding of land, and expropriated lands the company was buying and not cultivating to retain their banana monopoly. Technically, then, at that moment Truman, Eisenhower, Zemurray, and the US Government became war criminals and criminals against humanity.

If we step gingerly around WW2, the Korean War, Viet-Nam, Iran, Greece, Yugoslavia, Uruguay, China, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Egypt, Lebanon, Grenada, and the many other places where American troops were deployed in the name of Capitalism during the intervening years, and fast forward to 1991, once again, Bush Senior's administration, following in the footsteps of the Gipper, perpetrated some very serious war-crimes against Iraq & Afghanistan. Here is a complaint filed with the ICC against Bush Sr. & his cabinet in 1991. It is a good summary of what that administration gave the world.

That his son's administration, arguably not even a legitimately elected one, has raised the stakes in the game of violating humans in the service of corporate profits, is an understatement. Bush was put in office to commit crimes against humanity, to make the rich richer, and to make the poor more exploitable. Essentially, it was time to make a banana republic out of the US - favorable to corporations and less fettered by pesky individual rights. He certainly did what he was told to do. For a roadmap showing the engineering of 9/11 and the events that have followed, check out the PNAC, an extension of the Wolfowitz doctrine published in September 2000 that advocated raising the military budget by up to $100 billion, reneging on international treaties like the Geneva Convention and organizations like the ICC. But the PNAC was realistic and included these words: "The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor." In 1999, the budget was $298 billion. By 2006 it was up to $535 billion.

Along the way, several ugly things happened to the US under the thumb of Bush's cabinet. John Yoo, an administration lawyer, issued a memo stating that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the US, and further that no international treaty on war or the treatment of prisoners was in any way legally binding for the president of the US. Then in May of 2002 the US reneged on the ICC. What a coincidence.

The story of Americans torturing and murdering civilians all over the world since then is by now well-known outside US borders, though many Americans are completely misinformed about that and many other things. The Lancet's account, perhaps the most scientifically sound, places responsibility on the US for the death of around 650,000 civilians in Iraq alone for the time period ending in June 2006. Remembering for a moment that Bush unilaterally and in direct violation of UN resolution 141 declared war on Iraq because some Saudis had flown planes into the WTC, which subsequently became the first, second, third, and only buildings in history to implode after being hit by planes, or in the vicinity of buildings being hit by planes, responsibility for each & every one of those deaths falls squarely on that administration's shoulders.

So to Jon Stewart's pandering that calling Bush a war criminal is excessive, I say, look in the mirror. Dishonest political speech in America is a plague. You know that calling Bush a war criminal is not just not incendiary, it is not enough. Stewart saying that it's over the top is reminescent of that other high hypocrite, Hillary Clinton, condemning Wikileaks for showing us the real face of America abroad.

In May of last year, the president of the ICC stated they would not prosecute Bush. I'm guessing that it may have been a traded absolution in exchange for the US rejoining the ICC - a very Obama-ish sounding deal. In January, Lawyers Against the War filed a complaint with the ICC against the Bush cabinet members directly involved in the torture and probable death of some 100 political prisoners. Now, there is also a brilliant move domestically to try these people for their crimes against humanity, though I do not know how this Jackson Conference has progressed, but justice does exist, despite the US. Italy has arrest warrants for 25 American terrorists - CIA operatives involved in the kidnappings and assassinations of people inside Italy. As an extra added bonus, Spain, which has been the most effective defender of Human Rights worldwide in the past 30 years, at least, is pressing criminal charges against at least 6 Bush administration members. Whether warrants will follow, I do not know, but I am happy to see that some people are still committed to a civilized humanity, still care about the principles of Human Rights, and do not horse-trade them away like the US has for the past decade. Put that in your pipe & smoke it, Mr. Stewart.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Difficult Proposition for Next Season in MotoGP

The past season in MotoGP has not been very interesting in terms of the rivalry for the top spot - barring a couple of dirty Rossi moves unpunished - fairly typical for the Florentine politics of the FIM - the contest for the top spot was just not that gripping, as it seemed that Lorenzo had it coldly in-hand, like a seasoned hit-man. There were wild and truly superhuman competitions for fifth, eighth, and double-digit ordinals on occasion, but the battle for #1 was like an old-style game of pong - obviously gripping to do, but not so much a spectator sport, if you will. Heroic at times, Lorenzo mostly did not get rattled; he did not waver. He lost out a few times, and he was a real gentleman about it, but mostly he was a convincing equal to most every challenge thrown his way, showing an almost monotone climb to the top spot, especially compared to the "I'm in; I'm out; I have superpowers; they lost my suit at the cleaners" kind of season that seems to have plagued Rossi, Pedroza, Stoner, and Hayden.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that as of this instant I have not watched the last race of the season, but I'm not so buried under a rock as to not know what happened - but the troubling thought came to me this morning as I watched the 125 race: Marquez is a very young guy, who is personable and engineered more for literature than business. He has a certain human flair and charm - there's more than raw speed behind his eyes: there's wit and joy. Watching his English fail post-race at Valencia today, and his easy way of not getting stuck on that failing, instead expressing himself non-verbally, reminded me of Rossi before he was trademarked, and made me think this: The arc of Marquez ascendancy is almost a given - we can quibble about whether he'll be on the top spot in MotoGP in 2012 or 2015, but he will doubtless be there - or I will have been dead wrong yet again (highly unlikely - my quota is used up...) - sooner or later. When he gets there, Lorenzo will have, with some difficulty, held pretenders at bay for several years, and will say of Marquez that "He's been racing against me for a lifetime while I've only just got the chance to race against him" or some such Biaggiesque remark - I sincerely hope, for Jorge's sake, that Marquez's easy professionalism does not make Lorenzo play Biaggi to Martquez's Rossi when the two finally meet on-track!