". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Vampire

The Washington Post initiates a 4 part series on him today.

Over 200 people were interviewed for it (though, of course not the vamp-in-chief himself). A photo gallery of the players, etc. are included. Major piece for the WaPo.

[ Dick Cheney is the most influential and powerful man ever to hold the office of vice president. This series examines Cheney's largely hidden and little-understood role in crafting policies for the War on Terror, the economy and the environment.

Today: Part 1 Working in the Background: A master of bureaucracy and detail, Cheney exerts
most of his influence out of public view.

Monday: Part 2 Wars and Interrogations: Convinced that the “war on terror” required “robust interrogations” of captured suspects, Dick Cheney pressed the Bush administration to carve out exceptions to the Geneva Conventions.

Tuesday: Part 3 Dominating Budget Decisions: Working behind the scenes, Dick Cheney has made himself the dominant voice on tax and spending policy, outmaneuvering rivals for the president’s ear.

Wednesday: Part 4 Environmental Policy: Dick Cheney steered some of the Bush administration’s most important environmental decisions — easing air pollution controls, opening public parks to snowmobiles and diverting river water from threatened salmon. ]

From today's, the first installment:

[ Just past the Oval Office, in the private dining room overlooking the South Lawn, Vice President Cheney joined President Bush at a round parquet table they shared once a week. Cheney brought a four-page text, written in strict secrecy by his lawyer. He carried it back out with him after lunch.

In less than an hour, the document traversed a West Wing circuit that gave its words the power of command. It changed hands four times, according to witnesses, with emphatic instructions to bypass staff review. When it returned to the Oval Office, in a blue portfolio embossed with the presidential seal, Bush pulled a felt-tip pen from his pocket and signed without sitting down. Almost no one else had seen the text.

Cheney's proposal had become a military order from the commander in chief. Foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States were stripped of access to any court -- civilian or military, domestic or foreign. They could be confined indefinitely without charges and would be tried, if at all, in closed "military commissions."

"What the hell just happened?" Secretary of State Colin L. Powell demanded, a witness said, when CNN announced the order that evening, Nov. 13, 2001. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out. Even witnesses to the Oval Office signing said they did not know the vice president had played any part. ]

Monday, June 18, 2007

Behind the Che Bandannas, Shades of Potential Militias

It seems if one really wishes to remake and reform the mess that now is the U.S., we must stare this in the face. The regime has hundreds of mercenary militias -- this is part of the vampires' plans for privatizing the military, while the tax-supported troops, sworn to uphold the Constitution, take the big hits in combat ... yet another way of ensuring the regimists' perpetuation of dominion.

You can read the article on the Venezuelan militias here.

[ Critics of Mr. Chávez say he has allowed these groups to operate unfettered — none of Alexis Vive’s members was arrested for the assault on the television network, for instance. And that has led to worries that the president is effectively creating the possible beginnings of a paramilitary support system for his government in case of crisis.

“These groups are encouraged, not just tolerated,” said Alberto Garrido, a political analyst here. “Senior military strategists believe a confrontation with the United States is inevitable, during which they envision a fusion between the armed forces and civilian militias along the lines of what we see in Iraq.”

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cuba - Gay Rights

CUBA: Proposed Reform Would Give Gay Couples Equal Rights
By Dalia AcostaInter
Press Service 06/15/07

Cuba could become the first Caribbean island nation to recognise the civiland inheritance rights of gay and lesbian couples, if a proposed reform ofthe Family Code is approved."I can't guarantee that it will reach parliament this year," said sexologist Mariela Castro, director of the governmental National Centre for SexEducation (CENESEX). "That is our hope, but it does not depend on us, and ofcourse, it is facing a great deal of resistance," she told IPS.

Opponents of the measure set forth arguments like "Cuban society is not prepared" or "this is not the right time." Castro, meanwhile, recognises that "laws by themselves are not sufficient to bring about real change,"although they are indispensable for the design of public policies.

Drawn up by the non-governmental Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) with support from CENESEX, the draft reform of the Family Code has been presented to the Political Bureau, the highest body of the ruling Communist Party. "Weare waiting for approval in order to introduce it to parliament as a draft law," said Castro.

The proposal would give homosexual couples the same civil and inheritance rights as heterosexual couples. However, it does not mention gay marriage, because a change of that magnitude would require a lengthy process of reforming the constitution, which was last amended in 1992.

"That proposal will be made when the time is ripe. For now, it is sufficient to reform the Family Code, which is recognised as a branch of Cuban law,"said Castro, who is the niece of Raúl Castro, acting president while his brother Fidel convalesces from a series of intestinal operations.

Article 36 of the Cuban constitution rules out the possibility of homosexual marriage by establishing that "marriage is the voluntary union between a manand a woman.

"But Cuban laws give married couples the same rights as common law coupleswho are not linked by any legal contract, and grant the same rights to children whether they are born within or outside of matrimony, to married, cohabiting, separated or divorced couples, or to single mothers.

"The political will exists to eliminate all forms of discrimination in our laws," said Castro during a presentation of the proposed reform on the las tday of the Fifth International Congress on Culture and Development, held Jun. 11-14 in Havana. The theme of the conference, which drew some 600 people from 60 countries, was "defence of cultural diversity."

Abelardo Estorino, Cuba's foremost living playwright, told IPS that he was surprised by how advanced the proposal is and how fast Cuba is catching upto the relatively small group of countries that recognise the rights of homosexual couples.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, laws on gay rights have only been approved in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, while draft laws are under consideration in Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Uruguay. And in the Caribbean, there are countries like Jamaica that still have laws on the books that severely punish homosexual relations.

In Cuba, "ostentatious public displays of homosexuality" were illegal fordecades, as were "bothering" other people with homosexual requests orproposals and displays of homosexuality "in public or in private placesexposed to being involuntarily seen by other people."

After the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959, hundreds of homosexualswere among those placed in the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs) --forced labour camps in the countryside -- in the 1960s. And until the early 1980s, homosexuality was viewed as a form of deviation incompatible with the Cuban revolution, and sufficient grounds for exclusion from university studies or job positions demanding high degrees of trust.

But experts say that the 1997 reform of the penal code "purged" all homophobic measures from Cuban legislation. The Family Code, which was originally approved in 1975 and submitted to areview process by the FMC since about 15 years ago, would now stipulate that the family has the responsibility and duty to accept and care for all of its members, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

If the initiative is approved, gay and lesbian couples would enjoy the samecivil, patrimonial, inheritance, housing and adoption rights as heterosexual couples. Norma Guillard, an expert involved in the work of a group of lesbians in CENESEX, told IPS that the reform would also recognise the right of any woman to assisted reproduction services, which are currently limited to married couples.

Mentioning major advances that have been made, Castro said that even though the proposed reform has not yet been introduced to parliament, CENESEX hasalready begun to work with the Public Health Ministry to help three lesbian couples gain access to assisted reproduction services.

Over the past few years, Cuban state-run television has begun to open up to the issue of sexual diversity. For the first time, it broadcast this yearthe 1993 Oscar-nominated film "Strawberry and Chocolate", whose main storyline revolves around the friendship between a gay man and a young Communist militant.

However, Castro said that "unfortunately, very little" support has beenreceived from the local media, a state monopoly. With regard to the need for the debate to transcend the limits of a cultura lcongress, specialised publications or academic circles, journalist and writer Jaime Sarusky, a National Literature Prize-winner, told IPS that "the important thing is how to get all of this to the people."

The FMC-CENESEX proposal would reform several laws, and would be somewhat complementary to the national strategy to address the needs of transvestites, transsexuals and trans-gender persons, promoted by CENESEX since late 2004.The strategy, "which is already being put into effect," as Castro revealed to IPS, has helped to get transvestites and transsexuals accepted intosecondary school or institutions of higher learning and has involved awareness-raising efforts among the police.

In addition, gender reassignment operations will begin to be carried out. Only one such surgery was performed in Cuba, in 1989."Nearly everything is ready," said Castro. "An internal Public Health Ministry regulation has authorised the performance of this surgery by the specialised health services, and work has been carried out in training staff and acquiring technology, medical supplies and prosthetics."The operations may begin this year, she said. The applicants are among agroup of 24 transsexuals who have received support from CENESEX since 1979 and who in many cases have already had their names changed on their identity documents. Around 40 other cases are also being studied.

The question of gay and lesbian adoption is the aspect that has run into theheaviest opposition. It was the focus of a debate Thursday in theInternational Congress on Culture and Development. "We have inherited amodel of a patriarchal family, and are unable to break with that model, but we have to," argued Castro.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Katrina: Defining Moment

The storm that won't go away. Appropos, Chertoff was here in NYC last week, touring our hurricane preparedness. He announced the city was in excellent shape for dealing with a hurricane. I am terrified.


Will Katrina Be Our Defining Moment
by John
June 15, 2007

I have been saying for some time that the top issue in the 2008 presidential campaign is going to be the Iraq war, with the war on terror a clear second.

This is not rocket science; our polling has shown this for many months. The vast majority of Americans believe the Iraq war will still be raging as a new president is sworn in.

In the shadow of these mammoth international problems are domestic concerns: health care, Social Security reform, the environment. But these issues pale in the face of a widespread sense of real trouble ahead for America. Barely 30 percent think the nation is now headed in the right direction, and 73 percent say the U.S is in a serious crisis, according to our recent polling.

This suggests a need to redefine the very nature and structure of U.S. federalism. In our post-Katrina polling, we found a hunger nationwide for a new model for the federal government. In many ways, I believe Katrina, over the long haul, will prove to be more of a defining moment in American history than the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

I realize this may be a stunning statement and that I may be a little ahead of the polls on this, because a poll provides us with a snapshot in time.

But there is a trend pointing to this conclusion. While sour memories of the post-Katrina failures have dimmed, the hunger for a better government model has not. The implications for the 2008 presidential election are fascinating. Our polling shows that Sept. 11, 2001 and its aftermath left a majority ofAmericans resigned to the idea that we will face another major attack on ourown soil. It is, to a certain extent, out of our control. Likely because response to that attack required efforts that were largely limited to the several blocks around the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, governmenta lresponse was relatively straightforward, and was largely regarded as asuccess.

But Katrina was different. It involved an entire region, and revealed a dramatic structural failure of our system of government.

Ultimately, the failures sent a single message to America: the United Statesis not prepared for a major disaster, natural or otherwise.

The feds get the most blame because they are seen as the government solution of last resort. When the governments of New Orleans and Louisiana failed inthe run-up to, and aftermath of, the storm, Washington acted more like the error-prone Little Leaguer you try to hide in right field than the superhero swooping in to save the day.

And so the 2008 presidential campaign is being waged against a backdrop of national unease over Washington's competence. With the candidates already pretty well-defined on the dominating issue of the Iraq war, the winner maybe the one who best defines a new role for how Washington performs when crisis strikes here at home. Americans want the job done, and done right, and the candidate who successfully outlines a plan for national unity and a marshaling of resources is going to have a decided edge.

Our polling shows Americans, faced with a major disaster, don't want the federal government to solve all their problems by dominating state and local governments with bureaucratic dictates from Washington. Instead, they want a nimble federal government that acts as a clearinghouse, an organizer, a traffic cop for all levels of government and other organizations, including faith-based groups and non-governmental organizations.

Even if candidates don't talk about these concerns, American voters will be judging them based on whether or not they have what it takes to build that kind of national government. In a post-Katrina world, these may well be the defining issues not just of the 2008 presidential election, but of this generation.

John Zogby is President and CEO of Zogby International

The GOP's Bright-Haired Boy-O!

Well, we've had to be gone lately, due to the death of Vaquero's mom. It's been a difficult few days. But now, we're back. For whatever that's worth. However, we see the EviLe Ones have not been sleeping. The thing below? You know? The people we know who are actual experts, who actually travel to all these nations that are mentioned in the Caribbean and South America? They tell a very different story. But that is how ya do, whatever party or indie or whatever a pres wannabe belongs to -- you start by out-trashing everybody else on Castro and Cuba, and now, Chavez and Venezuela.

O, and by the way, all those people who we trust to know more about what they're talking about re the Caribbean and South America? They also are fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Mr. Thompson is reliably not and has never been to any of these countries, though in 1991, according to Wiki, "Thompson began work with the Washington, D.C. firm of Arent, Fox, Kintner, Plotkin, & Kahn, representing overseas business entities as a registered foreign agent.[9]"

The Castro/Chavez Axis
By Fred June 14, 2007

We're coming up on the 45th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and I think it's worth talking about. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy faceddown the USSR, risking total war, and forced the Soviets to remove ballisticweapons from Cuba. Missiles located less than a hundred miles from Americawere aimed at the US.A lot of people, I think, have forgotten. Most schools don't even teachabout it in any real detail. Judging by the indifference that many people have to the nuclear arming of Iran, I think it's a lesson almost entirely lost -- except among Cuban-Americans.

Over the years, they've never stopped watching "el Comandante" -- or warning us about him. At the same time, they've been criticized by people who say that Castro is really no threat. Current events in South America, though,have proven that we should have been listening to our Cuban-Americansfriends.Last week, when Hugo Chavez officially killed press freedoms, even a big part of Venezuela's far left seemed to realize that they'd created a monster. Unfortunately, it may be too late. He's already packed Venezuela's high court, legislature and military with his loyalists. Right now, he's operating without any check or balance.

During his rise, Venezuelans say that Chavez spent hours a day on the phone with Castro. Additionally, Castro sent thousands of his Communistapparatchiks to help transition Venezuela from a free county to atotalitarian state.

Without Cuban "help," Venezuela wouldn't be in the terrible mess it is today. Castro, after all, has been at this since the 1960's and he's given Chavez the benefit of his experience. There's one big difference between Venezuela today and Cuba then, however. Castro needed Soviet aid to push his so-called "revolution." Chavez does not.

One of his first moves was to bolster the Cuban dictatorship with oil subsidies -- a hundred thousand barrels a day to the tune of two billion dollars a year. One of the main factors preventing Cuba's transition towardsdemocracy is Venezuelan oil wealth. On June 26, that wealth could increase significantly, as Chavez says he'll nationalize the petroleum industry on that date. The Venezuelan and Cuban axis of influence operates openly in Bolivia,Ecuador and Nicaragua. They meddled in America's free trade negotiations with Costa Rica and support anti-American candidates and movements all over Latin America. Chavez proved and he still believes that democracies can and should be overthrown by force when he led an unsuccessful coup attempt against the democratic Venezuelan government in 1992. After his pardon, he lived in Cuba for two years.Today, he's building up Venezuela's military strength rapidly -- claiming it's to prevent a U.S. invasion. Perhaps the biggest reason for concern is that Chavez has formed strong bonds with Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

In this new era, you can't detect missile technologies with U-2 over-flights-- as did the Kennedy administration. No one seriously doubts, though, that Chavez would love to get his hands on nuclear weapons. We should also remember that Cuba sold Iran the means with which to develop biological weapons. Recall that the main suspect in the recent JFK Airport terrorismplot was arrested on his way to Caracas to get an Iranian passport.

America is facing a growing threat from Latin American totalitarianism and we need to call on those who are most familiar with it to lead the resistance. And the least we can do is free Radio and TV Marti and let them fight for freedom in the realm of ideas.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Blackwater Sues Employees' Families

Blackwater Heavies Sue Families of Slain Employees for $10 Million in Brutal Attempt to Suppress Their Story

The lawyers representing the families of four American Blackwater contractors killed in Fallujah make the case that the company's executives are suing the families to keep them quiet and to avoid any accountability.

[ The following article is by the lawyers representing the families of four American contractors who worked for Blackwater and were killed in Fallujah. After Blackwater refused to share information about why they were killed, the families were told they would have to sue Blackwater to find out. Now Blackwater is trying to sue them for $10 million to keep them quiet.
Raleigh, NC -- The families of four American security contractors who were burned, beaten, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and their decapitated bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River on March 31, 2004, are reaching out to the American public to help protect themselves against the very company their loved ones were serving when killed, Blackwater Security Consulting. After Blackwater lost a series of appeals all the away to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blackwater has now changed its tactics and is suing the dead men's estates for $10 million to silence the families and keep them out of court.

Following these gruesome deaths which were broadcast on worldwide television, the surviving family members looked to Blackwater for answers as to how and why their loved ones died. Blackwater not only refused to give the grieving families any information, but also callously stated that they would need to sue Blackwater to get it. Left with no alternative, in January 2005, the families filed suit against Blackwater, which is owned by the wealthy and politically-connected Erik Prince.

Blackwater quickly adapted its battlefield tactics to the courtroom. It initially hired Fred F. Fielding, who is currently counsel to the President of the United States. It then hired Joseph E. Schmitz as its in-house counsel, who was formerly the Inspector General at the Pentagon. More recently, Blackwater employed Kenneth Starr, famed prosecutor in the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, to oppose the families. To add additional muscle, Blackwater hired Cofer Black, who was the Director of the CIA Counter- Terrorist Center.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Dorgan's Immigration Bill Speech in the Senate

It's long, like 8 minutes. Well worth the time.

He's so danged reasonable ....

Thursday, June 7, 2007

John Boutté

If you have an interest in New Orleans, New Orleans music and all goes with it, this is what we experienced last night.

But when so much of the audience, especially from Asia, laughed, I wept.

I wept through John's rendition of "The Train They Call The City of New Orleans." He brought me entire new levels of experience out of that song, that once, when I was very young, just seemed weird and -- What????

Our popular music is one of the few places that provides popular access to American history, it seems, in these days since the neocons declared the end of history and changed our language. Wiping out real instruments, real skill at the instruments and knowing music, and substituting computer programs for musicians, and thus the end of rhythmic sophistication and knowledge (which is a real discipline, and why there are no jokes about stupid drummers in Latin and Indian and African music, like there are in Rock 'n Roll) has played an enormous role in destroying this nation's ability to consider history. New Orleans is filled with music and musicians who are as much the keepers of our national history as is the architecture and the archives. This goes a very long way toward explaining to the bewildered just why so many people insist that New Orleans matters and must continue to exist.

But now I know, oh, right down to the bottom of my soles and my soul, what the train they call the City of New Orleans is about.This artist, John Boutté, comes across kinda simple, coz that's what the consumers like to believe is going on with musicians, especially from New Orleans. But he started his life in the banking industry. He gave it up to follow his gift, which is both expression, and the most solid landing on key and being in tune you can find, even within opera. When he does that Sahellian push for crescendo and ornamentation of a note, you don't sit there mesmerized for fear he may fall off, but because you are relaxed in the delight of knowledge -- that he's so solid in his voice placement that he will stay and not lose, drop or fall.

He is very good at representing what's going on down home too, right now, to his ecstatic audiences:""You need to know that Katrina didn't hit New Orleans. The levees failed, and we got flooded. The shingles on the house my father built are fine. But the place filled with water. And the place sat in water. For weeks and weeks and weeks."

Most of the people in that audience last night at Joe's Pub, part of the Public Theater Complex, had seen John play in his little usual gig room in NO -- where sometimes there were very few audience members. Our best friends in NO love him, and his gig is their favorite night out, hang. Which is, why, of course, I / we know him and his work and call him by his first name.It was an emotionally complex artistic experience. Art is emotionally complex as well as intellectually complex. But this one was more than so usually, due to so much personal baggage.

My Blog's Gone Away

I did this thing which I'd been planning to do for a long time, which was get my gmail account.

Even though I was very confused, since I had to have a google account anyway to keep this Blog on this site.

So, today, I did that registration thing, and I lost all capacity to deal with my other google accounted Blogspot blog. Which was already really Fox Home point 2. Because I'd done what I thought was already the upgrade.

So I lost that Fox Home on Blogspot, which was really point 2 already.

And now we have this one, which I will still call Fox Home point 2.

But I've lost all my archive.

Fortunately, I backed up the stuff there that mattered. And I have it elsewhere. But still. There was no warning that this would happen. Though I was suspicious, which is why it took me this long to activate an invite gmail account, which I did, finally, as another backup for mss. and works in progress and so on.

But I am unhappy about this situation, since there was no warning. And why in hell is there no protocol listed anywhere for importing one's lost archives from one's previous versions of Blogspot blog?

However, for more interesting reading, go to the link I've re-instated:

To find out what we did last night.

The best music ever. And I wept.

New Orleans. They keep wanting to kill you.

Capitol Changes

"Bob Doyle Attends a Hillary Clinton Press Conference"The full post is found here


From the piece:

[ "I was there for the very end of Eisenhower's administration, Kennedy's, and part of Johnson's, the very beginning of Johnson's. Every time there's a new President, the whole complexion of the city changes.

For example, under Eisenhower there was the Bolshoi Ballet; under Kennedy, all the military bands were revitalized, there were public concerts, there were openings of major Broadway plays -- they'd open in Boston & Philadelphia, and they started opening in Washington as part of their pre-Broadway trials.

But under George W., we've got . . . Christians. We have a huge influx of Christians. There's Christians, there's nothing but crucifixes and Jesus signs, tour busses, Christian tours . . . One time I was down there with the Shoshones and there were twelve brown and white Christian tour busses on Capitol Hill.

And the security is unbelievable. They're now building a huge tourist center adjacent to the Capitol, which I assume will mean you won't be able to go into the Capitol after a while. Now you can get in, but it's like going through a double airport security. And when you get inside, every time you turn down a corridor, there's security. If you want to go to any of the places that used to be open, when I was down there -- wide open -- any of the hearing rooms or anything, you have to be accompanied by staff, you have to have special passes, the staff has tovouch for you . . . There's plainclothes security, there's uniformed security, and the result of this is that all our Congressmen are physically afraid. I think they're cowards."