You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Human rights’ category.

It occurred to me that there is a common break in effectiveness of both the U.S. military chain of command and the infallibility of the Catholic Church when it comes charges of sexual abuse.

Yesterday’s defeat of legislation that would circumvent the military chain of command and impose an independent military review of sexual abuse cases (some 24,000 of them per year of late!) seems to reflect an unwillingness by the military and many in Congress to accept that the chain of common is broken in this regard, and that escalating sexual abuse charges in the military is somehow acceptable.

Is this an odd and pathetic parallel to the Pope’s recent assertion that the Catholic Church is the most effective and concerned organization when it comes to dealing with charges of sexual abuses in the church, rather than civil authorities?

That the highest levels of the military and the church appear to have their heads in the sand in regard to sexual abuse is an odd comparison, but perhaps suggests that absolute authority breeds corruption of very basic human standards of conduct, and that independent review is the only way to assure greater justice for the victims of such human exploitation.

The latest furor over the Boston bomber is his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine, or rather the reaction of some retail businesses, refusing to sell this issue. It is a classical, visceral response triggered by the association of the alternative media reputation of the magazine with the attractive picture of the young man, as if it were some kind of endorsement of his deeply anti-social act.

Of course, it is and it isn’t. The cover copy describes him as a “monster.” And the same photo has appeared elsewhere, including in the New York Times. But, the combination of the appealing photo on the cover of this infamous alternative media publication seems to imply to some that he is being treated as some sort of rock star.

I have my own reasons for disliking the style of Rolling Stone, having once been personally attacked in its pages, and quite inappropriately so. But I suppose Bill McCrystal thinks the same thing about himself.

Anyway, that some companies like Walgreen drug stores refuse to sell this issue of the magazine is their own business, in my view. After all, companies are made up of people, just like magazines, and they have a right to their own views. The bomber is repugnant, and on this most agree. How we choose to treat him in the court of public opinion is up to each of us, and the private sector organizations to which we give our fealty. But what the courts do is a matter of law, not just of taste. And the taste we have in our mouths is a pretty awful one.

The American news media have a blind eye, a lack of perspective, when they report on many things, including the Boston marathon bombing, the current gun issues before Congress, the U.S. record of foreign military adventures and international relations. There are too many exceptions to American exceptionalism. So perhaps its takes a foreigner, like Australian journalist Bill Hoffman, to see things as they are and hold America accountable. Here’s an excerpt from an article he wrote today, forwarded by a friend who also sees the big picture:

“THE Boston bombing was despicable by any measure, but whether it was the act of external terrorism or internal malcontent it should have surprised nobody.

“The language particularly of the right of US politics has become so loose and unrestrained that its capacity to incite some to extreme actions should never be underestimated.

“Equally a nation that has waged continuous war and constantly been an occupier of foreign countries for the past decade can hardly expect to be immune to bite-back.

“If 1% of the coverage afforded yesterday’s blast had been given inside the United States to the impact on individual civilians of its own military activity there may be a greater appreciation of the potential consequences.

“The United States considers itself the world’s greatest democracy. By some measures that may be true.

“But the reality of its economic system renders many of its citizens powerless.

“Trapped in poverty, the poor gamble with their lives as foot soldiers for military adventurism promoted by the arms industry and energy companies, simply for the right to decent healthcare and education.

“The US spends $711 billion or 4.7% of its GDP on its military, more than $90 billion of which funds its presence in Afghanistan and other conflicts.

“That represents 41% of military spending globally.

“Yet 15% of the American population or 46.2 million people live in poverty, including 21.9% of those less than 18 years of age.

“Limited access to quality education coupled with exposure to media and politicians who show no restraint, in a nation where there is a constitutional right to own weapons with the capacity to wipe out 26 schoolchildren in the blink of an eye, creates a potent mix.

Nobody should be unconcerned about North Korea’s nuclear capacity or religious jihadists. But we should be no less troubled by Iran’s ambitions than by the hypocrisy that ignores the truth about Israel’s arsenal.”

It’s the birthday of the public intellectual, political writer, and the man known as the “father of modern linguistics,” Noam Chomsky, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1928). He grew up during the Great Depression, surrounded by poverty and anti-Semitism. His father was a Ukrainian immigrant and a famous Hebrew scholar, and growing up, Chomsky read the drafts of his father’s books, and that’s where he got some of his early education on the historical aspects of linguistics. Young Noam liked to take the train down to New York City to visit his uncle, a fourth-grade dropout who owned a newspaper stand where Jewish intellectuals would hang out and discuss workers’ rights, political organizing, and debate the virtues of Communism versus anarchism. When he was only 10 years old, Noam Chomsky wrote a political article about the fall of Barcelona to the fascists .

He went to college, became interested in linguistics. He disagreed with the accepted idea in linguistics that children learn language through practice and habit. Chomsky said that language is instinctive in human beings — he said that fish swim, birds fly, and people talk. His theories were radical, and he had a tough time publishing anything, but he finally came out with a book called Syntactic Structures (1957), in which he argued that there is a universal grammar innate to the human brain.

He might easily have stayed in the field of linguistics — he got a job teaching at MIT when he was 26 years old — but he started protesting the war in Vietnam. He urged his students to resist the draft, he stopped paying his taxes, and he helped organize a march on the Pentagon. He got arrested and ended up sharing a jail cell with the novelist Norman Mailer, who described Chomsky as “a slim, sharp-featured man with an ascetic expression and an air of gentle but absolute moral integrity.”

Since then, Noam Chomsky has continued to publish books about linguistics, but he’s also written a number of books critiquing U.S. foreign policy, books like Manufacturing Consent (1988) and What We Say Goes (2007).

Noam Chomsky said, “Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.”

And, “We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”

“Companies die young because their managers focus on the economics of producing goods and services, and forget that an organization is a community of human beings.”

It was on this day in 1814 that Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The British had invaded and captured Washington on August 24th. After successfully destroying the White House, the Capitol building, and a lot of Washington, the British moved on to Baltimore, and had no interest in occupying it — they just hoped to destroy as much as possible, as a symbolic victory.

The British made their headquarters in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and took over the plantation of the town doctor, Dr. William Beanes, who was elderly and well-liked. A young lawyer, Francis Scott Key, was incensed when he heard that Beanes had been captured and was being held on a ship, so he set off to rescue him.

Key was accompanied by John S. Skinner, an agent for prisoner release whom President Madison had sent along. The British commander, General Robert Ross, finally agreed to release Beanes after the Americans showed them some letters written by wounded British prisoners saying that Dr. Beanes was taking good care of them. But he wouldn’t let the three men leave until after the attack on Baltimore. They had to get on a sloop behind the British fleet and wait to see what would happen.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, there was a huge flag, 30 feet by 42 feet, easily visible from the British ships. Each of the 15 stars measured two feet between the points, and the stripes were two feet wide. A Baltimore seamstress and her 13-year-old daughter had sewn the flag by spreading it all out on the malthouse floor of a local brewery.

The British attacked Baltimore throughout the day on September 13th, and that night they sent more than 1,500 bombs, rockets, and cannon balls across the water at Fort McHenry. But Baltimore had been preparing for war for the past year, and it was well defended. Suddenly, the British stopped firing. From their boat, Francis Scott Key and the other men had no idea whether the British had succeeded or given up and retreated, and they could no longer see the harbor now that the sky was dark. So they had to wait all night, until the sky was light enough to see which flag was flying over the fort. And of course, the next morning the American flag was there.

Francis Scott Key scribbled down some ideas for a poem on the back of a letter that he was carrying. He was released later that day, and the next day, September 14th, he finished writing “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” which would later become the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” in a room at the Indian Queen Hotel.

Within five days, the poem was printed and circulated all over Baltimore with the directions that it should be sung to the tune of an English song, “To Anacreon in Heaven.” No one is sure exactly who figured out that the lyrics fit the tune of this popular drinking song. A well-known actor, Ferdinand Durang, stood on a chair and belted it out to an appreciative crowd at Captain McCauley’s tavern and became the first person to publicly sing what is now the national anthem of the United States.

To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!

H. L. Mencken

The U.S. Congress has once again proven itself incompetent in not passing the Zadroga 9/11 Health Care Compensation Act. Democrats are guilty of not developing a winning strategy, despite their majority, and Republicans are guilty of once again ignoring the ordinary people of the country in place of special and limited interests that have only self serving goals. If we get the Congress we deserve, then we as a people don’t deserve much these days. A little patriotism from Congress would be nice. Maybe it’s time to elect the street sweepers and waiters and laborers of the nation to Congress. As Alexis de Tocqueville said 150 years ago, they might be rough, but they know enough. And Congressional Term Limits is a good place to start.

You must view the movie, “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.” It is an Oscar-nominated 2009 documentary full of revelations on Vietnam, available on Netflix.

The film unveils and puts into perspective the series of political lies and misjudgments going back to Truman that resulted in the deaths of 2 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans, plus the as yet untold story of the collateral demise of two members of my own family. It is the tale of the daring illegal disclosure of the Top Secret Pentagon Papers that helped end the war. You’ll hear Nixon in his own words say things that should have put him on a guillotine.

I see more and more parallels to Afghanistan, and the sort of ingrown culture of lies and misjudgments that mislead and numb the vast majority of Americans to what WE are doing there, being paid for with YOUR MONEY and the LIVES of your friends and neighbors. As revealing documents and new perspectives come out on Afghanistan, now would be a good time to see this well done movie, or read the 2002 book on which it was based, and think about taking some contemporary political action on your own current observations and conclusions.

I served as a press officer in Vietnam, at the Department of Defense Information School and at the senior leadership organization in the military, The Army War College, and I didn’t know this much truth about Vietnam until I saw this film.

Today’s Washington Post ( begins a lengthy investigative report on national security, revealing that nearly one in every 400 Americans now requires a Top Secret security clearance to man a complex of thousands of government and contract organizations to conduct the American security process.

This process is so arcane and intricate that no person or group of people can begin to understand the work product all this effort and spending produces, concludes the Post. The results are too numerous and complicated to communicate, much less comprehend, according to the Post. Is “less process” therefore the answer to “more security”? Or is “better communications” an answer?

Maybe everyone without at least a Secret clearance, and even I once had one of those, should be rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo. If America finally opens up travel to Cuba, maybe all those without clearances could be sent there on commercial flights, and put up in hotels, to add new vigor to the local revolutionary economy.

That would leave America to those worthies possessing security clearances and we could set our calendar ahead (back) permanently to 1984, or whatever date creation of the ultimate “security state” deserves.

February 2023

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,946 other subscribers