Heat Ray To Be Used on Legislators

Oh good, here’s a proposal to end the war I can really warm up to!

Left Field Weekly
Heat Ray to be used on Legislators
By Robert Street
February 5, 2007

In a move that threatens to raise the stakes in the debate over the Iraq war, a judicial review panel has approved use of a controversial new “Heat Ray” by non-governmental organizations. The decision, which is being appealed, comes asvoters are becoming increasingly frustrated with what is perceived as Congressional foot dragging in ending the Iraq war. “With the heat ray, for the first time voters will literally be able to hold Congress members’ feet to the fire,” said a lawyer involved in the proceedings. “This is a victory for concerned citizens, and a real advance for democracy.”

The heat ray, which is said to be harmless, uses millimeter-length waves that barely penetrate the skin but cause people to feel as if they are about to catch on fire. According to Justin Norman of Peace First, lead plaintiff in the case, the use of non-lethal “legislation accelerators” is the logical next step in a moribund democratic process. By providing a non-lethal means of focusing legislators’ attention, heat ray advocates hope to provoke immediate Congressional action on the Iraq war, and other issues they deem important.

The proposal to use the heat ray has been steadily gaining traction among activist groups. “We’ve tried letter writing, mass demonstrations, email campaigns, voting,” said Heather Klein, spokesperson for Act Out for a Change, “but nothing seems to get through to them.” Because of its non-lethal nature, the heat ray appeals to pacifists, yet is also acceptable to voters whose first choice is to dunk their representative in a pool of piranhas. It is this broad popular appeal that is making legislators on both sides of the aisle nervous. In a hastily called press conference, Democratic Majority Leader, Rep. StenyHoyer objected to the panel’s decision. “We’re already pleading with President Bush to change course in Iraq. Setting us on fire is not going to make him change his mind any sooner.” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) said the heat ray wouldnot discriminate between those wanting to “stay the course, and those who want to cut and run,” although he quickly added that he fully supported the public’s right to own heat rays. Both agreed that a heat ray would disrupt the normal business of Congress, and hinder deliberation on symbolic, non-binding resolutions. “If we feel we’re about to burst into flames we simply won’t be able to argue about important stuff like that,” said Cantor.

Peace activists admit they will face difficulties in deploying the heat ray. Raytheon, the company that designed the weapon, is refusing to disclose the price, but it is expected to be in excess of one million dollars. However, a company spokesman acknowledged that any organization with the legal right to acquire a heat ray would be able to. This week’s ruling clears the way for organizations like Peace First to raise funds for their very own heat ray. “We’re accepting donations on the Internet,” said a hopeful Norman, “so it’s really important that this message gets out.”

Proponents of the plan claim the heat ray may ultimately save lives. “Congress has the Constitutional power to stop the war in Iraq, and to prevent an impending attack on Iran. Anything that can be done to persuade them to exercise that power is acceptable,” stated Klein. “It may be a bit uncomfortable for our Representatives, but we have to weigh that against the thousands of people who may die if we don’t act.” Mr. Norman pointed out that the heat ray does not violate the Geneva Conventions regarding treatment of intransigent government officials. “In fact, the [Geneva Conventions] don’t mention heat rays at all,” he said.

Robert Street is freelance journalist and political writer. He can be contacted at rstreet411/AT/gmail/DOT/com.


Iran: The War Begins

“Fool me once, shame … shame on … you.” Long, uncomfortable pause. “Fool me — can’t get fooled again!”
Or can we? Will the tricks that worked for Iraq work again for Iran? Will the media again play their enabling role?
Will Congress finally assert itself? Will enough Americans demand an end to this insanity? Or will we sit back and
passively watch it on our 50″ Plasma TV’s? If you liked Iraq, take a look at what’s coming down the track!

This article by John Pilger gives some idea of where we’re headed.



ZNet Commentary
Iran: The War Begins

By John Pilger
February 03, 2007

As opposition grows in America to the failed Iraq adventure, the Bush administration is preparing public opinion for an attack on Iran, its latest target, by the spring.

Read this article at ZNet:

Full Disclosure and a Lonely Democrat

On the return flight from Nicaragua I saw a great, short, indie film! I liked it so much, I downloaded it from iTunes. (Only $1.99. I don’t usually buy stuff with DRM, or recommend stuff that costs money, but this was worth it!) Synopsis:

Tired of wasting time on relationships that break up when one person discovers something they can't stand about the other, Everett decides to reveal all his terrible habits, attitudes, and hang-ups on the first date.
Shockingly, women don't respond as he expects... until he meets Brinn, who's willing to play his game and try for Full Disclosure.

Reminds me of me! Especially fun for you Radical Honesty types. Check it out:

Here’s a tongue in cheek takeoff on YouTube’s LonelyGirl15 — LonelyDem07:
Hey, it’s raining subpoenas! It’s about time!

Oh, and the impeachment flash mob was apparently a success with over 1200 participants. I couldn’t make it, but someone sent me this link showing aerial photos:


P.S. If you missed the photos from my trip to Nicaragua, here they are:

Inappropriate Appropriations

Okay, so there was a Democratic landslide in November. Finally! A massive public repudiation of George Bush and the war in Iraq. And yet, the Democrats are planning on passing a $160 billion funding bill that would keep the war going! It’s enough to make you want to… to… run for president, if you happen to be Dennis Kucinich.

KUCINICH: Someone has to rally the American people, to let them know that the money is there right now to bring our troops home. Democrats were put in power in November to chart a new direction in Iraq. It’s inconceivable that having been given the constitutional responsibility to guide the fortunes of America in a new direction, that Democratic leaders would respond by supporting the administration’s call for up to $160 billion in new funding for the war in Iraq.

Inconceivable? That’s putting it charitably. I can think of a few other adjectives! Kucinich has some good things to say, check out the interview.


Now is the time to hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire — especially, Nancy Pelosi. Is she your representative? Have you contacted her recently? Maybe now would be a good time.

Regarding the report from the Iraq Study Group… hmmm. What did we expect? A good analysis from Bob Herbert, below. The report makes clear that the war in Iraq is a lost cause, yet tries to salvage what was undoubtedly the underlying objective of the war — strategic control of Iraq’s oil.

It’s spelled out in Recommendation No. 63, which calls on the U.S. to “assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise” and to “encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.” This recommendation would turn Iraq’s nationalized oil industry into a commercial entity that could be partly or fully privatized by foreign firms.

It’s all there in black and white, and all you have to do is download it and read it. (Google Iraq Study Group)
Or, just check out Antonia Juhasz’s explication in the LA Times:

On the important humor front:

Folk songs of the Far Right Wing

Couple role-plays the political way. Warning: sexual content


Using the “O” Word

The Iraq Study Group’s report on what to do about Iraq is due out next Wednesday, but the gist of it has been made public. They say it is somewhere between “stay the course” and “cut and run.” Historian Andrew Bacevitch is under no delusions regarding the real agenda of the ISG:

Even as Washington waits with bated breath for the Iraq Study Group (ISG) to release its findings, the rest of us should see this gambit for what it is: an attempt to deflect attention from the larger questions raised by America’s failure in Iraq and to shore up the authority of the foreign policy establishment that steered the United States into this quagmire. This ostentatiously bipartisan panel of Wise Men (and one woman) can’t really be searching for truth. It is engaged in damage control.


Speaking of Iraq, NBC made the “bold” move to start calling the Iraq imbroglio a “civil war” despite the White House’s objections. The NY Times, LA Times and other media quickly followed suit. While their somewhat self-congratulatory announcement is certainly welcome, it seems a little late. They’ve finally found the resolve to report things as they are, instead of how Bush says they are. Uh, great. Wasn’t that their job all along? Where were they in the build-up to the war? They were it’s obsequious cheerleaders! Perhaps, like the Democrats, seeing which way the political winds blow, they’ve decided to change their spin. Am I being cynical? Do they think we’ve already forgotten their bellicose boosterism in 2003? While NBC concedes calling it a “civil war” could erode public support, I’d love to hear them admit they were instrumental in building public support for the war in the first place.

John Nichols lays it out in “News Flash: Major Media Begins to Think for Itself”:

An emboldened media is more symptom than cause. Likewise, the recent Democratic victories were due to plummeting public support for the war, the only meaningful protest people could make in our rigged electoral system. It wasn’t because of a huge enthusiasm for the Democratic party. Democrats enjoyed a landslide because Republicans screwed up so miserably that Democrats became less distasteful than the alternative. But you can’t make a policy out of reliance on your opponent’s mistakes.

I’m still pulling for systemic change, change that addresses the endemic corruption in Washington, corporate control of the levers of power, and so on. I’m still waiting for NBC to announce that the US attacked Iraq in a corporate-inspired bid to control its oil. That’s the kind of truth-telling we need to move out of our own quagmire of deceit. But, frankly, I’m not expecting NBC to lead on that one. When they finally use the “O-word” it will be because they were forced to by overwhelming public disgust with their establishment spin. It will be because they have to choose between telling the truth and their own irrelevancy. It will be because we will have already won.


Goodbye Constitution, Hello Waterboard

Last week Congress passed legislation as sweeping in its scope as it is dangerous in its intent. Throwing out the long-held legal principle of habeas corpus is patently unconstitutional — but it may take years, if ever, for a case to go before the Supreme Court. Also, in a blatant attempt at retroactively legalizing criminal behavior his administration has engaged in, Dubya was given authority to determine what constitutes torture. Both of these measures were responses to Supreme Court decisions that slapped down the administration’s bizarre legal interpretations.

An excerpt from an article by William Rivers Pitt:

So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers. Suspects cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.

Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.

Speaking of collecting evidence, the torture of suspects and detainees has been broadly protected by this new legislation. While it tries to delineate what is and is not acceptable treatment of detainees, in the end, it gives George W. Bush the final word on what constitutes torture. US officials who use cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment to extract information from detainees are now shielded from prosecution.

Read the full article here:

That’s a bitter pill. How ’bout a spoonful of satirical sugar?
Stick a magnetic ribbon on your SUV

GOP: Party of Family Values
And now this from the GOP, party of family values. Republican Rep. Mark Foley got caught sending porno messages to a 16 year-old boy who had been a Congressional page. The article linked below has the actual
transcripts — be warned — you might find them revolting. Attempting to put a positive spin on it, conservative bloggers are lauding Foley for “doing the right thing” by resigning. Excuse me! It is also reported that other GOP lawmakers knew about Foley’s problem months ago and didn’t do anything. There ought to be a law against… oh yeah, Foley co-chaired the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, and had sponsored numerous bills aimed at protecting children from predators.

National Intelligence Estimate
If I were a conspiracy theorist, of course, I would speculate that the Foley affair was just a desperate attempt by the Republicans to distract voters’ attention from something much, much worse — the National Intelligence Estimate. Trying to get ahead of the controversy caused by leaked excerpts, Dubya declassified the document. The gist of the report, compiled by 16 US intelligence agencies, is that US efforts are making the problem of terrorism *worse* not better. Looking at the report you have to wonder why it was classified in the first place. It’s dire conclusions are what many of us predicted before the Bush administration (with ample help from the Democratic Party) started the war, and what should be apparent to anyone paying attention. Don’t take my word for it. Don’t believe the pundit spin. Read it yourself.

So there you have it. Going into the crucial midterm elections November 7, one almost feels sorry for the Republicans. The occupation of Iraq is a disaster of the first magnitude, according to their own intelligence agencies. Dubya is having to go further afield for advice that doesn’t sound like defeat, reportedly consulting Henry Kissinger. (Does being responsible for a previous foreign policy debacle qualify him to screw this one up, too?) In order to paint the Democrats as soft on terrorism they have had to rip up the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. And to top it all off, they’ve been protecting a pedophile, making a mockery of their claim to represent “family values.” It’s a shame hypocrisy isn’t a fatal disease.

Hugo Chávez Prods the Devil

You will no doubt have heard of Hugo Chávez’s speech last week before the United Nations. Much hyper-ventilating from right-wing media, and even the Democrats were quick to condemn his rhetorical flourish that W. was “the devil.” The reaction from the punditocracy seems hysterical. If you bother watching the speech

(Real Player: rtsp://video.c-span.org/project/ter/ter092006_chavez.rm?mode=compact)

a couple things are evident. First of all, the comments about W. being the devil were just a small part of a much longer speech. Chávez went on to say a lot of things that were really much more damning. To focus on the “diablo” reference seems a bit disingenuous. In any case, it’s also worth noting that the speech was *very* will received by the UN members present. The problem isn’t one little word in one Presidential speech, it’s the fact that much of the world — including many in the US — agrees with Chávez, irrespective of what they think of how he expresses himself.
Is name-calling effective? Depends on what you’re trying to achieve. It certainly got him lots of ink! Given the obstinate refusal of the press to discuss the substantive issues regarding US foreign and economic policy, perhaps you take what you can get. Bill Clinton commented on Fox News that Chávez’s tactics could backfire: “It makes him look small and undermines his effectiveness.” I tend to agree, although, while that may be true in the US, Chávez is playing to a global audience that may look beyond the epithets.
Gov. Pataki made this bizarre comment: “This person has no right coming to our country to criticize our president,” Pataki said in a phone interview on FOX News.

“He can take his cheap oil and do something for the poor people of Venezuela.”

Um… Governor, that *is* what he’s doing, and that’s the “problem.” Rather than talking about whether someone has “the right” to criticize Bush, how about talking about the substance of the underlying criticism?
And these repeated assertions that Chávez is a dictator…? He’s repeatedly won overwhelming victories in democratic elections! You can’t say the same on either count for W. “Dictator” isn’t an accurate description, it’s just more name-calling.
It’s hardly news that Chávez has a low opinion of Bush. Back in March, responding to White House comments characterizing him as a demagogue, Chávez gave Bush a piece of his mind, calling Bush a coward, psychopath, assassin, ignoramus, a donkey, a liar, an alcoholic. “Eres un burro, Mr. Danger.” Those comments are now being rehashed by the media. Eh. So El Presidente has a florid vocabulary. Big deal.
The worst thing about the name calling is that it encourages Bush’s defenders to respond in kind. In doing so, the substantive criticisms that Chávez is making get conveniently swept under the rug.
What would the US media be discussing if they wanted to look at substance rather than style? Perhaps the role that petroleum plays in the conflict. Reporter Greg Palast asks Chávez some hard questions in this interview: http://www.progressive.org/mag_intv0706
The Bush administration backed a coup in Venezuela, and understandably, Chávez is a bit testy about that! Consider, for a moment, what the US reaction would be if a foreign government funnelled millions of dollars into violent anti-Bush groups, formed an alliance with dissident members of the US Army who surrounded the White House with tanks and kidnapped the President, and then tried to legitimize the coup by recognizing its perpetrators. (Maybe that’s a bad example! I’m sure there are some of us who’d love to see Bush “rendered” to some nation we’ve designated as prone to human rights “abuses.”)
To get an incredible inside look at the coup as it actually unfolded, check out “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” This film is a little over an hour long, and very gripping. It gives a favorable view on Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution. Highly recommended.

It turns out that Chávez has been reading Noam Chomsky, and during the UN speech held aloft his 2003 book “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Domination.” I haven’t read the book, but I’m familiar with Chomky’s work. The proposition that US policy is dictated by corporate economic interests seeking a dominant global position seems so obvious as to not be worth arguing, but I’m sure Chomsky provides copious references and footnotes to support it. After the Chávez speech, the book shot to number one on the Amazon.com bestseller list. (Next up on my political reading list: “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins.)
What makes Chávez the Bush Administration’s bête noire is that he is attempting to implement a fundamentally different sort of economic structure, one that is directly antagonistic to the model of economic domination and exploitation (globalization and neo-liberalism) favored by the Bushies. That, plus the fact that oil gives him the economic muscle to actually have an impact.
I am sure that the Bolivarian Revolution is not perfect. I would be surprised if there have not been excesses and mistakes. Indeed, Human Rights Watch, which supported Chávez at the time of the attempted coup, has been critical of him since then. (See: http://www.hrw.org/americas/venezuela.php).

Of course, Human Rights Watch is also highly critical of the US, so I’m not sure we’re in much of a position to hurl brickbats at Venezuela, either.



Free Speech Now is my blog site.

It reflects a variety of topics I’m interested in: Politics, Humor, how we Relate to one another as human beings sharing Planet Earth. Speaking of relating, I’m interested in your comments, especially if you have well-reasoned opinions that differ from mine. If you share my opinions that’s great. But I’m not as interested in preaching to the choir as I am in engaging with people who have different views. After all, that’s where change can occur.


Villainy or Virtue?

Villainy or virtue? Context is everything. V for Vendetta, the recent release from the Wachowski brothers, provides a prism of meanings, where any particular meaning depends on the individual viewer’s reflection. Moral absolutists will find the ambiguity vexing. Tough. Here’s my take.

The film begins in 1605 with the story of Guy Fawkes’ attempt to blow up Parliament and assassinate the King. Quickly, though, it pole-vaults the present to land us in a dystopic London 20 years in the future. A totalitarian government keeps the population in place with intimidation, propaganda and omnipresent surveillance.

Sandwiched between 17th Century religious oppression and a familiar vision of a fascist future (Orwell’s 1984 and Nazi Germany are strongly evoked), the casual references to present-day events have the viewer shifting contexts. Seeing the ubiquitous surveillance cameras it’s easy to be reminded that London is the current leader in deployment of such devices with an estimated 400,000. Are the film’s futuristic audio surveillance vans all that far behind? The vitriolic TV pundit “The Voice of London” spews his jingoistic, homophobic tirades, and how can we not be reminded of a certain cable network bully? Allusions to the war “the United States started” can’t help but resonate with the current catastrophe in Iraq. These sparing references prevent us from slipping too complacently into what might otherwise be an entertaining futuristic fantasy, events happening in a galaxy comfortably “far, far away.”

V for Vendetta is a film about revolution. Certainly, the revolution of bombs and assassination, but also the personal revolution that is at the heart of all great revolutions and revolutionaries. Che Guevara said “The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” And so it is with “V”, our hero, or anti-hero, if you prefer. Revolution is a matter of the heart, a passionate battle for truth, and fearsome defense of liberty, of love, of human dignity. In the nobility of that cause, what means do we allow ourselves? How far do we go before we sacrifice what we would succor? V is as merciless in his vendetta against the guilty as he is in the liberation of his young protégé, Evey, whose own internal revolution of love and freedom he induces. As Guevara also said, “the oppressor must be killed mercilessly…the revolutionary must become an efficient and selective killing machine.” V is exactly that — efficient and selective, a lover and a killer. What revolution of the soul must one suffer to become that?

The idea doesn’t sit well with my pacifist friends, steeped in Satyagraha. I wonder if the conditions that made nonviolent change possible in India, or in the Deep South, apply today. Is nonviolence universally applicable as a tool for change, or only effective at certain points in history? Does nonviolence not depend on the ability of the oppressor to feel shame? It finally worked with the British, but would it have worked with Pol Pot? Gandhi said “Love does not burn others, it burns itself. Therefore, a satyagrahi, i.e., a civil resister, will joyfully suffer even unto death.” Considered in that light, I wonder whether my friends will suffer even unto their deaths, or are effectively choosing hopeful complacency in the face of the long train of abuses and usurpations perpetrated by our nascent suzerain.

V for Vendetta throws a lighted match in our pool of political gasoline by asking how brutally people will allow themselves to be abused, for how long, and what means might they ethically use to put an end to their oppression. Any means necessary?

John F. Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.” A corollary might be that violence is also inevitable if good men simply do nothing. As we witness the steady erosion of our civil liberties, at what point do we actually do something, as opposed to merely nodding our heads politely at cocktail parties and murmuring that it’s indeed a deplorable situation? A revolution comes not from agreement but from action. It comes when enough people align their actions to that end, perhaps even seemingly insignificant actions. Why, one could even be part of a revolution inadvertently, by forwarding an email. In a networked age, receiving an email may be all it takes to be labelled a revolutionary — or a terrorist; and never truer the words of Benjamin Franklin on signing the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Hijacking a television broadcast, V sends the following message to the people of London:

There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the annunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance, and depression. And where once you had the freedom to object, think, and speak as you saw fit, you now have sensors and systems of surveillence coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. We, ourselves, are responsible for the fact that something is terribly wrong with this country.

No truth could be more refreshingly inflammatory in our present political predicament, and no message more timely, because accepting responsibility for what is terribly wrong with this country is the necessary preliminary to setting things right. When sufficient numbers of Americans turn words into action no government can stand in their way. “People should not be afraid of their government,” V says, paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson, “Governments should be afraid of their people.”

There is still a window of opportunity wherein Americans can act to effect peaceful change. It is by no means assured, of course, but at least our Constitution provides for that possibility. If Congress can impeach a president for a fib about fellatio, it can certainly impeach him for fabricating a pretext for war, “extraordinary” renditions, and for violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Failure to take action now may lead to a future not unlike what is depicted in V for Vendetta where the stark choice will be submission or violent revolt. Let’s not go there.