Thursday, March 23, 2006

Iraq, Puerto Rico, Chalmers Johnson and Richard Pryor

Good evening. Kicking things off with Democracy Now! and remember tomorrow the weekend begins!

Army Dog Handler Sentenced to Six Months For Abu Ghraib Abuse
An Army dog handler has been sentenced to six months in prison for abusing Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. The sergeant, Michael Smith, was photographed using un-muzzled dogs to terrify detainees. He could have been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison but he was given a far shorter sentence. Smith is the 10th low-ranking soldier convicted of taking part in the widespread abuse at Abu Ghraib. To date no high-ranking officer or anyone in civilian command has been held accountable for what happened at the prison.

Only the low ranking get trials. Everybody else gets a pass in the nonaccountable Bully Boy administration. Does anyone remember when he was running in 2000 and it was being touted as a CEO presidency? That was before all the corporate scandals and the stock market bust. But he has ran the nation like Tycco or Enron or any other belly up company. He's made sure the people around him pocketed as much cash as possible and the investors in this soceity got screwed.

There's another point to make too. I hope everybody read C.I.'s "NYT: When everyone below him is derelict in their duty, the Bully Boy is as well" this morning. Though no one wants to tackle torture, what has been tackled is that one person after another, from low ranking on up, has been found to be derelict in some manner (including Rumsfeld) and that goes right up the chain. He really can be charged with that in an impeachment and, if we're lucky, he will be.

Court Rejects Giving Puerto Ricans Right to Vote for President
In Washington the Supreme Court has rejected an effort to give residents of Puerto Rico the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections. "No territory of the United States has ever been able to participate in the presidential elections of the United States of America," Puerto Rican political analyst Juan Manuel Garcia-Passalacqua. "That fact only serves to underscore that Puerto Rico is now in the thinking of the United States Supreme Court a miserable colony of the United States."

So they can't have independence and they also can't vote? That's a recipe for disaster. As a colony, I'm assuming that they pay taxes to the United States and I'm remembering the third grade lesson about the Revolutionary War and the cry from what was then the British colonies of "No taxation without representation!" They can't get statehood and they can't get independence. How's this going to end? Who didn't pay attention to history?

Now Cedric and me picked out items today (and he's got an extra one) so be sure to check out Cedric's Big Mix. Elaine's off tonight but be sure you read "Musings" from last night.

Tony found a pretty amazing interview with Chalmers Johnson. This is from Tom Englehardt's "Whatever Happened to Congress?" that CounterPunch has up at their site:

The government isn't working right. There's no proper supervision. The founders, the authors of the Constitution, regarded the supreme organ to be Congress. The mystery to me--more than the huge expansion of executive branch powers we've seen since the neoconservatives and George Bush came to power--is: Why has Congress failed us so completely? Why are they no longer interested in the way the money is spent? Why does a Pentagon budget like this one produce so little interest? Is it that people have a vested interest in it, that it's going to produce more jobs for them?
I wrote an article well before Cunningham confessed called "The Military-Industrial Man" in which I identified a lot of what he was doing, but said unfortunately I didn't know how to get rid of him in such a safe district. After it appeared on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page, the paper got a couple of letters to the editor from the 34th district in downtown LA saying, I wish he was my congressman. If he'd bring good jobs here, I wouldn't mind making something that just gets blown up or sunk in the ground like missile defense in Alaska. I mean, we've already spent $100 billion on what amounts to a massive high-tech scarecrow. It couldn't hit a thing. The aiming devices aren't there. The tests fail. It doesn't work. It's certainly a cover for something much more ominous--the expansion of the Air Force into outer space or "full spectrum dominance," as they like to put it.
We need to concentrate on this, and not from a partisan point of view either. There's no reason to believe the Democrats would do a better job. They never have. They've expanded the armed forces just as fast as the Republicans.
This is the beast we're trying to analyze, to understand, and it seems to me today unstoppable. Put it this way: James Madison, the author of our Constitution, said the right that controls all other rights is the right to get information. If you don't have this, the others don't matter. The Bill of Rights doesn't work if you can't find out what's going on. Secrecy has been going crazy in this country for a long time, but it's become worse by orders of magnitude under the present administration. When John Ashcroft became attorney general, he issued orders that access to the Freedom of Information Act should be made as difficult as possible.

If that knocked you off your seat, read the whole thing. It's pretty heavy.

And here's something else to check out that Nina found, Jason McGahan's "An Iconoclast Remembered: Richard Pryor:"

Redd Foxx used to say that Richard Pryor would have been banned from every nightclub in the country had he performed his act before the Black Revolution of the 1960s. Foxx, a friend and admirer of Malcolm X since his youth, was speaking from long and bitter experience. Years before he played Fred Sanford in the hit 1970s television program Sanford & Son, Foxx was a "blue" comedian known to Black audiences throughout the Midwestern Chitlin' Circuit of the '40s and '50s for his sexually and politically explicit humor. He catered his act to the sensibility of Black underclass audiences, which embarrassed many integration-minded Blacks and missed white audiences almost entirely.
Foxx's black-or-white dilemma illustrates what historian Mel Watkins, borrowing from W.E.B. DuBois, called the "twoness" of African-American humor. Slavery created for Blacks the necessity to manage both how they were perceived by whites and how they perceived themselves. A laugh from the master could mean averting punishment, while satire, mimicry, and mockery of the master in the company of slaves could help alleviate the pain and misery of bondage. To justify slavery to themselves, the slavers rewarded foolish joviality and naïveté, while no overt act of intelligence or irony went unpunished. The richness of Black humor was secluded from the view of whites for centuries. The gulf between authentic Black ethnic humor and crude racist representations persisted unabated for more than a century.
Richard Pryor wasn't the first Black comedian to draw humor from the bitterness of racism. He wasn’t the first to substitute dazzling wit and intelligence in place of "acting the fool" for white audiences. And his mordant political satire informed by racial otherness had long since become a staple of the Chitlin’ Circuit. What first and foremost made Richard Pryor a transcendent American comedian was that he removed the racial barrier separating working-class Black ethnic humor from the predominantly white mainstream of American culture.
Jim Crow segregation after the Civil War had the effect of providing Blacks with clubs and cabarets in which to develop the humor denied them in the whites-only theater and mass media. Richard Pryor, like Redd Foxx before him, began his career performing before almost exclusively Black audiences. And like Foxx, the divergence between the types of humor suited to Black as opposed to white audiences became a defining source of conflict in Pryor's development as a comedian. He was born into the racially segregated Black underclass of Peoria, Illinois. His father was a teenage boxing champ turned pimp and bar manager. His mother was a prostitute. He grew up in one of his grandmother’s brothels. His earliest memories were peopled with the winos, addicts, con-men, prostitutes, and gangsters occupying the lowest rung of Black society in Peoria. Nowhere is this fact more evident than in his best known stand-up comedy of the '70s and '80s. But earlier in his career, Pryor suppressed his vivid remembrances of the past, believing them a hindrance to his pursuit of the financial rewards of white mainstream approval.

Now go check out Kat's latest.