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Saturday, November 27, 2004


 

Two recommendations for the reading list


Here are two extremely interesting articles you can read while I'm gone:

Celia Hart writes about what's happening in Venezuela from the point of view of a Cuban revolutionary.

Stan Goff, one of the founding members of Military Families Speak Out, writes about his experiences debating a key neo-con supporter of the invasion of Iraq, and in doing so lays out an extremely clear view of what the invasion was all about.


 

Movies no one has ever seen


Since the song thread has been a great source of discussion, in addition to leaving the open thread below, I'm leaving this one for discussion of movies. For once on this blog, I'm going to exclude politics; maybe we'll take up "the greatest political movies of all time" after the song thread is done and decided on. No, this thread is for promoting obscure movies that you think few other people have seen, but that you loved. Totally frivolous; nothing political about it.

I'll start with two of my favorites which just happen to be on TBS today, which is what started me thinking about this. Blast From The Past is a great fish out of water story, starring Christopher Walken as a professor who takes his wife (Sissy Spacek) into a fallout shelter at the height of the Cold War when he thinks the atom bomb has been dropped. They bear and raise a son, Adam (Brendan Fraser) who, 30 years later, emerges into what he thinks is a post-apocalyptic world and meets Alicia Silverstone. The second movie I'm recommending, Galaxy Quest, stars Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver as two Star Trek-type TV stars, who, along with the rest of their crew, become involved in a real-life outer-space adventure, much to their surprise. Hijinx ensue in both movies.

OK, your turn. Remember, no movies that have been nominated for Academy Awards, no movies that have been in anyone's top ten, no top grossing movies of all time, just movies you think most people have never seen or even heard of.


 

Open thread


I'm heading out on vacation for a week with only dialup access, so posting will definitely be light to non-existent. Use this thread to carry on without me, and don't forget to keep nominating songs for our greatest antiwar and political songs list. Aloha!

 

Greatest Antiwar & Political Songs Update


I'll be on vacation for a week so I'm going to leave nominations open for one more week; after that we'll close nominations and start voting (once I figure out how). The current list of nominated songs appears below; for the rules of the process and previous comments (including songs I haven't yet decided on whether or not to add to the list of nominees), see the original post.
Songs most recently added shown in Bold

Antiwar Songs

Alice's Restaurant - Arlo Guthrie
The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - The Pogues
Blowin' in the Wind - Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, others
Bomb the World - Michael Franti & Spearhead
Bring the Boys Home - Freida Payne
Bullet the Blue Sky - U2
Civil War - Guns N Roses
Cops of the World - Phil Ochs
Down by the Riverside - traditional
Eve of Destruction - Barry McGuire
Fixin' to Die Rag - Country Joe & the Fish
Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival
GI Movement - Holly Near
Give Peace a Chance - John Lennon
Hang in There - Holly Near
Happy Christmas (War is Over) - John Lennon
Hiroshima - David Rovics
I Ain't Marchin Anymore - Phil Ochs
If I Had a Rocket Launcher - Bruce Cockburn
If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next - Manic Street Preachers
Imagine - John Lennon
Kill for Peace - The Fugs
Killing in the Name - Rage Against the Machine
Life During Wartime - Talking Heads
Masters of War - Bob Dylan, others
99 Red Balloons - Nena
No More Genocide - Holly Near
Ohio - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
One Tin Soldier - Coven
The Price of Oil - Billy Bragg
Radio Baghdad - Patti Smith
7 O'Clock News/Silent Night - Simon & Garfunkle
Sky Pilot - The Animals
Three-Five-Zero-Zero - Hair
Two Tribes - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Universal Soldier - Donovan, Buffy Ste. Marie
Unknown Soldier - The Doors
Waist Deep in the Big Muddy - Pete Seeger
War - Edwin Starr
We Hate To See Them Go - Malvina Reynolds
We Seek No Wider War - Phil Ochs
What's Going On? - Marvin Gaye
What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding? - Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? - Joan Baez, others
Sunday, Bloody Sunday - U2
Who Would Jesus Bomb? - David Rovics
With God on Our Side - Bob Dylan, Neville Brothers

Other Political Songs

Acres of Clams - Charlie King
Beds are Burning - Midnight Oil
Biko - Peter Gabriel
Bread and Roses - traditional
Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?
Bush It! - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
The Death of Rachel Corrie - David Rovics
Deportee - Woody Guthrie, Judy Collins, Joan Baez
Earth First! - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
The Ghosts of Mississippi - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
Hurricane - Bob Dylan
The Internationale
I Wish I Kew How It Would Feel to Be Free - Nina Simone
Joe Hill - Joan Baez, Alfred Hayes
Love Me, I'm a Liberal - Phil Ochs
Mississippi Goddamn - Nina Simone
Money's Too Tight - Simply Red
MTA - Kingston Trio
A Partisan - Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez
Peace Train - Cat Stevens
People Have the Power - Patti Smith
Power to the People - John Lennon
The Preacher and the Slave - Joe Hill
The Rebel Jesus - Jackson Browne
Resistance - David Rovics
Ringing of Revolution - Phil Ochs
The Revolution Starts Now - Steve Earle
Solidarity Forever
Spanish Bombs - The Clash
Steelworker Blues - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday
Strike a Blow Against the Empire - David Rovics
Take Away My Name - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
Talking Union - Pete Seeger
The Times They Are A-Changin' - Bob Dylan
Union Maid - Woody Guthrie, Judy Collins
Volunteers - Jefferson Airplane
Washington Bullets - The Clash
We Can Be Together - Jefferson Airplane
We Shall Overcome
When the Ship Comes In - Peter, Paul, & Mary
Which Side Are You On? - Pete Seeger
Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who
World in Their Pocket - Malvina Reynolds
You've Got to be Carefully Taught - South Pacific

Friday, November 26, 2004


 

The missing word


Here's a story from today's Los Angeles Times:
Officials Report Lack of Intelligence on Iranian Weapons

"While convinced that Iran is 'vigorously' pursuing programs to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, U.S. intelligence has few sources of reliable information on the Islamic republic's illicit arms activities, according to current and former intelligence officials and Middle East experts."
The notion that someone could be "convinced" of something while having "few sources of reliable information" is ludicrous in and of itself, but the problems here are more subtle and are, no surprise here, a repetition of the press treatment of the allegations against Iraq. The headline clearly implies that there is such a thing as "Iranian weapons" (implicitly, of course, they're referring to nuclear weapons here, not rifles or hand grenades). And the article itself repeats the error, talking about "the Islamic republic's illicit arms activities" as if they are a fact, not a supposition.

The missing word, of course, is "alleged."


Thursday, November 25, 2004


 

Open racism in America


American Leftist has the story about how, during Yasser Arafat's funeral, Don Imus and two guests on his MSNBC show repeatedly referred to Palestinians as stinking, filthy animals (using various combinations of those words; you can and should read the entire exchange by clicking on the link) and Arafat's wife as a "fat pig," and suggesting that someone should drop a bomb on the entire gathering and kill them all! MSNBC's belated reaction, in response to a letter-writing campaign:
"The views expressed on the program are not those of MSNBC. Having said that, it was unfortunate that these remarks were telecast on MSNBC. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by these remarks."
No fines, no being thrown off the air, nothing. Here's a "moral issue" that could be a fine subject for debate on the airwaves, instead of NBA players fighting with fans.

Think about the subtle implication of MSNBC's remarks, which suggest that there are people who might not be offended by calling Arafat's wife a "fat pig," calling Palestinians stinking, filthy animals, and advocating mass murder. And sadly, of course, they are right in that. But they still owe an apology (and lots more) to everyone, and not just to the segment of their audience which has a shred of decency.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004


 

Medical aid for the people of Fallujah


[First posted Tuesday 6 a.m.; bumped to the top with an update]

I get multiple appeals each day - donate money to this, protest that, etc. I don't repost them here, even though I support virtually all of them, because I've never viewed my blog as a substitute or even a significant supplement to the efforts that various groups make to spread the word about those causes, and also because I know if I did, I could quickly have a blog which was nothing but such appeals. Nothing wrong with such a blog, by the way, but it wouldn't be this one.

However, today I'm making an exception for an urgent appeal from Codepink, relaying an urgent request from well-known independent journalist Dahr Jamail who is organizing an effort to aid the refugees of Fallujah:

"I have just come from a refugee camp in Baghdad with families from Fallujah. The suffering is beyond description. It's worse than anything you've read or anything I've written so far.

"This is a humanitarian crisis. They need medicines for their camp and the other camps immediately. We have an organization set up of doctors who can distribute the medicines and supplies. BUT WE NEED THEM NOW! THIS CANNOT WAIT!"

Solidarity, Dahr
If you want to help, visit the Codepink appeal page which will tell you how you can donate money and other ways you can help. There are millions (billions?) of people in the world suffering from malnutrition and a lack of medical care; you can't help them all. But if you're an American (or a Briton or Australian or Italian or - I won't forget - Polish, then the refugees of Fallujah are more than many of the others your responsibility, and the time to act, as Dahr Jamail says, is now.

Update: On Flashpoints! radio tonight, Code Pink's Medea Benjamin reported that in less than a day they have raised $16,000 out of their $20,000 target which they will be wiring immediately to Iraq (actually to Jordan where the medical supplies will be purchased). And they haven't even got the check I mailed in today! A human delegation, comprised of family members of soldiers killed in Iraq as well as family members of people killed on 9/11, will be going to Iraq on Dec. 27 to bring more supplies; their goal is $100,000. So don't stop giving!


 

Silly thought for the day


Does anyone else but me think that the famous "Virgin on Toast" looks more like Elvira than the Madonna (not to be confused with Madonna)?

Now if you want a really good grilled cheese sandwich, instead of one you can auction off to a sucker for $28,000, try this recipe which recently won the "greatest grilled cheese sandwich in America" contest. I just happen to have met the woman who created it recently, which is what led me to try it out. Delicious! By the way she won $10,000 and a trip to California. Not quite $28,000, but a lot more well-deserved!


 

Election roundup


When it comes to the Ukranian elections, the U.S. government says: "The government bears a special responsibility not to use or incite violence, and to allow free media to report accurately on the situation without intimidation or concern." God may have died long ago, but this administration is doing its best to bury self-awareness and irony along with her. Since Iraq is now is now into its "campaign season," wouldn't the "government" there also bear similar responsibilities? Apparently not; their responsibility, according to the U.S. government, is to initiate violence and do its best to suppress free media. One needn't be a seer to know how the U.S. is going to react to the Iraqi elections in January; the statements have probably already been written. "Triumph for democracy." "Minor snafus, not enough to affect the results."

Meanwhile, "A U.S. team led by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said the Ukrainian government had rigged the election." Isn't it amazing how they could reach such a conclusion so quickly, while at the same time the U.S. "establishment" could so quickly reach a conclusion that the U.S. election hadn't been rigged? I'm not saying the Ukranian election was or wasn't "rigged," I have no idea, but one certainly wonders what evidence that Sen. Lugar has in his possession. Shouldn't George Bush be condemning him for "jumping to conclusions"? Amusingly enough, one of the pieces of "evidence" which has been making the rounds in the media is the claim that "exit polls Sunday night had given Yushchenko a large lead." Yet here in the United States, the media has been all over the "bloggers" who had the nerve to tout exit polls showing Kerry was leading early on election day, and now have the nerve to use those exit polls as suggestive evidence for election fraud.

If the U.S. government, or Sen. Lugar, want to look for offenses to democracy, why don't they start right here in the U.S.? How about in San Diego, where a judge has refused to order the counting of all ballots that were cast for write-in candidate Donna Frye. It seems some voters (probably enough to make a difference in the election) went to the effort to write in Ms. Frye's name but failed to "darken the adjoining oval," and the board of elections is considering those to be invalid votes. Evidently those voters were just practicing their penmanship; they didn't really intend to indicate their preference for Ms. Frye in the election. Does anyone care to conjecture what would happen if such a thing happened in Venezuela, or Cuba, or any other country on the U.S. hit list? Why, it's probably grounds for an invasion! But here in the "world's greatest democracy," it passes without a peep; the League of Women Voters, who to their credit did initiate this legal effort, isn't even going to appeal the judge's decision, nor has Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger been heard from regarding this outrage going on in his state.

Followup: Via The Sideshow, I learn that Greg Palast is on the case:

"This reporter was unable to reach Senator Lugar regarding the inconsistency of official election results and exit polls in the USA; the intimidation of minority voters in Florida and Ohio; nor the failure to count two million ballots cast, half by African-American voters, in America's first post-democratic election held earlier this month.

"Eastern bloc observers noted that balloting in Ohio, New Mexico and Florida did not meet Ukrainian standards, but applauded America's attempt to restore democratic institutions after the overthrow of elected government in 2000."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


 

Quote of the Day


On this day when Dan Rather announced his impending retirement, let's pause to remember his most ignominious moment in recent years. No, it wasn't "memogate," it was this:
"George Bush is the president. He makes the decisions. Speaking as one American, wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where. And he'll make the call."

- Dan Rather, Sept. 17, 2001, on the David Letterman show
Thus sounding the call for the corporate media sycophancy which helped pave the way for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

Moral values


There are all sorts of moral issues that could be discussed in the media - war, abortion, euthanasia, lowering taxes on the rich while the poor are starved for food, housing, and health care, and more. What are the two moral issues that have been discussed in the media? The exposure of Janet Jackson's nipple, and a fight in the NBA.

Monday, November 22, 2004


 

The hydra-headed insurgency


Here's one theory:
"There is a growing conviction among some foreign observers and American intelligence experts -- though apparently not yet in the Pentagon -- that what is happening now in Iraq is not just the reaction to the American occupation by a small group of 'dead-enders' (as suggested by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) or a spontaneous insurgency.

"Indeed, these observers believe that the suicide bombers, the roadside bombs and the attacks on Iraqi police and other so-called 'collaborators' in Mosul and the Sunni towns in the Tigris valley are part of an organized guerrilla war planned by Saddam Hussein prior to the invasion. Even the widespread looting, and the attacks on water and electricity and petroleum facilities are being carried out by former members of his security forces."
But on the very same day that the article quoted above appears, there's another article, this one written by Knight-Ridder's Hannah Allam, who, while all her fellow reporters are busy printing the U.S. military press releases about finding hostage sites in Fallujah, grabs another scoop by interviewing a "mufti, or spiritual adviser, who sat on the council that directed the insurgents in Fallujah." According to this story, the leader of the resistance in Fallujah, far from a former Baathist or other supporter of Saddam, was actually a well-known opponent of Saddam, who had actually been sentenced to death for killing a senior member of the Baath Party in Fallujah.
"While U.S. official pronouncements about rebel leaders have focused on Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, rebel fighters and others who escaped the U.S. assault on Fallujah say the real power there was wielded by Omar Hussein Hadid, a mid-30s Iraqi electrician whose religious fervor drew suspicion from Saddam Hussein's agents long before U.S. forces invaded Iraq."

 

Headline of the Day

"Sharon promises to help Palestinians with their election" (Source)
Kind of like "U.S. promises to help Iraq with its overpopulation problem."

 

Left I Logo - another request for my readers


I've long coveted a logo for this blog. I envision a left-profile (showing only the left eye, get it?) view of a person, probably seated, reading a newspaper and possibly watching TV at the same time. Does any reader either have the ability or desire (hopefully both) to whip something like that up, or the ability to recommend some graphic artist who might be suitable for that task? Please respond via email, thanks!

 

Euphemisms


TV news has been showing footage of some American soldiers who have just been pulled out of Fallujah, drinking beer to celebrate their "victory." Their leader (not sure of his rank), addressing them, told them that they had "kicked some butt" in Fallujah. No, "kicking butt" is what happens when your football team beats another team 63-3. What those soldiers did was kill people, thousands of them. "Cleaning out" Fallujah? "Mopping up" in Fallujah? No. "Killing people." That's what's happening in Fallujah.

 

Proud to be an American?


For many reasons (tens of thousands of them in Iraq alone), no. Here's just one of them - According to a new Gallup poll, only 35% of Americans recognize that Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory well supported by evidence, while an equal number think that it is just one of many theories and not supported by evidence, and 29% don't consider themselves well-educated enough to know the answer. That is to say, nearly two-thirds of Americans don't accept the theory of evolution as well-established science. And a whopping 45% of Americans think that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." And yes, I've discussed in the past many reasons to distrust polls, and consider their systematic and random errors, but even if these numbers are twice as high as they "really" are, that's still way too high for my taste.

Followup: I am reminded that there is a bit of erroneous nomenclature in this post. To most scientists, evolution per se is a simple fact. Darwin's explanation for evolution is the theory of natural selection. However, I think it's accurate to say that to most people, the "theory of evolution" encompasses both of these things (the facts and their explanations), probably more so the former than the latter, and "the theory of evolution" is the way the question was formulated by Gallup.

More followup: A long interesting post on creationism at Manic Net Preacher.


Sunday, November 21, 2004


 

Like Rolling Stone


-- A reader participation post --


[First posted Sunday 11/21 9:30 p.m.; bumped to the top while the nominations are active. Please note that there are "newer" posts below this one, so be sure to keep reading past this one. Also, if you have read this post before, note that I keep adding "Followups" to it at the bottom.]

No, there's no "a" missing from that headline. Here's the idea. Rolling Stone magazine, as most you probably know, just released its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. But there are lots of songs not on that list. Antiwar songs. Political songs in general. And so we here at Left I on the News, with the able assistance of our hundreds of readers, are going to remedy that injustice, and create our own lists of the Greatest Antiwar and Political Songs of all time. I haven't decided how many songs will end up on the list, and whether we'll go with two separate lists (one for antiwar, the other for "other" political songs) or just one (by the way, by "political" we mean progressive politics - Ballad of the Green Berets won't be making it on this list).

I'll start the list here. Readers will add their own nominations (putting "AW" for antiwar or "P" for "other" political to indicate the category) in the comments. Periodically I'll purge the comments and add the nominated songs to the main list. At some point we'll close nominations and begin the voting.

Songs should be considered on the basis of lyrics and music. If you ever need lyrics, by the way, just Google "name of song lyrics" and you'll find multiple sources on the web for practically any song.

If you want to leave a "general" comment, feel free to do so. If you leave a nomination comment, please put just that information into the comment, so that when I add the nomination and delete the comment, nothing else will be lost. At this point, please just nominate; don't advocate for a song.

Here we go! Songs listed in alphabetical order so as not to reveal my own prejudices (other than in the inclusion of these songs, but I'm sure there are many important songs I've missed). Interestingly enough, three of these songs made the top 15 in the Rolling Stone list.

Followup: Incidentally, at the moment I'm not quite sure how I'm going to pull off the voting. Right now my only thought is to have emailed ballots and tabulate them by hand (or with some sort of script). I have the ability to put up "polls" on the website, but those are limited to ten choices which won't work. If any reader has any ideas or wants to volunteer to put up some sort of online balloting page (in a week or two), email me privately.

More followup: Just found this very much related and informative page.

Still more followup: People, people, people. Maybe you don't want to read all the comments, but please at least read the list of already nominated songs below before adding your own and duplicating something on the list!

Still more followup:Oh. My. God. I've just read through the actual Rolling Stone list and found that there isn't a single song by Talking Heads on the list! And I speak as someone who thinks that every single song on the Stop Making Sense album belongs on the list! We have our work cut out for us to rectify this injustice!

And furthermore:I don't mind peole nominating any song you want; it's a good way for all of us to learn about things we haven't heard of. But I consider myself a fairly well-read (and well-heard?) guy, so in most cases, if I've never even heard of the song I'm probably not going to add it to the list of final nominees, on the grounds that it's a song that's so obscure it's never going to garner enough votes anyway. Also, and I'm sure you all recognize this, there are many songs whose character is ambiguous. For example, "We Gotta' Get Out of This Place" by the Animals, which is not an antiwar song, sort of became an anthem of soldiers in Vietnam who took its title literally and agreed with it. But I'm not adding it to the list. Or take "Born in the USA." It's a song that tells of a man who has killed "yellow people" in Vietnam, has had friends killed there, is having trouble getting a job, etc. But is it an antiwar song? I think you only hear it that way if you're antiwar yourself. Many people who are pro-war could tell similar stories about their lives. Heck, Ronald Reagan even used the song in his re-election campaign; I doubt he would have done that with "Masters of War." Or take "Life During Wartime," which I did nominate, because it's one of my favorite songs. It tells the story of people fighting a revolution, sort of a Weather Underground story. Is it an antiwar song? I'm sure that's arguable. So anyway, the point is, a lot of these decisions aren't clear-cut, and I'll try to sort it all out the best I can.

Songs most recently added shown in Bold

Antiwar Songs

Alice's Restaurant - Arlo Guthrie
The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - The Pogues
Blowin' in the Wind - Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, others
Bomb the World - Michael Franti & Spearhead
Bring the Boys Home - Freida Payne
Bullet the Blue Sky - U2
Civil War - Guns N Roses
Cops of the World - Phil Ochs
Down by the Riverside - traditional
Eve of Destruction - Barry McGuire
Fixin' to Die Rag - Country Joe & the Fish
Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival
GI Movement - Holly Near
Give Peace a Chance - John Lennon
Hang in There - Holly Near
Happy Christmas (War is Over) - John Lennon
Hiroshima - David Rovics
I Ain't Marchin Anymore - Phil Ochs
If I Had a Rocket Launcher - Bruce Cockburn
If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next - Manic Street Preachers
Imagine - John Lennon
Kill for Peace - The Fugs
Killing in the Name - Rage Against the Machine
Life During Wartime - Talking Heads
Masters of War - Bob Dylan, others
99 Red Balloons - Nena
No More Genocide - Holly Near
Ohio - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The Price of Oil - Billy Bragg
Radio Baghdad - Patti Smith
7 O'Clock News/Silent Night - Simon & Garfunkle
Sky Pilot - The Animals
Three-Five-Zero-Zero - Hair
Two Tribes - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Universal Soldier - Donovan, Buffy Ste. Marie
Unknown Soldier - The Doors
Waist Deep in the Big Muddy - Pete Seeger
War - Edwin Starr
We Hate To See Them Go - Malvina Reynolds
We Seek No Wider War - Phil Ochs
What's Going On? - Marvin Gaye
What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding? - Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? - Joan Baez, others
Sunday, Bloody Sunday - U2
Who Would Jesus Bomb? - David Rovics
With God on Our Side - Bob Dylan, Neville Brothers

Other Political Songs

Acres of Clams - Charlie King
Beds are Burning - Midnight Oil
Biko - Peter Gabriel
Bread and Roses - traditional
Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?
Bush It! - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
The Death of Rachel Corrie - David Rovics
Deportee - Woody Guthrie, Judy Collins, Joan Baez
Earth First! - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
The Ghosts of Mississippi - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
Hurricane - Bob Dylan
The Internationale
I Wish I Kew How It Would Feel to Be Free - Nina Simone
Joe Hill - Joan Baez, Alfred Hayes
Love Me, I'm a Liberal - Phil Ochs
Mississippi Goddamn - Nina Simone
Money's Too Tight - Simply Red
MTA - Kingston Trio
A Partisan - Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez
Peace Train - Cat Stevens
People Have the Power - Patti Smith
Power to the People - John Lennon
The Preacher and the Slave - Joe Hill
The Rebel Jesus - Jackson Browne
Resistance - David Rovics
Ringing of Revolution - Phil Ochs
The Revolution Starts Now - Steve Earle
Solidarity Forever
Spanish Bombs - The Clash
Steelworker Blues - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday
Strike a Blow Against the Empire - David Rovics
Take Away My Name - Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles
Talking Union - Pete Seeger
The Times They Are A-Changin' - Bob Dylan
Union Maid - Woody Guthrie, Judy Collins
Volunteers - Jefferson Airplane
Washington Bullets - The Clash
We Can Be Together - Jefferson Airplane
We Shall Overcome
When the Ship Comes In - Peter, Paul, & Mary
Which Side Are You On? - Pete Seeger
Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who
World in Their Pocket - Malvina Reynolds
You've Got to be Carefully Taught - South Pacific

 

Cultural thought for the day


Recently there was a play called The Exonerated, which basically consisted of the words of people who had been on death row and then were exonerated. So here's my idea. Many of my readers are no doubt familiar with the Baghdad Burning blog, written by an Iraqi woman who goes by the pen name "Riverbend." Riverbend is an extremely articulate person, offering a view of life in Iraq and the reactions of an Iraqi to various events in Iraq which form a powerful anti-war, anti-occupation statement, and at the same time a profoundly human, totally involving view of a life that we don't often see. I believe an entire play, easily as riveting as The Exonerated (which I didn't see, so I don't really know how riveting that was, but it was highly reviewed), could be written based completely on the words Riverbend has written in her blog. Imagine if such a play could attract the same kind of big-name acting talent that was featured in various showings of The Exonerated.

So, any theater people in my audience? Tim Robbins, are you out there? I gladly offer up this idea for just 10% of the gross, which I will of course donate to an appropriate cause. Plus another 10% for Riverbend, naturally. If not an actual Broadway or off-Broadway or touring play, this could at least be used by antiwar groups to put on their own presentation. It would obviously take some work to sort through her blog, and pick out a combination of her most political posts with her most personal ones (many of which are the same, like her recent description of a visit to the house of a relative who was sheltering refugees from Fallujah), but I really think it would be worth it. I envision a narrator off to the side, reading Riverbend's words, with silent action depicting the events taking place in the background.

Any takers?


 

Rethinking a famous quote


On more than one occasion, I have praised John Kerry's famous 1971 quote: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Today for some reason I found myself thinking about that quote, and I'm ashamed to admit that for the first time I realized what is wrong with that quote. Which is that it's a completely American-centered quote, very much akin to talking only about the 1221 American dead in Iraq without mentioning the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have also died. How about "How do you ask an Iraqi to be the last innocent civilian to die for a mistake?" Of course, the problem with that quote is that the U.S. doesn't bother to ask the Iraqis anything; unlike the American soldiers, they didn't volunteer to be on the receiving end of a bullet or bomb.

By the way, I don't mean to suggest that Kerry's 1971 testimony to Congress wasn't courageous, and important as well. The VVAW were a very important component of the antiwar movement, and Kerry was certainly a key member of VVAW. But I do think it's important to realize how ingrained such national chauvinism is.


 

The power of Left I


Just yesterday, I wrote: "With January less than six weeks away, isn't it curious there hasn't been any mention of an actual date for these elections?" And today, stung by the criticism, the Iraqi government announced that elections will be held on January 30. Talk about results!

And hey, if they're lucky, and everything goes well, the people of Fallujah might even be back in their houses by then. At least, the ones whose houses are still standing.


 

U.S. vs. Venezuela - the world weighs in


Headline: "Thousands Demonstrate Against Bush in Santiago"
"Using tear gas and water cannons, riot police officers dispersed hundreds of rock-throwing protesters on Friday after thousands of people had gathered peacefully to demonstrate against the presence of President Bush at a weekend summit meeting here.

"Protest organizers said 30,000 people took part in the late morning march, which followed a convoluted route through downtown streets, far from the actual site of the conference in a remote convention center surrounded by a mountain range."
Yes, we wouldn't want Bush to actually see or hear them, for heaven's sake.

Headline: "Venezuela's Chavez gets rock star welcome in Spain"

"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received a rock star welcome in Spain on Sunday as he opened a new chapter in bilateral relations that had cooled under Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's predecessor.

"Chavez's first act after arriving was to go to Madrid's Atocha station, scene of two of the four train bombings on March 11, to pay homage to the victims of the worst attacks in modern Spanish history.

"There he was mobbed by media and hundreds of supporters, many waving Venezuelan flags and chanting 'Chavez, friend, the people are with you.'"
No miles or mountain ranges separating Hugo Chavez from the people of Spain.

Followup: It gets worse:

"About 15,000 Colombian security forces — backed by warplanes, helicopters, battleships and two submarines -- will safeguard Bush's four-hour trip to discuss the nation's war on drugs. That is the same number of American troops deployed in the Fallujah offensive in Iraq."
And then there's this:
"An elaborate state dinner tonight for US President George W. Bush was scrapped after US and Chilean officials failed to agree on security measures at the presidential palace."

 

Fidel and Kerry agree


Fidel Castro:
"Fidel Castro says the emergence of an Osama bin Laden videotape just ahead of the U.S. presidential election seemed to have been 'arranged' to help President Bush."
John Kerry:
"Sen. John Kerry believes the videotape of Osama bin Laden that appeared days before the Nov. 2 election cost him the presidency."
The most curious thing about this is that, in all the post-election blathering, mostly about the misnamed "values voters," along with musings about voting irregularities, no one, not a single pundit, has (to my knowledge) mentioned the last-minute bin Laden tape as having had an effect on the election, with the exception of these two men.

No, I make absolutely nothing of this, just noting the curious coincidence. For sure, there is nothing else whatsoever in common between these two men, one of them a mediocrity, the other one of the greatest political figures of the last century.


 

Spending priorities


The richest state in the richest country in the world can't keep its libraries open. The city of Salinas is about to close its libraries permanently, the first in the state, but other cities all over the state have undergone week-long closures, shorter hours, and other cutbacks. As a further sign of how much this country values its children, Salinas has also had to eliminate school crossing guards. Kids - you're on your own. We've got a "missile-defense shield" to spend our money (and your inheritance) on.

The slogan "Money for education (health care/jobs/housing/etc.) not for war!" has never had more relevance. Every single time a city holds a hearing on cutting spending for yet another service, someone (or lots of someones) should be sure to make this point, loud and clear. It simply can't be repeated enough (not that wars of aggression would be acceptable even if there was enough money to pay for "guns and butter," but making sure people realize the connection is a good first step).


 

Your boss hopes you die...


...and the San Jose Mercury News has rather strange expectations. That's what I conclude from this article:
"A nationwide push to make workers bear a bigger share of their rising medical bills is spurring Americans to do what their employers had hoped: spend less on drugs, cut down on doctor's visits and shop more smartly for less expensive care.

"But this prescription for the ailing health care system also has produced some unexpected side effects. Many workers are making concessions at the doctor's office, at work and at home that could compromise their health, happiness and financial security.

"Some are postponing doctor's visits until their symptoms are serious. Some are stretching drug prescriptions -- or not taking the drugs at all. Some are staying in jobs they hate because they're desperate to keep their health insurance. And with medical bills rising far faster than paychecks, some are saving less for retirement."
Why the Mercury News thinks these "side effects" are "unexpected," when in fact they are the totally expected result of spending less money on medical care, is quite unclear. What else would you expect when "nearly six out of 10 workers say they are avoiding their doctors until they experience serious symptoms"? The Mercury News frames the consequences of that change as "a decision that could lead to costly bills that could have been avoided with preventive care," but never once mentions the more serious consequence - shortened life span (a.k.a. premature death). Nor do they highlight in the article a fact which appears only in an accompanying table (not online) - that "six out of 10" figure is highly income-skewed. 35% of people with a household income of $75,000 or more go to the doctor only for more serious symptoms, but a whopping 72% of people with household incomes less than $35,000 do the same (with predictable consequences).

America, the "greatest health care system in the world." Not.


 

"Iraqis are better off now than before the invasion"


So we hear repeatedly from George Bush, for whom facts are a stubborn thing. Stubborn facts like these:
"Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

"The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

"Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than rates in Uganda and Haiti."
Of course, the recent invasion wasn't the first time the U.S. and its allies have had a detrimental impact on Iraq's children. There was that little matter of the sanctions:
"Iraqi health officials like to surprise visitors by pointing out that the nutrition issue facing young Iraqis a generation ago was obesity. Malnutrition, they say, appeared in the early 1990s with U.N. trade sanctions championed by Washington to punish the government led by President Saddam Hussein for invading Kuwait in 1990.

"International aid efforts and the U.N. oil-for-food program helped reduce the ruinous impact of sanctions, and the rate of acute malnutrition among the youngest Iraqis gradually dropped from a peak of 11 percent in 1996 to 4 percent in 2002."
Curiously, either this study itself or the Post in its reporting doesn't mention the increased mortality rate which surely accompanies this malnutrition. They probably didn't want to remind us that U.N. estimates are that a half-million children under the age of five died as a result of the sanctions.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


 

Washington Post calls for an end to "passivity" in U.S. policy towards Venezuela


I rarely comment on editorials, preferring to stick to the news. But actually, when a key ruling class organ like the Washington Post encourages the Bush administration to end its "passivity" towards Venezuela, that is news. Not surprising news, since Venezuela, like Iraq and Palestine and Cuba and North Korea and Iran and on and on and on is one of the many places where the ruling class is in complete agreement, as we saw during the Kerry campaign.

The Post, ignoring the repeated democratic elections and the increased participation of the actual people (imagine that!) in the governing of the country, describes Venezuela as a place where democracy is not "thriving." A telling point in the motivation for this policy comes in the very first sentence of the relevant section:

"The likely focal point of trouble is Venezuela, a country of 25 million that supplies the United States with 13 percent of its oil."
Do you suppose if they supplied the United States with 13 percent of its coffee, that fact would have been mentioned in the editorial?

The editorial goes downhill from there. Here's the next sentence:

"In August, after months of heavy-handed governmental actions to influence the outcome, President Hugo Chavez survived a recall referendum; since then his supporters have gained control of 21 of 23 states, as well as the capital, in local elections."
The "months of heavy-handed governmental actions" included their allowing a special, completely a-constitutional period by which the recall proponents could "re-validate" signatures which had been questioned, something which has never been allowed in any signature-gathering effort in the United States. And note the curious phrasing of the second sentence, which first notes that Chavez supporters have "gained control," as if that were some nefarious thing, and later in the sentence throws in the word elections. The fact that they won those elections and that's how they "gained control" may be obvious to anyone who thinks about it, but the sentence is clearly worded in an attempt to influence the reader to think otherwise. And, finally, Chavez didn't just "survive" the recall referendum, it was a 60-40 blowout. A landslide. A "mandate" far clearer than anything that happened in the U.S. recently for which the term "mandate" has been used repeatedly.

Sunk low enough? The Post continues:

"Those triumphs have prompted the erratic former military rebel to accelerate what he calls his 'Bolivarian revolution' -- a push toward authoritarian rule at home and a deepening alliance abroad with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and other antidemocratic movements."
I will grant the Post their ability to interpret actions in Venezuela as promoting "authoritarian rule" and an alliance with Cuba. But putting that in a parenthetical phrase immediately following the words "Bolivarian revolution" implies that is how Chavez interprets or promotes the Bolivarian revolution. The fact that the Bolivarian revolution involves more participation by the people in their government, and the use of government funds and actions to benefit the people as opposed to the corporations, seems to have escaped the Post.

The conclusion makes it clear that the Post is intent on following George Bush into lack-of-self-awareness-land. In one sentence, they talk about how Chavez "has adopted Mr. Castro's practice of portraying the United States as an enemy bent on imperial intervention in Venezuela," and in the very next sentence they quote Condoleezza Rice as saying Chavez is "a real problem" and how we need to "mobilize the region" to "pressure him," and then in the very next sentence the Post urges the Bush administration to "end [its] passivity." "Imperial intervention"? Where on earth would Chavez get that crazy idea? U.S. involvement and support for the coup against Chavez? Not even worth mentioning in this editorial. Wouldn't want to give the readers the impression that the U.S. is anything less than noble in its actions and intentions.

Make no mistake about it. Whatever minor divisions cropped up during the election, from Iran to North Korea to Venezuela, the ruling class is throwing itself wholeheartedly behind the Bush agenda.


 

Eyewitness Fallujah


I don't know anything about the history of this site, or its politics, but this post on a site which describes itself as "the mouthpiece for a group of soldiers who are fighting in a war they oppose for a president they didn't elect while the petrochemical complex turns the blood of their fallen comrades into oil" makes for fascinating reading about the recent fighting in Fallujah, including thoughts on the nature of guerrilla warfare in general.

 

Remember that "weapons handover" in Baghdad a while ago?


It was real effective. As a publicity stunt to fool the American people. As a way to get Iraqis to lay down their arms, forget it. In a totally predictable response to yesterday's mosque murders, violence erupted all over Baghdad today:
"Insurgents attacked a U.S. patrol and a police station, assassinated four government employees and detonated several bombs. One American soldier was killed and nine were wounded during clashes that also left three Iraqi troops and a police officer dead."
But here's the part that's buried further down in the story that's really interesting:
"The U.S. soldier was killed when his patrol was ambushed in Baghdad early Saturday, coming under a barrage of small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs, the military said."
Not just a single sniper shot, or an isolated IED, but an ambush with a "barrage" using multiple weapons. And not in Fallujah or Ramadi or Mosul. In Baghdad. Meaningful elections in less than two months? I don't think so.

By the way, it's now Nov. 20. Has anyone else noticed that all the talk has been about elections "in January." With January less than six weeks away, isn't it curious there hasn't been any mention of an actual date for these elections? Or, for that matter, any actual announced candidates?


 

Hannah Allam and her friends


Knight-Ridder's Hannah Allam has consistently been one of the best reporters in Iraq, reporting stories that no one else has, surviving inside the Najaf mosque under siege by American forces, etc. In her latest article, she offers a vivid, must-read picture of the life of a reporter in Iraq, and in particular how it has changed (for the worse) since she first arrived in July, 2003. One part is particularly telling:
"My 26th birthday party was perfect...Stars glittered over the Baghdad hotel where I blew out the candles on a cake decorated by my four closest Iraqi friends...A year later, only one of those friends is still alive.

"Two of the Iraqi friends at my birthday party were shot to death at point-blank range as they drove home one spring night.

"Two weeks later, American soldiers opened fire on the third friend, an Iraqi television reporter who was speeding to the scene of a mortar attack. His last gasps were broadcast on live TV. I couldn't work for weeks.

"The fourth friend fled Iraq after receiving death threats."
Footnote: I found this story via the invaluable Cursor. For some reason, my local K-R paper The San Jose Mercury News, hasn't carried it, although they routinely carry Allam's stories. It would be interesting to know if other K-R papers failed to carry it as well.

Followup: My suspicions were quite unfounded; the Mercury News was saving the article for the front page of its Sunday edition. Evidently they found it just as significant and interesting as I did.


Friday, November 19, 2004


 

Throw a shoe, go to heaven


Talk about "proportionate response":
"Hundreds of Iraqi troops backed by U.S. forces stormed a Sunni Muslim mosque in Baghdad after Friday prayers, killing four people and wounding at least nine, witnesses and an influential group of Sunni clerics said.

"The Iraqi troops raided the Abu Hanifa mosque in the Sunni district of Aadhamiya, firing percussion grenades and damaging the doors, the Muslim Clerics Association said.

"They opened fire when furious worshippers began to chant 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Great) and tried to beat back troops by throwing shoes at them -- a grave insult in Islam."
Note that this story describes Iraqi troops "backed by" U.S. forces. A second account of the event has a different take, describing it as "U.S.-led forces." But both agree that it was the vicious, potentially deadly throwing of shoes that was met with return gunfire that killed four and wounded nine. No doubt a thousand-pound bomb would have been dropped on the mosque had they dared to start throwing stones.

Followup: Flashpoints radio tonight carries a report (scroll to Friday, Nov. 19 entry) from independent reporter Dahr Jamail in Iraq, featuring audio and eyewitness reports from inside the mosque where the slaughter occured. The two key points in Jamail's report are these: first, this wasn't just any old mosque, but the most important Sunni mosque in Iraq, and arguably in the Sunni world, and second, the eyewitness (who happens to be Jamail's translator who just happened to be worshipping in the mosque at the time) reports that it was definitely U.S. troops who led the way into the mosque and did the killing, with their Iraqi "support" definitely secondary in the operation.

More followup: Jamail's written report on the incident is here.


 

One city down (literally), three (at least) to go


Fallujah was flattened by the U.S. military because they ("the city") refused to give up Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who we were assured was in the city by the fact of repeated bombings of his alleged hideouts. Now that Fallujah has been flattened, and hundreds of Iraqis (and dozens of Americans) killed, the story changes, as we learn in the Washington Post:
Claim #1: "U.S. military officials suggested that Zarqawi might be in the northern city of Mosul."

Claim #2: "A U.S. intelligence source said that while much of Zarqawi's organization was based in Fallujah, he apparently divided his time mainly between Baghdad and Ramadi."
Oops, my bad. I mean their bad. I wonder where the people of Mosul, Baghdad, and Ramadi will be able to evacuate to when the U.S. decides to flatten their cities.

My surprise of the week occured two nights ago watching Aaron Brown's NewsNight on CNN. The reporter presenting a piece, who was clearly not American (I believe I remember she was from the BBC), actually used the infamous phrase - "destroying the city in order to save it" - about Fallujah. She didn't, however, point out that pretty much the same thing could be said about the entire country, and the tens of thousands of its citizens who were killed in order to "save" them.


Thursday, November 18, 2004


 

Becoming numb to war crimes


Watching BBC World News tonight, it struck me how numb the world, or at least the Western world's media if not the world's people, have become to war crimes. Reporting on the possibility (not yet the actuality) of "humanitarian aid" being sent to Fallujah, the reporter noted just in passing how water and food supplies had been cut off to Fallujah before the assault. He didn't even note who had done the cutting off; one might just as well assume this was some natural disaster, with food and water cut off by an earthquake or a flood. Nor, even if he assumed his audience already knew that it was the Americans who did the cutting, was it even worth mentioning that this is as clear a war crime as there is. Has the U.N., or a single American politician, denounced this crime? Not to my knowledge.

 

The shocks just keep coming


Today's shocker:
"A U.S. Marine commander in Fallujah is warning it may be some time before it is safe for residents to return to the Iraqi city, after nearly two weeks of fighting there to flush out insurgents. And U.S. forces may have to remain in the city if Iraqi forces prove unable to keep it from falling back into rebel hands."
Ya think? Sure, any day month year now, Fallujah ought to be just as safe as Baghdad. Which is to say, entirely appropriate for anyone with a death wish.

 

Health care in America


With health care a frequent topic on this blog, and a discussion on the alleged benefits of small government and the alleged munificence of large corporations taking place in one of the comment threads, this cartoon from Troubletown couldn't be more appropriate.



 

Bizarre moment of the day


Listening to Bono singing Sunday, Bloody Sunday at the dedication of the Clinton library, while the slaughter in Iraq continues on a daily basis, and watching both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush spend the entire time talking to someone else (not to each other), no doubt trying their best to ignore the message and the messenger.
(Excerpts)

I can't believe the news today
Oh, I can't close my eyes and make it go away
How long...
How long must we sing this song?

Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call

And the battle's just begun
There's many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart

And it's true we are immune
When fact is fiction and tv reality
And today the millions cry
We eat and drink while tomorrow they die
How long must we sing this song? Unfortunately, as long as imperialism holds sway on the planet.

 

Rose-colored glasses at the Associated Press


You probably thought no one was as divorced from reality as the Bush Administration. Well, in this case anyway, you would be wrong. Here's today's AP story on the latest unemployment numbers:
"The number of people filing new applications last week for unemployment benefits dipped last week, offering a hopeful sign for recovery in the nation's labor market.

"The Labor Department reported Thursday that new claims for unemployment insurance dropped by a seasonally adjusted 3,000 to 334,000 for the week ending Nov. 13. That was the lowest level since the end of October."
The "end of October" was, of course, exactly two weeks ago, making this "hopeful sign" a rather dubious one to say the least, and 3,000 fewer people filing for unemployment in a nation of 300 million people could hardly be a sign of much of anything.

Now here's the press release from the Department of Labor itself:

"In the week ending Nov. 13, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 334,000, a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 337,000. The 4-week moving average was 338,250, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average of 337,250."
The Labor Department, unlike the AP, makes no attempt in its press release to spin the numbers. The AP does finally get around to mentioning the not-so-hopeful 4-week moving average figure much lower in the story, but attempts to spin it as well:
"Thursday's report also showed that the more stable four-week moving average of jobless claims, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations, rose by 1,000 last week to 338,250. Hurricanes that had ripped through the Southeast had resulted in a rise in filings for unemployment benefits in recent weeks."
This is rather curious, because I had read that the hurricane had been a cause of increased employment, with all the work generated by the cleanup.

 

Shooting the messenger


In case you think that attacks on civil liberties and support for war crimes is the exclusive province of Republicans (though I don't know why you would think that), here's the latest contraindication:
"The videotaped shooting of a Fallujah combatant by a U.S. Marine has evoked strong emotions in the Arab world and on Capitol Hill.

"Texas Democrat Sylvestre Reyes says it's time to rethink the presence of embedded reporters in combat zones. During a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, Reyes compared it to a football game, saying 'we don't want to know everything that's going on on the field.' Reyes says this is not censorship. In his words, 'We should not be providing the Al-Jazeera the kind of propaganda they've had the last couple of three days.'"
Reyes' idea that the best approach to war crimes is to not know about them or tell anyone about them is sadly typical, as is his idea that Al Jazeerah is an enemy to be denied a propaganda coup rather than a news organization reporting the facts to the world, but his idea of football is truly bizarre. "We don't want to know everything that's going on on the field"? What is he saying, that he wants his team to be kicking and punching their opponents and otherwise breaking the rules, behind the backs of the fans and presumably the referees, all in the service of winning the game? Is that how they play down in Texas? Oh yes, I forgot the American motto: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

 

For those who still, inexplicably, harbor illusions that Colin Powell is a "moderate"


Someone who, in his heart, really opposed the Bush administration's war-mongering, but kept up a public face of support because he was a "loyal soldier," could spend his final days on the job after being fired just keeping his mouth shut. But no, Powell decides he needs to lend his "respected" voice to the growing chorus laying the groundwork for the next war (or Israeli bombing or U.S./"U.N." "sanctions") of Iran:
"The United States has intelligence indicating Iran is trying to fit missiles to carry nuclear weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

"Powell partially confirmed claims by an Iranian opposition group that Tehran is deceiving the United Nations and is attempting to secretly continue activities meant to give it atomic arms by next year.

"'I have seen intelligence which would corroborate what this dissident group is saying,' Powell told reporters Wednesday as he traveled to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Santiago. 'And it should be of concern to all parties.'

"Pressed by reporters on the intelligence reports, Powell said the intelligence indicates that Iran 'had been actively working on delivery systems' capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.

"Powell said there is no evidence to suggest that Iran has developed the technology to make a nuclear weapon, but suggested that the regime is working to adapt missiles for nuclear warheads."
Note Powell's clever use of the phrase "I have seen intelligence," reminiscent of George Bush's famous "The British Government has learned..." phrase. Surely we all know by now there is "intelligence" which says anything you care to mention - the Pentagon wasn't hit by a plane on 9/11, the election was stolen in 2004 as in 2000, Zarqawi is in Fallujah, Zarqawi has escaped from Fallujah, etc. ad infinitum. And of all the people who we would trust to assess the validity of any particular intelligence, the last would be Colin Powell, who said to the U.N. last year regarding various allegations against Iraq - "Ladies and gentlemen, these are not assertions. These are facts, corroborated by many sources, some of them sources of the intelligence services of other countries." Now that is a fact, but one we won't be reminded of by AP or any other member of the corporate media while they're busy whipping up sentiment for an attack on Iran.

Moving on from criticizing Powell to criticizing the media (AP in this instance), note the claim that Powell's statement "partially confirms" the claim that Iran intends to have nuclear weapons "by next year," even though nothing that Powell says even remotely confirms that; he specifically says there is "no evidence" they have nuclear weapons technology.

It's essential to keep repeating that Iran has not only the right, but indeed the obligation to develop whatever weapons it feels it needs to defend itself against the most aggressive, voracious, well-armed superpower the world has ever known, the only one who has not only used nuclear weapons against other human beings but has repeatedly, throughout the last fifty years, threatened to do so again. If anyone wants to work to make the world safer and more "stable," they should be raising their voice against the nuclear (and conventional) arsenals of the United States.


 

The killing fields of Fallujah


Writing on CounterPunch, Dave Lindorff analyzes one aspect of the assault on Fallujah, the refusal to let "fighting age males" leave the city before the invasion. The obvious thing about this is that it was yet another war crime, but Lindorff points out that it was much more:
"Women and children were allowed to leave the doomed city, but all males 'of fighting age' were turned back if they tried to leave.

"You have to ask: turned back for what purpose?

"If the goal was to capture potential guerrillas, here were the men and boys trying to leave, offering themselves up to be arrested, investigated, interrogated and even held in detention. But instead of this, they were turned back to face the coming attack (this action in itself was a major violation of the Geneva Conventions, which require armies to allow non-combatants to leave the scene of fighting). If they were really fighters, did it make sense to send them back into Fallujah where they could pick up weapons and possibly kill U.S. soldiers? If the goal was to capture insurgents, then these unfortunates would simply have to be captured later, accomplishing the same thing, but under much more dangerous circumstances for both them and for their U.S. attackers.

"Clearly the real goal all along was something else: to kill them all-insurgents, potential insurgents, and any other 'fighting age' males (that included little boys as young as 15!) unlucky enough to be residents of Fallujah.

"That such horrors are going on in our name should be no surprise. This war was never about 'liberation.' It is about conquest.

"That so little is being said about it here in the U.S. is a crime."

 

Iraqi "sovereignty"


Under the Same Sun highlights the significance of the very poorly reported arrest of the deputy head of the Iraqi National Assembly, which was not an "arrest" and was done by the U.S. military, evidently without even the figleaf of the orders of their mouthpiece Allawi or any Iraqi judge.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


 

U.S. vs. Europe


Interesting data from Salon via Daily KOS (emphasis added):
"European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math. Twenty-two percent of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


 

Big talker

""A 100 per cent of the city is secure."

- Colonel Michael Regner, operations officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Fallujah
Think he'll be walking around Fallujah unarmed to prove his point? No, I didn't think so.

 

So long, it's been nice to know ya'


Two more nations join the coalition of the fleeing:
"Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot said yesterday his government will stick to its withdrawal schedule from Iraq, despite an appeal by the United States to keep its troops there as long as needed.

"'We leave Iraq by the middle of March. That is the decision. That decision still stands,' Bot told foreign correspondents.

"In Budapest, the Hungarian Parliament yesterday rejected a government proposal to extend the stay of 300 non-combat troops in Iraq by three months until March 31."
Whooeee, it's cold in here. Did someone open the window? I feel a draft.

 

Foreign fighters in Fallujah


Most people have been by now that only 20 out of more than 1000 insurgents captured in Fallujah were non-Iraqis. For reference, the U.S. Army has 500,000 active-duty troops, and 31,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces (all services) are not U.S. citizens. I couldn't come up with the size of the Air Force and Marines, but assuming another 250,000 troops, that's 4% of the U.S. armed forces, more than twice the percentage of "foreign fighters" found in Fallujah. Of course, all of the 10,000 U.S. troops who bombed and invaded Fallujah were "foreign fighters."

Quickly overlooked by the corporate media was the fact that the invasion of Fallujah was motivated primarily by "expelling foreign fighters"; indeed, the puppet Allawi said the attack would be called off if the "people of Fallujah" gave up the mythical Zarqawi (who conveniently "escaped," or so they say). Will that media, or the Democrats, point out the rather startling disconnect between the claimed reason for the assault on Fallujah and the truth? Not likely, no more than they pointed out the disconnect between the claim that Iraq was invaded to rid the world of the threat of Iraqi WMD and that reality.


 

Massachusetts now and then


As I mentioned a few days ago, I spent this weekend in Massachusetts attending the same-sex wedding of one of my relatives. A delightful event, filled with supportive friends and relatives of the happy couple, who were beaming as they had every right to do. The event caused me to recall that 30 years ago I lived in Massachusetts and, as a member of NOW, had the opportunity to testify before a committee of the Massachusetts legislature, which was considering a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. My memory is weak, but I'm pretty sure the bill never made it out of committee; it definitely didn't pass the legislature. Incidentally, one of our major allies in the Massachusetts House at the time was Barney Frank, who made the news recently by speaking out against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's attempt to create de facto legalization of gay marriage in California.

Things definitely have changed; as I noted the other day, even George Bush now pays lip service to support for civil unions. But things haven't changed as much as one might hope. The Massachusetts legislature is still locked in battle over gay issues, albeit now over the issue of gay marriage rather than discrimination. Indeed, this was a major issue in the battle for the State Senate seat in the very district where the wedding took place, and the pro-gay marriage candidate lost. So the battle is far from over, even in Massachusetts.

Some things definitely don't change. The last time I flew into Massachusetts, in April 1996, I arrived in a snowstorm, one of the latest major snowstorms on record. This weekend I again arrived in a snowstorm, one of the earliest major snowstorms in many years.


 

Another language lesson


Every single reference to the most recent low-level war crime in Fallujah (as opposed to the massive war crime represented by the assault on Fallujah and the invasion of Iraq in the first place) refers to it in exactly these words (emphasis added): "The U.S. military is investigating the killing of a wounded and apparently unarmed Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque."

Now I will concede that at the moment the soldiers walked into this mosque, it is possible that this Iraqi was cleverly lying on top of a rifle such that it couldn't be seen. Possible, albeit highly unlikely, since someone in the group knew that this wounded individual had been lying there since the day before, and therefore was presumably in no kind of shape to do much of anything; judging from his appearance in the footage, he probably hadn't even moved since the previous day. But in any case, after he was shot and killed, surely within seconds someone walked over to the body and could easily discover that he was in fact unarmed. Therefore the news reports, continuing to this day, which refer to the prisoner as "apparently unarmed" are complete nonsense, and clearly designed to mislead the listener into thinking there is still some confusion on this point, which is impossible. This Iraqi was not "apparently unarmed," he was unarmed. If there is any question, the question is about the state of mind of the soldier who did the shooting, not the physical state of the dead Iraqi.

And on that point there isn't much confusion either. Even if the prisoner was armed, the laws of war only allow him to be shot if he posed a danger to the soldiers. But the soldier who shoots him quite clearly does not say "he's going for his gun" or anything like that. What he says is, "he's breathing," i.e., still alive. That is his entire motivation for shooting and killing this wounded prisoner.


Monday, November 15, 2004


 

Memories of Colin Powell's finest moment


There were so many moments at which the now-soon-to-be-not-so-dearly-departed Colin Powell put his total lack of integrity on public display, but Left I on the News pauses here to take the time to remember his "finest" - his speech to the U.N. justifying the impending invasion of Iraq, in which not even a hint of truth can be discerned, neither now, nor, for those of us with the slightest amount of common sense, then either. We also take this time to recall that, at the time that speech was given, the entire "intelligensia" (and we use that term loosely) of the United States, both conservative and liberal, rallied around Secretary Powell and praised his "masterful" performance. Well, it was that, I have to admit.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Colin.

Addendum: Lawrence of Cyberia discusses Powell's role in helping to promote prevent democratic elections in Palestine.

Addendum 2: Just one memory of a minor episode in the life of Powell's apparent successor in the job of Secretary of De-lies, Condo-lie-zza Rice.


 

Innumeracy in Fallujah


The killing hasn't yet stopped, but the (talk of) reconstruction in Fallujah has begun. But what is wrong with this picture from the Los Angeles Times:If the damage in Fallujah dwarfs the $500 million damage in Najaf (and by "dwarfs," there is no doubt we are talking about at least an order of magnitude, and possibly two, considering the amount of firepower that has been deployed in Fallujah), then the damage in Fallujah surely amounts to billions, if not tens of billions, of dollars. If residents are going to be compensated, and "large parts of the city" rebuilt, for "tens of millions of dollars," it will surely be a miracle which will dwarf that of the loaves and fishes.

The reality, of course, is that "tens of millions" is what they plan to spend, most of which will funnel into the pockets of Halliburton and other war profiteers, and that in the end, the rebuilding of Fallujah will be on a par with the reparations the U.S. was going to pay Vietnam after that war - one more forgotten promise.


Sunday, November 14, 2004


 

Water wars


A few posts ago I wrote about the deliberate destruction of Iraqi water purification plants by U.S. bombing during the 1991 Gulf War and its genocidal consequences. Today, Alexander Cockburn writing on CounterPunch has an important "companion piece" to that post, in which he discusses the ongoing, and illegal, use of water as a weapon by the United States against the Iraqi people:
"If there is anything that should fuel the outrage of the antiwar movement, it is surely the destruction of Fallujah and the war crimes being inflicted by US commanders on its civilian population, who are now being denied the most basic and essential source of life, water.

"This is not the first time that US forces have cut water supplies, something explicitly forbidden under Article 14 of the second protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which reads as follows:
'Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works.'
"Water supplies to Tall Afar, Samarra and Fallujah have been cut off during US attacks in the past two months, affecting up to 750,000 civilians. This appears to form part of a deliberate US policy of denying water to the residents of cities under attack. If so, it has been adopted without a public debate, and without consulting Coalition partners. It is a serious breach of international humanitarian law, and is deepening Iraqi opposition to the United States, other Coalition members, and the Iraqi interim government."

 

The voice of...the opposition?

"He is a teetotaling Mormon, a former Capitol Hill police officer who opposes abortion and was a cosponsor of the constitutional amendment banning flag-burning...Yet for all that, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada...is about to become the new Senate minority leader." (Source)
As John Kerry found out, if you want "Bush-lite," you'll just as soon go for the real thing. If you want an actual opposition, I'm afraid you're going to have to look someplace other than the Democrats.

 

Quote of the Day

"What I really like about the President is his wonderfully uncluttered mind."

- Tony Blair, after meeting yesterday with George Bush
Well, that's one way to put it!

Saturday, November 13, 2004


 

Today's thought to ponder


The U.S. military is claiming that it killed 1000 "insurgents" in Fallujah (today? total? unclear), and that the infamous, and possibly non-existent, Zarqawi, has escaped. My question - how exactly would they know? Have they done DNA matching on each of the 1000 bodies they have found lying in the streets of Fallujah yet? Or could it be that they simply want to have the "Zarqawi bogeyman" on the loose because, without a specifically named "enemy," the American people can't be sufficiently propagandized and aroused? It wouldn't do to try to tell Americans that Iraqis are our enemy, so it's essential to tell them that "Saddam" (or Zarqawi or Fidel or Kim Jong-Il or any other enemy du jour) is our enemy.

 

Sanctions and genocide


Catching up on some reading on a plane ride, I read the latest issue of Socialism and Liberation magazine. In it, an excellent article by Richard Becker makes the following point which I have not seen emphasized elsewhere:
"With astonishing nonchalance, CIA operative and former UN Chief Weapons Inspector Charles Duelfer made a remarkable admission. Explaining the central conclusions of his report on Iraq at a Senate hearing on Oct. 8, Duelfer testified that Iraq had destroyed its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and dismantled its nuclear program in 1991, immediately after the first Gulf War.

"'Astonishing' because between 1991 and 2003, more than one million Iraqis-half of them children under the age of five, according to international humanitarian aid organizations-had died as a direct result of the U.S./UN sanctions and blockade inflicted on their country. The deadly sanctions were officially explained as a means to force Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction. Now Duelfer admits to the world, the weapons that were used to justify such a genocidal policy had ceased to exist months after the sanctions were put in place."
Becker provides an interesting history lesson connecting the sanctions against Iraq with sanctions against the Soviet Union and, although he doesn't mention them, sanctions against Cuba as well:
"The consequences of shutting down foreign trade for a country like Iraq were entirely predictable and long recognized by Washington policy makers. Their intent was to inflict pain on the Iraqi people as a whole.

"The sanction regime brings to mind the words of President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 when describing the imperialist blockade against revolutionary Russia: 'The one who chooses this economic, peaceful, quiet, lethal remedy will not have to resort to force. It is a painful remedy. It doesn't take a single human life outside the country exposed to the boycott, but instead subjects that country to a pressure that, in my view, no modern country can withstand.'"
In other words, sanctions, or blockades, are just a polite word for war.

During the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. destroyed all of Iraq's water purification plants. In the decade of sanctions that followed, it was the prevention of importation of chemicals and equipment which would have allowed those plants to be rebuilt that was the primary cause of the deaths of more than a million Iraqis. The one fact Becker neglects to mention is that the United States knew in advance this would happen. The destruction of the water plants (and other civilian targets) during the first Gulf War was not just a war crime, combined with the sanctions it was a deliberate act of genocide.


Friday, November 12, 2004


 

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out Quote of the Day

"Intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war."

- soon-to-be-ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft (Source)

 

Open thread


I'm off for a few days, but I'll be checking in (and possibly posting), so I'm going to know who's been naughty and who's been nice. Remember, Christmas is coming (and Christmas decorations are coming even sooner)!

 

A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing


I'm talking here about polls, and the countless hours invested in them by the media, at the expense of the discussion of real issues which might actually advance the cause of, you know, democracy. Of course we all know the "meme" circulating since the election is that "values voters" elected the President, and that "more people decided on their vote because of moral values than any other issue."

As it turns out, even if you believe that polls mean anything, that was a highly misleading spin, since in the one poll in question (and since when does one poll mean that much?), a grand total of 22 percent selected "moral values" as their deciding issue, but that barely edged out the economy (20 percent), and if you combined terrorism (19 percent) and Iraq (15 percent), which the President certainly does at every possible opportunity, you find that 34 percent felt that "terrorism and Iraq" was the decisive issue, a full 50 percent more than checked "moral values." I'm leaving aside the question of why someone would poll using such a nebulous concept as "moral values" which every respondent could decide for themselves what it meant.

But, as it turns out, you shouldn't even believe that much, as is demonstrated nicely in another poll (yes, a poll refuting the value of polls!) from the Pew Research Center. It seems that when voters in this poll were given a list of items to pick from, "moral values" was the most popular choice at 27 percent, followed by Iraq at 22 percent and the economy at 21 percent. But when they were simply asked to name their top issue without the assistance of a list to influence their choices, Iraq was picked by 27 percent, the economy by 14 percent and moral values tied with terrorism at only 9 percent.

Wouldn't you like to know who commissioned, and who designed, the original poll, on which so many words of "conventional wisdom" have now been spilled?


 

Quote of the Day

"I still don't understand these people's mentality. Do they think they can really win?"

- 2nd Lt. Shawn Gniazdowski, 23, of Chesterland, Ohio, referring to the insurgents in Fallujah, and evidently having inherited his commander-in-chief's complete lack of self-awareness or sense of irony.
Lt. Gniazdowski continued, "It's a shame to see the destruction of an entire city because of a couple thousand fighters." I'll bet he'd think it's a bit more than a "shame" if he was one of the 300,000 people who actually live in Fallujah. I had to laugh (and cry) when I read that the Marines have promised $75 million for infrastructure projects in Fallujah as soon as the fighting ends. Yes, that ought to rebuild...let's see...if Halliburton is involved...carry the three...exactly one bridge. OK, a one-lane bridge. Just a regular Iraqi whose house was blown to bits? Suck it up, pal. What were you thinking, been born in Iraq? And in Fallujah no less.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


 

Dancing on Arafat's grave


Israeli settlers were almost literally doing that, they were dancing anyway; I'm sure they would be dancing on the grave if they could. But the media were doing their share figuratively. On BBC World tonight, they interviewed a nice unbiased guest - the Israeli ambassador to Britain. No counterbalance to his absurd statements about how Israel had been continually trying to negotiate with the Palestianians, and how they were withdrawing from Gaza (not "planning to," "were", as if a single settler had moved anywhere yet) and "some settlements" in the West Bank. The fact that they haven't even managed to remove unoccupied outposts successfully seems to have escaped his attention.

Not to leave the field to the Israeli ambassador alone, a BBC correspondent then appeared and referred to Arafat as a man who had "killed thousands of Israelis." Not "responsible for the death of," which is at least arguable, but "killed."


 

Britain reports on human rights


The British government has issued a report on human rights which actually includes a bit of semi-self-criticism:
"Buyers of British arms and Britain's close allies in the 'war on terror' are named as being among the worst abusers of human rights in a government report published yesterday.
The report even notes that torture is illegal under all circumstances, and criticizes actions at Abu Ghraib as "shameful." Unclear if it mentions Guantanamo.

Surprisingly, the misnamed Palestinian Authority (misnamed because it has authority over next to nothing) is also listed as a key "human rights abuser." Why? "The Palestinian Authority does not act to stop terrorism with sufficient energy." I wonder why they don't criticize the Allawi "government" in Iraq (who has about as much authority as the PA) for their failure to stop "terrorism" with "sufficient energy" as well. The human rights abuses of the Israeli government of depriving millions of Palestinians of basic human rights seems to have been omitted from this "human rights" report, which is so bold (truly, compared to the U.S. government) as to say that "Israel's policy of targeted assassination is illegal." Not that they're going to do anything about it, mind you.

No mention of Britain's role in depriving 100,000 Iraqis of the right to life, either, apparently.


 

The price of...something


Here's the latest part of the price of...what? Greed? Arrogance? Imperialism? Certainly not "freedom."
"Eighteen U.S. troops have been killed and 178 wounded in action since the start of the assault on Fallujah, the U.S. command said Thursday. Five allied Iraqi troops have also been killed and 34 wounded.

"The U.S. military announced the figures as commanders in Fallujah estimated that some 600 insurgents have been killed in the offensive, which began Monday night. The commanders cautioned that the number was a rough estimate."
Remarkably, not a single civilian dead. Well, none worth mentioning by the U.S. military, anyway. Nor by the American press, which in this case (the AP) doesn't even see fit to include a sentence like "estimates of civilian casualties were unavailable."

 

9/11...was not the "price of freedom"


A new exhibit just opened at the Smithsonian Institute, entitled "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War." Part of the exhibit are pieces of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. I admit that Americans are now at war, in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they are not defending our "freedom," nor was the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon an attack on, or a response to, our freedom. unless by "freedom" you mean the "freedom" to arm the Israeli government to the teeth in its brutal repression of the Palestinian people, and the "freedom" to establish hundreds of military bases ringing the globe, and the "freedom" to decide who should govern Iraq, or Iran, or Palestine, or Venezuela, or Cuba, and so on.

Interestingly enough, what I assume to be more or less the same exhibit was recently at the National Museum of American History, but as far as I can tell, that version of the exhibit did not include any 9/11 references.


 

Of all the stories out of Fallujah, here's the strangest...


The American forces are claiming that they have control over most of Fallujah, and have a tight ring around the city so that no one can escape. Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. But I wonder how exactly they would explain this (reported by Knight-Ridder's typically reliable Hannah Allam and Tom Lasseter, with obvious eyewitness credibility):
"Insurgents set up checkpoints 35 miles northwest of Baghdad on a main road to Al-Fallujah, stopping cars in search of foreigners. A Knight Ridder correspondent in a white Peugeot was pulled over by masked gunmen at one of the checkpoints. He was released after showing the rebels an ID card with his birthplace marked as Al-Fallujah."
Not just a checkpoint not that far from Baghdad - a checkpoint on a main road to Fallujah!

Why stop here? There's more...

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