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Wednesday, August 31, 2005


 

Political humor of the day


Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:
"Taking swift and personal responsibility for federal relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush on Wednesday..."
Swift? Are you kidding me? The only way Bush's response could have been any slower would have been if he were preoccupied reading My Pet Goat when disaster struck.

As for "personal", all I can say is, lucky thing for the survivors it isn't true, 'cause they'd be goners if it were.


 

Thousands dead in a single day thanks to the invasion of Iraq


Earlier today it was the death of 841 Iraqis. Later today, we learn that thousands are likely dead in New Orleans thanks to the breeching of the levees and the subsequent flooding of the city. Editor and Publisher's Will Bunch explains why that was a direct, entirely predictable consequence of the invasion of Iraq. Here's just one piece of evidence:
"At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars."
A lack of money which specifically impacted the shoring up of sinking levees.

As I have written on more than one occasion, the so-called "War on Terror" has cost every man, woman, and child in the United States $1,000 and climbing. The citizens of New Orleans, who were denied $2 million for urgent levee repair in June, 2004, have ponied up $500 million to deal out death and destruction to tens of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan.


 

Hey! Teachers Military! Leave them kids alone!


All in all it's just another video on the Internet. But what a video! This one, from a new (?) anti-recruitment organization entitled Leave My Child Alone, features Cindy Sheehan and a variety of other mothers and others talking about military recruitment, the lies that are told, and how families can "opt out" of the "privilege" of having their high school age children constantly harassed by recruiters. Spread the word! And watch the video, if you're in a position to do so.


 

I'm no expert, but...


...25,000 people are being moved from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston. A sporting stadium might be a great place to shelter large numbers of people in an emergency for a day or two, but it hardly seems like a solution for the residents of a town into which it is expected that people may not be allowed for months.

The greater Houston area has 55,000 hotel rooms, room for at a minimum 110,000 people and, in reality, even more. I can't find any current data, but in 1992, the occupancy rate for Houston hotels was 65%, meaning that there would be more than enough hotel rooms in the Houston area alone, not to mention the area between New Orleans and Houston and in every other direction, to accomodate all the Superdome refugees in a place where they could stay semi-permanently until a more permanent solution was available.

But, what do I know?


 

Day 94: the hostage crisis continues


That would be, of course, the media held hostage by the Natalee Holloway story. Over on CNN Headline News last night, while every other channel was devoting coverage to the "Catastrophe in the Crescent City" (TM Left I on the News), Nancy Grace was on "Day 93 of the Natalee Holloway story" every time I flipped by. On MSNBC, Rita Cosby was, to my surprise, anchoring coverage of the hurricane, but she hadn't actually left Aruba to do so; that would be asking too much.

So here's my bet for any reader to lay down some money -- is there anyone who thinks that, 93 days after this disaster, that three different cable channels will each be broadcasting an hour or more of coverage every night about it? Fat chance.


 

Fiddling is to fire, as strumming is to...


...floods. The Emperor Bush performs on Tuesday, while people drown in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama:


Yes, folks, this is for real.

Update: For a more elaborate use of this picture, see this post above.


 

Right-wing "research"


The Washington Post helpfully provides a forum today for "research" by reactionary author John Tierney, who arrives at this brilliant conclusion (which is unrebutted by any information in the article):
"Tierney, of the Institute of World Politics, identified five groups: ANSWER, Not in Our Name, Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, and MoveOn.org. He said these groups 'come from the Workers World Party' and are an 'umbrella' for smaller groups, such as the 'Communist Party of Kansas City' and the 'Socialist Revolutionary Movement of the Upper Mississippi.' Of the last two, he said, 'I'm just making these up.'"
I have no doubt that most if not all of my readers, unlike Tierney, Dana Milbank (the lead Post writer on the article), and the editors at the Post, are well aware that not only don't any of these groups except ANSWER "come from" the Workers World Party, but that the last three are at the opposite end of the antiwar movement, as the until-recent split on the Sept. 24 march demonstrated. The Workers World Party was, in fact, a central founder of ANSWER, although the central leaders of ANSWER subsequently split from the WWP to found the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Amusingly enough, the group in which the actual Workers World Party is active, the Troops Out Now! coalition, isn't even mentioned by Tierney; evidently it escaped his careful "research."


 

It takes a hurricane


Gary Boatwright at Seeing the Forest nails it [links and more in the original]:
"'Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.' -- Ronald Reagan

"That is the key sentence in Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address, which was titled Putting America Back To Work. We can only hope that Hurricane Katrina demonstates once and for all that callous conservatism is not the solution. Callous conservatism is the problem.

"A long line of callous conservatives have been accusing liberals of being soft hearted do gooders because they have genuine concern for the common welfare of the American people. On a long string of issues from Social Security to wetlands to mundane tasks like building levees, conservatives have been riding on Reagan's coat-tails to insist that government is not the solution to our problems.

"It is time to drive a stake through the heart of that canard. If it takes a hurricane to wake up the American people, I will not be apologetic for pointing out the obvious. Red state voters have no one but themselves to blame for the excess hardship that will be caused by years of callous neglect from the Bush administration.

"For all of the naysayers who wish to accuse me of playing politics with a natural disaster, I will simply point to how President Bush shamelessly politicized 9/11. If telling the truth is playing politics, then we need more of it, not less."
Boatwright makes just one mistake, which is the line "Red state voters have no one but themselves to blame for the excess hardship that will be caused by years of callous neglect from the Bush administration." Because the "red state" voters who will suffer the most are precisely the ones who did not put Bush into office. And even the ones who did help put Bush into office very much have someone else to blame (in addition to themselves), starting with the corporate media, whose interests are aligned with Bush and which have proven it time and again over the years.


 

For want of an ounce of prevention...


...a pound of cure is required:
"The governor of Louisiana says everyone needs to leave New Orleans due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina. 'We've sent buses in. We will be either loading them by boat, helicopter, anything that is necessary,' Gov. Kathleen Blanco said."
They could have done this before the hurricane hit, a lot less expensively, in a lot more orderly fashion. Why, they even have a good example to follow, just 600 miles due Southeast from New Orleans. Of course, that happened in a country where the President doesn't take vacation, or travel around the country trying to pump up support for his policies, when his country is threatened with catastrophe; it's a country where the President takes charge of the response, starting with the preventive response, to catastrophe.


 

Inappropriate headline of the day


From the San Francisco Chronicle:
New Orleans' joie de vivre will lift city up from Katrina
The dead haven't even been recovered yet, and, in all probability, the dying is going to continue for days and weeks to come (and years, if we include the effects of toxic chemicals), and the Chronicle is spouting happy talk. Even I'm not that insensitive (and I'm pretty insensitive).


 

The tragedy that is Iraq


"Nearly 650 841 950 Iraqi Shi'ites died in a stampede on a Tigris River bridge in Baghdad on Wednesday, panicked by rumours a suicide bomber was about to blow himself up, an Interior Ministry official told Reuters."
The deaths of these people didn't have to happen, any more than the deaths of tens of thousands of other Iraqis or thousands of Americans and others. They were killed by the capitalist greed for money and power. And by those who steered that greed in the direction of Iraq - Bush, Cheney, Rumfeld, Rice, and their enablers in Congress, Republican and Democrat alike.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005


 

Quote of the Day


"In order to rescue all these people stranded on their roofs, we'd need an air force of helicopters."

- unnamed government official in New Orleans, heard on TV
Um, wait, I think we have one of those. Let me try to remember where we put it. Oh yeah...in Iraq, killing people.


 

The law of unintended consequences


Earlier tonight on CNN, Aaron Brown and Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre were dutifully repeating, and expressing agreement with, government spin that there are plenty of National Guard troops available to do what is needed to respond to Hurricane Katrina. Not only is that an obvious lie with respect to the post-hurricane recovery, it's an obvious lie with respect to what could have been done before the hurricane hit, when National Guard could have been used to evacuate people who didn't have their own means of transportation.

Tomorrow's Washington Post touches on the subject in an article headlined "War Strains Military's Ability to Help." They even found one Guard leader to break ranks and admit, however timidly, that there might be a problem:

"National Guard officials in the states acknowledged that the scale of the destruction is stretching the limits of available manpower while placing another extraordinary demand on their troops -- most of whom have already served tours in Iraq or Afghanistan or in homeland defense missions since 2001.

"More than 6,000 Guard members were mobilized in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida when the storm struck on Monday, with the number rising to 8,000 yesterday and hundreds more expected to be called to active duty, National Guard officials said yesterday.

"'Missing the personnel is the big thing in this particular event. We need our people,' said Lt. Andy Thaggard, a spokesman for the Mississippi National Guard, which has a brigade of more than 4,000 troops in central Iraq. Louisiana also has about 3,000 Guard troops in Baghdad."
But here's the reason for the title of this post, and something I hadn't seen anyone else mention. I, and other antiwar activists, have been delighted that the military, and these days that most definitely includes the National Guard because of the way they're being used by Bush, haven't been able to meet recruitment goals. But there's another consequence to that:
"Recruiting and retention problems are worsening the strain on Guard forces in hurricane-ravaged states. Alabama's Army National Guard has a strength of 11,000 troops -- or 78 percent of the authorized number. 'We're just losing too many out the back door,' Arnold said."
So not only aren't there enough Guard to deal with the crisis because so many of them are in Iraq, but there also aren't enough of them because there aren't enough of them! Unfortunately, as long as the Guard are being used to fight wars, instead of to do the job that they were intended to do, I for one won't be lamenting that problem. Just taking note of it as one more unintended consequence of the wars that George Bush, with the full support of the Republicans and the nearly full support of the Democrats, chose to fight.


 

Color me convinced


If human intelligence were proof of intelligent design, this would pretty much disprove it:
"A poll released yesterday found...42 percent of respondents held strict creationist views, agreeing that 'living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.'

"In contrast, 48 percent said they believed that humans had evolved over time. But of those, 18 percent said that evolution was 'guided by a supreme being,' and 26 percent said that evolution occurred through natural selection. In all, 64 percent said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution, while 38 percent favored replacing evolution with creationism."
Well, I'm convinced. What better way to arrive at scientific knowledge than by polling the public?


 

Posada update


In the first surprising news of the day (hat tip to Politics in the Zeros), indicative of how weak the U.S. government's position is (and how great their hypocrisy):
"A federal immigration judge on Monday said he will order Luis Posada Carriles deported to Venezuela if he denies the Cuban exile militant protection in the United States. A Department of Homeland Security prosecutor did not object to Judge William Abbott's decision on the first day of Posada's asylum trial at a federal detention center here."
And in the second, perhaps even more surprising, development:
"The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Jose Miguel Insulza said on Monday the United States should extradite alleged terrorist organizer Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela to face charges."
There was a time when the OAS was a rubberstamp for the foreign policy of the United States. Those days have ended.

Yesterday, ANSWER and others organized 15 rallies across the United States and Canada to demand the extradition of Posada Carriles to Venezuela. Keep up the pressure!


 

This is racism


Want something which illustrates the racist nature of the Israeli state? Try this (from BBC via Whatever It Is, I'm Against It):
"Families of Israeli Arabs shot dead on a bus in Galilee are not considered terrorism victims because their killer was Jewish, the defence ministry says.

"Under Israeli law, only attacks by 'enemies of Israel' are considered terrorism, the ministry said.

"The ruling means families of the four victims will not be entitled to the lifelong monthly payments given to Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks.

"Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, called the shooting 'a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist'."
Do you think for a second that if an Israeli Arab killed one or more Israeli Jews, that it wouldn't be termed "terrorism" under this law? Of course, Israeli law is as it is because the state of Israel practices state terrorism against the Palestinian population on a daily basis; indicting themselves with their own law wouldn't be kosher [excuse the lame attempt at humor on a very serious subject; couldn't help myself]


Monday, August 29, 2005


 

The missing Mississippians (and the missing opposition)


Sadly, at least 50 people in Mississippi were killed by Hurricane Katrina. The Mississippi National Guard? According to a report I just saw on KTVU, there are 850 of them on hurricane duty (this report claims 1,600, but only 100 of them are described as doing anything other than "awaiting orders" or "on standby"), and 3,500 of them in Iraq. National security? What security?

KTVU also reported that a unit of the California National Guard is just about to ship out...to Iraq. Asked to comment on this, Rep. Nancy Pelosi had a lot to say about how this was a consequence of Bush getting us into this mess, but not a word to say about what to do about it. She even said that "our security" would be diminished if the troops were brought home right now. I doubt the families of the dead in Mississippi and Louisiana would agree.


 

Antiwar Quote of the Day


"Here's to our soldiers. Let's bring them home safe."

- Mike Dirnt, member of Green Day, accepting one of the group's seven awards at the MTV Video Music Awards yesterday
Sadly, there are all too few young music stars willing to follow their lead.


 

Bring them home now!


Right-wing forces are busy chanting "You don't speak for me, Cindy." Unfortunately for them, as noted in many posts already on this blog, there are a lot more people, be they Gold Star family members, wounded Iraq veterans, or just plain old Americans, who want an end to the war. I just watched a Fox News "hit piece" on Sheehan (it missed by a wide mile; host Brit Hume was visibly disappointed in guest Byron York, author of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, for failing to smear Sheehan more effectively) in which they bragged about how the pro-war forces were now going to be following Sheehan all the way to Washington. They've got their work cut out for them if they do, though, because Sheehan has multiplied - there are three different bus tours headed for Washington. Check out the web site to see when (if) they pass by your city:


Hume was happy to point out that "Sheehan doesn't speak for most Americans" (of course she never claimed to), but just seconds before he made that point, Fox's own poll appeared on the screen showing that 37% of Americans want troops withdrawn from Iraq immediately. Now that isn't "most" Americans, but it's a heck of a lot of them (110 million to be exact)!


 

300,000!


Congratulations, you are the 300,000th visitor to Left I on the News! OK, a few of those may have been repeat visits! But whether you're a first-time visitor, or a regular, stick around, read what I have to say, and feel free to stick your own $0.02 (or even more!) into the comments.


 

Gold Star families speak for the dead


[First posted 8/29, 11:21 a.m.; updated]

But the wounded can speak for themselves:

"Paralyzed Iraq veteran Tomas Young [speaking yesterday at Camp Casey, Crawford, Texas] called on President Bush to meet with him to explain why his best hope to walk again, stem cell research, was not being pursued. Tomas was wounded in Iraq the same day that Casey Sheehan was killed."

[Updated with a better picture from Alaska Gyrl in Crawford via BradBlog, which illustrates that Sheehan isn't the only one who would like to ask George Bush some questions]


 

Quote of the Day


Following up on the item below about Hurricane Katrina, we have this quintessential quote:
"I want the folks there on the Gulf Coast to know that the federal government is prepared to help you when the storm passes. When the storm passes, the federal government has got assets and resources that we'll be deploying to help you. In the meantime, America will pray - pray for the health and safety of all our citizens."

- George Bush, White House resident
After the damage is done, we'll fork over the tax dollars (of the people unable to take advantage of tax breaks who still pay taxes). While you're in harm's way, we won't do a damn thing. Except pray.

On behalf of the residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, and the other affected areas, may I say, "Thanks an effing lot, George."

By the way, I don't sit in front of the TV all day, but in the times I have had the opportunity to monitor TV coverage, I have yet to see George Bush, "leader" of the free world, at all. No doubt he's as far away from the danger as possible, as is his usual practice.


 

Every Day is Mother's Day


It's not a song yet, just a lyric, but it's the latest from David Rovics, just written yesterday:
There's a camp in Crawford, women in grief
No way for them to find any relief
Their sons are dead and they've come to see
The man who made their destiny
He's squirming there on his vacation
Trying to look like he's leading the nation
But folks are vying for that position
They've got guts and they've got a mission
You can open your ears and hear everybody say
That every day is mother's day

Well things were getting a little gritty
So the president went to Salt Lake City
And a sleepy little town in Idaho
But the mothers are on him wherever he goes
He just can't get 'em outta his hair
Wherever he is, they're right there
Calling him out for the liar he is
Saying don't kill more kids for your oil biz
Saying George, give up and just go away
'Cause every day is mother's day

And when George goes back to Washington
He'll have no place left to run
With rocking chairs to greet the dawn
And mothers camped on the White House lawn
Heeding the call of Julia Ward
A moral and mighty, motherly horde
The future is coming and the future looks hard
For W and his house of cards
The mothers are coming and they're here to stay
Every day is mother's day


 

Louisiana in the news


While Hurricane Katrina devastates Louisiana (and Mississippi), more than 3,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard are not doing the job they signed up to do, helping their fellow citizens in times of emergency, because they are off in Iraq making the world a more dangerous place and lining the pockets of George Bush's friends (among other things). That is a full 26% of the entire Louisiana National Guard strength of 11,500 (and it's not just the people, it's the materiel too: high water vehicles, Humvees and generators). As I have written before, this is a point on which the antiwar movement could profitably (and that's "profit" in a completely different sense than George Bush and his friends use the word) focus.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, while those who are able fled the city, those who weren't got precisely no help from the government to do so. It's worth recalling what happened last year, when a hurricane hit Cuba and then headed for New Orleans. In Cuba, 1.3 million people, more than 10% of the population, were evacuated from the path of the hurricane in an orderly operation organized by the government; not a single person died. In New Orleans, then as now, citizens were recommended to leave, but got precisely zero help from the government to do so.

Suburban Guerrilla finds CNN news reader Soledad O'Brien insulting those who couldn't leave:

"Well-paid anchor twit Soledad O’Brien interviews Sen. Mary Landrieu.

"She keeps making snippy comments about the 20% of the New Orleans citizens who didn’t leave: 'Are they just complacent?' You know, in that smarmy, fake concern they like to simulate.

"Landrieu pointed out that some people couldn’t leave – they had no transportation, no money, no place to go."
Update: This source, which seems more reliable, places the number of Louisiana National Guard troops in Iraq at 4109, bringing us up to a full 36% of the entire Guard.


 

The New York Times catches up with Left I on the News


I've been writing since May that the United States was never going to leave helicopters, attack airplanes, or other heavy weaponry in the hands of the Iraqis, for fear they would be turning over weapons which would be used against them. Yesterday, the New York Times found both American military sources (anonymous of course) and Iraqi ones (willing to be named) who acknowledged this. It turns out I understated the case; the Americans aren't even willing to give the Iraqis armored Humvees or the latest generation RPGs or rifles with laser sighting and night-vision capability.

"Exit strategy"? Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top military commander in Iraq, when asked this month about the plans for the future use of the four "semi-permanent" bases the U.S. is building for a total of 72,000 troops, dismissed the question: "You're talking years away." "And," I and Cindy Sheehan will add to what the General said, "thousands upon thousands of more dead Iraqis and Americans."

On September 24, it's time to make the U.S. rethink that "strategy."


 

7 years of American "justice"


Today in El Paso, Texas, Luis Posada Carriles has another immigration hearing; protests are scheduled across the country to demand his extradition to Venezuela for the crime of planning the bombing of a plane and the deaths of 73 people. At the same time as the U.S. government keeps this man from facing the justice he deserves, they continue to imprison five men who have been declared innocent by U.S. courts after having spent seven years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. Those men, the "Cuban Five", were arrested and improperly convicted of the "crime" of trying to prevent terrorism against Cuba like those carried out by Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, and their associates.

I write about this today not only because of Posada Carriles' hearing, but also because at CounterPunch, the President of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, provides us with an excellent summary of those seven years of injustice, seven years of terror, seven years of hell, that those men have suffered at the hands of the United States. Seven years of solitary confinement, seven years of not being able to meet with their families, or their attorneys, or to properly prepare their case or their appeal, seven years of not even being able to see the evidence against them. If you are unfamiliar with the case, or even if you are familiar, Alarcon's article still provides an eye-opening picture of U.S. "justice."


Sunday, August 28, 2005


 

How out of touch are the Democrats?


This out of touch: Sen. Joe Biden is a leading spokesperson for the Democrats on foreign affairs, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here's what the Los Angeles Times tells us about Biden's thinking:
"'There's a base in the party that would give the president no power to go to war with Iraq,' Biden acknowledged in an interview. But he said 'the vast majority' of Democrats believe that the consequences of leaving Iraq unattended justify continued American involvement."
Really? The very same article provides these numbers (emphasis added):
"A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll in early August found that 33% of all respondents, a record high, agreed with the statement that 'the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops from Iraq.' Among Democrats, 52% favored total withdrawal, 26% favored the withdrawal of some troops and 20% favored maintaining the current number of troops or sending more.
So if there is anything the "vast majority" of Democrats agree on, it's that all or some of the troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, and, at least according to this poll, a simple majority favors total withdrawal. The position that Biden, Clinton, and indeed all the Democrats in the Senate and the vast majority of them in Congress hold, is that held by a tiny sliver of the members of their party, just 20%.

The title of this post refers to clueless Democrats. As the last paragraph makes clear, it isn't Democrats per se who are clueless. but the elected ones who serve as leaders, and the public face, of their party.


 

More on "The Truth is Out There"


Two more must-reads in the corporate press today: Chris Hedges discusses "The War Within" - the results of the Iraq war on the soldiers who return from fighting it, in many cases emotionally scarred for life. The article concludes:
"In short, war redefines our moral universe. Killing and glory become synonymous. This corruption is so profound that it cannot be washed away with a flight home. For many, war creates a new way of being.

"Here, at home, behind the empty chatter and bombast of patriotic talk, there is a yawning indifference among many about what is really happening in Iraq. The hollow language of abstractions and cliches, used by the war makers and often aped by those in the media, allows much of the nation to feel good about war.

"But it is also a way of muzzling the voices of those returning from Iraq if they attempt to tell us the truth about war. And when these men and women do find the moral courage to speak, they often find that many turn away in disgust or attack them for shattering the bubble. The myth of war -- that we are righteous and our nation is always good -- is too enjoyable, and too profitable, to be easily punctured by reality.

"When the noisy club-goers woke up Cotnoir and his family, I suspect he was as dead to their humanity as he probably was to the humanity of most Iraqis. Now he is being vilified [for firing a shotgun and wounding two people]. But it is we who are guilty, guilty for sending him and tens of thousands of others to a war that did not have to be fought, guilty for turning away from the truth of war to wallow in myth, guilty because we create killers, and when they come home maimed and broken, we condemn them."
Hedges' article was the front-page of the "Perspective" section of the San Jose Mercury News today; on the front page of the paper itself is this important article by Tom Lasseter, who spent three weeks travelling with American troops fighting in Al Anbar province in Iraq. Unlike the happy talk heard from other corners, Lasseter has the straight scoop:
"Insurgents in Al- Anbar province, the center of guerrilla resistance in Iraq, have fought the U.S. military to a stalemate.

"After repeated major combat offensives in Al-Fallujah and Ar-Ramadi, and after losing hundreds of soldiers and Marines in Al-Anbar during the past two years -- including 75 since June 1 -- many American officers and enlisted men assigned to Al-Anbar have stopped talking about winning a military victory in Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland."
It's a strong, important article, although it does have two weak points. At one point, discussing the situation in Fallujah (where insurgents have returned), we learn that "of the 250,000 population before the fighting, just 150,000 residents have returned." That's very interesting, but Lasseter doesn't mention the obvious - that leaves 100,000 refugees, nine months after the U.S. assault. Where are they? What's happened to them?

Trying to explain the success of the resistance, Lasseter lets the military speak for themselves:

"Military officials offered three primary reasons that guerrillas have held and gained ground: the enemy's growing sophistication, insufficient numbers of U.S. troops and the lack of trained and reliable Iraqi security forces."
But any serious observer of the situation knows there is a fourth, paramount reason - the "sea" in which the guerrillas are swimming. There is simply no way the resistance could be mounting 50, 60, 70 attacks a day against U.S. forces without significant, even overwhelming, support among the civilian population (with a recent poll showing 45% of Iraqis willing to admit to a polltaker that they supported attacks against the occupation forces).

Despite those flaws, another must-read article.


 

While the world was watching Israelis leave Gaza...


...Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes continued unabated. You won't see this on CNN, but one of the benefits of Americans travelling to Palestine as part of various solidarity groups is that stories like this one do sometimes at least appear in local papers (this one coming from the NewsTimes of Danbury, CT):
"Fifteen members of a Palestinian family stood near what used to be their home in the town of Al-Khader.

"The day before, bulldozers driven by Israelis flattened their house. Now it was a pile of rubble, with food and other household items lining the ground around it.

"It was July 28, a hot Thursday, recalled Chris Towne, 23, of Danbury, who was in Al-Khader with some 20 members of a group that supports everyday Palestinians called Holy Land Trust of Bethlehem.

"Al-Khader is a little town surrounded by vineyards, fig and olive trees, south of Bethlehem City on the West Bank of Palestine.

"Towne and others learned the family were farmers who lived near a settlement [Ed. note: the article doesn't say but one presumes this was the 'crime' for which their home was being demolished]. They had two donkeys to harvest crops like grape leaves and apples.

"'Though they knew we were Americans, and that the Israeli weapons and the Caterpillar bulldozers came from America, they showed us their best hospitality by the rubble of their former home [Towne said]."
The entire article makes for interesting reading, as does the blog that Towne kept during his trip. Here's something from the blog which didn't make the newspaper article, illustrating the comparison between recent events in Gaza (where Jewish residents were given months' notice of the evacuation, and even allowed to wait until a religious holiday was over) and the daily demolition of Palestinian homes:
"Three families, a total of 24 people, were made homeless.

"The Israelis came, pointed guns at the people, and didn't even give them time to collect their possessions."
As they used to say on The X Files, "The truth is out there." But you do have to search for it.


Thursday, August 25, 2005


 

Strange coincidences in the Middle East


Wednesday, Israel completed its withdrawl of illegal settlers from Gaza and four small settlements in the West Bank. Thursday, they carried out the provocative extrajudicial murder of two militants ("killed in a gun battle while resisting arrest," the usual story) and oh, incidentally, killed three unarmed teenagers in the process. Also Thursday, Israel seized more than 300 acres of Palestinian land on the West Bank near Jerusalem to build its wall and 3,500 new homes, considerably more than the number just abandoned in Gaza and the four West Bank settlements. Coincidence? Hardly. More likely, they're taking advantage of their run of "good press" in the Western media to get away with murder. Figuratively and literally.

Incidentally, Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, speaking on Flashpoints! tonight (his segment starts at 33:00; this point is made at 47:30 into the show), had some interesting information about the four just-abandoned West Bank settlements. Unlike the Gaza settlements, they are not being turned over to the Palestinians who actually own the land, but will rather become Israeli military outposts. So although they were abandoned by the settlers, the idea that they were actually abandoned by the Israelis is not true.


 

The antiwithdrawal


I wrote below about the U.S. plans to withdraw troops...from the United States, and send them to Iraq. Speaking on MSNBC earlier day, military analyst Lt. Col. Rick Francona made two interesting points about this. The first was that, as a result of the planned increase in the number of U.S. troops, by the end of this year American troop levels will stand almost exactly where they were a year before, during the January elections. The significance of this, of course, is to put the lie to any claims by Bush & Co. that the whole "train Iraqi forces, we'll stand down as they stand up" strategy is anything but a sham, since even when it comes to "protecting the elections" (which does not involve offensive actions like making an assault on Fallujah), the exact same number of U.S. troops are needed as a year ago.

And the second point made by Francona was that the additional troops which are being sent to Iraq are the elite 82nd Airborne, the "quick reaction" force which the U.S. "needs" to react to crises around the globe. And the fact that they are forced to send this elite force to Iraq for the mission of protecting the Iraqi election tells you just how far they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for troops to maintain their war in Iraq.


 

U.S. wants to imprison anti-terrorists for another month


Two weeks ago, a U.S. court ruled that the trial against five Cubans who have been imprisoned in the U.S. for more than seven years for the "crime" of trying to prevent terrorist attacks against their country (the kind of thing that people like Pat Robertson can call for, and people like Aaron Brown on CNN can call "wacky") was null and void. These five men are now innocent under the U.S. legal system - innocent until proven guilty. Of course they are still in prison, and today (subscription required) the U.S. government requested a 30-day extension in their appeal of the overturning of the case. In other words they want to keep these five innocent heroes in jail for another 30 days. And not just in jail, but in high security facilities scattered all over the country (five different jails), illegally prevented from seeing their families (sensing a pattern here?).

Meanwhile "justice" in the case of Luis Posada Carriles continues to inch along; the U.S. has still not deported him to Venezuela to face the justice he deserves. And George Bush can repeat with a straight face his famous line, "If you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist," and not be called on it by the "journalists" of America.


 

Quote of the Day


"It is time to pull out now. As you said, no one needs to die for others who have died. Everybody has their sacrifices. And we do not need to sacrifice more people."

- Spec. Jeans Cruz, one of the American soldiers who captured Saddam Hussein, now retired and now unemployed (both Cruz and Hussein), on Keith Olbermann's Countdown show


 

About that excuse for not meeting with Cindy Sheehan...


[First posted 8/24, 4:12 p.m.; updated]

George Bush has claimed repeatedly that he doesn't need to meet with Cindy Sheehan because he has already met with her, and it's a line that his supporters repeat frequently as well. Just one little itty bitty problem. Today, trying to counter Sheehan's influence while in Idaho, Bush met with Dawn Rowe (as seen and interviewed on CNN; doesn't appear to be online at the moment). Rowe's husband was killed in Iraq, and this was the second time Bush has met with her. Want to meet with George Bush? All you have to do is to agree with him. Anyone else? Go stand in the street. Or a ditch. Preferably a long way away.

Bush's meeting with Rowe occured in private; in public, he was promoting Tammy Pruett, who has had five sons and a husband serving in Iraq (fortunately for her and them, and unfortunately for Bush's attempted comparison with Sheehan, all of them are alive). Bush, in one of those precious lack of self-awareness moments, intoned, "America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts." Well, leaving aside the obvious fact that serving in Iraq doesn't have the slightest thing to do with our living in freedom, what can one say but, "Definitely not because of families like yours, George. Had that little talk with Barbara and Jenna yet?"

Update: Interestingly enough, I have this on tape from this afternoon when it was broadcast on CNN, but I can find absolutely no mention of this meeting in writing, either on the CNN website or elsewhere. I didn't imagine her though; here's an article about her husband's death in which we learn that Dawn thinks his death was "meant to be."

Second update: An Idaho paper is now the one and only place I can find a written record of Rowe's meeting with Bush. And in a second article from that paper, we learn why Rowe made the trip from California to meet with Bush - it's because she was mad that her sister-in-law (the dead Marine's sister) had attended a peace vigil protesting the war! Here's more about Diana Rowe Pauls and the Cindy Sheehan connection:

"Rowe Pauls said she 'held her tongue' for almost a year until she saw Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year, camping out near Bush's home in Crawford, Texas.

"'When I saw Cindy Sheehan and the Gold Star Families for Peace and veterans from Iraq, veterans from Vietnam and current active military all beginning to speak out publicly with the same questions and concerns that I had, I wanted to start asking those questions publicly as well,' Rowe-Pauls said.

"To make some peace with her mother, Rowe Pauls said she's agreed to not use her brother's name in future protests of the war."
There's an important lesson to be learned here - there are a lot more people opposed to the war than the number who are willing to protest, but every time you (or I) protest, that helps to make those people realize that they are not alone, and in turn helps to inspire more protest. That's what it's all about, folks.

Incidentally, when members of Cindy Sheehan's family announced their opposition to Sheehan's stance, the media made a big deal of it and gave them lots of coverage. Do you suppose they'll be giving the same coverage to Diana Rowe Pauls? I doubt it.

Further update: If you can stand it, listen to the clips of Bush speaking in Idaho on this morning's Democracy Now!. Bush is just his usual blustering self, but listening to the audience applauding and hooting and hollering in response to Bush's call for killing the "terrorists" and "confront emerging threats before they full materialize" (i.e., endless war against the world), just two words came to mind: blood lust. Truly scary.


 

Cindy vs. George


Editorial cartoonists from across the land have their say on the "Showdown at the Crawford (Bike) Corral".

[First posted 8/20/05, 10:30 a.m.; updated] Updated with new cartoons. Post links to additional editorial cartoons in the comments and I'll add them to the album.

Update, 8/25: Webshots, where I had these cartoons posted, has removed them for copyright infringement. Although I believe posting these qualifies as "fair use", posting them on Webshots violated their policy. If anyone has any other suggestions for a similar (free!) place to post them, let me know, or if anyone wants to volunteer a web page somewhere, let me know as well (I'm going to email the "meetwithcindy.org" folks to see if they're amenable).


Wednesday, August 24, 2005


 

Tariq Aziz surfaces


When last I wrote about Tariq Aziz back in March, the evidence of gross American violations of the Geneva Conventions was clear; Aziz had had no visits, no parcels from his family, and was even denied paper. He has now been in solitary confinement for 28 months, and has just had his first visit from his family. Here's what 28 months in the hands of the Americans has done:
"'He looked like he had turned 80,' his wife, Violette, told The Times. 'He was frail and too tired to walk, even inside the small meeting room. He had to lean against his American military escort to move a step down.

"'Much of his thick hair and moustache had shed and greyed,' she added, tears running down her cheeks.

"She said that he had lost more than 30lb (14kg). Doctors had pulled out most of his decaying teeth to make way for dentures. He was taking more than a dozen pills a day to control high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems."
And I was wrong when I wrote back in January; according to the Times, at least, Aziz has yet to be charged with any crime.

Other Iraqis that Left I on the News has dubbed missing persons -- Gen. Amer al-Saadi, Dr. Rihab Taha and Dr. Huda Ammash -- about whom there were rumors back in July that their release was being contemplated, are still also being held in solitary confinement as best we know. None of them has been charged with any crime either.

As for their jailer, George Bush, he's getting fitter by the day. I mean, he's got a life to get on with, you know.


 

War declared!


War has been declared, and it isn't against Iran or Syria or North Korea or Venezuela:
"The American Legion, which has 2.7 million members, has declared war on antiwar protestors, and the media could be next. Speaking at its national convention in Honolulu, the group's national commander called for an end to all 'public protests' and 'media events' against the war, constitutional protections be damned.

"'The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples,' Thomas Cadmus, national commander, told delegates at the group's national convention in Honolulu.

"The delegates vowed to use whatever means necessary to 'ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism.'"
Cindy Sheehan defense committee - time to get ready! (And I don't mean that jokingly, either. This is serious business.)

(From Editor & Publisher via Atrios)


 

Paula Zahn: "Killing Castro could have worked"


Paula Zahn, on her CNN show last night, moderated a discussion legitimizing assassination. Even asking the question, which she did at the outset ("Has controversial Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson finally gone too far or is he on to something?") legitimizes the idea in people's minds, but that wasn't enough for Zahn. One of her guests was former Congressman Bob Barr, who sponsored legislation to permit assassinations (not that the lack of such legislation ever stopped the U.S.), who argues that "The president of the United States needs to have full flexibility, all options at his or her disposal" when "our nation is threatened and the actions against our country, our interests and our people can be directly traceable to a foreign person in a position of authority, perhaps a military official, perhaps a regime head." Later the conversation turns to failed attempts to kill Fidel Castro, when Zahn says "But it could have worked."

Yes, Paula, it could have "worked." The U.S. could indeed have killed someone who has never harmed a single U.S. citizen, never even threatened a single U.S. citizen as far as I know, and never kept his troops occupying a piece of U.S. territory against the will of the U.S. He has called the U.S., or more exactly the U.S. government, names though. Surely that's enough justification to warrant his assassination.

And while we're on the subject, can we please dispense with the vulgar "take him out" language that not only came out of the mouth of Pat Robertson yesterday, but out of the mouth of Paula Zahn last night, and Wolf Blitzer today, not to mention countless other right-wing (and not-so-right-wing) TV and radio talk-show hosts, politicians, and others referring to Hugo Chavez, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, or some other bogeyman-du-jour? Wouldn't it be nice to live in a country where such language stays in the mouth of Tony Soprano, where it belongs?

(Hat tip to Suburban Guerilla)


 

Jewish terrorists on the rampage in Israel


While the world's press reports on the pullout of Israeli settlers from Gaza and a few small settlements in the West Bank, other things are going on there. Things which you'll hear reported on progressive radio shows like Flashpoints! but virtually nowhere else. This report from Nora Barrows-Friedman on yesterday's show (transcription from the downloadable mp3):
"Early this morning, groups of armed settlers roamed the West Bank with intent to vandalize and terrorize Palestinian villages. Witnesses say settlers entered the village of Fendakumiya (this and all place names are transcribed phonetically, and no doubt poorly, by me; my apologies), writing on and altering vehicles and firing machine guns in the air. Settlers threw stones and bottles at Palestinian homes and cars in the villages of Kuchin and Madma. In Qalqilya, a settler opened fire on a Palestinian farmer, shooting him in the shoulder. Other incidents were reported in Jit, Bazariya, Sebastiya, and other small villages. In Borqa, settlers reportedly broke into a Palestinian home, locked the residents out, destroyed furniture, and smashed windows. In Jenin, settlers attacked Palestinian journalists covering the intended pullout of the Somor settlement. Last week, an Israeli killed four Palestinian workers near the Shiloh settlement; no word yet on his arrest or punishment."
And it was just two weeks ago that four more Palestinians were gunned down by another Jewish terrorist.

Jewish readers, I hate to say this, but these people are acting in your name, just like Pat Robertson is acting in the name of Christians everywhere, unless you and other Jews (or Christians in the case of Robertson) denounce these acts publicly and make clear that they do not speak or act for you. Because if you stay silent, they are.


 

CNN spreads Pat Robertson's lies


[Updated]

Outrageously, CNN is now reporting a preposterous denial by Pat Robertson of something that millions of people have now seen for themselves:

"Conservative religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Wednesday that his remarks about the removal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were taken out of context and that he never called for the killing of the Latin American leader.

"'I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all the time,' Robertson said on 'The 700 Club' program."
Two paragraphs later, CNN does report Robertson's quote: "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it." But leading with the two paragraphs as they do, without some kind of immediate qualifier indicating the absurd nature of Robertson's denial, is a way to give him cover. Which, given CNN's performance yesterday, is hardly a surprise. By the way, that "taken out of context" is part of the cover supplied by CNN; they aren't words spoken by Robertson and are an arguable substitute for Robertson claiming he was "misinterpreted." Claiming he was "taken out of context" would be even more preposterous, if anything.

(Hat tip to Politics in the Zeros).

Update: CNN is now reporting (this story has now replaced the earlier one online) that Robertson has "apologized" for calling for the assassination of Chavez, which presumably renders inoperative his claim that he was "misinterpreted." So he's a sinner, a liar, and a "flip-flopper."


 

Camp Qualls, the pro-Bush camp in Crawford, Texas


This picture is straight from the web page of the National Review Online touting the existing of "Camp Qualls", about which we are told: "Granted, the site is much smaller than the anti-Bush crowd, but it’s growing each day."


I guess the crowd is still in the process of amassing! For the record, there are three pictures on the web page. None of them shows a single human being!

(For more on the pro-Bush "crowds" which are garnering such attention, see this previous post.)


 

Being pilloried ain't what it used to be


[First posted 8/23, 7:53 p.m.; updated]

The New York Times article about the response to Pat Robertson's call for Hugo Chavez to be assassinated is headlined: "Robertson Is Pilloried for Assassination Call". Well, the Venezuelan Ambassador, Bernardo Alvarez, did say that "His statement demands the strongest condemnation by the White House." Let's see how that worked out, and what the Times calls being "pilloried." Donald Rumsfeld has no criticism of Robertson whatsoever, merely saying "He's a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time." Robertson is indeed a private citizen, albeit one who is influential enough that his comments are newsworthy (eventually!) to every news organization. Of course, if Robertson were an Arab-American, who had called for the assassination of, say, Tony Blair, I think it's fair to say he would have already been visited by the FBI, if not already rotting in the cell adjacent to the one housing Jose Padilla.

That was the Department of Defense reaction. The State Department was equally tough on Robertson, saying his remarks were "inappropriate." No, wearing a light suit to a "black-tie optional" affair is "inappropriate"; Robertson's comments are an "outrage", if not indeed criminal. As for the White House, who Alvarez called on to condemn Robertson's remarks? As of this writing...dead silence. No doubt they are adhering to George Bush's favorite saying: "All options are on the table."

Update: My local Fox network outlet, KTVU, reports that Robertson's comments were "immediately denounced" by the Administration. If, by "immediately" you mean the next day, and by "denounced" you mean "rebuked as mildly as possible" and by "Administration" you mean "anyone but the White House."

Further update: The AP illustrates to the rest of the press how this story should have been reported, with an accurate headline ("U.S. Dodges Robertson Comments on Chavez"), and accurate observations about the reaction (emphasis added):

"State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called Robertson's remarks about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez 'inappropriate,' but stopped short of condemning them.

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon isn't in the business of killing foreign leaders, but he also did not denounce Robertson or his remarks."


 

What he said


One of those Letters to the Editor I should have written (or posts I should have posted):
Nobody enjoys being invaded

"In the Mercury News article 'Ghostly war zone' (Page 1A, Aug. 20), I was amused by the condescending description of Afghan resistance fighters as being 'poor, backward, and steeped in a centuries-old tradition of resisting foreigners.'

"So at last we know why the Afghans resent U.S. troops occupying their country. It's because they're poor, backward and steeped in tradition. I wonder how 'steeped' anyone else would be if foreign troops occupied their homeland? The article concedes that there is outrage at U.S. troops who 'inadvertently violate cultural taboos.' It doesn't mention that they also 'inadvertently' kill innocent Afghans.

Lee Marshall
Palo Alto


 

U.S. propaganda spouted by CNN


Last night's Newsnight with Aaron Brown on CNN featured extensive coverage on Pat Robertson and his call to assassinate Hugo Chavez. Aaron Brown characterized Robertson's statement as "outrageous" and "wacky". Oh, tee-hee. Pat is just so...silly. The fact that he influences millions of people, just one of whom might be susceptible to Robertson's suggestion and decide to take matters into his own hands? Why, that wouldn't be Pat's fault. He's just...wacky.

But Brown's characterization of Robertson and his statements are a matter of judgement. CNN's State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel's comments were U.S. propaganda, straight out of the mouths of CondoLIEzza Rice, Rumsfeld, Bush, and Cheney, except they weren't, they were out of the mouth of Andrea Koppel:

"Chavez is broadcasting that message [of the Bolivarian revolution] throughout the region on a new Venezuela satellite TV network dedicated to promoting anti-U.S. propaganda."
Telesur is widely compared to al Jazeera or CNN (and indeed as a competitor in Latin America to CNN, making it all the more interesting and scandalous for CNN to broadcast slander against it); it is dedicated to broadcasting the news in an unbiased, neutral way (unlike, say, CNN, as demonstrated rather clearly by this broadcast). The fact that the unbiased, neutral news might be perceived as "anti-U.S." is, of course, a consequence of the actions of the U.S. and no fault of Telesur. And, just for the record, Telesur is not a "Venezuela satellite TV network," but a company jointly owned by Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Also for the record, here's how its director describes its mission - "a strategic project that was born out of the need to give voice to Latin Americans confronted by an accumulation of thoughts and images transmitted by commercial media and out of the urgency to see ourselves through our own eyes and to discover our own solutions to our problems." "Dedicated to promoting anti-U.S. propaganda"? I must have missed that phrase.

But Koppel wasn't finished:

"These days, Chavez is using more than rhetoric. He's spending Venezuela's vast oil wealth to support other leftist leaders in the hemisphere, like in Bolivia, undermining U.S. efforts to spread democracy. He's courting oil-hungry countries like China and sworn U.S. enemies like Iran."
To start at the end, Iran is not the "sworn enemy" of the U.S.; what is true is that the U.S. is the "sworn enemy" of Iran, labelling it as part of the "axis of evil" and threatening to bomb or invade it. "All options are on the table" according to the President of the U.S. By contrast, I can't remember a single threat uttered by the President of Iran against the U.S.

As far as "undermining U.S. efforts to spread democracy," the less said about that slander the better. I might pop a vein in my forehead if I get started on that one.

Shall I describe Koppel's comments as "wacky"? How about "disgusting"? And, even more importantly, downright dangerous, because it is precisely the accumulation of little "clues" like these from the corporate media that poisons the mind of the American public, and makes them susceptible to calls from the U.S. government to invade other countries or overthrow their leaders to protect our "national security" in ways that more overt statements from people like Pat Robertson can never do.

(Hat tip to Mike from the invaluable Cursor)


Tuesday, August 23, 2005


 

The U.S. "withdrawal"


The U.S. is withdrawing troops...from the United States:
"The Pentagon plans to deploy two additional battalions to Iraq amid rising insurgent attacks ahead of an anticipated referendum on a constitution, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.

"Military officials also are looking at ways to adjust the rotation of forces to beef up the US troop presence on the ground for the elections from its current level of about 138,000 troops.

"Pentagon officials have said they expect the total number to rise to about the level they were at during Iraq's January 30 elections - some 159,000 troops."
Then they'll go back to 138,000 and Tom Hayden will call it a withdrawal.


 

Bush can run, but he can't hide


[Updated]

George Bush is on vacation in Idaho from his vacation in Texas. For those whose family members are dead or at risk of death in Iraq, there is no vacation:

"Monday, 200 people turned up for a protest in Donnelly, a town of 130 inhabitants a few miles from the Tamarack Resort, where Bush is spending two nights on vacation. Another protest took place here Tuesday. It was organized by the Idaho Peace Coalition."
George Bush and his right-wing friends have been busy denouncing Cindy Sheehan, but the targets for their slander are multiplying:
"President Bush probably breathed a sigh of relief when he landed in Idaho last night. But no matter where he goes, he's going to find a Cindy Sheehan in every community across the United States. The name is going to be different, but the message is going to be the same."

- Laura McCarthy, whose son is in Iraq

"Nothing is going to justify my husband's death. Why are we there? What is President Bush trying to get out of this? Why must my son be fatherless?"

- Melanie House, whose husband was killed in Iraq.
Looks like they're going to have to rename that "You Don't Speak For Me, Cindy!" "tour".

No justice, no peace!

Update: 200 people demonstrated against the war in a town of 130; even though a substantial portion of the Washington Post article describes the numerous protests against Bush, the headline reads "Bush Says Activist Doesn't Speak for Kin of Casualties." Meanwhile, in Sacramento, a town of 407,000, a whopping 30 Bush supporters showed up to support the anti-Cindy tour. The USA Today headline? "Bush backers amass to counter 'Peace Mom'." Amass? "To accumulate or assemble a large quantity of"? That's the smallest "large quantity" I've ever seen.

Another update: Sorry George, you're going to have to stop saying that "you met with Cindy already" and using that as an excuse for not meeting with the folks outside your gate in Crawford:

"Another mother protesting in Crawford, Karen Meredith of Mountain View, Calif., said the president was 'fooling himself' and that he had met with a small fraction of families of slain soldiers.

"As an example, said Meredith, whose son, Army Lt. Ken Ballard, was killed in 2004, Bush had not met with her. 'I'm in his backyard, so I'd love to come over and have a lemonade with him, because many families feel the same way that we do.'"


 

Who follows the Bible? Pat Robertson, or Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez?


How coincidental that on a day that Pat Robertson reveals that he's unfamiliar with the Ten Commandments, comes the news that someone other than Jesus is doing something about restoring sight to the blind:
"Cuba and Venezuela have sealed a commitment over the next 10 years to restore the sight of millions of Latin Americans who lack the economic resources for an operation, as part of the extension of the Mission Miracle program throughout the region.

"Christened the Sandino Commitment, the program proposes to attend to 600,000 patients per year in the Cuban facilities involved in the mission and in Venezuelan health centers to be brought into the humanitarian project, including military hospitals."
They're spreading Communism! They've got to be stopped!

Incidentally, I cannot find any evidence that a single American news organization has covered this development.


 

Rumsfeld flunks history


Responding to Pat Robertson's call for the U.S. to assassinate Hugo Chavez, here's what Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld had to say:
"Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law."
Gee, that's funny, because I have these distinct memories of attempts by his department to kill Saddam Hussein and Mohammar Ghaddafi, just to name two who come to mind (assassination attempts against Fidel Castro were managed by the CIA). Of course, when the DoD tries to assassinate people, they do it by dropping bombs on the intended target, the presence of nearby civilians or infant daughters notwithstanding.


 

White man's burden surfaces in Gaza


From Emperor Zorgon, ruler of the Universe George Bush:
"We have got Jim Wolfensohn, the former head of the World Bank, on the ground, helping President Abbas develop a government that responds to the will of the folks in Gaza. In other words, this is step one in the development of a democracy. [Ed. note: yes, step one, get advice from the noble white man, since the Arab savages aren't capable of ruling themselves without his help. And I take it those elections back in January, the ones won by Hamas, had nothing to do with democracy.]

"And so to answer your question, what must take place next is the establishment of a working government in Gaza, a government that responds to the people."
This ultimatum to people over whom he has no authority, from a President who won't even talk with his own citizens, even the ones whose families have paid the ultimate price for his war, and whose "response" to millions of people in Spring, 2003 demanding that the U.S. not invade Iraq was to give them the finger.


 

Soberania


That's Portuguese for "sovereignty". I assume most of my readers didn't understand it. Which should approximate the understanding of "sovereignty" itself by the United States government, which is reflected in this astonishing passage from the Washington Post (hat tip to Billmon) on the writing of the Iraqi Constitution [emphasis added]:
"Negotiators here described American officials as playing a major role in the draft. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad shuttled among Iraqi leaders, pushing late Monday for the inclusion of Sunnis in talks, negotiators said. U.S. Embassy staff members worked from a Kurdish party headquarters to help type up the draft and translate changes from English to Arabic for Iraqi lawmakers, negotiators said.
The Iraqi Constituion is being written...in English!!


 

The fake "anti-Sheehan"


[Updated]

Deborah Johns has already been the subject of thousands of news articles despite not having left Sacramento until yesterday on her "You Don't Speak For Me, Cindy" tour. Just as a side note, Johns is not a "Gold Star Mother"; her son is alive and well, about to start his third tour of duty in Iraq. Of course that doesn't invalidate her opposition to Sheehan and support for the war, but it is worth noting, especially as most coverage of her fails to take note of this fact.

The "caravan" which Johns is leading to Crawford is a fake and a fraud. Check out the schedule for the tour - it's basically a series of "press availabilities" in cities between Sacramento and Crawford, with little or nothing to do with actual public support. Here, for example, is a picture of a "rally" described on the Move America Forward website as "big crowd greets caravan":


With no advance press coverage whatsoever, and less than one day's notice, we had 60-75 people come together here in Cupertino (population 50,000 vs. 407,000 for Sacramento) the other night to show our support for Cindy Sheehan. I'm not saying there aren't plenty of people who don't agree with Deborah Johns. But her "caravan" is a massive P.R. exercise, and nothing more.

Update: I just caught CNN's coverage of Johns' appearance in San Francisco. From the looks of it, there were about six people present, easily outnumbered by the press. Man, I sure wish CNN would cover every demonstration I attended that had six people or more. Heck, I'd be happy if they'd cover the ones with 6000 or more!

More on this fake tour above.


 

The "responsible" call for withdrawal


I have written on several occasions (the most recent here) about how the "exit strategy" from Iraq is a sham, because the Americans are never going to turn over to the "Iraqi army" the planes, helicopters, tanks, and heavy artillery which they themselves rely on in battles against the resistance. Just yesterday afternoon I was thinking about (and thinking about posting about) the fact that not a single commentator, not Norman Solomon or Alexander Cockburn or Rahul Mahajan or any number of other people with more knowledge and insight than I, seems to have picked up on that point.

And then today on Democracy Now!, Juan Cole, following in the footsteps of Tom Hayden in calling for a "responsible" (not "simplistic" in Cole's words) withdrawal from Iraq, does actually pick up on this point, but in a doppelganger sort of way. Cole's idea of "responsible" withdrawal is that American ground troops should be withdrawn, but that air power should remain, giving "close air support" (a phrase he uses three times during the interview) to "the new Iraqi army and to other allied forces on the ground." In other words, the U.S. should keep intervening and keep killing Iraqis, but do so in a way that doesn't endanger themselves nearly as much, and leave the face-to-face killing (which he seems to think is "unhelpful in the sense that it actually also is spreading around the guerrilla war") to Iraqi surrogates. To be noted is that this approach, since it would signficantly lessen American deaths, might strike a dangerous, even fatal, blow to the American antiwar movement, even while doing nothing to lessen the deaths of Iraqis (and might even increase that number).

Sometimes, "Now" means "Now". Attitudes like Cole's and Hayden's, that the United States, which invaded Iraq illegally, has to stay and compound that illegality, remind me of nothing less than the woman who was ordered to marry her rapist. Iraq has been raped by the United States. Whatever the future brings for Iraq, it's time for the U.S. to clear out.


 

Capitalism kills...again


Just three days ago a man killed his wife, two daughters, and then himself because of "mounting financial problems." Yesterday there were five more murder-suicide victims at the hand of a man "reportedly despondent over financial troubles."


 

The Iraqi Constitution


There's been a lot of talk about the controversies over federalism, women's rights, and oil revenues. These passages haven't received much attention:
Article 37: Freedom to establish political groups and organizations.

Article 36: The State guarantees: 1. Freedom of expression by all means.

Article Seven: 1. Any organization that follow a racist, terrorist, extremist, sectarian-cleaning ideology or circulates or justifies such beliefs is banned, especially Saddam's Baath Party in Iraq and its symbols under any name. And this should not be part of the political pluralism in Iraq.
Iraq under the Baath Party was certainly guilty of human rights violations, and did brutally (but arguably, quite legally) suppress rebellions against the central government by killing tens of thousands of people (as did the United States government in defeating the rebellion of the Confederacy, of course). But, to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in the "ideology" of the Baath Party which has anything to do with racism, terrorism, extremism, or "sectarian-cleaning" (I assume that's a synonym for "ethnic cleansing"). So as far as Articles 36 and 37? They're already inoperative. Or will be, if this Constitution ever takes effect.

The idea that "Ownership is a social function, to be exercised within the objectives of the Society and the plans of the State, according to stipulations of the law," which was part of the Iraqi Constituion in effect under Baath Party rule? Strangely missing under the proposed new one.


 

Capitalism at work: Profits up, learning down


From MSNBC (via Suburban Guerilla):
"The dials on the fuel pump are spinning, too, for school districts that face soaring costs just as 25 million children get back on the bus for a new school year.

"Most buses use diesel fuel, which has jumped about a dollar a gallon since last year. School districts now pay an average of $2.25 to $2.40 a gallon, a figure that keeps climbing because of summertime demand for fuel and the escalating price of crude oil.

"To offset the costs, districts are stripping money from classrooms, trimming bus routes, cutting field trips and raiding cash reserves. Some are considering charging fees for bus service or asking kids to walk longer distances to school."
Just a reminder. The invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the so-called "War on Terror", have already cost more than $1000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States (not to mention being arguably responsible for at least some of the increase in the price of gasoline). Remember that when your local school board is cutting some educational programs to pay for gasoline.

Bake sale for the Pentagon? Not on the horizon.


 

Wishful thinking (and highly inaccurate) headline of the day


From the San Jose Mercury News:
West Bank targeted for evacuation today
As the Beach Boys once sang, "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" The truth of course, known to all my readers but evidently not to the headline writers, is that the scheduled evacuations are of four small settlements with a few hundred or thousand (can't find the exact number) illegal Israeli settlers, a fraction of one percent of the total number of illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and that not only are there no plans to evacuate "the West Bank," but most observers believe that the evacuation of Gaza and of these four settlements was done precisely to forestall any such evacuation.


 

Pat Robertson says "Take Chavez Out" - media blinks, barely reacts; leading liberal thinks it's "unhelpful"


At 4:40 p.m. EST yesterday, Media Matters for America posted the story about Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez on his television show. Left I on the News picked up the story an hour and a half later, at 3:17 p.m. PST. But it was not until late that night on the West Coast that the story went out on the AP wires, appearing, for example, at USA Today online at 11:01 p.m. (I believe that's EST), and showing up even later on CNN Headline News.

Why the delay in reporting this shocking story about someone who is a major political and religious figure on the U.S.? My own anonymous source, who works in the newsroom of a major cable news organization, provides this insight in a private communication, describing the situation towards the end of that period before the coverage started to appear:

"I have learned that, before 7 PM Eastern, the head at that point of one of the newsrooms of a famous 24-hour news organization was aware of the report and had seen the video on the Media Matters web site; copy editors and others responsible for editorial content of the organizations 'product' had been quickly brought in; everyone agreed it was a great story, potentially quite explosive, and it would be awesome to be the first major news organization to 'break' it.

"Hours later, there still had been no actual, concrete move to include the story in the news 'products' of this organization, although by then several newsrooms at this very large news organization were aware of it, and the entire functioning and workflow of the place is such that news can be reported well-nigh instantaneously.

"But this item was treated differently from a train wreck or an airplane crash: it was immediately flagged as sensitive, invisible but very binding 'handle with care' stickers had been placed on it, and it had been 'kicked upstairs.' Down the stairs came a decision to give ROBERTSON a 'reasonable opportunity' -- I understand that was the phrase that was used -- to respond; to seek *permission* from his organization to use the video, instead of asserting a fair use right to the material; to seek independent confirmation that the report from this 'blog' (mediamatters.org) wasn't a phony or fabrication; to pass everything through a couple of layers of lawyers, executives and so on, and so forth.

"A journalist in the newsroom (yes, there are still a few left) was told by the supervisors that, yes, it was a great story and yes, it probably should have been put out in the news product right away and at any rate certainly by now; but that given the corporate structure that this once-well-regarded news organization was now under, that was impossible, everyone (meaning the four or six people involved in that conversation) had to remember that they were all *employees*. The term 'wage slave' was not used, but the fullness of its content was well communicated.

"It is now nearly six hours after Media Matters placed the original post on the Internet. Scores of emails have been flying around in this news organization and I'm certain between people in this news organization and others informing about this development, commenting on it, discussing how to cover it and so on.

"And not one word --NOT ONE!-- has yet been printed, posted or said by any major news organization."
My friend puts "blog" in quotes when describing how his news organization described Media Matters for America, but, just so readers are clear on this, MMA is not a blog, but a "Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center" with actual employees.

Now take a look at the AP story as it appears, for example, in USA Today. One thing about it stands out. In the entire story, you will not find any "reaction quote" from any U.S. government employee or politician, distancing themselves from Robertson's remark, nor any Venezuelan representative reacting to it, nor even the simple observation which could be provided by AP itself that the action suggested by Robertson is illegal under both international and U.S. law (not to mention immoral under religious law). Instead, we get just Robertson's remarks standing unchallenged. Imagine if Hugo Chavez had called for the assassination of George Bush, or even of Pat Robertson. Do you suppose the news coverage would be similar?

And what about the "liberals" mentioned in the title of this post? Well, I don't want to tar all liberals with the same brush, I'm sure most of them are outraged by Robertson's comments. But at least one leading liberal (the co-chairperson of the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN), a former fellow at the Center for American Progress, a writer for Working Assets and the Nation, and a twice-a-week guest on the Al Franken Show), David Sirota, had this to say:

"Pat Robertson's Unhelpful Call for Assassination

"Here's an interesting question: To an objective non-American looking at the situation from an outside vantage point, is there really much of a difference between a terrorist leader going on television and issuing a fatwa against American political leaders, and Pat Robertson going on television and essentially issuing a fatwa against democratically-elected leaders in other countries?

"It's an interesting question - and one that bodes poorly for America's image throughout the world. Here we are in Iraq, supposedly fighting against the fatwa-issuing terrorists and for democracy in Iraq (though that was never the reason for the war), and one of America's top conservative leaders issues a fatwa against a democratically elected leader in a neighboring country to the south.

"This isn't to say that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is a great guy - but he was twice democratically elected in elections that were verified to be legitimate. Additionally, America currently relies heavily on Venezuela for oil.

"So, really, no matter how bad you think Hugo Chavez is, it's pretty fair to say that Pat Robertson's latest bout of wild-eyed extremism (and it is just one of many) is extraordinarily unhelpful almost any way you look at it."
So, in addition to the obligatory distancing himself from Hugo Chavez, Sirota can't even bring himself to actually condemn Robertson, but merely to note that his comment is "unhelpful," because this "bodes poorly for America's image" and "America currently relies heavily on Venezuela for oil." Presumably if Robertson had made his remarks about someone else, like Fidel Castro or Kim Jong-Il, Sirota would be perfectly sanguine about them, since they wouldn't be "unhelpful" by his definitions. If Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro or Kim Jong-Il had made such threats against George Bush, they would be routinely labelled as "crazy" or "unbalanced" by both the media and people like Sirota (and are routinely labelled as "crazy" even without making any threats against anyone). But Robertson has merely had a "bout" of "wild-eyed extremism."

As I've had the opportunity to say on a number of occasions recently in other contexts: feh.

Update: Checking various papers, they all seem to be carrying the AP story and nothing else. The New York Times correctly headlines the story: "Televangelist Calls for Assassination of Chavez." But both the Washington Post and the San Jose Mercury News use a different, and inaccurate, headline: "Televangelist calls for Chavez' death." It's especially inaccurate when it comes to Robertson, who has been praying for the death (or incapacitation) of Supreme Court judges, among other things. If I were a religious person, I might pray for George Bush or Dick Cheney to die to achieve some sort of "divine justice." I certainly wouldn't be calling for them to be assassinated, which is quite a different thing.


Monday, August 22, 2005


 

Scientists and religion


The New York Times has a fairly interesting article on the subject of scientists and religion - that is, can (or do) scientists believe in religion? But they spoil the article, at least online, with the "kicker" (the little headline above and to the left of the "real" headline) which reads: "A Debate over Darwin." Because in the entire article, there are only two mentions of Darwin. One is by Dr. Francis S. Collins, who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH, who is described as "speak[ing] freely about his Christian faith," and who mentions Darwin (in the article) only to praise him: "If Darwin had tried to imagine a way to prove his theory, he could not have come up with something better [than comparing the genome of different species], except maybe a time machine." And the second mention is by Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown, an observant Roman Catholic, whose book, "Finding Darwin's God," explains his reconciliation of the theory of evolution with his religious faith. Not exactly what I'd call a "debate over Darwin."


 

The "Christians" are at it again


Jesus Christ, don't these people who speak in his name have any idea what Jesus stood for?
"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he [Hugo Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war...We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."

- Pat Robertson, famous "Christian" minister, founder of the "Christian" Coalition of America


 

"Dead Wrong -- Inside an Intelligence Meltdown"


CNN's show last night that I mentioned Saturday wasn't bad as these things go. It did let Bush/Cheney et al. off too lightly for responsibility, for sure.

Here are some random notes from the show (words in italics are from the transcipt):

"But when [the weapons inspectors] departed in 1998, the U.S. lost its window into Iraq." - Well, I was glad to see they didn't repeat the big lie that "Saddam kicked out the inspectors." However they might have noted that the U.N. withdrew its inspectors because Bill Clinton had ordered the U.S. to start a four-day massive bombing campaign of Iraq. They might have also noted that the ostensible reason for that bombing campaign was to destroy WMD programs, but that we know now from the Duelfer report that there were no active WMD programs in Iraq in 1998, and that all the weapons had been destroyed in the early 90's.

Shots of the World Trade Center collapse were part of the show, even though they have nothing to do with Iraq.

Great clips from two of the most infamous liars in the administration [emphasis added]:

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: High quality aluminum tubes that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.

CHENEY: I do know with absolutely certainty that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.
"The speech would turn out to be riddled with misleading allegations but at the time the press plays it as an overwhelming success." (Describing Powell's speech to the U.N. and the reaction to it) - I'm glad to see that they noted the sycophantic press reaction, but describing the speech as "riddled with misleading allegations" is being charitable in the extreme. The speech was a lie from beginning to end; not one charge contained in that speech was true.

"Had there been even a peep that the agency did not want that sentence in or that George Tenet did not want that sentence in that the director of central intelligence did not want that in, it would have been gone" (the smarmy CondoLIEzza Rice, describing the "uranium from Africa" quote in the State of the Union address). Here we have an editing problem. Host David Ensor did note "The 16-word indictment inserts a claim Tenet himself had kept out of the president's speech on the eve of the congressional vote for war," but that statement comes many minutes before Rice's claim, which is followed by this from Ensor: "When the White House blames Tenet, he takes public responsibility and so offers cover for the president." The White House may have been "blaming" Tenet, but they were lying through their teeth when they did so.

And, of course, it wouldn't be a corporate media show without the ultimate big lie, this from Ensor in the show's final word: "Much may also depend on how long it takes U.S. intelligence to rebuild its capabilities, and thus, its credibility." The U.S., its intelligence community and its government, have no credibility, and rebuilding intelligence capabilities aren't going to change that. Only a major change in direction for this country can accomplish that Sisyphean task.


Why stop here? There's more...

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