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Thursday, August 31, 2006


 

The Israeli idea of a "ceasefire"


Those 70 Israeli violations of the ceasefire? Sure sounds to me like that must be a severe undercount:
A group of local men were unloading bags of donated food from a truck here Tuesday morning when the tok-tok-tok of heavy machine-gun fire rang out.

Men shouted; children screamed and ran. Then, as it became clear the firing was just the Israeli tanks again up on the hillside above town, they went back to their routines.

The shooting -- and occasional mortar fire -- goes on regularly around this village, a Hezbollah stronghold near the border.

To local people, it is sheer provocation, and a flagrant breach of the cease-fire that ended the fighting on Aug. 14.

To the Israelis, it is legitimate self-defense. Aita al Shaab “still has many Hezbollah fighters in it,” said Miri Eisin, an Israeli government spokeswoman. “They don’t wear uniforms and are wary about showing their weapons, and we use all means to differentiate between those with weapons and those without.”
So what is clear from this, as it has been from the start, is that Israel operates under the Bush doctrine - attacking and killing someone who might sometime in the future possibly do you harm qualifies as "legitimate self-defense." The Bush doctrine - the legacy of the man who says that Jesus is his favorite philosopher. Can someone who has risen from the dead still roll over in his grave?

The Israelis also seem to have studying in the Bush logic class:

The Israelis do not believe there is a cease-fire to violate. “We are at a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, not a cease-fire,” [an Israeli government spokeswoman] said.
Huh?

Incidentally, remember that "kidnapping" incident that the Israelis used to start this assault? Real kidnapping, which involves taking civilians and not soldiers, is still going on on a routine basis:

Perhaps no one has witnessed the confusion of south Lebanon more vividly than Muhammad al-Hussein, a 32-year-old farmer from the village of Qantara.

Last week he and his brother were driving to a neighboring village to buy parts for a truck. They knew the Israelis had been operating a checkpoint in the area, but were told they had withdrawn and that the road -- an essential link to other towns -- was safe.

Instead, they found themselves passing a group of Israeli soldiers, who stopped them, Mr. Hussein recalled. The soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded the two brothers, and drove them to Israel.

For the next four days, shackled hand and foot, Mr. Hussein was interrogated about his family and village, he said. He was released Monday after United Nations and Lebanese Army officials lodged complaints with Israel.


 

The invisible straw man


The assertion that George Bush has now admitted that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 has spread rapidly through the liberal (and left) world. Here are some examples from a column by Katha Pollitt in The Nation about the use of the term "Islamo-Fascism", which I use only because I have it at hand, not because it's the best and certainly far from the only example. Pollitt writes:
Saddam Hussein and the Baathists of Syria...have nothing in common with shadowy, stateless, fundamentalist Al Qaeda--as even Bush now acknowledges.
Pollitt derives her claim, as do all the people who have fallen into this trap, from one answer Bush gave in a press conference on August 21. She writes of
those who wondered why, if terrorism was the problem, invading Iraq was the solution. (From the President's August 21 press conference: Q: "But what did Iraq have to do with September 11?" A: "Nothing." Now he tells us!)
But the problem is the Pollitt, and so many others, apparently only heard the soundbite on the TV news, and forget to watch (or read) the entire answer [highlights added]:
Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.
And, just in case anyone missed it, Bush repeated the identical formulation days later in his widely broadcast interview with NBC's Brian Williams:
BUSH: Well those are two different questions, did we fight the wrong war, and absolutely -- I have no doubt -- the war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said, let's hope calm works. And we were attacked.

WILLIAMS: But those weren't Iraqis.

BUSH : They weren’t, no, I agree, they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say Iraq ordered that attack, but they're a part of, Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists. Now in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We are great at TV, and yet we are getting crushed on the PR front. I personally do not believe that Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said, “al-Qaida, attack America.”
If that isn't a strawman worthy of starring in "The Wizard of Oz," I don't know what is. As far as I know, no one in the world, not even the most rabid members of the Administration like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, has ever made such a claim. But everyone has fallen for it! Now over and over all I hear is the first word of Bush's answer: "Nothing." Folks, he didn't mean it, as everything else he said, even in the same answer, makes abundantly clear. And we should all be clear on that.


 

The 56-year (and counting) "exit strategy"


With the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, saying that "Iraqi security forces will need another year to 18 months before they can take over from American troops," and conservative Democrats like Diane Feinstein and Republicans like Christopher Shays suddenly talking about the need to "start" withdrawing troops so they can appear "antiwar" (emphasis on the "appear"), it's time to revisit something I wrote a year ago about the 56-year (55 at that time) and counting "exit strategy":
U.S. troops entered Korea in 1950; the Korean War nominally ended (without a peace treaty, but with a truce) in 1953. There are still 37,000 American troops in Korea. Ah, but don't worry, "As Koreans stand up, we will stand down."
"The Pentagon wants to have 25,000 troops in South Korea by the end of 2008, compared to 37,500 last year, a reduction in forces that U.S. commanders say is made possible by the growing capability of South Korea's 690,000 troops."
It's sure taken a long time for 690,000 South Koreans to represent a "growing capability," hasn't it?
And, in a similar vein, when Gen. Casey starts talking about the Iraqi troops "taking over" from American troops, even if, unlike all previous similar predictions, that were to come true, it doesn't remotely mean that the U.S. occupation would end on that same time frame. Not if the American people, and the Iraqi resistance (especially the latter), don't make it happen. Because if it's up to the Republicans and Democrats, it won't ever happen. Not for 56 years. At a minimum.


 

The war that keeps on killing


Two weeks ago I wrote about the cluster bombs that Israel had fired into Lebanon, and their continuing, post-ceasefire deadly effects. Today the U.N. has quantified that war crime, and the numbers are almost beyond belief:
UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said that thousands of civilians were at risk in south Lebanon from unexploded cluster bombs dropped by Israeli forces in the last three days of the war against Hezbollah guerrillas.

He said the UN Mine Action Coordination Center had assessed "nearly 85 percent of bombed areas in south Lebanon" and identified "359 separate cluster bomb strike locations that are contaminated with as many 100,000 unexploded bomblets."

"What's shocking and I would say completely immoral is that 90 percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict when we knew there would be a resolution, when we knew there would be an end," he said.
Equally staggering are the results:
In Geneva, Chris Clark, head of the UN Mine Action Service in southern Lebanon, said there had been a total of 59 confirmed casualties, including 13 deaths, caused by the explosives since the end of hostilities on August 14.
Even the comically (and deliberately) restrained Kofi Annan spoke out, even if the writer of this article makes rather liberal use of the word "denounced":
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has denounced Israel's use of cluster bombs during its massive month-long offensive on neighbouring Lebanon that killed hundreds of people.

"Those kinds of weapons shouldn't be used in civilian and populated areas... and (we need to) move very quickly to disarm them."
Only lacking was a "tsk, tsk." Perhaps that didn't make the transcript.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006


 

Sports analogy of the day


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez here Wednesday said that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has defeated the the US on technical knock-out by offering to debate with his American counterpart, George W. Bush. (Source)

Actually, it was quite an unfair offer on the part of Ahmadinejad. In a battle of wits, he would have been facing an unarmed man.


 

Prepare for the U.S. invasion of Venezuela


Iran allegedly developing nuclear weapons. North Korea allegedly already having them. None of those things is going to arouse the U.S. ruling class to support the invasion of another country as quickly as this:
Caracas Mayor Juan Barreto announced late Tuesday that the municipal government planned to seize two elite country clubs, Valle Arriba and the Caracas Country Club, and redevelop them as low-income housing projects.
There hasn't been much about this in the corporate media, but this planned seizure is only the latest step in an ongoing project, as this particular article (from the Los Angeles Times) explains:
Juan Carlos Loyo, president of National Land Institute, said his agency is about halfway toward the target of redistributing 4 million acres to the poor.

This month, the government began carving up the La Vergarena ranch in southern Bolivar state, a 500,000-acre property owned by a banking family that the government said was underutilized. About 10% of the ranch has been turned over to indigenous groups who will plant crops while preserving the forests.
When Marxists use the term "class struggle," though, there's a reason for that second word. These kind of actions are no picnic:
The social revolution pushed by Chavez is having violent repercussions. More than 50 peasant squatters have been slain since the president took office.
La lucha continua.


 

Quote Lie(s) of the Day


"The fundamentalist world attacked the U.S. and killed 3000 people before I even thought about removing Saddam Hussein from power."

- George Bush, interviewed by MSNBC's Brian Williams (but transcribed by me from TV; it isn't part of the partial transcript which is online)
This is a treble lie. First, it wasn't the "fundamentalist world" which attacked the U.S. on 9/11, it was a particular (and extremely small) group of people for whom "fundamentalism" may or may not have had anything whatsoever to do with the motivations for their actions. Second, they didn't "attack the U.S.," anymore than Timothy McVeigh "attacked the U.S." when he bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people. In both cases, terrorists carried out attacks in the U.S. targeting Americans. "Attacking a country" is what Israel just did to Lebanon, or what Japan did to the U.S. at Pearl Harbor.

And third, and most significantly of all, is the lie which doesn't in any way rely on definitions, as someone is going to say that the first two lies I've identified do. And that is the lie that George Bush hadn't "even thought about removing Saddam Hussein from power" before 9/11. Balderdash. His own former Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, has made clear there were conversations on that subject in the very first meetings of the Bush cabinet.

Needless to say, Brian Williams didn't call him on it.


 

Intervention in Nicaragua, part II


Yesterday I wrote about U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. Today WIIIAI calls our attention to an article in the Independent which goes into much more detail on the subject.

This quote, with the American Ambassador explaining why he thinks it appopriate for the U.S. to express strong opinions (and do much more, of course) about an election in another country, has one very telling word. I'm sure you'll spot it:

"Since [last] October we have been trying to speak in a more direct way so that people understand what our decision is. I think it is important that people have no doubts about what we think."
Not "our opinion." "Our decision.

Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, explains what's going on:

"US policy in Latin America under the Bush administration has been uniquely ideologically driven, far more than it was even under the Reagan administration. The latest thing is that US ambassadors in places such as Bolivia, El Salvador and Costa Rica all walk in and say, 'The US has made it clear is supports free and fair elections but if a non-US-friendly candidate wins we will cut off US aid'. They are quite open about it."

"That is why [the Cuban leader, Fidel] Castro is so popular in Latin America, because he is defiant. That is why [Venezuela's elected President, Hugo] Chavez is so popular in Latin America, because he gives the finger to Washington. He makes obscene gestures both literally and metaphorically."
The article also gets down to brass tacks, and explains some of the activities of the NED (National Endowment for Democracy [sic]) and one of its grantees, the IRI (International Republican Institute):
The International Republican Institute (IRI) was involved in helping organise opponents of Haiti's former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the nation's democratically elected leader, who was forced from office in 2004. At one point, the IRI organised meetings for Mr Aristide's opponents in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. The NED also played a significant role in assisting the opponents of Ukraine's President, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2004's so-called "Orange Revolution".

The US [has] spent $10m in Nicaragua to fund political education and civil society groups. Ivania Vega Rueda, a programme officer for the IRI in Nicaragua, told the report's authors that the IRI had been active in helping organise marches against the FSLN and another political party, the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC). She said the IRI had "created" the Movement for Nicaragua, which she said had organised marches against the two parties.
As an aside to what's written above, although I quoted Larry Birns, I don't agree with him. The U.S., with its totally self-centered view of the world, thinks that Cuba and Venezuela are "giving them the finger" when, say, Venezuela withdraws its Ambassador from Israel or when Cuba announces its support for Iran's right to develop nuclear power. Of course this is nonsense. What Cuba and Venezuela practice, and Latin Americans (and people around the world) admire, is an independent foreign policy, not "giving the finger to the U.S." Additionally, while that is certainly one reason why Castro and Chavez are popular in Latin America, another reason, and arguably a much bigger one, is that they have both turned the economies of their country toward meeting the needs of their people, rather than the needs of corporations. And that, much more than the independent foreign policy, is why the U.S. fears Cuba and Venezuela, and fears the possible addition of other countries to the list of those following that economic model.

For just one example of why Latin Americans might admire Cuba, consider today's news (news in Cuba; it didn't make the "Western" corporate media):

Preceded by France, Cuba is the second country in the world to produce a vaccine that protects infants against five childhood diseases, to be given throughout the country starting September 1.

Dr. Miguel Angel Galindo, head of the National Immunization Program, has announced that Cuba is to include within the Ministry of Public Health official scheme this vaccine to combat diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenza type B.

He announced that it is to be administered in the country’s 494 polyclinics, benefiting 50,000 children by the end of 2006.


 

The "good Germans" of Israel


Ha'aretz's Amira Haas turns her attention to the "good Germans" (that's my term, not hers) who populate Israel, and who tolerate Israel's racism with their silence:
Let us leave aside those Israelis whose ideology supports the dispossession of the Palestinian people because "God chose us." Leave aside the judges who whitewash every military policy of killing and destruction. Leave aside the military commanders who knowingly jail an entire nation in pens surrounded by walls, fortified observation towers, machine guns, barbed wire and blinding projectors. Leave aside the ministers. All of these are not counted among the collaborators. These are the architects, the planners, the designers, the executioners.

But there are others. Historians and mathematicians, senior editors, media stars, psychologists and family doctors, lawyers who do not support Gush Emunim and Kadima, teachers and educators, lovers of hiking trails and sing-alongs, high-tech wizards. Where are you? And what about you, researchers of Nazism, the Holocaust and Soviet gulags? Could you all be in favor of systematic discriminating laws? Laws stating that the Arabs of the Galilee will not even be compensated for the damages of the war by the same sums their Jewish neighbors are entitled to.
Haas goes on, outlining case after case of the legal discrimination or just plain racism endemic in the Zionist state, and then closes:
As Jews we all enjoy the privilege Israel gives us, what makes us all collaborators. The question is what does every one of us do in an active and direct daily manner to minimize cooperation with a dispossessing, suppressing regime that never has its fill. Signing a petition and tutting will not do. Israel is a democracy for its Jews. We are not in danger of our lives, we will not be jailed in concentration camps, our livelihood will not be damaged and recreation in the countryside or abroad will not be denied to us. Therefore, the burden of collaboration and direct responsibility is immeasurably heavy.
Needless to say, everything she says about Israelis is equally true, with different specifics but even more extensive consequences, about Americans. You don't have to live in Deutschland to be a "good German."


 

A Left I correction


A week ago, I wrote: "I assume that all the readers of this blog, at least, have noticed that since the ceasefire went into effect, all of the violations of the ceasefire, 100% of them, have been Israeli violations." Well, maybe that was true a week ago, or more likely it wasn't. This report out today:
A daily report from Unifil that Mr. Annan gave to Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, Tuesday evening showed that Hezbollah had violated the cease-fire four times, while Israel had done so nearly 70 times. “Hezbollah is showing incredible discipline,” Mr. Annan said.
I stand corrected. Only 94.6% of the violations have been Israeli violations.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006


 

The U.S. idea of "democracy"


I have to admit this is better than "democracy" at the point of a gun:
Washington, which backed Contra rebels who battled the Soviet-supported Sandinista government, has criticized [Daniel] Ortega as "undemocratic" and tried to strengthen his rivals.

The U.S Embassy in Managua held several meetings before the campaign started in an attempt to unite Nicaragua's fractured right behind a single candidate.
Fortunately, so far the effort hasn't had the desired effect:
Despite U.S. efforts to stop left-wing Nicaraguan politician Daniel Ortega from returning to power, a poll released on Tuesday showed he maintained a six-point lead over rival presidential candidates.
And just why does the U.S. government not like the Sandinistas? One guess:
When the Sandinistas took power in 1979, they improved living conditions for some of the poor and introduced free healthcare and universal education, but were criticized for human rights abuses and forced military conscription.
"Forced military conscription." Isn't that...a draft?

Reuters mentions that: "This will be Ortega's third presidential bid since being defeated at the polls in 1990." What they neglect to mention is that that 1990 defeat was the result of the same kind of U.S. intervention as they are attempting in 2006. Just a minor detail. I'm sure it slipped their minds. As did the minor detail that the U.S. is trying the identical thing ("convincing" a divided opposition to unite behind a single, U.S.-funded candidate) right now in Venezuela. But Reuters didn't forget Venezuela entirely. Oh no.:

Ortega enjoys the support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has upset the United States by using oil money to build anti-U.S. alliances and strengthen leftist candidates across Latin America.
U.S. money being used to strengthen right-wing candidates? Oh no, the U.S. just "holds meetings" according to Reuters. Sure they do.

Update: I have to add in my pet peeve (one of many). The headine to this article reads: "Sandinistas lead Nicaraguan election." They do no such thing. They (or anyone else) won't do that until sometime late on November 5 when the votes are being counted. They lead in a poll.


 

Book notes


Wandering through a bookstore today, I saw a new book by John McCain: Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember. Gee, I wonder if one of those "inspiring stories" is how he got shot down over North Vietnam while bombing a lightbulb factory.

On a more positive note, the paperback edition of Norman Solomon's brilliant book, War Made Easy, is now out. You simply must read this book, and, since it is really an essential reference work, own it if possible.

And finally, I'm pleased to announce one of those rarest of rare occasions - over the weekend I actually managed to finish a book that had been sitting on my own bookshelf for several months now. John Sayles' 1977 novel Union Dues, only recently back in print, is the tale of a teenager who runs away from his home in the coal-mining country of West Virginia and becomes involved with radical politics in Boston in 1969. If you're a Sayles fan, and who isn't, you'll definitely enjoy it, even if you're like me and rarely open a book marked "fiction." Sayles has a way of writing about coal mining, or meat-packing, or plotting the next revolutionary action, or riding in a car with two Boston cops, and making you think he's got it exactly right, even if you actually have no idea if he does. The debates that go on in the "Third Way" group that the protagonist gets involved with may seem dated in some ways (as do the predictable "free love" activities), but the essence of the debate - what is "ultra-left," are actions (whether they be strikes or revolutions or whatever) only justified when they have a reasonable chance of "success," will the failure of actions still be an "advance" or will it be a setback, and so on - is timeless (or, at least, timeless until the success of the world revolution).


 

Plus ça change...


Prensa Latina, in a story about how Cuba is about to assume Presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, reminds us what happened the last time Cuba held the same position, 1979-1983:
During the Movement's presidency of Fidel Castro, it was necessary to go to the UN Security Country and General Assembly to accuse Israel, which supported by Washington, invaded south Lebanon and attacked Syria.

In that place, Cuba demanded solidarity for the Palestinian and Lebanese combatants, disclosed the reality of Israeli slaughter in Sabra and Shatila and rejected weapons supply by United States and Israel to carry out such actions.
Not that the NAM has the power of the U.N. Security Council, but, in an analagous way, this is precisely why the U.S. doesn't want a "troublemaker" like Venezuela on the Security Council, and why that particular election is one of the more important ones going on in the world today, with particular significance attaching to the fact that so many countries (the latest being Malaysia and China) have been willing to go public with their support for Venezuela.


Monday, August 28, 2006


 

U.S. diplomats and their strange personal habits


[First posted 8/26, 8:36 p.m.; updated and bumped]

The U.S. is up in arms (not yet literally, but with the U.S., nothing can ever be taken for granted) because Venezuela searched and seized some "diplomatic" baggage. The State Department had this to say about the seized shipment: "The impounded cargo consisted of household effects of a U.S. diplomat and a shipment of commissary goods." Well now that is interesting. Because here's what the shipment did consist of: "ejector seats apparently intended for Venezuelan combat jets, explosive charges and about 180 pounds of chicken that did not pass through sanitary inspection."

Update: It turns out there's even more to the story:

The detection of detonators and cables used for explosives in a cargo for the U.S. embassy is heightening suspicions that that country's intervention in Venezuela is moving beyond rhetoric and financing the opposition.

According to PL [Prensa Latina]; the dispatch was found on August 23 in an air freight of 20 crates to be entered in the country via diplomatic exemption.

The incident casts serious concerns as to possible White House assistance to violent sectors of the opposition, at a point when some sources have warned of a subversive plot in the context of the presidential elections in December.

Curiously, the freight was detected a few days after the escape from military prison of four conspirators, some of them officers linked to the 2004 entry into Venezuela of Colombian paramilitaries who, according to investigations, had instructions to commit sabotage operations and assassinate political figures, including President Hugo Chavez.

Jesse Chacon, the Venezuelan minister of justice and the interior, stated that a crate supposedly containing material for the Armed Forces, which arrived on the same flight, was taken out of the airport without passing through the arms control authorities.


 

Hey, hey! Ho, ho! U.S. forces got to go!


It's official (well, as "official" as polls get). A whopping 91.7% of all Iraqis agree - the U.S. and its "coalition" partners are not welcome in Iraq:


(From the University of Michigan to Abu Aardvark to Lenin's Tomb)


 

President responded quickly to Hurricane Katrina


The headline above, written a few days short of a year ago, was one of my favorites of the last year. It was followed by these words: "Not President Bush. Cuban President Fidel Castro."

A few days ago, Think Progress published an extensive Katrina timeline, and sent out an email inviting recipients to comment with additions and corrections. I immediately sent in the additons below, summarizing events (and my coverage of them) that they had missed, but so far they haven't added them to their timeline. Evidently the fact that Americans lost their lives because the U.S. chose to turn down (by studied avoidance) the generous Cuban offer of 1586 doctors wasn't significant enough for Think Progress. Shame on them.

The events that Think Progress missed:


 

Absurd headline of the day


Under the headline "Katrina recovery defining elections," the San Jose Mercury News (not online) runs this subhead:
Analysis: Bungled response will haunt wartime President's legacy of compassion
"Legacy of compassion"? What banned substance have those headline writers been ingesting? The last evidence of "compassion" in the Bush Presidency was in the commercials he ran during his 2000 election campaign. Oh wait, I'm wrong. I forgot about the "compassion" he's exhibited for those poor unfortunates having to pay such high capital gains taxes and those other poor unfortunates (actually mostly the same ones) having to pay estate taxes on the billion-dollar estates of their relatives.

The New York Times, from where the article originates, has a slightly less offensive headline: "Year After Katrina, Bush Still Fights for 9/11 Image," although once again it's all about image, not substance. The article features such lines as this:

If the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina called into question the president’s competence, that Air Force One snapshot, coupled with wrenching scenes on the ground of victims who were largely poor and black, called into question something equally important to Mr. Bush: his compassion.
As with the Mercury News headline, this sentence assumes the reality of such a thing as "Bush's compassion." Not to mention once again focusing on the "reality" of the snapshot, rather than on the event itself (Bush's quick flyover in lieu of an actual visit). And finally, even a completely incompetent President could have demonstrated real compassion simply by being there, and by conveying a sense of urgency to his administration; the fact that this President did neither demonstrated not just his incompetence, but his complete lack of compassion.


 

It's class warfare in the U.S....and guess who's winning


You only get one answer, and I doubt it will be a guess:
Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”
This being an article from the corporate press (the New York Times in this instance, but it hardly matters), the view of the economy is entirely from the boardroom. Here's the lead sentence of the article, for example:
With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.
But from the point of view of workers, the economy isn't "beginning to slow," nor is there any "expansion" at all, as the article makes quite clear. "Economic growth"? Whose economic growth?

And of course the concern isn't about the people involved, but about what it might do for the political fortunes of the Republicans:

That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.
You have to read that again and rub your eyes to believe what you read. The "fears" aren't that vulnerable workers are suffering, but that "vulnerable" incumbents might "suffer" (the slings and arrows of defeat, and having to go gently into the good night of a corporate sinecure).

Ugh.


Saturday, August 26, 2006


 

The ceasefire that isn't


The U.S. blocked a ceasefire in Lebanon for weeks as Israel continued its killing spree; only after the price Israel was paying became too high did they start getting cold feet and ask their U.S. allies to move in the U.N. and get a ceasefire which they hoped could achieve the goals they weren't able to achieve militarily. But, as readers of this blog know well, Israel has another war going, this one against the Palestinians. And the calls for a ceasefire on that front? Why, they're just deafening. Deafening silence, that is. Well, unless you're on the wrong end of an Israeli bomb, like two Reuters journalists were today:
An Israeli air strike hit a Reuters vehicle in Gaza City on Saturday, wounding two journalists as they covered a military incursion, doctors and residents said.

One of the Palestinian journalists, who worked for a local media organization, was seriously wounded. A cameraman working for Reuters was knocked unconscious in the air strike, one of several in the area.
As usual, the Israelis had their cover story ready:
The Israeli army said the vehicle was hit because it was acting suspiciously in an area of combat and had not been identified as belonging to the media.
Also as usual, the Israelis were lying through their teeth:
The missile struck the vehicle after dark. The armored car was clearly labeled as a media vehicle, with signs on all sides, including the roof.


Friday, August 25, 2006


 

Ye shall know the truth...


...just as long as it's the "truth" the government wants you to hear. Israel tried to bomb Hezbollah's TV station, al Manar, out of existence so they couldn't broadcast images of Israeli war crimes to the world. They didn't succeed. The U.S. uses the more effect "legal" method:
A New York man was arrested Thursday on charges that he conspired to support a terrorist group by providing U.S. residents with access to Hezbollah's satellite channel, Al-Manar.

Javed Iqbal runs HDTV Corp., a Brooklyn-based company registered with the Federal Communications Commission that provides satellite TV transmissions to cable operators, individual customers and others.


 

Fun quote of the day


"Pluto has always been considered a little strange. It's like the cousin you don't want to invite to Thanksgiving dinner, but you have to -- but he's so weird, you hope he doesn't show up."

- Andrew Fraknoi, chairman of the astronomy program at Foothill College
Well, you know what they say: "Call me anything you like, just don't call me late for dinner."


Thursday, August 24, 2006


 

Two armies


Cuba and Australia are similar in a number of ways. Both are islands. Both have relatively small populations (11 million and 20 million, respectively). Both are sports-mad countries, which always stand atop the rankings of medals/population at the Olympics. Of course, there are striking differences between the two as well - Australia is led by a right-wing warmonger, while Cuba is led by people with rather different values. By coincidence, articles in the news today tell us that both are enlarging their armies, in rather different ways which reflect those values.

Australia is expanding its ability to kill people:

Australia will increase the size of its army by 2,600 troops to deal with rising security threats in the Asia-Pacific region and to contribute to possible future military operations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prime minister said Thursday.
Meanwhile, the expansion of Cuba's "army" is just a little bit different:
As of yesterday, Cuba has 2,314 new health professionals and 1,593 students from 26 countries also received their medical diplomas.

“Cuba now has 71,000 doctors,” [Cuban Health Minister Jose Ramon Balaguer] noted. “Thanks to their responsibility and human sensibility we have achieved a giant army that is giving solidarity within and without the island, not only raising the quality of life of their patients but other values that are also promoters of health.”

“Our country is lending medical assistance in 68 nations and has offered aid in a hundred countries."
Which army would you rather invade the country you live in? I think I know who the Iraqis or the Afghans would choose.


 

Things aren't as bad as you think they are


...they're worse:
Official jobs figures may considerably underestimate the number of poor and uninsured Americans, according to a new study from the Center for Economic Policy Research.

The U.S. government's Current Population Survey (CPS) is so severely miscalibrated that it could exclude as many as 2.5 million adults who are out of work, the research found.

"The group that is falling out of the survey is economically marginalized, less likely to have a job, less likely to have health-insurance, and more likely to be poor," said John Schmitt, senior economist at CEPR and a co-author of the report.

That is particularly true because the yearly national survey on U.S. poverty, due out next week, relies on the same data, said Schmitt.

"Since non-employed adults are more likely to be poor and less likely to have health insurance, the CPS failure to capture a large group of non-working adults also leads to undercounting the poor and those without health insurance," the study said.

It also that as many as 600,000 people in poverty and 350,000 people without health insurance are simply absent from the government statistics.
As of this writing, this news is found on the MSNBC website, the Prensa Latina website, and nowhere else. Wouldn't want to arouse the sleeping sheeple.


 

The next war begins


Now that the U.S. and Israel have maneuvered the Europeans into covering Israel's northern flank, and possibly its western flank as well, the Israelis are free to move against the next country on the imperialist "enemies list":
In an effort to upgrade Israel's preparedness for a possible confrontation with Iran, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has appointed Israel Air Force Commander Major General Elyezer Shkedy as the IDF's "campaign manager" against countries that do not border on Israel - primarily Iran.
Three guesses how much foaming you would see at the mouths of Western politicians and pundits had Iran announced that it had appointed a "campaign manager" for a war against Israel. Not that the howls for a strike against Iran aren't loud enough already.

By the way, does anyone remember way back, oh, two weeks ago, when the U.S., Israel, and its coterie of pundits, newscasters, and other apologists were saying how there could never be a ceasefire because you can't have a ceasefire with "terrorists" since they can't be trusted? I assume that all the readers of this blog, at least, have noticed that since the ceasefire went into effect, all of the violations of the ceasefire, 100% of them, have been Israeli violations. Well, I guess that does actually prove the point - you can't have a ceasefire with terrorists. In particular, state terrorists.


 

Holocaust denial?


Nearly every day, I hear some newscaster or pundit asserting that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has "denied" the Holocaust, although all he ever said is that "If the Holocaust occured, it occured in Europe, and the Palestinians shouldn't be the ones to pay the price for it" (paraphrasing, and by the way, although that aspect of what he has said is quite valid, much of what he has had to say on the subject is quite inane and inexcusable).

Today, on Democracy Now!, here's what Israel's Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Carmon had to say about the "holocaust in miniature" (borrowing from Lt. Gen. Robert Fry) that just took place in Lebanon:

"If those figures are true and the number of civilians is as you have described, this is something that really has to be checked. And if we already have said -- and this is something that is in line with what even my predecessor in this program has said, we cannot for sure prove that all the civilians in southern Lebanon were purely innocent civilian."
I'll be waiting for any of those newscasters to describe Ambassador Carmon as a "denier" of the massacre that occured in Lebanon.


 

Lawbreakers?



You might think the people above, and the passing motorists who respond to the entreaty to "Honk for Peace," are law-abiding citizens exercising their right to peaceful protest. You'd be wrong:

Last month, two protesters -- Victor Kittila, 55, of Eastpointe and Nancy Goedert, 73, of Ferndale -- were charged with disorderly conduct and inciting motorists to honk. Their cases, which are before 43rd District Judge Joseph Longo in Ferndale, were rescheduled from Tuesday to 1 p.m. Sept. 26.

That same month a third person, Joe Plambeck, 27, of Ferndale, was ticketed for tooting his car horn in response to the protesters.

Plambeck, who faces a $110 fine if convicted, appeared for a hearing in 43rd District Court Wednesday and is scheduled to return on Sept. 26.
(To clarify, the picture was taken at a different protest, not the one in which the protesters have been charged.)


Tuesday, August 22, 2006


 

Silly quote of the day


"In my judgment, we are not in a situation of civil war. I know what a civil war looks like. So what I think we have is something which is, at the very best, civil war in miniature, at the very best. But I don't think it actually even meets that definition."

- British Royal Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Fry, top British commander in Iraq
"Definition"? Just what is the defintion of a "civil war in miniature"? Neither dictionary.com nor my copy of Webster's seems to be of much help. I wonder if it's more specific than the definition of "civil war," which seems to be what Lt. Gen. Fry thinks it "looks like."

P.S. - does anyone else find the use of the phrase "at the very best" rather inappropriate?


 

Macs are the right, er, left choice!


One of the more interesting things I've read at Daily Kos recently:
Liberal sites have heavy percentages of Mac users. At Daily Kos, about 15-25 percent of users at any given time user Macs. It's roughly the same at MyDD and Eschaton. Yet at conservative sites, those numbers hover around 5 percent (see Instapundit or Red State).
Yes, all you purists out there are going to tell me I should favor Linux, open source, yadda, yadda. I'll choose productivity over purity any time, especially when that productivity is directed toward political activism. And no, the fact that I live in Cupertino doesn't affect my choice.

By the way, I have no idea if Kos' statistics for "liberal sites" would be duplicated by the stats for "progressive" or "radical" sites.


Monday, August 21, 2006


 

The war that keeps on killing, Part II


In the United States, during a recent heat wave, hundreds of people died. Many of them may not have had access to air conditioning, but virtually all of them had access at least to power, including refrigeration. Not so when it comes to the victims of Israeli aggession in Gaza:
It's hot, very hot, in the Gaza Strip. But over the last two months, ever since Israel bombed the new power station in the center of the Strip, the heat has become unbearable. The bombing has disrupted the supply of electricity to some 1.5 million residents; food in refrigerators goes bad, the patients in the hospitals groan, industry and work are paralyzed, traffic is gridlocked and there is a severe water shortage.
And in case there's any lingering thought that this operation had anything to do with "preventing Hamas from moving a captured prisoner" (as if that ever made any sense to anyone but the corporate media), the plant's manager explains:
Israel knew exactly what it was bombing, says station manager Dr. Drar Abu-Sisi. It's impossible to operate the station without the transformers. Replacing them would take at least a year - either by ordering new transformers or by hooking up to the Egyptian power network.

With a capacity of 140 megawatts, the power station was the most advanced in the Arab world. Israel could have paralyzed the station by simply stopping its fuel supply, without putting it out of action for months.
Like the firing of cluster bombs described in the item below this, this action was strictly a vengeful, punitive one, intended to cause pain, not to achieve a real goal.

How many people have died from the heat in Gaza? We have no idea. But it certainly seems unlikely it's fewer (percentage-wise) than the numbers in the United States.


 

The war that keeps on killing


Israel has broken the ceasefire once again, killing four Lebanese children and wounding 21 in the last few days. What, you haven't read about it? That's because these deaths were caused by weapons fired before the ceasefire went into effect: cluster bombs. According to the U.N., these weapons, not illegal per se but illegal when fired into urban areas as they were, were fired largely in the last few days of the war, as (and these are my words, not the U.N.'s) Israel lashed out in vengeance to kill as many Lebanese as possible before it was forced to stop its deadly assault, at least temporarily.

Now those unexploded cluster bombs litter the villages of southern Lebanon, just waiting for the small children to pick them up and die, or perhaps just be crippled for life, like Sukna, Hassan and Merwa Saleh.

And, please promise not to be shocked, but the origin of these weapons...is the United States.

"You see what America is sending us," [Aisa Hussain] said bitterly. "This is their idea of democracy."


 

Be careful what you wish search for


Yesterday's San Jose Mercury News carried an article about a survey they had done of major online search firms, and their business practices. While the article is online, the results of the survey, summarized in a nice table, are not, so I'll reproduce them here:



 YahooMSNGoogleAOL
Visitors in July106 million96 million94 million75 million
How long do you keep user information, including Internet searchesAs long as it is usefulSpecific time frames can vary greatly depending on the type of data and services involvedAs long as it is usefulPersonally identifiable search data is kept for 30 days. If it is held for more than 30 days it is anonymized by replacing the username and IP address with an anonymous identifier
Can users review their search data?Only if they save their searches using My Web or Yahoo ToolbarNo. Search queries are separated from personally identifiable information.Only if they sign up for personalized searchUsers can review, edit, and/or delete all of the searches that are linked to their personal account
Can users request that their data be permanently deleted?No, but they can delete their Yahoo account.No.No, but they can delete their personalized accountYes, users can delete searches that are less than 30 days old. However, a separate database of anonymized searches cannot be edited or deleted.

Time to switch to AOL?

Here's an example (a "good" one in this case) of what your Internet searches can be used for:

Local prosecutors say Internet companies are generally cooperative with criminal investigations, but they could not quantify the number of times any one company has been approached. They said investigators typically get search histories from log files on a suspect's computer.

That is where North Carolina investigators looked for information about Robert Petrick after his wife's decomposed body was found in Falls Lake. Prosecutors in Petrick's murder trial told jurors that he had searched Google for the words 'neck,' 'snap' and 'break.'

Four days before he reported his wife missing on Jan. 22, 2003, they said he also researched the level of the lake, water currents and boat ramps.

Petrick was found guilty largely on circumstantial evidence, including the Google searches.

In retrospect, Assistant District Attorney Mitchell Garrell said it might have been more efficient to ask Google directly for the information because investigators had spent months sifting through about nine gigabytes of data on Petrick's computers.
And, just to quantify the magnitude of the situation:
In sworn testimony to Congress in June, John Ryan, AOL's chief counsel, said AOL was receiving more than 14,000 subpoenas a year, not including search warrants or other orders related to suspected criminal behavior.


Sunday, August 20, 2006


 

Palestinian non-people


Last night the local news I was watching carried a story (a print version here) which went something like this (quoted from memory): "Israel doesn't just face trouble on its northern border. Today, on another front, another person was killed as a Palestinian gunman opened fire and killed an Israeli soldier. The gunman was then shot dead." Yes, I'm pretty sure that the language she used referred to only a single "person" being killed, assigning the Palestinian to a state of non-existence. But even if I misheard that point, and this particular Palestinian was actually acknowledged as a person, there is the case of the Palestinians who were killed today. And yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. And the nearly 200 Palestinians who have been killed in Gaza in the last two months, many of them civilians. Virtually none of whose deaths have been reported on this same news channel, nor by most American media.


Saturday, August 19, 2006


 

Breaking the ceasefire


The news is filled with the story of Israel breaking the ceasefire in Lebanon; even the bold Kofi Annan said he was deeply concerned. Three points:
  1. Israel has already murdered numerous alleged Hizbollah fighters since the ceasefire went into place; not once have those attacks been labelled as "violations of the ceasefire." Yes, Israel says they were defensive acts against Hizbollah fighters pointing guns at them or whatever. Maybe they were. Is there any proof? And does Israel have the slightest credibility which would allow us to believe anything they say?
  2. News reports I have read and heard simply repeat the Israeli claim that this operation was a "defensive" operation intended to "stop arms smuggling." Not one has even asked the question of whether there is any proof for that assertion. Were there any captured or destroyed weapons, for example? As I said, not only haven't I heard the answer to that question, I haven't even heard the question.
  3. Finally, there is the question of how a "commando raid" could possibly be a serious way to stop arms smuggling. Hizbollah has thousands of rockets and was shooting them off a hundred or two a day. I'm no military expert, but that's more than will fit in a van or a truck or whatever it might be that a commando raid could intercept. If Hizbollah is going to be resupplied at a rate that would come anywhere close to replenishing what they used up, it's going to take a lot more than a "commando raid" to do the job. It would be kind of like thinking that Hizbollah could stop the U.S. from resupplying Israel with weapons with a commando raid. It's not going to happen.
Update: Score one for (some of) the print media. Although none of the American TV channels even hinted at it, the Los Angeles Times actually leads with (and headlines) the suggestion that this raid was not what it was claimed by the Israelis:
Israeli Incursion Strains Truce With Hezbollah

The military says it was trying to intercept arms, but observers suspect that it wanted to rescue soldiers or abduct a guerrilla for a swap.

The Israeli military said its special forces were trying to disrupt Hezbollah arms supply routes from Syria, contending that the Lebanese army was failing to prevent the militia from replenishing its weapons stockpiles.

But Israel produced no evidence of intercepted weapons. And the depth of the Israeli raid -- 60 miles inside Lebanon -- led to widespread speculation that the commandos might have been on a mission to rescue two Israeli soldiers seized by Hezbollah.

In addition to the speculation that the raid might have been a rescue operation, others contended that Israel might have been trying to seize a high-ranking Hezbollah guerrilla or cleric to be used in a prisoner swap. They noted that Boudai is the hometown of Sheik Mohammed Yazbek, a senior Hezbollah official in the Bekaa Valley.

"They were trying a kidnapping," said Hussein Hajj Hassan, a Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament from Baalbek. "People are very angry and upset."

At least one independent analyst expressed skepticism of Israel's claim that the raid was intended to intercept arms supplies. Arthur Hughes, former director-general of the Egypt-Israel Multinational Force and Observers, said the operation was so risky -- both for the Israeli soldiers and the country's international standing -- that he found the government's official explanation implausible.
The New York Times also broaches the subject, but only as an afterthought. Not until paragraph 17 (and hence likely to be cut in local papers reprinting the story) do we read:
The boldness of the raid during the truce suggested the Israelis might have had some major objective in mind, perhaps the rescue of their two captured comrades or the capture of a major Hezbollah figure. Boudai is the home village of Sheik Muhammad Yazbeck, a senior Hezbollah leader and member of the group’s Shura Council. The Israeli Army later said it had not captured him and denied his capture was the objective, The Associated Press reported.
Finally, the Washington Post beats the Times by one paragraph, with similar coverage in paragraph 16:
Local officials speculated that a senior Hezbollah leader, Sheik Mohammed Yazbek, may have been the commandos' target. Other Lebanese suggested that the raid may have been an attempt to recover two Israeli soldiers whose seizure by Hezbollah commandos on July 12 precipitated the war.
Much higher up in the article, however, the Post flagrantly rewrites history with this:
Until Saturday, Israel also had refrained from attacks of any size on Hezbollah fighters in the border area or on other Hezbollah installations farther north.
I'm sure the families of the half-dozen or so Hizbollah fighters killed since the ceasefire went into effect would be surprised to hear this.


Friday, August 18, 2006


 

To the Editor


This letter just sent off in response to this article in The Nation:
The Nation makes the same pro-Israel mistake as one frequently finds in the corporate media when it writes ["Crisis in Lebanon," Aug. 28/Sept 4 issue] "Hezbollah has fired several thousand rockets into northern Israel, killing about 100" (the article was written before the shooting ended). While Hezbollah did kill 158 Israelis, only 41 of those were killed by rockets fired into northern Israel; three-quarters of them were Israeli soldiers killed in Lebanon (or on the border).

By way of contrast, of the 1300+ Lebanese killed by Israel using primarily precision weaponry, the vast majority were civilians, with a signficant fraction of those being children under the age of twelve. The Nation attributes this "in large part [to] Israel's greater power," but it actually has a lot more to do with Israel's indiscriminate (and criminal) choice of targets than it does their power per se.


 

Political humor of the day


The Los Angeles Times reports:
The Bush administration is scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild Lebanon, hoping that by competing with Hezbollah for the public's favor it can undo the damage the war has inflicted on its image and goals for the Middle East.
Oh yeah, that'll happen. Either the rebuilding itself, or the "undoing the damage" part if they actually did manage to make a serious contribution to the recontruction.

Well, at least they realize the irony of the situation:

A major rebuilding investment would put the United States in the position of subsidizing both the Israeli munitions that caused the damage and the reconstruction work that will repair it.
And you have to love statements like this, from "a former State Department official who is head of Middle East studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington":
"We're coming in when there's a sense that we stood by the destruction of Lebanon by an ally, with U.S. weapons, and didn't complain. So we may be too late."
Yes, it's just a "sense" that the U.S. stood by. God forbid he should just say that "we stood by" and leave out the "sense" nonsense. Or that he should make it clear that the U.S. did a little more that just "not complain." Like blocking ceasefire resolutions and shipping replacement fuel and weapons to Israel while the shooting was going on. Well, that's my "sense" of things, anyway. And I suspect it's the "sense" of the people on whose heads and houses those bombs were falling.


 

Asymmetric warfare, asymmetric "diplomacy"


Remember these guys? They're part of the 64 Palestinian Cabinet ministers, legislators, and other officials who were kidnapped, excuse me, "arrested," by the Israeli government on June 25. That arrest was followed up subsequently with the arrest of the head of the Palestinian Parliament. A few days ago, one of those arrested was released; most of those arrested remain in Israeli hands.

Unlike the three Israeli soldiers being held by Hamas and Hizbollah, most of the world doesn't know their names. But that's only the most trivial part of the asymmetry referred to in the title of this post. What prompted me to write was this touching story, in which we learn that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is anxious to meet with the families of the captured Israeli soldiers. Has Annan (or the U.N. Security Council) ever uttered a single word about the arrest of the Palestinian government members, much less expressed an interest in meeting with their families? If he has, he's certainly managed to keep it out of the news. Not difficult to do, of course; you'll need to look very hard to find any mention at all of these men in the Western corporate media since their arrest.

Just imagine if the Palestinians had the firepower to retaliate against Israel for those kidnappings in proportion to the way Israel retaliated against Lebanon for the capture of two of its soldiers. Talk about the "destruction of Israel"!


Thursday, August 17, 2006


 

Quote of the Day


For the past month the United States has worked urgently to end the violence that Hezbollah and its sponsors have imposed on the people of Lebanon and Israel.

- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a Washington Post op-ed
I don't think that even George Orwell envisioned this degree of abuse of the English language. This is way beyond "war is peace."


 

Another one bites the dust


Just a day after one "terrorism" plot vanished before your eyes, a second one does the same:
Three Palestinian-American men who were found with nearly 1,000 cell phones were charged Wednesday with federal fraud conspiracy and money laundering after a county prosecutor backed off from terrorism charges filed earlier.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006


 

An interview with Hasan Nasrallah


These are excerpts of an interview with Hasan Nasrallah, obtained by journalists for a Turkish daily. It isn't quite clear when the interview was conducted, although since there is no reference to the ceasefire, I assume it occured before then:
The socialist movement, which has been away from international struggle, now for a considerable time, at last began to become a moral support for us once again. The most concrete example of this has been Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela. What most of the Muslim states could not do has been done by Chavez by the withdrawal of their ambassador to Israel. He furthermore communicated to us his support for our resistance. This has been an immense source of moral for us.

What we would have liked is for our socialist brothers in Lebanon to fight against imperialism and Zionism shoulder to shoulder. This fight is not only our fight. It is the common fight of all those oppressed across the world. Don't forget that if the peoples of Palestine and Lebanon lose this war, this will mean the defeat of all the oppressed people of the world. In our fight against imperialism, the revolutionaries should also undertake a responsibility.

We salute the leaders and the peoples of Latin America. They have resisted heroically against the American bandits and have been a source of moral for us. They are guiding the way for the oppressed peoples. Go and wonder around our streets..! You will witness how our people have embraced Chavez and Ernesto Che Guevara. Nearly in every house, you will come across posters of Che or Chavez. What we are saying to our socialist friends who want fight together with us for fraternity and freedom, do not come at all if you are going to say 'Religion is an opiate'. We do not agree with this analysis. Here is the biggest proof of this in our streets with the pictures of Chavez, Che, Sadr and Hamaney waving along together. These leaders are saluting our people in unison. So long as we respect your beliefs, and you respect ours, there is no imperialist power we cannot defeat!

The unipolar world has already been left back in history. There is us, there is Iran, there is Syria, there is Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. There are the resisting peoples of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan! As long as there is imperialism and occupations, these people will continue resisting. They can forget about peace. If they want peace, they should now respect the freedom of peoples

There are claims that Hezbollah is being directed by Tehran. What are views on this issue?

This is a great lie. We are an independent Lebanese organisation. We do not take orders from anyone. But this does not mean that we are not going to form alliances. Let me reiterate, we are on a side. We are on the side of Iran and Syria. They are our brothers. We are going to oppose any attack directed at Tehran and Damascus to the last drop of our blood just as we do in Lebanon. We uphold global resistance against global imperial terrorism.

Is there any other additional point you want to make?

Peace cannot be unilateral. So long as there is imperialism in the world, a permanent peace is impossible. This war will not come to an end as long as there are occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.


 

Lebanon and New Orleans


Compare and contrast the the response to two devastating events:
In his victory speech on Monday night, Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, offered money for “decent and suitable furniture” and a year’s rent on a house to any Lebanese who lost his home in the month-long war.

Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the country’s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an “unlimited budget” for reconstruction.

While the Israelis began their withdrawal, hundreds of Hezbollah members spread over dozens of villages across southern Lebanon began cleaning, organizing and surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles of rubble. Roads blocked with the remnants of buildings are now, just a day after a cease-fire began, fully passable.

In Sreifa, a Hezbollah official said the group would offer an initial $10,000 to residents to help pay for the year of rent, to buy new furniture and to help feed families.

Hezbollah’s reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network -- as opposed to the Lebanese government, regarded by many here as sleek men in suits doing well -- was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage.
The U.S. will, quite naturally, soon be denouncing that aid being provided by Iran as "interference" or "meddling."


 

President Clueless


Alicia Silverstone may have originated the role, but George Bush has perfected it:
The president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd.
The second half of that sentence speaks for itself, and is the origin of the title of this post.

As to the first half, has George Bush ever expressed any particular "appreciation" for the quite literal (Biblical) "sacrifices" made by the 100,000+ Iraqis who have lost their lives "thanks to" the U.S.? Not very often, if at all. For example, in a major speech two days ago, he talked about the nearly 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11, he talked about the hundreds of Americans (he omits the modifier "soldiers") killed in Beirut by Hizbollah, but this is the only mention he made in the entire speech of any Iraqis or Lebanese who have died: "Hezbollah terrorists used Lebanese civilians as human shields, sacrificing the innocent in an effort to protect themselves from Israeli response." Instead, he made the preposterous claim that "Some say that America caused the current instability in the Middle East by pursuing a forward strategy of freedom, yet history shows otherwise" (as an aside, don't you love the euphemism "instability" as a substitute for "wholesale death and destruction"?). Bush's view of Iraqis and Afghans consists of asserting their bravery in participating in elections, using the straw claim that they had "faced down the terrorists to cast their ballots" (straw because there was never the slightest evidence that the Iraqi resistance had targeted the elections, despite routine claims to that effect by the U.S. government). Not a single Iraqi or Afghan has died, to listen to him. Perhaps instead of President Clueless I should call him President Careless. Or, as I have before, President Care-Less.

Incidentally, if any Iraqis or Lebanese or Afghans are reading this, you shouldn't feel bad. Bush didn't mention, or even allude to, the 2600+ American soldiers who have died in Iraq, or the 230 allied soldiers, or the 435 U.S. and allied soldiers who have died in Afghanistan. When it comes to care-less-ness, he's strictly an equal opportunity kind of guy.


 

Why don't those Palestinians just protest peacefully?


People trying to be "even-handed," and criticize Palestinians and Israelis alike, often distance themselves from the Palestinians (and Hizbollah) by asking why they don't just protest non-violently, you know, like Gandhi? Well, aside from the fact that there is no equivalence between the violence of the oppressed and the violence of the oppressor, there are very practical reasons why Palestinians eschew the "non-violent" road - because it's frequently met with Israeli violence. Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall are just two names well-known to those of us in the West because they were Westerners; they weren't the first and they won't be the last to be killed while protesting non-violently against Israeli actions. Now you can add the names of Rina Klauman and Lymor Goldstein to the list (fortunately not yet to the list of those who have died):
Danish and Israeli peace activist suffer health deterioration of critical wounds they sustained when Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) attacked last Friday an anti-wall demonstration in the village of Bil'in, west of Ramallah.

The Danish peace activist, Rina Klauman, from Copenhagen, was transferred last night from Hebron hospital to Hadasa Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem for more extensive tests, International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

ISM reported today that Rina has small bleeding in her brain from a concussion she received when an Israeli border policeman beat her with his gun at the demonstration.

The ISM added that an Israeli activist, Lymor Goldstein, formerly of Germany is currently in a stable condition at Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv.

Goldstein was taken in for immediate surgery, which took 3 hours, and a rubber bullet as well as shards of bone and damaged brain tissue were removed from his head and an internal hemorrhage was stopped.

The injuries, Rina and Lymor Goldstein are the most serious injuries the army has caused in Bil'in since Ramzi Yassin, who was shot in the head with a plastic-coated steel bullet.

Ramzi, from Bil'in, was handing out water during a demonstration in Bil'in on July 8, 2005, when he was shot in the side of the head. The bullet caused severe bleeding of his brain and he was left unconscious for 7 days and with permanent brain damage.
Al Jazeera has more details about the incident itself:
An Israeli border police soldier shot a rubber-tipped bullet at a demonstrator during a protest against the separation wall in the West Bank, Israel’s Haaretz daily reported.

The shooting took place during the weekly Friday protest against the seperation wall in the city of Bil’in, a small village near Ramallah, which will be deeply affected by the illegal barrier that appropriates 50% of its lands and about 70% of its cultivated area.

In violation of military rules, the rubber-tipped bullet was fired at close range, from between 10 and 20 meters, injuring an Israeli attorney, identified as Lymor Goldstein, in the head.

The Israeli military's rules allow the firing of rubber-tipped bullets at a distance of at least 40 meters, and only at the legs of the target. Rubber bullets are plastic-coated lead bullets, and they could be deadly when fired at certain areas of the body.

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) said that border police forces threw stun grenades and fired rubber bullets to disperse the protestors, claiming that the demonstrators threw rocks at them.

But video footage of the incident clearly shows that the border police commander ordered his soldiers to shoot rubber bullets without warning the protestors, and before any rocks were thrown at his troops.

The footage also shows that Israeli soldiers aimed their weapons at shoulder height, directly firing at the protestors. At one point, an Israeli soldier was seen aiming his gun at two demonstrators searching for cover, and then firing at the head of one of them.
I've quoted more extensively from these articles than I usually do. Why? Because your chances of hearing about this incident in the Western corporate media lie somewhere between nil and none.


 

Terror news: Now you see it, now you don't


When it's announced, it's major news in print and on TV. A few days later, you need a magnifying glass and a hearing aid to find the retraction. This is one sentence in the last item in today's News in Brief section of the San Jose Mercury News:
Prosecutors dropped terrorism charges Tuesday against two Michigan men who were arrested after buying large numbers of cell phones, saying they could not prove a terrorism link.
Incidentally, in case you missed it (I did), the case against three other men for the same heinous crime (possession of too many cell phones), a case which including scary claims that they were going to blow up the Mackinac Bridge, is also falling apart, with officials admitting they have no evidence of any ties to terrorism.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006


 

Quote of the Day


Orville Schell, in an article entitled "Too Late for Empire" in The Nation, nails the essence of thought control under capitalism:
The problem has not been censorship but something very nearly censorship's opposite: the deafening noise of the official megaphone and its echoes--not the suppression of truth, still spoken and heard in a narrow circle, but a profusion of lies and half lies; not too little speech but too much. If you whisper something to your friend in the front row of a rock concert, you have not been censored, but neither will you be heard.


 

NPR (mis)informs its listeners about Cuba


I was briefly listening to NPR's "Talk of the Nation" today. The conversation was about Cuba, and one of the guests was Oscar Corral, the principal reporter on Cuba for the Miami Herald, the newspaper which features more coverage of Cuba than any other paper in the U.S. And what did I hear Mr. Corral say on that show? "Cubans aren't allowed to own anything: houses, cars, etc." Balderdash! Even if you don't know that Cubans do own houses, surely everyone who has ever watched or read anything about Cuba knows that the "old cars of Cuba," the 50's relics that Cubans still nurse along with pride and improvised spare parts, are a feature of Cuba. Of course Cubans own lots of other things as well - their clothes, their appliances, their furniture, and so on. What they don't own is the "means of production" - the factories and such. But the idea that the principal reporter on Cuba for the Miami Herald would make such a statement, and that no one on the show -- not the host, nor any of the other guests -- would bother to correct such a gross misstatement, is unfortunately indicative of the state of reporting about Cuba.


 

Israeli forces on the Litani?


Three days ago, Israel used helicopters to ferry a few hundred commandos north so they could claim they had "reached the Litani," and the armchair generals (ex-generals and others) on TV were busy telling us how Israel was then going to sweep southward as they withdrew back to Israel, destroying the remaining Hizbollah forces on the way. Sure they were. Anyway, now I've been searching for any evidence that Israeli forces still remain on the Litani, as they were allegedly going to do until that "robust international force" arrived. I can't find any. No surprise, since even the Israeli forces in southern Lebanon are busy fleeing, long before any such "robust force" (or even any completely powerless force like the Lebanese Army) has appeared to take their place.

Update: Billmon points to a related development:

Overnight, IDF troops left the southern Christian town of Marj Ayoun, Lebanese security sources said. They also left the nearby town of Qlaiah and the village of Ghandouriyeh, scene of ferocious battles over the weekend. (Source)
As Billmon notes, "It cost the IDF almost 30 KIA and 40-50 wounded to take those two villages, and now they've given them back."


 

Captured territory?


AP writes today:
Israel began slowly withdrawing its forces from southern Lebanon on Tuesday and made plans to hand over its captured territory as hopes were raised that a U.N.-imposed cease-fire would stick, despite early tests on its first day.
"Captured territory"? It's true that there are Israeli troops in Lebanon. But I don't see any evidence they have actually "captured territory," in the sense of being able to occupy a particular location and remain there indefinitely. As of a few hours before the ceasefire, there were still reports of fighting in Bint Jubeil, a town they allegedly "captured" in the first days of the war. If there is a single Israeli soldier anywhere in Lebanon feeling safe from attack right now, it's only because of the ceasefire, not because they are sitting on "captured territory."

In another language question, the New York Times Steven Erlanger asks if "ordinary Lebanese...will...ultimately blame Hezbollah for attacking Israel." But Hizbollah didn't "attack Israel." They attacked a small group of Israeli soldiers on the border. Describing such an attack as "attacking Israel" is deliberate hyperbole, fitting in with the idea that the Arabs are trying to "drive Israelis into the sea," as if Hizbollah could have, even if they had wanted to, taken control of Kiryat Shimonah, much less the state of Israel. In the same article, Erlanger refers derisively to "the kingdom [Hizbollah] built in southern Lebanon," as if Hizbollah has been lording it over the residents of southern Lebanon, rather than serving them.


Monday, August 14, 2006


 

The not so terrifying "terror" plot


Craig Murray analyzes the British "terror" plot like no one you'll hear in the corporate media. That is to say, with actual insight:
None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports.

As they were all under surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity - that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.

In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot.
I've only picked out the smallest of excerpts; the article really needs to be read.

(Hat tip to Politics in the Zeros)


 

How many Israelis are left in Lebanon?


I always retain a bit of skepticism about things that Robert Fisk writes. Nonetheless, I pass this observation from his latest article on for what it's worth:
Last night, scarcely any Israeli armour was to be seen inside Lebanon - just one solitary tank could be glimpsed outside Bint Jbeil and the Israelis had retreated even from the "safe" Christian town of Marjayoun. It is now clear that the 30,000-strong Israeli army reported to be racing north to the Litani river never existed. In fact, it is unlikely that there were yesterday more than 1,000 Israeli soldiers left in all of southern Lebanon.
In-ter-est-ing.


 

Diversion of the Day: the Fidel quiz


The BBC tests your knowledge of Fidel trivia. I got 7 out of 10.

Update: Courtesy of a reader, an interesting article on Fidel, but you aren't allowed to read it until after you take the quiz.


 

Arms caches, large and small


BBC World News just reported on searches going on on the premises and surroundings of the two dozen British men recently arrested on terrorism charges. Closing the piece, the reporter solemnly informed us that the police had found...one rifle in one site, and one handgun in another. Wow. A regular arsenal.

This got me thinking about the case of Robert Ferro, which has never to my knowledge even made the news outside of Southern California. Not once has his name appeared in either the New York Times or the Washington Post. Just some minor case, right? No. Robert Ferro was caught with an arsenal of more than 1500 weapons, including 35 machine guns, 130 silencers, two short-barreled rifles, a live hand grenade, a rocket launcher tube and about 89,000 rounds of ammunition; I read somewhere this was the largest cache of weapons ever confiscated in the United States. So why hasn't this caused a major terrorist scare in the United States? Because, of course, those weapons weren't intended for use in the United States, they were intended for use by Alpha 66 in overthrowing the Cuban government, and indeed, Ferro claims (not necessarily believably) variously that either the weapons were supplied to him by the U.S. government, or that he had the "permission" of the government to have them.

By sheer coincidence, this case just returned to the news (the local news only) two days ago, when Ferro was in court claiming illegal search warrants were used and that the case should be thrown out. If his name were Mohammed and not Robert (probably really Roberto), he would long ago have found himself in Guantanamo, search warrant or no search warrant. If his name were Mohammed, all it would take would be one handgun for BBC News (or all the American news sources) to be trumpeting the major terrorist threat. But with the right name, and the right target for your terrorism, the media won't even bother reporting your story. Even if you were caught with the largest arms cache in the history of the United States.

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Who "won" the war in Lebanon?


It's pretty clear who the losers are - they're the ones in boxes in the ground, the ones whose houses and shops and entire villages have been obliterated, not to mention the Israeli cannon fodder who paid with their lives for the immorality of the Israeli government. But who was the winner? Most rational observers say it's Hizbollah, but last night I watched the Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman claiming that Israel was the "winner."

And on what grounds did he make that claim? He said there were three reasons - because Hizbollah is to be disarmed, Hizbollah will not be able to be rearmed, and Hizbollah will no longer function south of the Litani River. Note the connection between those "achievements." None of them has actually been achieved, and, when and if they are, they will have been achieved not by the Israeli military, but by its patrons in the U.S. throwing their weight around in the U.N. and amongst their allies.

Gillerman and his ilk don't even have the chutzpah to repeat the nonsense, heard from the very first days of the assault, that half of Hizbollah's military might has been destroyed, or that hundreds of Hizbollah fighters have been killed, or anything of that nature, since those claims were laughable from the start. And claiming that they are the "winners" by reciting a list of power plants, roads, apartment buildings, day care centers, bridges, and so on that were destroyed might not sound like the achievements of a "winner," just those of a terrorist.

Reading the rather visible words between the lines, according to Gillerman the "winner" in this war was the U.S. Dream on, Dan.


 

Racism in the media


Listening to CNN last night, I heard "senior correspondent" Matthew Chance utter the words which are all too commonplace in the media: "The Israelis have suffered far fewer deaths than the Lebanese, but to them, every single life is precious" (quoted from memory). This, my friends, is racism, pure and simple. The Lebanese and Palestinians mourn every single death just as much as the Israelis. And would even do so publicly, that is, if they could find the bodies under the rubble, or if they weren't afraid of their funeral processions being bombed.

Does Matthew Chance think of himself as a racist, or does anyone else at CNN regard him as such? Don't be silly. This sentiment, that the poor beleagured Israelis somehow value life more than any of their neighbors, is such an ingrained idea in the American (and probably Western in general) consciousness, that they don't even realize what they are saying. That doesn't make it any less racist.


Sunday, August 13, 2006


 

Quote of the Day


"We were ill-prepared for the eventuality of continuity rather than change. All our policies have been built on a foundation of wishful thinking. Now we are confronted with reality, and it’s not what we had hoped it would be."

- Damian Fernandez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, referring to policy makers in Washington and Miami
Having just watched a 60 Minutes interview with Stephen Colbert tonight, the word "truthiness" comes to mind. Believing the truth is what you "feel" in your gut (or hope for), rather than what the facts tell you it is. The U.S. media has been describing Cuba as "Castro" for so long, people come to believe it.

As far as Mike Wallace's ridiculous interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad on the same show, the less said the better. What an asshole. Mike Wallace, that is.


 

News you might have missed: U.N. condemns Israel


There was a major AP story out Friday, which reported:
The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday condemned Israel for "massive bombardment of Lebanese civilian populations" and other "systematic" human rights violations, and decided to send a commission to investigate.

"I remind all belligerents that war crimes and crimes against humanity may be committed even by those who believe, accurately or not, that their combat is a just one and their cause a worthy pursuit," [Louise Arbour, the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights] said.
Is it any wonder this is the U.N. body the that the U.S. tried (and largely failed) to make into yet another weapon to be used by imperialism against other countries?

Here's the report itself. It's quite likely you didn't hear about either it or the AP story about it, however. Watching various news channels, with their saturation coverage of the situation, I haven't personally heard a word. My local paper (San Jose Mercury News) didn't carry the story, nor did the New York Times. The Washington Post and a few other American papers did, but the lack of a page number on the Post story indicates that it most likely appeared only online, not in the print edition; the same may be true for the other papers which carried the story. Basically, it was buried. Wouldn't want to have to mention the words "Israel" and "war crimes" in the same sentence. It might give the American public ideas.


 

The "ceasefire"


Reuters reports what has been obvious to any intelligent person since the terms of the so-called "ceasefire" were announced:
Israel believes it will be entitled to use force to prevent Hizbollah from rearming and to clear guerrilla positions out of southern Lebanon after a U.N. truce takes effect, Israeli officials said on Sunday.

Israeli officials said such operations are "defensive" in nature and therefore permissible under a U.N. Security Council resolution which calls for Israel to halt "all offensive military operations".

The Israeli operations could include air strikes against arms convoys travelling anywhere in Lebanese territory, a senior Israeli official said.

A Western diplomat said the United States and other major powers would not object to such "mopping up" operations, provided they are restricted to the south.
Of course that very last phrase is utter nonsense. Should Israel attack a fruit-packing factory, or a truck convoy, or any other target and claim it "thought" it could "possibly" be an arms convoy, the U.S. will have no objection whatsoever, no matter where in Lebanon that target was located, any more than they have objected to any other act of Israeli barbarism.


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