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Sunday, August 31, 2008


 

Presidential candidate in New Orleans


My friend Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.


 

Police state Minneapolis


The Republicans may be fleeing from Minneapolis as fast as they can now that they have a convenient excuse for doing so, but their police state remains behind. Numerous blogs and others are doing a great job covering what's happening, but Glenn Greenwald (here and here) is probably the best place to go:
Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets.
Troops Out Now Coalition has an online petition demanding an end to these outrages.

As Greenwald writes, we heard an awful lot about Chinese suppression of protest in advance of and during the Olympics (although the suppression wasn't so great that hardly a day passed when I didn't see a Western reporter interviewing someone on the subject). Will the same corporate media, or any Democratic or Republican politician, have anything to say about American suppression of protesters? I'm sure we'll all be shocked if they do.


Saturday, August 30, 2008


 

Polls


A Gallup poll reports that 39% of the people polled think Sarah Palin is "ready" to be President. Are you effing kidding me? Half the members of my local city council are more ready than she is. My mother is more ready than she is. I'm more ready than she is (well, that went without saying, but I said it anyway).

What kind of country do I live in when 39% of the people are willing to say that some random person they've never heard of, whose political stepping stone was as mayor of a town that has fewer residents than can fit in most high school football stadiums, and who is now Governor of a state whose total population would barely qualify as a major city, is "ready to be President"?


Friday, August 29, 2008


 

Dana Milbank and the scummiest column ever


Dana Milbank, evidently still smarting from being fired from the Keith Olbermann show, is out with the scummiest column ever about Barack Obama. Evidently he's angling for a job with Fox News, if he doesn't already have one, or perhaps he's hoping for the job of press spokesperson for the McCain administration he's trying to elect.

Now you all know I've got criticisms of Obama - plenty of them. But those are serious criticisms about what Obama and his party stand for. Not absurd statements like Milbank's claim that the stadium was filled with "adoring fans." No, Dana, those people aren't "fans" of Obama, they're supporters of Obama, people who are trying to elect a new President of the United States. Or absurd statements like how Obama "waved skyward" or "gazed heavenward." No, Dana, Obama wasn't looking to the heavens, he was looking at and waving to the people in the upper stands of the stadium, a crowd that John McCain (or Dana Milbank) could never hope to assemble to hear them speak.

And, above all, the whole "ancient Greek colonnade/Parthenon nonsense." I haven't spent nearly as much time in Washington, D.C. as Milbank, who works there, but even I know that Washington is filled with buildings which look just like that, starting with the White House. Milbank describes the center of the backdrop (the "colonnade"), as being "a classical frieze", which seems to be technically correct, I think, but in general a "frieze" is associated with sculptures and carvings, not just a simple geometric design. But Milbank fails to note that the entire center of that structure was filled with faux paned windows, which I'm pretty sure were not part of the Parthenon or any Greek structure. Indeed, it was those windows which actually made the structure look like nothing less than the White House, not a "Greek temple."

Do I welcome (and contribute to) fair criticism of Obama? Absolutely. Unfair sniping based on absurd right-wing talking points, which do nothing but debase the level of discussion in this country and trivialize the very serious questions which an election should be about? Totally unacceptable.

Previous criticism of Milbank and his despicable level of "journalism" (I never could understand why Keith Olbermann liked him): here (Downing Street memos), here (anti-Semitism), here (on the Left), and here (covering Bush's rear).


Thursday, August 28, 2008


 

R.I.P. Del Martin


Del Martin, a pioneer in the LGBT rights movement, died yesterday. If you think the nomination of Barack Obama was a historic moment, and it certainly was, whatever you (or I) think of him, consider the life of Del Martin. A woman who started in the deeply closeted days of the The Well of Loneliness (a book I once took out of the deep archives in a Harvard library because it hadn't been in print for decades) and who ended (with her lifelong partner Phyllis Lyon) as the first legally married gay or lesbian couple in California. Truly a remarkable life and journey.

In her honor, a rendition of Malvina Reynold's "We Don't Need the Men":


 

Doubletake of the Day


I just listened to Al Gore praising Barack Obama for having had the courage to oppose a "popular war." Was he on another planet when tens of millions of people marched through the streets of every major city in the world, opposing the invasion of Iraq? "Popular" war? Popular in the halls of Washington, maybe. Not out here in the real world.

Second doubletake: From Barack Obama tonight:

"We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country."
So...what is he saying? That the war in Vietnam, which killed more than a million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans, was "defending this country"? Or perhaps sponsoring the Bay of Pigs invasion was "defending this country"?


 

America, Inc.


The Democrats have been meeting at the "Pepsi Center"; tonight they're moving to "Invesco Field." The Republicans next week will be at "Xcel Energy Center." Has it ever been clearer that the United States is a country of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations?

[Credit to Bill Maher on Jay Leno last night for the idea for this post]


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


 

Hurricanes


Hurricane Fay killed 12 people in the United States and 23 in the Caribbean, but none in Cuba. One warm year doesn't prove global warming, any more than one cold year disproves it, and one death-free hurricane event per se proves nothing (although Cuba has a long history of such success). But now Hurricane Gustav has arrived, and it has already killed 22 more people across the Caribbean. It hasn't hit Cuba yet, but when it does, it won't be surprising if again, no one there is killed. Why? Because the Cuban government, which considers the welfare of the Cuban people its business and not each individual's business, has already evacuated 20,000 people from the area about to be hit.


 

U.S.-backed baby-killing continues in Gaza


When last we reported on the subject, at the end of February, the death toll stood at 98. Now, despite the signing of a "truce" between Israel and Hamas, the U.S.-backed, Israeli-executed crimes against humanity continue:
The Palestinian Health Ministry reports...that 46 patients have died due to the continued Israeli blockade of the coastal region since the Egypt-brokered truce deal came into effect between the two sides 78 days ago.

It said that 10 children were among the dead.

Palestinian patients died in Gaza hospitals due to the lack of medication while they were barred from leaving the impoverished strip for medical treatment elsewhere.

The ministry said that a total of 241 patients have so far died due to the Israeli siege.

More than 1,500 patients are currently facing death.
Will Barack Obama, or John McCain, or Condi Rice, or George Clooney, or anyone else do anything to save those 1,500 people, or to condemn the ongoing genocide in Gaza? Not bloody likely.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


 

War crimes? The U.S. hangs tough in Afghanistan


The story of the latest war crime in Afghanistan gets even more interesting:
The United Nations has accused the US-led forces in Afghanistan of killing civilians after a US airstrike killed some 90 people earlier.

The UN said in a statement on Tuesday that its investigators "found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men" in the western province of Herat on Friday.

The UN said that "residents were able to confirm the number of casualties, including names, age and gender of the victims," AP reported.
Convinced? You are, but not that good old U.S. military:
The US military stood by its account, saying that 25 militants and five civilians were killed in the operation.
Who ya' gonna' believe, us or your lyin' eyes? True to form, though, the U.S. managed to couch its lies while actually telling the truth:
US Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said, "I don't have any information that would suggest that our military commanders in Afghanistan don't believe, still, that this was a legitimate strike on a Taliban target."
A double cover. First of all, Whitman "doesn't have any information..." The people actually involved may well have such information, but Whitman made sure they didn't tell him. And second, the assertion that they "believe...this was a legitimate strike." And why not? They believe anyone resisting their presence in the country are legitimate targets, and they also believe, contrary to their repeated assertions, that they have no need whatsoever to ascertain how many people who are just "innocent civilians" are also in their gunsights. And indeed, no doubt they believe there are no "innocent civilians." After all, if there really were Taliban there, and you assume that the U.S. has some sort of right to kill them, then any civilian in the area was clearly "guilty" of either harboring the Taliban or at least tolerating their presence. So, do they "believe" this was a "legitimate strike"? No doubt they do.


 

Fidel on the Olympics


Fidel Castro's latest article discusses the Olympics and sports in general. The only part of the article which merited the attention of the Western corporate media was his defense of the Cuban taekwando athlete who was disqualified for kicking a referee. But, strangely enough, this kind of analysis didn't get mentioned:
If one calculates the total number of people living in India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries, not to mention the world's nearly 900 million Africans and more than 550 million Latin Americans, one will have an idea of the number of people around the world who have no access to these kinds of sport facilities.

It is in this light that we ought to analyze the news that surrounded the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The world enjoyed the Olympics because it was something it needed, because we wanted to see the smiles and emotions of the athletes who participated, particularly those who came in first place, whose perseverance and discipline were duly acknowledged.

Which one of them could be blamed for the colossal inequalities that exist in the world in which it is our lot to live? How can one forget, on the other hand, the hunger, malnutrition, lack of schools, teachers, hospitals, doctors, medications and basic means of sustenance that the world endures?
...
Let us be serious about this. Let us go over every discipline, every human and material resource we devote to sports. We must analyze this deeply, apply new ideas, concepts and knowledge. We must distinguish between what is done for the sake of our citizens’ health and what is done for the sake of competing and making this instrument more accessible for the wellbeing and health of everyone.


 

Free Gaza


I reported below on the "Free Gaza" movement which broke the Israeli/world blockade of Gaza, symbolically and at least a little more. You know how news organizations are always claiming they cover stories which are visually interesting? Don't you believe it. The New York Times (a print journal, obviously) did carry a short custom (i.e., not AP or Reuters) article on the arrival (unlike other papers, which didn't even do that much). But as near as I can determine, both from searching their web sites and watching various channels on TV, none of the U.S. broadcast media, network or cable, even mentioned the arrival (the BBC did).

One thing we know for sure, even without searching. No American politician, at least none affiliated with the Democrats or Republicans, mentioned it either.


 

Obama = Osama Newman?


The latest contribution from my favorite source of political commentary (click to enlarge):


While amusing, it's not actually true, of course. Obama and his new partner Biden very definitely can...can defend the interests of imperialism around the world, albeit with a figuratively and literally kinder and gentler face.


Monday, August 25, 2008


 

Halabja in the news


No, this isn't a post about gassing the Kurds. It may be an article about bombing the Iranians:
The Kurdistan Regional Government has allocated 1,500 acres of land near Iran's border [in Halabja] for the construction of a large US-financed airport.
I can't find up-to-date figures, but it seems Halabja has a population of around 100,000. San Jose, the nearest city to me, has a population of just under a million, and serves an area (Santa Clara County/"Silicon Valley") with a population of around two million (and a population which, I'm guessing based on the wealth of the area, does a lot more traveling than the population of Halabja). San Jose airport occupies approximately 500 acres, about 1/3 the size of the proposed Halabja airport.

The central government in Iraq is starting to talk openly about getting all U.S. military out of their country by the end of 2011. And with Joe "Iraq est omnis divisa in partres tres" Biden possibly on the way to power, there may be more involved with autonomy for the Kurds than there has been previously, namely, allowing U.S. military bases in their part of the country even when/if they're kicked out of the rest of the country.

Just sayin'.


Sunday, August 24, 2008


 

This is what victory looks like



The SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty being greeted by a crowd of more than 2000 people as they sail into Gaza.

We'll allow one of the organizers to have the first and only word in this post:

"Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip is one of the great crimes of the 21st century, which the governments of the West and the Arab League are abetting by their silence."
Update: Yvonne Ridley adds some detail:
I really want to make one thing very clear to you here and now.
Israel did not give us permission to enter Gaza - the reality is they could NOT STOP us even if they tried.

And believe me some of the tactics to scupper our historic voyage were unbelievable.

Some of us, our family and friends have received death threats by telephone, text and emails while the whole Free Gaza Movement was targeted by Zionists lawyers who tried to sink our mission before it even began.

We were accused of being a front for a Hamas operated gunrunning venture and even Iran was accused of being party by supplying weapons.

Then Israel Foreign Minister Zvipi [sic] Livni made a snide comment a few days ago saying she hoped we could all swim while the Naval Commander announced he was running military exercises off the coast of Gaza and had thrown a 35-mile wide exclusion zone around.


 

My "equal time" moment


John McCain, a man who owns seven houses, attacks Barack Obama for being an "elitist." John McCain, a man who has appeared on the "Daily Show" 14 (!) times, attacks Barack Obama as a celebrity. John McCain, a man who doesn't know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites and thinks that Iraq and Afghanistan share a border, attacks Joe Biden for being "gaffe-prone."

But which is funnier or more outrageous? The fact that McCain says these things, or the fact that the corporate media actually repeat them, with a straight face no less?


 

Another day, another war crime: 95 Afghans butchered by U.S. bombs


Let's count the lies amidst the war crimes.

The headline:

Afghan Leader Assails Airstrike He Says Killed 95.
Well, he did say it. But the clear implication in the headline is that it's just his word, his allegation. The truth is actually contained in the second paragraph:
Government officials who traveled to the village of Azizabad in Herat Province on Saturday said the death toll had risen to 95 from 76.
So it wasn't Karzai who "says" that 95 people, including 50 children (!!), were killed, it's people who actually went to the site of the crime (which certainly did not include the "Mayor of Kabul").

The third paragraph:

The American military said Saturday it was investigating the attack.
Well, it's not exactly a lie, I'm sure they did "say" that. Chances that they actually are investigating it though, at least in a way that any serious person would call an "investigation," as close to zero, and the chance that we'll ever hear anything about the results of this "investigation" are even closer to zero. By the way, as proof of that assertion, I note that the article mentions the July 6 bombing of a wedding party in Afghanistan which killed 27 people, mostly women and children, including the bride, and notes this: "The American military is still investigating that attack; it has not acknowledged that civilians had been killed."

A lie with a bit of humor thrown in:

President Hamid Karzai...said his government would be announcing measures to prevent the loss of civilian life in the future.
And what might those measures be? Kicking the "coalition" forces out of his country? Because short of that, or moving the entire population of Afghanistan to the U.S., his chances of "preventing the loss of civilian life in the future" are also pretty close to zero, whatever "measures" he announces.

One more:

The tension comes at a delicate time for the American-led coalition, which is facing a resurgent Taliban with a perceived shortage of troops, leading it to rely more on air power to battle militants.
Balderdash. The U.S. reliance on air power, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, has nothing whatsoever to do with a "perceived shortage of troops," and everything to do with their relative valuation of Afghan and American lives - the former zero, and the latter some positive number (I almost wrote "infinite," to emphasize the difference, but clearly if that were the case the troops wouldn't be there in the first place. No, the American ruling class places nearly as little value on the lives of their own troops as they do on the lives of the Afghans, but the U.S. military has a somewhat different idea, being a little closer to the situation).

Next lie:

"Coalition forces make every effort to prevent the injury or loss of innocent lives. An investigation has been directed," according to a statement issued from Bagram air base
The truth of the assertion can be judged in the facts of the latest case:
A presidential aide who declined to be identified said that the Interior Ministry and the Afghan intelligence agency had reported from the region that there were no Taliban present in the village that night.

A tribal elder from the region who helped bury the dead, Haji Tor Jan Noorzai, said people in the village were gathered in memory of a man who was anti-Taliban and was killed last year, and that tribal enemies of the family had given out false information.

"It is quite obvious, the Americans bombed the area due to wrong information,” he said by telephone. “I am 100 percent confident that someone gave the information due to a tribal dispute. The Americans are foreigners and they do not understand. These people they killed were enemies of the Taliban.
It seems rather clear what happened. Someone (could have even been the Taliban, who knows?) called up the U.S. military and said there was a big gathering of Taliban. The "every effort" the U.S. claims to take to "prevent the injury or loss of innocent lives" didn't actually involve on-the-ground investigation of the assertion; that would be far too risky to American lives. Instead, they flew overhead (or used their spy satellites) and said, "yup, there's a big gathering of people alright," and proceeded to bomb them to smithereens. Covering their tracks, they claimed that the strike had "killed 25 militants, including a Taliban leader, Mullah Sadiq." But that was just a claim they were pulling out of the air (or someplace else), because it's highly unlikely they actually landed on the ground to count or identify the dead.

And now, in this case quite quickly, the truth is emerging. Will "let's send more troops to Afghanistan" Barack Obama or John McCain issue any condemnation of this war crime, or rethink their commitment to a war sure to see an unending stream of such atrocities in the future? Sadly, the chances of that, too, are close to zero.

By the way, also in today's news, there's an article about another war, the one between Georgia and Russia. In that article, we learn all sorts of details, including individual names, about Georgians returning to their homes to find bombed homes, dead neighbors, etc. Do you think we'll see that kind of detailed, emotionally-involving reporting from the village of Azizabad in Afghanistan? Not likely.


Saturday, August 23, 2008


 

Obama: Hoist by his own petard, Part II


It almost goes without saying but I'll say it. Obama's ability to use his "I was against the invasion of Iraq" line against McCain? Gone now that he's picked a Vice-President who was (on that and every other question of aggressive foreign policy) as hawkish as McCain. Not that he was using that line much anyway, having voted for the war at pretty much every opportunity since actually being in the Senate and having the chance to vote.

Update: Stephen Zunes documents Biden's long record of not just being a supporter of the war against Iraq, but a vociferous promoter of it.


Friday, August 22, 2008


 

"Real soon now"


Just the other day I highlighted the misleading character of the "as soon as" in this:
Iraqi and U.S. negotiators have completed a draft security agreement that would see American troops leave Iraqi cities as soon as June 30, Iraqi and American officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
But believe it or not, it doesn't take a year to qualify as "soon." Just now I was doing something I generally try to avoid, which was watching "Hardball" with Chris Matthews. And what Matthews had to say was (close paraphrase): "Well, considering we'll be out of Iraq real soon now,..." And what was he referring to? Not the "June 30 of next year" to pull out combat troops, but "the end of 2011 for all troops to leave" (allegedly, I hasten to add).

Hey Chris (and anyone else who thinks the "end of 2011" is "real soon now" - please do us all a favor and volunteer for a three-year tour of duty in Iraq, so someone who doesn't want to be there can come home. And at the end of 2011, please come back and tell us about how "soon" that was.


 

The ruling class


How much do you spend on "household employees"? The McCains spent $273,000 last year. And don't be fooled by all that talk about how McCain doesn't actually own "houses," he owns "condos." Maybe technically. But one of them is 6,600 square feet. That's four times bigger than the house that I live in.

There are 744,000 homeless people in the United States. That's not house-less people, of whom there are millions and millions, several hundred thousand more every month, but home-less people, meaning they not only don't own or rent a house, they don't own or rent an apartment, a condo, or even a hotel room.


 

Cuba wins the gold...in life-saving


Tropical storm (not even a major hurricane) Fay has killed 28 people across the Caribbean, including five in Florida. None of those deaths were in Cuba, where the state is already organizing reconstruction efforts.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, three years after Hurricane Katrina, George Bush is talking about "hope."


 

Gaza is not "the world's largest prison"


It's the world's largest concentration camp:
"It is not correct to consider that Gaza is a prison, as some argue in Europe. Rather it is indeed a concentration camp, because the inmates of European prisons get enough food and adequate medical care. They are free from military attack and they are not denied other rights, like education. None of that happens in Israeli occupied Gaza."

- Bassam Naim, Minister of Health for the Hamas government
As the author of this powerful article asks,
If blame, even if only moral blame, was cast on those who did nothing and looked the other way in times gone by, what judgment do the people deserve now who not only keep quiet about Israel’s actions in Gaza, but actually aid and abet them?
Meanwhile, activists have set sail for Gaza, trying to break the seige of Gaza from the sea.


Thursday, August 21, 2008


 

Double Take of the Day


Brain-washing runs very deep. Consider this brief review of the HBO series "Generation Kill" (what a lovely name, what a lovely thought) that appeared in today's San Jose Mercury News:
HBO's extraordinary miniseries "Generation Kill" comes to an end Sunday (9 p.m.) — right up against the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympics. But, hey, that's what DVRs are for. In the final installment, the men of 1st Recon finally reach Baghdad but not without all kinds of problems, including short supplies, cultural misunderstandings and continuing resistance from insurgents.
No doubt you, being a reader of Left I on the News, noticed what was wrong there, but what percentage of the readers of the Mercury News gave any thought to the fact that, whatever word you want to use now (resistance, insurgency, terrorists), in the first days of the U.S. invasion, before the Iraqi government had even fallen, the people the U.S. military were fighting were not "insurgents"? They were the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008


 

Obama: Hoist by his own petard


John McCain is scoring points on Barack Obama by touting the alleged "success" of the "surge," and Obama is reduced to arguing that there hasn't been "political reconciliation" in Iraq, and that the U.S. should be focusing on escalating (a word he avoids, just as Bush and McCain avoided using it with respect to Iraq) the war in Afghanistan, and increasing the U.S. response to Iran (where Obama continues to lie by claiming that "Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons") and Russia (where Obama also lies by claiming that "There is no possible justification for Russia’s actions" - he should read this article by a Canadian professor of philosophy if he's looking for a "possible justification") and Pakistan.

Why can't he take on the argument directly? Because he's hoist by his own petard, a victim of the fact that, from that start, he never had a principled opposition to the invasion of Iraq. I've written about this several times, but let's look at what he said to the Veterans of Foreign Wars:

"Six years ago, I stood up at a time when it was politically difficult to oppose going to war in Iraq, and argued that our first priority had to be finishing the fight against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan...I warned that war would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East, create new centers of terrorism, and tie us down in a costly and open-ended occupation."
From the start, Obama's opposition to the war has been a "cost-benefit analysis." Not once has he said the war was illegal or immoral. He can't condemn the invasion itself as a war crime that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced millions of them, not only because that would make him persona non grata with the American ruling class in whose good graces he must remain in order to be elected, but also because he simply doesn't believe that.

Take a look at his "rebuttal" to the "success" of the surge:

"We have lost over a thousand American lives and spent hundreds of billions of dollars since the surge began, but Iraq’s leaders still haven’t made hard compromises or substantial investments in rebuilding their country."
So the "cost" of the surge according to Obama has been entirely to the Americans; evidently no Iraqis have died in that time. But the blame for the alleged lack of success of the "surge," according to Obama, is entirely on the Iraqis.

Obama's lack of principled opposition to the invasion wasn't just words, of course. All along, until (if I recall correctly) the very last vote, he has voted for every allocation of money for the war (not "for the troops," what a load of you-know-what), votes which were a direct consequence of his unprincipled opposition to the war. Because once the war has started, then the only possible objection Obama could make would be the "throwing good money after bad" argument, i.e., a continued cost-benefit analysis. As a result, Obama has a hard time countering McCain's attempt to rewrite the history of the Iraq war as beginning with the "surge," because he too fundamentally accepts the idea that the war on the people of Iraq can be "won" by the United States.

Hoist by his own petard.


 

Two "pullouts"


Russia signed a ceasefire agreement with Georgia, and the U.S. throws a tantrum because they didn't pullout yesterday. George Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq five years ago and the U.S. is still occupying Iraq. Ah, but there's news today:
Iraqi and U.S. negotiators have completed a draft security agreement that would see American troops leave Iraqi cities as soon as June 30, Iraqi and American officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The way it's written, with that "as soon as" phrase, you have to read it twice to realize that that's June 30, 2009, ten months away, not exactly around the corner.

You probably won't be surprised to read this, either:

In Washington, a senior military official said the deal is acceptable to the U.S. side, subject to formal approval by President Bush.
Yeah, sure it is. He'll be long gone by next June.


Saturday, August 16, 2008


 

Doctors, bullets, it's so hard to tell the difference


Doesn't this, from an article about Cuban doctors serving abroad, say it all about the opposition to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela?
"If it weren't for the Cubans, I don't know what I'd do," said Sosnelly Zarraga, a 23-year-old cosmetics saleswoman, who was waiting for a free blood test outside a diagnostic center in Petare, one of Caracas' poorest and most violence-ridden areas. "I'd have to pay a week's salary to get the same service."

That is precisely the kind of reaction that irks Milos Alcalay, a former Venezuelan ambassador to the United States and a critic of Chávez and of the Cuban presence in his country. "The gift'' of the Cuban help to Venezuelans, he said, can only be compared to a Trojan horse.

"Behind the facade of humanitarian help comes ideology," Alcalay said. "The fact that they are here is in itself political. These doctors have become Cuba's new soldiers, like the ones who went to Angola 30 years ago, but bullets no longer work. If Cuba were to send us soldiers, Venezuelans would recoil. But who is going to refuse a doctor?"
Yeah, that's so right. Saving lives, taking lives, why, it's practically the same thing.

Those Cubans, they're just so despicable with their life-saving doctors. Just look at what they accomplish:

Take the story of Sahlu Merine, who was 12 when he met Cuban doctors in the largest hospital in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Although he said he didn't need medical help from them, he has only warm feelings not only for the doctors but also for the government that sent them.

"I chose not to forget those who helped us," said Merine, the business manager of a private school in New York. "Healthcare is the most important human right. And when we needed them, the Cubans were there. It has colored the way I see Cubans and the way I think about their government and their country."
It doesn't get more reprehensible, does it?

Don't you wish you lived in a country which sent doctors into other countries and not soldiers? I know I do. And no, that doesn't mean I'm moving to Cuba. It means I'm going to keep working to change the country where I was born.


Friday, August 15, 2008


 

Rhythm and Blues


Jerry Wexler, a giant in the music business and the man who coined the term "Rhythm and Blues" (which had previously, and this is no joke, been known as "Race Music") died today. To commemorate the occasion, here's another video I made from last weekend's San Jose Jazz Festival. In it, James Hunter and his band perform one of the earliest R&B songs, "Baby Don't Do It" by the Five Royals (or "Royales"), which was #1 on the R&B charts in January, 1953, the year that Wexler joined Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records.

If you haven't seen Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built, and you like music, it's a must-see film.


 

Yeah, things are just great


Not so much:
California's unemployment rate in July rose to 7.3%, its highest level in 12 years as many areas of the economy shed jobs.
That, of course, is the official rate.


 

A foreign invasion the U.S. is strangely silent about


The entire U.S. establishment is all verklempt about the presence of Russian troops in Georgia, with, as I've documented the tiniest part of on this blog, statement after statement about respecting "territorial integrity" and how "stark international aggression" was a thing of the past. And of course most people have immediately contrasted those statements with actual U.S. behavior in the case of Iraq (not so much Afghanistan, although to some of us, the hypocrisy is equally applicable in that case).

But there was another international aggression that occurred not that long ago that the U.S. not only didn't condemn, but supported (and not just verbally) - the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Here's what the U.S. had to say about that:

The United States defended Ethiopia's assault on Islamists in Somalia, which has reportedly killed more than 1,000 people, but said "maximum restraint" was needed to spare civilians [Ed. note: Pinochet and Lt. Calley would be so proud of that "restraint"].

Gonzo Gallegos [Ed. note: !], a State Department spokesman, said Ethiopia's offensive was intended to halt "aggressions" by the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) movement, which the United States this month said had been taken over by Al-Qaeda. [Ed. note - an allegation that AFP is happy to repeat without the slightest proof whatsoever.]

"Ethiopia has genuine security concerns with regard to developments within Somalia and has provided support at the request of legitimate governing authority [Ed. note: a "legitimate" government formed in Kenya in 2004]," he said, referring to Somalia's weak Western-backed government.
And, while charges of "genocide" are being hurled at Russia (despite the fact that evidence suggests that more Ossetians were killed by Georgian military forces than people who have been killed by Russians), none were ever made against Ethiopia, who continues to this day murdering Somalis:
US-backed Ethiopian soldiers have killed at least 43 civilians in two separate incidents in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and Arbiska.

The soldiers sprayed bullets on two passenger-filled buses in the town of Arbiska killing 37 civilians, AFP reported.


 

The hits keep coming


Please guard the walls; I may be smashing my head against one soon. I'm not sure how much more of this I can take:
"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."

- George Bush, announcing a change in U.S. policy towards Iran discussing the situation in Georgia
I just watched a clip of him saying this on TV, and, believe it or not, it was not accompanied by a laugh track.


Thursday, August 14, 2008


 

Strange anthrax "clue"


The Washington Post and some bloggers are making a big deal of this:
Federal investigators probing the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks recovered samples of human hair from a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., but the strands did not match the lead suspect in the case, according to sources briefed on the probe.
To which I say, "huh?" I don't know about you, but when I drop a letter in a mailbox, the chance that some of my hair gets in the mailbox is close to nil. My DNA on the envelope, unless I'm wearing gloves, yes. But hair? Why on earth would I be depositing samples of my hair in the mailbox?

Now, you say, "but there was hair in the mailbox!" Evidently true, but if I were the investigator, my first choice would be one of the dozens of mail carriers who had emptied that box over the years, who are actually leaning in the box, or at least sticking their hairy arms into the box. A less likely alternative would be one of the thousands (tens of thousands?) of people who had dropped mail in the box over the years. Why on earth would you think that the hair would just happen to belong to one person who dropped a letter containing anthrax into the box?


 

U.S. out?


Let me be the first to report the news, via Press TV:
The US has agreed to a conditional timetable for a phased withdrawal from Iraq within three years, Iraqi FM Hoshyar Zebari says.

Under the terms of a draft pact, the US combat troops will start pulling out from Iraqi main cities next summer depending on the security situation on the ground, the British Times newspaper quoted Iraqi chief diplomat Hoshyar Zebari as saying on Thursday.

Zebari said the agreement has 'no provision' for permanent US military bases in Iraq but legalizes US military presence in the country after the expiry of the UN mandate at the end of 2008.

He said when the agreement comes into force the US troops cannot unilaterally launch attacks inside Iraq, adding that deal is 'very close' to being finalized.
We'll see what happens. Note the careful postponement of anything concrete until "next summer," and that "depends." The work of the antiwar movement is far from done.


 

Terrorist to be tried...for immigration fraud


Coincidences never cease.

In August, 2004, Luis Posada Carriles and his associates were actually convicted and sentenced to jail in Panama for possessing many pounds (20 or 30, reports vary) of C-4 plastic explosive, planning to blow up a university auditorium containing Fidel Castro and several hundred Panamanian students. Just four months later, outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Miscoso pardoned the terrorists and released them from jail. Three of them immediately flew to Miami to a hero's welcome. Luis Posada Carriles disappeared, but less than a year later, he entered the U.S. illegally. The U.S. government tried to ignore him, but eventually they had to arrest him. Rather than extradite him to Venezuela, where he is wanted on 73 counts of first-degree murder for the mid-air bombing of Cubana flight 455 on October 6, 1976, the U.S. government decided to prosecute him for immigration fraud. As an excuse to avoid extradition, they allowed Posada's former partner Joaquin Chaffardet to testify, without proof or rebuttal, that Posada would be tortured if sent to Venezuela. After the U.S. government intentionally bungled even the immigration case, a Federal judge dismissed the case and allowed the terrorist Posada, the "Osama bin Laden of the Western Hemisphere," to walk free in Miami.

Ah, but then came July of this year, when a Panamanian court ruled that the pardons of Posada and associates for their attempted murder of Castro in Panama had been illegal, and called for the return of Posada to Panama to serve out his sentence there. And lo and behold, will coincidences never cease...today, on the very day that Panama's Vice-President restated their intention to demand the extradition of Posada, a Federal Appeals Court reinstated the absurd "immigration fraud" case against Posada. Prosecuted for "lying to immigration officials" (of course if he were an illegal Mexican immigrant he wouldn't have had a chance to lie, they would have just driven him to the border and thrown him across). Which will make a convenient excuse not to extradite him to Panama, on top of the already convenient excuse not to extradite him to Venezuela.

One footnote: one of the previous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro occurred during a summit of Latin American leaders on Margarita Island off the coast of Venezuela, in 1998. The rifles on board the ship which was seized on its way to Margarita Island to carry out its missions were registered to Francisco Hernandez, the current President of the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF) to whom Barack Obama spoke in May. The association of the U.S. government with anti-Cuban terrorists is, unsurprisingly, a thoroughly bipartisan affair. Another case in point, support for a pardon for convicted terrorist Eduardo Arocena by Joe Lieberman, a politician as "bipartisan" as they come!

Extradite Posada, Free the Cuban Five! And stop pretending the United States government is fighting a "war on terror"!


 

John McCain has been asleep for seven years


Because how else could he say this?
"For anyone who thought that stark international aggression was a thing of the past, the last week must have come as a startling wake-up call."
Or was that really a trick statement, with McCain actually realizing that no one who has actually been awake for the past seven years could have possibly thought that "stark international aggression was a thing of the past"?

Of course, I'm kidding. This is just McCain joining a long list of American politicians and pundits whose embrace of "American exceptionalism" is so thorough that they literally don't realize the disjoint between their words and deeds.

And, just so we get this on the record, I remind everyone that the "stark international aggression" was initiated by the Georgians. Although it is also unquestionable that that's not who he was referring to. Note the intentional deception in the sentence which follows the one above:

"After clashes in the Georgian region of South Ossetia, Russia invaded its neighbor, launching attacks that threaten its very existence."
No, events didn't start after "clashes," which implies some sort of equal responsibility on both sides. They started after a deliberate attack on Russian peacekeeping forces by the Georgian military. Not "clashes."


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


 

The racist Stephen Colbert


Yeah, yeah, it's an act, he just pretends to like Lou Dobbs, etc. But it's far beyond that when you say things like this, like Colbert did last night when interviewing Hispanic newsman Jorge Ramos, after Ramos said that 120 years from now, there will be more Latinos than non-Hispanic whites in the U.S.:
"So you're just proving Lou Dobbs point. Why shouldn't we be frightened of you?"
Why do I say that's racist, and not just an act? It's that word "we." Sorry, Stephen, "Americans" are not all white males like you, and that "we" was a little too revealing, and way too racist, for my taste. I don't care who you're pretending to be.


 

Saakashvili lets the cat out of the bag


CNN has an article about Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili calling on John McCain and other American leaders [sic] to "move from words to deeds." But the most interesting thing in the article is the next to last sentence:
“We should realize what is at stake here for Americans,” he said. “America is losing the whole region.”
That wasn't McCain talking. That was Saakashvili.


Monday, August 11, 2008


 

Jon Stewart skates


Barack Obama has a new ad targeting John McCain as a celebrity. In the course of the ad, we see McCain as a guest on Jay Leno (several times), David Letterman, the View, and on Saturday Night Live. But there's one place where McCain has actually been a guest far more than any of those others. It's the place where the host once said:
"People who watch this show know, we love John McCain. He's one of our most frequent guests, one of our favorite figures in Washington."
Of course you read the title of the post, so you know who that host was - Jon Stewart, someone who has had McCain on at least eleven times (that was a figure from a year ago; it's probably higher now).

I guess it wouldn't do for Obama to offend liberals who still labor under the misconception that Stewart is one of them. Or perhaps he didn't want to offend people who think of themselves as "hip." Whatever the reason, he missed the chance to call out Stewart on his sick "bromance" (see, I'm hip too).


 

Sovereignty watch


While we're on the subject of "respecting the territorial integrity of sovereign nations," I should make brief note of other recent news:
Iraq's foreign minister insisted Sunday that any security deal with the United States must contain a "very clear timeline" for the departure of U.S. troops.

President Bush has steadfastly refused to accept any timetable for bringing U.S. troops home.
If Iraq were actually a sovereign nation (which it was before the U.S. invasion; whether it is now in fact, if not just in name, is questionable), surely there couldn't be any question of "negotiation" here, nor of "refusal" on the part of George Bush. If a sovereign nation doesn't want U.S. troops on its territory, then surely they should immediately withdraw.

You'd think.


 

Territorial integrity


"Georgia is a sovereign nation and its territorial integrity must be respected."

- George Bush, noted respecter of the territorial integrity of sovereign nations
I couldn't decide whether to put this post under the title "Political humor of the day." I probably would have if it were actually funny. "Hypocrisy of the day" was an alternative, but since the hypocrisy in question is pretty much continuous, and predates George Bush by a long way (e.g., the bombing of Yugoslavia under Clinton), the "of the day" part didn't really fit.

If you couldn't figure out which side you were on before, perhaps this will help clarify matters in your mind. When the fox starts talking about the need for others to respect the territorial integrity of the hen house, watch out!


 

The sustainable James Hunter


Last month I discovered a talented British singer named James Hunter. I linked to a YouTube video, which was fine music but rather a goofy video. Yesterday, Hunter appeared at the San Jose Jazz Festival, so I got to make my own video. Hunter, as you'll see from the beginning, is still a little bit of a goofball, but his music is absolutely solid. This is his rocking "Jacqueline."

Before we get to the music, though, a word about the "sustainable" in the title of this post, which forms the justification for this second post about an otherwise non-political subject. After paying the $10 entry fee for the Jazz Festival, I discovered that the best place to sit (totally uncrowded and not being blasted out with music that was too loud) was not in the festival area at all, but on a public sidewalk right on the side of the stage (the view you'll see from the video). And right there, actually what I sat and stood on during the concert, was something I had never seen before - a giant solar-powered system for the sound and stage lights (the latter not actually in use, this was during the day). Pictured above, it's a large A-frame trailer with three large solar panels on either side. From the company's website, I'm guessing this is the kind of thing you can only afford if you're running a giant festival, not a local antiwar protest, but I thought I'd pass on the information anyway. Who knows, maybe you're in charge of your local music festival! If so, check it out.

And now, on to the music [Note, by the way, the crappy quality of the video shown through YouTube (i.e., not because of the original), vs. the superior quality of the video in the post below this one that comes from Blip.tv. There are decent quality videos on YouTube; how to optimize my video so that it turns out decent on YouTube still baffles me, I'm afraid]


 

Free the Cuban Five!


Sept. 12, 2008 will mark the 10th anniversary of the unbelievably unjust imprisonment of the Cuban Five in U.S. prisons, imprisoned for having the temerity (and the bravery) to actually prevent acts of terrorism being committed against their country by right-wing, U.S.-government-backed gangs of terrorists based in the United States. Gangs who, by the way, have also killed people right here in the United States (with one of the rare such thugs actually convicted and jailed, Eduardo Arocena, now having a pardon request hand-carried to George Bush by none other than Joe Lieberman). Two of the Cuban Five have been deprived not only of their liberty, but also of even the sight of their wives for almost the full ten years, with the United States outrageously violating all norms of international law and common decency by refusing to grant visas to their wives. You can send an email protesting this injustice here.

Last Thursday, activists in the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, including myself, unveiled a huge (35'x75') billboard in downtown San Francisco, where it will be up for a month educating people about the case. Speakers at the unveiling included antiwar activist and now Congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan and Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five and also a candidate for President (yes, of the United States).

Here's the video I put together. Contributions to help pay for the billboard (and other such actions in the future) are gratefully accepted here.


Saturday, August 09, 2008


 

Outer space Quote of the Day


"Meeting with President Bush was awesome. He did such great service for our country."

- Sister from another planet Softball "ace" Monica Abbott of Salinas [Quoted in the San Jose Mercury News, not online]
Bush did do a great service for the people of the world, helping to show them a little more clearly the true face of American imperialism. As for the "great service" he did for "our country," I'm afraid the evidence is about as thin as the air on Mount Everest.


Friday, August 08, 2008


 

Whatever happened to the Four Freedoms?


Ever since President Franklin Roosevelt's State of the Union address, Americans have talked about the "Four Freedoms" - freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. In recent days (and probably for much longer, but it seems to have been really noticeable in recent days), George Bush has repeatedly talked about only two freedoms, as he did today in China:
"We must...continue to be candid about our belief that all people should have the freedom to say what they think and worship as they choose."
So, George, what ever happened to that "freedom from want" and "freedom from fear" (which, by the way, includes the fear of being homeless, hungry, and/or hopeless)? As the leader of a country with more and more people losing those freedoms (and having their "freedom to say what they think" frequently restricted to "protest zones" where they can say whatever they want because no one will be able to hear them anyway, and even if they could, the corporate media wouldn't pay any attention), it seems there are some freedoms George would just as soon not discuss.


Thursday, August 07, 2008


 

Iran has oil, they don't need nuclear power


So goes one of the "arguments" as to why they're really "up to something" with their nuclear fuel enrichment. Then, one must ask, why are they the only producer of wind turbines in the Middle East?
Managing director of Iran's Renewable Energies Organization has said that Iran is the only producer of wind turbines in the Middle East.

Youssef Armodeli told IRIB that Iran's wind power plants in Manjil (in Gilan province) and Binaloud (in Khorasan Razavi province) produce 128 megawatts of electricity per year.

"Since the fossil energies are not renewable, the renewable energies are becoming more common day by day," Armodeli said.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008


 

Anthrax again


So the government released its evidence against Bruce Ivins today. If the evidence is what they say it is, it seems convincing that he is a conspirator in this crime. Whether he had any co-conspirators is less obvious, although as I (and mostly Glen Greenwald) wrote the other day, it seems certain that he had implicit post-facto co-conspirators, i.e, people who did their best to throw suspicion on Muslim terrorists in order to help whip up public sentiment for a war.

I'd just like to share a few random thoughts. During the press conference today, the FBI asserted that it had focused on the Fort Detrick lab in 2005, and on Ivins in 2007. Are you kidding me? Maybe they meant those dates to mean that's when they had conclusive proof that that was the source (they had to wait for new DNA tests to be perfected to firmly pin down the anthrax source), but on first principles, surely they should have known that Fort Detrick was a prime suspect from day one. There are only a handful of labs in the world which handle anthrax. And, since the letters were mailed from Princeton, N.J. it had to be highly probable that the source was within driving distance of Princeton. I mean, if you had some kind of, say, blackmail letter, you could mail it to a co-conspirator in Alaska and ask them to post it from there. But you could hardly do that with an anthrax-filled letter without risking the life of your co-conspirator and contaminating postal facilities from your own city all the way to Alaska.

Now the FBI asserts that Ivins was known to be "unstable," whatever that means. He was also one of the primary Anthrax researchers at Fort Detrick. Surely, if they're telling the truth about his instability, he would have been a prime suspect from day one (and of course one might wonder why an "unstable" person was allowed to work with deadly diseases in the first place). Then we have the question of his hours. The claim now is that the lab records show that he was uncharacteristically working late on the nights before the letters were mailed, and couldn't explain why. So, why are they just getting around to this in 2008? Were these lab records not available in October, 2001? Look, I know murder mysteries all can't be wrapped up in an hour like they are on TV, but seven years to come up with some basic evidence like that?

One strange piece of "evidence" was that Ivins was the lab expert on the lyophilizer, with the implication that only he could have used that item which was used to prepare the dried anthrax powder. "Lyophilizing" is just a fancy word for "freeze-drying", a technique involving vacuum-pumping on a frozen item to remove the water. I've used a lyophilizer, and believe me, you could learn how to use one in about two minutes. No doubt Fort Detrick had a fancy one, probably equipped to handle deadly materials, but honestly, it still couldn't be very complicated to use, and the fact that they had to dredge up such a flimsy piece of "evidence" does make me wonder.

The second very strange piece of "evidence" was one which they didn't elaborate on, and, from what I heard, none of the reporters thought to question. That is the claim that Ivins had a "habit" of mailing packages from distant mailboxes using pseudonyms. Whaaaaat? What were these packages, to whom were the mailed, and when did they learn about this "habit"?

It might sound like I'm skeptical. As I said, I'm actually not that skeptical about Ivins, because a U.S. government lab was always the most likely source, and a principle scientist in the field had to have been a prime suspect. A random person (e.g., a CIA agent), even a random scientist, doesn't just walk into the anthrax lab, even if they could sneak in in the dead of night, and start dealing with a deadly substance like anthrax. I'm far more skeptical of the FBI, both as to its competence, and to the pressure which may have kept them from solving the case quickly (for fear of making clear that Muslim terrorists had nothing whatsoever to do with it). And, who knows, one can even speculate that now they're being pressured to wrap the case up before a new Administration comes in and tries to expand the case to find out if Ivins in fact did not act alone.

FWIW.


 

Food-spitting Quote of the Day


Fortunately I didn't have a bite in my mouth when I heard Wolf Blitzer, interviewing some politician (it doesn't matter who, really It was Rudy Giuliani, I found the transcript) about today's news that Iraq may have an $80 billion surplus, ask:
"Should they [Iraq] start paying the United States back, the $700 billion the United States taxpayers have spent since the war started?"
That's right, Wolf, we [sic] destroyed their country, caused the deaths of a million people, injuries to untold more, caused two million Iraqis to have to flee their country and millions more to flee their homes, and now we should send them the bill for the bombs and the bullets! Hey I've got an idea. Let's all go out and buy some bricks and baseball bats, drive over to Wolf's house and destroy the place, and then send him the bill for the gas and the gear. After all, I hear he's got termites, or at least it's possible he might have termites, so we'll be doing him a favor.


Monday, August 04, 2008


 

A different kind of hybrid or flex-fuel


In the U.S., "hybrid" car is pretty much synonymous with the Toyota Prius and similar cars which can run on electricity or gasoline; "flex-fuel" is synonymous with cars that can run on either gasoline or what used to be called (I haven't seen the term in quite a while) "gasohol." But there's a different kind of hybrid car I'd never heard of, and one of the world leaders in its production is...Iran:
Iranian companies have increased production of dual-fuel vehicles as part of the general plan to manufacture less gasoline-powered cars.

“Iranian automakers have produced more than 120,000 vehicles that use natural gas and regular gasoline in the first quarter of the current (Iranian calendar) year (March 20-July 21),” Iranian Minister of Industries and Mines Ali-Akbar Mehrabian said on Sunday in Tehran.

“Hybrid car production rose to 429,000 last year from 20,000 two years ago,” Mehrabian said at Iran's first national conference on CNG, which was held in the capital from August 2 to 3.
For comparison, there are only 150,000 natural gas vehicles in the entire U.S., a country with more than four times the population of Iran.

Hopefully the Administration and corporate media won't learn about this; I'm sure they'll figure out the nefarious motive behind it and call for additional sanctions.

Update: By the way, ever the stickler for the precise use of language, I note that the first sentence in the quoted article should read "fewer gasoline-powered cars," not "less."


Sunday, August 03, 2008


 

Intel vs. AMD, an object lesson


Buried in more than 150 million pages of documents compiled in the legal dispute between Silicon Valley chip makers Advanced Micro Devices and Intel is a remarkable tale of alleged corporate nastiness that could keep the courts and regulatory bodies buzzing for years.

AMD accuses Intel of a broad array of abuses, including:

• Purposely designing Intel's compilers - programs it sells that translate software from independent vendors into a language machines can read - so that computers using AMD chips would suffer degraded performance "or simply crash."

• Offering a high-ranking Tech Data executive a $1 million bribe to stop doing business with AMD. When the executive turned the money down, AMD claims, an Intel representative responded, "How much would it take?"

• Pressuring Hewlett-Packard "to consider firing" an HP executive involved in a proposed deal in which AMD promised HP 1 million free chips to gain access to its business computers in 2002. Consequently, HP took only 160,000 of AMD's free chips.

• Withholding delivery of server chips that Compaq "desperately needed" in 2000 after Compaq did business with AMD, prompting Compaq Chief Executive Michael Capellas to stop buying AMD chips, saying he "had a gun to his head."

• Threatening Acer with "severe consequences" if it went ahead with its plan to promote AMD's new Athlon64 chip in 2003 while delaying payment of at least $15 million it owed Acer. As a result, Acer withdrew its promotions for the AMD chip. (Source)
And why am I telling you about this? Because it makes all the more real something I wrote four years ago, about the very real economic war waged by the U.S. against Cuba, two "rivals" whose relative economic might is orders of magnitude more different than the relative economic strength of Intel and AMD. And because it's important to understand that the U.S. economic war against Cuba goes way beyond the blockade, which the U.S. calls an "embargo," and without question encompasses a range of dirty tricks which put these by Intel to shame.

Here's what I wrote:

Imagine if Microsoft set out to crush a smaller rival, a much smaller rival, one so small you've probably never heard of them, let's call them CubaSoft. Now imagine they're doing so in the absence of any law which will restrain their behavior. Imagine if they went to their customers and said, if you buy any software from CubaSoft, we won't let you buy any of our software. Imagine if they went to software stores (back in the day when software was actually sold in stores) and said, if you sell CubaSoft software, you can't sell our software. Imagine if they prevented MSN subscribers from visiting the CubaSoft website, and prevented Hotmail users from sending email to CubaSoft. Imagine if they threatened to pull their sponsorship from a software developer's conference if they allowed anyone from CubaSoft to register. None of these analogies is exxagerated in the slightest compared to what the U.S. is doing to Cuba. Now think about how incredible it is that Cuba has managed to stand up to this constant pressure, the price they are paying for doing so, and the absolutely despicable nature of the people who maintain this policy, claiming that they are doing the Cuban people a favor by making them suffer.


Saturday, August 02, 2008


 

Non-reassuring Quote of the Day


"Opening up a third front right now would be extremely stressful on us."

- Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referring to an attack on Iran
And this is the guy who some think is preventing an attack on Iran. As the saying goes, with friends like that, Iran doesn't need enemies.

Runner-up in the "non-reassuring" statements on the same subject? Barack Obama's official position on Iran:

But Obama believes that we have not exhausted our non-military options in confronting this threat [sic]; in many ways, we have yet to try them.
How utterly reassuring. He'll wait until we have "exhausted our non-military options" before attacking.


 

Biocide


Back in April, Jean Ziegler, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, had this to say:
"Hunger has not been down to fate for a long time -- just as (Karl) Marx thought. It is rather that a murder is behind every victim. This is silent mass murder."
And what else happened in April that we're just now learning about? The World Bank completed a report on the effect of biofuel production on world hunger, but kept it secret, some say out of fear of embarrassing George Bush and the U.S. The Guardian has recently revealed the key conclusion: Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% (the Bush Administration has placed the figure at 3%!). Some of the statistics behind the conclusion:
It argues that production of biofuels has distorted food markets in three main ways. First, it has diverted grain away from food for fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of biodiesel. Second, farmers have been encouraged to set land aside for biofuel production. Third, it has sparked financial speculation in grains, driving prices up higher.
A full year earlier, as I often remind people, Fidel Castro became the first world leader to speak out forcefully on what he perceived very early as a very serious problem. In that same article, Fidel talked about a factor which isn't even in that World Bank report - water (and thirst). The production of biofuels also sucks up water, which is increasingly in short supply, and is needed with a much higher priority for people to drink, rather than (indirectly) to power their cars.

"Biocide," the title of this post, is really a word meaning things which kill the environment. Here I'm using it in almost the opposite sense - the use of the environment (in this case, naturally growing crops) to kill people. If anyone has a better word, let us know in the comments.


 

Five years before the mast(head)


Today is the fifth anniversary of Left I on the News!!! Can you believe it? 5,691 posts during that time, for an average of 3.1 posts/day. I don't even want to think about how many words that is.

Have I had an effect? Well, as typical for those of us on the left, results are hard to measure. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the oppression of the Palestinian people is as fierce as ever, U.S. opposition to Cuba as implacable as ever, the list goes on and on. Iran hasn't been attacked yet, but I'm afraid I can't take much credit for that.

But I'll press on, undaunted. Thanks for coming along for the ride. And, without trying to exaggerate my meager efforts in the least, I present for your listening pleasure David Rovics' "Strike a Blow Against the Empire."


 

Anthrax and sheep


So the scientist at (surprise!) the U.S. Army's largest bioweapons lab (billed, in the usual Orwellian way, as a "defense against bioweapons" lab) suspected of killing five people with anthrax attacks has killed himself. A very important article from Glenn Greenwald today reminds us that the anthrax attacks, long since almost totally forgotten by the government and media, were no minor issue, but instrumental in panicking the country into accepting an attack on Iraq in response to 9/11. The letters themselves included language like "Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great." intended to point the finger directly at Arab terrorists (which, to the perverse amongst us including myself, said loud and clear that was not the source).

What Greenwald tells us, though, is that there was no, repeat no, evidence whatsoever to back up the claims that the attacks were connected to Iraq. The claim, broadcast by ABC News, was that multiple government sources had "confirmed" the presence of bentonite which was alleged (again without proof) to be "a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program." Greenwald's primary target seems to be ABC News, who not only broadcast the false information, but even now is refusing to disclose their sources, even though those sources were clearly involved in the deadly game of ginning up a war which has killed more than a million people. I don't disagree about pointing a finger at the media (the "sheep" in the title of this post, along with the consumers of their pablum), but surely the bigger finger has to be pointed at the unknown people who were responsible for these false claims in the first place.

The importance of the Greenwald article becomes even more significant when read together with another major article out today in the Los Angeles Times which alleges that the now-deceased scientist had a profit motive for the attacks, because of patents he held in anthrax vaccines. That story, of course, takes us back to the "lone nut" theory, driven by his own motives, in this case simple greed. But what Greenwald's article shows quite clearly is, whether that is true or not as far as the original attacks, the story is much, much bigger than that, because after the attacks happened, the circle of people deliberately exploiting them for other purposes (which, some might say involved greed too, I suppose) was much, much wider than just one man.

Incidentally, I don't want this to come off as anti-Semitic, and I don't know if the scientist in question was Jewish, but his local paper published a series of his letters to the editor, and one of them contains this: "By blood and faith, Jews are God's chosen, and have no need for "dialogue" with any gentile." This certainly suggests that he was Jewish (a non-Jew would likely have said "Jews claim to be God's chosen," and would be unlikely to use the word "gentile"), and that a desire to help provoke a wider war against Arabs, the supposed enemy of the Jews, by the U.S. could very well have been his prime motive.

As to the question of whether this scientist (or whoever else did it, if he didn't) acted alone in the first place, we have this rather interesting comment from columnist Richard Cohen, written a few months ago:

The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I had been told soon after Sept. 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people had ever heard of it.
Does that mean there was a secret high-level plot, driven by the likes of Dick Cheney, to create an anthrax attack and cause panic? Maybe, but not necessarily. It could just mean that the likes of Cheney were indeed spreading rumors of possible anthrax attacks in order to build up the pressure for an attack on Iraq, and that a lone scientist at Fort Detrick decided on his own to make those predictions come true, without being part of a larger conspiracy. But again, whatever the genesis of the attacks themselves, the followup to those attacks described by Greenwald is far more telling. Or would be, if someone were telling. Or even asking.


Friday, August 01, 2008


 

The cost of war


The latest development - a special court just for veterans:
After counting 300 veterans in the local courts last year, the judge tailor-made the treatment court to address not only vets' crimes but their unique mental health issues.
...
Russell believes the need for courts like his will only grow, pointing to the 1.6 million troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been highly praised by the VA and other veterans organizations.

"What I appreciate about this is this isn't letting people off for what they do, it's just getting them the care that they need," said Patrick Campbell, legislative director for Iraq Veterans of America.

"A lot of veterans, when they come home, find the transition difficult and we all turn to different things to get through those times," said Campbell, who served in Iraq in 2004-05. "If we're not lucky enough to have a strong family social network to hold us together in those difficult times, people turn to drugs, turn to alcohol.

"All of a sudden they find themselves in a position where, instead of being the outstanding patriot who's always been the person everyone looks to, they find themselves on the other end of the law," Campbell said. "This is going to get service members back to serving their country again."
People like Lou Dobbs, the Minutemen, and others are constantly ranting about illegal immigrants and crime, even though there's no evidence whatsoever that illegal immigrants contribute to crime in the U.S. in disproportionate numbers. There is evidence that veterans do so, including, as we have discussed on previous occasions, spousal murder. How come we never hear Lou Dobbs ranting about that crime wave?

Incidentally, I'm not opposed to having treatment available for veterans, obviously. I am opposed to the wars which make them veterans in the first place, and teach them antisocial attitudes up to and very much including killing other human beings. And by the way, the notion expressed in the article above that every soldier is an "outstanding patriot" is just so much hooey.


Why stop here? There's more...

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