Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Stop bombing Gaza!

My video from last night's demonstration in San Francisco, probably the most spirited demonstration I have been to in a long time (and one of the largest). The action started with a picket at the Israeli Consulate, which stopped being a picket per se when the crowd got so thick it was impossible to move and the protest spilled onto all four street corners, confusing some activists and reporters who mistakenly thought the "other" side of the street was all supporters of Israel, as it has been in the past, but in this case actually 90% of the people there were pro-Palestinian; there were actually only a handful of Israel supporters.

After the action at the Consulate, Gloria La Riva from the main organizing group, the ANSWER Coalition, announced to the crowd and to the police that we were going to march (without a permit) because there were far too many of us for a sidewalk action, and down came the barricades and off we went on a spirited, long (several miles) march through the main streets of downtown San Francisco - Montgomery, Market, Van Ness, and others. While the march was happening, ANSWER managed to get a sound system set up in UN Plaza (again sans permit) and the march ended up there after several hours for an impromptu rally. The young, multiethnic crowd with a large Palestinian contingent, would have gone on all night, no doubt, but by 9:00 things wrapped up (having started at 4!).

Will the world hear us? The Israeli consul did, as you'll see in the second video below showing some of the TV coverage. So did Bush and Obama and Olmert and Livni, without any question. But we'll need to keep doing more until world opinion is literally deafening, and cannot be ignored.

ANSWER's coverage of demonstrations from around the country here.

Anyway, here's the video (click here and then on "Watch in high quality" for better quality video which can't be embedded):

The TV coverage (high-quality version here:

Stop bombing Gaza! End U.S. aid to Israel! Free Palestine!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Say "No!" to Israel's massacre of Palestinians

An extensive list of dozens of demonstrations worldwide against Israel's ongoing massacre of the people of Gaza can be found here. Many are scheduled for today. Be there.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Israeli Navy Attacking Civilian Mercy Ship

The Free Gaza movement reports:
The Dignity, a Free Gaza boat on a mission of mercy to besieged Gaza, is being attacked by the Israeli Navy in international waters. The Dignity has been surrounded by at least half-a-dozen Israeli warships. They are firing live ammunition around the Dignity, and one of the warships has rammed the civilian craft causing an unknown amount of damage. Contrary to international maritime law, the Israelis are actively preventing the Dignity from approaching Gaza or finding safe haven in either Egypt or Lebanon. Instead, the Israeli navy is demanding that the Dignity return to Cyprus - despite the fact that the ship does not carry enough fuel to do so. Fortunately, no one aboard the ship has yet been seriously injured.

There are 15 civilian passengers representing 11 different countries [Ed. note: including Cynthia McKinney from the U.S.]. At approximately 5am (UST), well out in international waters, Israeli warships began surrounding the Dignity, threatening the ship. At 6:45am (UST) we were able to establish brief contact with the crew and were told that the ship had been rammed by the Israeli Navy in international waters, and that the Israelis were preventing the ship from finding safe harbor. We heard heavy gunfire in the background before all contact was lost with the Dignity.
Suggested actions here.


The "civilized world"

CNN is currently showing a spirited demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in London. CNN analyst Octavia Nasr just referred to this demonstration, as opposed to others happening elsewhere, as taking place in the "civilized world." Unbelievable! (And I'm not even going to invoke Gandhi on "civilization")


Who is deliberately targeting what?

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asserts:
"Hamas is targeting deliberately kindergartens and schools and citizens and civilians because this is according to their values. Our values are completely different. We are trying to target Hamas, which hides among civilians."
Of course it's widely acknowledged that Hamas' rockets aren't sophisticated enough to "deliberately target" anything. Israel, on the other hand, is using sophisticated "smart" bombs (see post below this one) capable of going (in general) exactly where they want. And where is that? From the same article:
One strike destroyed a five-story building in the women's wing at Islamic University...Late Sunday, Israeli aircraft attacked a building in the Jebaliya refugee camp next to Gaza City, killing five children and teenagers under age 17 from the same family.
Tell us again about your "completely different values," Tzipi.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Gaza: the smoking American gun

Jerusalem Post reports:
The Israel Air Force used a new bunker-buster missile that it received recently from the United States in strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

The missile, called GBU-39, was developed in recent years by the US as a small-diameter bomb for low-cost, high-precision and low collateral damage strikes.

Israel received approval from Congress to purchase 1,000 units in September and defense officials said on Sunday that the first shipment had arrived earlier this month.


The "Hamas" who have died

Courageous Israeli reporter Amira Hass documents some of the "Hamas" who died yesterday and today. The largest single group killed were 70 people killed at a police graduation ceremony. One was a clerk at the local university who played in the police band for fun. Others weren't members of Hamas at all, and even those who supported Hamas were just young men looking for a job.


The economic crisis hits socialist Cuba

Here's how they cope:
[Cuban President Raul Castro] said that in order to progressively deal with distortions prevailing in the salary system, it is necessary to eliminate some inappropriately free-of-charge opportunities and excessive subsidies. Free opportunities must be limited to guaranteeing all citizens equal access to education, health care, social security and assistance, culture and sports.
Don't you wish we in the U.S. were cutting back to only free education, health care, social security and assistance, culture, and sports?


Direct action to aid Gaza

The Free Gaza movement springs into action:
The Free Gaza movement...is sending in the DIGNITY on an emergency mission of mercy to Gaza loaded with three to four tons of urgently needed medical supplies.

On board are four physicians, including Dr. Elena Theoharous, a surgeon and Member of Parliament in Cyprus. Also going are The Hon. Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, and Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera reporter and former detainee at Guantanamo.

Dr Khaled from the Shifa hospital ICU in Gaza City told us on Saturday that the majority of cases are critical shrapnel wounds from Israeli gunboats and helicopters, with an approximate 80% who will not survive.

The medical supply list includes bandages, splints and rubber gloves, items that any medical community should have access to, but, because of Israel's policies of collective punishment, these supplies are not available.

Eliza Ernshire, one of the Free Gaza organizers says, "We have calls for surgeons willing to go into Gaza and work there throughout this crisis. The doctors inside are exhausted and unable to cope with the number of wounded. We will do our best to send in the DIGNITY as often as we can over the next few weeks, bringing in physicians and medical supplies.
Funds are urgently needed to support this valiant effort.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Vulture capitalism

Capitalism exists for one reason - to maximize profit. Not to provide goods or services. To maximize profit. Just as Republicans and Democrats agree on the goal of overthrowing socialism in Cuba, or seizing control of Iraqi oil, but disagree on details of the strategy and tactics for doing so, so too capitalists have different strategies for maximizing profit. Some are capable of thinking long-term, others have more short-term vision. Others are real vultures, feasting on carrion, and when there is no dead meat (or companies) available, doing their best to create some.

Such is the story laid out today by Cookie Jill over at Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. I'll let her tell the full story, but in a nutshell, it's the story of how a group of "private equity investors" bought Mervyn's from Target, saddling Mervyn's with $800 million worth of debt as such leveraged buyouts often do, then paid themselves $400 million of that in the form of dividends, stripped out Mervyn's valuable real estate, sold premium parcels and leased its own buildings back to the store at exorbitant rates, and guaranteed a big profit for itself and bankruptcy for Mervyn's (which has now come to pass).

And, we're told, the same crowd is in the process of pulling the same operation at Chrysler.

TINA - "There is no alternative"...to socialism (with insincere apologies to Margaret Thatcher).


Death in Gaza: Silence is complicity

As I write this, the latest figures say 195 Palestinians lie dead in Gaza, victims of an Israeli terrorist attack. The Western press is quick to note that the majority of the dead were "Hamas", and that just "some" civilians were among the dead; indeed, one of the main attacks was a police graduation ceremony. But not, mind you, people who were in the process of, had in the past, or were even suspected of involvement in the rocket attacks which Israel claims as the reason for the attacks. "Hamas" policemen are civilians, just as much as the "real" civilians who Israel has also callously murdered.

It goes without saying that Israel had at least implicit, and almost certainly explicit, approval from the United States to proceed with this attack. But really, the complicity extends far beyond whatever has passed between the U.S. government and Israel in recent days and weeks. Because Israel has been starving the people of Gaza, and launching attacks on them and killing them, for months. And the world, including Western governments and the corporate media, has been as silent about this silent (and not-so-silent) terrorism as it can possibly be. Just as an example, I've been watching CNN for a half-hour now. The Israeli attack on Gaza which has killed 195 people (proportionately, more than on 9/11)? When I turned on the TV (having seen the news on my computer), I was expected wall-to-wall coverage. Instead, what have I seen? The largest single-day Palestinian death toll since 1967 has received exactly one sentence of coverage, less than 30 seconds [Note: hours later, the coverage has expanded, but still isn't remotely commensurate with the significance of the event]. Not one of the corporate media reports (AP, New York Times) even includes a pro-forma "call for restraint" from the U.S. government [Note: much later, it comes], nor even bothers to note that the U.S. government (nor the U.N. Secretary-General, etc.) has not issued any statement on the matter. Which is a continuation of the situation that has persisted for months. Israeli terrorism, world silence.

It is those months (years, really) of silence (or relative silence) from the entire world which precipitated this attack, every bit as much as any implicit or explicit approval of the actual attack by the U.S. government.

Update: World reaction via Ha'aretz.

Important update: The ANSWER Coalition, Muslim American Society Freedom, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab Americans, and Al-Awda, International Palestine Right to Return Coalition are calling for Tuesday, December 30 to be a National Day of Action to show solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and to demand an immediate end to the murderous attacks carried out by the Israeli military against the people of Gaza. Actions are scheduled for Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, CA (Orange County), New York City (also Sunday), Fort Lauderdale, FL, Chicago, Boston, Seattle (Sat.), Toronto (Sunday). Details here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


The audacity of "change we can believe in"

Why are U.S. forces in Iraq? I'm sure we all have our own opinion, here's Barack Obama's, in case you missed it (emphasis added):
As we celebrate this joyous time of year, our thoughts turn to the brave men and women who serve our country far from home. Their extraordinary and selfless sacrifice is an inspiration to us all, and part of the unbroken line of heroism that has made our freedom and prosperity possible for over two centuries.
So there you have it. Obama laying out quite clearly his view that the invasion of Iraq was part of ensuring the "freedom and prosperity" of the United States. Prosperity for Halliburton and Blackwater and the weapons manufacturers and (they had hoped) the oil companies - definitely. Prosperity for the rest of us? How about the opposite? "Freedom" for anyone? How about the loss of freedom for everyone except the President, Vice-President, and their designated torturers?

The audacity of "change we can believe in."


"Trainers" in Iraq

One of the guises under which U.S. troops will remain in Iraq despite the terms of the recently-signed SOFA is as "trainers." Local ABC News tonight included a segment on one of those people, someone who had just returned from Iraq where his unit had been "training Iraqi police." His unit also sustained 19 casualties. Just in case you thought "training" was something you did in classrooms or on parade grounds.

It seems highly unlikely a unit of "trainers" would sustain 19 casualties if it were not "taking the fight to the 'enemy'"; in other words, doing pretty much the same thing any other soldier is doing. Unfortunately, that change in terminology will be enough to placate a certain percentage of the American public. Most certainly including the corporate media and the "antiwar" Democrats in Congress.


Dept. of "now they tell us"

In the latest "confession" from someone who knew something but didn't bother to speak out at a time when it mattered, this from former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix:
Hans Blix, in a Sunday interview with Al Jazeera television said he and the Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed El Baradei, were subjected to implicit threats from US Vice President Dick Cheney in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The former top UN inspector said Cheney had also threatened to defame ElBaradei and him if they refused to provide the "required" information on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Would it have made a difference if Blix and El Baradei made Cheney's threats public at the time? Probably not, but we'll never know. Does it make a difference now? Not to one million dead Iraqis and 4500+ U.S. and allied troops, that's for sure.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Christmas Quote of the Day

"If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over."

- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, delivering the "alternative" (to Queen Elizabeth II) Christmas message on Britain's Channel 4

Monday, December 22, 2008


Pope replaces Rick Warren as villian du jour

Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. (Source)
Jesus, what an a-hole. No, not Jesus. He might have been gay for all I know - he spent an awful lot of time in the company of other men. No, Pope Benny.

As I've said before, God save us from religious nutjobs. Starting with the Pope.


Lies leading to war didn't start under Bush

They've been going on for years:
Her sinking with the loss of almost 1,200 lives caused such outrage that it propelled the U.S. into the First World War.

But now divers have revealed a dark secret about the cargo carried by the Lusitania on its final journey in May 1915.

Munitions they found in the hold suggest that the Germans had been right all along in claiming the ship was carrying war materials and was a legitimate military target.
And the idea of welcoming disaster, because it might persuade the public to endorse wars they might otherwise oppose? That hardly started with 9/11:
Winston Churchill, who was first Lord of the Admiralty and has long been suspected of knowing more about the circumstances of the attack than he let on in public, wrote in a confidential letter shortly before the sinking that some German submarine attacks were to be welcomed.

He said: 'It is most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hope especially of embroiling the U.S. with Germany.

'For our part we want the traffic - the more the better and if some of it gets into trouble, better still.'
Imperialism - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


Ominous portent of the day

An article on the basketball prowess of Barack Obama and his Cabinet reveals (to me, anyway) Obama's high school nickname: Barry O'Bomber.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Freudian slip of the day

Ethiopia, which has been protecting the ineffectual and fractured Somali government, recently announced it would withdraw its troops by the end of this month. That will leave the Western-baked government vulnerable to Islamic insurgents and further chaos.
Yes, that was "baked" and not "backed," and quite appropriate too, since the Ethiopian invasion which installed the current Somali "government" (an inconvenient fact conveniently omitted from the article) was almost certainly an action "baked" in Washington. Or at least, half-baked.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Will Rick Warren wake up the liberals?

With every appointment of a war-loving Hillary Clinton/Robert Gates/James Jones or a nuclear power-loving Steven Chu or a Monsanto-loving Tom Vilsack and on and on, liberals keep telling themselves that it's ok, it's just that old "Team of Rivals" thing, and that Barack Obama the supposed antiwar liberal is really the one calling the shots and the others will just be implementing his vision.

And what will they say to the announcement that anti-abortion homophobe Rick Warren will be delivering the invocation at Obama's inauguration? True, it is just "symbolism." One large symbolic slap in the face of every supporter of women's rights and LGBT rights who supported Obama in this election.


War and peace

I'll try to keep this shorter than 1424 pages. ;-)

U.S. foreign policy is described in terms of "defense" (as in the misnamed Department of), "national security," or, when it's convenient, more "noble" goals like "promoting democracy" or "preventing genocide." But behind it all lies the real driving force, which is 100% economic. Over lunch, watching a forum on Iraqi Reconstruction on C-SPAN, I saw a nicely encapsulated confirmation of this - a speaker whose title was "Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Business Transformation." "Business Transformation," eh? Gosh, I wonder what that could be?

I'll bet you didn't think that "business transformation" had anything to do with "defense," did you? It doesn't.

The forum was being held by the United States Institute of Peace. I can't say as I had heard of that outfit, but checking out their website reinforces my previously-stated aversion to the espousal of "peace" (as opposed to the opposition to war and imperialism). The Institute describes itself as "an independent, nonpartisan institution" but then immediately contradicts that claim by noting that it was "established and funded by Congress." So I'm not sure who it is "independent" of; certainly not the ruling class (I am actually impressed that they describe themselves as "nonpartisan" rather than "bipartisan" - that in itself is a bit of a rarity).

But looking further reveals even bigger cracks in the "peace" facade. Their report on "Preventing Genocide" (written by warmongers Madeleine Albright and William Cohen) talks openly about "greater preparedness to employ military options." Institute of "Peace"? I think not.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Inane quote of the day

"The guy wanted to get on TV and he did. I don't know what his beef is, but whatever it is, I'm sure someone will hear it."

George Bush, referring to shoe-thrower and hero Muntadar al-Zeidi
Yeah, who knows what the "beef" is of someone yelling "This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."? It's a mystery.

Update: Online petition demanding al-Zeidi's freedom.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Christmas Bird Count Pictures of the Day

Click to enlarge:

Top to bottom: Northern Harrier, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Merlin

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Misprint of the Day

From Press TV, with emphasis added:
The Pakistani government is considering a request by the NWFP authorities to dispatch more troops to secure routs used by NATO convoys.
"Routs" indeed!


The destruction of the Iraqi water system

An article in the New York Times details the utter waste of $100 billion in "reconstruction money" for Iraq, and the paltry results that have been achieved. Among them: "access to potable water had increased by about 30 percent, although with Iraq’s ruined piping system it was unclear how much reached people’s homes uncontaminated."

But the Times unsurprisingly fails to remind its readers just how Iraq's water system was destroyed in the first place. To remedy that omission, I'll repeat an important post of mine from August, 2003 in its entirety:

A big story in the last 24 hours is that it is going to cost us (and I do mean us - you and me, assuming you're a U.S. taxpayer) $16 billion to fix the problems with the Iraqi water system. Most news stories just leave it at that, but at least one TV report I heard added that this was the results of 13 years of neglect.

But what was it that happened 13 years ago, and what was it that was happening during the last 13 years? You won't find out listening to or reading the U.S. mainstream media, not a word. What happened 13 years ago, in fact, was that a major war crime was committed, on a scale of staggering proportions - the U.S. deliberately and systematically destroyed the Iraqi water system. Article 54 of the Geneva convention states:

"It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive."
And what was it that was happening during the last 13 years of "neglect" of the Iraqi water system? Of course, it was the UN sanctions, kept in place that entire time by the refusal of the US and UK to consider their repeal, and with the US and UK repeatedly vetoing attempts by Iraq to import "dual-use" chemicals which were needed to repair the water filtration system. And the consequences? An estimated half million Iraqi children died because of the lack of clean drinking water.

Was this an accident? A surprise to the U.S.? Any civilized person might like to think so, but, sadly, the answer is absolutely no. In 2000, Professor Thomas Nagy of George Washington University managed to obtain military documents written before the Gulf War. These documents make absolutely clear that the U.S. had studied in detail all aspects of Iraq's water system, had planned a strategy for preventing Iraq from reconstructing that system (via the sanctions), and knew in advance that "this could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics of disease."

What happened in Iraq during the Gulf War was a deliberate war crime, one of the greatest in history, without any question. A half million children died as a result of that war crime, and now the people of the U.S. will end up paying $16 billion to pay for that crime. The war criminals, meanwhile, continue to be "respected" citizens.


Ponzi schemes - illegal and legal

The news is that a prominent Wall Street trader, Bernard Madoff, has been indicted in connection with $50 billion (!) in losses from what is described as a "Ponzi scheme of epic proportions."

A Ponzi scheme involves paying off earlier investors with money received from later investors. Isn't that the entire basis of the stock market? When people "make money" on the market, they don't do so because they (or the companies they invested in) actually made anything. They do so because people who bought after they did are convinced to pay a higher price for the stock. And those people are just hoping that other people will in turn be convinced to pay a still higher price for the stock. Sure sounds like a Ponzi scheme to me. A Ponzi scheme of really "epic proportions."

Ponzi? No, Fonzie!


Ecuador defaults on foreign debt

Some Presidents actually do keep their campaign promises:
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said yesterday that his nation is defaulting on its foreign debt, fulfilling his longtime populist pledge to leave international creditors in the lurch.

"We are ready to accept the consequences," Correa said, according to a transcript of his comments. He described the debt as "immoral," saying the government would take its findings that past debt sales were tainted by graft and bribes to international courts.

It is exceedingly rare in global finance for a nation not to honor its debt because it doesn't want to, as opposed to not being able to make payments because of a financial crunch. Some analysts fear it may set a precedent, emboldening other leaders who share Correa's ideology -- such as Venezuela's Hugo Chávez -- to make similar pronouncements.

Friday, December 12, 2008


The Nation's delusions about Obama

The illusions (or delusions) about Obama and what he actually stands for persist. To this article in the latest issue of The Nation, I just sent off the following letter:
The Nation's assertion ["Ending the Mindset", 12/22/08] that "Neither [Obama] nor his advisers advocate the Bush doctrine of unilateral military action and preventive war" is utterly false. Gates, Clinton, and Jones all supported the unilateral, unprovoked invasion of Iraq, and while Obama himself did speak against it, he did so only on "practical" grounds, essentially that it was "the wrong war and the wrong time" and that the benefits didn't outweigh the costs. Not once before or after the invasion has he denounced the invasion on principle, calling it "illegal" or "immoral." Furthermore, Obama has repeatedly used the "all options are on the table" formulation with regard to Iran - not in regard to any actual attack by Iran on either the U.S. or Israel, but solely in regard to Iran's hypothetical development of nuclear weapons. Such an attack would certainly constitute "unilateral military action and preventive war" in contravention of international law.


Afghanistan: the truth, but not the whole truth

In 2001, a massacre was carried out in Afghanistan, in which militiamen loyal to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Afghan warlord and a key U.S. ally in ousting the Taliban regime, killed somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 Taliban (and alleged Taliban) prisoners. Today, McClatchy's Tom Lasseter breaks the important story that Dostum has recently returned with bulldozers and trucks to dig up the mass graves from that massacre, removing the bodies to hide the evidence (and presumably to make war crimes prosecutions more difficult), with the silence, if not the complicity, of NATO, the UN, and the United States.

Unfortunately, Lasseter's account completely omits the more important complicity - the complicity of the United States in the massacre itself (over and above its implicit complicity by having invaded Afghanistan and started the war in the first place, of course). As established by 2003 by Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran in his film "Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death," U.S. Special Forces helped direct the operation of the massacre, and stood by as the Afghan militiamen slaughtered the Taliban prisoners (you can watch the film here). Others higher up in the U.S. military and government have played their part since then, by covering up both the massacre itself and the U.S. involvement with it. The corporate media have played their part by refusing to broadcast or discuss Doran's film.

It's true that this complicity hasn't been established in a court of law. That's not accidental of course - one of the people researching the film was almost beaten to death when he tried to obtain video evidence of US Special Forces’ complicity. But nevertheless, the evidence is strong and public, and proper reporting of the whole truth would have noted the existence of "serious allegations" of U.S. complicity.

The truth is good, but the whole truth is always better.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Reducing "anti-Americanism" with "what-if" planning

Count on the American government to think that technology is the solution:
The State Department last year spent $357 million on diplomacy programs designed to create a positive image of the United States in other parts of the world. These include summer camp programs for kids in the Middle East, the American Corners information libraries at various U.S. embassies, and speaking engagements by American celebrities.

But in 2006, the OMB gave the State Department a poor rating on its ability to measure the effectiveness of those diplomacy programs.

The division's first step was to reduce its number of performance measures from an unmanageable 898 down to 15, and to develop six outcome measurements. One of those six is "Initiation of positive change to local communities"; another is "Reduced anti-Americanism."

So the division created a Public Diplomacy Impact dashboard accessible on the State Department's intranet, based on Business Objects Xcelsius data-visualization software. The dashboard provides State Department executives with budget details, plus how far it's come in achieving its six outcome measures based on survey data.

The results of that work will later appear under a tab on the Public Diplomacy Impact dashboard call What-If Analysis, or what the State Department could do if it received even more funding for diplomacy efforts.
Gee, "what-if" the United States would stop invading other countries and terrorizing the people of the world? And just think, instead of costing hundreds of millions of dollars, that form of "diplomacy" would actually save money. Not hundreds of millions. Not billions. Trillions of it.


Did the workers win or lose?

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors have "won" a major victory thanks to their militant six-day sit-down strike occupying the plant - full back pay and severance pay, etc. But their plant is still shutting down, and the owner is moving his operations to a non-union plant under a new name in Iowa. In the end, what the workers "won" was preventing the company from breaking the law. A victory to be sure, but a qualified one.

The House (not yet the Senate) has just voted for an auto industry bailout which we're told will "save" the jobs of millions of people. If it goes through, no doubt a victory. But what's the very first "condition" in the bailout?

The measure would create a government "car czar," to be named by Bush to issue the loans, empowered with the ability to yank back the loans and force the carmakers into bankruptcy next spring if they fail to cut quick deals with labor unions, creditors and others to restructure their businesses and become viable.
As often the case, Republicans hide their contempt for workers less well than Democrats:
"What I want to do is make sure we have jobs for these workers and we have first-class American automobile companies -- and we're not going to do it with the barnacles of unionism wrapped around their necks."

- Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Make no mistake about it, though; Democrats like Nancy "The Barber" Pelosi are just as eager to blame workers and their "outrageous salaries" as Republicans.

The workers at Republic Windows and Doors have shown the way, but the results of their struggle, and the fight of the autoworkers, shows that much more militant, and unified, action on the part of workers will be required to achieve unqualified victories in the ongoing class war.

Update: When I discussed Pelosi's "haircut for the workers" below, I'm afraid I missed the obvious symbol (mainly because I've avoided seeing the play or movie), but, just for completeness:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Support the Republic Windows & Doors workers!

Video of tonight's San Francisco action, where dozens of people picketed outside the Bank of America in support of the sit-down strike of the workers at Republic Windows and Doors and in protest against the role of the Bank of America in denying them their rights. Four people were arrested for occupying the bank and refusing to leave:

Click here to watch in high quality.


Delightful quote of the day

"I'm just another slug on the planet."

- Anti-Cuban terrorist supporter Congressperson Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, explaining why she hung up on Barack Obama because she thought she was being punked
Needless to say, the slugs would be offended if they could speak (or hear or think).

On a serious note, once again Obama demonstrates how his ability to "reach out" extends only to the right. Open supporters of terrorism like Ros-Lehtinen should be shunned and denounced, not chatted up. In case readers have forgotten, this is a woman who openly called for the assassination of Fidel Castro, and then denied it until the video proof surfaced.

[Incidentally, this quote comes from a video clip from last night's Colbert Report; I can't find it in print anywhere, hence the lack of a link.]

Update: Here's a bit more relevant history:

In February 1988, Orlando Bosch had been arrested in Miami and implicated in the 1976 Cubana plot, a terrorist act which had resulted in the downing of flight 455 killing 73 passengers. Joe D. Whitley, associate United States Attorney General at the time, called Bosch "a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims". Bosch had the distinct advantage of having Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) make Bosch’s release as one of the cornerstones of her 1989 congressional campaign. This murderer of 73 innocent lives had even more good luck. Ros-Lehtinen’s campaign manager was Jeb Bush, the President’s son. In July 1989, a month after meeting his son Jeb and Ros-Lehtinen to discuss the Bosch case, President Bush rejected his Justice Department’s recommendation and authorized Bosch’s release.


Offensive quote of the day

"Everyone is going to get a haircut—management, bond holders, labor, dealers."

- Nancy Pelosi
Straight out of the "law, in its majesty, forbids rich and poor equally from sleeping under bridges" school of "fairness." Yes, workers and management should each get a 20% pay cut. Workers salaries will go from $40,000 to $32,000, and management salaries will go from $1,000,000 to $800,000. The latter will really have to suck it up. Why, they'll have to drop down to premium brands from ultra-premium brands. Maybe stay at a four-star hotel once instead of only five-stars.

The workers in the auto industry who Pelosi was referring to here have already conceded giveback after giveback. One more "haircut" and they'll be completely bald.


Quote of the Day

"I'm just a simple president."

- George W. Bush


Protest today: Support the Republic Windows and Doors workers!

Click to download the flyer. This protest is in San Francisco at 5 p.m. today and was initiated by A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and is co-sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement - SF. No doubt others are taking place around the country (and of course in Chicago).

Capitalism is sinking, and dragging us all down with it. If you don't stand up and fight back now, when will you?

Monday, December 08, 2008


NATO trucks destroyed in Pakistan

You're thinking I'm referring to yesterday's attack which destroyed 160 Humvees and such headed for Afghanistan. Nope. There was a second attack today, which destroyed another 100 NATO trucks. Even though I know my own tax money will end up replacing the destroyed materiel, I'm more than happy to see it destroyed before it gets a chance to facilitate the killing of still more Afghans. After all, if they could keep doing this, they could literally bring the war to an end. And that's definitely a goal I share.


American "justice"

In Iraq:
On a scorching morning earlier this year, Talib Mohammed Farkhan, who had been imprisoned for 15 months, shuffled into Hearing Room 3 to hear his U.S. captors explain the allegations against him for the first time.

Farkhan, a Shiite Muslim, appeared to follow along as the American officers said he had been detained for membership in the Mahdi Army, the anti-American Shiite militia. But he looked totally baffled when they also accused him of working with al-Qaeda in Iraq, the extremist Sunni Muslim group that kills Americans and Shiites.

"I don't understand how that could be possible," said a visibly flustered Farkhan, a welder from the southern city of Iskandariyah, who denied all the accusations. "They are Sunni. I am Shia."

Yet the three U.S. servicemen before him, a panel of non-lawyers convened as part of a new quasi-judicial process to review each detainee's case every six months, did not need to decide whether Farkhan had violated the law. Their task was to decide whether he posed an "imperative security threat" to the U.S.-led coalition or the Iraqi people. And they concluded that credible evidence, which they would not describe to Farkhan or a Washington Post correspondent allowed to view the 19-minute hearing, suggested that he probably did.

"I'm not looking at whether they are guilty or innocent," said Air Force Maj. Jeff Ghiglieri, the president of the review board that convened in May. "We're trying to determine as best we can whether they will do bad things if we release them." Minutes later, the panel unanimously voted to detain Farkhan for another six months.

This proceeding is what has amounted to due process for many of the 100,000 prisoners who have passed through the American-run detention system in Iraq [16,000 still there]. Although the legal controversy over detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has attracted far more attention, 100 times as many prisoners have been held at Camp Bucca and other Iraqi sites with far fewer legal rights and no oversight by the American court system. The Iraqis are not charged with crimes, permitted to see the evidence against them or provided lawyers.
And right here in the U.S. of A.:
Santa Clara County prosecutors have learned of the existence of an estimated 3,000 videotapes of medical examinations in child sex-abuse cases dating to 1991 that never were provided to defense attorneys — evidence that in many of the cases could provide a basis to challenge convictions.


"Without justification or provocation"

"At least 34 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, were killed or injured without justification or provocation by these Blackwater security guards"

- National security prosecutor, Pat Rowan, referring to the five Blackwater mercenaries indicted for last year's massacre in Baghdad's Nisoor Square
Imagine that. Iraqis killed "without justification or provocation." When do you suppose the Justice Department will be indicting George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and the rest of that criminal band for the murder of not 34, but more than one million Iraqis, all "without justification or provocation"?

And, as if to add insult to injury, George Bush chimed in today with his "observations" on the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process":

"I share the vision that the only way there's going to be peace is where those who assume that violence is necessary to achieve peace cannot be a part of the process. In other words, people have to renounce violence in order to have peace. It's contradictory to say, I am going to use violence to achieve my objectives, and oh, by the way, I'm for peace."
Remarkably enough, the transcript does not show howls of laughter from the reporter following this assertion.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Bird of the Day

Long-billed Curlew, Moss Landing State Beach, CA

Click to enlarge.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Real frugality

...is appreciating things that are all around us, and cost nothing, like this view of a fence and its shadow in Alum Rock Park, San Jose, CA (click to enlarge):


The rich are different etc..

The White House is being "frugal" this year, we're told. How? Why, they're actually reusing old Christmas ornaments! Imagine that!

But what really grabbed my attention, and the reason for posting, was this:

In another example of frugal planning, Laura Bush said the first couple would be spending their Christmas money on Texas real estate for what she referred to as the "afterlife"—the time when they leave the White House in January after her husband's eight years in office. The couple will be buying a house in Dallas, with plans to spend weekends at their ranch in Crawford.
First of all, whose "Christmas money" is enough to buy a house that's not a little green plastic one on St. James Place? And second of all, on what planet is it "frugal" to buy a second house?


Obama: pulling the curtain back

All of us have had a good look behind the curtain since day one; the New York Times is just getting a peek:
Campaign Promises on Ending the War in Iraq Now Muted by Reality

On the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama offered a pledge that electrified and motivated his liberal base, vowing to “end the war” in Iraq.

But as he moves closer to the White House, President-elect Obama is making clearer than ever that tens of thousands of American troops will be left behind in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat forces out within 16 months.
There always was a tension, if not a bit of a contradiction, in the two parts of Mr. Obama’s campaign platform to “end the war” by withdrawing all combat troops by May 2010. To be sure, Mr. Obama was careful to say that the drawdowns he was promising included only combat troops. But supporters who keyed on the language of ending the war might be forgiven if they thought that would mean bringing home all of the troops.

Pentagon planners say that it is possible that Mr. Obama’s goal could be accomplished at least in part by relabeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be “re-missioned,” their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis.
And, get ready for the big surprise:
To date, there has been no significant criticism from the antiwar left of the Democratic Party of the prospect that Mr. Obama will keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for at least several years to come.
The antiwar left outside the Democratic Party? That's behind a curtain even the Times' vision doesn't penetrate.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


And while we're on the subject of Afghanistan...

A nice review of its history, including the progressive Communist government and the "democracy-loving" United States government which helped to overthrow it, by Michael Parenti.


The British tortured Obama's grandfather

From the Times, with a hearty hat tip to WIIIAI:
Barack Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned and brutally tortured by the British during the violent struggle for Kenyan independence, according to the Kenyan family of the US President-elect.

Hussein Onyango Obama, Mr Obama’s paternal grandfather, became involved in the Kenyan independence movement while working as a cook for a British army officer after the war. He was arrested in 1949 and jailed for two years in a high-security prison where, according to his family, he was subjected to horrific violence to extract information about the growing insurgency.
Since we're constantly reminded of the brutality of such groups as Al Qaeda, let's take note of what the British and the U.S. would no doubt have us forget:
The British responded to the Mau Mau uprising with draconian violence: at least 12,000 rebels were killed, most of them Kikuyu, but some historians believe that the overall death toll may have been more than 50,000. In total, just 32 European settlers were killed.


Why is the U.S. in Afghanistan?

It's hard to understand why the U.S. should get out of Afghanistan if you don't understand why the U.S. is there in the first place. Last night on the Rachel Maddow Show, NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel stated, to the sound of my jaw dropping, that "the Taliban attacked us on 9/11." Let me repeat that. Not the part about 9/11, the part about Engel being the chief foreign correspondent of NBC and not understanding that it was Al Qaeda who was responsible for the attacks of 9/11.

Let me restate something I first wrote five years ago: the Taliban and Al Qaeda are not the same thing, despite years of U.S. government effort to equate the two in the minds of the American people, an effort which has obviously succeeded in the case of the chief foreign correspondent of NBC.

The Taliban were a fundamentalist religious group which ruled Afghanistan. To what extent they were "aiding" al Qaeda or "shielding" al Qaeda is not really known. What is known is that the United States, instead of indicting Osama bin Laden and demanding his extradition according to international law, simply issued an ultimatum to the Taliban to "turn over" bin Laden, with the assumption that they could even if they would (notice that it hasn't proved possible for the U.S. despite vastly superior firepower, manpower, and mobility to the Taliban government). When the Taliban refused the arrogant, illegal request of the United States, the U.S. invaded and overthrew their government.

Now flash forward to today. The U.S. continues to "hunt Taliban remnants," with absolutely no more legal justification for doing so than they had two years ago.
That last line needs to be revised to say seven years ago. Other than that, it still stands.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


The U.S. should definitely meet with Iran

But not to discuss Iran's development of nuclear power, about which there's nothing to discuss. Iran has the right to do so, full stop. But here's something which definitely deserves to be on the agenda:
Iran has called for an investigation to reveal the channels through which Saddam Hussein's Baath regime gained access to chemical weapons.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad-Ali Hosseini held a meeting with Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Director General Rogelio Pfirter in The Hague on Tuesday in which he said a working group should be established to launch a probe about the countries that facilitated the former Iraqi dictator's chemical weapons program.
Readers with memories longer than the corporate media (that will be 99% of all readers) will remember that, when Iraq submitted its "report" to the U.N. in December, 2002, the United States seized the 12,000 page report, claiming that it was the only one qualified to make photocopies (security at Kinko's being notoriously lax), and proceeded to hide 9,000 (!) of those pages, dealing with precisely this issue.

Negotiations with Iran? By all means. Start with reparations due to Iran for all the Iranians killed by chemical weapons furnished to Iraq by the U.S., U.K., and other nations of the "civilized" world.


Quote of the Day

CNN's Campbell Brown, responding to Obama's making light of the press asking him about his previous statements about Hillary Clinton, claiming the press was "having fun" pointing out statements he made in "the heat of the campaign" which don't exactly square (to put it mildly) with his nomination of her as Secretary of State:
"This isn't just about the media. It's about the American people, many of whom voted for you because of what you said during the campaign. And they have a right to know which of those things you meant and which you didn't. Apparently, as you made clear today, you didn't mean what you said about Hillary Clinton.

"So, what else didn't you mean?"
Personally, I'm just as worried about the things he did mean.


Civil disobedience you can believe in

I'm not a big fan of civil disobedience in general. Getting arrested just to get arrested seems generally pointless. Having enough people to occupy and shutdown an airport, as just happened in Thailand, is one thing; having a few people lay down in a street for five minutes until the cops remove them is another.

But this is something quite different:

[Max] Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami's empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes.

"We're matching homeless people with people-less homes," he said with a grin.

Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new "tenants" with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.
Here's the simple way Rameau sums up the situation:
"I think it's immoral to have vacant homes held by Lehman Brothers or anyone else while you have homeless families sleeping out on the street."
Not to mention downright insane.


Bioterror balderdash

The headlines cry out:
Panel warns biological attack likely by 2013
"Likely"? That's not a scientific term, but according to another report, the opening sentence of the summary says such an attack "is more likely than not," which says there's at least a 51% chance of such an attack.

And on what is this speculation based? Well, the report is classified, but based on the news reports, the usual precious little. We're told "the threat of a terrorist attack using nuclear or biological weapons is growing "not because we have not done positive things but because adversaries are moving at an even faster pace to increase their access" to those materials." They are? Considering the evidence (none) that even the alleged "biggest threat" of such an attack (Iran) is developing nuclear weapons, I'd judge it likely that the evidence that Al Qaeda or anyone else is "moving at an even faster pace" to increase its access to nuclear or biological weapons is again precisely none.

How reliable is that ">50% likelihood" number? Consider this sentence:

The report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, led by former Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and Jim Talent of Missouri, acknowledges that terrorist groups still lack the needed scientific and technical ability to make weapons out of pathogens or nuclear bombs. But it warns that gap can be easily overcome, if terrorists find scientists willing to share or sell their know-how.
So, all we have to do is to estimate the probability of "finding a scientist willing to share or sell their know-how." I'd like to find a scientist or mathematician willing to share their know-how on how you estimate the probability of "finding a scientist willing to share or sell their know-how." Obviously you can't, it's pure speculation.

Likewise, there's this:

Al-Qaida remains the only terrorist group judged to be actively intent on conducting a nuclear attack against the United States, the report notes. It is not yet capable of building such a weapon and has yet to obtain one. But that could change if a nuclear weapons engineer or scientist were recruited to al-Qaida's cause, the report warns.
How they "judge" that Al Qaida is "actively intent" on such an attack I have no idea. But again, the idea that even if that were their intent, and even if given a weapon they could set it off in an appropriate location (not a trivial matter), we still are left with the impossibility of estimating how "likely" (or unlikely) it is they could recruit a nuclear weapons engineer. And is one engineer or scientist really enough? Countries that develop nuclear weapons have hundreds, probably thousands, of scientists and engineers working on the problem, in real laboratories filled with scientific equipment.

I'm not saying countries aren't wise to take measures to secure nuclear and biological materials against theft and subsequent misuse. But this article, and it's claim that such an attack is "likely" by "2013" (really? Is it only 40% probable by 2012? What's the probability by 2014? 2015?) is an abuse of the scientific method, pure scare story, and pure balderdash.

Of course, no one should forget that the biggest bioweapons attack in recent years, the anthrax attacks, came courtesy of the U.S. government (whether we know the actual perpetrator or not).

Monday, December 01, 2008


Obama's foreign policy: a picture is worth a thousand words

Are all of Obama's foreign policy advisers to his right? Probably not, although it does appear that way in this picture.

But, silliness aside, my real question is, what's up with the flags? Since his election, I don't believe I've seen a picture of Obama standing in front of fewer than eight flags. Is there any other country in the world where the leader feels compelled to exhibit such routine jingoism?


The "two-party" paradigm

How strong is the two-party paradigm in the U.S.? Over and over I read how if the Democrats win the recount in Minnesota (Al Franken) and the runoff in Georgia, they'll have 60 seats in the Senate. They will not! They'll have 58 seats. There are two independents being counted in that 60, and one of them, Joe Lieberman, defeated a Democrat to get into the Senate (not sure about Bernie Sanders; he may have as well). They may "caucus" with the Democrats, whatever that means in practice (bloody little as far as I can tell). But they are not Democrats! One of them even claims to be a socialist!

Then there is the myth that if only these two elections go their way, the Democrats will have a "veto-proof majority." Really? Why on earth would they think that Joe Lieberman, just to name one, a guy who not only endorsed but very actively campaigned for the Republican candidate in the recent election (and trashed the Democratic candidate in the process), could be counted on to vote with them on any critical veto or cloture vote? And Lieberman is hardly the only example. If there were such a thing as "party discipline" which would ensure that 60 Democrats means 60 votes for a critical item, Joe Lieberman wouldn't have been the only one kicked out of their caucus. Clearly, "party discipline" isn't a concept the Democrats know anything about.

Of course, with the exception of such things as Constitutional amendments (California take note, where things are bass-ackwards), the whole idea of super-majority votes is completely undemocratic. The Democrats could be fighting for eliminating the undemocratic filibuster. That would require that they be democrats, though. The same thing that would require them to support instant runoff voting and proportional representation. None of that is forthcoming.


Recession: it's "official"

Yes, the United States has been in an "official" recession since December, 2007. Now they tell us. Well, more like "now they admit it." Because for most of us, it was apparent long before now.


Death in Mumbai

The death toll in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which have dominated the news for days now, stands at 172. Of course those deaths were horrific. But two things are required to keep them in persepective.

First, hearkening back to my long-running series "What is Killing the People of the World?", we note that during the two-days (a somewhat arbitrary time frame) of the Mumbai seige, an estimated 8,000 people died worldwide from easily-preventable, easily-treatable water-borne diseases, due to lack of investment in public health. I don't know how many of those were in India, but it wouldn't surprise me if the number exceeded 172. And that's just one of many causes of wholesale death and misery every single day, not once in a blue moon like these spectacular terrorist attacks.

And second, we are told this entire operation, killing so many people and paralyzing one of the major cities of the world for days, was carried out by a grand total of ten people (with no doubt others behind the scenes buying weapons, etc., but still quite possibly not all that many in total). Which emphasizes the fact that there is no way such acts can be prevented with security measures or military invasions. Only going to the root causes of such actions can ultimately prevent them. And the biggest root cause of all, certainly not the only one but equally certainly the biggest, is U.S. foreign policy and imperialist domination of the world in general. And, unfortunately, there's no short-term prospect of significant changes in those areas, President-elect Obama's lip service to "diplomacy" notwithstanding.

Why stop here? There's more...

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