Monday, November 30, 2009
President Obama and the media want the American people to think that Obama has been agonizing over the Afghanistan "decision," considering things carefully. No doubt there are some details that were in question. But a feature on CNN today put the lie to the whole story - troops in Afghanistan have already been working overtime, preparing huge new expansions of the bases and other infrastructure necessary to support the increase in troops.
The "agony" of the decision was just for the suckers in the cheap seats. Mainly the liberals still harboring illusions in Obama, and maybe the Nobel Prize Committee who could still revoke his "Peace" prize before they actually hand it to him.
Another right-wing terrorist ignored by the media
A few days ago, a man in Ohio was arrested following an explosion in his apartment, after which police discovered "about 35 pipe bombs, an assortment of firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition." In the intervening days, as far as I can tell (from my own watching), there has been zero coverage of this event in the national news. The news was carried by AP (link above), but wasn't "important" enough to make, for example, the San Jose Mercury News which is what I read in print.
And really, why should it? The AP repeatedly emphasizes that the suspect has "a history of substance abuse" and "suffered from major depression, alcohol dependency, and drug abuse." You'd have to read the local press to learn the real story:
Barbara Vachon lived next door to Campano at the Center Park Place Apartments for several years and said he was a big reason she moved.Just another right-wing terrorist. Nothing to get worked up about. Thought-crimes from "aspirational" Muslim terrorists who haven't taken a single action and were more likely than not goaded into even whatever "aspirations" they expressed by an agent provocateur? National news. Actual crimes by very real right-wing terrorists who need no provoking whatsoever to take action? Crickets.
"He was always trying to get me and another neighbor to listen to anti-government tapes and watch anti-government videos," said Vachon. "I would never watch them. He was some kind of radical, and he didn't believe in the government."
Update: For those who don't click on that last link, what are we talking about? Just Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat who were caught in Florida with dozens of machine guns, rifles, C-4 explosive, dynamite, detonators, a grenade launcher and ammunition, and Robert Ferro, a Southern California man who had amassed a cache consisting of 1,600 firearms, including 35 machine guns, 130 silencers and two short-barreled rifles, along with a hand grenade, military rocket-launcher tube, and grenade parts, not to mention 89,000 rounds of ammunition! Two sets of right-wing terrorists (anti-Cuban terrorists in these cases), neither of whose cases made the national news (the Ferro case didn't even make the L.A. Times!).
What's the difference between a Bush war policy and an Obama war policy?
(With appropriate acknowledgment to Sarah Palin)
In case it isn't clear, this is a (lame) joke. The real difference isn't "lipstick." It's "eloquence." I'm sure the dead appreciate the difference.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Sham Honduran election coverage
The U.S. continued to demonstrate the absurdity of its claim to support "democracy" by throwing its support behind the sham election that took place in Honduras today. And the corporate media did its part. AP asserts that "The dispute has split Western Hemisphere countries" and Reuters tells its readers that the "election...has put the United States at odds with leftist governments in Latin America." The truth is that, with the exception of U.S. toady Costa Rica, there isn't a single Latin American country which has expressed support for the election, which has been denounced by the official organization of Latin American countries (plus the U.S. and Canada), the OAS.
The shocking news keeps on coming
It appears that Tony Blair lied in order to drag the U.K. into the invasion of Iraq. No, that's not the shocking part. The shocking part (ok, it's a very mild shock) is that he didn't just lie to the British people. He lied to his own cabinet as well. Given a clear legal opinion that the invasion of Iraq would be illegal (and hence those participating in it war criminals, and British soldiers subject to prosecution), he withheld that information from his cabinet, until, on the verge of the invasion and with a lot of arm-twisting, they managed to get the opinion reversed. Sort of.
In similar unshocking news, the U.S. corporate media continues to ignore the story of the U.K. enquiry into the war.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Today's shocking news headline
Yes, you're shocked I know. The U.S. was lying and Iraq was telling the truth. When does that ever happen? Oh, yeah, I remember.
Naturally, AP isn't going to let it go that easily. No, they have to claim that "Saddam Hussein was telling the truth, this time," [Emphasis added] and that "the Iraqis lied, but sometimes they told the truth." What exactly did they lie about? AP doesn't say, but we all know one thing it surely wasn't, and that's about their alleged possession of WMD. And now we can add another one, the U.S. claim that Scott Speicher was being secretly held prisoner in Iraq.
Will the AP ever tell us that the U.S. government "lied" about anything, using that precise word? Don't bet on it.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
When is a freeze not a freeze?
When it's an Israeli settlement [colonization] "freeze":
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday evening that Israel would impose a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements.Well, it's only ten months, but still a freeze, right? Wrong:
Netanyahu said the construction freeze would not be implemented in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem...The freeze will also not apply to construction that has already been authorized or to work on public buildings conducive to normal life in the territories.Expect this announcement to be greeted rapturously in the halls of Washington and by the U.S. corporate media.
Update: In related news, I'm going on a hunger strike. Except for french fries. And everything currently in my refrigerator and cupboard. And breakfast.
Back to serious but cynical speculation. Why ten months? What a curious time frame. 6 or 12 months we might understand, but 10? Here's my speculation. There are currently 3000 housing units under construction in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem, i.e., the ones included in Netanyahu's "freeze"). I bet they figured out that ten months is precisely the time they need to finish those 3000. If I'm correct, that means there's even less to this "freeze" than it appears, and there wasn't much to begin with!
Update 2: I was right - the ten months corresponds exactly to the time that the ongoing 3000 units are expected to take to build. Meaning that the "freeze" amounts to precisely...nothing. On the other hand I was wrong - the reception in Washington, as reflected by public statements, has been less than rapturous.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Afghanistan: Obama to escalate while talking "exit"
Gee, where have we heard that before?
(For you youngsters out there, that's Lyndon B. Johnson at the right, the President who campaigned as the "peace candidate" against "war-hawk" Barry Goldwater, while escalating American troop levels from 16,000 to 550,000.)
Monday, November 23, 2009
More legal news (the good kind)
In a settlement today, the government (technically the Washington D.C. government) agreed to pay $13 million to protesters arrested at demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank in 2000. This is the latest in a series of victories for the Partnership for Civil Justice, who just last week got the police checkpoint system in Washington, D.C. dismantled. A group well worth donating to to help protect all our civil rights.
Today's legal news
In Berkeley, students who occupied a building are being charged with "burglary" because they moved some desks from an office to push them up against the building door.
In Oakland, an apparently unruly passenger pulled off a train by a BART cop is being charged with "assaulting an officer" because, as the officer was throwing him into a glass wall head first, he put up his arm which broke the glass, injuring the cop (evidently if he had allowed his head to break the glass, the "assaulting" charge wouldn't apply).
This is capitalism
If you can make sense of this, or even moreso if you thought of it, chances are you're a capitalist:
As millions of Americans struggle to hold on to their homes, Wall Street has found a way to make money from the mortgage mess.Benefiting from the misfortunes of others - capitalism in a nutshell. Work focused on producing goods or services that people need, like health care? That's socialism.
Investment funds are buying billions of dollars’ worth of home loans, discounted from the loans’ original value. Then, in what might seem an act of charity, the funds are helping homeowners by reducing the size of the loans.
But as part of these deals, the mortgages are being refinanced through lenders that work with government agencies like the Federal Housing Administration. This enables the funds to pocket sizable profits by reselling new, government-insured loans to other federal agencies, which then bundle the mortgages into securities for sale to investors.
While homeowners save money, the arrangement shifts nearly all the risk for the loans to the federal government — and, ultimately, taxpayers — at a time when Americans are falling behind on their mortgage payments in record numbers.
AP on Honduras
Could the Associated Press print a more one-sided and misleading article on Honduras?
"voters will choose a new president Nov. 29...No one is pushing the leftist agenda of the ousted leader, who said he was trying to lift a country where seven in 10 people are poor."Pushing the leftist agenda"? Who's writing this, Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity?
While many Hondurans want reform, they were reluctant to trust Zelaya, a wealthy rancher elected from one of the two major conservative parties.Since a certain percentage of Hondurans don't "want reform", we can conclude that a majority of those who do still approve of Zelaya. And while it's true that, in a population of millions of people, even 1% is still "many people," to call that description "misleading" would be charitable.
According to the CID-Gallup Poll, Zelaya's job-approval rating dropped steadily from 2007 to just 38 percent in October 2008, though it had rebounded to 53 percent by February and has held steady around 50 percent since.
But beyond the first week of his ouster, he had a hard time amassing large numbers of supporters demanding his return.There have in fact been demonstrations continuously the entire time. It's true that numbers haven't been massive, but repression (including murder of demonstrators) and the lack of serious support from the international community, most especially the U.S., surely are a significant factor.
Nowhere in the entire article does AP bother to mention that the OAS (not to mention commonsense) has declared that an election being held under a military dictatorship is null and void, and will not be recognized, nor that the left is boycotting the election. Meanwhile, Americans are further misled by the claim that "everyone from Barack Obama to Fidel Castro lined up behind ousted President Manuel Zelaya" [after the coup]. With people like Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton and the U.S. government) "lined up behind" you, a government which I'm pretty sure never made an official declaration that a coup had actually occurred, you're in deep trouble.
And, topping it all off, AP repeats the standard canard:
His opponents said he wanted to follow in Chavez's footsteps and revise the constitution to extend his time in office. Zelaya denies any such intention.Of course whether Zelaya denied any such intention or not is a moot point; the timeline of the votes which would have occurred had the initial non-binding referendum passed absolutely precluded any possibility such a reelection could have happened. But don't let that bother you, AP. Better to repeat the charges and just rebut them from a "denial" from the accused. It sounds more believable that way, even if it's absurd.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
UPDATED (see below)
It's a long-standing convention of the U.S. media that any Israeli action is always describe as a "response" to something or other from the Palestinian side. So let's consider what happened today.
The Palestinian action:
Hamas says it has agreed with other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza to stop firing rockets into Israel.And lest you think that's really a totally new development, really it's been pretty much the status quo for quite some time:
Hamas has observed a ceasefire for months, but other groups have carried out sporadic cross-border attacks.So what was the Israeli response to this good faith action on the part of Hamas? This:
Israeli jets have carried out air strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, injuring seven Palestinians...In addition, the Press TV correspondent in Gaza reported that Israeli gunboats were approaching the coast of Gaza.Do you suppose we'll be hearing from the U.S. State Department, lamenting the fact that Palestinians have no "partner for peace"? And, since the total blockade of Gaza imposed not only by Israel but also by Egypt, the U.S., and U.K., and others, is "justified" by rocket attacks from Gaza against Israel, will we be seeing a response from those parties in the form of a lifting of the blockade? Stay tuned. But please, please don't hold your breath.
Update: Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. You remember (a few paragraphs ago!) when I wrote about the "response" phenomenon? Well today, the Times (U.K.) gives us this unbelievable spin on the story above:
Hamas announced today that it would freeze its rocket attacks on southern Israel, after Israeli war planes bombed the Gaza Strip.Of course, this is wrong on two important counts. First of all, as noted in the clip above, Hamas has actually observed a ceasefire for months, rather than "announcing today" that it would freeze its attacks. And second, and on the point of this story, that announcement preceded the Israeli bombing of Gaza, it did not follow it.
It was twenty years ago today...
No, I'm not talking about Sgt. Pepper. No, I'm talking about the murder of six Jesuit priests by right-wing death squads in El Salvador, which happened 20 years ago last week. Newly declassified documents suggest that both the U.S. State Department and the CIA knew in advance of this plot. And guess who quite likely was involved? Yes, our old "friend" Luis Posada Carriles, currently under the protection of the U.S. government from standing trial for the airplane bombing murder of 73 people.
You're shocked, I know.
Friday, November 20, 2009
DADT? DOMA? WTF?
"Don't ask, don't tell?" Don't talk about it, at least, not if you're the U.S. Congress.
And as for the "Defense [sic(k)] of Marriage Act"? The Obama Administration isn't just not acting to do anything about it, it's actively enforcing it in spite of court rulings.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Today in the richest state in the richest country in the world
- California faces a $21 billion budget shortfall; Gov. Schwarzenegger promises massive across-the-board budget cuts (a.k.a. service cuts).
- In San Francisco, Mayor Newsom asks department heads to plan for 30% budget cuts, following on 25% cuts last year.
- In Los Angeles, University of California Regents approved a 32% fee increase for students.
The God Delusion
I recently finished reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, in which Dawkins presents his arguments not only against the existence of God but affirmatively for an affirmation in atheism, tackling such subjects as "is religion the source of morality?" and "is religion actually a bad thing?" Being both a scientist and a Marxist, I didn't need Dawkins to convince me of the non-existence of supernatural forces, and since convincing religious people that there is no God is neither high nor frankly anywhere on my agenda, the discussion along those lines were interesting but little more.
Dawkins also, in my opinion (isn't everything here my opinion?), places too much emphasis on religion in its role in places like Iraq, Palestine, Northern Ireland, and so on. He repeatedly returns to the subject of suicide bombers, but in a completely decontextualized way. You could easily conclude that all suicide bombers are Muslims and that their sole motivation is getting to heaven. Which would hardly explain why Muslims all over the world aren't committing such actions, or why Palestinians weren't acting as suicide bombers before 1948, or why Al Qaeda isn't carrying out actions against Switzerland, or Venezuela, or China, but only the world's imperialist powers who are occupying their countries (indeed, I'm pretty sure the word "occupation" does not occur anywhere in the book). The idea that suicide bombs are a weapon of the hopeless and powerless, and that Palestinians would happily fight against Israeli occupation with tanks and jet fighters if only the world would sell such things to them, seems not to have occurred to Dawkins.
There was one major subject in the book which I found absolutely fascinating. Like, I'm guessing, most people, I read "Bible stories" as a child but never actually read the Bible. Having now read Dawkins (and taking his citations "on faith"; I don't plan to look them up), I think I know why I wasn't encouraged to do so. In his discussion on "is religion necessary for morality," Dawkins takes up at length the "morality" one can find in the Bible.
Take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example. Everyone knows that, as Lot and his wife were leaving those doomed cities, Lot's wife looked back and was turned to salt (by itself a curiously harsh punishment for merely stealing a glance at the ongoing destruction, even if it was in contradiction of God's order). But what preceded that event? Two angels came to Lot, and the people of Sodom demanded that Lot hand them over to them. Lot's "moral" defense of the angels? He hands over his two virgin daughters to the mob for their pleasure to save the angels. Elsewhere in the Bible, a Jewish priest offers his own concubine and the daughter of his host to an angry mob to be gang-raped, in order to save his host.
Then there's Jericho. Everyone knows "Joshua blew his trumpet" and "the walls came tumbling down." But did you know that genocide followed? "They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." Joshua, I remind you, is seen as hero to the Jewish people, not a mass murderer.
There are many, many more examples of the "morality" one finds in the Bible. But Dawkins expands on the Jericho story, which bears directly on our world today, because Joshua's destruction of Jericho was part of the conquest of the "Promised Land." When a thousand Israeli schoolchildren were asked if Joshua acted rightly, 66 percent gave total approval and 26 percent total disapproval, with the approvers often citing as their reason the "fact" that "God promised them this land." And some of the disapprovers only disapproved because Joshua destroyed not just the people, but the animals as well! But here's the denouement of the story. When another group of Israel children were given the same story to read, but with the names and locations changed to ancient China, only 7 percent approved and 75 percent disapproved. And lest you think this is just schoolchildren, Dawkins notes that Maimonides, widely considered the greatest Jewish scholar of all time (he lived in the 12th century), agreed with the children (in the Jericho case): "If one does not put to death any of them that falls into one's power, one transgresses a negative commandment, as it is said, Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth."
Lest you think I'm contradicting myself about the importance of religion, my opinion is that this is not about religion at all, but tribalism. In either case, however, it certainly sheds a bit of light on the attitudes of people like the Israeli settlers today. God not only promised them this land, but told them it was their duty to kill anyone who got in the way. Lovely stuff.
Dawkins doesn't spare the New Testament, lest you think that what most of us would consider immorality (to put it mildly) is only found in the Old Testament. I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
The tone of U.S. foreign policy: Afghanistan and Israel
The headline is quite straightforward: "Obama Demands Results From Afghan Reforms." Demands! And not only that, but "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Mr. Karzai privately that future civilian aid would depend in part on how his government performed" (and don't be fooled by that "privately," by the way; if it really was "private," how would we know about it unless the U.S. government wanted us to know about it, which is to say it isn't "private" at all). Adding to that, "Mr. Obama has increasingly warned that his is not an 'open-ended commitment.'"
And why is the U.S. "demanding" things, threatening to withdraw aid, and saying their support may end? Because of "cronyism" and the failure the develop an "effective army."
Well, Israel can never be accused of not having an "effective army," but their sins (wholesale slaughter of Lebanese and Palestinians, routine denial of human rights to Palestinians within Israel's international borders and much, much worse treatment of Palestinians outside of those borders, like denying them access to food, medicine, shelter, and education) are more than just quantitatively worse than those of the Afghan government. The latter's actions amount to incompetence and routine crimes; the former's, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Now think. Have you ever seen the word "demanded" in conjunction with U.S. requests to Israel to change its policy? If you have, it's an anomaly. "Urges," yes. "Demands"? Hardly ever, if ever.
In the latest development, with Israel approving the construction of 900 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem, the U.S. expressed its "dismay," but naturally not wishing to go too far it urged "both parties" not to act unilaterally, just so Americans wouldn't notice that only one party was acting unilaterally. And as far as threatening to withdraw aid or saying U.S. support was not "open-ended" and might end unless Israel changes its behavior? Pull the other leg.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The Iranian nuclear program and those who criticize it
The New York Times leads with the scare story that the IAEA is worried about Iran:
International inspectors who gained access to Iran’s newly revealed underground nuclear enrichment plant voiced strong suspicions in a report on Monday that the country was concealing other atomic facilities.Really? And what is the status of Iran's main nuclear plant in Natanz, which everyone agrees is capable of production of nuclear fuel, even if some claim its "real" purpose is otherwise? This:
The inspectors confirmed American and European intelligence reports that the site had been built to house about 3,000 centrifuges, enough to produce enough material for one or two nuclear weapons a year. But that is too small to be useful in the production of fuel for civilian nuclear power, which is what Iran insists is the intended purpose of the site.
The IAEA inspectors also found that Iran had recently reduced the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at its main Natanz site by 650 to 3,936, while slightly raising the total number of machines installed to 8,692.So a plant which is operating 4000 centrifuges can (and is) making fuel for nuclear power, but a plant with 3000 centrifuges is incapable of doing so and therefore must be intended to make nuclear weapons? Man, that's some "tipping point"!
And, in a side note, it's widely recognized that world opinion of Israel is plummeting. Just how bad it is getting can be judged from this article from the Associated Press no less, albeit from a reporter based in Iran:
One of the country's most concerned about the Iranian program is Israel and on Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the world about Iran while riding in a submarine capable of firing nuclear-tipped missiles.Cue Nelson Muntz. As well as the AP copy editor; the plural of "country" is, of course, "countries."
US capitalism on verge of collapse?
From PressTV, based on an article in MarketWatch, comes this news too interesting to report in anything less than full length:
The declining state of the US economy has convinced a growing number of American analysts that the US capitalist financial system is doomed to disintegrate.Everybody ready to help give it a push?
Citing the works of other leading economists such as Jack Bogle and Marc Faber, Market Watch commentator Paul B. Farrell gives 20 reasons, in a recent article, why the "American capitalism has lost its soul" and will.
Farrell points to Faber's Doom, Boom and Gloom Report and asserts that the economist is warning of the fall of "the entire system of capitalism."
"The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today," Farrell adds, quoting the report. "Get it? The engine driving the great 'American Economic Empire' for 233 years will collapse, a total disaster, a destiny we created."
He writes that based on Faber's predictions, capitalism, which has been the driving engine of America and global economies for over two hundred years, will collapse and, consequently, trigger global "wars, massive government-debt defaults, and the impoverishment of large segments of western society."
He goes on to explain how the Wall Street has “sacked Washington" by examining Bogle's writings.
Farrell mentions that in "The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism," Bogle warns of a growing three-part threat or in other words a "happy conspiracy."
"The business and ethical standards of corporate America, of investment America, and of mutual fund America have been gravely compromised," writes Farrell citing Bogle's book.
“But since his book, 'Wall Street America' went over to the dark side, got mega-greedy and took control of 'Washington America.' Their spoils of war included bailouts, bankruptcies, stimulus, nationalizations and $23.7 trillion new debt off-loaded to the Treasury, Fed and American people.”
Going back to Faber's work, Farrell argues that it is a historical imperative for "Every successful society" to grow "out of some kind of challenge."
“Today, the 'life cycle' of capitalism is on the decline,” he reiterates.
Farrell believes that, in short, America has turned into a “grumpy old man with hardening of the arteries.”
“Our capitalism,” he writes, “is near the tipping point, unprepared for a catastrophe, set up for collapse and rapid decline.”
Among the reasons he offers to back his claims about the failing US economy are that America's top 1% own more than 90% of America's wealth, the average worker's income has declined while the CEO compensations have exploded over ten times, the federal debt has skyrocketed from $11.2 to $23.7 trillion in two years, and that it is the Wall Street wealth that now calls the shots in the US Congress and the White House.
Farrell finally concludes, “American Capitalism is a 'Lost Soul' ... we've lost our moral compass ... the coming collapse is the end of an 'inevitable' historical cycle stalking all great empires to their graves. Downsize your lifestyle expectations, trust no one; not even the media.”
Monday, November 16, 2009
In Latin America they speak the truth
From Ha'aretz today:
Thousands of people in Buenos Aires protested against President Shimon Peres' visit to Argentina on Monday, some of whom carried a banner telling the octogenarian he deserved a Nobel Prize for murder.
Protestors in Brazil last week offered Peres a similar welcome, some of whom shouted at him: "War criminal, go home."
End the travel ban to Cuba!
Click to support the campaign.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
What's wrong with American politics?
Friday, November 13, 2009
Six degrees of separation...from terrorism?
The headlines and articles scream: "one of the biggest counterterrorism seizures in U.S. history," as the U.S. seizes four mosques and one skyscraper in Manhattan. Why? Because they are "owned by a nonprofit Muslim organization long suspected of being secretly controlled by the Iranian government." And what's wrong with that? Well, the second step of the allegation is that the foundation "illegally funneled millions in rental income to Iran's state-owned Bank Melli." Now that, per se, would actually (apparently, anyway) be illegal under U.S. law, because it is illegal to do business with that bank from the U.S. But what does this have to do with "counterterrorism"? One step more: "Bank Melli has been accused by a U.S. Treasury official of providing support for Iran's nuclear program." Whoops, we've reached a dead end, because Iran's nuclear program has nothing whatsoever to do with "terrorism."
Not in the linked article, but elsewhere, one can of course read of "Iran's support for Hamas and Hezbollah," which in the U.S. corporate media is taken as equivalent to supporting "terrorism." That's nonsense, but even if it were true, what does the news tell us about the actual money involved in the seizure?
Rents collected from the building help fund the centers and other ventures, such as sending educational literature to imprisoned Muslims in the U.S. The foundation has also invested in dozens of mosques around the country and supported Iranian academics at prominent universities.Terrorism? Only if educated Muslims strike terror into the heart of Americans.
As far as the effects of this action, we're told this will be "a sharp blow against Iran." Really? The rent collected on the skyscraper in Manhattan is $4.5 million a year. Let's see. Iran has a GDP of $830 billion, of which 60% ($500 billion more or less) is government-owned. $4.5 million is exactly...0.0009% of Iran's budget. Yup, that's going to put a big dent in their nuclear program and their support for Hamas and Hezbollah, all right. Not.
The purpose of this seizure was not to strike "a sharp blow against Iran." It was to continue to wave the red cape of "terrorism" in front of the American people, and to put the kibosh on any possibility of a diplomatic rapprochement with Iran. Striking fear into the hearts of American Muslims, and intimidating them from contributing to any Muslim charities lest they be branded a "supporter of terrorism," was no doubt a bonus.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Fidel on Barack Obama and the U.S.
"The American people are not the culprits but rather the victims of a system that is not only unsustainable but worse still: it is incompatible with the life of humanity."In this essay, Fidel Castro discusses Barack Obama and the U.S. at length. Don't be put off by the strange title; this essay is worth your time to read.
- Fidel Castro, in his latest essay, "A Science Fiction Story"
Divorced from reality
Here in the United States, it's frequently said (with complete justification) that Republicans (at least, their more prominent elected and recently resigned officials) are divorced from reality. But they're getting a run from their money from across the sea. Here's a sampling of stories you can find on Ha'aretz right now:
Richard Goldstone, who authored the United Nations report accusing Israel of perpetrating war crimes in its Gaza offensive earlier the year, is a man devoid of any real sense of justice and is intent on harming Israel, President Shimon Peres told Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during their meeting in Brasilia on Wednesday.Then this:
"Goldstone is a small man, devoid of any sense of justice, a technocrat with no real understanding of jurisprudence," Peres told his Brazilian counterpart, adding that the South African jurist "was on a one-sided mission to hurt Israel."
Referring to Goldstone's recommendation to investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza, Peres said, "If anyone should be investigated, it should be him."
The Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office on Thursday charged alleged Jewish terrorist Yaakov (Jack) Teitel with two murders, three attempted murders and other acts of violence.
"It was a pleasure and an honor to serve my God," said Teitel at the Jerusalem courthouse. "I have no regret and no doubt that God is pleased."
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Afghan woman: U.S. is doing no good in Afghanistan
Malalai Joya is an Afghan woman who was elected to Afghanistan"s parliament in 2005 and kicked out in 2007 by the warlords. She has survived four assassination attempts. She is currently in the U.S. speaking, and today, the San Jose Mercury News printed an op-ed she wrote. Some excerpts:
As an Afghan woman who was elected to Parliament, I am in the United States to ask President Barack Obama to immediately end the occupation of my country.
Eight years ago, women's rights were used as one of the excuses to start this war. But today, Afghanistan is still facing a women's rights catastrophe. Life for most Afghan women resembles a type of hell that is never reflected in the Western mainstream media.
Now President Obama is considering increasing troops to Afghanistan and simply extending former President Bush's wrong policies. In fact, the worst massacres since 9/11 were during Obama's tenure. My native province of Farah was bombed by the U.S. this past May. A hundred and fifty people were killed, most of them women and children. On Sept. 9, the U.S. bombed Kunduz Province, killing 200 civilians.
My people are fed up. That is why we want an immediate end to the U.S. occupation.
Lots of children left behind
We're told by everyone from President Obama on down that, in order to prepare for the "challenges of the future," education is the key. And here's what government is actually doing about that:
San Jose State University is once again shrinking the size of its freshman class...with less state money to support teaching, 2,500 fewer student slots will be available at SJSU next fall; last year, the school cut 3,000 slots. No transfers were allowed to arrive this spring.
The SJSU cutbacks are part of a significant reduction within the entire California State University system. At a Tuesday news conference, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said the system will offer 40,000 fewer seats for the 2010-11 academic year, a 7 percent cut.
Monday, November 09, 2009
The results are in! The people have spoken!
And by a 2:1 margin, more people in a worldwide survey (courtesy of BBC) say capitalism is "fatally flawed" vs. those who say it is "working well." A bare majority does think that capitalism can be fixed with more reform and regulation.
Needless to say, the U.S., home of the religion of capitalism, bucks the worldwide trend, with more people claiming capitalism "works well" than those saying it is "fatally flawed." Given the lifelong indoctrination the American people are subjected to (documented in Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story"), hardly surprising.
Tip of the Day: Khalil Bendib
I've only recently discovered the work of Khalil Bendib, almost certainly the best editorial cartoonist you've never heard of (unless you've heard of him). He's got a
The back cover of the book says that Bendib's editorial cartoons are distributed to "over 1700 newspapers across North America," but none of them have ever appeared in any newspapers I read. After you take a look at his work you won't be surprised. Bendib's cartoons cover material you might find someone like Tom Toles doing, like corporate greed, but other material that goes well beyond, on subjects like Palestine.
Here's his latest to give you an idea:
Discover Bendib! And, if you like his work, buy the book and spread the word!
Left I and right wing agree!
One of the frequently-heard right-wing criticisms of the Democrats' health insurance "reform" proposals is that "it's a 2000-page bill!" And, per se, that criticism is exactly on point. Of course the right-wing points to that on the grounds that somewhere, secretly hidden in the bill, is the proposal which will turn the United States into a socialist country. As if.
No, the problem with the 2000 pages is "hidden in plain sight" - it's the very length of the bill. Because only under capitalism, and especially in a country like the U.S. where capitalism isn't just an economic system but a religion, could it take 2000 pages to describe the Rube Goldberg machine that is being proposed to deliver health care to Americans. A proper health care proposal, a socialist proposal, is much shorter. Much, much shorter.
Is something wrong with you, or would you like to get a checkup to make sure nothing is wrong with you? Go see a health professional and the cost is covered.OK, I'm exaggerating. Because a real socialist health care system, as I've discussed before, has to go further than that. Are there not enough doctors, nurses, and other health professionals? Let's build more educational facilities to train them. Are there not enough hospitals and clinics? Let's build what we need. Are we spending too much on drugs? With our nationalized pharmaceutical industry, let's focus all spending on real improvements in drugs (and developing less expensive ways to manufacture them), rather than on marketing or fake improvements in drugs designed only to extend the patent life of the drugs without changing their performance in the least.
But meanwhile, just think about the meaning of "2000 pages." What a joke.
The press reports that lobbying by Roman Catholic bishops is widely credited with having pushed through an amendment to the health care bill in the House, making sure there is no possibility that taxpayers money will be used to pay for abortions. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic church continues to be indirectly subsidized by those very same taxpayers, thanks to the tax-exemption granted to the church.
Tax the churches! (and, if you have a chance and haven't seen it, make sure to see Foul Play, one of my favorite movies.)
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Yesterday, U.S. military bases across the world observed moments of silence for those killed yesterday at Fort Hood. Today, flags there and at government buildings are at half staff. All perfectly appropriate, I'm sure. But there are American soldiers killed virtually every day in Iraq and Afghanistan? How come their deaths don't get the same treatment?
And while I'm asking questions, why is it that those who don't want the government to pay for abortions get their way, but objecting to other things the government spends its money on, like war and occupation (and subsidizing the purchase of SUVs, just to name one more), gets you nowhere?
Scary economic statistic of the day
Everyone saw, I'm sure, that the official U.S. unemployment rate today went over 10%, with the increasingly-acknowledged "real" unemployment rate, which includes the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work, at 17.5% (and even that, as I recall, doesn't include many others, including prisoners). But as scary as those statistics are, there's this one: the average length without a job is now 26.9 weeks - nearly seven months. And make sure to note two things. First, that's the average, which means there are many, many people who have been unemployed for much longer than that. And second, that's the average among the "officially" unemployed (the 10.2%). Just imagine how much higher that number it would be if it included all the unemployed.
Pre-existing conditions and health insurance
Is there anything that demonstrates how bankrupt the very concept of health "insurance" is more than the debate over insurance companies denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions? It's true that insurance companies carry their determination of pre-existing conditions to ridiculous extremes, and those are always the stories you read about - the person who had acne, or the baby who was too fat. But there are very real pre-existing conditions. How about someone with AIDS who is using $10,000 worth of drugs every year who loses their job and needs to purchase insurance? As long as health care is run on a profit basis using the insurance model, why on earth would a company want to sell coverage to such a person for $3000, knowing it's going to cost them $10,000? It makes no sense whatsoever for them to do that.
There are cases where companies do sell products at a loss - loss leaders, for example, where a company sells you one product at a low price hoping you'll buy more products for them to profit from. "Branding" is another case. But those cases have nothing in common with health insurance, and a company selling health insurance has absolutely nothing to gain from selling its product to even a single person at a loss, or even a likely loss (and of course that's why they demand that the government deliver presumably healthy "customers" to them in return, to make up for their anticipated losses with even greater profit).
Health care is what Americans (and everyone else) needs, and health care reform is what Americans need. Not health insurance reform. Not only don't we need health insurance reform, we don't need health insurance. Period.
People like myself decry the concept of "American exceptionalism" (unlike Barack Obama, who proclaims his belief in it), but the U.S. really is an "exceptional" country. In how many other countries are there not one but two epidemics taking place? No, not H1N1. These:
Epidemic one - People going bankrupt and killing themselves, their families, or, as in yesterday's case, their ex-coworkers.
Epidemic two - People with medical expenses they can't possible pay, having to resort to inviting their friends to fund-raising events to help them pay. To quote a variant of the old bumper sticker, "What if the government funded health care and the military had to hold bake sales?"
To quote the Bard (Bob Dylan),
How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Quote of the Day
"Muhammad Ali also had a way with words, but it helped enormously that he could also punch guys in the face."
- Bill Maher, quoted by Dave Zirin in a column on yesterday's election and Obama's (and the Democrats') role in it, specifically his/their failure to accomplish any significant goals and hence to inspire their supporters to vote
A small gleam of justice in the world
An Italian court on Wednesday convicted 22 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force colonel of orchestrating the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt, where he said he was later tortured. (Source)I found this equally interesting:
The judge in the case, Oscar Magi, said three other Americans, including the former Rome station chief for the CIA, were covered by diplomatic immunity.So if you're a "diplomat," even a CIA agent posing as a diplomat, it's ok if you kidnap someone? How about murder? I mean, being exempt from parking tickets is one thing, but isn't this carrying it a bit too far?
And, just asking, did it really take 26 people to kidnap someone? No wonder government budgets are so bloated!
Suspicion and reality in Iran
With a large hat tip to WIIIAI, I take note of President Obama's message on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Iran. Obama incorrectly asserts that that "event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation," as if the U.S.-sponsored coup which installed the Shah 26 years earlier hadn't done precisely that. (He also claims, arrogantly, and equally incorrectly, that "We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for." Well, for starters, it's for a future that employs nuclear power. Suck on that, Barack.)
Iranians have a different take on both what happened 30 years ago and what is still happening today, the commonality being that the U.S. is trying for "regime change" every bit as much now as it was then. And here's what the students who occupied the U.S. Embassy 30 years ago found out about that:
Documents found at the former embassy showed that Washington had tested 26 different strategies to overthrow the Revolution in the first few months that followed its victory.Same as it ever was.
According to Rahimpour-Azghadi, some of the strategies that the US had employed included attempts to create sectarian unrest, a campaign to recruit religious minorities with Zionist inclinations, and plan to fuel labor strikes and food shortages.
He also mentioned terrorism, encouraging student protests in universities and schools, and providing financial and media back-up to opposing political groups, as other tactics adopted by the US had.
Rahimpour-Azghadi said that the US had even tried to make use of cultural activities, such as English language classes, scientific gatherings and artistic circles to topple the Islamic Republic.
The analyst said Washington sought to influence the country's top political figures, its religious leadership and moderate Islamic intellectuals.
Wishful thinking and reality on Palestine
Both Al Jazeera and AP today demonstrate wishful thinking (at least in the case of Al Jazeera; in the case of AP, it may be deliberate obfuscation) in claiming that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank "illegitimate." What exactly did she say?
"We do not accept the legitimacy of settlement activity. Ending all settlement activity current and future would be preferable."Notably missing from that second sentence is the word "past." Clinton isn't calling the settlements "illegitimate," she's saying that building new ones is illegitimate. Quite a difference.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Israel's (and the U.S.' and U.K.'s and Germany's and France's and Egypt's) very real, continuing, and utterly repugnant war against the people of Gaza continues:
The number of Palestinians who have died as a result of the Israeli siege on Gaza has passed 360, a statement released by the health ministry of the deposed Palestinian government in Gaza has said.Just in case there is the slightest confusion - these aren't deaths from bombs or missiles or bullets. These aren't deaths of people who the Israelis and the Western media can pass off as "militants." These are deaths of ordinary people, killed by Israel and its allies in the siege of Gaza in the "civilized way." Condemn that, U.S. House of Representatives. Call for some "positive movement forward" on that, Secretary Clinton.
The statement followed the death of a Palestinian man on Tuesday, who was denied approval to leave the Strip to receive medical treatment abroad.
Asaad Ibrahim Mohammad Asfour, 51, who had lung cancer and cancer of the bronchial tubes, is the latest victim of Israel's siege on Gaza which began in 2007.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Congress doesn't want any health care plan they pass to pay for abortions. "Prayer treatments," however, that's another story...
I have to admit I'm quite unclear on exactly what expenses would be incurred when utilizing such treatments.
The "honest broker"
Exactly 36 members of the House of Representatives have the courage to vote against a resolution calling on the U.S. government to oppose the Goldstone report (vs. 344 voting for this piece of, pardon my Yiddish, dreck). And I'm willing to bet a considerable number, if not all, of those 344 (and maybe even some of the 36 and the others voting "present") would still describe the United States as an "honest broker."
As Gideon Levy wrote yesterday, "The United States begs for a settlement freeze and Israel turns up its nose. This is what happens when there are no consequences for Israel's inaction."
One for the road
The real problem is that the guy in the chair isn't Obama, it's the "alcoholic" U.S. ruling class, addicted to the substance being offered. Only detox (in the form of a revolution) can cure the disease.
Scott Ritter on Afghanistan
To my surprise, listening today to Rick Sanchez on CNN (not one of my favorite people), I hear him touting Scott Ritter as "the man who got it right on Iraq" and then interviewing Ritter (here and here) talking about such things as how Gen. McChrystal needs to be fired for insubordination (for making public speeches challenging his Commander-in-Chief) and how the U.S. should stop fighting the Taliban because the Taliban are not Al Qaeda and have no interest in "fighting us over here" if we stop "fighting them over there." Was Ritter ever on CNN (or any other corporate media outlet) before the invasion of Iraq? If he was (and I'm not sure he was), it was a rare day indeed, although those of us who get our news from alternative media certainly heard him loud and clear.
Ritter makes a clear distinction (as this blog has, many times) between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, noting that "the Taliban is the legitimate outgrowth of frustration of the Afghan people over the corruption, the rape, the pillage of the warlords that thrived in Afghanistan once the Soviets left...The reality is the Taliban are closer to the Afghan people than, in many cases, Hamid Karzai, America's anointed President of Afghanistan, is."
Update: Lest I give Sanchez too many props, I add that part of his introduction claims that "Ritter was all but kicked out of [Iraq] by Saddam Hussein," repeating the old lie that the inspectors were kicked out of Iraq, rather than having left in advance of U.S. bombing.
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