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Sunday, January 31, 2010


 

Ahmadinejad says dumb things


Others may dwell on some of his remarks about the Holocaust; I find this possibly the dumbest thing he's ever said:
"If the Islamic Revolution had not occurred, liberalism and Marxism would have crushed all human dignity in their power-seeking and money-grubbing claws. Nothing would have remained of human and spiritual principles."
And here I thought Ahmadinejad was familiar with developments in, most notably, Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia. How he could think that those societies influenced to one degree or another by Marxism have anything to do with "money-grubbing" and don't strongly reflect "human principles" and "human dignity" I have no idea.


Saturday, January 30, 2010


 

Glenn Greenwald speaks for me


...as he looks back on the invasion of Iraq:
"I'm periodically criticized for an "angry" tone in my writing, which I always find mystifying. I genuinely don't understand why anger should be avoided or even how it could be. What other reaction is possible when one looks around and sees the government leaders who committed these grave crimes completely unburdened by any accountability and treated as respectable dignitaries, or watches the Tom Friedmans, Jeffrey Goldbergs, Fred Hiatts and other unrepentent leading media propagandists who helped enable it still feted as Serious and honest experts, or beholds the current Cabinet and Senate filled with people who supported it, or observes the Michael O'Hanlons and Les Gelbs and other Foreign Policy Community luminaries who lent trans-partisan credence to it all continue to traipse around still pompously advocating for more wars that never touch their lives?"


 

War is Peace


See if you can read this sentence without bursting out laughing (or crying):
The Obama administration plans to ask Congress to increase spending on the U.S. nuclear arsenal by more than $5 billion over the next five years as part of its strategy to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually rid the world of them.
That's our Nobel Peace Prize-winning President!


 

Are "foreign corporations" the problem?


The outrage over "foreign corporations" that we've heard from the President, the Congress, and from liberals and conservatives alike, is just so much poppycock. It stems from the false idea that "our" corporations have "our interests" at heart unlike "foreign" corporations which do not. Balderdash. Among others being singled out, I've heard mentioned CITGO, a Venezuelan company, which, based on its actual behavior (giving away free or cut-rate oil to poor Americans), has more concern for the interest of U.S. citizens than Exxon, Walmart, GM, or pretty much any "American" corporation I could name.

And, just to point out, the very idea of "foreign" corporations is a squishy one anyway. What is a "foreign corporation"? One which is incorporated in another country, but which could still have a majority of its shares owned by Americans? One incorporated in the U.S., but a majority of whose shares could be owned by non-Americans? Or do only corporations owned by foreign governments count?

The whole "corporate personhood" was an abomination from the day it began, as is the whole idea that "money=speech". Both of those concepts need to be vigorously opposed. But singling out "foreign" corporations? It's a complete distraction.

Update: By the way, note how those complaining about the potential influence of foreign corporations on the U.S. are also the first to cheer Google's attempt to throw its weight around and influence the laws of China (whatever you think of those laws). Just like terrorism, or nuclear weapons, there's one standard for what the U.S. and its friends do, and another for what their "enemies" are "allowed" to do.


Friday, January 29, 2010


 

How many U.S. soldiers are dying?


There have been 4374 U.S. military deaths in Iraq and 976 in Afghanistan for a total of 5350. Some people like to nitpick and claim that those numbers don't include people who die after being evacuated from the country (which isn't actually true; it certainly includes some such people, if not all).

But it turns out that, according to no less a source than Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, those numbers are dwarfed by another kind of death that mostly occurs once the soldier has returned home - suicide. There are 6000 military suicides each year. I knew it was bad, but had no idea it was that bad. And even that probably doesn't include numerous cases of "suicide by cop."

It's time to put an end to the madness. Long past time. Stop the war. Now.


Thursday, January 28, 2010


 

Cuba, Israel, and Haiti: Bill Clinton lies (surprise!)


If Ha'aretz is to be believed, this was Bill Clinton speaking to Shimon Peres in Davos: "Shimon, I don't know what we would have done without the Israeli hospital at Haiti. The Israeli hospital was the only operational facility which was able to perform surgery and advanced tests." Well, I don't know what "advanced tests" we're talking about (and, frankly, I'm skeptical that "advanced tests" were among the more pressing needs of the Haitian people), but there were Cuban doctors performing surgery in hospitals in Haiti long before the Israelis (or anyone else) arrived after the earthquake, as even NPR finally acknowledged.

Oh, and by the way, those Israeli doctors who the Haitian people couldn't have done without? They're gone now, having evidently fulfilled their mission. What was that mission? I feel certain the medical personnel themselves had only the noblest motives in mind, saving people's lives. The leadership of the country that sent them there, however, seems to have other ideas:

"You have raised human spirits and elevated the name of the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces," Netanyahu told the returning team. "As many plot against us, distort and muddy our names, you have shown the real IDF."
Cuban doctors? Still there. Their mission, to bring health care to the Haitian people and not good P.R. to the Cuban government, remains unfulfilled. Indeed, far from leaving, the Cuban presence in Haiti is increasing, as a team of 62 epidemiologists and vector control workers just arrived in Haiti to begin dealing with the massive public health crisis which confronts the island on top of the individual health crises.


 

Today's most important news story - it's not what you think


The State of the Union address? The introduction of the iPad? No, this:
Increased co-payments for doctor visits boost health-care costs for seniors
Obama is constantly talking about "controlling health care costs." Note that he doesn't use the word "profit" (which really should be controlled), but "costs." What does that really mean? What it means is somehow discouraging people from getting medical care, that's what it means. And what is the practical effect? This:
Increased cost sharing [higher co-pays] led to nearly 20 fewer annual outpatient visits to the doctor's office per 100 enrollees. But annual hospital admissions grew by 2.2 per 100 enrollees. The higher price for outpatient care also led to 13.4 [more] annual days in the hospital per 100 enrollees.

Trivedi and the other researchers found the effects of higher co-payments for outpatient care were particularly magnified among lower income senior citizens and among patients who had hypertension, diabetes or a history of heart problems.
The study doesn't say anything about deaths, but anytime people are deferring care, and ending up in the hospital as a result, it's a safe bet that somewhere along the line, someone is dying who wouldn't have, had they received timely care.

Here's how you really "control costs" in medical care - with a single-payer system, that not only simply offers medical care to those who need it, but also trains enough doctors that they can afford to do this:

During these 15 years of work in Haiti, the Cuban doctors have attended to close to 6 million patients free of charge, almost all of them in the same communities where they live. All in all, 14,446,829 doctors’ visits have been performed, including more than 110,390 babies who were delivered by Cuban doctors and 228,238 people who have received operations.

Another milestone was the startup of the Operation Miracle program that provides free corrective eye surgery to those in need. Operation Miracle began in Haiti in 2005 with an extensive medical survey of the population and then in September of the same year, the first patients arrived to Cuba to receive operations.

Today, more than 155,773 Haitians have received free eye surgeries for cataracts and other eye diseases.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


 

Snark of the Union


Random comments on the speech:

"We should start where most new jobs do — in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss."

I continue to call b.s. on this assertion.

"The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth..."

Socialism? It's socialism, right?

"It's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth."

Capitalism? It's capitalism, right?

"We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores."

...So we're going to drop the blockade of Cuba? Uh....no.

"This year, we have broken through the stalemate between left and right by launching a national competition to improve our schools."

Why is it every time the "stalemate between left and right" is broken, the result is always exactly what the right wanted?

"Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will."

Mark this one down; it's the one promise in the entire speech that will be fulfilled.

"Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values."

Forget "values"; I'd be happy if he'd just uphold the Constitution.

"In Afghanistan...we will reward good governance."

Does that include stolen elections? "Presidents" who can't even get their legislature to approve their Cabinet choices, twice? If we "reward" good governance, what exactly is our reaction to bad governance? Aside from sending more troops, that is.

"As Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences."

Iran is in full compliance with the NPT; it is the United States which is not. Just for the record.

"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."

"This year," sometime off in the future, he'll "work with Congress" to repeal the law he can't even name - "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". He doesn't "call on the Congress to repeal it" in his speech, just he'll "work with" Congress. Just so you know it won't be his fault when it doesn't happen, notwithstanding the fact that he could implement precisely the same result today (by announcing that as Commander in Chief he forbids those under his command from taking any action to enforce the law) if he really wanted to while waiting for Congress to repeal the law itself.

And finally,

"And it lives on in all the Americans who’ve dropped everything to go some place they’ve never been and pull people they’ve never known from rubble, prompting chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!” when another life was saved."

Really? I've watched a lot of coverage, and I haven't once heard this kind of chant. I have heard a lot of people complaining about how rescue workers were prevented from arriving in Haiti while the U.S. military tied up the airport to land more soldiers.

Update: Almost forgot:

"Well I do not accept second-place for the United States of America."

Really? How about 37th place (in health care)? 38th (in life expectancy)? How about 13th (in "human development")? #1 in military spending, though! Damn straight!

Update 2: I forgot my one opportunity to praise Obama:

"And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform."

Thank you, President Obama! I am so tired about people talking about "HCR" - Health Care Reform. Obama agrees with me - this has nothing to do with health care (which is what we really need). It's about insurance. Period.

Update 3: How could I forget:

"But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need...a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country...and clean coal."

Nuclear power plants do have the possibility to be "clean." It's the waste products of those plants that pose a huge, and as far as we can tell, insurmountable problem to society. And "clean coal"? An oxymoron.


 

Can the President have you killed?


Yes.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said. The evidence has to meet a certain, defined threshold. The person, for instance, has to pose "a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests," said one former intelligence official.

The Obama administration has adopted the same stance.
No hearing required. If the CIA or the military decide you need killing, they're the prosecution, judge and jury. Defense? No defense allowed.


 

Howard Zinn, R.I.P.


Well, finally the corporate media have a good excuse for not inviting one of the most insightful commentators on current events to appear in their pages and on their screens - Howard Zinn has died.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010


 

Haitian doctors


Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta just did a report on Haitian medical students. Evidently all the medical schools in the country were destroyed by the quake, leaving the students in limbo. But how could they do such a report without mentioning that, since 1999, no less than 544 Haitians have received free medical training in Cuba? If their figure of 2000 total doctors in Haiti is accurate, that's more than 25% of the doctors in the entire country who received their education in Cuba! Surely worth mentioning, one would think.


 

Caches of weapons in the news


Today, a man with a "cache" of weapons is all over the national news. His cache consisted primarily of two rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Aside from the RPG, no doubt a "cache" which is exceeded in size by hundreds of thousands, if not indeed millions or even tens of millions, of Americans. Oh, but he had one more thing in his "cache" which most of them don't, which is why he's in the national news - "a Middle Eastern red and white colored traditional headdress."

Let's remind ourselves of other caches of weapons that were not newsworthy, caches which received no national attention whatsoever. Just last November, a man was caught with 35 pipe bombs, an assortment of firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition; outside of a brief AP article, his case went totally unmentioned by the national press. He was a right-winger.

But he doesn't even begin to compare to two other cases. Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat were caught with dozens of machine guns, rifles, C-4 explosive, dynamite, detonators, a grenade launcher and ammunition, and did spend a year in prison. In the New York Times they warranted two one-paragraph stories, one the day they were convicted, the other the day they were released from prison. And even surpassing Alvarez and Mitat was Robert Ferro, a man whose name did not once make the national or even regional media; only the local paper has covered his case. Why is that so astonishing? Because Ferro had 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, the largest private cache of weapons ever seized in the United States!

Alvarez, Mitat, and Ferro all had one thing in common besides for having their caches of weapons ignored by the media. All three were anti-Cuban terrorists, planning to use their weapons against citizens of Cuba. You know, "acceptable" terrorism.


 

My letter to The Nation


Forgive the partial repetition of the post just below this one, but this is a letter just sent to The Nation, in response to this article by Gary Younge and this one by Katrina vanden Huevel and Robert Borosage:
Gary Younge is correct that many of those who placed too much faith in Barack Obama subscribe to the "great man" theory of history, but the idea that those of us who placed no faith in him share that belief is nonsense. It is precisely those of us who refused to drink the Kool-Aid who all along identified the entirety (with a mere handful of exceptions) of the Democratic Party (and, needless to say, the Republicans as well) as the obstacle to progress, and would not for a moment consider placing the blame for where we have come in the past year on Obama alone.

In the very next article in The Nation we find out who did drink the Kool-Aid, as Katrina vanden Huevel and Robert Borosage describe Obama as "the most liberal president in memory." Evidently their memory doesn't even extend as far back as Richard Nixon, who by practically any measure was more liberal than Obama. They admit "he has never been a movement progressive," as if he were in fact any kind of progressive, and hope for their "great man" to "counter [the right's] market fundamentalism." Apparently they have forgotten Obama's interview with the Reno Journal-Gazette during the 2008 campaign, which suggests precisely the opposite:

"I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. They felt like with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."
vanden Huevel and Borosage do identify the necessary remedy - "progressive protest organizing." But if they really support that alternative, they (and The Nation) need to inform their readers about the one massive effort already in progress - the March 20 March on Washington (www.march20.org) whose main target is the wars which are draining the U.S. Treasury, and which are the biggest obstacle to progress in every area, be it healthcare, education, jobs, housing, mass transit, combating climate change, or anything else. As long as the United States continues to spend more than a trillion dollars every year on war, progressive change in the U.S. will remain a fantasy.

 

Obama and the "spending freeze"


I'll skip over the fact that Obama's spending "freeze" is about as much of a real freeze as is Netanyahu's settlement "freeze." The fact is that, no matter how much of an actual freeze it is, in proposing such a thing, Obama comes out more openly than ever before in embracing and promoting the right-wing "big gummint is the problem, cut gummint spending" philosophy than ever before.

But should this really be a surprise? No. Listen to Obama during the 2008 campaign:

"I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. They felt like with all the excesses of the 60s and the 70s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think he tapped into what people were already feeling. Which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."
I called him out on that talk at the time, even moreso for his trashing of Vietnam war protesters than for his embrace, even if indirect, of Reagan, but it was a very telling talk. And now, even while keeping gays in the closet with his continuing refusal to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Obama comes out of his own closet, the one on the right.

By the way, the amount of money to be "saved" by this freeze is interesting. We're told it's $250 billion over ten years, or $25 billion/year. Which is almost exactly what the "surge" in Afghanistan is costing. An expense about which the debate in the media, and in Congress, was close to nil.


Monday, January 25, 2010


 

A picture is worth etc.



Some impressive (or depressive) graphs showing unemployment trends in recent recessions. You can click to enlarge, and then click again to enlarge even further.


 

Cuban doctors in Haiti


12 days after the earthquake, finally a significant piece on Cuban doctors in Haiti, from NPR. From AP, or The New York Times, or the Washington Post, still not an article. Not a paragraph. Not a sentence. Not a word.


Sunday, January 24, 2010


 

Left I at the Movies: Salt of the Earth


Some of you will be saying "where have you been?", but I only just recently learned about a movie called Salt of the Earth, and just watched it last night. I'll start with the bottom line - if you haven't seen this movie, you must (Netflix is your friend).

What is it? It's a movie made in 1953, the only movie ever blacklisted in the United States. It's about the struggle, and eventual strike (not much a spoiler; I'm sure you'll see that coming) of some (mostly) Mexican-American miners in New Mexico. Much more than a pro-labor movie, it's also very much about racism and sexism, coming down very hard on both. It's powerful, it's riveting, and, when you learn (link above) about the conditions under which it was made, a remarkably good film as well. Many of the actors, including the leading man, are miners, not professional actors, but they do a remarkable job.

Naturally, this movie which is anti-racist, anti-sexist, and pro-labor, was condemned as "Communist propaganda" at the time (and blacklisted, shown, according to Wikipedia, in only 12 theaters in the entire country). Isn't it interesting that fighting against racism and sexism, and for the right of working people to decent pay and safe working conditions, is considered "Communist"? Of course it's no accident, because Communists (and communists) have been leading fighters in the struggles against such social ills in the United States for decades.

Two thumbs up.

And, for today's relevance, in a not entirely unrelated story, half of Evo Morales' newly-installed Cabinet in Bolivia are women.


 

Today's "democracy" watch


Following up on Friday's post on the Supreme Court decision on corporate money in politics, an item in today's news shows us once again how, sadly, corporate "free speech" was perfectly legal in most places even before this ruling, and reminds us how real democracy is non-existent in the U.S.:
PG&E put another $3 million late last week into pushing a June ballot measure that would make it harder for communities to start or expand their own public utilities — essentially, to choose power other than PG&E's.

The rather euphemistically named "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act" would require local governments to get approval from two-thirds of their voters before providing electricity to new customers or expanding service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved. Critics say PG&E is playing populist in order to block governments from fleeing to smaller, greener energy producers — a movement that's been gaining steam in recent years.

The power giant's latest ante — almost doubling the $3.5 million it had put into the committee it created to qualify the measure for the ballot — comes after several California newspapers published editorials taking aim at the measure, saying it's anything but what its title implies.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced earlier this month that the measure had qualified for the ballot, and clearly the company is now making ready to spend whatever's needed to protect its profits.
The best "democracy" money can buy.


 

Where is the economy going?


Just a few days ago I wrote about "Capitalism's future (or lack thereof)". Today, more on the same lines. First, we find Tom Friedman going on about his favorite cure for what ails the economy, "entrepreneurship." Now I'm the first to praise Google, without whom I could neither write this blog nor, frankly, do a lot of things with nearly the ease and speed with which I do them. But Google, the great success story of the last decade, employs just 10,000 people worldwide. And while plenty of them do software development and other technological things, the company makes its money from basically one thing - advertising. Which means that it is totally dependent on the rest of the economy - if there were no other companies advertising, Google would go out of business. You can't sustain an economy on advertising, any more than you can sustain it on selling things. You have to actually make things to sell in the first place (or "do" things, like be a doctor, give haircuts, etc.).

Which brings us to the second story in today's news, about the auto industry. Or, rather, what once was the auto industry. Here's the news:

Of 128 manufacturing plants in North America closed since 1980 by the Detroit Three automakers and their largest suppliers, three of every five now sit idle.

Those 128 plants had a payroll of 196,000 workers at the time they closed. Today, only 36,500 people work at those sites that have been redeveloped, and at only three of the revived plants does the number of employees match or exceed the number in their carmaking past.
In other words, to fill that net loss of jobs, it would take 16 "Googles" to fill the void. Anyone out there think that's going to happen? Tom Friedman, how about you?

So what's the solution? Go read my post "Capitalism ad absurdam" to find out.


Friday, January 22, 2010


 

Three random observations about unlimited corporate donations


1) Media are of course corporations. Imagine a ballot proposition coming up which, say, attempts to restrict media consolidation. Now imagine that every other advertisement you see on TV is someone telling you what a bad idea that is. Nor is this restricted to media issues, since some media companies (e.g., NBC owned by GE before being sold to Comcast, ABC being owned by Disney) are owned by entirely unrelated businesses, who again can use the unlimited power of their own airwaves to promote their corporate interest.

2) In some jurisdictions, judges are elected. Imagine trying to sue a corporation in a court whose judge had his or her election financed by that corporation.

3) If a corporation gets a politician elected to help pass a bill giving them some financial benefit (tax break, big contract, whatever) and then they get that financial benefit, the donation is just as much a "business expense" as any other form of marketing, which means, if I'm a corporate lawyer (I'm not, I assure you!), I'm telling my client that it's tax-deductible. Expect corporate taxes to get even lower than they are (to the extent that's even possible).

Finally, though, while this Supreme Court decision does augur a quantitative shift in corporate power over politics, if you're under the impression this is an sea change, you're mistaken. Money has been talking for a long, long time in politics.

Update: Illustrating my first point, and proving my final (unnumbered) point, is this:

N. Christian Anderson III, the new publisher of The Oregonian, reportedly earns more than a quarter-million dollars a year and therefore will pay slightly more in personal income taxes if Oregon's Measures 66 and 67 are approved by voters. That explains why Anderson is using his prerogative and The Oregonian's considerable resources -- EVEN delivering FREE editions of the paper, wrapped in anti-measure advertisements to non-subscribers! -- to convince Oregon voters to vote against the measures.


Thursday, January 21, 2010


 

The "partner for peace"


Over the years we've heard a lot about how the Israelis have no "partner for peace." More recently the idea of a "settlement freeze" (very loosely defined) has been in the news. With both of these things in mind, the following will be of great interest. It's from an article in The Nation by Henry Seigman, the former head of the American Jewish Congress, one of the major American Jewish organizations:
The Jewish settlements and their supporting infrastructure, which span the West Bank from east to west and north to south, are not a wild growth, like weeds in a garden. They have been carefully planned, financed and protected by successive Israeli governments and Israel's military. Their purpose has been to deny the Palestinian people independence and statehood--or to put it more precisely, to retain Israeli control of Palestine "from the river to the sea," an objective that precludes the existence of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state east of Israel's pre-1967 border.

A vivid recollection from the time I headed the American Jewish Congress is a helicopter trip over the West Bank on which I was taken by Ariel Sharon. With large, worn maps in hand, he pointed out to me strategic locations of present and future settlements on east-west and north-south axes that, Sharon assured me, would rule out a future Palestinian state.

Just one year after the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan, then defense minister, described Israel's plan for the future of the territories as "the current reality." "The plan is being implemented in actual fact," he said. "What exists today must remain as a permanent arrangement in the West Bank." Ten years later, at a conference in Tel Aviv whose theme was finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Dayan said: "The question is not, What is the solution? but, How do we live without a solution?"
Who is not a "partner for peace"? The answer is obvious.


 

Obama - self-delusional?


Barack Obama on why there hasn't been progress in a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians:
"I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them [to start engaging in a meaningful conversation]"
"Persuade"? When you say to the Israelis - "please stop building settlements" - and they respond with "no thanks", and you respond to that with "oh, ok", that's not "persuasion." It's flapping your gums.


 

The best "democracy" money can buy


California Gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman (former eBay CEO) has donated $20 million more to her own campaign, bringing the total to $39 million. Her opponent, Steve Poizner, has "only" donated $19 million. And this is only the Republican primary! No telling how much more will go down in the actual election.

Just as a little math exercise, that $58 million (so far!) is more than half the amount the U.S. has pledged (emphasis on the word "pledged"; such pledges have a long history of being just words) to help Haiti, a place where the literal lives of tens of thousands of people hang in the balance based on the availability of funds for aid.

Update: This just in:

In a 5-4 decision that strikes down a 1907 law, the justices say the 1st Amendment gives corporations, just like individuals, a right to spend their own money on political ads for federal candidates.
Corporations as people - the worst decision the Supreme Court never made.


 

Rewriting history at The New York Times


Under a headline reading "Taliban Overhaul Image to Win Allies," we find it's The New York Times who's the one doing a little bit of "overhauling"...of history:
The Taliban...are recasting themselves increasingly as a local liberation movement, independent of Al Qaeda.

"Recasting" themselves as a "local liberation movement"? The Taliban have been fighting since Oct. 7, 2001 to rid their country of a foreign occupation.

"Independent of Al Qaeda"? A little history: Al Qaeda was founded in 1988; the Taliban predate them by many years. And as this humble blog was writing as far back as 2003, the Taliban and Al Qaeda were never interchangeable words, as much as the U.S. government and the American corporate media attempted to make them so, in their attempt to justify overthrowing the government of Afghanistan and the continued occupation of that country. The Taliban may have been (are) a reactionary fundamentalist religious group, but they are in at least one respect the opposite of Al Qaeda. Why? Because Al Qaeda attacked U.S. targets, whereas the Taliban not only never attacked U.S. targets, but were themselves attacked by the U.S. (and have been fighting back ever since). They were never "dependent" on Al Qaeda and, despite questionable claims that the Taliban were "harboring" Al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001 (questionable because the Taliban were no more in complete control of the entire country than is the Karzai government today), Al Qaeda was certainly never "dependent" on the Taliban either.


 

Quote of the Day


"I think President Obama is perhaps the best illustration of an ally who can't be counted on, an ally whose rhetoric far exceeds his actions"

- Prof. Gary Segura, testifying at the Prop. 8 trial about President Obama's refusal to back gay marriage or end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
I'd agree except for the word "ally." President Obama is as much an "ally" of gays and lesbians as Joe Lieberman is of the Democrats.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010


 

Headline: "Obama, Dems consider pared-back health care bill"


Leaving...


Typical of the U.S. press, AP describes the current bill as a "sweeping health care overhaul." I wish. A guy with a broom could accomplish more "sweeping overhaul" than the current bill (the one they'll be "paring back").


 

Pity the poor defenders of Israel


It must be hard to defend something when the facts aren't on your side. Yesterday I had one defender of Israel bragging about how Israel was the "only country in the Middle East" to respond to the disaster in Haiti. Well, except for the 30 tons of aid coming from Iran, along with aid from Qatar, the UAE, and others. And except for the aid being collected in war-ravaged Gaza. Other than that, yes, Israel is the "only country."

Then today a letter writer to the San Jose Mercury News asserts that Israel was the first country to set up a hospital in Haiti after the earthquake. Well, except for the Cuban team of 60 doctors from the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade against Disasters and Serious Epidemics (joining 344 Cuban doctors already on the ground in Haiti), who within hours of the quake had already set up a hospital, assisted some 2,000 patients and carried out 111 major surgeries and 60 minor surgeries.

The letter-writer was correct, of course, that an Israeli medical team is in Haiti doing admirable work. Unfortunately, what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away (taketh away from the Palestinians, naturally). This very day, Ha'aretz is reporting that Israel is now refusing to grant work permits to foreign nationals working for NGOs operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, thus effectively crippling the work of groups such as Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, and Save the Children.

The letter-writer also has the nerve to brag about 900 people from Gaza who have been admitted to Israeli hospitals for treatment. He's probably unaware (since it's never been reported in the U.S. corporate media) that at least 337 Gazans, the majority of them children, have died (as of the middle of last year; the number is undoubtedly higher by now) because of being refused permission to obtain such treatment (often because their families refused to become collaborators/informants for the Israeli military). He should be aware, however, that the main reason Gazans need to obtain medical treatment in Israel in the first place is because of a lack of medicine, medical equipment, and even electricity in Gaza, all due to the crippling blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel, Egypt, the U.S., and others.

Update: Both the U.N. and the WHO criticize the medical situation in Gaza (and the Israeli responsibility for it), comparing it to the situation in Haiti.

Second update: Akiva Eldar in Ha'aretz:

The Israeli newspaper reader knows about the baby pulled from the wreckage in Port-au-Prince. Few have heard about the infants who sleep in the ruins of their families' homes in Gaza.

The disaster in Haiti is a natural one; the one in Gaza is the unproud handiwork of man. Our handiwork.

A few days before Israeli physicians rushed to save the lives of injured Haitians, the authorities at the Erez checkpoint prevented 17 people from passing through in order to get to a Ramallah hospital for urgent corneal transplant surgery. Perhaps they voted for Hamas. At the same time that Israeli psychologists are treating Haiti's orphans with devotion, Israeli inspectors are making sure no one is attempting to plant a doll, a notebook or a bar of chocolate in a container bringing essential goods into Gaza.


Monday, January 18, 2010


 

Capitalism's future (or lack thereof)


Beginning five years ago, I was writing about the folly of thinking that "retraining" was a solution to the long-term problem of declining employment under capitalism. Bringing the story up to the present, the San Jose Mercury News reports that a whopping one-fifth of all office and R&D space in Silicon Valley is empty. And yet, in the unplanned, irrational way that is capitalism, you can still drive around and see more buildings going up, right next to empty buildings. And, adding insult to injury (to the planet and its inhabitants), some of that building is taking place on land that should be preserved as precious and irretrievable habitat.

With the typical optimism of the corporate media (even the corporate print media whose own future is bleak, the Mercury News predicts that "job growth will eventually begin to fill the valley's echoing office buildings." Any gamblers out there willing to take my bet on the "Not!" side? I'll even give odds.

Pulling it all together, this editorial (not from the corporate media!) describes "Capitalism's unsolvable problems." The structural problems we are seeing are not short term problems. They are permanent changes which can only be solved with a completely different economic system. A planned system, a system run on the basis of people's needs, not on the basis of profit. Socialism.


 

A change is gonna' come


Not from Obama. But from The New York Times:
New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations.

It will likely be months before the Times actually begins to charge for content, perhaps sometime this spring.
We shall see where this leads; it's hard to know.


 

Israeli imperialism and nuclear proliferation to expand; will the U.S. object?


The German and Israeli cabinets are holding a joint meeting today. This information is presumably an outgrowth of that meeting:
Ahead of a Israeli-German cabinet meeting in Berlin, media reports indicate that Israel intends to station one of its German-made Dolphin submarines in the waters of the Persian Gulf.

Israel has previously received three submarines as a donation form the government of the then German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The Dolphin submarines are among the most sophisticated and capable submarines in the world, that could be equipped with nuclear missiles. Built in German shipyards for the Israel Navy, the submarine is capable of carrying American-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles equipped with nuclear warheads.
So we now have the distinct possibility of Israeli warships (submarines) equipped with nuclear weapons patrolling the Persian Gulf. Will the U.S. and the rest of what is referred to in the Western media as "world opinion" condemn this outrageous act of aggression and nuclear proliferation, an act which, although it hasn't happened yet (as far as we know), is far closer to reality than any Iranian nuclear weapons which are the subject of so much condemnation by the government and media?


Sunday, January 17, 2010


 

In the U.S., it's always Groundhog Day


In the movie Groundhog Day, history begins anew every day. So it is in the United States, where the idea that there is something called history is a foreign concept (other than history like 9/11 which can be invoked as a magical incantation to influence the present, and of course that's the U.S. "9/11", not the Chilean 9/11). Listen to President Barack Obama:
"I pledge to the people of Haiti that you will have a friend and partner in the United States of America today and going forward."
Or Secretary of State Clinton:
"As President Obama has said, we will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead."
Was the U.S. helping in Haiti yesterday? Was it hurting? (you all know the answer to that question) Oh, let's not think about that, let's just restart the clock today, shall we?

Cuban aid to Haiti didn't begin "today", or a week ago, it began years ago. 400 Cuban medical personnel were already working in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, and more than 400 Haitians have been trained or are being trained as doctors in Cuba. And unlike the situation in Venezuela, where Cuba does get some, excuse the capitalist term, "ROI" (Return on Investment) for its provision of medical personnel, in Haiti, Cuban aid is a pure act of solidarity. As is its training of doctors from all over the world, including Venezuelans, who once they graduate will reduce the (again excuse the capitalist terminology) "market" for the Cuban "product" (medical personnel).

And even more important than the material (which includes human) aid is political aid. While the U.S. wants the world to focus on the future, former Cuban President Fidel Castro wants to make sure we remember how we got here, and what that means going forward:

Haiti is the net product of colonialism and imperialism, of more than one century of the employment of its human resources in the toughest forms of work, of military interventions and the extraction of its natural resources.

This historic oversight would not be so serious if it were not for the real fact that Haiti constitutes the disgrace of our era, in a world where the exploitation and pillage of the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants prevails.

Billions of people in Latin American, Africa and Asia are suffering similar shortages although perhaps not to such a degree as in the case of Haiti.

Situations like that of that country should not exist in any part of the planet, where tens of thousands of cities and towns abound in similar or worse conditions, by virtue of an unjust international economic and political order imposed on the world. The world population is not only threatened by natural disasters such as that of Haiti, which is a just a pallid shadow of what could take place in the planet as a result of climate change, which really was the object of ridicule, derision, and deception in Copenhagen. [Ed. note: shades of Danny Glover!]

But I have to express the opinion that it is now time to look for real and lasting solutions for that sister nation.

There can be no other form of cooperation [more] worthy of being described as such than fighting in the field of ideas and political action in order to put an end to the limitless tragedy suffered by a large number of nations such as Haiti.
Update: From The New York Times:
The World Food Program finally was able to land flights of food, medicine and water on Saturday, after failing on Thursday and Friday, an official with the agency said. Those flights had been diverted so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety.

“There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti,” said Jarry Emmanuel, the air logistics officer for the agency’s Haiti effort. “But most of those flights are for the United States military."
Update 2: CNN (video) finally runs a piece on the Cuban medical effort in Haiti - mentioning the word "Cuba" a grand total of once and without any context whatsoever (i.e., that there were hundreds of Cuban medical personnel in Haiti before the quake, and that more, as well as Haitians being trained as doctors in Cuba, began arriving the day after the quake). But it was more of a mention that anywhere else in the media!


Friday, January 15, 2010


 

Ironies multiply


First, we have President Obama appointing George Bush, disaster coordinator extraordinaire, to a position of responsibility in responding to the disaster in Haiti. From the streets of New Orleans arises a collective "No-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!"

Then, closer to (my) home, we learn that a team from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey is headed to Haiti to help. The team's "serves as a rapid deployment unit when it comes to establishing lines of communication in disaster zones." They'll be shipping out on Sunday, ready to start work nearly a week after the earthquake hit, and long after the overwhelming majority of those who will die will have died. Not that their work won't be needed, it surely will, but could we please not pretend this qualifies as "rapid deployment"?


 

Intentionally misinterpreting Danny Glover


Both Huffington Post and FOX News are promoting the absurd claim that Glover says the earthquake in Haiti was caused by climate change, based on this quote:
"What happened in Haiti could happen to anywhere in the Caribbean because all these island nations are in peril because of global warming. When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Of course this interpretation is nonsense. Glover's point is quite clearly that massive disasters such as the one currently affecting Haiti may be visited on all island nations in the future as a result of climate change (due to rising sea levels and possibly also to increased frequency and severity of hurricanes).

This isn't the only media distortion on events in Haiti, of course. I've been watching a lot of coverage on various networks, as I'm sure many of you have. Not once have I heard a mention of the Cuban doctors working in Haiti, which I just learned today (via Fidel) have actually been joined by 400 Haitians who were being trained as doctors in Cuba and who were sufficiently advanced in their training to be of use. I did hear on CNN about an Israeli medical contingent due to arrive tomorrow. Just four days after the Cubans have already been on the ground working. I'm happy the Israelis are sending doctors, but the fact that their arrival is being touted on network TV while the Cuban presence isn't even mentioned is no accident.


Thursday, January 14, 2010


 

The U.S. starts prepping Israel for its next attack


You may have seen the news that the U.S. is about to double the amount of military equipment is has stockpiled in Israel, from $400 to $800 million. What is less widely reported is the second half of this sentence:
The U.S. Army will double the value of emergency military equipment it stockpiles on Israeli soil, and Israel will be allowed to use the U.S. ordnance in the event of a military emergency.
Needless to say, "military emergency" is a rather broad term. It could encompass Israel running out of bombs, as it did in the summer of 2006 during its bombardment of Lebanon (which required a rush shipment of more bombs from the U.S.), or the latest non-violent anti-Wall demonstration in Bi'lin. After all, Israel considers everything that happens, and even a lot that it imagines (like Iran building nuclear weapons), as "existential threats," and what could be more of an "emergency" than an "existential threat"?

In case you're wondering what this entails:

The deal allows Israel access to a wider spectrum of military ordnance, and the U.S. official said his government was considering which forms of military supplies would be added to stores in Israel. Missiles, armored vehicles, aerial ammunition and artillery ordnance are already stockpiled in the country.
Read that again. They're considering a "wider spectrum" of weapons, and the spectrum already includes pretty much everything you might imagine. It's interesting to speculate just what might be part of that "wider spectrum"; I have no idea.

And, on a lighter note, since we're talking about perceived threats to Israel, here's what preoccupies the IDF:

The Israel Defense Forces human resources chief Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir yesterday called for a boycott of products advertised by Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli.

Speaking at a lecture at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Zamir was asked why the army did not act against Rafaeli, who married under false pretenses so she could evade military service. Zamir said that, according to law, he could not act against Rafaeli. "She went and married a 37-year-old guy, so what can I do?" he said.
By the way, I don't know who that "37-year-old guy" is; Leonardo di Caprio, her boyfriend, is 35. And if you think I'm exaggerating when I use the word "preoccupied" with respect to this bizarre subject, note that this story first surfaced last June and the IDF is still going on about it.

P.S. - Notice how I refrained from posting an image of Rafaeli with this story, which could have increased traffic to this blog ten-fold.


 

Poverty, unlike earthquakes, is no natural disaster


An excellent summary of the history of Haiti in a statement issued by the ANSWER Coalition. The media keep reminding readers/viewers that Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. They forget to add this:
Poverty, unlike earthquakes, is no natural disaster.
And although earthquakes are a natural disaster, the consequences of them most assuredly are not.
The unstable, makeshift dwellings imposed upon Haitians by Washington’s neoliberal policies have now, for many, been turned into graves. Those same policies are to blame for the lack of hospitals, ambulances, fire trucks, rescue equipment, food and medicine.
Last night, I was listening to Anderson Cooper (who I generally think is a decent news reporter) repeatedly talk about Haiti's "long history of weak central government." Apparently he needs a refresher course, since he's forgotten this:
U.S. officials would later find an accommodation with the dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and then his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, as Haiti suffered under their brutal repressive policies.
And this:
Washington orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—not once, but twice, in 1991 and 2004.
Incidentally, readers won't be surprised to read that Cubans from the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Disaster and Epidemic Physicians, formed in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina (but refused entry to the U.S.), are already on the ground in Haiti and have treated hundreds of victims. There are also large American teams on the ground too...from CNN and NBC.

Update: Compare the ANSWER statement linked above with this, from the AP today:

Haiti seems especially prone to catastrophe — from natural disasters like hurricanes, storms, floods and mudslides to crushing poverty, unstable governments, poor building standards and low literacy rates.
The clear implication is that these things are somehow just "genetic predispositions." They are not, and that doesn't just include the poverty etc. but even the mudslides, which are a direct consequence of the very-much man-made deforestation.

Update: In contrast the U.S. corporate media, a report on Al Jazeera this morning reviewed Haiti's history, with the conclusion "Haiti's fate...has not been inevitable."


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


 

Today's shocking news


An official inquiry in the Netherlands finds that the invasion of Iraq violated international law (not exactly a surprise to most of us). Coverage of this development in the U.S. media? As far as I can tell, nil.


 

Money for war, not for human needs


No, that's not my slogan, just the actual practice of the Obama administration (and all previous ones). With Haiti destroyed, the U.S. will no doubt pledge (and maybe even deliver) a few tens of millions of dollars of aid. Meanwhile, Obama is about to request another $33 billion for war this year (2010), and $708 billion more for 2011. Nor will that be the end of it; the "plan" covers at least four years:
The administration also plans to tell Congress next month that its central military objectives for the next four years will include winning the current wars while preventing new ones and that its core missions will include both counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.
The reality of what the U.S. is doing received an excellent dissection by Scott Ritter on Truthdig a few days ago - a must-read article, with this as its premise:
The American people today are fatigued, and while their political leadership promises to lead the nation out of the long, dark tunnel of conflict, there continues to be no light emerging in the distance, only the ever-darkening shadows of wars without end or purpose.
Ritter is really excellent at analyzing what is going on, but a little shaky on the "why." Although he's not a liberal (I think more of a libertarian), he falls into the classic "difference between a liberal and a radical" definition, using words like "irrational" to describe U.S. policy, and, for example, asserting that the U.S. motivation to invade and create regime change in Iran stems from the need "to mollify domestic political pressures at home." That criticism aside, the article is really worth reading.

And if you want to assert a different priority -- "money for human needs, not the war machine" -- get off the computer and into the streets on March 20 in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, or elsewhere.

By the way, if you want to see an example of a country whose priority is human needs and not war, read this article (in Spanish) about how Cuba evacuated 30,000 people from the town of Baracoa in a matter of minutes because of the tsunami warning generated by the earthquake in Haiti.


Sunday, January 10, 2010


 

Capitalism kills...the planet


I've written about the mass transit death spiral before:
Mass transit is, quite obviously, an essential component in reducing not only global warming but also the depletion of the earth's resources. But in the U.S., mass transit is caught in a capitalist-inspired, profit-required death spiral - raise the rates to make a profit, ridership drops, raise the rates some more to make up for it, ridership drops, cut the number of trains or buses, thereby reducing the frequency and providing even less incentive to use it, ridership drops some more, continue until death.
Today's San Jose Mercury News alerts us to the fact that the death spiral is tightening, just as the need to deal with global climate change assumes an even higher priority:
From BART to Caltrain to the Valley Transportation Authority, every Bay Area transit agency has increased fares and reduced train and bus service to plug deep budget holes. But the changes have produced fewer riders and even less revenue — leading some to worry that the transit system has entered a death spiral.
Needless to say, the costs of properly funding mass transit pale in comparison to the costs of fighting war:
Without fundamental changes, these Bay Area transit agencies project a cumulative budget shortfall in 25 years of $8.5 billion, and a capital projects deficit of $17.2 billion.
Note how to make things sound worse, the author had to accumulate the budget shortfall over 25 (!) years; imagine if we were quoted military budgets that way! Put on a yearly basis, we're talking $1 billion total shortfall, money that the U.S. is spending on war in a fraction of a day, every day of the year.

On March 20, people will gather in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles to say "No!" to this insanity. Yesterday in San Francisco, no fewer than 90 people representing several dozen organizations gathered to plan the event here, as an indication of the potential for this event. Spread the word! Off the computer and into the streets!


Friday, January 08, 2010


 

"Democracy" in Iraq


Iraq bans 14 parties from taking part in their next election. That's the "democracy" that "we" are told "we" fought to create.

Meanwhile, in another "democracy" that the U.S. supports (to the tune of billions every year) in the region, Egypt deported George Galloway and forbade him from ever returning, all for the "crime" of delivering humanitarian supplies to the besieged people of Gaza.

It remains to be seen whether the "free press" in the U.S. will even bother to report either of these developments. You can be sure that, if they do get some kind of mention, they won't be the subject of endless discussion on the talk shows, editorials in the major newspapers, or lectures from politicians.


 

O-bla-bla


Back when we had Donald Rumsfeld to kick around, I named his unique brand of blather "Donsense." Barack Obama, although he still sounds like the highly educated person he is, is tending more and more in that direction if you actually think about what he says (rather than just listening and letting it wash over you). I'll propose the term "O-bla-bla" to describe it, but feel free to offer improvements in the comments!

Today's example (which he's said on previous occasions as well):

"Building a robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future -- jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced."
Look, I grant that installing solar panels on people's roofs can't be outsourced. But the heart of every clean energy sector is manufacturing. What on earth would make Obama, or anyone, think that the U.S. will be better positioned (vis-à-vis China or others) at manufacturing solar panels, or windmills, or batteries, than it is at manufacturing steel, cars, toys, clothing or anything else? Can't be outsourced? Dream on.

Yesterday's bit of o-bla-bla was this:

"Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don't hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust."
Really? No siege mentality? This from the President of a country where you have to take your shoes off before you get on a plane? This from the President of a country where we'll soon be optically strip-searched as we get on planes (and, by the way, we can assume we'll be physically strip-searched if the optical strip-search shows anything; what else would be the point if not?)?

O-bla--bla.


Thursday, January 07, 2010


 

The IAEA and...Israel?


Did you know that on Sept. 18 of last year, the IAEA passed a resolution that for the first time expressed "concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities" and requested that Israeli's nuclear program be placed under international oversight? I'm pretty sure I didn't; I certainly didn't write about it at the time. There was an AP article, but I don't remember seeing it in the paper I read, or online at the time. I only just learned about this from an article in the latest issue of FAIR's EXTRA!, in an article (not online) comparing the (non-existent) coverage of this event in the New York Times with their coverage of the (also non-existent) Iran nuclear weapons program. Indeed, searching The New York Times and the Washington Post for "Israel IAEA" produces in each case a series of articles on the Iranian nuclear program, and not a single one about Israeli nuclear weapons or the IAEA resolution.

The article notes that, while the Times (and, as far as I can tell, the Washington Post as well, and no doubt most press outlets) didn't print one word about the IAEA resolution, just one week later, when Iran told the IAEA about its planned nuclear enrichment site in Qom (still under construction and more than the six months away from introduction of nuclear material which was the deadline for Iran to reveal the site), a torrent of media coverage followed. In just the week that followed, the Times published a whopping 32 pieces on Iran's nuclear program, eight of them on the front page, along with two editorials and multiple op-eds.

Needless to say, in this land of the "free press," the effect of all the remaining "free media" was not to balance this completely unbalanced picture, but to reinforce it.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010


 

"Bugsplat"


A must-read (or listen or watch if you prefer) interview with journalist Allan Nairn on this morning's Democracy Now! in which he details the long history of the U.S. not only breaking international law, but even breaking its own laws. A long history which continues uninterrupted under Barack Obama.

Just one note from the interview: To us, they are "people" or "civilians." To the media, they're "collateral damage." But Nairn lets us know that to the military, they're "bugsplat." The up to 30 non-combatants per strike whose deaths are considered "acceptable" when the U.S. drops bombs or fires missiles trying to kill alleged "evil" people (a term used by both Bush and Obama).


Tuesday, January 05, 2010


 

Boycott, divestment, sanctions...and arrests


The pressure continues:
A group of Israeli military officers have delayed [canceled, to be less euphemistic] an official visit to Britain over fears they could be arrested on war crimes charges.


Monday, January 04, 2010


 

Cuba: "State sponsor of terrorism"?


In the past 24 hours, anyone watching or reading the news has repeatedly heard the absurd claim that Cuba is a "state sponsor of terrorism" (and hence Cubans and travelers from Cuba are to be subject to intense airport scrutiny). Read what Wayne Smith, the former U.S. representative in Cuba, has to say in demolishing that vicious lie. It was written 2 1/2 years ago, but nothing about his analysis (or the State Department's claims) has changed in the interim.

To the list of consequences of that designation which I wrote about, you can now add: "Increased hassles at airports."

Update: Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post denounces the inclusion of Cuba on the list (and will be having an online discussion on the subject).


Sunday, January 03, 2010


 

The Israeli settlement "freeze"


Would it surprise you to learn that, rather than a settlement "freeze," the occupied West Bank is actually experiencing a building boom?


Saturday, January 02, 2010


 

Good news/bad news


The good news/bad news thing: Major headline across the top of yesterday's Business section of the San Jose Mercury News: "Market has best year since '03." Much smaller subhead just beneath it: "Decade overall is worst for stocks since Great Depression."


Friday, January 01, 2010


 

Asymmetric (language of) warfare


I was listening to Anderson Cooper on "AC360" earlier and heard him refer to the recent event in Afghanistan as a "terrorist attack on the CIA base." I'm not going to do an exhaustive search, but I'm pretty certain he's far from the only one to refer to the attack which killed eight (some say seven) CIA agents as a "terrorist" attack.

But to me, it stuck out like a sore thumb. After all, we've just been through a news cycle in which Dick Cheney was attacking President Obama for "refusing to say we're at war," and the press routinely refers to the "war on terror" or, following Obama, to a "war on terrorist groups." But if the U.S. is at "war," then how could it possibly be that when the other side in that war strikes back, by whatever means, it is a "terrorist" attack? Certainly one could use that term if the attack was directed at civilians, e.g., a marketplace or a mosque or the like. But this attack was directed against a CIA base, and not just CIA agents sitting at a desk analyzing information, but CIA agents who were actively involved in planning and directing drone strikes against that very enemy! Very much a military target, whether they wore military uniforms or not.

As I've said with respect to Gaza, for example, no doubt the Taliban would love to have drones or jet fighters or helicopter gunships, and if they did, they'd be glad to use those to attack CIA bases and Army bases. Well, they don't, and their best weapon to inflict the most damage is often a suicide bomber. That does constitute asymmetric warfare, but one thing it doesn't constitute is "terrorism."


 

Free Gaza!


FreeGaza

A portion of the hundreds of people who participated in the Gaza Freedom March across the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday, in solidarity with marchers in Gaza and Egypt and Israel who marched (and who in most cases were prevented from marching by the authorities) to oppose the seige of Gaza.

Meanwhile in Egypt, a French woman named Marie Renee, a member of the Gaza Freedom March delegation who was protesting because they were being refused permission by the Egyptian government to enter Gaza, was beaten to death by Egyptian police. Do you suppose the media will be making sure that the whole world knows her name?

I'd say "Happy New Year," but I'm afraid the events of the past New Year in Gaza have put a damper on that sentiment.


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