Tuesday, February 23, 2010
More evidence of the war of terror
If the U.S. government's sponsorship and protection of one terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, wasn't enough evidence that the "war on terror" is a complete fraud and that the United States, even without properly labelling U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan as terrorism, is one of the prime sponsors of a war of terror in the world, along comes another case: Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of a anti-Iran terrorist group named Jundallah. A group which has carried out numerous acts of terrorism in Iran, including bombings, assassination attempts, and terrorist attacks in Iran, one of which killed at least 40 people in the southeastern city of Pishin (by the way those aren't jus "claims"; Jundallah has taken credit for the acts).
Rigi was arrested today by Iran, which claims he was at a US base in Afghanistan 24 hours before his capture and had a forged Afghan passport issued by the US in his possession when he was detained. He had also met with the NATO military chief in Afghanistan in April 2008.
"U.S. Afghan death toll hits 1,000"?
So read today's headlines, bizarrely relying on a privately maintained website instead of anything official. The Pentagon is pushing back, claiming that "It's significantly less than 1,000 in Afghanistan."
Well, let's see, shall we? iCasualties says that 930 Americans have died "in and around Afghanistan," with the remaining 75 fatalities of "Operation Enduring Freedom" in "Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Yemen." OK, we can argue if 930 is "significantly less" than 1000; personally I'd say when it comes to counting dead people, the two numbers are more or less indistinguishable.
But the real nonsense, of course, is the jingoism inherent in talking about only Americans. After all, "OEF" is a "NATO" operation (so we're told), not an American operation. And not 1000, but 1661 coalition troops have died in that operation, which by any definition is "significant more" than 1000. 264 Britons have died, 130 Canadians, etc. I'm not even going to get into Afghan resistance fighters defending their country against a foreign invasion, or even into Afghan civilians, but since we're told that we're "partners" to the Afghans, surely we should add in Afghan police and army who are also part of the "coalition" and who have been killed. I'm afraid I can't do that, though, because that number is completely unavailable.
Have 1000 Americans died "in Afghanistan"? No. Have the fatalities of the occupying force and their Afghan allies (who pretty much qualify as mercenaries since they're really soldiers working for a foreign command, the classic definition of mercenary) significantly exceeded 1000? Without any question, and for quite some time.
Paging George Orwell
Headline in today's New York Times:
On a serious note, whenever there are antiwar demonstrations in the U.S., politicians and unfortunately plenty of liberals as well like to pretend how ineffectual they are. Headlines like this make plain that nothing could be further from the truth. On March 20, off the computer and into the streets to let Gates know there's an antiwar mode right here in the U.S. as well.
Gates Calls Europe Anti-War Mood Danger to Peace
Update: By the way, this is yet another reminder of why I insist on being part of the antiwar movement, not the "peace" movement.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Another day, another apology, another whine
Another day, another 33 Afghan civilians down, thanks to a "mistake" of firing missiles at cars who the pilots "believed" were carrying insurgents. That's what they say, anyway. The truth is that they believed the cars might be carrying insurgents, and that was good enough for them. After all, if they might be carrying insurgents, then there's a chance they might eventually kill Americans, and, given the relative value of the lives of Americans and Afghans, better not to take the chance. So fire away. Standard U.S. policy, and, we're told, this latest "offensive" (what a good word) will produce another 12-18 months of such carnage. Oh wait, they just said the offensive will last another 12-18 months. I added the part about the carnage.
In the meantime, cue the latest "apology" from the U.S. military, and cue the latest whine from "President" Karzai. Correct me if I'm wrong, but technically speaking aren't U.S. troops now in "his" country and killing Afghans on his invitation?
If you have a problem with this, get off the computer and into the streets on March 20.
Gambling in the casino
Commenting on the revelation that Toyota lobbied to narrow the scope of some recalls to save the company money:
Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, said the documents raise questions on "whether Toyota was lobbying for less rigid actions from regulators to protect their bottom line."Nothing like faux outrage over capitalists being capitalists, especially from especially pro-business Republicans. I mean, when has this kind of thing ever happened before? Other than in the pharmaceutical, oil, weapons, banking, and insurance industries (and every single other industry I can think of)?
I titled this post "gambling in the casino," but for industries bribing legislators and regulators to better their bottom lines, it's really not a gamble at all, just an investment. The only "gamble" is what they're doing with the lives of their customers.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Interviewed today on "Face the Nation," former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who played a large role in getting the U.S. public to accept the U.S. attack on Iraq, says he doesn't think the United States handled the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad well, but "that's now history."
Yeah. So are the lives of about a million Iraqis. History.
Just say "no" to treating such "mistakes" as "just history." Get off the computer and into the streets on March 20!
Which is the greater danger?
Non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons, or this:
Israel's air force has unveiled a fleet of unmanned aircraft that its says are able to reach the Gulf, putting Iran within range.One country which has weapons and which has repeatedly attacked its neighbors, and another country, without the weapon in question, which hasn't attacked another country in hundreds of years. Gee, tough decision.
The aircraft, developed by the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, can fly at least 20 consecutive hours and be used for surveillance or launching a missile attack.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
The U.S. Government coddles terrorists
Reading them Miranda rights (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab)? Refusing to even call them "terrorists," even when they committed precisely the same act (flying a plane into a building full of people) as the one which precipitated the "war on terror" (Joe Stark)? No, I'm talking about real coddling, the coddling provided to notorious terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, allowed to live freely in Miami, while the government not only refuses to allow him to be punished for his crimes but even to be tried for them.
Readers unfamiliar with Posada's record may want to start with this article; in the meantime, the latest news: yesterday, Judge Kathleen Cardone granted a U.S. government motion to indefinitely postpone Posada's upcoming trial, which had been scheduled to start on March 1. And that trial was a joke to begin with - a trial for perjury (lying to immigration officials) of a man who is an international fugitive, wanted in Venezuela on 73 counts of murder for the mid-air bombing of Cubana Flight 455 in 1976! Venezuela has had an extradition request outstanding with the U.S. government since June 15, 2005, an extradition request which the U.S. has yet to even respond to, much less honor.
As Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón has pointed out on numerous occasions, there are two highly relevant international treaties: the "Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Illicit Acts Against Civil Aviation and the Protection of Passengers" and the "International Convention against Terrorist Acts Committed with the Use of Bombs." Both Conventions require that if a country does not comply with an extradition request for a person indicted on such a crime in another country, it is obligated to immediately prosecute and put on trial the alleged criminal for the same crime as if it had been committed in its own territory. That has to be done, according to both Conventions, "without any exception whatsoever." Needless to say the U.S. has failed to do so, under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
As it happens, the trial in El Paso (the "possible" trial in El Paso, I should say) has nothing to do with the airline bombing whatsoever, but with a series of hotel bombings in Havana in 1997 which Posada has admitted that he masterminded, and which killed Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo. The government charges in its indictment that Posada "had been involved in soliciting other individuals to carry out said bombings in Cuba," and lied when he told the immigration authorities that he had nothing to do with it. So, naturally, they are charging someone they themselves accuse of murder...of perjury!
But all that becomes a moot point because the government's legal strategy, as described by Venezuela's lawyer in the extradition case, José Pertierra, as "put off, defer and delay the case of Luis Posada Carriles until he dies of old age in Miami." Remember that Posada entered the U.S. illegally five years ago (an illegal immigrant!), and although his presence was known almost immediately, the government has yet to bring him to trial or extradite him.
I'll let Pertierra close this post with his justifiable outrage:
When Posada’s attorneys meet with the prosecutors next May 20 in El Paso to review the “state” of the case, will it occur to anyone to tell the judge that this international terrorist is now five years in the United States without having to answer for his crimes? Or that Giustino di Celmo has waited for 12 years to see that his son Fabio’s murderer be tried? And that the families of the victims of Cubana de Aviacion’s flight 455 have waited almost 34 years to see that justice is carried out, for the murder of their loved ones? What are they waiting for? For the assassin to die of old age in Miami?[Incidentally, if you're on Facebook, consider becoming a "fan" of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five to keep up to date with developments in the cases of Posada and of the Cuban Five.]
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Today's recommended reading
As I've written before, the Western corporate media has been more or less studiously ignoring the existence of Cuban aid to Haiti, despite the fact that the Cuban medical team is the largest one on the ground. It's their way of contributing to the continuing demonization of Cuba in the eyes of Americans; a positive story about Cuba would hurt that effort. Al Jazeera makes a welcome contribution to redressing the balance.
Barack Obama says he's "agnostic" about possible changes to Social Security and Medicare, and has a lot of liberal Democrats with their knickers in a twist. Shamus Cooke at CounterPunch explains how this is precisely the historic role of the Democratic Party.
Speaking of demons, in the Western media, recently-convicted "terrorist" Aafia Siddiqui is one. Anne Gamboni at PSLweb explains what really went down.
All news you won't be reading in the corporate media.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Today's Silicon Valley business news
Two interesting columns in today's San Jose Mercury News. First, this from Mike Cassidy:
Jonathan Schwartz, former Sun CEO...wrote a note in late January marking the end of Sun and bidding goodbye to Sun workers who wouldn't be moving to Oracle.Then this from Chris O'Brien:
"For those that ultimately won't become a part of Oracle," he wrote to employees, "this will be the first step in a new adventure."
It will be an adventure, all right. Maybe more of an adventure than many want. And what are the second and third steps in the new adventure? Food stamps? Foreclosure?
Schwartz, who announced about a week ago that he's leaving Sun/Oracle, will depart with $12.8 million in severance...The company will pay his health insurance premiums for two years...Sun Chairman Scott McNealy [already a gazillionaire] will receive $10 million if he doesn't catch on with Oracle...He'll get health insurance, too.
The typical severance package for those laid off? ... Oracle will give them a maximum of three months of pay and cover a maximum of two months of health insurance, in some cases less.
How many job cuts has Hewlett-Packard had over the past decade? ... 75,505.Let's end with a quote from President Obama:
A closer look at the Compaq and EDS mergers also offers insight into why companies cut jobs after an acquisition. It isn't simply the desire to reduce overlap from the merged work forces, although that can seem compelling. Such deals also allow for attractive accounting terms that reduce the impact that layoffs might otherwise have on profits.
Look at the EDS deal, for instance. Normally, the cost of job cuts comes out of a company's bottom line for the year. But when HP acquired EDS, it counted the job cuts as part of the price of the acquisition. That changed the accounting treatment and allowed HP to deduct the costs from profits over several years.
"I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system."As are the abominations described above by Cassidy and O'Brien.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
"Earth in the Balance", 18 years later
In 1992, Al Gore wrote "Earth in the Balance," and proposed a "Global Marshall Plan" to save the environment, a problem that was apparent even then (no doubt to the surprise of some who still don't acknowledge the problems). Here were his five goals:
1) stabilizing of world populationThat same year, 1992, someone else spoke about the same problem...Fidel Castro. Here's what he had to say:
2) the rapid development of environmentally appropriate technologies
3) a comprehensive change in the economic "rules of the road" by which we measure the impact of our decisions on the environment
4) negotiation & approval of a new generation of international agreements
5) a cooperative plan for educating the world's citizens about our global environment.
"An important biological species is in danger of disappearing due to the speedy and progressive liquidation of its natural living conditions: man. We now become aware of this problem when it’s almost too late to prevent it. It’s necessary to point out that consumer societies are mainly responsible for the atrocious destruction of the environment. They were born from the old colonial metropolises and imperial policies that, in turn, engendered the backward state and the poverty affecting the vast majority of humanity. Making up only 20% of the world population, they consume two thirds of the energy produced in the planet. They have poisoned the air, weakened and perforated the ozone layer, and saturated the atmosphere with gases changing climatic conditions, with the catastrophic effects we’re already beginning to suffer from.As the article from which I took this concludes, "Fidel’s irrefutable truths and unavoidable demands are increasingly valid."
"If we want to save mankind from that self-destruction, we have to make a better distribution of the riches and technologies available in the planet. Less luxury and waste in a few countries so there’s less poverty and hunger in most of the Earth. No more transfers to the Third World of lifestyles and habits of consumption ruining the environment. Let’s make human life more rational. Let’s implement a just international economic order. Let’s use all the science necessary for sustainable development without pollution. Let’s pay the ecological debt and not the foreign debt. Let’s make hunger, and not man, disappear."
The author of an article "To Save the Planet, Leave Capitalism" on which the linked article is based says:
"The oligarchy maintains a cultural model of hyper-consumption, spread to society as a whole by way of television, advertising and films. That model has to change, but it’s so deeply rooted in the lifestyle of the oligarchy with its enormous accumulation of wealth that it opposes those changes. A millionaire will never accept riding a bicycle because his model, his power, his prestige, is an expensive car. If we want to reduce the ecological crisis, that’s the model we must break. It’s necessary to reduce material and energy consumption. Therefore, we’re in full confrontation between ecology and justice, on the one hand, and, on the other, a representation of the world completely maladjusted to the challenges of our time."He's right, of course, but it's not just the "model of hyper-consumption" that has to break, it's the fetishism of "freedom," especially as in "individual freedom," as I discussed when I first proposed my meme, "we all live in a crowded theater" (also discussed here at greater length).
Iran - the reported and the unreported
Two days ago, there wasn't a media source in the U.S. which didn't report on President Ahmadinejad's speech on "Revolution Day", which included his claim that Iran could, if they wanted to, enrich uranium to 80%, and this somewhat belligerent sounding remark (were it not for the sentence which follows it):
"The Iranian nation is brave enough that if one day we wanted to build nuclear bombs we would announce it publicly without being afraid of you," Ahmadinejad said, addressing Iran's Western enemies.Yesterday Ahmadinejad had more to say. When you read it, you won't be surprised that not a single Western source has reported it:
He told the crowd, "When we say that we don't build nuclear bombs, it means that we won't do that because we don't believe in having it."
"We believe that not only the Middle East but also the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons because we see such weapons as inhumane," Ahmadinejad said in an interview with Russia's NTV channel.
"Today, no one can use a nuclear weapon and we believe that the US is taking a wrong move by stockpiling nuclear weapons," Ahmadinejad stated.
He stressed that the nuclear weapons no longer have efficiency, noting the US that possesses nuclear weapons will never achieve victory in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Those who claim that they are against nuclear weapons should dismantle their nuclear weapons first to prove that they are honest," the Iranian president said.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Iran - the said and the unsaid
Sometimes it's what's said, other times it's what isn't said. The New York Times gives us a very typical example of the former today, when it refers to Iran's "nuclear ambitions" as simple fact. Not "suspected nuclear ambitions," or "alleged nuclear ambitions," just simply "nuclear ambitions" (by which they mean, it is simply assumed by every reader, nuclear weapons ambitions). I think it's safe to say, without even seeing a poll, that a huge majority of Americans believe Iran is building nuclear weapons, thanks to countless repetitions of this precise formulation.
But what's unsaid, although harder to spot, is just as important in forming public opinion, and today's AP article on Iran has several examples of that. The whole article is about a "confidential document" which details Iran's efforts to enrich a small amount of uranium to 20% for use in a research reactor producing medical isotopes. Although the IAEA is referenced in the article, not once does the author point out that Iran is giving full cooperation to the IAEA. The "confidential" document might give some readers the idea that its the result of some secret intelligence or spying on Iran, although if those readers get to the ninth paragraph of the article, they will finally learn that the report is based "on onsite reports from International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors" (still without using the word "cooperation").
The article also notes: "But the West says Tehran is not capable of turning the material into the fuel rods needed by the reactor." Strangely enough, however, when it comes to the question of building a nuclear weapon, there is never anyone in the "West" claiming that Tehran is "not capable of turning enriched material" into a nuclear warhead. Curious.
Finally, and most importantly, there's this statement:
Instead [the West] fears that Iran wants to enrich the uranium to make nuclear weapons. Iran denies such aspirations.But, as I have pointed out numerous times, Iran does a lot more than just "denying" such aspirations. When you just say someone "denies" something, you immediately bring to mind almost every criminal in the world, who denies being guilty of some theft or some murder. "Denials" really mean almost nothing. But Iran has gone far beyond just "denying such aspirations," as I have noted many times, even going so far as its "Supreme Leader" issuing a fatwa against them. As usual, that went unsaid. As did any reference to speeches like this by the elected leader of the country, Ahmadinejad, which go far beyond "denying" aspirations for nuclear weapons:
"Sciences and technologies thanks to the faith in God is in the service of humanity. It is science tempered by faith that serves peace and progress. We have declared on numerous occasions that we seek peace and stability on the basis of faith in humanity, in a unitary God, and in justice for the entire human race. We have declared many times, and we declare again, that our nuclear technology is in the service of peaceful goals. We declare that mass destruction weapons are sought by those who still think in the mode of 50 years ago. Those who think that political equations and cultural and economic equations can be solved to their benefit by relying on arsenals of mass destruction weapons. Our nation is a civilized nation, a cultured nation, that relies on the faith and will of its young nationals. Our nation, in order to achieve its aspiration, relies on the thoughts and beliefs and enhanced values that lie in the Islamic culture and Iranian culture. Our nation does not elicit its power from nuclear weapons. The power of our nation is rooted in the justice of its beliefs.Update: Then there's this from today:
"We have declared and I declare again that the total sum of our nuclear activities in all phases were under the full supervision of the atomic agency, and today we also wish to stay under the supervision of the IAEA and continue our activities. What we have achieved and will achieve in the future will be in the framework of the legitimate rights of Iran and based on the universally accepted laws including the laws of our nation and the IAEA under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We, on the basis of international rules and our legitimate rights, continue our path towards having nuclear power plants."
Iran has the capacity to make weapons-grade nuclear fuel if it chooses, the Iranian leader declared, adding that Iran had succeeded in enriching uranium to 20 percent and was now a "nuclear state."This is bizarre on so many levels. First of all, they "dismissed Iran's contention"? But it's already been confirmed by the IAEA, as you can read above. Second, how on earth does Ahmadinejad's statement that "we do not believe in manufacturing a bomb" "solidify" the impression that their nuclear program isn't peaceful?
"We have the capability to enrich uranium more than 20 percent or 80 percent but we don't enrich (to this level) because we don't need it," he said. "When we say we do not manufacture the bomb, we mean it, and we do not believe in manufacturing a bomb. If we wanted to manufacture a bomb, we would announce it."
The Obama administration dismissed Iran's contention it is enriching uranium at a higher level, adding that such claims were disturbing.
Even if untrue, Ahmadinejad's claim "further solidifies our impression and that of the international community that Iran's nuclear intentions are anything but peaceful," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Hey Obama, what's going on?
President Obama hosted another White House concert yesterday, a concert paying tribute to music that fueled the civil rights movement.
Which is a fine idea. Except one of the songs highlighted (in the news coverage, anyway) was Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", a song written in 1971, well after the heyday of the civil rights movement (Rosa Parks famous act 1955, Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, Voting Rights Act in 1965), but, more importantly, a song which had nothing to do with the civil rights struggle. It was a song written in opposition to the war in Vietnam (something a President fighting 2+ wars and conducting a major escalation of 1+ of them - the "+" being Pakistan - wouldn't want you to remember) and a song about poverty (a "war" the Democrats want you to forget about, the Democrats who form "Middle Class task forces" but from whose lips the word "poor" never escapes unless they're talking about Haiti). Read the lyrics or, better yet, read what Gaye himself said about it:
"In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say... I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world."The antiwar message of the song was, in fact, so political that Wikipedia tells us that Berry Gordy at first refused to release the song.
There were indeed many songs which inspired and reflected the civil rights movement. "What's Going On" wasn't one of them.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
The impeccable logic of imperialism
Barack Obama, criticizing Iran:
"But what's clear is, is that they have not said yes to an agreement that Russia, China, Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States all said was a good deal."To Obama, the idea that the Iranian government should make decisions based not on its own interests, but on the interests of other countries, most of which are at this very moment engaged in carrying out economic warfare (in the form of sanctions) against Iran, doesn't even strike him as strange. Which itself is strange, considering the weight the U.S. gives to the opinion of other countries when deciding on its actions. You know, like the majority of the U.N. Security Council who didn't agree that Iraq should be invaded. Or the 187 countries who voted in the U.N. this year that the U.S. should end its blockade of Cuba.
Today's Capitalism ad absurdam moment
Today I got a new "SmartMeter" installed on my house, one of 18 million American homes which have or will have received a new meter. In principle a good thing for two reasons - one, it is expected (or, I should say, hoped) this new system will reduce energy usage as people are better able to monitor its use, and two, it removes the need for a meter reader to periodically visit each house, eliminating the use of fossil fuel used to make those visits, and also freeing up human beings from unnecessary work.
Ah, but there's the capitalism ad absurdam rub! Under socialism, this change would be an unmitigated benefit - the needs of society being met with fewer labor hours, freeing people up to enjoy art, walk in the woods, read a book, or whatever they want to do. But under capitalism, what we have is one more unemployed person, ultimately unable even to afford that now remotely-monitored electricity because of the lack of income to pay the bill.
Now I searched to see if I could find how many jobs will be lost, and the answer is 11,400. But, and remember this is a study conducted by the "the GridWise Alliance trade group," the claim is that 48,300 new utility positions will be created, along with 117,700 jobs for direct suppliers to utilities of equipment like smart meters and services like demand response management, and another 79,300 jobs for companies supplying those direct suppliers. Really? My electricity company is paying millions of dollars to install new meters which is going to force them to increase their payroll? I think not. And yes, there are people making the new smart meters, clearly. But there were also people making the old "dumb" meters, too. Either those are the same people, working for a company which has shifted from making dumb to smart meters, or else those people are out of a job while other people are getting jobs making smart meters. Either way I'm, to put it mildly, skeptical about the creation of any new jobs, at least on a long-term basis. Yes, of course in the short-term, if you're making something obsolete, new jobs will be created. But once all the old meters are replaced, and the duration of the update plan is only months or a few years, then we'll be back to the "steady-state" mode, where presumably the number of people employed making smart meters for new houses will be more or less the same as the number of people currently making dumb meters, but now without the need for the people to read the meters.
All in all, it's capitalism ad absurdam once again. Less and less work producing what would be a better and better world to live in, were it not for the fact that no one will be employed to actually afford all those nice things. Socialism, anyone?
Monday, February 08, 2010
The profit system distorts more than you think
Did you know that debt collectors across the country mobilized en masse to support Scott Brown in the recent election? Why on earth did they do that? Let them tell it:
With the very real threat of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency looming in Congress, as well as wholesale changes to a health care system that would affect many credit and collection professionals' livelihoods, ACA members helped the Brown campaign create a groundswell to victory.Changes in the health care system or more protection for consumers? Why, what kind of socialist are you? Don't you want people to go into debt (and, ultimately, go bankrupt) so that the debt collectors can have a job? The debt collectors do!
"Their prayers were answered"
If there's one thing that repulses me about religious people, it's when they claim, as one can read and hear over and over today, that their "prayers were answered." In this case, it's the New Orleans Saints:
"The Saints are a team that travels with nuns and priests in their owner's entourage, and after years of horrible football and terrible tragedy in New Orleans, the city's prayers were answered at long last."Really? Why weren't they answered last year? Or the year before that? Or anytime in the last 43 years? I mean come on, nuns and priests on your side praying for you and it takes 43 years before you win?
Claims like this are akin to rolling the dice 43 times, and when "snake eyes" finally turns up, claiming your "prayers were answered."
I don't know anything about football, other than that I read the Saints were the underdogs, but I'm 100% sure that their victory had nothing to do with prayer, and one heck of lot to do with the emotion and spirit that the players were imbued with by their association with that battered city. Plus talent and luck.
Why we need universal health care: Low-income women in at least 20 states are being turned away or put on long waiting lists for free breast cancer screenings, because we "can't afford it"...in a country that spends one trillion dollars a year on war.
Some of those women will die. "National security" means security for the profits of corporations, not for low-income women.
A fascinating article about the team behind all the Cuban doctors in Haiti, the people who set up and equip all the field hospitals. I'm pretty sure you won't be seeing Dr. Sanjay Gupta talking to them, so reading this article will be your only source.
Democracy (and media) watch
A freelance reporter and critic of the Winter Olympics has been denied entry into Canada. The story has received coverage in the Canadian press, but, as far as I can tell, not a word in the American press. The latter has room for, for example, an extensive article in USA Today on security at the Olympics, and even a Reuters article on how the media has been temporarily banned from the snow-starved snowboard venue. But when a reporter is banned from even entering the country? Not a word. [By the way, I waited a day on this post, giving U.S. corporate media a chance to catch up with the story. Guess I didn't wait long enough. Like until hell freezes over.]
In other news of America's "democratic" allies, Israeli forces raided (and trashed) the West Bank offices of the non-violent "Stop the Wall" movement, "confiscating computer hard disks, laptops, and video cameras along with paper documents, CDs, and video cassettes," and also arrested two foreign members of the ISM. Not much point in waiting a day to see if this story appears in the Western corporate media.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Sarah Palin is right!
Yesterday at the "Tea Party Convention," she declared that "America is ripe for another revolution" and that "Government is supposed to be working for the people."
No, that's it. You were expecting more?
Saturday, February 06, 2010
March 20: Off the Computer and Into the Streets!
This statement was issued by the ANSWER Coalition today:
We won’t sit by while the bankers and militarists plunder this country and send our loved ones to fight in a war for empire!Join us on March 20 in the streets of Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles! Don't let the Tea Partiers be the only ones to own the streets of this country, and don't let columnists and others claim that the "left" or the "antiwar movement" is dead in this country. Speak out in favor of money for health care, education, jobs, housing, mass transit, and other human needs, not war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Health care, not warfare! Jobs and education, not war and occupation! Mass transit and homes, not bullets and bombs!
The outrage continues and gets worse.
When tens of thousands march in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles on March 20 – we are going to tie together the issue of endless war and skyrocketing unemployment and poverty.
If we don’t act, no one will.
Consider these scandalous facts:
Take to the streets. Tell every family and friend, co-worker and fellow student that it's time to get on the bus. It’s time for the people to speak out. It’s time to raise hell!
- Today, the Pentagon announced that tens of thousands of Marines are invading the southern provinces of Afghanistan in the next few days. General Barry McCaffrey predicts 300-500 killed and wounded each month in the next few months. The generals never bother talking about the loss of Afghan lives.
- Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Gates submitted the largest military budget in U.S. history. The $708 billion includes nearly $500 million each day for Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Hours later, the bankrupt insurance giant AIG announced that it was doling out $100 million more in bonuses. AIG exists because it received $180 billion in taxpayers’ bailout. The federal government received an 80 percent share in AIG, which means Obama’s Treasury Secretary Geithner agreed to these bonuses. AIG will give millions more bonuses in March.
- More than 25 million people are unemployed or seriously underemployed while the bankers, war contractors and other corporate crooks make record profits and record bonuses.
- Personal bankruptcies rose 32 percent in the past year as families lost their jobs, medical benefits and their homes.
"Taking a bullet" isn't what it used to be
"It's almost as if he's taking a bullet for everyone else."
- A "compensation consultant", commenting on the "modest" bonus of "only" $9 million dollars received by Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs. We're told by AP that such a "modest" bonus "appears aimed at quelling criticism of the bank's compensation practices."
Ehud Barak has a problem with tenses
Earlier this week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had this to say:
"As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.""Will be"? Will be? No, is.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Bizarre political ads
Carly Fiorina, failed HP CEO, is catching massive flack for a laughably sophomoric attack ad on her opponent, Tom Campbell, featuring a "wolf in sheep's clothing" (what an original metaphor!) which looks more like a demon sheep than a wolf. But for my money, her ad doesn't compare to the inanity of the latest ad from her Gubernatorial counterpart,
In one sentence of the ad, Whitman says "The professional politicians have been fighting in Sacramento for years and the state is in the worst shape that I've seen in the thirty years that I have lived in California." Well, just for starters, as the San Jose Mercury News points out, Whitman has only lived in California for 23 years, not 30 years! But perhaps even more importantly, while she's railing against "professional politicians", has she noticed that California has been "led" for the past 6 1/2 years by an actor, not a professional politician? And is she aware that, thanks to the most stringent (and anti-democratic) term limits laws in the nation, the people in Sacramento who are "professionals" are the lobbyists, not the politicians who rotate in and out of office with regularity?
But that's not all. She goes on, "I have run large organizations, I know how to create jobs, I know how to focus, I know how to balance a budget and I think a business perspective is a bit of what California needs right now." "Creating jobs" is something we hear from a lot of politicians, but, for Meg's benefit, I need to point out that businesses create jobs for entirely different reasons than the state does. The only jobs the state creates, jobs like prison guards or highway patrolmen or Caltrans workers, cost money, they don't make money which is why and how you "create jobs" when you're a CEO. Furthermore, when you're a CEO, balancing a budget when times are tough generally involves laying off workers, which is diametrically opposed to the idea of "creating jobs."
Indeed, Whitman goes on in the ad to talk about "cutting government spending," and back in November, she was quite specific about cutting 40,000 government workers. So there's 40,000 jobs lost right off the bat. A "business perspective"? No, that's precisely what California (and the United States) does not need right now.
The caring U.S. military
Could it be...good news?
The U.S. military has reprimanded an unusually large number of commanders for battlefield failures in Afghanistan in recent weeks.Reprimanded for killing too many Afghan civilians? Dropping bombs without sufficient investigation of the targets?
...reflecting a new push by the top brass to hold commanders responsible for major incidents in which troops are killed or wounded.U.S. troops killed? Official reprimand which can "scuttle chances for promotion and end a career." Civilians killed? Tsk, tsk. If that. Indeed, this kind of reprimand only increases the chances that U.S. commanders will take even fewer chances with the lives of U.S. troops, which means even more Afghans are likely to be killed. I started to write "innocent Afghans," but as I've written before, that only gives credence to the idea that Afghans resisting the foreign occupation of their country are "guilty" and somehow deserving of death. They are not.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Where does Hamas stand?
Supporters of Israel like to pretend it's not clear. Is this clear enough?
"Hamas supports the establishment of a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders."I am personally a supporter of a one-state solution, as I have written on many occasions, and believe that, particularly as the "facts on the ground" stand now, there is no other solution. However, even more than that, I support the right of Palestinians to negotiate (or fight for, as they choose) their own solution to the problem.
- Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh
The company they keep
Remember the outcry when anti-abortion homophobe Rick Warren delivered the invocation at Obama's inauguration? Well, it's happened again. What's one of the big controversies in the news right now? Anti-abortion (and, for all I know, also homophobic) football star Tim Tebow is due to "star" in an anti-abortion ad to be aired during the Super Bowl. So where else do we find Tebow? Delivering the closing prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast, an event sponsored by the right-wing group known as "The Family", an event attended by (and addressed by) President Obama.
The false equivalence of left and right
Cenk Uygur, a popular columnist on Huffington Post and elsewhere, wrote a column the other day on "How Bipartisanship Hurts the Country." What really annoyed me was this:
The reality is so-called bipartisanship is the worst possible thing for the American people.This kind of false equivalence of the left and right (or the extreme left and the extreme right) is hardly unique to Uygur; I've heard it from Jon Stewart many times, and others as well. It annoys me every time.
Why do I say that? Is it because I'm a radical who believes the best solutions are always found at the extremes of the political spectrum? Nothing could be further from the truth; I think generally speaking you find clowns and madmen at the end of a political spectrum (see Glenn Beck).
Call me biased, because as an "extreme leftist" I have a dog in the hunt, but the idea that there are "clowns and madmen" on the left is simply false. There is plenty to criticize about socialists - they're impractical, don't believe in compromise, they "worship dictators" (a frequent criticism), "socialism doesn't work because people are greedy," whatever. But you will search high and low to find writing on the left which is not coherent, fact-based, and grounded in reality.
Compare that to the Daily Kos-commissioned poll of "self-identified Republicans" published two days ago. Not the views of real nutjobs like Glenn Beck, but "average Republicans" (although I'm sure many will argue they are all "real nutjobs"). What did that poll show? 63% think Barack Obama is a socialist! 42% believe he wasn't born in the United States, with another 22% "not sure." 21% think "ACORN stole the 2008 election," with another 55% "not sure."
Compare that to the left. There is a small (but vocal) "9-11 truth" movement, parts of which hew to perfectly reasonable views like "the government knows more than its telling" while others are, in my view, hold more untenable positions and might justifiably be viewed as "clowns and madmen." However, there is no part of the "organized left" which holds such views - not any of the parties (PSL, WW, CP, SP, SLP, SWP, RCP, etc.) nor any of the organizations (ANSWER, World Can't Wait, Code Pink, UfPJ, etc.). And of course many "9-11 truthers" are right-wing as well. A small number of people on the left (e.g., Alexander Cockburn at CounterPunch) don't accept the reality of the human causes of global climate change, but I don't believe there are any who deny the very reality of climate change.
Past issues like this we come to questions like "Hugo Chavez - 'dictator' or leading Venezuela in the right direction to improve the lives of the people?" "Fidel Castro - vicious dictator or the greatest political leader of the 20th century?" "Single-payer health care - 'government takeover' of health-care and the end of freedom as we know it leading to death panels for Grandma, or the only possible way to get good health care for everyone at the lowest possible cost?" You can have different positions on issues like these, but taking the second position in each case hardly makes you a "clown or a madman."
The truth is plain to anyone who cares to be objective about it. Left-wing websites (this one, Lenin's Tomb, PSLWeb, just to name a few popular ones) are filled with serious articles analyzing the events of the day. Right-wing TV shows and websites are filled with paranoia and utter nonsense. People like Uygur and Stewart employ false equivalence between the two so they can stay safely in the "middle," free from criticism from the "establishment." Both are welcome to disagree with the need for socialism, or the views of the left in general. Neither are welcome to equate such views with the utter lunacy of the right. You cannot possibly come up with anyone on the left who remotely compares to the likes of Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, et al.
P.S. - Note to "9-11 truthers" - please don't use the comments to refight this fight. We know where you stand. Nothing you say is going to change my opinion of you and, it seems, vice-versa.
Equal rights? Maybe never.
In the last couple days the elimination of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has gone from one year to two years away. Hey, not so fast!
The United States should not rush into a change as large as repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military without making sure the people it affects are on board, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.So if 10% of the military are vicious homophobes, all they have to do is to respond to the survey saying they'll quit the military if they let the gays in, and, poof, there go equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said an 11-month study into the effects of lifting the ban will examine practical questions such as how the change would affect the numbers of people who decide to remain in the service when their terms expire.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
President Obama begins to understand
Today President Obama talked to Democratic Senators:
"If...we don't want to stir things up here, we're just going to do the same thing that was being done before, then I don't know what differentiates us from the other guys."Bingo! But wait, it gets even better:
"We've got to be non-ideological about our approach to these things. We've got to make sure that our party understands that, like it or not, we have to have a financial system that is healthy and functioning, so we can't be demonizing every bank out there. We've got to be the party of business, small business and large business, because they produce jobs."You'll search his answers in vain for even the claim (however bogus) that "Democrats have to be the party of the workers." It isn't there.
Equal rights? No rush.
When I wrote "Don't Ask, Don't Tell...Don't Hurry" about the military taking one year to "study" how to "implement" a policy of not firing gays and lesbians, I didn't know the half of it. Literally::
The team...will have until the end of the year to finish its work.Because, you know, it's just so difficult to just stop firing people. And by the way, note the "at least." It's kind of like the time table for getting troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gates cautioned, however, that the military would move slowly and that it would need at least a year beyond that -- until 2012 -- to fully integrate a change.
And while we're on the subject of inane, there's John McCain. Various people have called attention to his obvious flip-flop, claiming in the past he'd listen to the military and yesterday doing exactly the opposite. But I took more note of this statement:
"[This policy] has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all-volunteer force."No, John, it's not the "desires" of a minority, it's the rights of a minority. And what "broader interests" are you talking about? The "right" of people to be bigots? Sorry, it's that that may be a "desire," but it's not a right.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
The voices of guilty men
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a few days ago on Israel's work in Haiti:
"You have raised human spirits and elevated the name of the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces. As many plot against us, distort and muddy our names, you have shown the real IDF."Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak:
"In a world where the IDF is criticized, you showed the true spirit of the IDF and the true spirit of Israel."His homophonous counterpart, U.S. President Barack Obama:
"We do it because it’s right, but we also do it because when the United States sends the USS Vinson to Haiti to allow a bunch of helicopters to unload food and Marines or -- helping and we've got a hospital that's set up -- that sends a message of American power that is so important, because too often what other countries think of when they think of the United States and our military is just war.I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the idea that they are helping in Haiti to improve their public image has never once occurred to the leadership in Cuba, and if the thought has ever crossed their minds, they certainly haven't been crass enough to mention it. Only those feeling guilty about what they are actually doing elsewhere in the world would even think this is something to think about or mention.
"But when they see us devoting these resources and the incredible capacity that we have to help people in desperate need, that message ripples across the world. And it means that when you've got a guy like bin Laden out there screaming, "blow up America," it's a lot harder for that seed to take root when people have been seeing images of America making sure that people in desperate need are helped. So it's part of our national security. It's a smart thing to do."
Don't ask, don't tell...don't hurry
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified today that:
"I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as an institution."For starters, Mike, it's not all about you. We don't really care about you being "troubled"; the issue is equality before the law for a large group of people.
But that "being forced to lie" and not being able to have "integrity"? Apparently it's not that big a deal:
The comments...set the stage for the Defense Department's yearlong study into how the ban can be repealed without causing a major upheaval in the military.A yearlong study! You know, we're not talking about having to convert men's barracks into co-ed barracks or something complicated. We're actually talking about people who are already in the military and just stopping kicking them out! Does that really require more than one minute's study, much less one year?
I'll be interested to hear if any of the Senators quizzing Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked the obvious question - if you and your boss (Obama) are so committed to this, why doesn't Obama just suspend this policy today?
Some things you might not have known about Honduras
Courtesy of Greg Grandin in The Nation:
And in Honduras, human rights organizations say palm planters have recruited forty members of Colombia's AUC as private security following the June overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya. That coup was at least partly driven by Zelaya's alliance with liberation-theologian priests and other environmental activists protesting mining and biofuel-induced deforestation. Just a month before his overthrow, Zelaya--in response to an investigation that charged Goldcorp, another Vancouver-based company, with contaminating Honduras's Siria Valley--introduced a law that would have required community approval before new mining concessions were granted; it also banned open-pit mines and the use of cyanide and mercury. That legislation died with his ouster. Zelaya also tried to break the dependent relationship whereby the region exports oil to US refineries only to buy back gasoline and diesel at monopolistic prices; he joined Petrocaribe--the alliance that provides cheap Venezuelan oil to member countries--and signed a competitive contract with Conoco Phillips. This move earned him the ire of Exxon and Chevron, which dominate Central America's fuel market. Since the controversial November 29 presidential elections, Honduras has largely fallen off the media's radar, even as the pace of repression has accelerated. Since the State Department's recognition of that vote, about ten opposition leaders have been executed--roughly half of the number killed in the previous five months.In Iran, the execution of two men who were accused of being part of an armed group seeking to topple the state received extensive news coverage and the condemnation of the U.S. government. The execution of ten opposition leaders in Honduras? Not a word from the government or the corporate media.
More on repression in Honduras.
Washington to the rescue...of Raytheon
In the news we learn that the U.S. is sending Patriot anti-missile defense systems to Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, to defend against the non-existent threat of Iranian missiles (not that the missiles don't exist, but that the only chance they will be used against those four countries is if one of them foolishly allows its territory to be used as a launching pad for an attack on Iran, which can be prevented simply by not doing it).
Interestingly enough, these aren't the only Patriot missiles in the news. Within the last week the U.S. has announced plans to place such weapons in Poland and also in Taiwan, to defend against more non-existent threats.
What's really being "defended" in all these instances isn't these countries at all, but the Raytheon Corporation, which coincidentally just announced a 20% profit increase and that's before any of the deals just announced. And these are no small deals! The sale to Taiwan is a $3.1 billion deal. In the case of Poland and the four Gulf States, the news is somewhat ambiguous about whether those countries will be paying for the missiles, or whether the U.S. government (i.e., the oh-so-generous U.S. taxpayers) will be placing the missiles in those countries at its (our) expense, but in either case, it's Raytheon where the money will end up.
Nor is this a new development; it's been going on for a while:
Over the past six months Washington has stepped up arms sales, notifying Congress of deals such as a $410m Patriot missile system upgrade for Kuwait, a $7.8bn Patriot deal with Turkey, and substantial sales to Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.Also:
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bought more than $15 billion in American arms in the past two years, including missile defense systems.
Monday, February 01, 2010
It's a two-for-one sale today. First, in order to stave off a (highly unlikely) referral to the International Criminal Court as a result of the Goldstone Commission's report on Israel's Gaza atrocities, Israel has completed an "investigation" into the events of a year ago and concluded that two officers were guilty of "misjudgment" when they shelled a UN compound packed with civilians (and a warehouse of food) with white phosphorous. Justice has been done, though; an "official reprimand" has been placed in their files.
And second, Israel has absolved itself of any guilt in the
murder of brutal assault on Tristan Anderson. The Washington Post does its best to help out the murderers attackers, "informing" its readers that the tear gas canister that hit him was "thrown." Hardly. This is the type of canister that killed hit Tristan, and it isn't "thrown" - it's shot with a rifle, because basically it's a (very) large bullet. In this case, a rifle that was pointed right at Tristan Anderson, and not at the ground as it is supposed to be.
Ah, but don't think those Israelis get off scot-free. Oh no! Why, one Israeli soldier has been prosecuted for stealing a credit card from a Palestinian house. Come to think of it, though, the article doesn't mention what his punishment was. Possibly also a "reprimand" in his file.
Update: Major error; Tristan Anderson is not dead. Corrected above.
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