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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


 

Iranian defector: huge headlines, no story


The headlines blare "Iranian nuclear scientist defects" (quite possibly for a large sum of money, something of course not admitted but suggested by this: "Since the late 1990s, the CIA has attempted to recruit Iranian scientists and officials" as well as mention of "an offer of resettlement.").

But the story, after all is said in done, is as inconsequential as possible, and boils down to this:

Amiri has been extensively debriefed since his defection by the CIA, according to the people briefed on the situation. They say Amiri helped to confirm U.S. intelligence assessments about the Iranian nuclear program.
And what are "U.S. intelligence assessments"? That "Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons." I'm not sure how exactly you would not "keep open the option to develop nuclear weapons" - kill all the nuclear scientists in your country and ban the teaching of nuclear physics? Other than that insightful observation from the CIA, what we see from this "extensive debriefing" is that there is no "smoking gun" or even the faint smell of gunpowder, because you can bet your life if this person had revealed anything that could even remotely be construed to suggest that Iran is actually engaged in a nuclear weapons program, that would be the headline, rather than the defection itself (which happened quite a while ago).

Of course, Donald Rumsfeld was indeed right when he said "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." The fact that this particular scientist had no secret revelations proves nothing, he may simply not have been part of or knowledgeable of the alleged secret programs. Although the fact that there was "a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect" certainly suggests that the CIA thought he wasn't just any random nuclear scientist, but one who actually would know something, if there was something to know. Conclusion: there isn't. Or rather there is, which is that there is no "secret program."


 

Who's a "terrorist"?


Nobody who isn't a Muslim, at least according to the corporate media. First it was the Hutaree group, who you'll find described as "Christian warriors" (wouldn't that be "jihadis"?), "militia members", pretty much anything but "terrorists." Do a Google search for "Hutaree terrorism" and pretty much every link you'll see will be to a blog, or at most an op-ed like Eugene Robinson's in the Washington Post, but few if any to actual corporate media.

Then we have a story which wasn't even important enough to make my morning paper or the network or cable news as far as I saw - the guilty plea entered by this fellow:

Cowart and fellow skinhead Paul Schlesselman told police that they planned to kill 88 [black] people [or 102, numbers vary], beheading 14 of them, and then die in a blaze of glory as they drove towards Mr Obama dressed in white tuxedos and firing out the windows.
I searched multiple news stories, not one included the words "terrorism" or "terrorist", even though this pair, just like the Hutaree group, fit the classic definition of "terrorism" - "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes."

Meanwhile, last night on the Keith Olbermann show, I actually had to listen to Melissa Harris-Lacewell bring up an attempt to perform a citizen's arrest on Karl Rove as an example of "left-wing extremism" (you know, the old "a plague on both sides" position), even though she admitted that the person doing that was wearing a pink fuzzy hat and not carrying a gun. As if such an example belongs in the same library, much less the same book, chapter, paragraph, or sentence, as the groups noted above.

Amusing update: Each of the anti-government Hutaree defendants has asked for a public defender. :-)


Monday, March 29, 2010


 

"Democracy" on display


On a state level, the farce of "free" speech continues. Republican Gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman continues to saturate the airwaves with her aids (bizarrely, most aimed at her primary opponent whom she leads in the polls by 50 points!), on track to spend...$150 million of her own money which, the San Jose Mercury News helpfully points out, would educate 13,194 California schoolchildren for a year, or would more than wipe out San Jose's $116.2 million budget deficit. Don't feel too bad for her opponent, another billionaire, who has already spent "only" $19 million of his own money on his campaign.

On a more local level, the numbers are smaller, but still put the lie to the concept of "free" speech. The San Francisco 49ers are trying to convince the small city of Santa Clara to help them build a new stadium, and there's a measure on the ballot for residents to vote on. The 49ers are spending $1.4 million on more not-so-free speech, running ads on TV which, you won't be surprised to learn, have no counterpart on the other side. So the "debate" continues, with one very heavy thumb on the scale.

The "greatest democracy in the world"? Yeah, about as much as "the best medical care in the world."


 

Terrorism


Is it "terrorism" to willfully deny people, including children, access to clothes and shoes for three years? I don't know, but it's certainly immoral and illegal. It's also a policy that has been supported by almost the entire "civilized world." Of course that's "civilization" in the Ghandian sense:
Israel will allow a shipment of clothes and shoes to be delivered to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for the first time in its almost three-year-old tight blockade of the enclave, Palestinian officials said on Monday.
And what does the "civilized world" have to say?
Israel is under international pressure to relax its blockade.
Yes, and you can tell just how strong that "pressure" has been by the fact that it hasn't succeeded in relaxing the blockade enough to allow in clothes and shoes for three years!


 

Obama's bait-and switch


Like his predecessor, President Obama slinks into a country occupied by the U.S. under cover of night (and leaves before dawn), and delivers the bait-and-switch:
"Al Qaeda and their extremist allies are a threat to the people of Afghanistan and a threat to the people of America, but they’re also a threat to people all around the world, and that’s why we’re so proud to have our coalition partners here with us."
Of course the U.S. hasn't been fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan for years, they're fighting the Taliban. And the claim that the Taliban are a "threat to the people of America" or "people all around the world" is as specious as the claim that Iraq had WMD and the U.S. had to attack. Obama knows that only by throwing up the Al Qaeda bogeyman can he possibly justify the continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Of course, that's not his only justification. His other? We're there because we're there:

"The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something. You don’t quit, the American armed services does not quit, we keep at it, we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail."
What exactly "we" will "prevail" at isn't specified. The "war on terror", no doubt.

And, by the way, if the U.S. is still in Afghanistan to prevent "Al Qaeda and its extremist allies" from regaining power and threatening the U.S., why is the U.S. still in Iraq? "We" "won" apparently, because there hasn't been any claim that Al Qaeda is active in Iraq for a long time now, and, even if they are, there doesn't appear to be the slightest chance they will gain power there. So why are there still American troops in Iraq? Waiting for a "stable government" to emerge? Hell, we don't even have that in the U.S.! Obama just had to appoint 15 people to important positions by "recess appointments" because the simplest government function, confirming someone's appointment for office, couldn't be accomplished in over a year! This is the country that is going to lecture others about democracy? The country where one person can put a "hold" on unemployment benefits for millions? The country where the idea that "majority rules" is a thing of the past? That country?


Thursday, March 25, 2010


 

"DADT" was an F-r-a-u-d


It's not really news if you followed the actual cases we knew about, but now we have official confirmation that "Don't ask, don't tell" was a complete fraud, a lie. Today Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the Pentagon would no longer launch investigations based on anonymous tips, confirming that this policy always involved ferreting out gays in the military, by any means necessary. It had nothing to do with "not asking" and "not telling."

And even that change is not real. Because even after this alleged change, it turns out that "authorities [are supposed to] discourage the use of overheard statements and hearsay" (by the way, "overheard statements" are hearsay). So even now, there will still be "asking," and "telling" on the part of the accused has nothing to do with it, and the standards for these investigations don't even match those afforded to accused criminals.

The lie continues.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


 

Glenn Beck gets one right!


Hard to believe, I know, but it's true. Beck says that "social justice" and "economic justice" are "code words" for communism. Quite right!

Of course Beck also says they are code words for fascism, too, because fascists preached the "rights of workers." That's where Beck, like so many on the right, go wrong. Because fascism was no more for the "rights of workers" than those who wage war are actually for "peace." Talk is cheap, and often, meant to intentionally deceive. It's actions that count, and that's where we learn that, between communism (or socialism) and fascism (and let's throw in "capitalism" as well), only one of them is actually for social and economic justice. And it isn't fascism (or capitalism).


 

Obama continues to lose supporters


Case in point:

MAD about Obama


Tuesday, March 23, 2010


 

Mississippi government announces plans to build whites-only housing


Ridiculous, right? Well, at least in 2010, anyway. But when the government in question is Israel, and it's not "whites-only" but "Jews-only," what is really ridiculous is that this blatant racism passes almost completely unnoticed. We hear complaints about the "timing" of the announcement, and much less often complaints that such building is actually illegal, but not only don't you hear complaints about the flagrant racism on display, it passes completely unnoticed. Indeed, if the government of Israel approves new Jewish housing in Tel Aviv, or Haifa, or anywhere else in "Israel proper," I'm sure you don't hear about it at all.


Monday, March 22, 2010


 

On not learning from history


Here we go again:
President Barack Obama is reassuring immigration reform advocates that he is committed to working with Congress on a comprehensive bill to fix a "broken immigration system."

Obama said he would do everything in his power to forge a bipartisan consensus on immigration reform this year.
He doesn't look like he's thick as a brick, but I'm beginning to wonder.

Actually, of course, I'm not. As with health "reform," the pretense of looking for "bipartisanship" is just a way to push the bill further and further to the right, while maintaining some "cover" for that maneuver.


 

The cost of the military is more than the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan


When talking about "money for education, health care, mass transit, etc and not for war," it's easy to focus on the most dramatic (and to many people, most unnecessary) expenses - the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. But U.S. military expenses go far beyond that. Far beyond. As an example:
Lockheed Martin's F-35 jet fighter, the Pentagon's most expensive program, has risen about 62 percent in cost and is four years behind schedule, according to Pentagon documents and new data.

Production of the airplane by the Bethesda-based firm was projected to cost an estimated $143 billion for 2,852 aircraft in 2002.

The Defense Department now says it will cost as much as $232 billion for 2,443 aircraft when calculated in 2002 dollars, according to figures released Friday.

Development and testing, originally scheduled to be finished in March 2012, won't be done until April 2016, the documents say.
The "main enemy" of the U.S. who we're told "threaten our way of life" is a rag-tag bunch of fighters whose main weapon is IEDs, akin basically to land mines. They barely seem to have even RPGs any more, much less any kind of weapons which can shoot down aircraft. And against this "enemy," the U.S. is spending a quarter of a trillion dollars to develop a new generation of aircraft, which won't even be deployed for another six years.

Meanwhile, roads, mass transit systems, and schools and colleges (just to name a few of the more prominent problems) all over the country are deteriorating and badly in need of investment.


 

Apologies


Nothing can be more irritating than belated, useless "apologies," whether it's Alan Greenspan "apologizing" for totally misunderstanding capitalism and helping to wreck the economy, or Colin Powell or many others "apologizing" for not making clear what they knew about the lies being told about Iraq at the time they were being told.

Latest in the long string of ruling class hacks apologizing for screwing up the world is Bill Clinton:

Decades of inexpensive imports - especially rice from the U.S. - punctuated with abundant aid in various crises have destroyed local agriculture and left impoverished countries such as Haiti unable to feed themselves.

While those policies have been criticized for years in aid worker circles, world leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that loosening trade barriers has only exacerbated hunger in Haiti and elsewhere.

They're led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton - now U.N. special envoy to Haiti - who publicly apologized this month for championing policies that destroyed Haiti's rice production. Clinton in the mid-1990s encouraged the impoverished country to dramatically cut tariffs on imported U.S. rice.
But of course he knew exactly what he was doing:
"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake."
And how's this for the height of self-centeredness:
"I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else."
"Nobody else," Bill? How about the starving people of Haiti? They not only had to "live" with the consequences of your actions, some of them had to die from the consequences.


 

Saturday in San Francisco: Stop the Wars!



Saturday, March 20, 2010


 

Off the computer and into the streets!


If you're wondering where I've been for a week, it's been working on today's march (not to mention actually working!). Today is the day if you live near Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Albuquerque, or many other cities to get out and public and say: "Money for health care, education, mass transit, not for war!" Demand that we stop spending a half billion dollars a day to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan (and three billion a day on war in general) and start spending it right here at home for human needs.
San Francisco: Civic Center at 11
Los Angeles: Hollywood & Vine at noon
D.C.: Lafayette Park across from the White House at noon
Portland: 11:00am PSU, Noon at Terry Schrunk Plaza, 1pm Teach-In Unitarian Church
To get you started, some video from the press conference which took place in Washington, D.C. on Thursday:



Saturday, March 13, 2010


 

The American "jobs program"


"Join the military and learn a skill." Unfortunately that skill rarely has anything to do with the jobs that are available, such as they are anyway. This morning's headline provides the grim reality of the American "jobs program" called the military: The unemployment rate last year for young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans hit 21.1 percent, 27% higher than the already unacceptable 16.6 percent jobless rate for non-veterans of the same ages, 18 to 24.

Last night I watched an excellent movie from 2007, "Body of War," about another aspect of that "jobs program" - soldiers returning home from the war severely injured (the movie is a profile of Tomas Young, a paraplegic vet who became an antiwar activist). Very much worth seeing. The movie closes with a song written for the film by Eddie Vedder called "No More" (or "No More War", depending on where you look). A bit of the lyric helps make at least one of the points of the movie:

Now nothin's too good for a veteran,
Yeah this is what they say,
So nothin' is what they will get,
In this new American way.

The lies that were told to get us to go
Were criminal, let us be straight.
Now let's get to the point where our voices are heard,
Behind the White House gate.
Next Saturday. Off the computer and into the streets!


Saturday, March 06, 2010


 

"Democracy" "in" Iraq


As if it's not impossible to hold a democratic election in a country under foreign occupation, and is it's not absurd to call an election "democratic" when thousands of people have been ruled ineligible to run (a practice rightfully denounced in Iran but actually initiated in Iraq by the United States), today the news is filled with stories about Iraqis voting in the United States (as they have before). One story featured a man who left Iraq 19 years ago. This undemocratic practice (imagine letting people who left California 19 years ago vote on our next Governor) was also initiated by the U.S., as a way of weighting the vote towards "Western-friendly" voters.

Incidentally, right-wingers in Israel have introduced similar legislation there, partly because they think it will add even more of a right-wing bias to Israeli voting, and also to give a little extra "insurance" against the possibility, however remote, that a one-state solution comes to be and they need more "Jewish" votes to overcome Palestinian votes.


 

Gordon Brown lifts the curtain


Gordon Brown testified yesterday at the British commission investigating the invasion of Iraq. Brown insists that the invasion was "the right thing and was done for the right reasons." Interestingly enough he says the "right reasons" were that Iraq had systematically ignored 14 U.N. resolutions. So I guess we can look for the British invasion of Israel any day now.

But to me the most interesting part of his testimony, in light of what's going on in the U.S. (and in the U.K. and elsewhere right now) with cuts to education, health care, mass transit, libraries, and every possible social service, was this:

"I told [Tony Blair] I would not – and this was right at the beginning – try to rule out any military option on the grounds of cost. Quite the opposite. He should feel free, because this was the right course of action, to discuss the military option that was best for our country and the one that would yield the best results. We understood that some options were more expensive than others but we should accept the option that is right for our country."

"If you look at the question of expenditure in Iraq you have got to start from the one fundamental truth: that every request that the military commanders made to us for equipment was answered. No request was ever turned down."
And really, that pretty much sums it up. When it comes to war, no expense spared. When it comes to people's needs, cue the claims of "there's just no money to pay for X, Y, or Z." Also cue the bake sale.


Friday, March 05, 2010


 

Economic boosterism


Initial Jobless Claims

Take a good look at the graph above. See that last little tic downwards on the right end? Squint if you have to! As a fluctuation, it's about the same size as the fluctuation every single week since 2005 represented in the graph. Well, that's what I see. AP sees it differently:

New claims for jobless benefits fell last week in a sign that layoffs may be easing as the economy slowly recovers.
The truth, to any scientist or for that matter anyone with two eyes, is that what the graph shows is that while initial jobless claims surged throughout 2008, peaking around March, 2009, and then declined, they have been at a plateau since November, 2009 and are for all intents and purposes unchanged since then (if anything, they're on a slight upward trend in those past few months).

They also show something else, by the way, and that's that layoffs might be leveling off at a rate 50% higher than they were from 2005 through 2007.


Thursday, March 04, 2010


 

Bankscam


In September, 2008, I wrote:
I'm increasingly convinced that the events taking place in Washington around the financial "crisis" are a complete charade.
We were told then that the problem was the financial system was "blocked," and that banks weren't lending money, and if they didn't start, the world as we know it would end (or something like that).

It's now a year and a half later. And, as it turns out, lending by the banking industry fell in 2009, the largest annual decline since the 1940's. Did the bottom fall out? No, it did not. Don't get me wrong. We are in the middle of something they've actually had to stop calling a "recession" and start calling a "great recession" (which sounds suspiciously like a "depression"). Actually the government and economists pretend that the "recession" is actually over, which to the rest of us is a complete joke. But the idea that the massive transfers of money to the wealthy was necessary in late 2008 to avoid catastrophe? It was a lie, every bit as much as the "Iraq has WMD" lie.


 

Karl Rove's double lie


We're told this about Karl Rove's new book:
Karl Rove...says in a new memoir that his former boss probably would not have invaded Iraq had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction there.

Mr. Rove adamantly rejects allegations that the administration deliberately lied about the presence of weapons in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
The second lie I've dealt with many times. In a nutshell, if the Bush administration had claimed they thought there were probably WMD in Iraq, it might not be a provable lie (though personally I believe it still would have been). However, when they said there were WMD, that was and is a provable lie. And that distinction was important, because only by saying they knew there were WMD could they get the American public (and the entire American ruling class) behind their invasion.

But the other assertion, that Bush "probably would not have invaded Iraq had he known there were no WMD there," is a very clever lie as well (aside from being hypothetical and speculative and basically irrelevant). Why? Because it was never possible, and still isn't even today, to "know" there are "no WMD" in Iraq, or anywhere for that matter. For all we know there are WMD hidden somewhere in Poughkeepsie, or Oshkosh. Unless you simultaneously search every possible location (including underground) in a city, or a country, you could never be 100% sure that something you're looking for isn't there. So Rove knows very well that Bush could never have "known" a negative like that, and therefore, his claim is completely, utterly irrelevant.


Wednesday, March 03, 2010


 

Democrats


I wanted to make the title of the post into an epithet, but I couldn't figure out what punctuation to use (so I've had to resort to this description instead). Running for Governor against a right-winger (Meg Whitman) who thinks the solution to unemployment is laying off 40,000 workers and another right-wing ex-CEO (Steve Poizner) who claims to be the only "true conservative" in the race, along comes Jerry Brown, campaigning as "Republican lite": shrink state government, no new taxes ("unless the people vote for them"), casting himself as "nonpartisan," "running an independent campaign." And not only is he the "best" the Democrats can do, he's the only thing the Democrats can do - Brown has no opposition in the Democratic primary at all, not even token. One reason he doesn't is that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who at least qualifies as a moderate if not some sort of liberal, dropped out of the race, ostensibly for "family reasons" but really because he couldn't raise the multi-millions needed to be "credible" in capitalist elections.

There will be a real progressive (and socialist) on the ballot in the election - Carlos Alvarez, running on the Party for Socialism & Liberation ticket and, if he wins the primary, on the Peace & Freedom Party ticket as well. Running for Mayor of Los Angeles last year, Alvarez won more votes for that office than any socialist since 1957. He won't be spending multi-millions. He will be campaigning for a social system encapsulating real democracy where one doesn't have to spend money to win election - socialism.


 

Comments


The comment system has been slightly modified due to the passing of Haloscan, one of the original comment support systems for blogs. The big difference you'll see, which confused me at first, is that posts with no comments no longer show "Comments(0)", they just show "Comments". But just click on "Comments" to add a comment, as before.

Speak up!


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


 

Two reading suggestions


First, Chris Hedges on the need to break from the Democrats:
"Isolation and ridicule is the cost of defying power, speaking truth and building movements. Anger at injustice, as Martin Luther King wrote, is the political expression of love. Social change does not come through voting. It is delivered through activism, organizing and mobilization that empower groups to confront the hegemony of the corporate state and the power elite."
Second, on a completely different subject, last week, a hunger striker died in a Cuban prison, becoming an instant celebrity in Western media. Granma explains just who Orlando Zapata Tamayo was, and what happened.


 

Democracy sounds like a good idea


Maybe we ought to try it sometime. It's not enough we have billionaires and multi-millionaires spending money like water in an attempt to buy themselves political office, or companies spending millions to influence votes on ballot measures, with both phenomena employing appeals to voters' "intelligence" on about the level of a Coke vs. Pepsi ad. No, I take that back, Coke and Pepsi don't typically lie about either their own product or their competitors product, they just pump up the hype (or flash sexy women at the viewers, whatever works).

Then we come to Congress, where we find out that a majority of 100 is 60, not 51, and now we learn that, not just 41 people, but just one person in the Congress can affect the course of legislation.

And all these people will no doubt go on at length about how this is the "greatest democracy in the world."


 

A morning at the DMV


A week without a post; where does the time go? Working, among other things. Imagine that.

Anyway, I spent this morning at the DMV renewing my driver's license (something you have to do every 5 (?) years here in CA). Nothing more than paying money and getting a new picture taken. You can make an appointment online, but when I tried to do that a few days ago, it turns out you can get an appointment for...a month from now, in this case, after my license would have expired, so I had to face the music.

So you show up, get a number, and...wait. For nearly two hours. Having done this before, I was well-prepared, with my laptop and some work to do. But a loud-mouthed guy sitting near me just would not stop complaining to all who could hear about government inefficiencies and how, if government takes over health care (which readers will understand isn't remotely on the agenda in the U.S., despite the vivid imaginations of Tea Partiers), this is just how it's going to be, long waits.

Now no one is happy having to wait two hours, obviously. But does it really take that much to ask yourself, and figure out, just why it is that we have to wait? To begin with, state workers, including DMV workers, are "furloughed" several days a month, so right off the bat there are going to be more people there on any given day than there used to be. But I've been to this office before furloughs, and there were waits then too. Are the workers sitting around drinking coffee? That might make for a typical sitcom plot, but it isn't reality. Most of the workers are on their feet, working all day long (except for breaks, I presume). The numbers are being called out every few seconds, which means that people are being processed with regularity. There is just too much work for too few people! Gee, does that sound familiar? For example, after I got through the paperwork portion, I had to get my picture taken. Another 15 minutes in line, because there was one guy taking pictures.

The obvious solution is more employees and, in this particular instance, probably another DMV office somewhere up the Peninsula. The nearest office to the north of me is 18 miles away, which might not sound that far in some parts of the country, but in a densely populated urban area, it means one heck of a lot of people need to be serviced by the office I went to today. Too many. But would Mr. Loud-Mouth acknowledge that solution to his problem? Chances are he wouldn't, because he'd be too busy complaining about "the government" to recognize that his unwillingness to vote for any politician who even breathes the word "tax increase" is what causes the problem in the first place.

And, as I've written before, all this applies to health care as well. Mr. L-M may well be right that health insurance "reform" being contemplated in the Congress may lead to increased waiting times in some cases. But why? There's only one reason it would happen, and that's because people are currently going without necessary health care, and once those people are in a position to receive treatment, there won't be enough doctors. But the solution to that problem isn't to deny people treatment, it's to train more doctors, just like the solution to the DMV problem is to hire more people.


Why stop here? There's more...

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