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Friday, July 30, 2010


 

A "warm welcome" for U.S. mercenaries in Afghanistan


Today:
In the capital, Kabul, police fired weapons into the air Friday to disperse a crowd of angry Afghans who shouted "Death to America!", hurled stones and set fire to two vehicles after an SUV, driven by U.S. contract employees, was involved in a traffic accident that killed four Afghans, according to the capital's criminal investigations chief, Abdul Ghaafar Sayedzada.

The contractor, DynCorp International, confirmed that its employees, working on a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, were involved in an accident on the main road to the Kabul airport. In a statement, DynCorp said that when its employees got out of their vehicle, they and other DynCorp employees, who arrived at the scene to help, were attacked by the crowd, which burned their vehicles.
There's little doubt, although the article doesn't say so, that this "accident" was caused by the contractors driving unsafely, probably on the wrong side of the road, since they were fearing for their lives the entire time they were out in public. Normal "traffic accidents' rarely kill four people. The article does report that "People at the scene claimed foreigners fired shots, killing and wounding Afghan civilians," which may or may not be true, but whether or not it is, it's a virtual certainty that the deaths of the four Afghans were not a real "accident," no more so than any of the other "accidents" which see U.S. troops or planes or drones killing civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan on a regular basis.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010


 

War - the "gift" that keeps on giving


The House yesterday joined the Senate in approving $33.5 billion more for war in Afghanistan, not to mention $6.2 billion in aid for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Haiti, the vast majority of which is money being paid as a result of U.S. invasions as well. But hidden in that bill, and little noticed in the media, is one more item - $13.4 billion in benefits for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange (nothing for the people of Vietnam, needless to say, who are still waiting for the reparations promised at the end of the U.S. war against their country). Just one part of why the numbers you see in the media (and coming out of politicians' mouths) about the cost of the current wars are significantly understated.


Friday, July 23, 2010


 

The sinking of a South Korean ship


Those of us on the left knew better than to accept the official story that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship, a story used now by Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration to justify harsher sanctions on North Korea, and a story that received full acceptance with nary a doubt in the corporate media.

Until today.


 

Whitmanomics


I've already been on Meg Whitman's case for claiming that as governor of California she'll create millions of jobs, starting by firing 40,000 state workers. Here's today's sample of Whitmanomics:
Thursday, Whitman told a crowd of about 150 people that bureaucracy and regulations are strangling job creation in California.

While claiming that Brown supports regulations that hurts business, the former eBay CEO promised to eliminate the state's $800 fee on business start-ups and drop the "factory sales tax" on new equipment.

She also pledged to wipe out California's tax on capital gains.
So there you go. Cut taxes on the rich, and on businesses (giving more money to the rich not to pay taxes on), cut regulations, and...increase jobs? For years, every proposal in California to regulate businesses or tax the rich has been met with the cry about how they'll just take their money and jobs to Nevada. Nevada has no personal or corporate income tax and very lax regulations on businesses. So how is that working out? California has 12.3% unemployment. And Nevada? 14.2%, the highest in the nation.

Looks like cutting taxes and corporate regulations isn't exactly the ticket to creating jobs. Not that Meg would be deterred by the facts. She's really not interested in creating jobs, only in saying she's interested in creating jobs because that helps to get elected. What she's really interested in is...cutting taxes on the rich and on businesses.

By the way, readers who know I have no less love lost for Democrats than Republicans may wonder why I've had several posts criticizing Meg Whitman, and none on Jerry Brown. Well, primarily that's because Jerry Brown doesn't seem to actually have a campaign, aside from calling press conferences to denounce things Whitman says. If he ever actually says anything, perhaps I'll comment on it.


Thursday, July 22, 2010


 

The U.S. "gift" to Iraq


This is an important video that was broadcast on BBC World News here in the U.S. yesterday, and is now online. It's not "new" to those who follow progressive media, but it is actually a new study and one which has now made it into the "mainstream" media, with the news that cancers and other diseases are significantly higher in Falluja than they were among survivors of Hiroshima. There has been a 12-fold increase in childhood cancers in Falluja. The BBC report doesn't mention it, but there's little doubt that the cause was the depleted uranium used in U.S. weapons.

This, I believe, is the original study on which the BBC report is based, but the BBC report, with video and with the basic summary of the findings put in layman's terms, is a more valuable resource. The wider exposure this gets, the better.

Update: By the way, this report aired two days ago on BBC, and so far, I have seen absolutely zero evidence that the story has made it to any American corporate news media. Or made it out of any American corporate news media to the public, in any rate.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010


 

A question or two for Meg Whitman


Meg Whitman is the Republican candidate for Governor of California. In her latest ad, running on TV, she says this:
"The human cost of putting 2,000,000 people out of work is devastating. I think politicians often forget that because they don't see it every day. I see it every day."
It's a simple question, really: "Where exactly, Meg, do you see this "every day"?" When is the last time you had actual personal contact with an unemployed person? Are there members of your family who are unemployed? You yourself (actually, I think she is, technically)? And how exactly does your plan to lay off 40,000 state workers when you take office square with your sentiment? Is there no "human cost" to laying off state workers, only workers in the private sector?


 

The ACLU whipping-boy and the fascist threat


The American Civil Liberties Union is a long-time whipping boy of the right. They certainly have played a positive role in many fights over the years, although they're hardly the center of progressive politics or activity in this country, and haven't been for decades. The National Lawyers Guild, for example, is a much more progressive and activist organization that really deserves the hatred of the right. Nevertheless, the ACLU has remained one of the symbols of liberalism in this country, and accusations of being a "card-carrying member of the ACLU" probably carry more "political cost" in this country than accusations of being a racist.

And so it is quite ironic that a right-wing terrorist who got into a gun battle with members of the California Highway Patrol Saturday night was evidently on his way to set up an ambush at the offices of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation, an organization I'd never ever heard of but judging by their website seems about as bland and innocuous an organization as can be imagined (if anyone knows more about them and wants to say otherwise, have a go in the comments).

We're told (it's unclear if these were his words to police or what exactly) that he wanted to "start a revolution" by killing people at the ACLU and Tides, which, let's put it charitably, seems utterly delusional. Curiously, his mother says he was angry about "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items," which is also delusional, but also makes his targeting of the ACLU and Tides even stranger, since neither has anything to do with what has been happening in Congress. But, perhaps most tellingly, the man himself "told investigators he was upset because he had not been able to find a job and because of the poor economy." Which is precisely the origins of fascism. Partly because people like Obama (and Meg Whitman and pretty much ever politician) campaign on the promise of "creating jobs," people like this terrorist and the Tea Party activists view the economy (and their own economic situation) as a product of "the government" and not as a product of capitalism, and the corporations which are behind the government, and which would be the greatest beneficiaries of the "less government" philosophy. And so they can be organized into fascist, and ultimately terrorist gangs, acting in the very service of the corporations whose interests are completely inimical to their own.

In reality, it is socialism which would benefit this man the most. Making him and others like him understand that is, partly thanks to the power of the corporate media, a tall order.

Update: FAIR discusses the Tides connection, which turns out to be, surprise, Glenn Beck.


 

Obama is no friend to women or Black people


Last week, in a story most people probably missed because it got almost no coverage, President Obama single-handedly put into effect regulations which in effect implement the Stupak amendment, imposing a total ban on any abortion coverage in the new "high-risk insurance pools." There was absolutely nothing requiring him to do this.

Then yesterday, it was a single Black woman, rather than a large group of women, that Obama (and, by the way, the NAACP as well) threw under the bus - Shirley Sherrod. After a rightwing group - the same rightwing group that posted the heavily edited and highly misleading videos that were used to discredit ACORN - posted a video with a speech by Sherrod suggesting she was a racist who had discriminated against a white farmer, the White House, without even getting her side of the story (i.e., the truth), pressured her (repeatedly and successfully) to resign. Even after she had appeared on various TV shows explaining the truth, and the full video had been posted, the White House still "stood by" its actions (now, still later, they are "reconsidering").

Does the Obama White House stand by its friends? Yes, if those friends are named Netanyahu or Karzai (although him they'll probably throw under the bus someday too, once they get a suitable replacement). No, if they are the women's groups and Black people who were instrumental in putting him in office.

Real antiwar activists undoubtedly weren't fooled into thinking Obama was any kind of progressive when it came to foreign policy, although plenty of liberals undoubtedly saw him as "antiwar" (despite his clearly-stated pledge to escalate the war in Afghanistan). But most people probably saw him as a "friend" to women and Blacks. Isn't it about time everyone woke up and saw him for what he is, just the latest administrator of the capitalist assault on people the world over?

Update: It's implied, but I thought I'd make it explicit. The Obama Administration vigorously defends Israel against warranted charges, like committing war crimes in its invasion of Gaza, or massacring nine people on the Freedom Flotilla. It won't even defend its other friends even when the charges are unwarranted.


Thursday, July 15, 2010


 

Today's possible black op against Iran


Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri has now returned to Iran, claiming that he had been abducted and held captive by the U.S. The U.S. says he was a voluntary defector who came to the U.S., spilled the beans (some beans, anyway) on Iran's nuclear program (though exactly what beans he spilled of course they're not saying), became disenchanted, and decided to return to Iran.

Now of course I don't know the truth here. It does seem highly unlikely that someone who had actually voluntarily disclosed classified information about Iran's nuclear program to a country dedicated to bringing about "regime change" in Iran would then voluntarily return to Iran, whatever the alleged threats to his family might have been. Even less likely that he would be given a hero's welcome on returning to Iran. So, to put it simply, I'll take his word over Hillary Clinton's anytime, until given substantial actual proof to the contrary.

But what actually prompts me to write is today's Washington Post article claiming that Amiri was paid $5 million for his alleged cooperation, an article which strikes me as nothing less than a black op, a large "FU" to Amiri, designed to get him into maximum trouble on his return to Iran. First of all, we're told "the payments reflected the value of the information gleaned." Really? If the U.S. had really gleaned such valuable information about Iran's nuclear program, wouldn't they be making it public to try to increase the pressure on Iran? Second, how convenient that this alleged money is in U.S. accounts, which of course Amiri, now in Iran, has no access to thanks to U.S. sanctions.

But the most interesting sentence in the Post article is this: "The transfer of millions of dollars into Amiri-controlled accounts also seems to bolster the U.S. government's assertions that Amiri was neither abducted nor brought to the United States against his will." Well, it would, if there was such a transfer. The Post writes as if this is simple fact. But how do we know it is? Because "U.S. officials said." Did the Post see the bank statements, or simply take the word of "U.S. officials"? It seems to be the latter. Even if there are such statements, do we know that it isn't routine CIA practice to establish fake bank accounts in the names of people they abduct, so that, if necessary, they can later claim they were cooperating voluntarily?

If Amiri were really in control of that money, and if he really was here voluntarily, decided to return to Iran, and was given permission to do so by the U.S., wouldn't he have figured out a way to transfer the money out of the country or at least to a friend in the U.S. before announcing he had decided to return to Iran?

The entire story smells of black op to me.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010


 

What is shocking to AP


Reporting on the indictment of four New Orleans cops for the brutal killing of two unarmed men in the aftermath of Katrina, and the guilty pleas on lesser charges of five others who helped cover up the crime, AP writes:
Prosecutors say officers fabricated witness statements, falsified reports and planted a gun in an attempt to make it appear the shootings were justified. It was a shocking example of the violence and confusion that followed the deadly hurricane.
No, AP, cops fabricating statements, falsifying reports, and planting guns has nothing to do with "violence and confusion" following Katrina. What it is is a not-so-shocking, but all-too-rare public recognition of practices which are endemic to police departments all over the country. And, just as with the recent rare conviction (on very much lesser charges than warranted) of a cop in the shooting death of Oscar Grant in Oakland, only the most remarkable circumstances (multiple cell-phone videos of the event in that case) ever lead to the open acknowledgment of police crimes, much less any punishment for them.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010


 

Lies about Cuba


Cuba has now released some prisoners. The New York Times offers a typical corporate media take on the nature of those released:
The men, who included journalists, a democracy activist and a surgeon, were among 75 people arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms as part of a Cuban government crackdown on dissent in the spring of 2003. The international reaction to the arrests was fierce, with the European Union applying diplomatic sanctions.

The death in February of one of the prisoners, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, after he conducted a long hunger strike to protest prison conditions boosted the pressure on Cuba.
Let's start with the second part, which is completely and utterly false. You can read the complete details here, but in short, Tamayo had nothing whatsoever to do with the famous 75 arrested in 2003. He was a common criminal who had been in and out of jail for various violent crimes since 1993. He "adopted" a "political stance" after he was already in prison. Whether his political beliefs were sincere or not is irrelevant, because they had nothing whatsoever to do with why he was in prison in the first place.

As for the rest, I recommend again reading the entire context of the arrests, elucidated at length by Fidel Castro at the time. Fidel discusses the extensive contacts these people had with the extremely provocative head of the U.S. Interests Section at the time, James Cason. Also note this was immediately preceding the U.S. invasion of Iraq, at a time when U.S. foreign policy called for "regime change" in both Cuba and Iraq. Just what do you think would happen to Americans who met regularly (and received money from), say, the head of the Iranian interests section? My guess is that they too, might end up imprisoned in Cuba...in Guantanamo. Without trials, unlike the 75 Cubans who were arrested, tried, and convicted, using extensive evidence provided by Cuban intelligence agents who had infiltrated those very groups. The Times claim that they were sentenced as part of a crackdown on "dissent" is, in short utterly false. And, by the way, note the words missing from that summary: "arrested and sentenced." No, New York Times, they were arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced. Not "arrested and sentenced." That's what happens to people the U.S. imprisons in Guantanamo (and Bagram and who-knows-where-else). Actually I exaggerate, because they're not actually sentenced, just given implicit sentences of indefinite imprisonment.

By the way, I thought this was also interesting in the Times report:

The dissidents, all of whom suffered health problems in prison, appeared in reasonable condition after seven years behind bars and were clean shaven and wearing freshly ironed shirts.
So, on what basis does the Times claim to know that they "all suffered health problems"? Because they said so?


Wednesday, July 07, 2010


 

Health care in Iran


A fascinating article from the AARP magazine about the U.S. health care system...trying to emulate the Iranian health care system. An excerpt:
"Iran has won kudos from the World Health Organization for its innovative primary health care system. That system has eliminated health disparities between rural and urban populations over the last 30 years, reducing infant mortality in rural areas by tenfold."
The absurdity of the U.S. health "care" system, and thinking that it is in any way designed to actually produce health care, comes through loud and clear, despite the premise of the article.


 

No lives lost?


The Los Angeles Times is out with a story about all the problems with drones:
Pentagon accident reports reveal that the pilotless aircraft suffer from frequent system failures, computer glitches and human error.
Ah, but not to worry, because no lives are lost:
But no lives are lost, and for some experts that's the most important point: For them, drones are the vanguard of a new type of remote warfare that minimizes the risk to U.S. personnel.
That problems with drones, not to mention the whole concept of drones "piloted" and targeted from thousands of miles away with little or often no actual on-the-spot information, might actually be responsible for the death of non-Americans, seems not to have occurred to the LA Times. Those, after all, are only Afghans, or Pakistanis, not actual people with lives and families. People whose chances of death have been maximized because of the effort to "minimize the risk to U.S. personnel."


 

The massacre on the Freedom Flotilla is officially a non-event


Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama. It's probably not a big surprise that neither Obama nor Netanyahu brought up the massacre on the Mavi Marmara, and, given that they were allowed a grand total of two count 'em two questions, not that big a surprise that reporters at the "press availability" didn't bring it up either, although in both cases (Netanyahu, Obama, and the reporters), the subject of Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons program did come up.

What's frankly not a big surprise either, but more reprehensible, is the fact that The New York Times also failed to mention the subject. Netanyahu and Obama's job is politics, and for both of them, ignoring an unpleasant subject (unpleasant for them) is part of their job description. The job of the Times, however, is news, and truth, and history, and the massacre on the Mavi Marmara is hardly an unrelated subject. As readers of this blog undoubtedly know, Netanyahu was originally scheduled to meet with Obama in May, but canceled the visit when the massacre occurred. Reporting that fact as part of a story on the current visit is simply elemental journalism but not, evidently, at the Times.

Yesterday, surprisingly, the Times actually seemed to be in the journalism business, when it reported on how U.S.-tax-exempt donations were being funnelled to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Even in that article, though, elemental journalism took a pass. The word "illegal" appears in the article, but only to describe "outposts," not major settlements. The article in fact notes that outposts are deemed illegal under Israeli law, so, by symmetry, you might have expected that the article would note that all the settlements are deemed illegal under international law. You would be wrong. The article also includes laughable claims such as "As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank..." and "While a succession of American administrations have opposed the settlements here, Mr. Obama has particularly focused on them as obstacles to peace." Both statements are simply false; the U.S. has "demanded" that Israeli stop building new settlements, but has given no indication it wants existing settlements abandoned by Israel. And in both cases (new and existing settlements), U.S. "demands" are akin to a student who says he wants straight A's, but then skips school every day and doesn't bother to study. Claiming you want something is a completely meaningless exercise without actually doing something to achieve that goal.


Friday, July 02, 2010


 

Accountability


"No matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable."

- President Barack Obama, speaking about undocumented a.k.a. "illegal" immigrants
But the war criminals who illegally invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and are responsible for the deaths of more than a million people and the injuries and displacement of millions more? No accountability. The torturers and those who approved torture? No accountability. The Israeli government which committed wholesale war crimes in the invasion of Gaza, and flagrant international crimes including the murder of a U.S. citizen and eight others in its armed seizure of an unarmed ship in international waters and armed robbery and kidnapping of the passengers? No accountability.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Obama.


Why stop here? There's more...

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