Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Quote of the Day
From the Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations, in his remarks at the end of the U.N. General Assembly discussion of the U.S. "embargo" (blockade) of Cuba, replying to earlier remarks by the U.S. Ambassador:
"We are ready to discuss violations of human rights. We can begin with the concentration camp at Guantanamo."
One more defector from the U.S. blockade of Cuba
You wouldn't have thought it possible, considering last year's 187-3 vote, but this year one fewer "nation" (Palau, which barely qualifies, with its population of 20,000) voted with the U.S., as the U.N. voted 187-2 with 3 abstentions to condemn the U.S. blockade of Cuba. The U.S. now has exactly one ally on this issue in the entire world - Israel (Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Micronesia, with a total population of 190,000 between them, abstained). Of course Israel maintains its own illegal blockade (of Gaza), which gives it an extra reason (over and above the obvious) to support the U.S. on this vote.
Incidentally, yet again this demonstrates the difference between colonialism and neo-colonialism, as even the U.S. puppets in Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention Egypt and a host of other countries in the world), with their nominal independence, are forced to vote against the U.S. in order not to infuriate their own populations.
Capitalist politicians - gotta' love 'em!
There have been countless negative ads this election season, but I think this new Meg Whitman ad is my favorite. It starts with the line "With Jerry Brown, it's just one smear after another," and then proceeds to launch one smear after another at Jerry Brown! Gotta' love these capitalist politicians.
Is there anyone this year who will actually be voting for someone they want, rather than against someone they don't want? Yes, me for one, and all the other people voting for Carlos Alvarez and the other candidates of the Peace & Freedom Party.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Wikileaks: garbage in, garbage out
It goes without saying that there's lots of good information in the latest Wikileaks document dump. First-hand reports by the soldiers involved of killing of civilians at checkpoints, for example. But there's also more than a fair dose of "garbage in, garbage out," because the source for all the material is the U.S. military, and the U.S. military is nothing if not self-serving.
One example is the reported increase in civilian deaths caused by the invasion of Iraq. The basic report, that the U.S. was lying through its teeth when it claimed not to do body counts, demonstrates for the umpteenth time how much trust one can place in the pronouncements of the U.S. military (i.e., none). But as noted in the Guardian, the lying continues even in these reports, because these reports record a grand total of zero civilian casualties in the two assaults on Fallujah, a laughable claim. And, as we know from years of observation, the U.S. military routinely records every possible death it can as "enemy" rather than civilian, in a classic case of "guilty until proven innocent," even when those deaths include reporters.
A second example, now widely reported and no doubt instant conventional wisdom, is that the three American hikers were arrested in Iraqi territory. But if you look closely, the "evidence" for that is essentially non-existent. Secret aerial footage? Nothing of the sort. Just a report from some Iraqi colonel. But was he there? No, the only people who claim to have witnessed the capture claimed that, from some unspecified distance (but not too close because they were "following" the hikers, and clearly not close enough that the three knew they were being followed), managed to "know" that the three were "several yards" on the wrong side of an unmarked border. Please.
Then we have the also widely reported claims that Iran has been extensively involved with the war in Iraq. Even the Washington Post was obliged to note, though, that 'The Guardian noted that sources for some of the reports on Iran were described as "untested or of low reliability.'" That's quite an understatement, though. Because if you read the extensive analysis in the Guardian of the alleged Iranian involvement, you'll find that virtually every example is based on hearsay and conjecture. Here's a typical paragraph:
A week later, on 7 November 2005, an intelligence report says the IRGC smuggled 12 boxes of ammunition and two boxes of rockets to unknown individuals in Amara, a city close to the border in south-east Iraq where Britain had the lead responsibility within the multinational coalition. The rockets are possibly surface-to-air missiles, the report says. But the source does not know the intended recipients of the munitions, the log admits, and does not make clear whether he saw the shipments or only heard about them.Caveat emptor!
Friday, October 22, 2010
Pakistan: one hand giveth, the other hand...
I'm not sure which half of this sentence is stranger:
Even as the Obama administration moved to stop training and equipping Pakistani Army units that have killed civilians in the offensive against the Taliban, the United States said Friday that it planned increased aid [to the tune of $2 billion] for Pakistan’s military over the next five years.If only the U.S. would cut off equipping American Army units that have killed civilians, we could end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan quickly. But if that "cutoff" was accompanied by $2 billion worth of arms and ammunition, it qualifies as a "cutoff" about as much as the Israeli "moratorium on building" qualified for that description.
DADT - Obama's hypocrisy reaches new bounds
Last night the Obama administration posted a new video in which President Obama addresses the subject of the bullying of gay teens. Obama tells the teens, "You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, full of possibilities."
But just just one week ago, Obama's Justice Department filed legal papers asking for the courts to allow "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" [sic] to continue, claiming that the immediate elimination of the policy would cause "irreparably harm our military and the national security of the United States." So not only isn't there a "whole world waiting" for those gay teens in Obama's America, but those teens are so evil that, were they to sign up for the military tomorrow, they would cause "irreparable harm" to our very national security.
Effing hypocrite. You aren't part of the solution to gay teen bullying, Obama, you're part of the problem.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
"Concessions" = "bribes"?
Headlines today inform us that "Afghan peace council to offer concessions to Taliban." And just what are those "concessions"? Do they involve power sharing? Restrictions on women's rights? The removal of foreign troops from Afghan soil? Not exactly: "Inducements to tempt fighters back into the government fold could include jobs, homes and cash."
Don't be evil?
"Don't be evil?" That's supposedly Google's corporate motto, but what exactly is the result of depriving taxpayers of multiple countries of billions of dollars of revenue, by employing (seemingly perfectly legal) "tax strategies" to reduce their overseas tax rate to just 2.4%? Just ask the people of those countries whose social services are being shredded about the harm that Google (and hundreds of other companies) are doing.
As reported not by some leftist outlet, but by Bloomberg, such "tax strategies" cost U.S. taxpayers (and hence, those whose services are being slashed because of the lack of tax revenues to pay for them) a whopping $60 billion a year. And, lest you forget who is responsible for the laws which make this possible:
In 2009, the Treasury Department proposed levying taxes on certain payments between U.S. companies’ foreign subsidiaries.The article may single out a handful of large companies, but rest assured that the entire corporate world, and the Democrats and Republicans who are beholden to them, get the "credit." While the rest of us get the shaft.
Treasury officials, who estimated the policy change would raise $86.5 billion in new revenue over the next decade, dropped it after Congress and Treasury were lobbied by companies, including manufacturing and media conglomerate General Electric Co., health-product maker Johnson & Johnson and coffee giant Starbucks Corp., according to federal disclosures compiled by the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Today's edition of "All the news that's not fit to print"
17 television stations shut down! If it happened in Venezuela, you'd be reading about it on the front page of every newspaper in the U.S., and hearing about it not only on the news programs on TV but discussed endlessly on the news "analysis" shows. But when it happens in Egypt? If you're not reading Al Jazeera, you'd have no idea it was happening.
Capitalist media and imperialist foreign policy
This article was recently published on the website PSLweb.org. It's largely a summary of material which has appeared on this blog recently, pulled together into a coherent thread.
“All The News That’s Fit To Print.” It is the slogan that has been printed in the upper left-hand corner of the front page of The New York Times since 1896. But what news is fit to print (and broadcast)? It is the answer to that question that is at the heart of understanding the role played by not just The New York Times, but all of the major corporate media in advancing the interests of the U.S. ruling class. This should not be surprising, since the media corporations are themselves a part of the ruling class. Nevertheless, many people, perceiving the news as an objective truth, fail to see the extent to which “all the news that's fit to print” comes into play with a class bias, and not just in what the media does print (and broadcast), but in what they do not print (and broadcast) as well.
Nations in the crosshairs of U.S. foreign policy like Cuba are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Virtually every country in the world, including the United States, has political prisoners. Yet with the exception of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, political prisoners are rarely if ever in the news, unless it concerns Cuba, where every development regarding so-called political prisoners is dutifully reported by the U.S. media. Yet a story that has a very direct impact on millions of Americans—that Cuba is building a major new plant to increase production of its important anti-cancer drug called Nimotuzumab goes unreported by the U.S. corporate media. What is "fit to print" or not has nothing to do with the interests of the readers and viewers. It has everything to do with the interests of the U.S. ruling class.
In the case of Cuba, the media are printing actual news even while slanting it by accepting the U.S. government's designation of certain individuals in Cuba as “political prisoners.” In other cases, however, the "news" they print is very much not fit to print, and becomes fit to print by virtue of being “leaked” by the U.S. government. Such an example is a series of articles published in The New York Times during the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. There were stories about tubes that were alleged to be intended for use as centrifuges for enriching nuclear fuel. The articles, many written by Judith Miller, are examples of articles for which no evidence worthy of a serious journalist was available.. The articles were printed anyway because they served the needs of the ruling class in pushing the people in the United States into a state of fear and preparing them for war. Today, similar stories asserting as fact the existence of an unproven Iranian nuclear weapons program serve the same role.
Very often, and far more difficult to recognize, are the stories deemed by the media as not "fit to print," like the news about the Cuban anti-cancer drug. They are harder to recognize because it is their very absence that must be noticed, rather than simply the bias in what does appear.
Some recent stories illustrate this phenomenon. On Sept. 27, a fact-finding commission of the United Nations Human Rights Commission issued a scathing report about the Israeli assault on the aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, in May. Among the damning conclusions of the report were that six of the nine dead activists were killed execution-style by Israeli soldiers. The activists were shot at close range, in most cases after they were already wounded. Two of the nine were killed while videoing the Israeli assault. The one American citizen who was killed, Furkan Dogan, was in both categories‑shot while holding a video camera and then, while "lying on the deck in a conscious or semi-conscious state,” executed, according to the U.N. report.
Several days before that report was issued, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz published the first-hand account of former U.S. Marine Kenneth O'Keefe, who personally witnessed the first death. O’Keefe testified that the man, a Turkish photographer, was killed before there was a single soldier on the ship.
There we have a U.N. report describing an American citizen being executed, in international waters by the Israeli military. We have another report describing an American citizen who witnessed that same Israeli military killing a man who clearly posed no threat to them whatsoever. These should be big news stories. As should be the fact that a few days later the full UNHRC voted to endorse the report of its fact-finding commission.
They are big stories, but evidently not “fit to print.” Because not a single word has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, or indeed any major U.S. corporate news source about the U.N.report. If one does a Google News search for “Furkan Dogan,”you will find stories in various alternative sources like Truthout, Salon.com, and PSLweb.org, but not a single mention in any corporate source. Both Reuters and Associated Press ran exactly one sentence mentioning the adoption by the UNHRC of the fact-finding commission’s report, but only went so far as to describe the report as “fiercely critical” [of Israel’s actions], but without actually mentioning a single one of the damning conclusions.
It is instructive to compare the media coverage of the death of Furkan Dogan to that of Neda Soltan. Furkan Dogan was an American citizen, killed in international waters by the troops of a U.S.-backed, U.S.-armed military. Neda Soltan, was an Iranian woman killed in Iran by an unknown person during the unrest following the last Iranian elections.
Searching The New York Times website for Dogan yields seven “hits”, with only one actual news story at the time of his funeral. Astonishingly, his name has never appeared in a Washington Post article.
By contrast, searches for Neda Soltan yield 649 hits at the Times and 24 at the Post. The reporting of Soltan’s death very much served the interests of U.S. foreign policy.
There was another U.S. citizen murdered by the Israeli military—Rachel Corrie. A trial is taking place in Israel in which Corrie’s parents are suing the State of Israel, charging it with criminal negligence and the intentional killing of their daughter. If you want to learn about that trial, you’ll need to read Electronic Intifada or other progressive media sources, or in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, but you will not read or hear much about it in the U.S. corporate media, where there has been very little coverage.
The upcoming Haitian elections provide us another example of news that isn’t “fit to print.” As reported by pslweb.org, the Fanmi Lavalas party has been banned from participating in the upcoming elections. FL, led by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, their presidential candidate, won the last democratic election it was allowed to participate in by an overwhelming margin.
The Miami Herald did run an op-ed on the subject written by Ira Kurzban, who was general counsel for Haiti during the Aristide presidency. The Christian Science Monitor has also covered the story, but from such “media of record” like the Times, the Post, or CNN, not a word about the Lavalas banning. All of them featured multiple stories about the potential candidacy of Wyclef Jean, illustrating that it was not news about the Haitian election that was not “fit to print,” only the news about Lavalas—the party representing the working people of Haiti, whose interests are not that of the U.S. ruling class.
Most people in the United States do not actually read The New York Times or the Washington Post, yet the reporting done by those large newspapers very much shapes the news seen and read by people all over the country. Smaller local papers have virtually done away not only with any foreign reporting staff, to the extent they ever had any, but with locally based reporters writing about such topics as well. These media simply reprint articles from the Times, the Post, or AP and confine their actual reporting to local events. If the print media can not find time to report on stories such as the ones described above, it is no surprise that the broadcast media do even less, with their reporting typically confined to the material you might find in the first few paragraphs of a print story.
The advent of the Internet, and its increasing availability not just on personal computers but now on cell phones, offers working people at least the opportunity to find out what is really happening in the world, and read the stories the corporate media deems not "fit to print." Websites like PSLweb.org (and written publications like Liberation newspaper) are essential tools to break the information blockade, along with other progressive websites like Electronic Intifada, blogs like Left I on the News, and news directly from foreign sources independent of the U.S. corporations, such as Al Jazeera, Press TV, Prensa Latina, and CubaDebate. Exposing more and more people to the full reality of U.S. foreign policy, something they will never get in the U.S. corporate media, is an essential component of putting an end to U.S. imperialism.
Monday, October 18, 2010
The "threat" of defense
One doesn't know whether to believe it or not, but the latest news has Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu claiming that Hamas now has anti-aircraft missiles in Gaza. One can only hope!
But in a comment which really says it all about the relationship of forces, we're told:
Speaking to his Likud Party, Netanyahu disclosed that Israel's aerial freedom has been compromised by the new weaponry, presumably smuggled into Gaza through tunnels connected to neighboring Egypt. He said any future peace agreement would have to include security arrangements to deal with the threat.So the ability of Hamas to prevent a future Israeli attack is a "threat" to Israel's "security." Right.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I just caught a few seconds of California Senator Barbara Boxer telling Wolf Blitzer that her opponent, Carly Fiorina, doesn't agree that there is a "God-given right to a job" in America. And just what "America" does Sen. Boxer live in? Because in the America I and several hundred million others live, there is no right to a job, "God-given" or otherwise. An awful lot of people wish there were.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Another civilian killed by U.S. troops...except this one is British
Most people have probably already heard that the kidnapped British aid worker in Afghanistan, killed in a rescue attempt, was most likely killed not by her Afghan captors, as the U.S. military first claimed, but by a grenade thrown by U.S. troops. Quelle surprise!
What's most interesting, as always, is the light this incident sheds on the veracity of the U.S. military.
"Immediately after her death, NATO officials said one of her captors killed her by detonating an explosive as the Special Operations Forces rescue team was approaching for its pre-dawn raid. But after receiving new information from the Special Operations Command that conducted the rescue attempt, Petraeus ordered an investigation into the circumstances of her death.In other words, before they really knew what had happened, they were perfectly willing to put out the story that suited them. There were no doubts in the initial news reports, none, it was simply "Linda Norgrove...was killed by her captors on Friday during a rescue mission by US forces." Indeed, we were even given the detail that the death was via a "suicide belt" worn by one of her captors. But now we learn that this was just the usual "put out a lie to make your enemies look bad and hope it sticks" story, before anyone had bothered to inquire exactly what did happen.
And if this is the case for a British aid worker, or for Pat Tillman, how much more true is it for the thousands of Afghan civilians who have been killed by U.S. forces? When will anyone examine the surveillance footage of those murders?
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Gambling in the casino!
The Guardian (and no doubt others) tells us by way of headline, "Israel's proposed 'Jewish oath' for new citizens sparks racism row." Even Gideon Levy, respected Ha'aretz columnist, quoted in the article, says "Remember this day. It's the day Israel changes its character ... From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country."
Really? This is a country which for decades has been building "Jewish-only" housing, a country that builds "Jewish-only" roads, a country which gives the tiniest fraction of its budget to Palestinian communities within Israel for basic things like education and sewage, and now, because of this loyalty oath, we're going to decide it's really a racist country? Please.
Friday, October 08, 2010
More hypocrisy about "foreign money"
Today, President Barack Obama railed about the "danger to democracy" that the possible contribution to some election campaigns by "foreign corporations" poses. What poppycock. First of all, as I wrote back in January, the idea that U.S. corporations have "our" interests at heart, whereas "foreign" corporations don't, is both jingoistic and false. But, more to the point in this instance, these words about the "danger to democracy" were spoken by the President of a country which over the years (and I don't mean only in the past) has spent hundreds of millions of dollars, quite possibly billions of dollars, to influence foreign elections (not to mention simply overthrow foreign governments).
When Obama zeroes out the budget of such notorious interferers in foreign elections as the National Endowment for Democracy, not to mention the CIA, then and only then might we begin to be able to take his words seriously.
Oh, and by the way, if Obama is so concerned about "democracy," when is he going to recognize the results of the last democratic election in Palestine?
Update: Tonight on Rachel Maddow, she and Howard Fineman were joining in the bashing of foreign corporations and their alleged electoral contributions. Why, they said, these are the very same corporations (they mentioned call centers in India) who are taking American jobs? Hey Rachel and Howard - just who do you think is sending those jobs overseas (like to call centers in India)? It's good old American corporations! Duh.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
The Washington Post on the Taliban's "media strategy"
Yesterday's Washington Post featured a major article on the alleged "increasingly sophisticated and nimble propaganda tactics" of the Taliban that has "alarmed U.S. officials." Ironically, the article itself uses as one of its examples the very real sophisticated propaganda tactics of the U.S. corporate media, specifically the very-well publicized Time Magazine cover featuring the face of a mutilated Afghan woman, under the headline "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan?" (but describing a very real event that occurred while the U.S. was in fact occupying Afghanistan).
If the original article wasn't a sufficient example of the sophisticated propaganda tactics of the U.S. corporate media, the Post continues the lie by alleging that the article featured a "woman whose face was reportedly mauled by Taliban members." But in actual fact, the article was exposed almost immediately as a fraud by a reporter who knew the woman in question, and who reported that the mutilation was done by her father-in-law after she had run away, and that the Taliban had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
And what about that "sophisticated" Taliban media strategy? Here it is:
U.S. officials and Afghan analysts say the Taliban has become adept at portraying the West as being on the brink of defeat, at exploiting rifts between Washington and Kabul and at disparaging the administration of President Hamid Karzai as a "puppet" state with little reach outside the capital.Yeah, that's just such a stretch from, you know, reality.
Friday, October 01, 2010
What's happening in Cuba?
There have been big developments in Cuba recently, from Fidel Castro's misinterpreted statement that the Cuban system "doesn't work" to the government announcement of a 500,000-person reduction in the public work force and the simultaneous expansion of private work opportunities. Rather than offering my own thoughts on these events, I wanted to provide readers with a list of things I've been reading, and found useful, in an attempt to understand these events and put them in context. So here's my recommended reading (and in one case, viewing) list:
- Report on the Political and Economic Situation in Cuba, written by my friend Gloria La Riva, featuring extensive background information
- A Marxist Analysis of Cuba's New Economic Reforms, by Brian Becker (National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition and a leader of the Party for Socialism and Liberation)
- Mills' Return, a 2007 talk by Ricardo Alarcón, President of Cuba's National Assembly, detailing the history of U.S. policy against Cuba (which puts what's happening in Cuba in its proper context)
- Cuba, The Measure of Revolution, a 2009 talk by Alarcón, also very important
- What the Economic Reforms Mean for the Cuban Revolution and Socialism, video of a recent talk by Brian Becker, very much different from his article linked above
- Cuba: Economic changes and the future of socialism -- interview with Cuban professor José Bell Lara, a very informative article about the way Cuban supporters of the revolution view what's happening
- The self-employed sector - Much more than an alternative, an article from today's Daily Granma explaining in detail some of the changes that have been adopted
Why stop here? There's more...
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