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Wednesday, March 30, 2011


 

"Deliberate indifference"...on the part of the Supreme Court


A New Orleans man spent 14 years on death row and was within weeks of execution before someone discovered that his blood type didn't match the killer (a fact known to the prosecution at the time) and he was set free. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that he's not entitled to $14 million in damages that a jury awarded him because the actions of the prosecutor didn't amount to "deliberate indifference."

And actually, the Court is quite right on that point. It wasn't "indifference" that convicted this man, but a very deliberate act of concealing exculpatory (to put it mildly, "exonerating" would be a better word) evidence, something that is all too common in the U.S. "justice" system. No, "deliberate indifference" is what the Supreme Court is guilty of - indifference to the plight of the thousands (if not tens or hundreds of thousands) of victims of the U.S. "justice" system, the system that really delivers good results only for "just us", "us" being the ruling class of the U.S.


 

The "Obama doctrine" is really the "Bush doctrine"


Obama justifies the attack on Libya by the U.S. and friends on the grounds of hypothetical future actions. This is precisely the "Bush doctrine", spelled out in the National Security Strategy document, and enunciated most clearly by Bush in a June 1, 2002 speech (emphasis added):
We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.
By the way, if a supposed impending massacre of civilians in Bengazi was a threat to our "interests and values" (note, not even our "national security," just our "interests and values"), how much more so is the just as hypothetical development of nuclear weapons by Iran? If the "Obama Bush Doctrine" can justify a massive attack on Libya, surely it can justify an equally massive attack on Iran.

Just sayin'.


Monday, March 28, 2011


 

In fond rememberance of WMD


When George Bush wanted to invade Iraq, we were given the story that Iraq was amassing Weapons of Mass Destruction. It was a complete and deliberate lie, of course, but it least it was a provable lie. With the benefit of history we could know that Bush was either wrong or lying (with the vast preponderance of evidence coming down on "lying").

Now we've come to Barack Obama, and his war on Libya. There, we attacked, says Obama (and Gates and Clinton and etc.), to prevent a future slaughter. We know there would have been thousands of civilians slaughtered, probably tens of thousands (Clinton's number). It was a certainty. So now the U.S. is empowered to attack not only on alleged intelligence about the present, but about the wildest possible speculation about the future, speculation which can never be disproved. Really, that pretty much opens the door to anything, doesn't it?

By the way, there have been dozens of completely unarmed civilians slaughtered in Bahrain (how many unarmed civilians, as opposed to armed rebels, have actually been killed in Libya, is an open question). Today listening to the news I heard two different people (former U.S. Ambassadors and folks like that) talking about Bahrain. One managed to avoid mentioning the dead at all, with the clear implication that there were none, while the other downplayed them as insignificant and of a completely different character. Actually, as the first sentence of this paragraph indicates, I'd probably agree with him, but from the opposite point of view.


Thursday, March 24, 2011


 

Incident at DCA


In the news today, several planes had to land at Washington's National Airport without benefit of an air traffic controller because the control tower was "unresponsive." There are claims that the controller on duty was asleep, although this appears to be not confirmed. Pilots talking to each other in planes approaching the airport were actually heard speculating that the controller was "locked out" of the tower (!), and that it had happened before (!!).

The air traffic control system started downhill when Ronald Reagan broke PATCO, the air traffic controllers union, in 1981. And now we see where the continuing cutbacks in social services have gotten us to. Yes, perhaps this guy did fall asleep (or perhaps not). But why is there just one person doing such a critical job? What if he had a heart attack and died? What if he simply had to go to the bathroom and couldn't wait eight hours until the end of his shift? The idea that there would only be one person in an air traffic control tower is unacceptable. But it's the logical result of the direction this country has been going in for many years, starting (in some ways, anyway) with that notorious strike and union breaking in 1981, under the sainted Ronald Reagan (whose name I refuse to associate with the airport in question, even though in this particular case it's probably quite appropriate).


 

Today's studies in media bias


In Libya, there were funerals for 33 victims of "coalition" air attacks. Excuse me, alleged victims. So the CNN headline informs me, backed up by the text of the article which informs me "CNN could not independently verify the circumstances of the deaths or who the victims were." And to emphasize the doubt in the reader's mind, we have the unchallenged blanket denials of the U.S. military:
Coalition leaders have reported no civilian casualties so far and said that Western jets have dropped precision bombs on military targets.

"It is not likely that civilians were a part of any airstrike today," said Joint Task Force Operation Odyssey Dawn Lt. Cmdr. Jim Hoeft.
No "CNN could not independently verify the preposterous claims of the historically untrustworthy U.S. military" accompanies that statement, as it should.

The rest of the article is filled with claims of victims of the Gaddafi regime. You'll search in vain for the word "alleged" in that part of the story, or for any disclaimers about how "CNN could not independently verify..." Instead, you'll simply find each claim attributed to someone: "a witness," "a resident," etc.

In Israel and Gaza, it's a different story. There, the key word used by AP is "retaliation," and, you won't be surprised, it applies only to Israeli actions. Even though there has been a clear "cycle of violence" even in the short-term, and both sides have clearly described their actions as in response to actions of the other side, AP (as essentially all Western corporate media) only considers Israeli actions as "reprisals" or "retaliation," never those of the Palestinians. Making matters worse, we hear another common (and thoroughly racist) phrase: "Two years of relative calm have been unraveling in recent weeks with acts of violence against Israelis." Palestinians, of course, have had no "relative calm," and have had continuous acts of violence against them, day after day, week after week, month after month. The AP reporter does have a good excuse, though, since virtually none of that violence has been reported in the corporate media.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011


 

Obama, you've been served


Fidel Castro calls out Obama for showing up in Chile and talking about the peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy, without talking about the U.S. role in the not-so-peaceful transition from democracy to dictatorship.

Fidel doesn't cover it in this column, but the next day, Obama was in El Salvador praising Archbishop Romero, without mentioning how he met his death at the hands of U.S.-backed right-wing thugs.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011


 

Protecting civilians


In Libya, a U.S. jet crashed. To save the pilots, the U.S. bombed one group of people on the ground (casualties unknown), and shot six more (who, by the way, were "rebels," the people the U.S. is supposedly protecting).

Meanwhile, massive bombing continues in Tripoli, including at Gaddafi's headquarters and in the port. Considering that this mission is supposedly about "protecting civilians" who are in the eastern part of the country, and establishing a "no-fly" zone to prevent harm to them, why is bombing needed in Tripoli? Was Gaddafi planning to bomb Tripoli so that the U.S. needs to establish a no-fly zone over that city? Do anti-aircraft guns in Tripoli reach as far as Benghazi? (Yes, these are rhetorical questions).

Meanwhile, eight more civilians were killed by another government, civilians who don't have the protection of a no-fly zone, or U.N. Security Council resolutions, or ICC indictments being issued against the perpetrators of their murders. Of course these eight were Palestinians in Gaza.

By the way, another question about Libya. For years we've been hearing from right-wingers about how the U.S. is surrendering its sovereignty to the "one-world government" of the U.N. Now the U.S. has gone to war, not in response to a Congressional declaration, but in response to a U.N. Security Council resolution. With the exception of a tiny handful of people (e.g., Rand Paul), where are all the right-wingers ranting about the U.N. now? (By the way, I don't really think the U.S. surrendered its sovereignty to the U.N. on this issue, it's actually the other way around as it has been for decades - the U.N. Security Council is actually a tool of the interests of the U.S. and its allies).


Thursday, March 17, 2011


 

The U.S. gets its war


The U.N. vote has now taken place, and, as I wrote earlier, not just for a "no-fly zone" but for active bombing of ground forces, indeed, "all necessary measures." What does that tell us? Russia and China were reputed to be planning vetoes. The fact that they didn't tells us (tells me, anyway) that the U.S. exerted tremendous pressure on them not to do so (while allowing Britain and France to play the role of figureheads in the debate, but neither Britain nor France can exert the pressure on countries like China or Russia like the U.S. can).

The U.S. has got its war.

I wonder what the liberals and leftists who have endorsed the "no-fly zone" as an antiseptic-sounding (if not in reality) "cure" will have to say now, now that "protecting civilians" has moved to a different level entirely. After all, the West still has that same "humanitarian" motive in their actions, don't they?


 

Quality education costs money


Well whaddya know? An international study shows that if you want children to get a good education, you actually need to pay decent salaries to teachers, and even let them form strong unions.

And, by the way, that does not mean "merit pay" for individual teachers, which another study has shown to be ineffective or even counter-productive.


 

No-fly zone? That was yesterday's plan.


Today, the U.S. is trying to get U.N. approval for bombing Libyan ground forces. Imperialism never takes an inch when it can take a mile.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


 

Afghan=Insurgent


How much credibility do U.S. claims of killing "insurgents" have? This news pretty clearly answers the question. The U.S. claim:
"Last night we observed two suspected insurgents placing an IED (improvised explosive device) in the road. After we positively identified them, we called an air weapons team in, killing one and injuring another," the spokesman added.
The truth:
"Last night, two children who were irrigating their land were hit by a coalition air strike and both were killed," Abdul Marjan, the district chief of Sawkai in Kunar, told AFP. One local resident said the dead were two boys, aged nine and 15.


Monday, March 14, 2011


 

The character of the opposition in Libya


Most people on the left (and, it goes without saying, most of the rest of the American and "Western" public) take it as a matter of faith that what is happening in Libya is a "revolution." Personally I have an open mind on the subject; my only clear conviction is a firm opposition to outside intervention. But I must say that some facts that are now coming out do shed some light on the subject. The man who has just been revealed as the military commander of the rebellion? Libya's just-resigned Interior Minister. And the rest of the Transitional Council? A collection of other former ministers in the government, and a number of other seemingly very bourgeois figures. A lot of things that indicate that what is happening is an internal struggle for power, and not much to indicate that what is happening is any kind of "revolution."


Saturday, March 12, 2011


 

Against and for (!) (and against again) Obama


Two Obama items in the news this morning. On the one hand, the utterly disgusting news that Obama has come out foursquare in support of the military's treatment of the unconvicted, unaccused Bradley Manning. "I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards,” says Obama. “They assure me that they are.” That would be these conditions, the ones which have been condemned by Amnesty International. Actually Obama's replay isn't that surprising from a "professor of Constitutional law" who believes that the U.S. has the right to simply lock people up and throw away the key without so much as a trial.

On the other hand, McClatchy writes today that "Likening Gadhafi's attacks to 1990s government attacks on people in the Balkans and in Rwanda, Obama said that the U.S. and the world have an obligation to protect innocent life." Actually, in his defense (again, !), that is not what he said, which was this [emphasis added]:

"I continue to believe that not only the United States but the international community has an obligation to do what it can to prevent a repeat of something like what occurred in the Balkans in the ‘90s, what occurred in Rwanda. And so part of, for example, maintaining 24-hour surveillance of the situation there is for us to have some sort of alert system if you start seeing defenseless civilians who are being massacred by Qaddafi’s forces."
So Obama did not "liken" the situation in Libya to anything else, and doesn't even concede in his remarks that "defenseless civilians" are being massacred by Gaddafi's forces. He doesn't even say that the U.S. has an obligation to prevent the deaths of all defenseless civilians, just deaths which occur in large numbers as was the case in Rwanda and (according to Obama, anyway) the Balkans.

Of course, the claim that the U.S. has any kind of "obligation" to safeguard defenseless civilians wouldn't ring quite so hollow if the U.S. weren't doing precisely that on a regular basis in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and hadn't done so in many orders of magnitude greater than anything happening in Libya when it invaded Iraq.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011


 

1000 Dead in Libya


It's a curious number. Back on Feb. 23, near the beginning of current events in Libya, news reports told us that there were "1000" dead in Libya.

And now, two weeks later, with very heavy fighting going on daily? Why, we're told that there are "more than a thousand people dead." Just an observation on the credibility of news reports.

And, just so we're clear, that is not "a thousand civilians massacred from the air by bombing civilians" (as happened many times over when the U.S. attacked Iraq with its "shock and awe", or as happened when Israel attacked Gaza), but a thousand people killed in fighting between armed forces (albeit unequally armed, but isn't that almost always the case).


Monday, March 07, 2011


 

The cost of war


I often call attention to the fact that, when it comes to launching wars (including no-fly zones), politicians and the media virtually never (and, in most cases, absolutely never) talk about the cost of their potential decision. They rarely talk about the legality or morality of it either, for that matter, it's mostly about effectiveness (e.g., "do the U.S. have enough aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean to enforce a no-fly zone?").

But there one exception in the mainstream media, my favorite newscaster, Shep Smith on Fox News. Shep was in fine form today, asking what we hope to accomplish in Afghanistan and Libya, talking about the cost of enforcing a no-fly zone, and sarcastically talking about the "billions of dollars we have just lying around" to finance such an effort. Not a leftist by any means, but a rare voice of sanity in the media nevertheless.


 

No-fly zone double-standard


Gulf states (by which we mean, of course, the rulers of those states, not the actual people) have called for "no-fly zones" over Libya because, you know, it's unfair that there's a war in which one side has planes and bombs and the other doesn't, and it's important to protect "the people." I'll be waiting for the day that they extend that same sympathy, and concern for asymmetric resources, to the people of Gaza, being bombed almost daily by Israeli warplanes.


 

Strange (and telling) quote of the day


"Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."
- Hillary Clinton, emphasis added
"You may not agree with it"? If it's "real news," Hillary, there's not a question of "agreeing with it" or not, it's simply the truth.

Of course, that's precisely what Clinton objects to (and that's the telling part). For example, Israel has been bombing Gaza almost every day for several weeks now. Every day, Al Jazeera will report on it, U.S. media outlets will not. And of course it's that that Clinton's referring to when she says "you may not agree with it." What she "agrees with" is the way U.S. media dutifully conforms to U.S. foreign policy, and reports precisely what the U.S. government wants it to report and not what it doesn't. Al Jazeera, by contrast, reports the "real news" - reality as it is, not as the U.S. government wants the American people to think it is.

I need not also point out the strange concept that Al Jazeera viewership is increasing in the U.S., since for 99% of the American public, Al Jazeera is available only on the Internet, and as a result, Al Jazeera viewership is undoubtedly considerably lower than the lowest-rated show on cable TV. Clinton might have said something about free speech, and about how she thinks U.S. cable companies should give their viewers the option to watch the "real news" of Al Jazeera. Of course she did no such thing, because, after all, even though it's "real news" she "doesn't agree with it."


Thursday, March 03, 2011


 

Hypocrisy watch continues


Pres. Obama says "those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable." Really? When will he apply that standard to those who perpetrate violence against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Gaza?


Tuesday, March 01, 2011


 

Hypocrisy watch


The press is now filled with articles about how Iran is tear-gassing protesters. Israel routinely tear-gasses protesters, a fact which is rarely reported in the Western media (and never in some media). As I noted here, a few days ago a 3-year-old baby girl died at one of those protests from the tear gas. Nary a word about that in the Western media.

A couple thousand miles away, reports tell us that the Libyan government is launching aerial attacks on its own cities, which may be true, although I have yet to see any concrete evidence of it. Despite that, the U.N. is rushing to impose sanctions, there are calls for no-fly zones, etc. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, another country is launching aerial strikes on civilians, and killing them in large numbers - nine school children today, and 60 civilians last week. But that country is the U.S., so not only aren't there any calls for sanctions or no-fly zones, but the story will go unreported by most Western corporate media.


Why stop here? There's more...

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