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Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Blame it on that darn "coalition"

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It takes the words right out of my mouth (well, except for "behooding" ;-) ):
"This is the Pentagon statement on the seizure of Mohsen Abdul-Hamid: 'Following the interview it was determined that he was detained by mistake and should be released. ... Coalition forces regret any inconvenience...' First, don’t blame it on a 'coalition' when it was a purely American operation. Second, an 'interview' starts with being asked to sit and would you like some coffee, not with having a hood thrown over your head and being dragged out of your house. Third, a bigger lexicographical problem continues to be that word 'mistake': it’s a day and a half later, the Pentagon still hasn’t clarified the nature of the mistaken behooding and seizure of the head of the largest Sunni party, and nobody seems to be asking them to do so."



In the news today, we read:
"Iraq's month-old transitional government announced Tuesday that it had asked the United Nations Security Council to extend the mandate of the American-led forces here beyond the end of this year, and said Iraq's need for outside military assistance, not pre-set deadlines, should determine when American troop withdrawals should start.

"'The multinational forces are not occupying forces, they are friendly forces, and they are helping us to establish security, carrying out missions in the interests of the Iraqi people, and under the authority of the government,' [Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari] said. 'The government will request an extension of their mandate until we have defeated terrorism and restored security across the country.'"
But wait. If Iraq is a "sovereign" country, then why does it need to ask the permission of the United Nations to allow "friendly forces" to be active in their country? Surely the government of Germany, just to name one, doesn't have to ask the U.N.'s permission for U.S. troops to be present in their country. After all, it's not as if the troops present in Iraq, even the non-American ones, are operating under U.N. command.


The "free" press

David Gergen is an editor at U.S. News & World Report and a frequent contributor on CNN (as well as a former adviser to four Presidents). I just listened to him on CNN, talking about the latest "Deep Throat" revelation, announce that self-proclaimed (and presumed) "Deep Throat" Mark Felt "didn't think it was a badge of honor, and neither do I." Sure, why on earth would a journalist think that someone should be proud of talking with journalists and revealing details about attempts to subvert the democratic process and to obstruct justice; that isn't the job of journalism, is it? Why, the man ought to be ashamed of himself for doing such a thing!


Diplomacy? Arrogance.

Also lawlessness, immoral, dangerous, outrageous, and many other things - imperialism in a nutshell:
"President Bush on Tuesday said there were still diplomatic options available to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions without having to resort to a military strike.

"'It's either diplomacy or military. And I am for the diplomacy approach,' Bush told reporters at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.

"'And so for those who say that we ought to be using our military to solve the problem, I would say that while all options are on the table, we've got a ways to go to solve this diplomatically,' he said."
I'll be waiting impatiently for the Democrats or the "papers of record" or any other part of "the Establishment" to go on record as saying that the idea of pre-emptively attacking a country because it is choosing to develop weapons to defend itself against exactly such an attack is completely unacceptable.


Cuba and the U.S. - a history lesson

The Wall Street Journal recently called on the Organization of American States to increase its interference in the internal affairs of Cuba and offer increased support to Cuban "dissidents" (o.k., the Journal didn't quite put it that way ;-) ). Today's Granma responds to that editorial with a bit of history of the OAS, specifically the circumstances in which Cuba's membership in that organization was withdrawn. Although it happened in 1961, it still provides an instructive lesson in the way the United States conducts foreign policy, and as such, I'm reprinting here in its entirety (the Spanish is here; the English is not online at the moment and I am indebted to Walter Lippmann of CubaNews for the translation) [emphasis added]:
About The Wall Street Journal editorial against Cuba
Request of an institution without any moral authority

By: Nicanor Len Cotayo

The newspaper of the great financial world of the United States, The Wall Street Journal, called for the Organization of American States (OAS), last Saturday, to offer more support to those Washington calls Cuban "dissidents". The newspaper claims that the lack of support for democracy in Cuba "is one of the reasons that the government of the United States has decided to push the OAS to do more to promote democracy in the region".

To understand the seriousness of the demand, it is worthwhile to briefly remember the way in which island was separated from that shoot-off of Washington policy in the area. It was on October of 1961 that the White House decided to pass judgement on Cuba in the OAS. It was a curious attitude because seven months before it had launched the invasion at Playa Giron.

To understand fully what occurred behind the scenes, they granted a credit of 99 million dollars to the President of Peru, Manuel Prado Ugarte who was visiting the U.S. capital at the time. Later, the Peruvian ambassador in Washington presented a request to the Secretary General of the OAS to call for a meeting of foreign ministers "as soon as possible". On January 3, 1962, just before the meeting, the White House announced a project to grant 15 million dollars to the governments of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador for coffee production. A Costa Rican newspaper, ADELANTE, considered it a bribe on the eve of judging Cuba, since they were giving stability to a product with prices precisely damaged by the great importers of the United States. On January 22 of that same year, The New York Times revealed that the U.S. State Secretary, Dean Rusk, had warned his Latin American colleagues that financial aid depended on the support given to the sanctions against Havana. This was front page news in an article entitled "Rusk links aid to Latin countries to actions regarding Cuba" with a byline of Juan de Onis.

During the third day of the sessions in the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este, seven countries, not counting Cuba, questioned the legality of the objectives Washington was trying to achieve. After a four hour-long meeting, the representatives of Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Haiti declared that "applying diplomatic sanctions was politically and legally unacceptable and valueless. They suggested that "the Bogota Charter did not contemplate the exclusion of a member State, that it was the responsibility of the OAS Council or a Special Commission to solve the problem, forewarning that a reform of the Bogota Charter requires another Special Inter-American Conference".

On January 30, seven days into the VIII OAS Foreign Minister's Consultative Meeting, a resolution was put to the vote calling for "the exclusion of the present Government of Cuba from participating in the Inter-American system" with 14 in favor, the minimum required. This result was held up at the time by someone who delayed his sellout, the Haitian Chancellor. Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador abstained and the one vote against was Cuba. In an analysis of these events, the Canadian newspaper, the Montreal Star, pointed out that among the 14 countries voting against Havana "there are seven that do not have a democratically elected government", a situation, it added "that damaged the prestige of the United States".

Now, 43 years later, The Wall Street Journal dares to request an institution without the least moral authority, such as the OAS, to help bring democracy to the island. Expressing itself in this impudent way, the newspaper of US big business uses the same rotten measures it had used to separate Cuba from that Organization.

Monday, May 30, 2005


Quote of the Day

From ZNet via TalkLeft:
"I believe the government has just successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."

- the judge in the court-martial of Pablo Paredes, being tried for failure to deploy to Iraq, which he justified because he considered it an illegal order to deploy to an illegal war.


Memorial Day - remembering all the victims

In the post below this one, I use this Memorial Day to take the opportunity to remember all war dead, not just the soldiers but their victims as well. In this post, I remind readers that there are yet another group of victims - the homeless veterans and the veterans who may not be homeless but are without hope, physically or mentally wounded in ways that will not heal.

Below, the lyrics from the little-known song "Christmas in February" from Lou Reed's masterpiece, "New York". It isn't the only song about homeless veterans, but it happens to be one I was listening to two days ago, and was moved by (Lou Reed's haunting voice helps; unfortunately that's missing from this page)

Sam was lyin' in the jungle
agent orange spread against the sky like marmalade
Hendrix played on some foreign jukebox
they were praying to be saved
Those gooks were fierce and fearless
that's the price you pay when you invade
Xmas in February

Sam lost his arm in some border town
his fingers are mixed with someone's crop
If he didn't have that opium to smoke
the pain would never ever stop
Half his friends are stuffed into black body bags
with their names printed at the top
Xmas in February

Sammy was a short order cook
in a short order black and blue collar town
Everybody worked the steel mill
but the steel mill got closed down
He thought if he joined the Army
he'd have a future that was sound
Like no Xmas in February

Sam's staring at the Vietnam Wall
it's been a while now that he's home
His wife and kid have left, he's unemployed
he's a reminder of the war that wasn't won
He's the guy on the street with the sign that reads
"Please help send this Vet home"
But he is home
and there's no Xmas in February
no matter how much he saves


Memorial Day - why did they die?

The San Jose Mercury News editorial page (as I suspect most editorial pages today) is given over to a series of articles commemorating Memorial Day. The subhead on the page (not online) reads:
"Give thanks, in whatever way you can, for the lives lost be heroes from the Bay Area and across the nation -- from Bunker Hill to the deserts of Iraq -- to ensure the American flag can fly freely."
As a friend just said to me, "They forgot to say they were talking about flying freely...over Iraq".

The truth is, there hasn't been a threat to the "American flag flying freely" since the war of 1812, whatever your position on the various wars that have occured since then.

I have a better idea this Memorial Day. Let's demand that U.S. troops leave Iraq now, so they will stop dying and stop killing Iraqis (who, along with Afghans, Haitians, Serbs, Vietnamese, and countless other victims of American "heroes", should also be remembered on this Memorial Day), and let's demand that the U.S. abandon its plans for future wars against Iran, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba, and everyplace else. In addition to looking backwards, and remembering the dead, let's look forward, and dedicate ourselves to working for a world in which millions more don't follow in their path.


The New York Times blames the victim

In an article about Iraqi doctors receiving threats and deciding to stop practicing and even leave the country, the New York Times has this to say about what came before:
"In the early years of Saddam Hussein, the health care system in Iraq was a showcase, with most Iraqis receiving excellent, inexpensive care. Iraqi doctors often studied in England, and Iraq's medical schools, based at hospitals, had high standards. But Mr. Hussein let the economic penalties of the 1990's bite deeply into medical care and used the damage to the increasingly worn system to try to persuade the world to ease economic pressure on Iraq."
Yes, it wasn't the euphemistically-named "economic penalties" (also known as sanctions) which caused the Iraqi medical system to go to hell, it was a deliberate decision by Saddam Hussein.

This would be a good place to point out that the sanctions, which were supposedly put in place to ensure the disarming of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, had in fact achieved that goal by 1991, and that it was a deliberate decision by Bill Clinton (not Saddam Hussein) to keep those sanctions in place until Saddam Hussein was no longer in power, regardless of disarmament, which was responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis. We also take time to recall that Madeleine Albright said those deaths were "worth it", although, since we now know that almost all of those deaths occured after Iraq was disarmed, exactly what "we" got in return for "paying that price" (generous of the U.S. to pay for something with the blood of Iraqis, wasn't it?) isn't clear. Not in any kind of moral or legal sense, anyway; what the U.S. really got out of a decade of sanctions was the ability to subsequently invade Iraq and overthrow its government and install a compliant puppet government. What it got out of that is still a work in progress.

Something else to remember on this Memorial Day.


Riverbend 1, Tom Friedman 0

Riverbend slam-dunks over the head of the fatuous Tom Friedman in her latest post:
"One thing I found particularly amusing about the article- and outrageous all at once-was in the following paragraph:

'Religiously, if you want to know how the Sunni Arab world views a Shiite's being elected leader of Iraq, for the first time ever, think about how whites in Alabama would have felt about a black governor's being installed there in 1920. Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and they are indifferent to their brutalization.'

"Now, it is always amusing to see a Jewish American journalist speak in the name of Sunni Arabs. When Sunni Arabs, at this point, hesitate to speak in a representative way about other Sunni Arabs, it is nice to know Thomas L. Friedman feels he can sum up the feelings of the 'Sunni Arab world' in so many words. His arrogance is exceptional.

"It is outrageous because for many people, this isn't about Sunnis and Shia or Arabs and Kurds. It's about an occupation and about people feeling that they do not have real representation. We have a government that needs to hide behind kilometers of barbed wire and meters and meters of concrete- and it's not because they are Shia or Kurdish or Sunni Arab- it's because they blatantly supported, and continue to support, an occupation that has led to death and chaos.

"The paragraph is contemptible because the idea of a 'Shia leader' is not an utterly foreign one to Iraqis or other Arabs, no matter how novel Friedman tries to make it seem. How dare he compare it to having a black governor in Alabama in the 1920s? In 1958, after the July 14 Revolution which ended the Iraqi monarchy, the head of the Iraqi Sovereignty Council (which was equivalent to the position of president) was Mohammed Najib Al-Rubayi- a Shia from Kut. From 1958 - 1963, Abdul Karim Qassim, a Shia also from Kut in the south, was the Prime Minister of Iraq (i.e. the same position Jaffari is filling now). After Abdul Karim Qassim, in 1963, came yet another Shia by the name of Naji Talib as prime minster. Even during the last regime, there were two Shia prime ministers filling the position for several years- Sadoun Humadi and Mohammed Al-Zubaidi. "


John McCain - war criminal

In anticipation of tonight's A&E Biography hagiography of John McCain, the "Faith of My Fathers" (incidentally not the first McCain hagiography that has appeared on A&E), the story of John McCain's Vietnam war activities which led to his capture and his subsequent "hero" status need to be re-told. The article below appeared in Knight-Ridder newspapers during the 2000 primary campaign (e.g., the Philadelphia Inquirer on Feb. 5, 2000); it's not online and I owe a debt of gratitude to Norman Solomon who willingly dredged it up via Lexis-Nexis after I dredged it up from my memory (which doesn't compare to Lexis-Nexis but was pretty accurate in this case, as it turned out). Since it isn't online anywhere, I'm putting a bit more of it here than I otherwise would:
On that gray morning more than 32 years ago, McCain was knocked unconscious briefly when he ejected from his damaged bomber. Both his arms were broken, his right knee was shattered, and when he splashed into the middle of Truc Bach (White Silk) Lake, his 50 pounds of flight gear kept him from reaching the surface.

When [Mai Van] On finally got to him, about 200 yards out, all the older man could see was a bit of white silk, the top of the American's parachute.

With U.S. planes still bombing and strafing their target of the day - a nearby light-bulb factory where On worked as a security guard - On used a stout bamboo pole to hoist McCain off the bottom of the lake.

"If I had hesitated even one more minute, I'm sure he would have died," said On, still vigorous at 83 and still living in the same spot on the southern edge of the lake in the heart of downtown Hanoi.

"John McCain was lucky that morning," On said. "It was about 11 a.m. I had just come home for lunch and put my bicycle into the house. Then the air-raid siren went off, and 60 or 70 of us ran to a tunnel to avoid the bombs. I was at the entrance to the tunnel when I saw the pilot go into the water.

"The tunnel was still shaking from the bombing when I ran to the lake."

The two men differ on some small details of the rescue, but what is not in dispute is that On managed to drag McCain ashore, where a crowd of about 40 people had gathered. Unaware that their injured prisoner was the son of a high-ranking American admiral, they stripped McCain to his underwear, then began kicking him, spitting on him, screaming for him to be killed.

"One of them slammed a rifle butt down on my shoulder and smashed it pretty badly," McCain later wrote. "Another stuck a bayonet in my foot."

Then some young men approached with bricks in their hands.

"They tried to beat him in the head with the bricks, but I covered him," On said. "They surely would have beaten him to death. I said I wanted to rescue this man and return him to his family."

A nurse arrived and put bamboo splints on McCain's broken arms and leg, but when she tried to give him some sort of pill, he spit it out. A military ambulance appeared and carted him off to Hoa Lo prison in downtown Hanoi. Hoa Lo, which means "fiery oven" in Vietnamese, came to be known to many Americans as the "Hanoi Hilton."
Bombing a lightbulb factory, a civilian target, is a war crime. McCain, obviously, didn't select the target, he was just following orders, but that doesn't exonerate him any more than any other soldier who follows an illegal order. According to Amnesty International this particular violation of the Geneva Conventions (bombing civilian targets) is actually official U.S. military doctrine:
"Military advantage may involve a variety of considerations, including the security of the attacking force. ... Economic targets of the enemy that indirectly but effectively support and sustain the enemy’s war-fighting capability may also be attacked.”

"War is a clash of opposing wills.... While physical factors are crucial in war, the national will and the leadership’s will are also critical components of war. The will to prosecute or the will to resist can be decisive elements....Strategic attack objectives often include producing effects to demoralize the enemy’s leadership, military forces, and population, thus affecting the adversary’s capability to continue the conflict.”
Both of these statements, taken from different U.S. military manuals and documents, represent direct violations of the Geneva Convention (and, it should be noted, well before the advent of George W. Bush).

But McCain didn't just carry out such illegal orders himself, he willingly voiced support for them, specifically during the 1999 war against Yugoslavia when, as I wrote here, "water systems, power and heating plants, hospitals, universities, schools, apartment complexes, senior citizens' homes, bridges, factories, trains, buses, radio and TV stations, the telephone system, oil refineries, embassies, marketplaces and more were deliberately destroyed by U.S./NATO planes in a ruthless 10-week bombing campaign."

John McCain - war criminal then, war criminal now, war criminal forever.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Capitalism kills

The latest in a long-running series, once again featuring a hat tip to Susie the Suburban Guerilla for finding the story in the Los Angeles Times:
"Family physician Mary Frank couldn't understand why one elderly patient with high-blood pressure wasn't responding to his medication. She had been steadily increasing his dose, but his blood pressure remained unstable.

"Finally, the man admitted he had been sharing his pills with his wife. He also would stop taking his medication a few days before his appointment hoping his blood pressure would be higher so that he and his wife could then split a higher-dose drug.

"But the practice put the couple at risk of a stroke or heart attack."
And I certainly hope that tax money didn't have to pay for this blindingly obvious research:
"Researchers say those most likely to share prescription drugs are the poor and the elderly, as well as family members who have a common chronic illness, such as diabetes.

"'If you ask people why they are doing this, they say they have no other option,' said Chien-Wen Tseng, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii who has studied the ways people deal with rising prescription drug prices. 'To many of them, it's better than not taking the medication at all.'"
But definitely not better than a system where health care is a right, not a privilege for those who can afford it.


Today's language lesson: "Ensure"

A lead article in today's Los Angeles Times, discussing Iraqi anger over long detentions in Iraqi prisons by American forces, tells us:
"The military has established a multitiered system to ensure that innocent people caught up in chaotic events are not held for extensive periods."
Really? From Dictionary.com:
Ensure: To make sure or certain; insure
Ensure? The very next two sentences in the article give the lie to that claim:
"Records provided by the military, however, show that the evidence against suspects justifies prolonged detention in only about one in four cases. Nonetheless, more than half are held three months or more before being freed."
And some, we might add, are held for years.


Why you should read left-wing media

The lefty blogosphere is all a-twitter over this article from the Times (U.K.):
"The RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.

"The new information, obtained by the Liberal Democrats, shows that the allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001, and that the RAF increased their attacks even more quickly than the Americans did."
Of course I'm always happy for the corporate media to print articles like this, why, it might even make it into the U.S. media (then again, it might not). But "new information"? Perhaps the exact mathematical precision of the data, but certainly not the gist of the story, which was well-known to anyone reading the left-wing press in 2002.

For example, here are some excerpts from an article in the Sept. 12, 2002 issue of Workers World newspaper, written in the aftermath of a fact-finding trip to Iraq made by Ramsey Clark, the article's author Brian Becker, and others in August of that year:

"This writer went to Iraq on Aug. 25 as part of a fact-finding anti-war delegation led by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The delegation flew into Iraq's "no-fly zones" in the north and south of the country for five days. In those five days, the U.S. bombed Iraq on five separate occasions.

"True to form, the U.S. media said almost nothing about these daily bombings. Each day after we returned from the site of the latest bombing we would check the web sites of the Western media. Nary a peep about the lawless aggression waged from the skies by U.S. warplanes. Instead, the U.S. media focused its coverage on 'why Saddam Hussein is such a great threat to world peace.'

"When the U.S. press does mention the regular bombings of Iraq, it usually buries the information in a small article far from the front page. The Pentagon is almost always quoted, explaining that the attacks were in self-defense. They say it was against military targets and against Iraqi radar, which was flipped on to trace U.S. and British warplanes overflying Iraq's airspace in two large areas in both northern and southern Iraq."
As an indication of the extent of what the U.S. was doing at the time, Becker writes about a trip to Mosul:
"The civilian airport had been without radar since the 1991 Gulf War. It had been largely non-functional until recently, when the government decided to defy the no-fly zone and resume daily flights into the city from Baghdad. The assumption was that U.S. aircraft would not shoot down civilian airliners.

"U.S. warplanes have not yet shot down any passenger planes, but on Aug. 27 two powerful missiles took out the airport's radar that guides the civilian airliners in their takeoff and landing and as they travel through the surrounding air space.

"The delegation went through the wreckage of the totally destroyed radar, which lay in crumpled ruins not far from the runway. The radar was very old, made up of balkanized parts from earlier rudimentary radar systems. Clearly, it was not a sophisticated military-type radar."
The "News and Commentary" links at the right contain a variety of left-wing news sources; I haven't checked but I strongly suspect that most if not all of them were also discussing the increased bombing in the "no-fly" zones before the war, and correctly characterizing it as both a provocation (as noted by the memo discussed in the Times), and also as a means of "softening up" Iraq and rendering it even more helpless before the attacks which were to come.

One interesting side note. Upon returning from the trip to Iraq described above, Ramsey Clark appeared on CNN, where, on August 29, he was accused by Wolf Blitzer of having been "used by Saddam Hussein" (a similar accusation was thrown at Dan Rather after his pre-invasion interview of Hussein). The world now knows, of course, that the truth is that Wolf Blitzer, and virtually every other member of the U.S. media, was being "used" by George Bush. I wonder if anyone has ever asked Blitzer that question, and what his answer was (or would be) if they did.

Friday, May 27, 2005


The war of terror continues

A misprint in the title? Surely you know Left I on the News better than that. :-)

On the one hand, the U.S. war of terror against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan continues unabated, with thousands being killed or rounded up for indefinite incarceration (excuse me, "detainment") on a regular basis. A Marine is acquitted of slaughtering two unarmed Iraqis who appear to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, using sixty (6-0) rounds of fire to eviscerate them, and then hang a sign on their bodies as a "warning" to other Iraqis; in other words, a sign meant to terrorize Iraqis into submission. Incredibly, we read: "Autopsies conducted on the Iraqis' exhumed bodies backed 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano's assertion that he shot them in self-defense after the men disobeyed his instructions and made a menacing move toward him, Marine officials said." Now I understand that an autotopsy might be able to show that the men weren't shot in the back (although with sixty rounds ripping them apart, I wouldn't be so sure about that), but it certainly couldn't possibly prove that they had "made a menacing move" toward the Marine killer. Hardly a surprising turn of events considering that a soldier who killed an unarmed Iraqi who was clearly not making any "menacing moves" toward him, but was in fact lying motionless, with all of this captured on video, was not even charged. A war of terror is certainly an apt phrase.

Back in the Western hemisphere, the U.S. demonstrated that its willingness to shield terrorists from justice knows no geographical limitations:

"The United States rejected on Friday Venezuela's first move to extradite a Cuban exile wanted for an airliner bombing, in a case that could challenge the U.S. commitment to fight all forms of terrorism.

"The Bush administration told Venezuela its request that Luis Posada Carriles be arrested with a view to extradition was 'clearly inadequate,' because it lacked supporting evidence, said a State Department official who asked not to be named."
The first thing I'd like to know, just in passing, is, since this appears to have been an official action of the United States government in official relations with another government of the world, why the official who announces this action would ask not to be named, and why the press would be willing to grant such an outrageous request. The second thing I'd like to know is if the reporters asked this anonymous government official if the U.S. would be willing to release all documents pertaining to Luis Posada Carriles, since the ones they've already released certainly provide a strong case for believing Posada Carriles to be guilty of the Cubana airline bombing, and the liklihood that the U.S. is concealing even more incriminating evidence is high. And the third thing I'd like to know is, where does the U.S. come off asking these questions anyway? Posada is an officially wanted man in Venezuela; there isn't any question about that. Whether he is guilty, or whether there is evidence sufficient to prove he is guilty, is a matter for Venezuela to decide; the U.S. government has no right to designate itself the grand jury. Even if it did before his original trial, the case has moved way beyond that stage.


The "liberal" media

On CNN's Inside Politics, I just listened to Congressional Correspondent Ed Henry describe something which had appeared on the "liberal editorial page of the Los Angeles Times". It is certainly the place of "regular people", and even of columnists and other commentators, to characterize news outlets or editorial pages as "liberal" or "conservative" (or whatever) if they think it enlightens the discussion. But is it the place of a reporter on another news outlet? I shouldn't think so. Ed Henry evidently does, however, and certainly he got no rebuke from Judy Woodruff.


Politics reaches a new low, Hollywood-style

Via Cursor comes this almost unbelievable story:
"The TV ad [pushing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's political proposals], released in May, features Schwarzenegger talking to people in a lunchroom, and places Pepsi and Arrowhead Water in prominent spots next to the governor for 1/3 of the ad. Donors connected to Pepsi Co. and Arrowhead Water's parent company, Nestle, gave the governor a total of $279,800 in campaign contributions. Also recognizable on-screen are Ruffles, Sun Chips, Cheetos and a SoBe Beverage, all brands owned by Pepsi.

"The practice, known as 'product placement,' is unheard of in political advertising. In fact, political ads typically avoid using logos because companies may not want to be associated with a particular candidate or issue. However, studios receive significant payments for featuring a product in a film or television show."


Today's language question

Can you really have a military operation announced a week in advance, and described in all the papers, and still call it "Operation Lightning"? Just asking.

On a more serious note of media obfuscation, the AP story linked above describes the operation this way:

"The government said Thursday a security cordon of 40,000 Iraqi soldiers and police will ring Baghdad starting next week in what it dubbed Operation Lightning"
Nary a mention of U.S. involvement. But Knight-Ridder tells a rather different story (emphasis added):
"In an operation that will include 40,000 police and army personnel, and thousands of U.S. soldiers, Iraqi troops and American soldiers will blockade the roads leading in and out of Baghdad next week in the largest effort ever undertaken by the nation's new security forces."
Continuing our survey, the New York Times does mention American involvement in a low-key way, without any mention of numbers: "A United States military spokesman said American soldiers would provide ground support." The Washington Post goes even more low-key, mentioning way down in the article: "The [anonymous] Western diplomat said soldiers from the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division would participate" [Lucky thing they don't have a ban on sourcing a story from a single, anonymous source or we would never have learned that much]. But the Post and the Times at least mentioned U.S. troops, unlike the AP.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


It's time to play "How clueless is your Congressperson?"

Mine is pretty clueless. Here's an op-ed article that appeared yesterday in the San Jose Mercury News, written by Representative Mike Honda:
"Did you know that the No Child Left Behind law requires your high school to divulge your child's personal information to military recruiters at the risk of losing scarce federal education money?

"I didn't. At least not until my constituents brought it to my attention with complaints that, in some instances, their children were persistently contacted at home by military recruiters."
A quick Google turns up as the first hit this article from Mother Jones magazine in November, 2002 highlighting this issue. I've certainly known about it for more or less that long as well; I doubt many politically active people are not aware of this issue. But Rep. Honda, who quite likely actually voted for the "No Child Left Behind" law, is just learning about it.

Can we get a refund on his salary? And maybe use it as downpayment on a real opposition party in Congress?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Terrorists in the White House

...and it's not the usual suspects (Bush, Cheney, et al.). Some news you won't read in the New York Times or hear on CNN (from Granma, of course):
"On Friday, May 20 at the White House Oval Office, US President George Bush received a small Cuban-American delegation headed by terrorist Luis Zuniga Rey, founder of the Cuban-American National Foundation’s paramilitary committee in Miami, which for years assured the financing and logistics of Luis Posada Carriles’ terrorist activities.

That individual previously had been captured on August 1, 1974, near Boca Ciega, in Havana, when he was caught red-handed with a load of explosives and weapons, together with two other members of a terrorist commando who had infiltrated with the objective of carrying out attacks.

"The group received by the US president also included Eleno Oviedo Alvarez, arrested in Cuba on February 21, 1963, together with other members of a terrorist commando as they were unloading weapons and munitions on the Cuban coast."

Monday, May 23, 2005


Political humor of the day

Via Holden at First Draft, an excerpt from today's "gaggle" with White House obfuscator Scott McClellean:
Q So when you talk about a partnership, is it fair to say that the United States is the senior partner, and Afghanistan is the junior partner?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's a partnership. A partnership, by nature, is equal.
See, we give them money, and occupy their country with troops, and use our weight to influence the selection of their leaders, and they give us...flowers. Poppies.

McClellan (and George Bush)'s real concept of "partnership"

McClellan followed up that howler with something almost as funny:

"Well, it is a sovereign country, and they are a duly-elected government that represents the people of Afghanistan. We are there at their invitation."
It's a "sovereign" country where the "duly-elected" President has to publicly beg the Americans to turn over Afghan citizens seized in Afghanistan to the Afghan government, as well as to plead with them to "consult" with him (not even "get his approval") before taking military action in "his" country, and then get told "sorry, no" by George Bush.


The New York Times

Jeanne at Body and Soul wrote a very interesting piece yesterday on the value of papers like the New York Times, despite all the "bashing" that folks like myself do of its weaknesses. Today the Times seems to want to prove Jeanne's point, with a very strong editorial about the Administration's lies about the treatment of prisoners:
"President Bush said the other day that the world should see his administration's handling of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison as a model of transparency and accountability. He said those responsible were being systematically punished, regardless of rank. It made for a nice Oval Office photo-op on a Friday morning. Unfortunately, none of it is true.

"A two-part series in The Times by Tim Golden provides a horrifying new confirmation that what happened at Abu Ghraib was no aberration, but part of a widespread pattern. It showed the tragic impact of the initial decision by Mr. Bush and his top advisers that they were not going to follow the Geneva Conventions, or indeed American law, for prisoners taken in antiterrorist operations."
The Times persists in refusing to refer to American treatment of prisoners as "torture", preferring words like "mistreatment" and "abuse", but it's still a powerful editorial.

The question will be how far does this go? People talk, accurately in my opinion, about the "right-wing echo chamber", and the fact is that there is no counterpart. Will other papers, and various talk-show hosts (Alan Colmes?!) take up the banner and keep it waving? One of the key components lacking for the "'left-wing' echo chamber" is the presence of a real political opposition. The media in this country focus on the actions and speeches of politicians, and not "fringe" politicians like Dennis Kucinich (don't even get them started on a Cynthia McKinney or a Ralph Nader), but "mainstream" ones. If Harry Reid or Barbara Boxer or Ted Kennedy were to take up this cause, perhaps even start talking about impeachment proceedings, the media would have to "keep the story going"; in the absence of that, it will soon, perhaps very soon, die away (with Hamid Karzai doing his part, repeatedly emphasizing in his joint press conference today that it was just a couple individuals who were responsible for the mistreatment of Afghan prisoners, not the American people or the American government).

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Formal democracy

Iraq has never been a "real" democracy, but some would have us believe it's never even been a formal democracy. Since the U.S. invasion there have been countless claims in the press that Iraq needed to write "a Constitution", as if it didn't have one, and now the Washington Post wants us to believe that "Iraqi women went to the polls for the first time in January". Curiously enough, both of these claims are disproved on the still functioning website of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which accurately states that "the Iraqi constitution entitled full rights to women in 1970."


The peasants are revolting

Or, at least, pretending to:
"Hours before flying to Washington, D.C., for talks with President Bush, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai demanded greater control Saturday over U.S. military operations in his country and called for vigorous punishment of any U.S. troops who mistreat prisoners.

"He also said he wants the United States to hand over all Afghan prisoners still in U.S. custody.

"Speaking to reporters before his first visit to the United States since he was installed in December as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president, Karzai demanded more say over operations by the 16,700 U.S. soldiers still in the country, including an end to raids on the homes of Afghans unless his government was notified beforehand.

"'No operations inside Afghanistan should take place without the consultation of the Afghan government,' he told reporters.
Of course, Karzai wouldn't be a proper U.S. puppet if he didn't join in the absurdity of placing the blame on "poorly trained soldiers" rather than the Administration which sent them there (and, if you accept the "poorly trained" argument rather than the more likely "doing what they were told" scenario, the Administration is also responsible for the poor training):
"There were fears that a report in Friday's New York Times, based on the Army's criminal investigation into the December 2002 deaths of two Afghans at Bagram, could re-ignite anti-American demonstrations. Karzai said he was 'shocked' by allegations of prisoner abuse by poorly trained U.S. soldiers at Bagram."
Shocked was he? Like his U.S. masters, what really "shocked" him was the fact that these actions, which have been known for a long time, are finally getting a little wider publicity in the U.S. media.

If Hamid Karzai really wants to be shocked, how about discussing the massacre of 4000 Afghan prisoners by the Northern Alliance under the supervision of U.S. Special Forces, documented in the film Massacre at Mazar which has been shown in Britain but still, to my knowledge, not in the U.S. (certainly not on PBS). At the time this film was shown on British TV, both the European Union and the United Nations called for a war crimes investigation, about which nothing has been heard since as far as I know.


Rose-colored glasses alert

The Washington Post trumpets the latest "good news" from Iraq:
"More than 1,000 Sunni Arab clerics, political leaders and tribal heads ended their two-year boycott of politics in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq on Saturday, uniting in a Sunni bloc that they said would help draft the country's new constitution and compete in elections."
However, if you persist in reading as far as the tenth paragraph (on the "jump" page on the paper I'm reading, the San Jose Mercury News), you find the story isn't quite as rosy as the administration would like:
"In a statement adopted at the meeting, the Sunni leaders called for 'liberating' Iraq from U.S.-led forces 'by all legal means.' The statement condemned 'all terrorist acts that target civilians, no matter the reason,' but said, 'resisting the occupier is a legitimate right.'"
For some strange reason I just can't fathom, "Sunni leaders endorse resistance" didn't qualify as a headline for the article.


Nice work if you can get it dept.

Capitalism at "work":
"In the two years since Mike Cannon became president and CEO of Solectron, the company has lost $3.4 billion. It's posted a loss in all but two of the eight quarters he's been running it.

"Along the way, Cannon has announced plans to fire at least 17,000 employees. The stock has fallen 11 percent.

"While Solectron has struggled to make money, Cannon hasn't.

"Over the past two years, Cannon has received $11.2 million in direct compensation, including salary, bonus and restricted stock. That figure doesn't include 5.1 million options he's been granted worth an estimated $6.5 million at the end of 2004."

Friday, May 20, 2005


Fidel, Posada, the "Five", the FBI, Bill Clinton, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and 9/11: An exercise for the reader

Fidel Castro gave a very important speech today revealing previously unknown details about the history of the relationship between the U.S., Cuba, the FBI, the arrest of "the Five", Luis Posada Carriles, Bill Clinton, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and 9/11. Unfortunately, I've got to turn in and will be gone all day tomorrow, so I'm leaving this as an exercise for the reader - if you're interested, here are the links:

The news article from Prensa Latina.

The full text of Fidel's speech here.


Recruitment and the news

As everyone knows, U.S. Army recruiting is down, way down, and the Army is holding a special "no recruitment" day today so that its recruiters can be told to stop "cheating" and threatening people with arrest, faking diplomas, etc. As part of a story on this on my local Fox News channel (KTVU/Oakland), they ran some footage of combat in Iraq, with the anchor's narration, "Seeing footage like this day after day is one of the things that is keeping down recruitment." Really? I'm not sure what channel she's been watching, but it surely wasn't her own, or any network or cable channel I've been watching. I would describe my sightings of combat footage on TV with the phrase "once in a blue moon", rather than "day after day". What I do see day after day, however, is the "box score": "1627 Americans dead in Iraq". Which, truth be told, is probably a lot bigger disincentive to recruitment than combat footage, which if anything would have the opposite effect (since the combat footage never includes dead American bodies, and frequently probably looks exciting to the average young American).

As I've written before, I think the thing that would really depress recruitment even more would be the post-combat film of the permanently injured soldiers, driving home a reality that is ten times more frequent, and, for many people, ten times worse than a quick death. But with that footage, we're back to the "once in a blue moon" standard.


Alarm in the White House

"White House spokesman Trent Duffy said US President George W Bush was 'alarmed by the reports of prisoner abuse.'" (Source)
And believe me, he's going to do something about it, just as soon as he finishes his bike ride.


David v. Goliath, part LVII

Unfortunately for David (pictured), Goliath is politically, financially, and militarily backed by the most powerful nation on Earth, and hasn't the slightest compunction about crushing his enemy. And, if David ever did score a lucky shot to the forehead and take Goliath out, Goliath would probably fall on his nuclear button and destroy them both.


Republicans and Democrats are wrong about the filibuster

Democrats have their knickers in a twist about the efforts of Republicans to eliminate the filibuster. Their efforts to prevent Republicans from appointing ultra-right-wing judges are certainly not unwarranted, but they are defending an indefensible system in doing so. Republicans say they're for the filibuster on issues like civil rights, but opposed to it when it comes to judges, a completely bass-ackwards position.

The filibuster, the efforts of a minority to frustrate the will of a majority, is a fundamentally undemocratic procedure. Saying so doesn't mean that super-majority votes don't have their place in a democratic system, because they do when the changes in question are permanent ones - Constitutional amendments and the lifetime appointment of judges. Where they don't have a place is in legislative matters - raising taxes, passing civil rights legislation, etc., where, not coincidentally, they have been uniformly used by the right-wing to frustrate the will of the majority for progressive change. Nor do they have a place in election of a Prime Minister, where that requirement in the recent Iraqi election replaced the sentiment of the voters (constrained as they were) with deals done in back rooms.

So what's the answer? Abolish the filibuster, but institute super-majority (two-thirds) votes for the confirmation of judges. A position espoused by neither the Republicans nor the Democrats.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Torture? No torture here. Move along.

The New York Times lays out an incredible (but totally credible) story based on, what else, a secret Army report that they have managed to get their hands on:
"Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

"The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

"Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"'Come on, drink!' the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. 'Drink!'

"At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"'Leave him up,' one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

"Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time."
There's lots more, many other incidents, many other prisoners. I can't begin to summarize it here; the one disgraceful example above will have to suffice for those who don't want to read it all.

Of course, this being the New York Times, an organ of the ruling class, the punch is pulled. In an article exceeding 6000 words in length, the word "torture" appears only once, and then referring to how the soldiers referred to one of their number as the "King of Torture". The actions described above (and the others described in the article)? "Abuse". "Torment". "Harsh treatment". "Mistreatment". Anything but "torture".

Update: Jeanne at Body and Soul has a very moving writeup of this story, complete with links to the facts that have been known for more than two years.


Political Humor of the Day

"Love that word 'detainees.' Sounds so pastoral. 'Uncle Achmed, you've missed 7 years of my birthday parties.' 'I was detained.'"

- Will Durst


What would you do with a wanted international terrorist?

On a day when mainstream pressure is mounting on the U.S. to "do the right thing" and deport Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela where he wanted for the murder of 73 people (as well as for escaping from prison), the U.S. government decides to take the bold step of charging him instead with "illegal entry into the United States", a crime whose punishment is deportation to a country of your choice, presumably in this case one with a right-wing government with no intention of extraditing Posada Carriles to Venezuela.

And the "war against terror" continues.


Pity the poor Democrats - nobody tells them anything

Moving boldly to protect the safety of Americans, the House has just passed a bill abandoning the color-coded "terror alert" system. The news I was watching described it as a "much-criticized" system; I would have said "much-ridiculed" but then that may reflect a steady diet of watching the Daily Show. In any case, local Rep. Zoe Loefgren was being interviewed, and she noted that "The color-code system didn't work, it just scared people." Evidently Rep. Loefgren didn't get the memo. Keeping Americans in a state of fear was precisely the function of the color-code system. It worked quite well (in conjunction with other things, of course, like diverting planes from Boston to Maine, etc.).


"The middle finger to the rest of the world"

The new Huffington Post is good for something, because it steered me to this story:
"In her address [to the Columbia Business school MBA class of 2005] last Sunday, the [Indian] born [Pepsico president Indra] Nooyi compared the five major continents of the world to the five fingers of the human hand.

"First was Africa - the pinky finger - small and somewhat insignificant but when hurt, the entire hand hurt with it. Next was Asia -the thumb - strong and powerful, yearning to become a bigger player on the world stage.

"Third was Europe - the index finger - pointing the way. Fourth was South America -the ring finger -the finger which symbolises love and sensualness.

"According to some students who were present at the graduation ceremony and who fired up the issue in the blogosphere, Nooyi then reserved the remaining finger for the United States (and not North America, they say), launching into 'a diatribe about how the US is seen as the middle finger to the rest of the world.'"

Too bad the fist didn't fit into her analogy somehow. Because the "middle finger" merely begins to tell the story.


Is anyone out there looking to hire 10-15,000 employees?

Because it looks like there will be that many HP employees soon looking for work:
"Hewlett-Packard may cut as many as 15,000 jobs under new Chief Executive Mark Hurd, said a few Wall Street analysts Wednesday. In his conference call with investors after HP reported a slightly-better-than-expected second quarter Tuesday, Hurd made it clear that he believes the Palo Alto company's current operating costs are too high.

"'Management made it clear the current cost structure is not best in class and that significant cost-reduction activities were on the horizon,' wrote Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich in a note to clients. He estimates HP could cut 5 to 10 percent of its workforce of 150,000 before the quarter, which ends in July, is reported in August."
So you HP employees out there about to lose your jobs should feel darn proud of yourselves. You're part of "significant cost-reduction activities" and helping to make HP's cost structure "best in class".


Economists are different than you or me (and newspapers are pretty strange too)

Assuming you're not an economist, of course. Here's a headline today:
Core prices hold steady
In the article itself, we read that "'core' prices -- excluding volatile energy and food costs -- did not budge in April." Well, I don't know about you, but my "core" prices most definitely include only three things - energy (which includes gasoline for the car, and gas and electricity for the house), food, and housing (rent or mortgage). Truly bizarre.

But even more bizarre is that this same story, by the same AP reporter, also ran yesterday, under a different headline:

Energy, food costs boost consumer prices
(You can see the two juxtaposed in this search). Truly truly bizarre. It looks like the rose-colored glasses suppliers were busy between yesterday and today, passing out new eyewear to the headline writers at the San Jose Mercury News.


The curtain lifts on the "exit strategy"

It looks like the U.S. military is now admitting an agreement with my recent articles describing the "exit strategy" in Iraq as a sham:
"American military commanders in Baghdad and Washington gave a sobering new assessment on Wednesday of the war in Iraq, adding to the mood of anxiety that prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to come to Baghdad last weekend to consult with the new government.

"In interviews and briefings this week, some of the generals pulled back from recent suggestions, some by the same officers, that positive trends in Iraq could allow a major drawdown in the 138,000 American troops late this year or early in 2006. One officer suggested Wednesday that American military involvement could last 'many years.'

"Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American officer in the Middle East, said in a briefing in Washington that one problem was the disappointing progress in developing Iraqi police units cohesive enough to mount an effective challenge to insurgents and allow American forces to begin stepping back from the fighting."
And they didn't even mention the "air power" problem which I've described as a completely insurmountable obstable to the "exit strategy".

I can only hope that this new assessment, and this article from the New York Times, may be the lever which moves more people from the "we have to leave, but only after we 'finish the job'" position to the "Out Now!" position.


Newsweek - a Democrat responds

Updating the post just below this one, one Democratic leader has now weighed in - Nancy Pelosi. Let's take a look:
"The surge of violence following last week's Newsweek story on the desecration of the Quran at Guantanamo Bay is tragic. That the story was not accurate as printed is clear from the decision to retract it, and Newsweek has a responsibility to review the procedures that failed to prevent the story from running in the first place."
No, we do not know if the story was "accurate", either the fact of Koran abuse or the assertion that that claim will appear in an upcoming report. Newsweek's retraction has everything to do with the pressure that was brought to bear on it, and as far as one can tell little or nothing to do with the "accuracy" of the report. Pelosi's assumption that there is now proof that the story was not accurate, far from a defense of Newsweek and its press freedom, is actually a "piling on", as is her demand that Newsweek should be more careful in the future.

Also to be noted is her generic claim of a "surge of violence". What there was was a surge of anti-American demonstrations around the world, not "violence"; smearing all demonstrators as "violent", and failing to note that the violence came from the repression of the demonstrations, is outrageous. The major violence occured in one country, Afghanistan, where 17 people were killed by the U.S.-armed, U.S.-backed, U.S.-created government, and where Gen. Richard Myers has specifically said that the demonstrations were linked to the "political process there", and was "not necessarily" the result of the Newsweek article; Pelosi's failure to mention either of these facts represents still further acquiescence to the right-wing attacks on Newsweek.

"The fact remains that the story was clearly plausible to Muslims around the world. That plausibility has its roots in the interrogation techniques employed at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. For months, photographs of tortured prisoners and inappropriate interrogation techniques have made headlines throughout the world. There is evidence that indicates that some of these practices were sanctioned at much higher levels in the Bush Administration than the punishments thus far imposed would suggest."
It's all well and good that Pelosi reminds listeners about the torture and other "inappropriate" techniques, but the reason why the story was (and is) "clearly plausible" is because of the wealth of identical or nearly identical charges that have been made by many sources, charges which have now appeared even in the "mainstream" U.S. press. Pelosi's failure to acknowledge this either indicates she isn't paying very close attention, or an acquiescence to the conclusions voiced by Pentagon spokesliar Di Rita yesterday that the Pentagon has yet to receive a charge along these lines which is worthy of being called "credible".

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


My Newsweek-style retraction on the Newsweek story

By which I mean a retraction of a minor aspect of a story without really disowning it. I wrote on Monday that among the lessons of the Newsweek story are that what this country needs is a real independent media who should have been not only exposing the Koran-abuse story long ago, but also reprinting that information in the defense of Newsweek, as well as an actual opposition party who would likewise be ready to come to Newsweek's defense. Well, although I still don't know of a single Democrat who has spoken up on the issue, it appears I underestimated the press. TalkLeft recaps some of the many articles which have appeared in the press reviewing previous revelations on the subject.

It remains true that Left I on the News, with my meager resources (my memory and Google), was able to produce a review back on Saturday whereas it took papers like the Washington Post and the AP until today to do so, but at least they did; some of them even brought in the "fake menstrual blood" story, which I had predicted would not be mentioned.

What do I learn from my missed prediction? This time, the right-wing might have moved too fast and too far to the right even for the sycophantic press to follow without their lips becoming momentarily disconnected from the Administration's rear end. Not to worry, though, the aberration will no doubt soon be rectified.


Special interests

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is constantly railing against "the special interests", and is planning a costly special-election to push some of his pet measures. And where is he raising money for that election?
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will travel to five states, including the Republican strongholds of Florida and Texas, to raise millions of dollars for a special election in November, and he may take the lead in campaigning for a controversial ballot measure aimed at weakening the political clout of public employee unions."
Because, after all, how could people who don't even live in California and who plan to donate millions of dollars to support an election in California possibly be deemed a "special interest"? Why, their status as out-of-state residents surely marks them as competely disinterested in the outcome of the election, doesn't it? Oh wait, that wouldn't justify their spending millions of dollars, would it? Hmmm.


War for oil?

Yes, but for many other reasons too:
"Iraq's Industry Ministry plans to partially privatize most of its 46 state-owned companies as part of the government's plan to establish a liberal, free-market economy."
Does anyone remember anyone campaigning for election in the recent Iraqi election on this platform? I must have missed that; the only platform issue I ever heard was "U.S. out!"
"Under the former regime of Saddam Hussein, only Arab countries were allowed to invest in Iraq. But the new commercial laws established by the Coalition Provisional Authority allow foreigners to own 100 percent of Iraqi businesses - the exceptions being those dealing with natural resources such as oil."
Funny how that Coalition Provisional Authority was composed of...foreigners.

Back here in the U.S., the capitalists remain just as greedy - never satisfied until they have it all, as this headline suggests:

PC sales boost HP profit; job cuts hinted
Hey HP, guess what? Unemployed people don't buy many PCs. A guy named Marx said that. Or, he would have if he had known what a "PC" was.


"The American way of fighting"

From the New York Times (via WIIIAI) comes this ominous bit of news:
"The Air Force believes 'we must establish and maintain space superiority,' Gen. Lance Lord, who leads the Air Force Space Command, told Congress recently. 'Simply put, it's the American way of fighting.'"
Yes, the "American way of fighting", in which you are able to kill your enemies but they have no way to fight back. The "American way of fighting", in which machines operated by a few people who think they're playing video games can be substituted for large numbers of people who actually have to believe in what they're fighting for. The "American way of fighting", where the will of the tiny numbers of people who form the ruling class can be executed without having to actually have the support of the majority of the people of the country. The "American way of fighting", which consists of killing people who might, conceivably, at some future time, pose a threat to you, without regard to international law or other such "niceties" like morality. Yes, that "American way of fighting".

For further information on the subject, the new movie "Arsenal of Hypocrisy: The Space Program and the Military Industrial Complex" comes highly recommended, although I haven't seen it.


Language...and punctuation

White House front man Scott McClellan said yesterday: "The role of the Senate is to provide their advice and consent. It's not to provide advice and block." I think the transcript omitted a comma, because it's clear that what McClellan meant was, "The role of the Senate is to provide their advice, and consent." The idea that the Senate might provide advice, and not consent (i.e., "block") clearly isn't within the scope of his thinking. Talk about "strict constructionists"!

And, while we're on the subject, how come Advise and Consent is never shown on TV, anyway? Aren't closeted gay politicians a relevant subject anymore?


Pentagon spokesliar speaks

[First posted 5/17, 10:30 a.m.; updated]

I'm watching Pentagon spokesliar Lawrence Di Rita doing his best to pooh-pooh the allegations of Koran abuse in a long press conference. Di Rita claims the Pentagon acts on credible evidence, which doesn't, in his words, include some lawyer talking on Al Jazeerah. As with Newsweek editor Whitaker, Di Rita wants us to believe that the only credible evidence is "hard" evidence. Di Rita tried to blame the reports of Koran abuse on Al Qaeda "black ops", i.e., Al Qaeda detainees who were spreading false rumors in order to incite people against the U.S. There's just one little problem with that theory - the allegations come from former detainees, who were released because the U.S. determined that they were not members of Al Qaeda (and, of course, other allegations, albeit not "Koran in the toilet" allegations but definitely "exploitation of religion" allegations, come from a former U.S. translator). Unfortunately I wasn't able to hear the entire conference so I don't know if any reporter brought out these inconvenient facts. I'm guessing no.

Update: Here's a link to the transcript. And here's the quote referred to above:

"With respect to lawyers making allegations of detainees who have been released, we anticipate, and have seen, in fact, all manner of statements made by detainees -- as you recall, many of whom as members of al Qaeda were trained to allege abuse and torture and all manner of other things.

"When we have received specific, credible allegations -- and typically that's not what we see when we see a lawyer speaking on Al- Jazeera -- but when a specific, credible allegation of this nature were to be received, we would take it quite seriously. But we've not seen specific, credible allegations."
I repeat because no one else seems to be picking up on this salient fact -- the detainees who were released were not "trained members of Al Qaeda", so Di Rita's line of argument is a complete smokescreen. Not "the mother of all smokescreens", but a smokescreen nevertheless.

Di Rita elaborates:

"In their own training manuals they say: Here's what we'll do if we ever get into a court; we allege torture, we allege abuse, we allege all kinds of things to influence public opinion."
This assertion was left unchallenged by the "reporters" (we need to use that term loosely) at the press conference, but to say the least I'm skeptical about this claim. Not just because the released detainees were not members of Al Qaeda, so this claim is completely irrelevant, but because even the existence of such a statement in a "training manual", nevertheless an authenticated training manual rather than one prepared by the CIA in order to smear Al Qaeda, is dubious at best.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Free speech under attack in Britain

I realize Britain doesn't have a Constitution, and Britain has always had more stringent press controls than the U.S. (at least, legal ones; the political pressure/corporate pressure controls at play in the U.S. continue to demonstrate their immense power on a daily basis). But today, in the "Queen's speech" (which isn't really the Queen speaking at all, just Tony Blair speaking with the voice of an older woman), a plan to introduce a bill to outlaw speech which "glorifies or condones terrorism" was announced. It might be possible to justify banning "glorification" as the equivalent of "shouting fire in a crowded theater (sorry, make that "theatre")". But "condoning"? Anyone offering the opinion that acts of terrorism were brought on by British foreign policy (little things like, you know, invading other countries) could be said to be "condoning" terrorism.

I wonder if Tony Blair is contemplating using this legislation against those who agitated for (to the extent of lying), and now fully support, the act of terrorism known as the invasion of Iraq? No, I suppose not. The real target will be people like George Galloway, who dare to suggest that the resistance in Iraq, or the Palestinian people, are not committing acts of "terrorism", but instead legitimate acts of resistance against an occupying power.

The slippery slope is getting a lot steeper and more slippery. Who knows what lies at the bottom?


CNN gets it wrong about Posada Carriles

[First posted 5/17, 11:10 a.m.; updated]

CNN just broadcast a major piece on Posada Carriles, in which they stated that Fidel Castro is demanding that Posada be sent to Cuba for trial. This, of course, is absolutely false; the Cubans are demanding that he be extradicted to Venezuela, from where he escaped from jail and where there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest. I'll be waiting for CNN to "retract" the story based on this egregious error.

Update: This interesting tidbit just in via AP:

"Posada told the Miami Herald in an interview published Tuesday that he was not trying too hard to conceal himself in Miami because he was sure U.S. authorities were not looking for him."
Further update: CNN is hardly alone in getting the story wrong. The other day, Cookie Jill over at Skippy's Place wrote to encourage readers to contribute to NPR; I wrote in the comments that money directed to Pacific Radio and/or individual shows like Democracy Now! would be better spent, referencing a recent article by Norman Solomon in which he wrote: "there was no golden era of PBS. As with many other subjects, the program's [NewsHour] coverage of war has relied heavily on official U.S. sources and perspectives in sync with them." And today provided a perfect example of that. Listening on my local NPR station (from liberal San Francisco, no less) I got to hear Jim Lehrer on his PBS NewsHour program pejoratively and incorrectly characterize today's march in Havana as an "anti-U.S. rally", and then to further misinform his listeners by telling them that "Posada is wanted in Cuba for the bombing of a Cubana airliner".

Further update: PBS itself follows in line, as a brief "introduction to the upcoming news" describes Posada Carriles as a "Cuban militant". A few minutes later, BBC World describes him as a "Cuban exile". Actually this kind of thing is endemic; scanning headlines we find Posada described as a "Castro opponent", a "former CIA operative", an "alleged anti-Castro terrorist", a "Castro foe", and an "accused Cuban bomber"; the simple description "terrorist" or even "convicted terrorist" appear nowhere. Paraphrasing what a reader wrote in the comments to my original post on Posada Carriles, imagine someone describing Osama bin Laden as an "Islamic militant" or a "Saudi exile" (or a "former CIA operative" for that matter) rather than a "terrorist". And, in case you're confused about Posada's recent self-serving denials of involvement in the bombing of the Cubana airliner and even now, in the latest change of story, the bombings of Havana hotels, let's remember that this man was convicted just last year of entering Panama in 2000 with 20 (or 33) pounds of powerful plastic explosive, with the clear intent of assassinating Fidel Castro. His status as a terrorist simply isn't in question.


Posada Carriles in custody!

Talk about results! Hundreds of thousands of Cubans march, and hours later Luis Posada Carriles is taken into custody (no, I don't really think there was cause and effect, but the efforts on the part of the Cubans, and others (Left I on the News!) to bring constant exposure to this case certainly helped force Posada out of hiding.

Naturally, the U.S. is still playing games, refusing to say what they plan to do with Posada, and saying that "generally, the U.S. government does not return people to Cuba or to countries acting on Cuba's behalf," as if Venezuela were not a sovereign nation.


The Iraqi "army"?

Via Holden at First Draft comes this priceless gem:
"The reconstituted Iraqi army took another step Sunday toward leading stabilization efforts in its own country, opening its first national headquarters since the U.S.-led invasion.

"The Iraqi Ground Forces Headquarters was inaugurated by a 'small group of Iraqi and Coalition dignitaries' at an undisclosed location in Baghdad, according to Multi-National Force-Iraq officials Monday."
When the Army can't disclose the location of its headquarters...it's in serious trouble.

And wouldn't you love to know the truth behind this report:

"The Pentagon said 90 Iraqi battalions have been created so far. But, the report concedes, 'All but one of these 90 battalions … are lightly equipped and armed and have very limited mobility and sustainment capabilities.'"
I wonder if the report points out that the reason they're "lightly equipped and armed" is because of the well-founded American fear that any equipment and arms given to the Iraqi army will end up in the hands of the resistance? We do know that, whatever "limited mobility" means, it's sufficient to allow them to go on vacation at opportune moments. Oh yeah, that exit strategy should come into play...any decade now.


George Galloway Quotes of the Day

From the transcript of George Galloway's testimony today to the U.S. Senate:
"I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war."
"You have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad."
"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

"If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

"Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Haliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

"Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."


"Infanticide disguised as politics"

[First posted 5/17, 9:08 a.m.; updated]

That's George Galloway's description of the "Oil-for-Food" program. Galloway's testimony to the U.S. Senate, particularly his opening statement, has been absolute dynamite, with Galloway refusing to play the "false politeness game" so common in U.S. politics, and refusing to be distracted from the real issues - the deaths of a million Iraqis, mostly children, as a result of the U.S.-led embargo, and the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis from the illegal invasion which followed (and which continues). The transcript will be priceless once it's available.

Here's what Galloway had to say going into the hearing:

"I am determined, now that I am here, to be not the accused but the accuser. The people who have been guilty of massive profiteering in Iraq is the US themselves and I intend to put them on trial."
He accomplished that. And a lot more.

Update: A link to a video containing some of Galloway's most important testimony (RealPlayer format only, short ad at the front). A must-see.

Slimy Senator Norm Coleman, who didn't lay a glove on Galloway during the hearing, scuttles off into the corridor after the hearing to impugn Galloway's credibility.

Update: Transcript here


Non-Galloway Quote of the Day

"If you're the one that soaked the field in gasoline, is it a good idea to draw a lot of attention to the guy who walked by smoking a cigarette?"

- Wonkette, referring of course to the Newsweek controversy


A "massive march"

CNN is currently broadcasting live footage from Havana, where "hundreds of thousands" of people are marching (or "vogueing", if you prefer) to demand the extradition (to Venezuela) of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.


The oh-so-balanced Howard Kurtz

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz lies gets it wrong once again when he writes:
"The magazine relied on an unnamed source -- an increasingly controversial if age-old Washington practice -- who turned out not to know what he was talking about."
So, Mr. Kurtz now knows for a fact that this story was wrong, does he? If so, he must be the only one in the world who does.

I wouldn't bother mentioning him, though, except I'm compelled to note his analysis of the reaction of bloggers to this story. By my count, Kurtz cites eleven blogs criticizing Newsweek, and only a single one which "urges a bit of tolerance". Way to present a fair and balanced coverage, Howie.


The U.S. military does it again...

...and so does one of my favorite reporters employed by the corporate media, Knight-Ridder's Hannah Allam, once again bringing us a story that isn't the result of a U.S. military press release:
Tribal leaders say U.S. offensive near Syria killed friends and foes

"The U.S. military hails last week's 'Operation Matador' as a success that killed more than 125 insurgents. But local tribesmen said it was a disaster for their communities that's made them leery of ever again assisting American or Iraqi forces.

"In interviews, influential tribal leaders and many residents of the remote border towns said the 1,000 U.S. soldiers who swept into their territories in the weeklong campaign that ended over the weekend didn't distinguish between the Iraqis who supported the United States and the fighters battling it.

"'The Americans were bombing whole villages and saying they were only after the foreigners,' said Fasal al-Goud, a former governor of Anbar province who said he asked U.S. forces for help on behalf of the tribes. 'An AK-47 can't distinguish between a terrorist and a tribesman, so how could a missile or tank?'

"When the offensive ended...angry residents returned to find blocks of destruction. Men who'd stayed behind to help were found dead in shot-up houses."


Still more "unclear on the concept"

According to the Washington Post:
"[Newsweek Editor Mark ] Whitaker said in the interview that Newsweek is 'still trying to ascertain' whether there is any evidence that such a Koran incident took place, as some detainees have alleged."
I'm no lawyer, but I know enough to know that allegations by detainees are "evidence", Mr. Whitaker. They may not constitute iron-clad proof, but when combined with other available evidence (including testimony of a former U.S. military translator and the fact of a prisoners' hunger strike based on a Koran-abuse incident), certainly form the basis of a pretty strong case.

As I wrote the other day:

Let's get real; were it not for photographs, do you really think that Charles Graner, or Lynndie England, or the rest of the fall guys and gals would have ever been "proven" guilty?
I should have added, "Or even charged with anything?" Not according to the new "standards" being foisted on the press by the right-wing steamroller, that's for sure. An ominous development occured last night as I was flipping channels and came upon Hardball, whose "segment title" (prominently displayed the entire time under the screen of talking heads) was "Is there too much press freedom?" Let's all be clear on this. CondoLIEzza Rice, Scott McClellan, Donald Rumsfeld and the various other administration types who have spoken out about this case (and their right-wing supporters) don't give a rat's ass about the dead Afghans, or the abuse of the Koran either, for that matter. All they care about is that they have total control over the press, to suppress the news they don't want Americans to hear.

This statement in the Post article is also a gem:

"Pentagon officials said they investigate all specific and credible allegations, but not always on the media's timetable."
Right, it's been in the investigation queue for more than a year, ever since the first allegations were reported in the press. Oh wait, they weren't reported in the American press, only in the foreign press. So that didn't count, because only the American press has high enough standards to warrant the attention of the U.S. military.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Lessons from the Newsweek retraction

Why has Newsweek retracted its story, despite the completely tenable character of its content? Because, not only isn't there a real, mass independent media in this country (by "mass" I mean with more reach than Pacifica radio or this and similar blogs and various left publications) who should have been exposing these actions long before this particular story appeared in Newsweek and who should now be coming to Newsweek's defense by reprinting that information, but also because there is also the lack of a real opposition party in this country, which means at least one poltician (e.g., a George Galloway), and preferably an entire party or the majority thereof, with the cojones to be standing up right now and screaming at the top of their lungs that there is huge amounts of evidence suggesting that this story is true. Lacking such a media, and such an opposition party, instead we have Newsweek, like Dan Rather before them, left twisting slowly, slowly in the wind sent their way by the blowhards of the right.


The media coverage of the Newsweek story gets worse and worse

Here's the headline from the New York Times story:
Newsweek Retracts Report on Koran Insult After U.S. Pressure
And here's the article (emphasis added):
"The White House and State Department said today that Newsweek should do more than apologize for publishing a small item on May 9 saying the Koran had been desecrated by American guards at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an item linked to riots in Pakistan and Afghanistan that led to the deaths of at least 17 people.

"Newsweek apologized on Sunday for the article, but while acknowledging possible errors, the magazine stopped short of retracting it."
Update: Despite the content of the Times article, it appears that events have overtaken the headline, because the latest news from AP says that the headline was right and that Newsweek caved in to the pressure:
"Newsweek magazine, under fire for publishing a story that led to deadly protests in Afghanistan, said Monday it was retracting its report that a military probe had found evidence of desecration of the Quran by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay."

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