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Friday, September 30, 2005


Quote of the Day

"We can expect they'll do everything in their power to try to stop the march of freedom. And our troops are ready for it."

- George Bush, warning that Iraqi insurgents would increase their attacks ahead of the Oct. 15 referendum.
So, apparently, to George Bush, being "ready for it" means "being mentally prepared for the fact that it's going to happen," not being "ready for it" as in "being able to do something to prevent it."
"Three suicide attackers detonated car bombs nearly simultaneously in a mainly Shiite town north of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 60 people and wounding 70 others, a hospital official said. In the western town of Ramadi, the military said a roadside bomb killed five American soldiers.

"The deaths brought to 13 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq in the past four days...More than 140 [Iraqis] have been killed in the past four days."

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Self (?) delusion of the day

Karen Hughes, roaming the Middle East trying to improve the image of America:
"She also asserted that women are faring much better in Iraq than under the rule of deposed President Saddam Hussein."
I guess Ms. Hughes didn't read yesterday's Washington Post:
"Kidnapping and other forms of lawlessness since the invasion mean Baghdad's comparatively liberated women seldom leave home without a good reason."
Oh well, at least if they're forced to stay home, they can spend the day watching TV, right? Oops, that would require electricity. Oh well, at least they still have their purple fingers. They probably would prefer not to, but there hasn't been enough water to wash since the elections.


The Fear of the Liberals

Travel is good for one thing - a chance to catch up on your reading. This morning I read an article in the Nation called "The Fear of the Liberals", by Corey Robin. The basic thesis, if I can summarize a long article in a few words, is that American liberals are frustrated because they couldn't accomplish their social goals at home, so they're willing to sign on for accomplishing those same goals in, e.g., Bosnia, Iraq, etc. I don't agree with everything the author says, by any means, but there's lots of food for thought in the article - well worth reading.

One subject I've discussed here briefly is the total lack of even a mention of the recent antiwar demonstrations from leading liberal sites like Atrios and Daily Kos, and in fact the outright hostility (or, at least, disdain or total indifference) to it from sites including Oliver Willis and, more recently, Kos. Politics in the Zeros had some things to say about that article just yesterday.

Anyway, back to the Nation article, here's an interesting take on the subject:

"Why did certain liberals who opposed the war in Iraq refuse to march against it? The reason they gave was that left-wing groups like ANSWER, which helped organize the antiwar rallies, failed to denounce Saddam's regime. Yet many of those who could not abide an alliance with ANSWER endorsed the war in Afghanistan--even though it was waged by a government that recently invaded three Caribbean countries, funded dirty wars in Latin America and backed the government of Guatemala, the only regime in the Western Hemisphere condemned by a UN-sponsored truth commission for committing acts of genocide. Politics, of course, often entails an unhappy choice of associations. But if the deeds of the US government need not stop liberals from supporting the war in Afghanistan, why should the words--words, mind you, not deeds--of leftists deprive the antiwar movement of these very same liberals' support?"
As for the rest of the article, as I said it's worth reading, but one of the things I enjoyed about it were some of the interesting quotes that were sprinkled throughout it. To wit:
"No one loves armed missionaries."

- Robespierre

"You can't reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into."

- Oscar Wilde

"Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival."

- Frederick Douglass
Hopefully that will whet your appetite.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Open thread

I'll be gone for the next few days, and although I'm expecting to have wireless Internet access, my free time will be limited. Life! It just keeps getting in the way of blogging! Anyway, expect light blogging through Sunday, and feel free to stick your own $0.02 in the comments on this post.


Jon Stewart shows his colors

Reporting (in a less than normally humorous way, and I don't think it's just my thin skin because his barbs were directed at "my side") on the weekend's events in Washington, D.C., Jon Stewart asserted that 100,000 people were at Saturday's antiwar demonstration, and 400 at the pro-war demonstration at Sunday. What's interesting about that is that he has taken the lowest possible estimate for Saturday's march and the highest possible estimate for Sunday's joke of an event. Even the Washington, D.C. police chief said "150,000 is as good a guess as any," and other estimates were even higher (up to 300,000). By contrast, the Post described Sunday's pro-war march as "more than 200," which frankly, based on seeing it on C-SPAN, seems very generous.

Stewart's guest last night was Viggo Mortensen, who is a well-known opponent of the war against Iraq, and was one of the handful of celebrities to meet with Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey. In the light of the just-concluded antiwar demo which had been featured on his own show earlier that night, did Stewart ask Mortensen a single question about the subject? No, he did not.

Maximizing pro-war sentiment and minimizing antiwar sentiment is FOX News' job, isn't it? Why is Jon Stewart pitching in?


Nonsense on Haiti from all corners

Today's Knight-Ridder article on Secretary of State Condoliezza Rice's first visit to Haiti features (without comment, of course) this astonishingly self-contradictory assertion from Rice:
"U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, making her first visit to Haiti, told Haitian officials Tuesday that upcoming elections must be 'open, inclusive and fair' if they are to help end the country's political crisis.

"But Rice also made it clear that the U.S. government doesn't want former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who left during a revolt last year, to return to Haiti.

"'The Haitian people are moving on,' Rice said."
So tell me, Condi, how exactly does a country have "open" elections when some of the key opponents of the government are in jail (more on that in a second), and how could those elections be "fair" when the powerful country to the North thinks it has the right to speak for the Haitian people and to make sure that the legally elected President of the country can't return to the country, even as a private citizen, to take part in that election?

Rice also adds this curiously ambiguous advice:

"Rice also encouraged the government to move quickly to resolve the cases of the two jailed Lavalas leaders, former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Roman Catholic priest who lived in exile in the United States for years before returning to Haiti under Aristide.

"'Justice has to come in a timely fashion,' Rice said."
"Moving more quickly to resolve the cases," needless to say, from Condi's point of view probably means "sentencing them to life in prison as quickly as possible"; if the U.S. government's position were that they should be released immediately from these trumped-up, politically motivated charges, she could have said so, a point Knight-Ridder doesn't bother to mention.

Knight-Ridder does its part to contribute to the distortions, with this curious phrase: "...the Latortue government came to power during a bloody revolt that saw Aristide depart." Even in "clarifying" that phrase, they write only "Aristide's supporters contend that the United States forced him from office." "Depart"? "Forced him from office"? He was taken from his residence at gunpoint, surrounded by American guards, and flown in an American plane to a destination chosen by the Americans! Any reasonable person would described this as a U.S.-implemented coup and kidnapping, but, according to Knight-Ridder, only an "Aristide supporter" could possibly contend that was the U.S. "forcing him from office."


Quote of the Day

"There is some schedule showing what you (need) to do to get Iraqis standing up and defending themselves which is now suddenly beginning to happen, so there are some signs of progress. The only way we're going to be successful there – and ultimately, success is going to have to be somewhat redefined – is to create sufficient stability to get the troops home."

- George Bush? No, John Kerry, doing his best George Bush imitation
Third party, anyone? Or is remaining delusional about the prospects for reforming totally reconstructing the Democratic Party still your thing?


It's official: terrorists welcome in U.S.

Just in:
"Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles won't be deported to Cuba or Venezuela, where he is wanted for alleged terrorist crimes, a U.S. immigration judge decided -- but the judge left open the possibility that Posada could be sent to another country.

"Posada's case has put Washington in the uncomfortable position of being accused of harboring an accused terrorist even as it wages a global war on terrorism. The judge's decision, meanwhile, is sure to aggravate already strained U.S. ties with Venezuela.

"Posada will remain in indefinite detention in El Paso while his lawyers and supporters mount a legal and political campaign to free him.

"Immigration judge William Abbott ruled that Posada will not be deported to Venezuela because Abbott believes Venezuela would likely torture him -- a claim Venezuela has vehemently denied.

"In his decision on the case, the judge wrote that Posada was like 'a character from one of Robert Ludlum's espionage thrillers, with all the plot twists and turns Ludlum is famous for.' Abbott issued the ruling just hours after the government rested its case against Posada Monday. 'The most heinous terrorist or mass murderer would qualify for deferral of removal if he or she could establish . . . the probability [Ed. note: note "possibility", "probability"!] of torture in the future."
I'm sure the family of Ricardo Cabrera wishes he were just a character in a novel instead of a member of their family, murdered along with dozens of others by the actions of Luis Posada Carriles.


Open thread: No Direction Home

I'm guessing a lot of American readers spent the last two nights like I did, watching the new Martin Scorsese documentary about Bob Dylan, No Direction Home. I'll start this off with a couple comments and then the comment thread is open.

I'll start by saying I'm a huge Dylan fan, and someone who has always thought that Dylan's politics were overrated (i.e., that he really wasn't and isn't interested in politics), something the movie pretty much confirms, but that his musical talents (as seen in the movie but even better represented by some of his later material, e.g., Hurricane and Tangled Up in Blue, two of my favorites), are underrated. Anyway, as a Dylan fan I loved seeing the footing of old Dylan performances, and the lucidity of the interview sections with Dylan was surprising and the material interesting, as were some of the interviews with contemporaries.

As a film, I was distinctly unimpressed. I thought it was poorly edited, with far too much emphasis on the negative reactions of some British fans to his electric material (just as an example), jumped around unnecessarily, left out needed explanations (who were Suze Rotolo and Maria Muldaur, for example? Girlfriends? Lovers? Just performers who happened to be playing every bill Dylan was? We never learn; even the relationship with Joan Baez is barely touched on and unclear unless you already know the facts.) Basically, I thought most film students could have done a better job than the great Martin Scorsese did. If you really want to learn about this period, the book to read (at least, the one I'm familiar with) is Positively 4th Street by David Hajdu.

My "favorite" film, incidentally, wasn't any of the Dylan material, but the brief shots of Gene Vincent singing "Rip It Up" and of Odetta (what a voice!) singing something.

Your turn...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


U.S. government continues coddling terrorists

[First posted 9/26, 8:42 p.m.; updated]

Today's development:

"An immigration judge in El Paso hinted strongly Monday that Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles would be allowed to stay in detention in the United States, said Matthew Archambeault, a lawyer for Posada.

"On the last day of Posada's immigration trial, lawyers for the Department of Homeland Security wrapped up their case with a short closing statement, Archambeault said. They never called any witnesses to testify against Posada."
The U.S. war of terror against the world continues.

Update: A much longer version of the story with a lot more details has now been posted. The most interesting addition is this:

"The Venezuelan embassy said that DHS' failure to contest Posada's request for protection from torture contradicts the position it took in another recent immigration case involving two Venezuelan Army Officers accused of bombing diplomatic missions in Caracas. In that case, Garrett-Jackson [the Department of Homeland Security assistant chief counsel in the Posada case] and a colleague -- Carlos Lopez -- acted much more aggressively in challenging witnesses for two former Venezuelan national guard lieutenants seeking asylum.

"Garrett-Jackson and Lopez sought to show that Lts. Jose Antonio Colina and German Rodolfo Varela were fleeing prosecution -- not persecution -- and did not deserve asylum. After they were granted deferral, Homeland Security appealed the decision on the ground that a former general recently detained in connection with the bombing case had not been tortured."


Intelligent design: an assault on religion

What a minute. Didn't he mean "Evolution: an assault on religion"? Nope. It is true, as I wrote just below, that evolution does contradict any religion which insists on a literal interpretation of the Bible, but it hardly contradicts religion (or God) per se. Intelligent design, however, is a different story. Why? Because as this Washington Post article reminds us, "The foremost advocates of intelligent design are silent on whether that intelligent hand belongs to God or some other intelligent force, even including a space alien." Interesting. Of course, the space alien theory is just nonsense [and interestingly enough doesn't appear in my local San Jose Mercury News copy of the story, which excised that phrase], because that just moves the discussion off one level -- who designed the space alien and gave it (hard to say him or her, we don't even know if space aliens come in two sexes or are perhaps asexual) enough intelligence to design every living thing on Earth?

That brings us back to "some other intelligent force." But isn't creating the universe (and, presumably, all the living things in it, like Adam and Eve and the serpent and the apple tree and all the rest) one of the primary functions of "God"? Who might this other "intelligent force" be? Satan? Or perhaps some other God? Doesn't the First Commandment start "I am the Lord Thy God"? I don't remember it starting "We are the Lords Thy Gods." What's the deal? If this "other intelligent force" designed all the living things, what does the "real" God do? Send hurricanes to punish the wicked? This whole theory strikes me as blasphemy of the worst kind, sure grounds for excommunication.

Of course, the intelligent design advocates don't say it was "some other intelligent force," they just say it could be some other intelligent force or it could be "God." But surely that is also blasphemy, suggesting that there is even the possibility that there could be some power in the world as powerful as God.

Needless to say, these claims by intelligent design advocates are nothing more than disingenuous pap. But, since they see fit to make them, it's time to call them on the implications of those claims, rather than just saying that they are a "thinly disguised repackaging of creationism."

Two "sidebar" notes on the subject:

For a delightful lesson in the consequences of primitive people believing in supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, watch Bing Crosby in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (or, if you're one of those literate types, I suppose you could read the Mark Twain book). Allee-allee-in-free! Walla Walla, Washington!

And, just a quick science lesson, or rather reminder, about something that's always worth remembering when people start assaulting Charles Darwin. When Charles Darwin (and Alfred Russel Wallace, as the Post reminds us), in the early to mid 1800's, came up with the idea of natural selection as the driving force for natural selection, they had absolutely no idea how that might happen. They had no knowledge of DNA, or chromosomes, or the entire molecular basis of life, including the genetic mutations which are the actual driving force of natural selection. All of those subsequent discoveries, right up through current day sequencing of genes and the determination of the similarities between species (and, indeed, the use of those molecular similarities to correct errors made simply by considering physical differences), have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt the correctness of Darwin's fundamental insight. Which makes the 1859 publication of The Origin of Species all the more remarkable, and all the more relevant to today's discussion.


Where have all the flowers gone?

Gone to bottles of urine, every one:
"In the chaotic, hopeful April of 2003, Baghdad's Karrada district was one of those neighborhoods where residents showered flowers on U.S. forces entering the capital.

"More than two years after flowers and water cascaded onto the arriving Americans, what's being thrown on Karrada's streets, and who is throwing it, has changed as well.

"Mohammed, a courtly, gentle-mannered man, carefully chose the harshest word he could think of for urine.

"In Karrada this summer, Mohammed and the neighborhood watched as American soldiers on patrol grew irritated at an Iraqi who had left his car in the street to run inside a store on an errand, blocking their armored convoy.

"The Americans took one of the empty plastic water bottles they use to relieve themselves when on patrol, Mohammed said. When the Iraqi driver ran out to move his car, an annoyed American plunked him with the newly filled bottle and rolled on, Mohammed said.

"'He started crying,' Mohammed said of the Iraqi driver, humiliated in front of the neighborhood.

"Mohammed, who said he had been one of the happiest people in Karrada to see the Americans when they came in April 2003, retrieved the bottle and handed it to the weeping man.

"'I said, 'Give this to the Iraqi government,'' Mohammed said. ' 'Tell them this is the sovereignty the Americans have brought us.' '"
Sovereignty, anyone?

The rest of the article is about how much worse life is in Baghdad in all ways now than before the invasion, especially for women, but certainly not limited to them by any means.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Quote of the Day

"T.K.O.d by the right hooks of life, many are left staggering under the weight of the day, leaning against the ropes of hope. When your dreams have fallen on barren ground, it becomes difficult to keep pushing yourself forward like a train, administering pain like a doctor with a needle, their sequels continue more lethal than injections."

- Etan Thomas, Washington Wizards basketball player, speaking at Saturday's antiwar rally
I've never heard of Etan Thomas, or the Washington Wizards for that matter (yeah, I'm a real pro sports fan...not). But after reading his speech, of which the excerpt above is just the tiniest fragment, I'll be glad to have him speak at any rally I organize. His speech, which is about the reality of poverty in America, was one of, if not the most, powerful speeches delivered Saturday. I'm sure some people object to his presence -- he didn't even mention the word "Iraq" once. Get over it. Read the speech (or watch the video). You'll be far less likely to use the words "dumb jock" in the future, that's for sure.


Tearing my hair out

Five minutes is all it takes, five minutes of mistakenly turning on the TV while I'm getting a cup of tea. First up was the end of a PBS News Hour debate between Nancy Lessin from Military Families Speak Out and a pro-war woman whose name I don't know. The latter, given the chance for the last word, spoke about how Lessin and Sheehan "had put our boys in harms' way." Gee that's funny, I thought that was George Bush. My mistake.

That was enough of that, so I switched to CNN, just in time to hear Lou Dobbs' guests finishing their debate on teaching intelligent design in the schools. After the "anti" person closed by saying that "intelligent design" was a way of sneaking religion into the schools through the back door, the "pro" person closed by claiming that teaching evolution was bringing athiesm into the schools through the front door. Well, it is true that if your religion happens to believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, you're not going to get many converts from anyone who was paying attention in biology class. But evolution and natural selection have precisely nothing to say about God per se; even those who want to believe that there is a God who plays some kind of role in history believe that God created the physical laws which run the universe, and presumably the universe itself, and then let those laws take it from there.

Bald-faced nonsense, passed off as "wisdom," from one right-winger after another, from one channel after another. It's a wonder I have any hair left.


White Man's Burden

It's a subject that resurfaces periodically. God knows how those not-so-noble savages in Iraq were managing to run their country before the Americans came along:
"But while the number of Iraqi forces has grown steadily to more than 192,000, the ministries have yet to put in place many of the budgeting, contracting, personnel management and other systems necessary to administer the country's military and police units, U.S. military officers and diplomats said.

"The State Department office has struggled to fill all the adviser slots allotted to it, especially at the Interior Ministry, where at least 10 of 51 positions remain vacant."
And in an amusing corollary note: "We haven't been able to fill all the positions, since some civilians were reluctant to go," [a State Department official] said. "Maybe the military can fill them all." Gee, can't understand that reluctance at all.


Capitalism: every person, every city for themselves

With all the attention being paid to the federal money promised for New Orleans, the rebuilding of people's lives gets a lot less attention (and little or none of the money) that rebuilding the bridges and levees do, as this Washington Post article suggests:
"Even as Nagin pressed ahead, officials acknowledged that a severe financial crunch is affecting teachers, the district attorney's office, hospital workers and the police. Schools are not expected to reopen before January.

"The Orleans Parish district attorney's office announced it would lay off more than half its 'non-essential, non-legal' staff primarily because the city of New Orleans has been unable to make its quarterly payment to the office. A statement warned: 'Further layoffs may be required without additional funding.'

"The city received $102 million in immediate salary assistance, but under federal rules the money may be used only for overtime.

"'We don't know how we'll pay base salaries,' Nagin said. Police officers were paid last Friday, but the mayor said it will be difficult to make the next payroll.

"The Louisiana State University health care services division, which runs a network of hospitals across the state, has pledged to pay workers through October. The system lost nearly half its revenue when Katrina demolished its flagship Charity Hospital in downtown New Orleans and is in danger of losing staff members, chief executive Don Smithburg said."
One thing for sure - the U.S. military is never going to be in any danger of making its next payroll, no matter how high they have to raise the bonuses for people to enlist, or how much Halliburton overcharges them for services rendered (or unrendered, as the case may be).

Incidentally, just as a counterpoint to the title of this post, I just watched a feature of MSNBC which showed Habitat for Humanity volunteers building prefabricated houses in Burbank, CA and other cities, ready to ship to the Gulf Coast. The people of the United States, like all people around the world, have a generous spirit. It's the government which is a completely different kettle of fish.


Fighting for freedom

At yesterday's pro-war demonstration, a lot of the speakers had things like this to say:
"'Radicals can get out on the street and spout anything they want to,' said Kevin Pannell, a 27-year-old Air National Guardsman who lost both legs in Baghdad. 'I would challenge those people to go to Baghdad and do that.'"
Well, Mr. Pannell, it looks like you don't have to go nearly as far as Baghdad to evaluate your challenge:
"Cindy Sheehan...was arrested today outside the White House at the head of a civil disobedience campaign intended to dramatize the opposition to the war in Iraq...At least a dozen were arrested...for demonstrating without a permit."
Yeah, we can't have that.


Fair and balanced media coverage

Yesterday the San Jose Mercury News carried an 868-word article on the antiwar demonstration in Washington, attended by 150,000-300,000 people. Today's paper carries a 597-word article for a pro-war demonstration described in the article as having been 400 people (although if it was more than a hundred based on what I saw on C-SPAN I'll eat my hat). 69% of the coverage for 0.25% of the number of people. Not bad! Not to mention that today's article on the pro-war demonstration contains one large (35 square inches) picture, while yesterday article carried two pictures totally 41 square inches featuring the demonstration, compensated for by one 6 square inch picture of a counter-demonstrator, making the picture total for the two days exactly equal. Literally the only saving grace was that yesterday's article on the antiwar demonstration started on the front page of the paper, which was more than justified.

I've said this before and I'll say it again -- if every demonstration I've every attended that was attended by 100 (or even 400) people got the kind of press coverage that this pro-war demonstration got, it would be a different world.

I will say one kind word about the pro-war people: one of the signs I saw on TV at their demo said "Support the Troops and Their Mission." Which made me very glad to see that at least the one person holding that sign understood that there was definitely a difference between the two, because when I (and millions more) say "Support the Troops," we most definitely do not mean "and their mission."


Israel's other shoe drops...

...on my head. OK, maybe I'm a little slow. Israel withdrew its settlers (and I use the word "its", rather than "the", deliberately) from Gaza, and other than scapegoating the Palestinians for destroying some buildings which used to be synagogues, things were quiet for a few days. Then Israel assassinated three Islamic Jihad militants and set off a round of violence which "ended" (for a day anyway) with a series of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on Saturday (incidentally, most of the press coverage of these attacks treated them, as the headline of the article just linked does, as the Israeli response to Palestinians firing rockets at Israel, without bothering to note what triggered those attacks; the linked article is one of the few which made the origins of this cycle clear).

But why now? I was clueless, until I opened today's paper and learned that tomorrow is a key Likud party vote which is essentially a showdown between Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu for control of Likud. And a light bulb switched on. Or, to return to the title's metaphor, the other shoe dropped on my head.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Media coverage of Sept. 24 antiwar demonstrations

[First posted 9/25, 7:52 a.m.; updated]

I think I'm going to refrain from discussing print media coverage of yesterday's demonstrations, particularly the age-old subject of undercounting, since all that is available on the web for all to see and read. Instead I'm offering this post up as an open thread for readers to summarize what they've seen on TV, which is more ephemeral. Here's what I've seen so far:

Your turn in the comments for anything else you've seen (or comments on the ones I've already mentioned). As I said, I don't think I'll be discussing print coverage, but you're welcome to do so in the comments.

Update: I just learned from an ANSWER email that the Washington Post article on the demonstration, which is a pretty good article, took up the front page of the paper above the fold, which is rather significant. The Post website also has a video of the demonstration here.


Political humor of the day

"An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600...Contributors have no way of knowing who will receive their donations or even where they may go, after officials said details had be kept secret for security reasons." (Source)
Don't feel too bad for Halliburton, though. They stole more money than that from the U.S. taxpayers before breakfast. Indeed, before 12:01 a.m.

Actually, this ties in very well with what is on C-SPAN right now - the "Rally to Honor Military Families" which was mentioned in almost all the press coverage of yesterday's antiwar demos, and given equal coverage on MSNBC this morning before it even took place. The crowd at this rally seems to consist of a few dozen people at most (the Washington Post says 100; I won't quibble); I think there are more people on the stage (all of whom, rather bizarrely, are wearing identical maroon polo shirts marking them as Gold Star Family Members). On a related amusing note, the Post quotes the FreeRepublic spokesperson from yesterday as saying they expected 20,000 people at this rally. Yeah, nice try, Freepers! I hope you didn't rent enough portapotties for 20,000 people - those things are expensive! You could have used the money to up that $600 voluntary donation total mentioned above.


"Who's the biggest terrorist in the world today?"

"Bush, Cheney, and the CIA." That's how one of the chants I heard yesterday goes. And, while the U.S. accuses others of pursuing weapons of mass destruction to use in the pursuit of terrorism, and indeed used that as their primary justification for the invasion of Iraq, the fact remains that not only does the U.S. possess more weapons of mass destruction than all the rest of the countries of the world combined, but that it also continues to pursue the enhancement of those weapons more aggressively than any other country. I'm sure readers (but, most likely, not even a significant percentage of all Americans) know how the U.S. is developing new generations of "tactical" (="usable") nuclear weapons. But here's the latest development:
"The US military wants to buy large quantities of anthrax, in a controversial move that is likely to raise questions over its commitment to treaties designed to limit the spread of biological weapons.

"A series of contracts have been uncovered that relate to the US army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. They ask companies to tender for the production of bulk quantities of a non-virulent strain of anthrax, and for equipment to produce significant volumes of other biological agents.

"A spokesperson for Dugway said the anthrax contract is still at the pre-solicitation stage, and the base has not yet acquired the agent. They refused to say what it will be used for."
The anthrax attacks in the United States, still an unsolved mystery, almost certainly grow directly out of U.S. "research" into biological weapons.

(Hat tip to Suburban Guerilla)


More Sept. 24 in San Francisco pictures

The crowd at the closing rally at Jefferson Square Park, giving some better idea of the huge size of the turnout

One of the two lead banners (which walked side-by-side for the length of the march)


Culture of life, culture of death

The United States government showed its disregard for the lives of the people of the Gulf Coast in numerous ways as I (and many others) have discussed at length. At the same time, the Cuban government showed its regard for life, by offering more than a thousand doctors who could have been on the spot, saving lives, before George Bush even ended his vacation. As I wrote before, the President of Cuba was more concerned about the lives of Americans than our own "compassionate conservative," "culture of life death," guitar-playing while New Orleans (and, more to the point, the residents of New Orleans) drowned, President.

And now, once again in relation with Cuba, America votes for death and not life - the death of Americans, the death of Cubans, and the death of people from seven other Latin American countries. It's a small story, really, almost not worth mentioning, except that it's so emblematic. Cuba is hosting a conference on the mechanical ventilation and blood gases in the treatment of intensive care subjects; to be honest I don't really know what that means. I do know that 300 doctors from the region were denied the chance to learn from six American (that's "U.S.-American", not "American" as in "a resident of the Americas") specialists on the subject, and in turn they were denied the chance to learn from their Latin American colleagues, because the U.S. government denied them permission to travel to Cuba for the conference.

And the result? Someday, maybe many days, perhaps in Cuba, perhaps in Mexico, perhaps in Guatemala or one of the other countries whose doctors were denied this important knowledge, perhaps even in the United States, someone, maybe many someones, is going to die as a result of not receiving the best possible care. And that blood will be on the hands of Condoleezza Rice, and George Bush, and the entire despicable United States government, who day after day show their devotion to the culture of death.

Incidentally, the title of this post is a reference to a wonderful book called "Bird of Life, Bird of Death," subtitled "A Political Ornithology of Central America." It's about the author's search through Guatemala for the resplendant Quetzal, the "Bird of Life", one of the most beautiful birds in the world, and his discovering that the real symbol of Guatemala was the vulture, the Bird of Death. The book paints a vivid picture of Guatemala in the 80's, when it was written, and I have no reason to believe things are very different today. Another highly recommended book for your reading pile.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Sept. 24 in San Francisco

A tiny section of the radical, long-haired, hippie crowd (not) attending the closing rally at Jefferson Square Park in San Francisco. As the saying goes, "this is what democracy looks like."

Kay Lucas, director of the Crawford Peace House. Did you think kindly, gray-haired grandmotherly looking women were conservative and would be frightened of being associated with ANSWER and the radicals in San Francisco? Think again.

I've heard crowd estimates of 20,000-50,000. I can tell you that as I led the march (part of the security team), we were almost at the end of the 2-mile or so march route when we heard that the last people had left Dolores Park where the march started. I then was put on collection duty, and collected money from the crowd filing by me (and three others across the street, and others behind us) for 45 solid minutes (plus another 5 minutes of stragglers). There were a lot of people; Jefferson Square Park was absolutely filled to capacity.

Apologies for not getting better shots; I was fully occupied until late in the day when I went "off duty."


"Free speech zones" come to the U.K.

From The Independent:
"Up to 100,000 people are expected to march through central London today, demanding that British troops be withdrawn from Iraq.

"The demonstration...will begin outside the Houses of Parliament, where protests have been banned under new laws. The coalition said it wanted to challenge the "stupidity" of the legislation as well as show that British people remained opposed to this country's continued involvement in Iraq."
Rarely is the question asked, is our parents learning? Apparently, and unfortunately, they are.


Sovereignty, once again

In today's development from Basra:
"An Iraqi judge said on Saturday he had renewed arrest warrants for two British soldiers who were rescued from jail early this week by troops using armor to crash through the prison walls.

"The British government said the warrants are not legally binding, as the soldiers are subject to UK law."
Well sure they are. What on earth are those Iraqis thinking, that it's their country or something?


Israeli assassinations? What Israeli assassinations?

ABC News seems to have a problem with short-term memory. Here's something from an article today:
"[Israeli Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz also said Israel might resume targeted killings of Palestinian militants. During more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, scores of militants were killed in targeted attacks, most by missiles fired from Israeli aircraft."
Oh, that was so long ago, right? Wrong:
July 16: "Three Hamas fighters were killed when an Apache helicopter and ground troops fired into a hillside redoubt near Salfit, a town in the northern West Bank. Soon after, an Israeli drone aircraft fired a missile into a van in Gaza City, killing four Hamas members, the group said."
I'd say it's pretty hard to "resume" something you've never actually stopped.


Quote of the Day

"If George Bush really wants to honor Gold Star Mothers, he should stop making more of them.""

- Cindy Sheehan, reacting to George Bush's designation of Sunday as "Gold Star Mothers Day"
(The exact quote comes from a radio interview I heard, and isn't in the linked article, which has a similar, but less pithy, quote.)

Friday, September 23, 2005


How to stop the war

I've participated in dozens, possibly even hundreds, of demonstrations over the years, and helped organize more than a few, but since I've never lived in a big city like New York or San Francisco I've never been intimately involved with the organization of the really big demonstrations. Today I decided to do something I hadn't done before, which was to go in to San Francisco and spend the day volunteering at the ANSWER office, offering my two hands to help with the preparations for tomorrow's demonstration. It turned out to be quite an experience.

Bear in mind that ANSWER volunteers have been preparing for this demonstrations for weeks, making thousands of signs, dozens of banners, and so on (not even mentioning leafletting, postering, etc.). But even with all that pre-preparation, anywhere from one to two dozen volunteers spent the entire day doing various tasks which still remained to be done to make a large demonstration a successful one. For my part, I spent the entire day preparing clipboards with attached pens, making boxes to collect sign-up cards, and preparing press kits. Doesn't sound like the work of an entire day? It wouldn't have been for any other demonstration I've ever worked on, but when you are talking about a dozen clipboards, and ten boxes, and 75 press kits, believe me, that was a full day's work, and I wasn't slacking. All around me people were calling the press, taking calls from the press, taking calls from volunteers, answering emails, planning the arrangement of booths, reconfirming with speakers, filling boxes of materials organized by location (this demonstration has two sites and two stages), making signs for volunteer sign-up tables, medical tents, and on and on and on.

A lot of people speak very cavalierly about the efforts of ANSWER and seem to think that a demonstration is just something you put out a call for and then it happens. To put it mildly, it just ain't so. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those activists, volunteers all in this case, who are able to devote countless hours to making the antiwar movement, and many other movements, happen.


How not to stop the war

The San Francisco Chronicle decides to stir the pot today with an article about differences in the antiwar movement entitled "War protests make for strange bedfellows." That's their right, certainly. They start with a 65-year-old grandmother who, although attending an antiwar rally tomorrow, thinks that those of us who talk "about all sorts of things" are "crackpots." Well, if she thinks it's the sign of a crackpot to call attention to the linkage between events on the Gulf Coast and the war in Iraq, or between the oppression of the Palestinians and the war in Iraq and the loss of civil liberties in the U.S., call me a crackpot. I'm fine with that.

What I'm not fine with are remarks by Tom Matzzie, director of MoveOn.org Political Action, who tells the Chronicle that "the more vocal people at these rallies are part of the far left and not representative of most Americans." That's a rather curious accusation coming from the director of a group whose only campaign on the subject of Iraq is not immediate withdrawal, now favored by a majority of Americans, not even gradual withdrawal, favored by an overwhelming majority, but that the White House should "tell the truth about Iraq."

And then we have the remarks of Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the Berkeley-based Tikkun magazine, who says "that we are willing to participate in a demonstration with others whose views we find obnoxious," and that ANSWER's criticisms of Israel have "an anti-Semitic tinge." Richard Becker of ANSWER correctly tells the Chronicle that such accusations are "garbage." I'll say that I have been to many ANSWER-organized rallies and programs, read newspapers and magazines published by key ANSWER organizations like the Workers World Party and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and never once seen or heard anything that was remotely anti-Semitic or even "tinged" with anti-Semitism.

But here's the thing. Michael Lerner is welcome to think (and speak) whatever nonsense he wants to; so is Tom Matzzie. But when they make such destructive comments to the press on the eve of antiwar demonstrations which may prove critical in moving this country that much closer to ending this illegal, immoral, murderous war, they are more than just wrong, they are objectively pro-war. MoveOn.org has endorsed the demonstration, as has Lerner, but statements like these are guaranteed to scare people away and make the demonstrations smaller; indeed they align themselves perfectly with the FreeRepublic spokesperson quoted in the article who says "People should be careful of the company they keep in these marches" in her attempt to scare people away.

A friend suggested that if George Galloway had the chance, he would horsewhip people like Matzzie and Lerner for their treachery. She meant verbally, but either way it sounds good to me. For once I'll quote Bill O'Reilly approvingly in addressing myself to Matzzie and Lerner: Shut up!

Thursday, September 22, 2005


AP comes not to praise the antiwar movement, but to bury the lead

AP informs its readers about Saturday's upcoming antiwar demo, and that's a good thing. I'll skip over the fact that the article contains quotes from two key people involved with the rally (Cindy Sheehan and Brian Becker of ANSWER), described as expecting 100,000 people, and one person from the FreeRepublic, who is planning a counter rally at which "hundreds" are expected, as unbalanced as that might be (especially since the article also fits in a quote from George Bush, who we all know is hardly ever quoted in the press). Instead I want to take note of this sentence:
"Almost six in 10 said the U.S. made a mistake in invading Iraq, but less than half wanted to withdraw all forces immediately."
Now first of all, that "less than half" is more than just a bit disingenuous; although no exact number is specified for this particular poll, just a few days ago another poll said 52% are for immediate withdrawal, so even if this poll had a slightly different number, it's virtually guaranteed that, within the margin of error, the number was 50% -- half. Not some indefinite "less than half" which could be 10% for all the reader knows.

But that isn't even the major point. Here's the major point -- the fact that half (more or less) of Americans are for immediate withdrawal from Iraq is nothing short of astonishing. Not a single major politician, not a single major newspaper, not a single major pundit supports that position, and not only don't they support that position, they are constantly barraging the American public with the dire consequences of immediate withdrawal, as George Bush does in this very article, asserting that "the terrorists win" if the U.S. leaves Iraq. Iraq will become a haven for terrorists. There will be a "civil war" and mass slaughter if the U.S. leaves. We'll be "cutting and running" if we leave (not "cutting our losses," which is what will really be happening). 2000+ Americans will have died in vain. The "job" won't be finished. The "mission" won't be accomplished. In the face of this barrage of propaganda, it would be impressive if 10% of Americans said they were for immediate withdrawal. The fact that half of all Americans feel that way is nothing short of astonishing. And worthy of something a little more than "less than half wanted to withdraw all forces immediately."

Update: USA Today's coverage is much better.

Incidentally, as far as I can tell from searching, the two leading liberal blogs, Atrios (Eschaton) and Daily Kos, have yet to mention the march on September 24 (or even the "respectable" lobbying on the September 26); one of the major "second tier" blogs, Oliver Willis, actually polemicized against protesting. This is what happens when your entire orientation is to the Democratic Party, and for what that's really about, see Thomas Shannon's quote in the post just below this one.


God save us from...populism?

Thomas Shannon, in a nomination hearing to be assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere (about which Democrat Sen. Christopher Dodd says "I'm anxious to see you get this position early."), lifts the curtain a little too high on the American political system in discussing trends in Latin America (i.e., Hugo Chavez):
"The United States went through a similar process of populism, and our party structure found a way to contain it."
Populism: "A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite." Definitely something that needs to be "contained." And is, unfortunately, quite effectively, primarily through the agency of the Democrat Party and the way it channels progressive (or populist) ideas into supporting lesser evils like Christopher Dodd.

Fortunately, the tide is turning, thanks to people like Hugo Chavez, against whom Shannon informs us he is prepared to engage in a "'battle of ideas." But he'll be disappointed, because Chavez's sense of decency will surely keep him from going into battle against an unarmed man (rim shot).

(Hat tip to Whatever It Is, I'm Against It)


Quote of the Day

Potential Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico, joins Madeleine Albright in saying that "containing Saddam Hussein" was worth the death of 500,000 Iraqi children (51:00 into today's Democracy Now!):
"AMY GOODMAN: To ask a question that was asked of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright -- do you think the price was worth it -- 500,000 children dead?

RICHARDSON: I believe our policy was correct, yes."
Note that Albright had the ever-so-slight sense of decency to at least say that it was "a very hard choice." Richardson didn't even express that much regret.


I've looked at Basra from both sides now

The British and Iraqi "leaders" are pretending everything's just fine:
"The UK defence secretary and Iraqi prime minister have denied the unrest in Basra has strained relations between the two countries."
Well, perhaps it hasn't strained relations between the UK defence secretary and the Iraqi prime minister, but on the ground, it's a bit of a different story. BBC World last night (doesn't appear to be in print online anywhere) ran a piece featuring one of their reporters in Basra, informing viewers that British patrols are no longer able or willing to enter the center of Basra, and are now getting around by helicopter because ground transport is too dangerous. No, nothing strained there.

Update: In print:

"British troops in the tense southern city of Basra greatly reduced their presence in the streets Thursday...For the second day, no British forces were seen accompanying Iraqi police on patrols of Basra, as they routinely had in the past.

"Basra Gov. Mohammed al-Waili...said any Iraqi government employee who cooperates with British forces in Basra will be punished."
No, nothing strained there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Solving America's economic woes...by exporting old people?

Believe it or not, this is (or certainly appears to be) a completely serious proposal by a man who is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, trying to solve the "problem" that Social Security and Medicare are too expensive: "Send the old people to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean." How very thoughtful.


The North Korean "agreement"

[First posted 9/21, 2:51 p.m.; updated]

Politics in the Zeros reminds us that the minor "sticking point" in the so-called "agreement" which was trumpeted in the press yesterday somewhat prematurely, is just the small matter of the U.S. fulfilling a commitment it made in 1994 to build a light water nuclear reactor plant in North Korea.

Update: It's truly amazing what passes for commentary on this subject in the U.S. press. This is from an op-ed article on the subject from Knight-Ridder foreign affairs columnist Daniel Sneider:

"Rice persuaded the president to accept a Chinese last-chance draft that fudged the issue by agreeing to discuss the supply of a reactor at an 'appropriate time.'

"The Bush administration immediately defined 'appropriate time' as years down the road, after all other nuclear programs were totally dismantled. Within hours the North Koreans offered a diametrically opposite interpretation, supported by nothing in the actual wording of the document, that the reactor had to be provided first.

"Seasoned hands recognize this as standard North Korean tactics -- before the ink is dry, they try to renegotiate what others thought was a done deal."
So, let's get this straight. When the Bush administration immediately claims that the "appropriate time" is "years down the road" after dismantling other nuclear programs, that's ok, but when the North Koreans claim it means sometime before that, before dismantling other nuclear programs, they're "renegotiating" a "done deal" with their "standard tactics." What is wrong with this picture?


Just for fun

Some pictures I took this last weekend:

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron (not the same one!) alongside a Great Egret


Quote of the Day

"Our entire national defense, our entire army, and our entire society is prepared to defend itself, not to attack others. Not to occupy foreign lands, but to defend our land."

- Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban National Assembly, interviewed this morning for a full hour on Democracy Now!, explaining just one of the reasons why Cuba is able to respond so effectively to hurricanes with minimal loss of life.
Gee, I wonder who he was referring to?

Ricardo Alarcon is not only one of the most important, but also the most well-spoken members of the Cuban leadership, but you would be hard-pressed to find any mention of his name, nevertheless a one-hour interview, in the corporate media. A search of the New York Times, for example, returns exactly one hit from 2004, one from 2003, and two from 2001. On CNN, one reference from 2004 and then a couple from 2002. None from 2005 at either place. Needless to say you'll find more mentions than that just here at Left I on the News.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


The "iron wall"

In an article in which we learn that the Jewish state (that's Israel, and that phrase is straight out of the AP article, in case you're wondering) is having fantasies of getting a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Expressing his reasoning behind that hope, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom makes the astonishing statement that "'The iron wall' that stood between Israel and most Islamic countries is coming down."

Why is that astonishing? Because of the origin of that phrase, "iron wall". Here it is, from a 1923 article by the Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky. Judge for yourself the irony, or the complete appropriateness if you prefer, of the current Israeli Foreign Minister using that phrase:

"Thus we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question. Hence those who hold that an agreement with the natives is an essential condition for Zionism can now say "no" and depart from Zionism. Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population -- an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would only be hypocrisy."
Remember that Zionist slogan, "“A land without people for a people without land"? Even the Zionists knew it was bullshit, and understood the consequences of what they were proposing.

And, needless to say, the irony of an Israeli talking about some symbolic wall "coming down" at the same time they're busy finishing building a very real wall pretty much goes without saying.


Cuban doctors

Well, the U.S. isn't going to accept Cuba's generous offer of 1586 doctors to offer medical care to victims of Hurricane Katrina (an offer which still stands, by the way, and which is still needed, albeit without the urgency of three weeks ago when the offer was first made). However those doctors are still on standby, not just waiting to serve the people of the United States, but the people of the world. In a speech today, Fidel Castro announced the creation of the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Disaster and Epidemic Physicians, ready to provide services anywhere in the world there is an epidemic or catastrophe. One particularly interesting section of Castro's speech is what he has to say about AIDS:
"There is a particularly terrible epidemic -- let's call it that -- which has the world in its grip: HIV, AIDS. It is threatening to wipe out entire nations and even vast continental regions.

"Cuba ranks highly on the world scale of countries preventing and struggling against this disease. Looking at the rates that prevail in this part of the world, it can be noted that some countries with an average infestation rate, had in 2003 -the last year for published statistics -- an AIDS prevalence of 2.4%, 2.3%, 3.2% in the adult population aged between 15 and 49 years. I'm not mentioning any names for obvious reasons. In other countries the infestation rate is much higher still. The lowest rate after Cuba is 0.6%. I'll not say who that is either. The rate in Cuba is 0.07%, that is to say, 8.6 times less than in the country with the second lowest rate.

"Our doctors, our scientists, our pharmacists, and in particular the members of the 'Henry Reeve' Contingent, must know all there is to know about AIDS, the most efficient ways to combat it, and above all they should realize that these methods must be adapted to the specific conditions of each country.

"When the immensely rich developed nations decide to truly cooperate with countries in Africa and other parts of the world in the struggle against AIDS, they will need professionals like those in the 'Henry Reeve' Contingent. It is then that the value of this action will be understood in all its magnitude. The rich, developed states posses the financial capital, but they don't have the human capital. In order to avoid transmission from mother to child, for example, it is necessary to perform a Caesarian section on the mother; the mothers live in the villages and the doctors from the developed world don't go into the African villages, they have not been trained for that.

"It is necessary to train the doctors needed in the countryside, in the villages, in the poor and marginalized neighborhoods of Third World cities. Even in extremely rich countries like the United States, tens of millions of Afro-Americans, Indians, Latin American immigrants, Haitians and many others have no healthcare programs or medical care.

"We are offering to train professionals who are prepared to struggle against death. We shall prove that there is a solution to many of the planet's tragedies. We are proving that man can and must better himself. We are proving the value of conscience and ethics. We are offering life."
In related news, in an extension of something that happened last month, the joint formation by Venezuela and Cuba of the "Miracle Mission" program to offer free eye operations to restore the sight of millions of Latin Americans (operations to be performed in Cuba, with transportation paid for and provided by Venezuela), Hugo Chavez recently announced that that program will also be available to poor people in the United States. Won't it be interesting when the United States denies travel permission to a blind person trying to travel to Cuba to have their sight restored, or prosecutes them upon their return?

Incidentally, I can still find no evidence whatsoever that the Western press has made any mention of the "Miracle Mission" program.


Cindy vs. Hillary

The Village Voice informs us:
Cindy Sheehan Takes on the Democrats, Hillary Clinton

"Sheehan isn't stopping her critique with Bush. On the contrary, she has begun to set her sights on Congress and the Democratic Party as well. When she spoke in Brooklyn on the night before, she took note of the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq and - like most Senate Democrats - has done little to bring the troops home. Clinton, in fact, has filed legislation calling for more troops.

"In an interview after her speech, Sheehan told the Voice she was 'so frustrated' by leading Democrats like Clinton 'who should be leaders on this issue, but are not.' Already, she has set up a future meeting with New York's junior senator this weekend. And she plans to sit down with the state's senior senator, Chuck Schumer, too. 'It's time for them to step up and be the opposition party,' she said. 'This war is not going to end unless the Democrats are on board with us.'"
I wish Sheehan luck, but the fact of the matter is that there is only one thing you can say to Hillary Clinton or Chuck Schumer that will have any effect on them whatsoever - "I'm not voting for you" (or "my organization is not endorsing you."). If you're rich, you can also say "I'm not giving you any money" -- that's even better. But as far as "lobbying" in the sense of convincing them? No. On a more technical or obscure issue, where you could actually tell the legislator something they don't know, it's a different story. But when it comes to Iraq, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer know all the arguments. They've seen all the polls. And until they have to pay a price for their actions, they aren't going to change. And as long as liberal organizations (into which I'm not lumping Cindy Sheehan, by the way) continue to have an "Anybody but Bush"/"lesser evil" strategy, the Democrats aren't going anywhere except further and further to the right.

As far as turning up the pressure on Democrats as well as Republicans, I'll let Simply Red have the last word(s):

Turn it up, turn it so loud
It don't ever stop
No no no no
Turn it up, makes me so proud
I believe in this feeling

Well you've lost all the things
That sharing could bring
Thought you were doing right
But violence and flames
And torches and chains
Are fuelling
These new northern lights
Like prisoners working
On infertile land
Took eight years
To find out the score
If you're sick then you're lonely
Out of work then you're hungry
The sentence is four years more

Turn it up, turn it so loud
It don't ever stop
No no no no
Turn it up, makes me so proud
I believe in this feeling
Turn it up, turn it up
Right up, right up

Who says poverty and race
Can be kept in their place
By keeping it
All underground
And ruling the country
Are unfaithful husbands
Who spank little boys
Gagged and bound
There's got to be a better way
For you and for me
To turn this hypocrisy round
The growth of a nation
Cannot be achieved
By keeping
The downtrodden down

Turn it up, turn it so loud
It don't ever stop
No no no no
Turn it up, makes me so proud
I believe in this feeling
Turn it up, turn it up
Right up, right up


A tree fell in the forest. Did you hear it?

Last Thursday, Rep. Lynn Woolsey held an "informal" (i.e., unauthorized) hearing in Washington on the question of an "exit strategy" from Iraq, which had been promoted heavily by After Downing Street. As far as I can determine, exactly one article appeared in the mainstream press about this hearing, this one from the San Francisco Chronicle, and not a word made its way to the cable news channels (it may well have been televised on C-SPAN, for what that's worth, although I didn't see it). Not to give you the impression that this was some kind of radical event. Here's a typical quote of those testifying at this "hearing," this one from former Sen. Max Cleland: "The key word in 'exit strategy' is not 'exit,' but 'strategy.'" No, Max, you have that precisely backwards. The key word in "exit strategy" is "exit."

I have nothing against this kind of event, or writing letters to your Congressperson, or practically any kind of activity designed to focus attention on the war and increase opposition to it. But in the end, there is no substitute for huge, public demonstrations which cannot be ignored, not only because they provide the public at large with a chance to see the antiwar movement, but also because they provide the antiwar movement itself with a chance to see our strength in a way that's much more concrete than reading polls, which can measure the breadth of antiwar sentiment but not its depth. So, stealing a line from the latest email reminder from ANSWER: "Friends don't let friends miss Sept. 24!" And if you're busy like me and you can lose track of what day it is - that's this Saturday!


Quotes of the Day

"Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."

- President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 (courtesy of Norman Solomon)
"Enough of the illusion that the problems of the world can be solved by nuclear weapons. Bombs may kill the hungry, the sick, and the ignorant, but they cannot kill hunger, disease, and ignorance. Nor can they kill the righteous rebellion of the peoples.

"Let us say farewell to arms, and let us in a civilized manner dedicate ourselves to the most pressing problems of our times. This is the responsibility and the most sacred duty all the world's statesmen. This, moreover, is the basic premise for human survival."

- Fidel Castro, 1979


American deaths in Iraq soar over 2,000

But...but...all the headlines today are talking about 1,900; why is Left I on the News talking about 2,000 already? Simple reason really. Because it's true, and I'm not talking about soldiers who have died after leaving the "theater," about whom there is some controversy and uncertainty. I'm talking about a completely uncontroversial issue - Americans killed in Iraq.

Today's news makes for a perfect case in point. Today, four Americans were killed in Mosul. One is described as a "diplomat" but more precisely as a "diplomatic security agent," whatever that is (I thought "diplomats" specialized in discussing things with people, not pointing guns at them). The other three are described as "private security contractors" so we can guess the "diplomat" was actually their official "contact." We also learn in this article about four more deaths on Sept. 7 of "four private American guards who worked as security agents for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in Basra" (whatever that is!). All in all well over a hundred of these "private security guards" have been killed in Iraq, and the vast majority are simply privatized soldiers. The only difference between them and the "soldiers" killed in Iraq is that the latter get paychecks directly from the U.S. government, while the former get their paychecks from a middleman; they're all doing the same kind of jobs. Indeed, it seems that more often than not when we read about American soldiers in Iraq, they're busy passing out candy or building soccer pitches, so perhaps they're even less "soldiers" than the private guards are.

Make no mistake about it, the U.S. toll in Iraq is well over 2,000, no matter what misleading figures the U.S. government and their handmaiden media care to report. Not to forget that the "coalition," about whom one hears whenever the P.R. value of that term is required but never (not even in the British media!) when death totals are mentioned, has sustained total deaths (including "contractors") now approaching 2,400.

And no, I haven't forgotten about the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, but that isn't the point of this post.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Ah, sovereignty

They aren't even pretending:
"British armored vehicles backed by helicopter gunships burst through the walls of an Iraqi jail Monday in the southern city of Basra to free two British commandos detained earlier in the day by Iraqi police, witnesses and Iraqi officials said."
Update: I love the headline over this story in the San Jose Mercury News: "British commandos escape jail." Right. It probably took them months to plan that clever "escape."


Blitzer watch

Arianna Huffington runs a regular column on her blog/website called "Russert watch", in which she keeps tabs on the doings of Meet the Press's Tim Russert. If I had the time, or the stomach, I'd do the same thing for Wolf Blitzer. God what a tool. I caught less than ten minutes of his show during lunch today, while he was interviewing Ted Turner. Here's just some of the nonsense from that brief time (transcript here):

Blitzer starts by playing a clip of Bill Clinton saying "I don't think any person with a straight face can tell you that Katrina was caused by global warming," and then asks Turner if he agrees. Turner points out, quite rightly, that while the cause of any one hurricane is impossible to specify, that statistically, there are now more hurricanes, and more severe ones, than in the past, and that that is attributed by scientists to global warming. Blitzer, indignant at not getting the desired response, then blusters about some huge hurricanes that occured in the early 1900's. Gee Wolf, weren't you listening to Ted's reply? No one says there haven't been huge hurricanes in the past. Twit.

But here's the kicker, from the Meet the Press transcript: Bill Clinton had said almost exactly the same thing as Ted Turner! Here's the very next sentence following the clip that Blitzer played: "But what we do know, what the evidence shows, is that there is an increase in the number and severity of bad weather events all across the globe." Clinton then goes on for an entire paragraph about global warming. So the quote Blitzer played was completely misleading, a complete distortion of what Clinton said.

A little later (I'll return to Turner), he interviewed someone from the National Hurricane Center about the storm/hurricane currently entering the Gulf and causing the Florida Keys to be evacuated. Given what just happened in Louisiana and Mississippi, wouldn't an obvious question be to ask if the poor and the sick had been evacuated, or if there were plans to do so? Not to Wolf, evidently (later in the day I did happen to see Florida Governor Jeb Bush going over exactly those things, so it is something that is being done).

Back to Turner, Blitzer next turned to North Korea. The entire lead-in to the questioning was about how North Korea agreed to this, North Korea agreed to that, etc. There was not one word to suggest anything other than that North Korea had completely capitulated in these discussions, or to suggest that the United States had promised or agreed to anything, such as stating that "it has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons," which, however meaningless such a statement might be given the track record of the United States, was in fact one of the key North Korean demands which the U.S. had previously refused to accede to.

This omission wasn't enough for Blitzer, though, who then launched into a blistering attack on Kim Jong Il, "one of the worst men on Earth." Of course he couldn't back up that statement with any actual data, since there is none, Kim Jong Il never having launched a military attack against any other country. Turner was up to the task, talking about his recent trip to North Korea, how he hadn't seen people starving, etc. When Blitzer raised the alarmist call that North Korea has a million armed men on the border with South Korea, Turner first challenged his statistics, and then noted that South Korea and the U.S. have a half million armed men of their own at the same border. Turner correctly noted that North Korea isn't the slightest threat to the U.S., to which Blitzer sputtered "but they have missiles that can reach the U.S." Turner responded, "yes, the Aleutian Islands, and the only thing there are sea lions." Perhaps not 100% accurate, but it shut Blitzer up, anyway. Also effective was Turner's turning to Blitzer and asking him if he'd ever been to North Korea, which Blitzer had to admit he had not. The point I'm trying to make, which you all know, is that Blizer, who is supposed to be a reporter or an anchor, was instead acting clearly as an advocate, forcefully and inappropriately so; Condoliezza Rice wouldn't have been arguing with Turner any more strongly (or any more truthfully) than Blitzer was.



In what I'm pretty sure is a first, a major poll now shows that a majority of Americans, 52 percent, want American troops not just withdrawn from Iraq but withdrawn "immediately." Why is the heading of this post "democracy"? Because not a single prominent member of Congress (and less than one percent of all members of Congress, limited to marginalized members like Rep. Cynthia McKinney), have endorsed such a call in this "democracy."

In other news on the democracy front, the country which those same members of Congress (along with the Administration and the corporate media) routinely refer to as "the only democracy in the Middle East" showed its contempt for the concept:

"Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed Friday to withhold Israeli cooperation from Palestinian legislative elections in January if candidates from the militant group Hamas take part.

"'We will make every effort not to help them,' he said at a meeting with journalists in New York. 'I don't think they can have elections without our help.'"
Sharon is being rather disingenuous when he refers to not "helping" the Palestinians with their elections. Here's what he means by "help":
"Mr. Sharon said Israel could choose not to remove roadblocks and checkpoints that would block Palestinians from the polls and make it hard for Palestinians in Jerusalem to vote."
The Americans, who barred members of the Baath party from taking part in Iraqi elections (not to mention interfering in countless other elections both recently and throughout the years) are, needless to say, no strangers to "helping" elections in other countries themselves.

Friday, September 16, 2005


"Synagogues" and demagogues

George Bush has condemned the Palestinians for destroying the "synagogues" of Gaza. What complete and utter nonsense. Leaving those buildings standing, when the Israelis had demolished every other building they had occupied, was nothing more than a cynical ploy, which Bush fell for, or rather, took the opportunity to demagogue about, since not even Bush is stupid enough to have "fallen for" something so transparent. The deputy chairman of the French parliament claimed it was "reminiscent" of acts of Nazi anti-Semites, cleverly smearing the Palestinians without actually calling them anti-Semites. In fact, these buildings no longer had anything to do with Judaism, but they had everything to do with occupation.

In the U.S. (and, I guess, elsewhere), small suburban Jewish congregations will occasionally share a building with a congregation of another faith. What makes a building a synagogue isn't that it was built by Jews, or that Jews have on occasion worshipped there; what makes it a synagogue as far as I can determine is the presence of one or more Torahs. And I feel rather confident in saying that there were no Torahs left in the "synagogues" of Gaza.

If the buildings themselves had been so sacred, the Israelis could have torn them down brick by brick and rebuilt them elsewhere, or just jacked the building up and towed it away. Not only weren't they synagogues any more, they weren't even sacred -- some of them, at least, had most recently been used as fortresses from which the occupants could actually attack not just their fellow human beings, but their fellow Jews no less.

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It published a picture the other day of one of these buildings, with a new temporary sign placed on it reading "Holy Place" in Arabic and English, but not Hebrew. The reason for the Arabic is understandable. Why no Hebrew? Because no Hebrew-speaking person was ever going to return to that place. And why English? So that the when a picture was published in the media of the building being destroyed, the world would get the message that the Palestinians were barbarians. Talk about cynical ploys.

Even if by some stretch of definition these buildings were still synagogues, they didn't have the slightest right to remain there. If someone stole your land, and built something, anything, on it, and then later was forced to give it back to you but said, "oh, by the way, I'm leaving you your land, but you don't have the right to tear down my house/synagogue/grocery store/tennis court/whatever," you would simply laugh -- such a person has neither the legal nor the moral right to tell you any such thing. But that didn't stop George Bush from mounting his high horse and playing the demagogue on this subject. And, in the United States at least, he could do so knowing there isn't a single significant politician or media outlet who would dare call him on his demagoguery.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Things to watch for

Bush tonight is going to promise a whole bunch of spending for hurricane victims and reconstruction. Will he have anything to say about where the money is coming from? Things which will not be done in order to pay the bill for the hurricane recovery? Will he agree with the 55 percent of Americans who now favor withdrawing troops from Iraq, or the 45 percent (pdf) who say the money for hurricane relief should come from reduced spending on the war against Iraq, or the 27 percent who say it should come from repealing income tax cuts on the rich, or the 15 percent who say it should come from not repealing the estate tax? My money is on "no".


Political humor of the day

Courtesy of Think Progress:
"Bill O’Reilly: The truth of the matter is our correspondents at Fox News can't go out for a cup of coffee in Baghdad.

"Condoliezza Rice: Bill, that's tough. It's tough. But what -- would they have wanted to have gone out for a cup of coffee when Saddam Hussein was in power?"
Not only would they have wanted to, they would have. The plain fact of the matter is, when that famous question "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" is asked, there can't be much doubt how most Iraqis would answer it. At least, the ones who are still alive and able to answer. Rice and her bosses have the blood of tens of thousands, most likely well above 100,000, of Iraqis on their hands.

Sorry, I'm afraid I've taken the edge off that "humor" in the title of the post. My bad.


Puppies: Just say no


Ted Rall has the nerve to write a column I contemplated writing, but didn't:

"Hurricane Katrina has prompted Americans to donate more than $700 million to charity, reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy. So many suckers, so little foresight.

"The U.S. government can easily pick up the tab for people inconvenienced by bad weather--if helping them is a priority. That goes double for Katrina, a disaster caused by the government's conscious decision to eliminate the $50 million pittance needed to improve New Orleans' levees.

"For our leaders the optional war against Iraq is such a priority, which the Congressional Budget Office expects to cost $600 billion by 2010. That's four or five Katrinas right there. (That's also where the levee money went.) Because rich people are always a political priority, their taxes have been slashed by $4 trillion over a decade--the equivalent of 32 Katrinas. So worried are our public servants about the tax burden placed on the rich that they're looking out for rich dead people. This is why they've gutted the estate tax that, at a cost of $75 billion annually, will run half a Katrina a year. Trickle-down economists beginning with Milton Friedman shout 'starve the beast,' but while the social programs are put on a diet, the mean and powerful pig out more than ever.

"Cutting a check to the Red Cross isn't just a vote for irresponsible government. It's a drop in the bucket compared to what you'll end up paying for Katrina in increased taxes.

"Granted, in terms of popularity of likelihood of success, trying to make a case against giving money to charities compares to lobbying against puppies. The impulse to donate, after all, is rooted in our best human traits. As we watched New Orleanians die of thirst, disease and anarchic violence in the face of Bush Administration disinterest and local government incompetence, millions of us did the only thing we thought we could to do to help: cut a check or click a PayPal button. Tragically, that generosity feeds into the mindset of the sinister ideologues who argue that government shouldn't help people--the very mindset that caused the levee break that turned Katrina into a holocaust and led to official unresponsiveness. And it is already setting the stage for the next avoidable disaster.

"It's time to 'starve the beast': private charities used by the government to justify the abdication of its duties to its citizens."
All of which is precisely why I gave money to the Humane Society, which is doing the one job I think is not the job of the government--taking care of people's pets (although, in a really humane society, I'm sure that would qualify as well. What does it amount to? An hour's worth of the war against Iraq?).

Just one small quibble with Rall - "inconvenienced"? You lose everything you have in the world, and he refers to that as "inconvenienced"? Honestly.

(Hat tip to Cursor)

Update: It's been many years since I read it, but if memory serves one of the best discussions of this issue can be found in the great socialist novel, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, written by Robert Tressell more than 90 years ago. The book isn't easy to find, but it's a wonderful read and highly recommended.


Quote of the Day

"The government of the United States is failing the American people."

- Sen. Robert Byrd
I don't agree with everything Byrd says -- for example, I would have added "and endangering the people of the world" to the quote above. He also says that "we met the goals established at [the] outset [of the invasion of Iraq]", but since the only "goal" announced at the outset was eliminating the "threat" from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and since there were no such weapons, that's pretty much a non sequitur. But man, the guy can sure deliver a speech (or at least write one; his actual speaking voice has seen better days, but he's lost none of the passion). It's too bad the corporate media totally ignores him; if it weren't for the ability to read speeches like this at CommonDreams, we'd never have the pleasure of hearing from him.


Heartless idiot of the day

Possibly the most reactionary columnist in America today (and that's saying something), Victor Davis Hanson:
"Yes, Hurricane Katrina revealed swearing, crying and stupefied public officials at all levels. Their initial paralysis may have endangered some lives."
Sure, if by "endangered" you mean "ended prematurely." Hundreds of people died in nursing homes, the Convention Center, the SuperDome, in their homes, and in other places as well, thanks to that "initial paralysis." Schmuck.

The fact that later in the same article, Hanson refers to Cindy Sheehan's "circus" only adds to my complete and utter contempt for him. Although how that contempt could get any greater is hard to imagine.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Australia is safe again!

That dangerous threat to national security, American Scott Parkin, has been deported. The FBI generously allows how he "will not be tracked by the agency when he arrive[s] back in the United States." Well, no more than any other antiwar activist, anyway.

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