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Saturday, March 31, 2007


No child left behind

A few posts below this one I wrote about education in Cuba. That led me to this article, which discusses how children are the number one priority in Cuba. Here are some facts from that article, which fairly dramatically illustrate Cuba's accomplishments:
900 thousand children die every month because of poverty: not one of them is Cuban.

200 million children in the world sleep on the streets today. None of them is Cuban.

250 million children under 13 have to work in order to survive. None of them is Cuban.

More than one million children are forced into prostitution and tens of thousands have been victims of human organ trafficking. None of them is Cuban.

25 thousand children in the world die every day of measles, malaria, diphtheria, pneumonia and malnutrition. None of them is Cuban.


What passes for news

Here's the lead paragraph on an AP story today:
An Iranian opposition group claimed Saturday that Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines was planned in advance and carried out in retaliation for the U.N. sanctions imposed against the country.
Even before reading another word, one has to ask oneself - how on earth would an Iranian opposition group be privy to secret decisions made inside the Iranian government (much less within the Revolutionary Guard, who may or may not have carried out the capture without direct orders from the government)? Well, that obvious objection to this "news" doesn't seem to have bothered AP, who is happy to offer it up to their readers.

Four paragraphs later, we come to this:

The National Council of Resistance of Iran — the political wing of the Iranian MEK opposition group which is listed as a terrorist group by Britain, the U.S. and the European Union — said the British crew's capture was planned in advance, but offered no evidence to support the claims.
Wow. A terrorist group makes a claim, offers "no evidence," and still the AP is willing to showcase their claim in the lead paragraph of today's "news."

Hey, I just saw some pigs flying down my street. Will someone please call AP and let them know, so they can run the story? No, I don't have any actual evidence for my claim.

Oh wait, that won't work. You see, the trick is you have to make an unsupported claim which casts a negative light on an "enemy," a "bad guy," an "evil doer." Then your claim will happily be broadcast by the corporate media, and not just by FOX News.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Tragic irony

George Bush, yesterday:
I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers -- they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we've got here -- (laughter) -- "Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now.
Also yesterday, but not reported until today, some of that "activity" in the marketplaces:
Suicide bombers killed nearly 130 people in a crowded market in a Shi'ite district of Baghdad and a mainly Shi'ite town on Thursday, one of the bloodiest days in Iraq in months.
And believe me, this post has nothing whatsoever to do with schadenfreude. I take no pleasure whatsoever in Bush's making a fool of himself, much less any pleasure in the needless death of 130 people, any more than in the deaths of the previous three-quarters of a million (more or less) Iraqis who have died, or the lesser numbers of Americans and others. The entire affair is a tragedy of the first order.


Cuban schools

Stanford Professor of Education and Economics Martin Carnoy has a new book out on Cuban education, entitled "Cuba's Academic Advantage." Here's the Stanford University Press description:
In this book, Martin Carnoy explores the surprising success of the Cuban educational system, where the average elementary school student learns much more than her Latin American peers. In developing the case for Cuba's supportive social context and centralized management of education, Carnoy asks important questions about educational systems in general.
And some reviews:
"In a fascinating saga employing forensic tools of statistical analysis, interviews, and classroom observation, Martin Carnoy is able to pierce the mystery of how economically impoverished Cuba academically outperforms the rest of Latin America. The results of his detective work provide valuable insights to those who are preoccupied with raising student achievement in the United States."—Harry M. Levin, Teachers College, Columbia University

"Small, personalized schools staffed by highly trained teachers offering a child-centered education. Long-term relationships between teachers and students. A coherent curriculum organized for conceptual understanding. Strong leadership from principals who focus on instruction and support teacher collaboration. These features of Cuba's educational system sound like the list of reforms that are constantly being urged by educational reformers in the United States. The difference is that in Cuba, these practices have become virtually universal. This powerful book describes the policy system that has created one of the most effective and equitable school systems in the Americas, and provides compelling data from quantitative analyses and vivid observations of schools and classrooms that illustrate how it works. Everyone interested in improving education should read this book."—-Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University
Note how there's no mention that the "free market" (e.g., "vouchers") is the path to better education. Because, quite simply, it isn't.

Michael Krasny's one-hour interview with the author on KQED's Forum will be posted here at some point.

Update: I have to promote this comment from reader Jamie, which is really very much on point:

One question a caller had was (paraphrase): How can children be motivated to learn if their reward is not a high paying job or monetary wealth? In Cuba, all professionals get more or less the same salary - which is one reason why they have very high quality teachers. And no one gets monetarily rich doing anything. The education system, and the society in general, instills and appeals to the better side of "human nature." Love and fun of learning, satisfying curiosity, intellectual achievement, pleasing one's parents and greater social circle, helping others and society as a whole in meaningful work.

We have plenty of people like this in the U.S., most of whom live in relative obscurity. We have a system that rewards greed, accumulation of wealth, selfishness, consumerism, and in some circles, ignorance and superstition. Cuba's system doesn't. It tries to put value on and promotes other human characteristics.
The second paragraph of Jamie's comment is particularly relevant to the old "human nature" question. The question isn't what are the characteristics of human nature? The question is, which characteristics of human nature are rewarded by a particular society?


Both barrels

First shot across the bow:
King Abdullah denounced the American military presence in Iraq on Wednesday as an "illegitimate foreign occupation" and called on the West to end its financial embargo against the Palestinians.
Second shot across the bow:
Victory is no longer an option in Iraq, if it ever was. The only rational objective left is to responsibly organize America’s inevitable exit. - New York Times editorial

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Ah, the pain of separation

Bothered by snooty Circuit City employees who were lording it over you because of their exorbitant salaries? Worry no more, Circuit City is taking care of the problem:
The company has completed a wage management initiative that will result in the separation of approximately 3,400 store Associates. The separations, which are occurring today, focused on Associates who were paid well above the market-based salary range for their role. New Associates will be hired for these positions and compensated at the current market range for the job.
"Separations." "Associates." "Fired wage-slaves" are the words they were looking for. These people are no more "associated" with the management of Circuit City than I am.

And don't you love that phrase "wage management initiative"? Yes, they said to each other, let's do a better job of "managing" the wages of our wage-slaves. "Wage lowering initiative" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

(Hat tip to a diarist at Daily Kos)


Medea Benjamin: battered wife

After the House voted $100 billion more for war against Iraq, Medea Benjamin from Code Pink addressed the Progressive Democrats of America. Her speech is on YouTube (Part 1 and Part 2), but I took the time to transcribe the first part of it because it was an extraordinary statement (and a wonderful analogy) about the relationship of some progressive activists (like Benjamin) with the Democratic Party:
"I feel like a battered wife tonight. And I feel like a battered wife because I'm right like on the outskirts of the Democratic Party. And I keep coming back to the party. I keep coming back. I keep coming back. I keep thinking, 'There's something good there. There's something good there. I'm gonna' go back, I'm gonna' find something good.'

"Like all of you, I worked hard in November 2006 to get the Democrats back in power, and like all of you, I got my hopes up. And I feel tonight like I got beat up again. And I do that because I did get my hopes up. And I had a vision that the Democrats finally understood that the American people were so way ahead of them on this war in Iraq that they were going to catch up.
"I had a vision that something like that was going to happen. And now I feel like an absolute idiot battered wife. How could we have let ourselves be so deceived? But you know what? We worked hard. And the thing is that we're going to keep working hard."
And so, in the end, fully realizing that she and others like her who place their faith in the Democratic Party are like battered wives, she acts like so many battered wives and announces she's going back for more, hoping once more that this time it won't happen again. Unfortunately, it will.

Battered wives, just like progressives who must eventually come to the realization that it is necessary to break with the Democratic Party, face a dilemma. In the short term, things may get worse. A battered wife may go from a nice home and a husband who supports her to a battered women's shelter and having to go out and get a low-paying job just to keep going. But ultimately, it's the only way she's going to escape from being battered, time and time again. Because it's in the nature of her husband to be a batterer.

And it's in the nature of the Democratic Party to be one of the twin parties of imperialism. Yes, they like to play the "good cop" to the Republican Party's "bad cop," but, as the attitude of virtually every leading Democrat towards Iran demonstrates, they view the world through precisely the same prism as the Republicans and have precisely the same goals in mind; only their methods differ. The Democratic Party will not be changed by Medea Benjamin and other sincerely progressive people like her repeatedly banging at the door, and the more people that Benjamin and others like her persuade to keep banging at that door instead of trying another door, the longer it's going to take for real change to occur.


British "evidence"

The British have released, and the press are dutifully echoing, the British "evidence" of the location of the capture of their sailors. This "evidence" consists of a simple assertion of the coordinates of the seizure, which, according to the British naval spokesperson (Real Player file), was "confirmed publicly by the Iraqi foreign minister." So we have an assertion, "confirmed" by someone who couldn't possibly be in a position to know, offered as "evidence."

The next piece of "evidence" offered by the British is that "One of the small boats used by the boarding party from HMS Cornwall had a GPS chart plotter, continually communicating its position to HMS Cornwall, where the position was displayed on an electronic chart." Note what's missing - any mention that this data was actually being recorded. We have to presume it wasn't, and that the value of this evidence is minimal.

The closest thing to actual evidence is this claim:

The MoD backed up its assertion by releasing a photograph of a handheld global positioning satellite device in HMS Cornwall's Lynx helicopter as it overflew the searched merchant vessel, confirming its position.
Whether this alleged photo actually includes a simultaneous picture of the merchant vessel and the GPS screen I can't say, not having seen it. Not mentioned in the BBC article, but mentioned in the briefing video, is that this overflight occurred two days later, and relies on the assertion that the ship had remained anchored in the same position for those two days, an assertion allegedly confirmed by the captain of that ship. What the ship was doing anchored in the middle of the Persian Gulf for two days is rather unclear.

There are more curious details. The British claim that on the day after the seizure, Iran provided the British with the coordinates of the capture, which Britain says were in Iraqi waters. Instead of immediately trumpeting this to the world, Britain claims they pointed this out to the Iranians, who then provided a revised set of coordinates which were in Iranian waters! Both of these are again simple assertions, however; not the slightest proof was offered to back them up.

Is there any solid proof from the Iranian side either? No, and one can hardly know for sure the absolute truth of the matter at this point. Perhaps the Iranians or the British had a calibration problem, and both legitimately thought (and think) they were correct. Perhaps the problem lies in the claim made by Craig Murray, who claims the border shown by the British isn't actually the border. So I don't claim to know the truth. I do know that in the Western corporate media, there won't be a single voice raising the questions I'm raising above, questioning the value of the British "evidence."

Update: A transcript of the British presentation, and a picture of the GPS over a ship (alleged to be "the" ship, but without proof), are here.

Note in this picture on that page that the location of the ship claimed by the British is closer to Iranian territory than to Iraqi territory, hearkening back to the questions Craig Murray raises about where exactly the "agreed" border, if any, is?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


The "threat" of the truth?

Tony Blair is "warning" the Iranians that his government may be prepared to move to a "different phase." His spokesman says "the prime minister was not hinting either at the possible expulsion of Iranian diplomats or military action, but that Britain may have to make public evidence proving the Britons were seized in Iraqi — not Iranian — waters."

Huh? If Britain actually had evidence that its sailors were seized in Iraqi waters, why wouldn't they have made that evidence public on day one? What, they were afraid to embarrass the Iranians? More likely, it took a few days to get the Photoshopping just right, and the GPS coordinates stored in some computer altered. Why on earth, after this many days have passed, would anyone believe any "evidence" the British government makes public?


George Bush, raving egomaniac

I usually leave the low-hanging fruit of Bush-bashing to the Democrats, but this just struck me so much I have to put it out here. Here's what George Bush had to say about Tony Snow, his press secretary who has just learned he has cancer:
"I'm looking forward to the day that he comes back to the White House and briefs the press corps on the decisions that I'm making and why I'm making them."
Could this man be any more of a raving egomaniac? Yes, George, it's all about you.

Or, perhaps I'm wrong, and this is a serious comment, in which Bush is admitting he looks forward to Snow explaining why Bush is making decisions since Bush himself doesn't have a clue.

We report, you decide.


How to tell if the Democrats are serious

Look, I know the "withdrawal" bills passed by the Democrats in the House and Senate are a bit of a joke. They rely on George Bush "certifying" certain things, which is more than a bit of a joke, they don't take effect for a long time, they only call for withdrawing "combat" troops (and remember, bombing from the air is called "support" by the military), and so on. But as limited as the bills are, the talk is that Bush will issue a veto. Fine. If the Democrats are really serious about their quasi-partial-delayed withdrawal, they have a very simple answer to the veto - just pass the bills again! They may not have the desire to actually end the war by cutting off all funds, but surely since they are required to vote funds, they can make sure that they continue to do so with their limited provisos attached and force Bush to accept them if he wants to continue the war.

That's if they were serious. But the strange thing is, I have not heard a single person, politician or pundit, even mention this option.

We'll see what develops. Needless to say, I don't anticipate any variation that will actually involve ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq.


The Tonkin Persian Gulf

Nothing to see here. Move along.
The U.S. Navy on Tuesday said it had no information to substantiate a market rumor that Iran had fired at a U.S. naval vessel in the Gulf.

"Navy has nothing to substantiate that report right now," a Navy official said. "At this juncture, there is no validity to it."

"We have no information at this time that indicates any incident taking place," said White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

NYMEX crude oil futures shot up more than $5 to trade above $68 a barrel on rumors about Iran, traders said.
Wouldn't you love to know where that rumor came from?

While we're on the subject, anyone want to lay bets that a single reporter for the corporate media, or a single member of the U.S. Congress (other than perhaps Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul) will ask for proof should the U.S. claim that such an incident did happen?

Monday, March 26, 2007


Spying...and killing

Most readers have undoubtedly heard about the story the New York Times broke this morning, and which was the subject of the entire hour of Democracy Now this morning:
For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department's Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.
The problem with this story is that one can have a tendency to take it too lightly. What can you do about a passage like this one other than laugh?
A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

"Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda," said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003.
Oh my. Organizing concerts and giving speeches - that is sophisticated! And what a specific and sophisticated agenda - "vote against Bush"!

But the problem is, this kind of story makes people forget that police infiltration all too frequently involves the ultimate sort of intervention - murder. Because the police go hand-in-hand with the Klan, the Minuteman, and all sorts of right-wing thugs. And that's something that must never be forgotten, even while we're chuckling about police spying on and worrying about "Bands for Bush."

This article describes a neo-Nazi rally held in Florida just last year, which was organized by an FBI informant. And it goes on to tell the story of the brutal massacre on Nov. 3, 1979, in Greensboro, N.C., of five unionists and anti-racist organizers, cut down in a hail of gunfire in which local police, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) were all up to their eyeballs.

And then you might want to read this article from which we learn that it was an FBI informant who most likely fired the first shots at Kent State, which in turn triggered another hail of gunfire which killed four students protesting the Vietnam War in 1970. And what was that particular informant doing? Why, he was taking pictures of the demonstrators.

Of course, one could cite many more examples. The police are not some kind of benign force, nor are their informants. They are an instrument of the state, and when push comes to shove (and even when push is barely push, as in "Bands for Bush"), they act as such. Sometimes with lethal force.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


A question for Tony Blair

Tony Blair makes the bold (and unsupported) claim that "There is no doubt at all that these people [15 British sailors] were taken from a boat in Iraqi waters." But, if that's true, then the Iranian warship which made the arrests was in Iraqi waters. And if that's true, why didn't the British Navy arrest them, or at least try to stop them from arresting their sailors? It's true the captured sailors were on little rubber boats, but their "mother ship," based on pictures on TV, was a serious vessel, perfectly capable of repelling an incursion by an Iranian ship into Iraqi waters. Of course, that could only happen if the Iranian ship were in Iraqi waters, which seems unlikely.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


U.N. votes more sanctions on Iran

To no one's surprise, the U.N. Security Council voted new sanctions on Iran today, in outrageous violation of their rights as a peaceful nation (one which has not attacked another country in 200 years) to develop nuclear power to meet their energy needs. Here's one incredible aspect of the situation. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was supposed to come, but the late issuing of visas (a typical U.S. ploy) prevented him from doing so, and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki spoke in his place. Various pundits (and probably government spokespeople as well) claim that Ahmadinejad's visa was really issued in plenty of time, but that he didn't dare show his face because he knew his words would have no effect. How true that is, because Mottaki's address to the Council was scheduled after the Council vote!!!! Pretty much emblematic of the way the U.S. and its flunkies in the Security Council conduct "negotiations."

I heard most of Mottaki's speech on C-SPAN, which was excellent and made many important points. He reminds the audience that it was the U.S. which helped prod Iraq into its war against Iran (and aided in that effort), that it was not Iran who has been committing war crimes in Iraq, Lebanon, Yugoslavia, that it was not Iran which dropped atomic bombs on Japan, and that it was the very Security Council he was addressing who played a key role in prolonging the Israeli devastation of Lebanon. It was too long for a single YouTube clip, but if C-SPAN doesn't get it up on their website later, I'll try to break it apart and make it available, because for sure you'll be reading or hearing little if any of it in the corporate media. Well worth listening to.

The "debate" today, by the way, provides an excellent example of why the U.S. and its allies fought so hard to keep Venezuela off the Security Council.

Update: U.N. Security Council webcasts are here; Mottaki's actual speech (Real Player file) is here (ignore the poor sound at the beginning of the talk; it gets better). A series of articles with excerpts of different sections of the speech are here.


Whose border?

15 British sailors were arrested (the corporate media says "kidnapped") by Iran for entering Iranian waters illegally. On BBC World last night, I heard a British military man claim that the sailors were on "our side of the border." Really? I wasn't aware that British territorial waters extended to the Shatt al Arab. "Our" side indeed.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports today that Iran is saying that the British sailors have confessed to being in Iranian waters (as I write this, the Iranian News Agency carries no such story the Iranian News Agency story). The interesting sentence in the Guardian article is this one, the last: "Britain was treating it as a mistake rather than a provocation." I wonder if that means Britain is claiming its sailors made a "mistake," or whether it's the Iranian arrest of the sailors that Britain is treating as a mistake and not a provocation. Very unclear. But for sure the confession will complicate Britain's job. Of course they'll claim at first it was coerced. But when that story falls apart, then what?

The fact is that, on whatever side of the Iraq-Iran border the event occurred, it's obvious that the British sailors knew very well they were "pushing their luck" and operating close to that line. In the heightened state of tensions caused by the continuous U.S./U.K./Israeli threats against Iran, such an action can only be considered a provocation, whether they actually "crossed the line" or not. Just imagine how the U.S. would react if an Iranian warship were to sail down the coast of the U.S., 100 yards outside the U.S. territorial limit.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Shocking news of the day

The BBC is reporting, and Democracy Now actually repeated it this morning as if it were news, that "[John Bolton] says the US deliberately resisted calls for a immediate ceasefire during the conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006."

As we used to say on Baker St., "No shit, Sherlock."

Actually the only thing approaching news, and even this is hardly surprising given what we know about John Bolton, is that he admits publicly to being "damned proud of what we did." That "what we did" involves, of course, responsibility for the deaths of more than a thousand Lebanese and the destruction of a substantial portion of the country's infrastructure. Definitely something to be proud of.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Conventional "wisdom" on Iraq

A lot of people, politicians and pundits and "regular" people, take the attitude that "we" just can't leave Iraq, because we'll be abandoning the Iraqi people to chaos, and the occupation is the only thing preventing that from happening. This is something you hear from people who supported the war but now say they realize it was a bad idea (but they still don't think we can actually leave) as well as from people who were opposed to the war from the start. This line is said with absolute authority - the speaker knows this is what will happen if U.S. forces leave Iraq.

Even if this conventional wisdom were true, it wouldn't justify an illegal occupation. But there's one more little problem though - by a 2-1 margin, the Iraqi people, who are in a lot better position to know than American politicians and pundits, don't think it's true! This is what I think is the key result of a new poll (pdf link) that the media are writing and talking about. The question was, "do you believe that the security situation in Iraq will get better or worse in the immediate weeks following a withdrawal of Multi National Forces?" 29% said it would get "a great deal better," 24% said "a little better," and 6% said "stay the same." Only 26% thought it would get a little or a lot worse. So that's three out of five Iraqis, a clear majority, who think that the security situation in Iraq will not get worse, and only one in four who think it will get worse.

With all the coverage of this poll I've read and heard, though, (e.g., Washington Post, New York Times), not a single one has highlighted the result of this particular question, which relates directly to the major rationale offered why U.S. troops have to stay in Iraq. Funny, that.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The "antiwar" Obama

Barack Obama appeared in Oakland for a rally this weekend. By way of contrast to the ridiculous AP estimate of 3,000 for the San Francisco antiwar march, here's how AP describes the Obama crowd size: "Event organizers said the crowd reached 12,000." Funny how the word of "event organizers" is taken as good coin at a political rally, but not at an antiwar rally, isn't it?

That was all an aside; the real point of this post was to discuss Obama's "antiwar" credentials. Here's what he had to say:

"I am proud of the fact that I opposed this war from the start. In 2002, I said this was a bad idea. It's going to cost us millions of dollars and thousands of lives. We don't have a strategy for getting out."
Notice anything missing? Sure you do, you're a reader of this blog. Not a word about the war actually being wrong, or illegal, or, given his tendency towards religiosity, immoral. And, I should note, no word of noticing, like I suspect many or most of us did, that the supposed "threat" from Iraq was complete nonsense from the start, even if they had had weapons of mass destruction.

Launching unprovoked attacks against another country? No problem for Obama. Just as long as it can be done without costing millions of dollars or thousands of lives. Watch for more invasions of countries like Panama, Grenada, and Haiti under "antiwar" President Obama.


YouTube of the Day

I'm no fan of Barbara Walters; something about her style of questioning really bugs me. But, having had this interview she conducted last Friday night with Hugo Chavez recommended to me, I hereby recommend it to you. Good stuff. And very good that it was broadcast on one of the most popular shows (I think) on American TV, 20/20.


March on the Pentagon - Cindy Sheehan


March on the Pentagon - The Soldiers Speak

C-SPAN video from Saturday's March on the Pentagon, featuring antiwar soldiers Jonathan Hutto, Liam Madden, Darrell Anderson, and Garett Reppenhagen:


Stop the War March in San Francisco

I've posted local TV coverage of the San Francisco march, which was pretty good (the TV coverage; the march was excellent), on YouTube. Here's the coverage from two channels, 7 and 5 (ABC and CBS):

And the coverage from Ch. 2 and 3 (FOX and NBC).

As good as the TV coverage here, print coverage was absolutely scurrilous. It started with the New York Times coverage of the March on the Pentagon, which talks about how the march was smaller than the one on Jan. 27. It was. What the Times "neglects" to mention is that the Northeast experienced a major storm, with more than 2000 flights cancelled across the nation. At least 67 buses headed for the march were cancelled due to the weather. Just a minor detail that the Times, centered in snowbound New York, "forgot" to mention while belittling the march.

Ah, but the San Francisco Chronicle did them one better. March organizers claim 40,000 attended, and one of the news channels above describes it as "the largest march in San Franciso since the war started" (I'd have to search my memory banks, but that's probably true). The march, which was very dense, took 50 minutes to pass the money collectors. And with those facts in hand, the Chronicle makes the beyond ludicrous claim that there were 3,000 people in attendance! Not only that, they claim a speaker told the crowd it was 3,000 strong, which is an absolute lie! Of course it's true that when the very first speaker spoke at the starting rally, and when the very last speaker spoke at the ending rally, smaller numbers of people were present, as people arrived and trickled away. But when the march walked down Market Street through the center of San Francisco, there were an order of magnitude more people present.

The article also claims that "protest organizers told police to expect 3,000 to 5,000 marchers," which is also an absolute lie. I know the organizers, and I know they were predicting 30,000 people; they would hardly apply for a permit for 3,000. Indeed, if that few people had been expected, they would have applied for a permit for a smaller venue, because 3,000 people at Justin Herman Plaza (where the march started) and the Civic Center Plaza (where it ended) looks tiny, and very bad; there are other venues in San Francisco far more appropriate (and where some previous events have been held) if you're expecting 3,000 people.

Here's an email link for the editor (Phil Bronstein) if you want to give him a piece of your mind.

We're all used to the media undercounting by factors of two or three, and of using generic descriptions like "thousands" when there were really tens or even hundreds of thousands. But providing a specific estimate which is off by an order of magnitude is completely beyond the pale. But right now, the media as part of the ruling class of the United States, wants very much to funnel people into "respectable" channels like supporting "antiwar" candidates like Obama or Clinton, and not into independent channels like the antiwar movement. Anything but that.

Update: AP echoes the ludicrous "3,000" estimate for San Francisco, and even though I wasn't in New York, I feel confident that their estimate of "well over 1,000" in New York is equally ludicrous. Unless you're very generous with what you mean by "well over."

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Cynthia McKinney at the March on the Pentagon

The first of probably several speeches from today's March on the Pentagon that I'll upload as I have time (but not until tomorrow at the earliest; I've got to get ready for tomorrow's march in San Francisco):

The crowd shots in the video don't look that impressive; it's clear that a lot of people left after the march thanks to the below freezing temperatures and high winds. This shot, taken from the Los Angeles Times coverage, gives a better feel for the impressive march as it crosses the bridge over the Potomac on the way to the Pentagon:


Today's thought on mass demonstrations

Polls can show the breadth of opposition to the war, but not the depth. Events at which a hundred or two hundred people get arrested for sitting in or lying down can demonstrate the depth of opposition, but only on behalf of small numbers of people, since, at least at this conjuncture, the likelihood of getting thousands or tens or hundreds of thousands of people to break the law and risk arrest are nil. Only mass demonstrations can demonstrate the depth of opposition to the war on the part of large numbers of people.


Dept. of "Don't we wish"

In a reaction to the indictment of three New York police officers in the cold-blooded murder of Sean Bell, Michael Palladino, the president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, said today, "These indictments will have a chilling effect." Don't we wish, Mr. Palladino, don't we wish.


The "rules" of engagement

Here's my previous description of the U.S. "rules" of engagement in Iraq:
If the U.S. military even thinks that a suspected enemy fighter is inside a building, they consider that they have the right to simply destroy that building, without even asking the question of who might be inside, much less actually attempting to find out. This is because the slightest risk to the life of one American soldier is evidently considered to outweigh a much more concrete risk to almost any number of innocent civilians.
As it turns out, that wasn't quite right. A British court has now confirmed that precisely those same "rules" apply in the case of coalition soldiers as well:
A British coroner investigating the friendly-fire killing of a British soldier by a U.S. warplane during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ruled Friday that the death was a "criminal" act.

"I don't think this was a case of honest mistake," said Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker, concluding his probe into the death of Lance Cpl. Matty Hull, 25. Walker, who had earlier blasted an "appalling" lack of cooperation from the U.S. military, said he believed the pilots who fired on Hull's convoy did not take steps they "could easily have taken" to identify their target.

In his ruling Friday, Walker concluded that the pilots "broke with the combat rules of engagement in failing to properly identify the vehicles and seek clearance before opening fire."
Needless to say, the U.S. commitment to the "rule of law" didn't extend to actually cooperating in this investigation. Quite the contrary.

Friday, March 16, 2007


C-SPAN to broadcast Saturday's March on the Pentagon

From C-SPAN's front page:

Of course this is just a Tivo alert - you should be at the demo, or at a demo in your nearest city, not watching TV at 2 pm Eastern/11 am Pacific. For those who are going to tape this, like me, the C-SPAN schedule lists its duration as 2 1/2 hours, but the next scheduled program isn't until 4 hours later.

And here's a long article in today's Washington Post on tomorrow's demo.

On the subject of demonstrations, I read a long post recently on another blog, and listened to a long discussion on radio, about how they "don't do any good." I was going to write a long post on the subject, but I don't have time. Instead, I'll just pose a simple question: imagine what it would be like if there were no demonstrations? Do you really think the politicians in Washington would treat the opposition to the war nearly as seriously if all we ever did was stay home and write letters to our Congresspeople? Well, perhaps you do. I sure don't. Just think of the commentary on all the TV talk shows if there were no demonstrations this weekend. They may not have much (or anything) to say about the demonstrations that are going to occur, but you can bet they'd be pronouncing the death of antiwar sentiment in this country if there weren't any demos.

Stand up. Speak out. Just say NO!


Demonstrate this weekend - Stop the War Now!

Just a reminder - demonstrations this weekend. Be there!

Note: This item will stay at the top through the weekend, so look below for newer posted items.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


History lesson of the day

"The grant of the foregoing Article [regarding the leasing of Guantanamo] shall include the right to use and occupy the waters adjacent to said areas of land and water, and to improve and deepen the entrances thereto and the anchorages therein, and generally to do any and all things necessary to fit the premises for use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose."

- Article II of the Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval stations; February 23, 1903.
Anyone think the U.S. has been abiding by this treaty?

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has prepared a long treatise on why the U.S. must and why the U.S. should abandon Guantanamo. But really, do you need to know much more than what's above? And, given its legal advantages to a government intent on avoiding being subject to the law in its treatment of alleged "terrorists," do you really think the U.S. cares a fig about any of this?


Minds exploding all over the United States

It's "general knowledge" in the United States that "there are no elections in Cuba," or, for those who recognize that there are perhaps local elections, that "Fidel isn't elected." Sadly for those so misinformed, the AP of all sources comes along today to set things straight (not to mention disappointing those who have been holding their breath until Fidel dies):
Fidel Castro will be in "perfect shape" to run for re-election to parliament next spring, the first step toward securing yet another term as Cuba's president, National Assembly head Ricardo Alarcon said Thursday.

"I would nominate him," said Alarcon, the highest-ranking member of parliament. "I'm sure he will be in perfect shape to continue handling his responsibilities."

A lengthy process of nominating candidates for municipal elections will begin this summer, leading to several rounds of voting. Then, by March 2008, Cuba should be ready to hold parliamentary elections that are expected to include Castro, Alarcon said.
For a far more complete discussion of the question of democracy in Cuba, and how it compares to democracy in the United States, this article is a great resource.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


You can't handle the truth

The Israel and U.S. delegations walked out of the United Nations' disarmament forum in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday after Iran said Israel was the "real source of nuclear danger in the Middle East" and had a "dark record of crimes."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the Conference on Disarmament that Israel's nuclear weapons posed a "uniquely grave threat to regional and international peace and security" requiring action by the international community.

A U.S. spokeswoman in Geneva confirmed the walk-out and called Mottaki's remarks "outrageous and divisive" at a time the forum was trying to find common ground on global arms issues. (Source)
Yes, how "outrageous" to take note of the face that the only country in the region which possesses nuclear weapons (and not just a few, but hundreds) is also a country which has repeatedly launched attacks on neighboring countries, and continues to occupy not only Palestinian land but Syrian as well (and parts of Lebanon? not sure). Yeah, wouldn't want to stick around to face that truth, while you're trying to convince the world that it's Iran, who possesses no nuclear weapons and has attacked no one, who needs to be sanctioned.


Patti Smith, rock goddess

I mention Patti Smith a lot on this blog, as long-time readers may have noticed. This week she finally and deservedly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For some reason the ceremony, which has been broadcast in past years, wasn't this year (maybe it will be in the future after editing), but you can watch all the awardees and their performances here (you occasionally have to put up with 30-second ads; just click the "mute" button and do something else). Make sure to watch Patti's introduction by Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, along with (if you're a fan like me) the three performance she does - Gimme' Shelter, Because the Night, and Rock 'n' Roll Nigger, and don't miss the "all-star" performance of People Have the Power with Michael Stipe, Sammy Hagar, Ronnie Spector, Eddie Vedder, Keith Richards, and more.

Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

And here's one of many performances of "Gloria" that's online, along with links to dozens of other Patti Smith performances. And finally, a link to a review of Patti's upcoming album, "Twelve."

The people have the power!


George Bush returns from Latin America

"Make way! The President is returning from his trip with tremendous post-traumatic stress!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007


More history lessons from Hugo Chavez

A few transcriptions from Hugo Chavez' speech in Argentina:
"It was 1916 when the North American empire had thrown itself on our America. At that time, sadly enough, the prophecy of Simon Bolivar came to pass, when he said, 100 years before, in 1818 or 1820, Simon Bolivar said, 'The United States of North America appear to be destined by Providence to spread misery and poverty throughout Latin America.' Simon Bolivar said that when one could only see the first signs of the North American empire."

"I referred to Pancho Villa. We need to say, as Eduardo Galleano wrote, remembering the fire of that episode when in 1916 Pancho Villa invaded the United States, but now all of us would be with him in that revolutionary group of cavalry, Galleano said about that day, 'On that day, the rain fell upward.' And I say today, 'The rain falls upward.' Why? Because we are turning the world on its head. We are showing that a new world can be born. We are seeing how the wind of change is blowing."

"Thomas Jefferson himself said, another of the founding fathers of that nation, Thomas Jefferson said very clearly, "The United States should swallow up one by one the republics born South of the Rio Grande." It was in 1823 that James Monroe said, "America for the Americans." And when I say this tonight, I say it because I want to remind you my brothers of Argentina, of Venezuela, and of America, that the presence of the President of the United States in South America represents all of that, he represents that Monroe Doctrine of 'America for the Americans.' Well, we will have to tell him, 'North America for the North Americans, and South America for the South Americans. This is our America.'"


Hypocrites on parade

Gen. Peter Pace (post below) thinks that homosexuality is immoral and should bar one from serving openly in the military. I wonder if he's given any thought to the immorality of launching unprovoked wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and being responsible for the deaths of three-quarters of a million people?

George Bush said today that "The United States respects the rule of law." I wonder how that squares with his illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Needless to say Bush was talking about immigration into the U.S., not about foreign policy.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Gen. Pace comes out of the closet

...as a bigot:
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday he considers homosexuality to be immoral and the military should not condone it by allowing gay soldiers to serve openly, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace likened homosexuality to adultery, which he said was also immoral, the newspaper reported on its Web site.

"I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way," Pace told the newspaper in a wide-ranging interview.
Strangely enough, however, Gen. Pace does not advocate expelling adulterers, premarital cohabiters, or other "immoral" people from the military (indeed, one might speculate, based on the experience of Congress, that getting rid of adulterers from the military might remove a good portion of the military's leadership). Actually quite the contrary; the military has lowered its standards and doubled the number of "moral waivers" being granted to felons, drug users, and others.

Anyone taking bets on Peter Pace "pulling a Gingrich" - revealing a few years from now that at the same time he was making these statements, he was committing adultery? Or even "pulling a Haggard" - revealing that he's been carrying on an affair with a gay prostitute (but he's "not gay," oh no)? Well, I'm not betting on either one, but one thing is for certain - the military, and the planet, could do without bigots like Gen. Peter Pace.


Israel's "right to exist"

It's been said before, but rarely said more clearly, than in this response by Saree Makdisi to a Los Angeles Times editorial. This is just the lead-in:
Consider, for example, the editorial in The Times on Feb. 9 demanding that the Palestinians "recognize Israel" and its "right to exist." This is a common enough sentiment — even a cliche. Yet many observers...have pointed out that this proposition, assiduously propagated by Israel's advocates and uncritically reiterated by American politicians and journalists, is — at best — utterly nonsensical.
Read the rest for the explanation of that claim.


Washington and Bolivar

A few days ago, "Jorge W." compared George Washington and Simon Bolivar. In Friday's rally in Argentina, Hugo Chavez gives Bush a history lesson on the validity of that comparison.

The clip above also gives a good feeling for the rally itself. Which is partially the result of having a revolutionary media organization like Telesur, which was responsible for making this footage and for making it available to organizations like C-SPAN.

Some stills:

You do have to love C-SPAN for broadcasting it. When's the last time you saw the words "Anti-Imperialist Protest Rally" on TV?

Update: The complete audio for the C-SPAN broadcast (43 minutes out of a 2-hour speech).


Bush as dunce

In the post below this one, Hugo Chavez is quoted as saying, "[Bush is] the president with the lowest intellectual level in the history of the United States." Perhaps you thought that was hyperbole or just an insult. As it happens, it's a scientifically determined fact:
George W. Bush has the lowest IQ of the 12 US presidents over the past 60 years, states a report published by the Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

To come up with their ranking the think tank used two basic criteria: Writings that the presidents produced without aid of staff and their ability to speak with clarity.

Bill Clinton scored highest on the intelligence rating with 182 points followed by James Carter with 175. Bush finished last with 91 points.

The Lovenstein Institute explained that Bush’s low score was due to his difficulty in expressing himself, his limited vocabulary (6,500 works compared to 11,000 of other presidents) and his lack of scholarly achievements other than a basic MBA.

Following Clinton and Carter in the intelligence ranking were: John Kennedy (174 points), Ricard Nixon (155), Franklin Roosevelt (147), Harry Truman (132), Lyndon Johnson (126), Dwight Eisenhower (122), Gerald Ford (121), Ronald Reagan (105), and George Bush Sr. (98).

(Taken from eluniverso.com from Ecuador)
While these are probably good relative numbers, I do doubt, by the way, that they are actual IQs; they're much too high.

Also, I do need to point out the obvious - the ability of a President to carry out the mission of imperialism has nothing to do with his personal IQ.

Update: A commenter points out that Snopes identifies this story as an old hoax. I'll take that as true. However, whether or not the "Lovenstein Institute" is a fiction, I'll stand behind the hoaxers claims.

Interestingly, one of Snopes' "proofs" that this is a hoax is that all the Democrats rank above all the Republicans except Nixon. Well, it's well-known that I'm no supporter of the Democrats, but it is a fact that the intellect of recent Democratic Presidents has towered over such mental midgets as Bush, Bush, and Reagan.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


The Chavez tour

Some selected quotes (direct and indirect) from Hugo Chavez's tour of Latin America, from here and here:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on the United States Friday to exchange its nuclear aircraft carriers and assault troops for doctors to save lives around the globe.
"It appears that after seven years Bush has discovered there is poverty in Latin America. If he wants to contribute to ending it, well then, he should pardon the foreign debt and eliminate the US free trade policies."
"If you truly want social justice in the world, order the immediate withdrawal of the troops from Iraq. Use that gigantic [military] budget for investments in food and health."
"We are going to produce food for the vehicles of … the North — what a ridiculous thing!" Chavez said of the U.S.-Brazilian biofuels partnership announced during the Bush stop in Brazil. "They want to substitute the production of foodstuffs to sustain the 'American Way of Life.'"
[Bush is] "the president with the lowest intellectual level in the history of the United States."


This is your planet

Douglas Iris (Click to enlarge)

Just one more reason why the planet has to be saved from destruction, and one more thing that everyone in the world should, and could, but doesn't, have the opportunity to appreciate.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Surprise supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution

Who knew?
"You know, not far from the White House is a statue of the great liberator, Simon Bolivar. He's often compared to George Washington -- Jorge W. (Laughter.) Like Washington, he was a general who fought for the right of his people to govern themselves. Like Washington, he succeeded in defeating a much stronger colonial power, and like Washington, he belongs to all of us who love liberty. One Latin American diplomat put it this way: "Neither Washington, nor Bolivar was destined to have children of their own, so that we Americans might call ourselves their children."

"We are the sons and daughters of this struggle, and it is our mission to complete the revolution they began on our two continents. The millions across our hemisphere who every day suffer the degradations of poverty and hunger have a right to be impatient. And I'm going to make them this pledge: The goal of this great country, the goal of a country full of generous people, is an Americas where the dignity of every person is respected, where all find room at the table, and where opportunity reaches into every village and every home. By extending the blessings of liberty to the least among us, we will fulfill the destiny of this new world and set a shining example for others."

- President "Jorge" Bush
Perhaps "Jorge W." ought to start working on that revolution to alleviate the degradations of poverty not in "the Americas," but right across the river from the White House where, among other things, a young black child died this week from a toothache. And, while he's learning lessons from Bolivar, perhaps he should consider that people who won't give up until they've expelled occupying forces aren't limited to Latin America, but exist elsewhere as well. Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Palestine come to mind.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


One man's terrorist..., Part II

How easy it is to turn someone into a "terrorist." Sometimes all it takes is a memo from the boss, as this excerpt from an article about the sale of The New Republic to Canada's largest media conglomerate, CanWest, who also recently purchased the Montreal Gazette, indicates:
Charles Shannon, a copy editor at the Gazette, the only daily serving Montreal's 1 million Anglophone readers, says, "One definite edict that came down was that there should be no criticism of Israel. And by that I mean not even a mild rapping of the wrist." Shannon says he was instructed to change Reuters copy to reflect CanWest's position. "The message that was passed down to the copy desk was to change 'militant' to 'terrorist' when talking about armed Palestinians," he says. "It was a political change."


Left I at the Movies: "How Cuba Survived Peak Oil"

In the early 1990's, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc nations dealt what could have been a fatal blow to the Cuban economy. From 1989 to 1992, Cuba experienced a 34% decline in its GDP. Its exports and imports dropped by 80%, and its oil imports dropped by more than half, as the Soviet Union unilaterally voided existing agreements. Thus began the "Special Period in Peacetime" in Cuba.

In "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil," the filmmakers combine footage of life in Cuba with interviews with a variety of Cubans and others to explore how Cuba dealt with a situation which, while not a "real" "peak oil" situation, effectively became one for Cubans, as they adjusted to life with fewer energy resources than they were used to.

The scope of the Cuban response, and the film's coverage of the response, covers a wide swath: agriculture, education, health, transportation, housing, and energy alternatives. Agriculture gets the most focus, as the film discusses how Cuba shifted almost completely (80%) to organic farming, with its use of pesticides dropping from 21,000 tons in the 80's to less than 1,000 tons now. A massive campaign to use every available plot of land for urban gardening lead to today's Cuba, where more than 50% of the total vegetable needs for the 2.2 million Havana residents is supplied by urban agriculture, with smaller cities and towns reaching 80-100%, thus removing the need to transport food over long distances and cutting fuel usage.

In every area, Cuba worked to reduce its consumption of non-renewable fuels - more solar panels, more public transportation, widespread installation of energy efficient appliances and fluorescent lightbulbs (those last two items aren't actually in the film), and on and on. Scientists brought their energies to bear on every aspect of the problem. In this, Cuba was aided by its previous decades of emphasis on education - Cuba has only 2% of the population of Latin America, but 11% of its scientists.

But above all, the changes were made possible by a new attitude towards consumption, epitomized by this quote from Roberto Pérez, one of many Cubans who appear in the film: "If we don't take care of the earth, earth will take care of us...and get rid of us." The film does a remarkable, and inspiring, job, of showing why and how this is possible.

The film's weakness is indicated by the title of the film - "The Power of Community." The Cuba Program Manager of the organization (The Community Solution) which made the film, Pat Murphy, is quoted in the film describing the goal of the film as answering this question, "What is it in the Cuban people and the Cuban culture that allowed them to go through this very difficult time?," and the website of the organization tells us that "small communities offer the best solution to "Peak Oil," the end of fossil fuels." And, while this is certainly part of the answer, and one which is shown by the film, its only a partial answer. Because it wasn't just "the Cuban people and the Cuban culture" which was responsible for organizing and implementing the response to the crisis, but the Cuban government, quite likely the only government in the world which could have done so.

Although the role of the Cuban government does occasionally come up in the movie (e.g., "the government imported 1.3 million bicycles from China"), a viewer who isn't familiar with Cuba might get the impression, for example, that communities all over Cuba just spontaneously decided to take similar steps towards solving the energy shortage problem. In fact, programs such as the urban gardening program, while implemented on a local scale, were initiated and organized and motivated on a national scale by the government, as was everything else the film shows. All of the experts shown describing how they created and implemented solutions to the problems work for government agencies and companies, but again that's totally unclear to the uninformed viewer, who might assume that "Cuba Solar" is some kind of private company. It's not.

The word "Socialism" is never mentioned in this film. The "Community Solution" people don't seem to realize that at the heart of "Socialism" is the word "social" - Socialism is the ultimate "community solution." That the solutions shown in the film will never happen under capitalism is actually encapsulated in this quote from Bruno Enriquez, an energy analyst for Cuba Solar:
"If I'm in Cuba, I say, 'people we have problems, we must turn off all the lights that we are not using,' and everybody said, 'ok, we are going to turn off.' But if I say, in United States, 'people we must turn off all the lights, because we need...,' everybody say, 'Why? If I pay?'"
Enriquez is right about what happens in the United States, but he leaves out one aspect of the not-so-hypothetical answer (one that came up explicitly during recent debates over banning the sale of incandescent lightbulbs) - "freedom." The anti-social(ist) American would also say, "Nothing should infringe on my 'freedom' to leave the lights on (or use an incandescent lightbulb or drive a Hummer) if I want." And here's what I think about that: everyone knows the classic definition of the limits of freedom - you don't have the freedom to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater. But here's the thing - we live in the equivalent of a crowded theater, and leaving the lights on (or whatever other behavior you choose) is the equivalent of shouting "Fire!" The metaphorical stampede might not trample the people who are alive today, but it may well kill their children, or their children's children, just as surely as if they were right there in the theater.

Socialism is the only possible future for humanity that can deal with these problems, a "social" or "community" solution in which we recognize that we are all in the same crowded theater (or the same boat, to use a more standard metaphor), and we have to work together for the good of all. Capitalist solutions cannot solve the fundamental problem - the Tragedy of the Commons. Cuba has been showing the way to that future for nearly 50 years, but even more so during the last 15 as they adapted to a situation that will face the entire planet before too long.

"How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" is a must-see film. You can purchase your own copy here.


One man's terrorist...

...is another man's (or woman's) peaceful protester. Israel (as well as the U.S. and Britain) is quick to fling the word "terrorist" at anyone who opposes its policies. On an almost daily basis, it backs up such accusations with indefinite arrests and murder.

How seriously we should take such accusations is indicated by this article about Sheik Raed Salah, the latest person branded a "terrorist" and even a "ticking time bomb" (and you know what that means...torture is justified). And what crime as Sheik Salah committed? Why, he's leading a peaceful protest against Israel's building of a ramp which he and other Palestinians believe might undermine the foundations of the Al Aqsa Mosque. Oh, and he was once accused of raising funds for Hamas, but the case was so flimsy even Israel dropped the charges. That's your "terrorist" who newspapers across the United States have branded a "ticking time bomb."

By the way, why do the headlines scream "ticking time bomb"? Because a single right-wing Israeli lawmaker used that term to describe him. Funny, I don't remember seeing any headlines reading "John Edwards, faggot" because one right-wing nutjob used that term to describe him.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Plamegate: the "underlying crime"

Dave Lindorff does a good job today reminding us that the "underlying crime" of "Plamegate" was not the exposure of a covert CIA agent, but forging documents and knowingly using forged documents and other bogus data to help furnish a motivation to launch an illegal war (and then of course launching that illegal war and committing countless other war crimes in the process of conducting it). Those are the crimes, crimes which have led to the deaths of three-quarters of a million people (and other costs as well, obviously) that need to be exposed and prosecuted, not "who leaked Valerie Plame's name."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


The war at home

Armies and helicopters going after defenseless people - it's not just a scene from Iraq or Afghanistan:
An army of 300 federal immigration agents raided a New Bedford leather manufacturer today and arrested the company's owner and three managers on charges that they hired illegal workers to meet labor demands fueled by millions of dollars in contracts with the US military.

During the early morning blitz, agents also took into custody up to 350 employees who had been working at Michael Bianco Inc., a waterfront factory that employs about 500 people, predominantly immigrants from Guatemala and El Salvador. Some employees fled when agents stormed the building, and helicopters hovered overhead to alert authorities of escape routes.
This is a scene that is now being repeated all over the country. To the delight of some capitalists, however, their low-paid immigrant labor is now being replaced in some cases by even lower-paid (60 cents an hour!) inmate labor.


Beyond belief and without comment

The New York Police Department has been going fishing. Not content to nab criminals when they break the law on their own, the department has been planting unattended bags in subway stations to see who might take them, at which point waiting officers pounce.
Read the complete story here (hat tip to Tom Tomorrow).


Capitalism kills

Another tragic episode in a long-running series:
Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Fewer than 16 percent of Maryland's Medicaid children received restorative services -- such as filling cavities -- in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Will it come as a surprise to you that Deamonte Driver is black? No, I'm sure it won't, although there are plenty of poor white people suffering equally from the lack of health care in this country. Scratch that. The health care is available. It's just not available to everyone. Only to those who can pay. Because that is, after all, the guiding principle of capitalism.

How could things be different? Here's the very first link that came up when I Googled "Dental care in Cuba":

Although Cuba’s ability to provide technologically advanced therapies has been hampered by a 40-year U.S. trade embargo, I can report that the nation has developed some surprisingly effective approaches to preventive care.

For example, the percentage of caries-free five-year-old Cuban children increased from 30 percent in 1984 to 55 percent in 1998, according to the World Health Organization. And between 1973 and 1999, the mean number of carious teeth in 12-year-old Cuban children dropped from 6.0 to 1.4. There have been achievements in adult oral health as well, including oral cancer screenings for 71 percent of adults over age 60.

Preventive efforts center on a network of primary care clinics throughout this island nation, where 9,877 dentists serve 11 million people (a ratio of approximately 1:1,100). The clinics care for an average of 700 to 900 local residents from cradle to grave. They provide annual dental examinations for all Cubans (twice annually for those under four years old or over 60), pre- and postnatal infant oral health instruction, and 16 annual fluoride mouth rinse treatments for all school-age children.
(Hat tip to Politics in the Zeroes)


Democrats: even worse than I thought!

OK, maybe not. Maybe just worse than you thought. Or maybe not that either. The Washington Post reports:
Senior House Democrats, seeking to placate members of their party from Republican-leaning districts, are pushing a plan that would place restrictions on President Bush's ability to wage the war in Iraq but would allow him to waive them if he publicly justifies his position.

The new plan would demand that Bush certify that combat troops meet the military's own standards of readiness, which are routinely ignored. The president could then waive such certifications if doing so is in "the national interest."
And you know Bush will treat that waiver with the utmost of seriousness. For an example of what I mean by that, Prensa Latina reports this story out of Geneva:
Cuba termed ridiculous the US government s justification to maintain its economic, financial and trade blockade against the Caribbean island, "due to national security reasons."

In an informal meeting of the Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) Negotiation in the Swiss capital, the...Havana representative termed "laughable" and without "the least bit of credibility" the national security pretext to perpetuate the White House economic siege.
An isolated incident? Hardly. The U.S. invoked "national security" stemming from the "threat" from the Sandinista government of Nicaragua to justify its policies there as well, and its safe to say that if Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, or Cuba, is a "national security" threat to the United States, then surely any any "restrictions" imposed on Bush by Congress will be just as "laughable," since the alleged threats to "national security" will be even greater.

But wait, there's more, as they say in the TV ads for Ginsu knives. Because it's not just the Democrats who are laughable, but "antiwar" groups as well:

After a conference call yesterday, antiwar and labor groups all but gave up on Murtha's approach, concluding they could only support a war-funding "supplemental" bill if it contains a deadline for withdrawing troops.

Participants -- including the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org, Win Without War and the Iraq veterans group VoteVets -- insisted there would be more support for a straightforward approach to ending the war than the roundabout efforts Murtha champions.

"A timeline will make a vote for the supplemental a vote to end the war and a vote against it a vote for war without end," said Tom Matzzie, Washington director of MoveOn.org Political Action.
A vote for more war is a vote to end the war, and a vote against spending more money for war is a vote for war! The Mad Hatter would be so proud.

And just as a final note of irony, MoveOn.org is routinely described on various cable talking heads shows, and I'm not just referring to shows on Fox, as an "extreme left-wing" group.



The "Mega Millions" lottery jackpot is up to $355 million. The San Jose Mercury News provides this helpful comparison about what you can use the money for if you win (on its front page!):It's not the usual comparison about what the money being spent on war could be used for (schools, housing, health care, etc.), but it certainly brings home the message!

Monday, March 05, 2007


Anti-gay bigotry is not "cute"

[Updated; see below]

I've heard all sorts of mild rebukes of Ann Coulter's anti-gay comment directed at John Edwards. Various politicians label her comments as "inappropriate" or similar mild words. Fox News (naturally) even goes so far as to allow her to "fire back" at her "critics":

"'Faggot isn't offensive to gays; it has nothing to do with gays," Coulter said on "Hannity and Colmes" Monday night. "It's a schoolyard taunt meaning 'wuss,' and unless you're telling me that John Edwards is gay, it was not applied to a gay person."
Coulter, and anyone else who thinks her remarks were merely "offensive," should try reading today's news:
Police issued arrest warrants Monday for two men accused of attacking members of an all-male singing group from Yale University.

Richard Aicardi and Brian Dwyer were charged with assaulting two members of the 16-member Baker's Dozen a cappella group outside a New Year's Eve party in San Francisco. Witnesses at the time said the trouble started after the vocalists sang "The Star Spangled Banner."

The victims said the attackers hurled anti-gay epithets before the first punch was thrown.

Aicardi was charged with two counts of felony assault by means of force and one count of battery, charges that carry a maximum penalty of eight years in prison. Dwyer, who was charged with one count of assault and one count of battery, would face a maximum prison sentence of seven years if convicted, according to Harris.
For those who don't know the story, these were serious attacks (as you can tell from the charges which are being brought), in which a large gang of thugs beat up these singers, causing serious damage to several of them (fortunately no deaths), all because their singing was "so gay." There's no particular evidence that any of the singers were gay, or that they weren't gay for that matter. But they were beaten, some of them to within an inch of their lives, because the attackers thought they were "acting gay." You know, "faggots."

Anti-gay prejudice, whether it's addressed at gays or straights, is no laughing matter, and it's not just "offensive." It's completely unacceptable behavior with serious, and sometimes deadly, consequences, and those who practice it shouldn't be shown repeatedly on national TV. They, and anyone who treats them seriously, or sells their books, or books them on their TV show, should be shunned. Three major companies have pulled their ads from her website. It's a start, although considering this is far from the first time that Coulter has engaged in vicious hate speech, it's outrageous that any major company would be advertising there in the first place.

Update: I have to add that I find the trend among bloggers and others (even Keith Olbermann last night, just to name one) to refer to Coulter as "mannish" or even a "man," which often come with implicit suggestions that she is a transsexual, are nearly as bad as what Coulter had to say. Coulter's opinions and attitudes and words are wrong, unacceptable, and offensive (in differing proportions) because of what she has to say, not because of what she looks like. Attempting to rebut someone by insulting their appearance is wrong, childish, and ineffective in any case, but when it comes with implicit or even explicit anti-transsexual bigotry, even as a "joke" (remember, that's what Coulter says about her "faggot" comment), it's beyond the pale.


Hypocrite(s) of the day

CNN was raising another specter of fear today - Chinese military spending is due to rise 17.8% this year, to $44.9 billion. CNN had the audacity to quote Dick Cheney's response to this:

What neither Cheney, nor CNN, bothered to point out to viewers, is that U.S. military spending for 2007 is projected to be $626 billion, 14 times as much. And Cheney dares to lecture China, or anyone else, about not being "peaceful." As if it were China, and not the U.S., that had launched major attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia in recent years, not to mention threatening numerous other countries, and carrying out numerous other attacks over the years.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


The touching concern of imperialists

Thomas A. Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, warned Venezuela today that it "cannot afford to drive away the major oil companies" through its takeover of major oil-producing operations. It's not that he's looking after the interests of the corporations, mind you, he's only concerned with what's best for Venezuela:
"Venezuela opened its energy section in the 1990s because it didn't have the capital or the technology to exploit its deep wells and its heavy oil, especially in the Orinoco. If it's the intention of Venezuela to have a top of the line industry, then maintaining partnership with these companies is going to be essential."
Since I'm in a musical mood (see post below), I can't help but offer another song lyric to explain this touching concern:
I'm only thinking of him,
I'm only thinking of him,
Whatever I may do or say;
I'm only thinking of him!
In my body; it's well known,
There is not one selfish bone...
I'm only thinking and worrying about him!

- "I'm Only Thinking of Him," from Man of La Mancha, sung by Antonia, Don Quixote's niece

Friday, March 02, 2007


Stop the War Now!

Given the discussion of whether soldiers' lives have been "wasted," and whether we can or should stop the war "now" as opposed to six months or a year into the future, this much too overlooked antiwar anthem becomes even more relevant:
Stop the war -- now
Don't put it off another day

Make your voices roar
Stop the war -- now

This is about all the soldiers
That are dead and gone today
If you asked them to fight again
Huh, what do you think they’d say

War casualties pile up each day
Cemetaries are overflowing
The leaders of the world claim victory’s near
But the death list keeps right on growing

And what does a mother get in return
For the life of the son she’s lost
A few measly pennies a month
A medal, a grave and a doggone cross

Enough blood’s been shed
By the wounded and the dead

-- Music and lyrics by Edwin Starr
And here's a video I threw together today, featuring this great song (my original notes on it here), coupled with some promotional material for the March 17-18 antiwar marches in DC and San Francisco, together with shots I've taken at antiwar marches in the SF area over the last few years. Enjoy!

Update: An interesting discussion about the history of "War" and "Stop the War Now."


Wood Ducks!

I've been lucky enough to see Wood Ducks, a truly spectacular but extremely shy (and hence elusive) bird, on a handful of occasions. But I've never been lucky enough to have them pose for me...until today (click on the photo for a larger view):

Wood Ducks, photographed along (above) Stevens Creek, Cupertino, CA

Thursday, March 01, 2007


The "wasted lives" kerfuffle

Democrats are criticizing John McCain and Republicans are criticizing Barack Obama for precisely the same thing - saying that the lives of 3,100+ American soldiers who have died in Iraq were "wasted." Obama has "apologized" for using that word, saying he should have said "sacrificed"; McCain likewise says he should have said "sacrificed" but refuses to apologize.

What an absolutely absurd discussion. How on earth does it "denigrate the troops" (the expression that is being used to describe this "mistake") to say their lives were wasted? They weren't the ones who decided to invade Iraq, or who didn't send sufficient body armor or armored troop carriers, or who made countless other bad decisions which have led to their deaths. It surely wasn't a lack of "bravery" which killed them; it was the decisions of their superiors and the politicians (and behind them, the corporations) who sent them to their deaths. Telling the truth about why they died doesn't "denigrate" them, it honors them.

And when it comes to "wasted" lives, let's say that the ones who are already dead are dead, and arguing about whether their lives were "wasted" or just "sacrificed" is mere pedantic semantics. But when it comes to the lives that will be lost tomorrow, or next week, or next month, we leave the realm of semantics. If you acknowledge that the war was a "mistake" (which it really wasn't, it was quite deliberate and intentional policy, but let's leave that aside for the moment and stick with conventional language), and if you acknowledge that it cannot be "won" (again, a bogus word, but let's move on), then for sure any lives which are lost now will be "wasted," no question about it, and putting someone in harm's way with a decent chance of dying, with no significant chance of achieving any "success," that is "denigrating" them - giving their lives so little worth that they can be sacrificed for nothing.

Enough! Stop the war now! Not next year. Not next month. Now!


March on the Pentagon March 17!

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The video is back online, in case you haven't watched it yet:

Now is the time to step up the pressure. Be there.

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