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Thursday, May 31, 2007


Quote of the day

Straight from the horse's ass mouth:
"Do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have."

- Bill O'Reilly, interviewing John McCain
One subtle thing you might miss in this rant. The New York Times is, of course, part of the white male power structure. What O'Reilly doesn't like about it is that he doesn't perceive it as part of the Christian power structure, because, of course, he sees it as controlled by Jews.

I wonder if O'Reilly is in the habit of calling people like me who oppose the actions of the state of Israel "anti-Semitic"? I'll bet he is. A search on "Bill O'Reilly anti-semitic" certainly turns up plenty of hits of him calling all sorts of people anti-Semitic. Pretty funny coming from a self-described member of the "Christian power structure." Although that's really just wishful thinking on his part - Bill O'Reilly is a completely dispensable sycophant and hanger-on of that power structure, or perhaps more accurately a parasite, but not a member.

(Hat tip Crooks and Liars)


More coddling of "good" terrorists

I've written before about the case of Robert Ferro, a case which has received zero national attention despite the fact that Ferro was caught with the largest cache of weapons ever seized in the United States (more than 1,500 firearms including 35 machine guns!), the fact that Ferro is a man who had served two years in prison for the possession of five pounds of C-4 plastic explosive, and despite the fact that he claimed his arsenal was to be used in an attack on Cuba. Evidently that last fact was the critical one.

And now, as with the recent dropping of charges against Luis Posada Carriles, the government has decided that prosecuting "good" terrorists (or even calling them terrorists or charging them as such) isn't a priority. Federal prosecutors originally charged him with only five charges of illegal weapons possession, but last week, they went further and reduced those charges to only one -- possession of 17 firearms and one hand grenade. Ferro was certainly never charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism.

Ferro isn't a special case, however. Oh no. Another huge cache of weapons (dozens of machine guns, rifles, C-4 explosive, dynamite, detonators, a grenade launcher and ammunition) seized in the United States was seized in Miami, from two allies of Posada, Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat. Alvarez and Mitat were sentenced to prison, but are about to have their sentences reduced to time served (about a year). Why? Because they turned over some of their arsenal to the Feds. By the way, Alvarez is the one who smuggled Posada into the United States, a crime even if Posada were a normal illegal immigrant, and a major crime considering Posada is a convicted (in Panama) felon (not to mention a known terrorist). Alvarez has not been charged with any crime in that instance. Hold your shock.



Immigration Reform Letter-Writing

Piolin (Eddie Sotelo) is a Mexican-American radio host who has the largest audience of any morning show in the country. He's one of those who has been responsible for the huge turnouts at immigrant rights rallies in the last two years. A friend has been urging me to tell people about a new (and obviously urgent) campaign he's been pushing to flood Congress with letters on the issue. You can read some discussion here, and/or click on the graphic above to add your voice to the campaign.


More Unfunny Political Humor of the Day

The latest variation of the "surge" - a "surge" in attempting to talk to the resistance:
The U.S. military is working more aggressively to forge cease-fires with Iraqi militants and quell the violence around Baghdad... a top U.S. commander said Thursday.

"We are talking about cease-fires, and maybe signing some things that say they won't conduct operations against the government of Iraq or against coalition forces," Odierno said from Camp Victory in Baghdad.
Leaving what? Just conducting operations against civilians?

That was funny enough. But actually what tickled my funny bone was this:

Odierno said he believes that about 80 percent of the enemy fighters — including key Sunni insurgent groups and Shiite militia — could be brought into the political process [or, are "reconcilable," according to another quote in the article].
Don't you just love statistics? How on earth could you possibly arrive at such a statistic? Naturally, you can't, you pull it out of the same place that the U.S. military seems to be pulling its new "strategy" for "victory." Come to think of it, the word "victory" doesn't appear anywhere in the article, other than the name of the Camp from which Odierno spoke.


Bonus Non-Political Audio Post: Early Elvis!

6:04 p.m. (Pacific) today is a rare (once every 2.7 years) "Blue Moon" (the second full moon in a month), so in honor of that we'll spin a non-political tune for once. The obvious choice might be "Blue Moon." I searched and searched for the hit version by the Marcels, but all I could come up with was the later version by Sha-Na-Na, which achieved fame in the film "Grease," highlighted by Eve Arden's great line, "We have pictures of you so-called mooners." And really, the Sha-Na-Na version, with Bowzer's great super-bass closing "Bluuuuuuuuuue Moooooooooooon" is a classic.

But...I decided instead to reach into the wayback machine and go for a different song - "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again" by Elvis Presley (with able assistance from the Jordanaires), from October, 1956. Interestingly enough, looking for a graphic, I found that the very first song Elvis ever released, in July, 1954, was another Blue Moon song, "Blue Moon of Kentucky." He also recorded "Blue Moon" itself that same month, but it wasn't released until 1956.

Notice the graphic. These were the days when 45s were actually released with cardboard covers with graphics, like miniature LPs. And yes, although I found the picture on the Internet, I've still got my copy sitting in its cover. Although this wasn't Elvis' first RCA record, it's entitled "Elvis Volume I," and the cover informs you that you're listening to "A 'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity Recording," whatever that is. The record is so old the copyright isn't RCA (which itself no longer exists), but "Radio Corporation of America." And here's how it sounds.

And for those who can't appreciate a song without video.




An interesting item in today's paper:
The state Senate Rules Committee voted 3-2 Wednesday in favor of a non-binding resolution that would ask California voters whether President Bush should "end the U.S. occupation of Iraq."
But here's the interesting part:
The bill's sponsor, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said the public needs a voice through Democratic means, or else frustration could spill into the streets, as it did during the Vietnam War.
Yeah, we wouldn't want that. People in the streets, feeling their own power, instead of relying on politicians.

Don't get me wrong, I not only like the idea of referenda like this, I think they're an excellent organizing tool. They provide a great potential opportunity for continuous (for a period of weeks or months, anyway) antiwar organizing and agitating - organizing meetings, passing out leaflets, etc. They aren't counterposed to demonstrations in any way, but rather perfectly complementary. But it's an interesting peek into the mind of a politician that Don Perata thinks otherwise.

Update: It didn't hit me on first reading, but I just noticed the upper-case "D" in "Democratic." Quite the interesting Freudian slip!

Update 2: A reminder of my own proposal for a California referendum, on the subject of the National Guard, from 2005 (but still perfectly valid should anyone want to take up the fight).


Unfunny Political Humor of the Day

British and U.S. forces are, quite naturally, searching Baghdad, and particularly Sadr City, for the five Britons kidnapped yesterday. The picture at left is one result of that "search." Here's the account from the victim:
One furious resident, a 28-year-old police officer, said U.S. soldiers crashed an armored vehicle into his home about 2 a.m., handcuffed and blindfolded those inside and pointed lasers at their chests.

"They were hitting us, asking, 'Where are the kidnapped British?' " said Ahmed Jizani. "I told them that we are five brothers in the police force. How could we do that? They said, 'OK, then tell us where are they?' "

Local television showed video of the man's home, a collapsed outside wall and piles of rubble.
And here comes the punch line (perhaps in this case that phrase should be taken literally) to this "joke," courtesy of the U.S. military:
Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, said he could not immediately confirm or deny the man's allegations. But, he said, U.S. forces "tend not to take that heavy-handed an approach."


Audio Post of the Day: Fortunate Son

"Fortunate Son" is a 1969 song by Creedence Clearwater Revival, from their album "Willy and the Poor Boys." As relevant as the theme was back then, with "fortunate sons" like George Bush either avoiding the draft altogether or avoiding being sent to Vietnam, it's even more true today, when it's the rare "fortunate son" indeed who finds himself (or herself) in Iraq or Afghanistan.


Update: A picture (courtesy of WIIIAI) of a couple of "fortunate daughters" who have found better things to do than to fight in the war their father thinks is so vital to the future of the world.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Counting the American dead in Iraq

In the comments a few posts ago, a common misconception came up - that the U.S. tries to undercount deaths in Iraq by not counting people who die in the United States after being returned with a wound. It's simply not true, as an incident currently being reported in the local news indicates. Here's the raw data straight from the U.S. military. And here's death number 96 for this month: Spc. Mark R. C. Caguioa of Stockton, California. Died May 24 at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., of wounds suffered on May 4 in Baghdad, Iraq, when the vehicle he was in struck an IED.

As I wrote in the comments the other day, there certainly are Americans who die as a result of the invasion of Iraq who are not counted in the "official" totals. People who commit suicide (or "suicide by cop") after leaving the service. People who kill their spouses after returning from a tour. People who die years later from exposure to depleted uranium or other hazardous substances. Contractors. CIA agents. I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

But people who are wounded in Iraq and then die within some directly-attributable time frame thereafter in a hospital in the U.S. or Germany? Those are counted.


Audio Post of the Day: Super Bird

Lyrics like "Gonna send you back to Texas, make you work on your ranch." References to the Fantastic Four. What's this, a new song about George W. Bush? No, it's 1967, the President is Lyndon Baines Johnson (of "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" fame), and the Fantastic Four were just comic book characters. The song is "Super Bird" by Country Joe and the Fish (of "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" fame) from their album "Electric Music for the Mind and Body."

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, it would seem. Although in truth, things haven't changed very much at all. Only the names.

Have a listen.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Iraqi deaths

I've covered this subject before (I'll skip the link), but today is a good chance for a reminder. In the news today, a car bomb in Baghdad killed 23 people and injured 68 others, while later, a second killed 17 people and wounded 55 others. Will you ever hear what happened to those 123 injured people (or the others who were injured in incidents where the numbers of dead didn't reach double-digits, and weren't even "newsworthy" by the standards of American reporting on Iraq)? Not a chance. Will some, maybe even the majority, die later today in the hospital, or tomorrow, or next week? Quite likely. But according to the Western press (and those such as Iraq Body Count), 40 people died in those two incidents, a number which will never change.

And once again I ask, when will a reporter again ask George Bush how many Iraqis have died of other than natural causes since March 18, 2003? Indeed, when will I even hear a reporter mention on the air (or in print) a number, even an inaccurate low-ball number, of the Iraqi dead?


No child left behind?

International Children's Day was May 27? Did you miss it? In Cuba, they never forget:
"Our children are part of a society that listens to and counts on them, a society that they help build," said Keyla Estevez, the vice president of the Jose Marti Pioneers Organization.
International Children's Day is an outgrowth of something more significant, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guarantees human rights to children. There are just two prominent non-signatories to the Convention. Of course you can guess who one of them is, right? Yes, the United States, naturally (the other is Somalia).


Injured Americans in Iraq - fudging the statistics

May 2007 is now, with three days left to go, the third most deadly month for U.S. forces in Iraq - 115 dead, vs. 137 in November 2004 and 135 in April 2004. But now take a look at the statistics for injured. 1214 in 4/04, and 1431 in 11/04, both significantly higher than the surrounding months which also had fewer deaths. Now flash forward to this month. Just 116 Americans reported wounded this month, and it's not just a matter of delayed reporting of the wounded numbers, because last month, which was also a high death month (104), there were only 634 reported American wounded, half the numbers from the peak death months in 2004.

It seems unlikely that either the resistance in Iraq has become more efficient in terms of the killed/wounded ratio, or that battlefield care has improved that much in that period. More likely, the U.S. military has changed their standards for who they count as wounded (maybe you have to lose a body part to count now), or else they're just fudging the numbers pure and simple (more likely the first of those two explanations is the right one).

Just an observation. For sure the toll of the wounded is a major underreported story in the American media, although its cost (in money and on the lives of the affected people) is huge, larger in many ways than that of the dead.


One more for Memorial Day - Killing Floor

Another hundred dead Iraqis and Americans on Memorial Day - a true "killing floor." Written in 1964 by Howlin' Wolf, Killing Floor may (or may not) have been intended as a song about draft resistance, but the use of the Lyndon Johnson quote at the beginning of this 1968 version by the short-lived group The Electric Flag (from their "A Long Time Comin'" album) made it into one in most people's minds (mine, anyway). Have a listen.


Monday, May 28, 2007


The other "surge"

It's just a subjective feeling I can't document, but it seems to me there has been a significant "surge" of "pro-war" stories in the media in the last few weeks, from interviews with Generals and such in Iraq, to features about happily and successfully recovering soldiers in rehab centers, etc. And I'm not referring to any one channel; I've seen such stories recently across the board - all the networks and all the cable channels. I really doubt it's just coincidence; I'm sure it represents a major push on the part of the U.S. governments P.R. arm to place such stories in the media. Has anyone else noticed the same thing?

Update: I've just finished watching a very long (several minutes) piece (accompanied by melodramatic background music!) on CNN entitled "Saving the Fallen," about medics in Iraq. And the U.S. media is busy complaining about Venezuelan control of the media! Quoting Amy Goodman yet again, "If we had state media in the United States, how would it be any different?"


Cindy Sheehan and the two-party system

Chances are this won't be the first place you'll here that Cindy Sheehan is leaving the Democratic Party. From CounterPunch:
The Camp Casey Peace Institute is calling all citizens who are as disgusted as we are with you all to join us in Philadelphia on July 4th to try and figure a way out of this "two" party system that is bought and paid for by the war machine which has a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives. As for myself, I am leaving the Democratic Party. You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor.
And from Daily Kos:
I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.

...I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."
I don't know if Sheehan has the same thing in mind as I do, but I'm glad she puts "left" in quotes in that second piece, because the idea that the Democratic Underground website or Daily Kos is the "left" (and not the slightly left of center) is clearly wrong.

Anyway, to commemorate this event, here's a song from Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe entitled, "When All Night Long A Chap Remains," which comments on the absurdity of the two-party system. The relevant line, now dated in England thanks to the addition of the Liberal Democrats to the picture since the time the song was written, is this:

I often think it's comical--Fal, lal, la! Fal, lal, la!
How Nature always does contrive--Fal, lal, la, la!
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Followed by this, still quite relevant line (especially if you interpret "leaders" in an expansive sense):
When in that House M.P.'s divide,
If they've a brain and cerebellum, too,
They've got to leave that brain outside,
And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to.
Anyway, enjoy the song, this one is from San Francisco's great G&S group, the Lamplighters.


Sunday, May 27, 2007


Audio Post of the Day: With God on Our Side

A great duet from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, from the album "The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Live 1964," illustrating one of the many methods the ruling class uses to drag the masses behind it into war. Listen and enjoy.


Saturday, May 26, 2007


The U.S.: killing Lebanese, creating enemies - it's deja vu all over again

As it did in last summer's Israeli assault on Lebanon, the U.S. is rushing weapons to the Middle East, this time to the Lebanese Army, to ensure the continued slaughter of Palestinians in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. In the face of a barrage of "dumb" weapons (artillery and the like) on the camp, the Washingon Post has the nerve to make the preposterous assertion that "Estimates of the civilian deaths range from one to more than 10." Oh right. Hey Washington Post, here's an estimate that says 24 civilians are dead. My money's on an order of magnitude more, should the truth ever be told.

And, aside from being "linked" to al Qaeda, what is the horrible terrorist crime committed by these "Islamic militants"? They robbed a bank, a fact you'll be hard-pressed to find in the corporate media.

Plenty of reason for the U.S. to be rushing weapons to the scene, though. Blowback? Count on this being the very definition of the word, months or years hence.


Daily Donovan Double - Universal Soldier/The War Drags On

Buffy Sainte-Marie's 1964 song, Universal Soldier, is one of the most famous antiwar songs, and it fits in with the classic bumper sticker, "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" Sounds great. But the sentiment in the song is wrong. "He's the universal soldier, and he really is to blame," sings Donovan in this 1968 version from his Like It Is (Was, and Evermore Shall Be) album.

But is he [sic]? Think about the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, which proved that ordinary people can be turned into sadistic monsters almost overnight with very little effort. Now think about the effects on the minds of people who have been subjected to a lifelong barrage of pro-war, imperialist, "we're number 1," "we're fighting for democracy" propaganda, and then combine that with the effects of economic forces which provide a powerful impulse for people to join the armed forces, and then tell me "he really is to blame." Sorry, not buying it. It is imperialism, and its ruling class, which is to blame, and only by getting rid of them, and not by laying a guilt trip on the "universal soldier," are we ever going to put an end to war.

Since Universal Soldier is so well-known, I've combined it here with another song from the same album, the plaintive The War Drags On. A sentiment which couldn't be more relevant as the war and occupation of Iraq moves into its fifth year, and the war and occupation of Afghanistan nears the end of its sixth year.

For an alternative listening method, click here.



Bill Maher, Ron Paul, and why the U.S. is targeting Iran

I just finished watched a YouTube clip of Ron Paul talking with Bill Maher. Since they're both libertarians, they get along famously, and happily agree that "Islamic fundamentalists" are targeting the U.S. because of U.S. foreign policy. But curiously missing from the 8-minute-long discussion is the slightest mention of why U.S. foreign policy is what it is. Maher wants to know "why is America so dumb?" Paul seems to object more to the fact that U.S. foreign policy has "blowback" than to the policy itself. But why did the U.S. invade Iraq? Why does the U.S. want to attack Iran? No clue in this discussion. Kind of like starting a discussion on "where babies come from" with a discussion of the embryo, without mentioning how the embryo was created.

Paul, in fact, is a complete hypocrite. He makes a strong statement in this discussion, and on his website, that the U.S. should "stay out of the internal affairs of other nations." That's great, except on his website you'll find him touting the fact that he voted "yes" on keeping the Cuba travel ban until alleged political prisoners in Cuba are released. Apparently he's a little hazy on that "staying out of the internal affairs of other nations" principle.

Why is the U.S. targeting Iran? I won't even attempt to summarize it, but I highly recommend an article in the latest issue of Workers World by Sara Flounders which discusses that question in detail, exploring the course of developments in Iran since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. And while I'm recommending articles, another article from that same issue, entitled "The real reason Wolfowitz is under fire," outlines the role of the World Bank in implementing U.S. foreign policy, and has lots of good information.

Ron Paul, who makes a big point of how he has assigned a reading list to Rudy Giuliani, should read both articles. He might learn something.


U.K. jury: U.S. is committing war crimes in Iraq

Two men broke into an RAF base and attempted to put bolts and screws inside the B-52s' engines and pictures of smiling Iraqi children on the payload doors. Arrested and tried, they pleaded in front of a jury that they were acting to prevent the US air force planes from committing war crimes. Their action was reasonable, they argued, because other means of legitimate protest had failed. They were prevented from arguing that the war itself was illegal, but instead argued that they were acting to prevent potential war crimes against Iraqi civilians, and to prevent criminal damage to Iraqi property.

They were unanimously acquitted.

Warning: do not try this at home if your home happens to be in the United States. Chances of an American jury reaching this conclusion? Slim. Chances you'll be packed off without charges just to rot in jail for a few years like Jose Padilla before they even are forced to bring charges against you? Not so slim.

But a great victory for sure.

(Hat tip Lenin's Tomb)

Friday, May 25, 2007


Man's inhumanity to man...

...is often exceeded by man's inhumanity to non-humans (warning: not for the squeamish):
Endangered, hunted, smuggled and now abandoned, 5,000 of the world's rarest animals have been found drifting in a deserted boat near the coast of China.

The pangolins, Asian giant turtles and lizards were crushed inside crates on a rickety wooden vessel that had lost engine power off Qingzhou island in the southern province of Guangdong. Most were alive, though the cargo also contained 21 bear paws wrapped in newspaper.

A Guangdong chef interviewed last year in the Beijing Science and Technology Daily described how to cook a pangolin.

"We keep them alive in cages until the customer makes an order. Then we hammer them unconscious, cut their throats and drain the blood. It is a slow death. We then boil them to remove the scales. We cut the meat into small pieces and use it to make a number of dishes, including braised meat and soup. Usually the customers take the blood home with them afterwards."


Audio Post of the Memorial Day - Masters of War

A Bob Dylan classic from 1963, this version by Judy Collins (from her excellent 1997 anthology album Forever) is perhaps the most haunting antiwar song ever recorded, all the more powerful because it speaks to all wars, and directly to the causes of wars (i.e., the "masters of war" of the title).



That darned faulty pre-war intelligence

Not so much:
The U.S. intelligence community accurately predicted months before the Iraq war that al-Qaeda would link up with elements from former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime and militant Islamists to conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. forces in that country, according to a report released today by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Two national intelligence assessments sent to the White House and other senior Bush administration policymakers in January 2003 also predicted that al-Qaeda "would try to take advantage of U.S. attention on postwar Iraq to re-establish its presence in Afghanistan," according to the Senate report.

The long-awaited section of the committee's so-called Phase II report, which covers the pre-war intelligence assessments of what conditions would be like after the conflict in Iraq, also said that Iran would seek to influence a post-war Iraq to protect its own security interests and to demonstrate its importance as a regional actor. The assessments also said that "elements" within the Iranian government might aggressively counter the United States in Iraq by using Shiite and Kurdish contacts "to sow dissent against the U.S. presence and complicate the formation of a new, pro-U.S. Iraqi government."

Occupation of Iraq by the United States, "probably would boost proponents of political Islam" and "funds for terrorist groups probably would increase as a result of Muslim outrage over U.S. actions," the assessments predicted.

In the economic field, the analysts predicted that "cuts in electricity or looting of distribution networks would have a cascading disastrous impact" and that large amounts of outside assistance would be needed to provide basic services, such as water and sanitation, in Iraq.
Hey, look over there! New books about Hillary Clinton's sex life! Thank God the pundits have something important to talk about!

I could of course make a joke, as Jay Leno and Jon Stewart may well in reaction to this news item, that the "faulty pre-war intelligence" was the "intelligence" of the President reading these reports. Funny, except you all know that, although I do actually think Bush is pretty much a moron, that his lack of intelligence had nothing whatsoever to do with the "mistake" that was made in invading Iraq, since it wasn't a "mistake" at all.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The hidden air war in Iraq

Everything you wanted to know and more, from (naturally) not the corporate media.


War funding: a math exercise

The bill about to be passed in Congress provides $100 billion for war spending, and is claimed to fund the war "through September." This being the end of May, that's four months, or $25 billion/month. But the average monthly cost of the war in 2006 was just $8.5 billion/month, one-third the amount provided in this bill. Because the war has been escalated since 2006, some increase might be expected, let's say to $10 billion/month. Based on that, the $100 billion will fund the war not for four more months, but for ten more months. The "funding the war through September" would appear to be a cover story being offered by Democrats to make their sell-out appear less craven, and nothing more.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Audio Post of the Day: Love Me, I'm a Liberal

In "honor" of the Democratic dropping of support for even a mild, weasly, chock full o'holes "antiwar" bill, we offer for your listening pleasure one of Phil Och's most well-known songs, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal." Now some may protest that when the actual vote comes, the liberal Democrats (rumored to include even Nancy Pelosi) are going to vote against the bill because it doesn't contain any "timelines" or other pretenses at ending the war. And that may be true. But the fact of the matter is that, as explained by Jeff Cohen's quote in the post just below this one and myself many times, this "battle" with the President was lost long ago, when the liberals refused to stop talking about "winning" and refused to tackle head on the preposterous assertion that voting more money for war is "supporting the troops" rather than supporting the war (not to mention the fundamental assumption that the U.S. had the slightest right to invade Iraq in the first place, or has the slightest right to continue to occupy Iraq). The vote on the actual bill is not the central issue.

Doing some Googling in preparing this post, I discover there are now several updated versions of the song (how many of today's listeners have a clue who Les Crane is?), whose lyrics (along with the original) you can read here. I particularly like the Evan Greer version, which this page purports to have the mp3 for listening, but it would never work for me.


"Funding the troops"

Echoing things I have written, Jeff Cohen gives us the line of the day:
The shared pretense of the White House and Democratic leaders is that funding the Iraq occupation is somehow a program on behalf of the troops. Like a subsidy for family farmers.


Amusing misprint of the day

From Ha'aretz; the misprint is in bold:
[Sen. Barack] Obama calls for an urgent escalation of economic pressure on Iran, and backed this up yesterday by announcing his Iran Sanctions Enabling Act.

Obama's Iran Sanctions Enabling Act would require the federal government to publish a list of companies, to be updated every six months, with investments exceeding $20 million in Iran's energy sector. A similar House bill is sponsored by Reps. Barney Frank and Tom Lantos, with one crucial difference: Obama's bill cannot be rescinded until the Iranian government President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for the destruction of Israel.
Obama's call for "war by other means" against Iran isn't new; it reflects, for example, his exchange with Dennis Kucinich during one of the Presidential debates, as well as his broader interventionist streak. Not that he's that different from almost all the other Presidential candidates, not to mention the actual President.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The English submarine

The latest commentary from Fidel:

The press dispatches bring the news; it belongs to the Astute Class, the first of its kind to be constructed in Great Britain in more than two decades.

"A nuclear reactor will allow it to navigate without refuelling during its 25 year of service. Since it makes its own oxigen and drinking water, it can circumnavigate the globe without needing to surface," was the statement to the BBC by Nigel Ward, head of the shipyards.

"It’s a mean looking beast", says another.
It can transport up to 38 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Spearfish torpedoes, capable of destroying a large warship. It will possess a permanent crew of 98 sailors who will even be able to watch movies on giant plasma screens.
What a feat for the British! The intelligent and tenacious people of that nation will surely not feel any sense of pride. What is most amazing is that with such an amount of money, 75 thousand doctors could be trained to care for 150 million people, assuming that the cost of training a doctor would be one-third of what it costs in the United States. You could build 3 thousand polyclinics, outfitted with sophisticated equipment, ten times what our country possesses.
We must bow our heads in awe after reading the news about the English submarine. It teaches us, among other things, about the sophisticated weapons that are needed to maintain the untenable order developed by the United States imperial system.

We cannot forget that for centuries, and until recently, England was called the Queen of the Seas. Today, what remains of that privileged position is merely a fraction of the hegemonic power of her ally and leader, the United States.

Churchill said: Sink the Bismarck! Today Blair says: Sink whatever remains of Great Britain’s prestige!

For that purpose, or for the holocaust of the species, is what his "marvellous submarine" will be good for.


Left I at the Movies Premieres

I've had the privilege in the past two weeks of attending premieres of two new political films. Both were extremely informative and well worth seeing.

Posada Carriles: Terrorism Made in USA

Two weeks ago, in El Paso for one of dozens of nationwide demonstrations against the dropping of charges against notorious terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, I watched the U.S. premiere of a new film by Venezuelan filmmaker Angel Palacios entitled "Posada Carriles: Terrorism Made in USA." It's a chilling portrait of the 45-year career of a man who has been called "the Osama bin Laden of the Western hemisphere," his associates (like the equally notorious Orlando Bosch), and the CIA who has been behind them every step of the way, condoning and protecting them when not actively guiding them.

The film covers things that are fairly well-known (at least in activist circles), like the 1976 Cubana plane bombing that took the lives of 73 people, and others that are less well-known (at least in the United States), like Posada's record as a torturer and murderer of Venezuelan political activists when working for the Venezuelan political police, the DISIP. Interviews with victims and relatives of victims, combined with evidence straight from the files of the U.S. government, make this a well-researched, information-packed documentary. It's also a very watchable film, very professionally made, with an interesting sound track, lots of catchy (but not gratuitous) graphics, and more. There are a number of showings scheduled around the country at this time (with undoubtedly many more to come) and the film should also be showing up in film festivals around the country during the coming year. It will also be available for purchase on DVD within the next week from the website of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.

War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death

Last night, I was fortunate to be able to attend the West Coast premiere (the world premiere was last week in New York) of a new film based on Norman Solomon's essential book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" (some of my comments on the book from last year can be found here). As filmmaking, it's a fairly basic effort, intercutting an interview with the extremely knowledgeable and well-spoken Solomon with historical footage from wars, presidential speeches, TV "coverage" (a.k.a. "promotion") of wars, and so on, mixed in with some narration by Sean Penn. It won't win any awards for innovative filmmaking. But as an informative documentary, it's a must-see film. The book, as should be no surprise, has a lot more details (just to name one, the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic, one of the powerful examples from the book, isn't mentioned in the film). The book also has the virtue of being divided into chapters which Solomon uses to beautifully illustrate the 17 components which make up the "How" of the title of the book and film:

The movie covers most (not all) of these points, but its organization is less linear, and the viewer doesn't leave the film with those points all clearly in mind. It sounds like I'm putting in a strong recommendation for the book. I am, and as I have in the past, I couldn't recommend the book more highly. But...but...the film is a film, and as such it has strengths that the book can't possibly match. For one thing, lots of people don't read! For another, the film can be shown in public venues, accompanied by a discussion which helps people organize their thoughts and organize themselves for action. But aside from those "logistical" questions, there's also what the film itself can do. It's one thing to read a series of quotes from Presidents, each saying something like "We want peace, not war" or "We're fighting this war for democracy." It's quite another to watch them say it on film, one after the other. Seeing or hearing the original source material simply has an impact that no printed word can match; it's why the Daily Show or Countdown has an impact that it's hard for a blog to match (readership/viewership numbers aside). And it's why the film is well worth seeing, even if you have read the book.

At the showing last night, the film was criticized for discussing the "How" but not the "Why" - why does the U.S. want to keep fighting these wars? The book (see point six in the list above) does discuss the issue, but not at length. Solomon answered that this was simply a question of scope, both for the film and the book as well. On the one hand he's certainly right. Dealing extensively and insightfully with the things he does deal with is certainly preferable to trying to deal with too much, and losing focus. On the other hand, there's a chicken-and-egg question. To use an example from the movie (but add my own spin), there's the famous Colin Powell at the U.N. presentation. The book and movie make clear that there were some people who saw right through the presentation, even while the corporate media (at least the U.S. corporate media) were falling all over themselves in praise. But take a look at those who did see through the talk. Did they do so simply because they were knowledgeable about how the U.S. government lies to start wars and the ways the media enhances those lies, or because they understood the motivations of the U.S. ruling class to fight wars and were therefore more motivated to look closely at what Powell was saying and see it for what it was? The two factors are intertwined, but I'd say it's more the latter than the former, and in that sense, it's more important to understand the "why" rather than the "how."

But that's a quibble, criticizing something for what it isn't. What it is is an incredibly powerful movie, taken from an even more powerful book, which teaches the viewer/reader with well-documented detail precisely how "Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." And, although the title doesn't reflect it, Solomon is also one of the few who never forgets to remind his audience that it's not just "us" who are being spun to death, but millions of Iranians, Afghans, Serbs, Vietnamese, and more, as well.

See the film (you can order a copy now, it will be available in a couple weeks). Solomon is promoting the "Robert Greenwald" model, encouraging people to buy a copy of the movie and then set up a "house meeting" to show the movie to their friends. And don't forget to read the book as well.

Coincidentally, there's an article on the front page of the liberal British paper The Guardian today, whipping up the flames of war against Iran, about "Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq" (guess it's not much of a secret, eh?). Of course it's all based on the usual collection of "senior US officials," not a single actual fact in the article. Precisely the kind of thing that this film is all about.



"Civilized" murder

The Lebanese Army, worried that the world is forgetting about the massacre at Sabra and Chatila, is doing its best to provide a fresh example. But don't worry, it's all quite civilized:
Hundreds of Lebanese troops surrounded Nahr el-Bared, staying outside in accordance with a nearly 40-year-old agreement with the Palestinians. The troops pounded the camp with artillery and tank fire, and militants responded with gunfire and mortar rounds.
Do you suppose that "40-year-old agreement" said anything about "it's ok to pound the camp with artillary and tank fire, just so long as you stay outside the perimeter, hence maximizing the number of innocent civilians killed?" No, me neither.

On TV this morning, the perky anchor let us know that the Lebanese Army has been given permission to "finish off" the militants. How positively delightful. The word "civilians" didn't leave her lips.

One line in today's story is rather telling in that regard:

The fierce, two-day battle has killed nearly 50 combatants and an unknown number of civilians.
How is it, do you suppose, that they were able to come up with a fairly precise (not necessarily accurate, to put it mildly) claim about the number of "combatants" killed, but have no idea about the number of civilians killed? No, those civilians are not only uncounted now, but, if history is a guide, will remain so forever, at least in the Western media. Knowing how many civilians are killed, be it in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, or countless other places, is something that is actively avoided (and actively denigrated when attempts are made to assess a number, as with the Johns Hopkins study), because of the effect it might have on the psyche of those doing the killing, and those paying the bills and providing the "moral" support.

Monday, May 21, 2007


American values

Politicians like to defend Israel on the grounds that it "shares our American values." And how right they are:
The Shin Bet considers itself authorized to use surveillance techniques that violate privacy, such as wiretaps, when activity that "sabotages the state's Jewish character" is carried out, even if this activity is not illegal.
Update: An important article by Professor Stephen Zunes on the U.S. role in the Israeli war on Lebanon.


"Stand down" stands down (and whatever happened to "whatever happened to"?)

Just for the halibut (as an uncle of mine used to say), I decided to see whatever happened to that old alleged American strategy in Iraq, "As Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down" (something I once analogized to the fake town of Rock Ridge). Well, a search of the White House news site says the last time George Bush used that phrase, but only in response to a question, was on Sept. 15, 2006; the last time he spontaneously used the phrase was on June 6, 2006, nearly a year ago.

And, segueing, I switch to the frivolous question, "Whatever happened to those VH1 specials entitled 'Whatever happened to [insert forgotten rock star name here]'?" One of the ones that sticks in my mind was about Sweetwater, a group whose first, self-titled album from 1968 is still on my regular play list (even more so now that I've digitized it). In their honor, we'll spin their biggest hit, "Motherless Child." Not overtly a political song, but the theme ("Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, and I'm a long way from home") is one that easily applies to political activists, as they grow up, leave the comfort (mental if not physical) and "comfort zone" of their home and go out in the world on their own, to chart their own path through life.


Sunday, May 20, 2007


Sadly predictable headline of the day

As US, NATO forces turn to airpower, civilian casualties mount
Yeah, what a shock. This particular headline is about Afghanistan, but it could be about Iraq, Palestine (substituting "Israeli" for "US, NATO") or lots of other places.


Audio Post of the Day: Eve of Destruction

With the drumbeat of news from Iraq, Palestine, and countless other places, not to mention global warming, looming water shortages, and other environmental disasters, Barry McGuire's 1965 hit "Eve of Destruction" might seem appropriate. Some of the lyrics are not only dated, but were never correct to begin with ("Think of all the hate there is in Red China"), but some are timeless (think Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other phony embracers of "God" when you hear "Hate your next-door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace"). The bottom line, though, which you won't find in the song, is that it's never been more important to struggle for change.



Getting out while the getting's good

OK, maybe not "good." But at least while they're still alive:
President Jalal Talabani left Iraq on Sunday for a trip to the United States that was expected to include a medical checkup.

"I will go to the U.S.A and stay nearly three weeks to lose weight and have some rest and relaxation ... away from meetings and work," Talabani, a 73-year-old Sunni Kurd, said.

Talabani was the second top Iraqi politician to fly to the United States for medical reasons in four days.

Senior Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim flew there aboard a U.S. military aircraft Wednesday for further tests to determine if he is suffering from lung cancer, according to members of his staff.
I'm willing to bet there are a few more Iraqis who would like to get away for three weeks of rest and relaxation, millions of them in fact. The only difference between them and Talabani is that they'd probably like to gain weight, and most of them don't have the luxury of being flown out of the country on a U.S. military aircraft. Or leaving at all, for that matter. They're trapped in a hell that Talabani and al-Hakim played a small part in creating.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Don't get worried, but...

On VH1 tonight is a show entitled, "The Last Days of Left Eye." I didn't watch it.


How's that "war on terror" going?

Not so well:
A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama bin Laden has produced no significant leads on his whereabouts, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of Al Qaeda operatives and money into Pakistan's tribal territories, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation.

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda's command base in Pakistan increasingly is being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network's operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.


Audio Post of the Day: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Written in 1967 by Pete Seeger, the story has it that he intended to sing it on the Smothers Brothers show that year but was blocked by CBS from doing so; he did sing it there the following year. Outwardly the tale of a platoon trying to ford a river in a training camp in Louisiana in 1942, it was an obvious allegory for Vietnam. Today it's an obvious allegory for Iraq and the Administration and Congress who insist we must "push on." Even if some in Congress insist that we only need to "push on" a little bit more ("just another six/nine/twelve/eighteen months and then we'll be out, honest!"), that will be plenty of time for hundreds or thousands more Americans, and tens or hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, to die in the "Big Muddy." Unfortunately, the allegory isn't perfect, because the ones urging that we "push on" won't be the ones losing their lives, like the Captain in the song. Instead, they're laughing (or smirking) all the way to the bank.


Friday, May 18, 2007


The U.S. idea of "terrorism"

An interesting article in the Miami Herald today sheds a little more light on the U.S. government (and by that I mean not just George Bush and his gang) idea of "terrorism." It's about how $268 million of Cuban government funds in U.S. bank accounts, frozen by the Kennedy administration in 1963, is almost all gone thanks to lawsuits against the Cuban government (which, on principle, have never been defended). The biggest "run on the bank" was triggered with the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (passed under another Democratic President, Clinton).

One of the "winners" under this bill profiled in the article? Janet Ray Weininger, who was awarded $23.9 million. And what happened so that she "deserved" that money? Her father was a CIA pilot shot down during the Bay of Pigs invasion! So, evidently, defending your country against invasion is an act of terrorism! That is, if your country is Cuba (or Iraq or Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or any other designated country filled with "bad guys").

You don't even want to imagine how much money the U.S. government would owe if a relative of every Iraqi and Afghan and Serb and Panamanian and Vietnamese (I'll stop there, and I'm not even including the ones indirectly killed like the Palestinians) killed by the U.S. government were to get $23.8 million each. Your calculator doesn't have enough digits.


Take a hint: U.S. out of Iraq!

Two juxtaposed stories in today's paper make it clear (as if there were any doubt) that the hearts and minds of Iraqis are well and truly lost (as if there were ever any chance of "finding" them). The first, from The New York Times, is headlined "Hunt for 3 G.I.’s in Iraq Slowed by False Trails." The article tells the tale of "Iraqis...intentionally passing on incorrect information, trying to hide involvement, trying to use tips to ingratiate themselves with American officers, or maybe just telling stories for attention." So while the military spokespeople have been busy touting the large number of leads they've been getting from Iraqis in this hunt for the missing soldiers, it turns out that was actually not a positive statistic, but a negative one, indicative of how much the Iraqis want the Americans to fail in their hunt rather than succeed.

The second story describes the results of a military investigation into the deaths of three American soldiers at an isolated outpost last June. Here's the telling line: "it appears...that Iraqi security forces near the soldiers' outpost probably saw and heard the attack and 'chose to not become an active participant in the attack on either side.'" Quelle surprise!

Time (long past time) to take a hint, imperialists. You're not wanted in Iraq! Out Now!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Audio Post of the Day: Sixteen Tons

Written in 1947, "Sixteen Tons" became a hit in 1955 when recorded by "Tennessee" Ernie Ford. I chose this song to post in response to not one but two different developments in the news. On the one hand, although the days of company towns and "owing your soul to the company store" are largely in the past, the days of working people owing their soul to "the man" are far from over, as the recent spate of home foreclosures resulting from the subprime mortgage scandal shows.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, those of you who watch Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" program will know he is currently conducting a mock "D.C. Idol" contest, featuring public singing by various Washington politicians. One of those entries is Dennis Kucinich, offering up his rendition of "Sixteen Tons." If you've been unfortunate enough to listen to Kucinich's performance, you need to hear the original immediately as an antidote. Here's your chance:



Gambling in the (Colombian) casino

We're shocked, shocked I tell you:
Salvatore Mancuso, in an explosive judicial hearing, affirmed what human rights organizations have long claimed: that Colombia's top military commanders systematically colluded with the illegal militias. He also claimed that two conglomerates paid the paramilitaries.

Mancuso and about 60 other jailed warlords ordered the massacres of about 10,000 people over a period of about 10 years, beginning in the mid-1990s, according to Colombia's chief prosecutor. They also stole millions of acres of land.

Much of Colombia's political and economic class also benefited, and the warlords have begun to point fingers.
And the response from the Democrats, even the best of them like Jim McGovern?
Meanwhile, leading Democrats are asking tough questions in Washington, where Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., expects Congress to review foreign aid to Colombia in June.

"What I'm hoping is that there will be less military aid and more aid for social and economic development," McGovern said. "To be blunt, I wouldn't trust this military to tell me the correct time given what's been revealed in the past few months."
Less military aid? Less? The U.S. bears almost total responsibility for funding the militarization of Colombia and the massacres, and one of the most liberal Democrats in Congress just wants less military funding? Ugh.


Pity the poor Israeli children

An AP article today reports on the psychological damage being done to the Israeli children of Sderot, a town where more than 4,500 rockets have landed since 2001 (an average of 2/day), killing a grand total of seven people and wounding "dozens" (a rather strong indication of the crude and ineffective nature of these weapons). We're told:
The main impact of the rocket attacks on Sderot has been psychological, with experts warning the damage would be long-lasting.

"The anxiety level with the kids is unimaginable," said Tami Sagie, head of psychological services in Sderot. "We have a whole generation that was born into the Qassams, children whose first word is 'boom.'"

Sagie spoke of teenagers wetting their beds when rockets hit. Others regularly sleep with their parents, or find it difficult to concentrate, she said.

It's not just children who are affected.

Noam Amram, 62, said he has been seeing a therapist since a rocket landed next to him four months ago. "I still haven't gotten over it. Every noise I hear, I shudder. I can't sleep. I live in fear," he said.
I have absolutely no doubt that this story is true, and this effect is real, and the title of this post is sincere - I'm honestly sorry for those children. I just wish I had once read a similar article in the corporate media about Palestinian children, or Iraqi children, who have been experiencing violence (explosions, deaths, injuries) on a scale orders of magnitude greater than the poor children of Sderot. I wrote about this last year after hearing a talk by Hans van Sponeck on the subject, which, I'm ashamed to admit, really helped awaken me to this problem. I mention that because it just serves to to highlight how little (if at all; I know of no examples) that this problem has been noted in the corporate media.


Audio Post of the Day: Framed

Today, a hearing is being held in Philadelphia which will determine whether one of the most prominent frame-up victims* in the U.S., Mumia Abu-Jamal, will get a new trial. Demonstrations are being held in Philadelphia and San Francisco.

For today's musical interlude, I could have posted Bob Dylan's powerful song "Hurricane," which tells the tale of another prominent frame-up victim, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Instead I've chosen a much lesser-known song by the late great Ritchie Valens - "Framed." Valens, the first prominent Chicano rock and roll star, is best known for "Donna" and "La Bamba," and for dying in a plane crash with Buddy Holly (and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson), but his eponymous album (cover at right) is filled with solid songs, all recorded in 1959 while he was just 17 years old, and most written by himself as well. "Framed" was one of the few he didn't write, but was contributed by the greatest rock and roll songwriting team ever - Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. Click here to listen.

The film about Valens' life, produced and directed by Luis Valdez, is well worth seeing.

Now I'm going to write something which will anger some of the supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal - not only was double-murderer O.J. Simpson not framed, his (and Johnnie Cochran's) successful use of the frame-up defense did a tremendous disservice to those, like Mumia, who really were framed up by the cops. Some people claim that Cochran made it acceptable for juries to realize that cops do frame up black suspects. Nonsense. All Cochran "proved," as if it needed proving, is that the rich and the famous experience different "justice" than the rest of the population. The cops (and "justice" system in general) absolutely do frame up defendants, most especially political activists like Mumia and "uppity" blacks like Hurricane Carter, along with drug dealers and such who they "know" are guilty but can't actually prove without "helping" the case along. But when Cochran succeeded in getting Simpson off with the same defense, in the case of a man who was obviously guilty (and later proven so in civil court), it only discredited the use of this defense in the case of people like Mumia who really were framed.

That's my take on it, anyway. In any case, enjoy this oldie but goodie.

*Update: I should clarify. I believe, based on what I have read, that Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent. I know, with certainty, based again on what I have read, that he was framed up. Being framed does not necessarily correlate with being innocent, although quite often the two go together.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007


In which Left I on the News gets angry

I caught less than a minute of the Republican Presidential debate yesterday, but it just happened to be at a point referenced by WIIIAI, wherein Mike Huckabee had this to say:
"We value the life of one as if it's the life of all, and that's why we go out for the 12-year-old Boy Scout in North Carolina when he's lost; that's why we look for the 13 miners in Sago, West Virginia, when the mine explodes; that's why we go looking for the hikers in Mount Hood, because we value life, and it's what separates us from the Islamic jihadists who are out to kill us. They celebrate death. They have a culture of death. Ours is a culture of life."
I'll repeat what I wrote (slightly enhanced) in a comment at WIIIAI, in a rare burst of profanity, albeit asterisk-filled:
Three-quarters of a million Iraqis (and Afghans) dead, many of them thanks to indiscriminate U.S. bombing and firing on houses containing unknown inhabitants who might be "bad guys," and these f***ers have the g-d nerve to talk about a "culture of life." People who talk calmly about "enhanced interrogation techniques" (Romney) and using "every method they could think of" (Giuliani) while representing a government which has literally tortured people to death. Pompous war criminals, all of them.

By the way, the U.S. is now offering a $200,000 reward for information about the three "missing" (almost certainly dead) soldiers. They offer $2000 (maximum) in compensation for "erroneous" deaths in Iraq. That "culture of life" certainly has different values depending on which life we're talking about, doesn't it?
Hypocritical murderers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Audio Post of the Day: Bring the Boys Home

While Congress dithers, and proposes a slow-motion withdrawal of some of the troops who are in Iraq (and none of the mercenaries and none of the troops in Afghanistan), the real demand remains the same - Out Now! And no one has voiced that demand better (musically speaking) than Freda Payne, with her great 1971 antiwar anthem, "Bring the Boys Home" (lyrics).

I'd love to hear some comments on the audio posts in general. Are you able to hear them with whatever computer hardware/software/connectivity you have? If you are, are you listening to them? Are they worth posting?



Death by ethanol

When Fidel Castro began intensive polemicizing a month ago (his latest contribution here) about the dangers of massive conversion of crops to the production of ethanol for fuel, and predicted the death of three billion people, many people no doubt he was talking about some distant future (or just talking nonsense). After all, the use of ethanol for fuel in the United States, the major fuel consumer of the world, is barely in its infancy.

Of course three billion people haven't died yet. But the effects are already beginning to be felt:

Corn will be scarce in Guatemala in the coming months due to the huge demand in the United States for ethanol production, which is buying and hoarding massive amounts of the grain.

In the last six months, a bushel of corn (56 pounds), doubled its price on the US market, from $4 to $8 US because ethanol producers consumed 86 million metric tons, 5 million over the figure planned.

Although to date there is no biofuel production using grains in Guatemala, the prices have also begun to increase, up as much as 73 percent.

As a result, many producers believing prices will go even higher are making huge purchases of animal fodder, which will affect the availability of corn for human consumption.

The Meso-American Food Security Early Warning System (MFEWS) alerts that high prices and shortages will affect lower-income families from June to August, when the second harvest of the year has not even begun.

For Dr. Ricardo Navarro, president of the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology, this is just the beginning of the negative effects for the region due to the massive ethanol production promoted by the United States.
Update: A related article by Noam Chomsky.


Political Humor of the Day: The CIA Website

The CIA has a new website. Here's how they describe it:
"The new site reaffirms the CIA’s commitment to share as much information as we can with the American people," said Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Gen. Michael V. Hayden.

I'm not in the habit of visiting the CIA website. I learned about this on Granma, which elaborates thusly:

The Nobility of the CIA, by Joaquin Rivery Tur

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is well known throughout the world, but especially in poorer countries.

When not busy organizing the overthrow of governments (Chile, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Congo), it has trained torturers from throughout Latin America, maintained secret prisons and organized all types of assassination attempts against leaders of other countries.

That’s what it has done since its inception; nothing more, nothing less. Now, thanks to the miracles of cyberspace, the agency has launched a website that tries to erase the past in minds of people in the US and elsewhere. They want to create the image of a CIA as a noble organization full of lofty goals and free of deadly conspiracies.

What’s wrong with the website is that it begins with the contagious Bush habit of lying, since, according to AFP, a message from CIA Director Michael Hayden says that "the new website reaffirms the CIA’s commitment to share the greatest possible quantity of information with the US people."

And the site expects people who read this to believe it. You would have to be pretty naïve to think that there is some truth in the official declarations from Washington.

A CIA advertisement points out: "We are the first line in the defense of the nation. We achieve what others can’t and we go where others can’t go." Those missions are organizing coups, drug trafficking for dirty operations, plotting assassinations of all kinds and training terrorists from any country (for example, Luis Posada Carriles).

How pure and noble the CIA is!

Monday, May 14, 2007


Audio Post of the Day: The Money Crop

Pope Benedict today condemned capitalism and Marxism (apparently he prefers feudalism). The following quote typifies the absurdity of his "plague on both your houses" approach: "Are only material goods, social and economic and political problems 'reality'?" Is the Pope really under the impression that material goods like a fancy car and video games are even remotely comparable to "social and economic and political problems" like having food to eat, clean water to drink, housing to live in, and health care to keep you alive and healthy? You know, the kind of things that a socialist society places first in its priorities?

For the Pope's benefit, I'm posting a song from 1966 by Malvina Reynolds entitled "The Money Crop," from her first album "Malvina." It's not her best song musically, but it provides a nice simple lesson about the essence of capitalism for someone as evidently simple-minded as the Pope (complete lyrics to the song here).

Reminder: after you click the arrow to start the song, be patient. It can take 15-30 seconds for the song to start.

If anyone has the Pope's email address, feel free the send him the URL to this post. :-)



FU, Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart, May 10, 2007:
"[Iran is] a dangerous regime with weapons of mass destruction."
With "liberals" like Stewart (he's not, but, as with Stephen Colbert, an awful lot of liberals are convinced he is), who needs reactionaries?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Permanent bases in Iraq

The devil is in the details. Everyone knows about the massive U.S. Embassy, the airfields, etc. But here, from the middle of an article headlined "Cheney defends extended deployments" (except for himself, of course, he had "other priorities"), we find this little detail:
Cheney spoke to several thousand mostly Army forces in a huge tent that is scheduled to be a gymnasium.
Think the troops are leaving any time soon? Not if the Administration, or, sadly, the vast majority of Congress (even the ones posing as "anti-war" and "for withdrawal") have anything to say about it. After all, even "non-combat" troops need planes (and hence airbases) to ferry them around, armed convoys (oh, but don't worry, they won't be members of the "Armed Forces," just mercenaries who are equally well (better?) armed), and, of course, gymnasiums (and lots, lots more).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Terrorist drives!

The Miami Herald reports that Luis Posada Carriles is now a completely free man, no longer even under house arrest. The New York Times, who is now out with their own article, adds an interesting detail:
Rhonda Anderson, a lawyer for Mr. Posada, ...said Mr. Posada and other members of the team were driving the 1,930 miles from El Paso to his family in Miami because he was on the federal government’s no-fly list.
So they won't declare him a terrorist, but they don't feel comfortable letting him fly, either. In-ter-est-ing.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Terrorist walks!

The judge has just dismissed the indictment against Luis Posada Carriles, the Osama bin Laden of the Western Hemisphere. Not that this was even a serious indictment, it was an indictment on immigration charges, not on terrorism.

Update: How much do the "powers that be" want this story to pass under the radar? On a day when a notorious terrorist has been set free, both the New York Times and the Washington Post feature only small AP stories on the release. For complete coverage, check the "Updates" section at the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, where you'll at least 18 different articles (some containing multiple articles) posted in the last two days.

For further insight into the U.S. government's attitude, consider this exchange today during a Dept. of State press conference:

QUESTION: Going back to the Posada Carriles case, what has happened with the Posada Corriles extradition request presented by Venezuelan on June 15, 2005? And also, what impacts will it have in other governments cooperating with the U.S. on the global war on terror?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I don't think that there's any doubt about the U.S. commitment to fighting terrorism around the world. As for the extradition request, it's not something that's been acted on to this point. I know that we have done some due diligence with the Government of Venezuela. It was a process where there was a lot of back and forth requesting documentation. But it's not something, as of this point, that the U.S. Government has acted on.

QUESTION: Thank you.
"Thank you"?? McCormack casually mentions that an extradition request filed on June 15, 2005 has "not been acted on to this point" and that's all the follow-up we get from the reporter?

Send a letter today denouncing this outrage, and protest Friday. I certainly will.



All the children dying in Iraq aren't dying of disease

Some are simply being killed:
A US helicopter gunship attacked a public school in Diyala Province, killing seven children and wounding another three, police said.
That report was from Prensa Latina; the only other report of this incident is from BBC News, who dutifully reports the pro forma U.S. non-denial denial:
A spokesman for the US military said there had been helicopter activity in the area but he was not able to confirm any other details.
No U.S. sources have yet reported this attack. After all, the U.S. military hasn't confirmed it, so it must not have happened.


The Los Angeles Times calls for...withdrawal?

Well, sort of.

"WHATEVER THE future holds, the United States has not "lost" and cannot "lose" Iraq. It was never ours in the first place."

Well, at least they started out right...

"But what now? After four years of war, more than $350 billion spent and 3,363 U.S. soldiers killed and 24,310 wounded,"

And not a single dead Iraqi! Imagine that! (And by that way, that wounded number is way too low, omitting, among others, tens or hundreds of thousands of mentally wounded personnel, and of course there are hundreds of additional Americans - contractors and others - and hundreds of "allies" also dead; apparently they don't count any more than Iraqis)

"it seems increasingly obvious that an Iraqi political settlement cannot be achieved in the shadow of an indefinite foreign occupation."

Quite right, which leads us to...

"The Bush administration should convene national peace and reconciliation talks as early as possible - say June 1."

Neatly contradicting their own statement that "an Iraqi political settlement cannot be achieved etc." They don't even have the sense to say that "The Bush administration should recommend to the Iraqis that they convene...," no, it's "the Bush administration should convene."

And, for the piece de resistance...

"The precise date for completing the withdrawal need not be announced, but the assumption should be that combat troops would depart by the end of 2009."

Whoa, now, hold on, L.A. Times! Let's not be precipitous here. (And I'm sure you all caught the restriction to "combat troops", which leaves, once we include mercenaries, well over half of the foreign forces still in Iraq)


Monday, May 07, 2007


How many Iraqis have died?

One hell of a lot:
Iraq’s child mortality rate has increased by a staggering 150 percent since 1990. Some 122,000 Iraqi children died in 2005 before reaching their fifth birthday. More than half of these deaths were among newborn babies in the first month of life.
The U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq more than four years ago. That's 488,000 dead children under the age of five, ignoring all the other dead that have resulted from this war. Yes, some of those would have died anyway. Using the 150 percent figure, 48,000/year, or 192,000 total, leaving 296,000 "excess" deaths. Of the most "innocent" civilians of all - children under the age of five.

It's been a long time since any reporter asked George Bush how many Iraqis have died thanks to the U.S. invasion. I wonder what he'd say now?

Of course, the excess deaths of Iraqi children, as the report makes clear, haven't been going on since 2003, they've been going on since 1990, thanks to the decade of punishing sanctions against Iraq. Back then, the U.S. used to blame the deaths on the specious claim that Saddam was diverting all the Iraqi money into palaces instead of food and health care. I wonder who they'd blame now, if anyone asked them the question?

Update: By the way, this new study points up precisely my previous criticism of the Johns Hopkins ("Lancet") study, which is that it actually underestimated the number of "excess deaths" by using as its baseline the mortality rate just preceding the invasion, a rate already degraded by the decade of sanctions.


The big lie(s) about Iran

Double barrels from alleged historian Victor Davis Hanson this morning, as he claims that "Iran is even more dangerous, vowing both to become a nuclear power and wipe out Israel." Not to belabor something I've written about before, but just some quick links for newer readers:

Iran, which of course is developing nuclear power, not only has not "vowed to become a nuclear power" (which means, to everyone in the world, to have nuclear weapons, not nuclear power plants), but it has repeatedly vowed that it does not intend to do so. Indeed, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has even issued a Fatwa stating "that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons."

Iran has never "vowed to wipe out Israel." It has predicted that the state (that's the political entity) of Israel will "vanish from the page of time"; at the same time, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has explicitly stated that "Iran is loyal to its commitments based on the U.N. charter and it has never used or threatened to use force against any country."

Hanson may think that Iran is lying about both of these things; that is his right. But we know that he's lying when he makes claims about what Iran has "vowed" to do.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


U.S. "diplomacy"

No doubt you've heard about the Iranian Foreign Minister "fleeing" (yes, that's the word used routinely on the TV broadcasts I heard) from the sight of a woman in a red dress at a dinner. Look, he may have honestly had his religious sensibilities offended, or he may have been looking for an excuse to get away from Condoleezza Rice (I certainly sympathize there!). But is it really appropriate for the official spokesperson of the State Department, Sean McCormack, to say this: "I am not sure which woman he was afraid of - the woman in the red dress or the Secretary of State."

I mean, that might be a mildly funny joke out of the mouth of Jon Stewart or Jay Leno. But considering that Muslims around the world are convinced in huge numbers that the U.S. is conducting a war on their religion, should an official U.S. spokesperson really be insulting their religion in public by ridiculing its view of women, even if that view is, from a Western point of view, ridiculous? Isn't that precisely the kind of behavior that's going to create even more hatred of America (if that's indeed possible)?


You've got to laugh to keep from crying

In June, less than a year ago, the House of Representatives set up a "Memorial Wall" inside the House with the names of the dead U.S. service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The memorial is already out of space!!! Indeed, there are nearly 400 more names of those Americans who have died for whom there is no room. Rep. William Delahunt says this:
"This states so poignantly and ironically that we never thought about needing extra space. The concept of the wall is laudable, but no one wanted to think about how many more soldiers would die."
Well, no one in Congress, Rep. Delahunt. There are plenty of us out here who have thought about it plenty and who, like Sen. Mike Gravel, think that the only thing worse than soldiers dying in vain is more soldiers dying in vain.

Actually, there is something worse. And that's the Iraqis and Afghans who have died either because they were in the wrong place (their own country) at the wrong time (the time when imperialism was raging around the world), or because they tried to resist the occupation of their countries. But the U.S. Congress building isn't big enough for a wall that could hold all their names.

The picture, incidentally, depicts only about a quarter of the wall. 3736 (the number of U.S. service members who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan) doesn't seem like a large number, as numbers go, but when you look at a plaque listing all of them (or all but a few hundred), it's one hell of a lot.

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