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Friday, June 29, 2007


The sad state of the U.S. antiwar movement

Back in May, ANSWER circulated a proposal to all antiwar organizations to come together on a date to be mutually agreed for a unified massive national march to stop the war. So what happened?

United for Peace & Justice held a national convention, specifically voted not to cooperate with ANSWER, and called for "a day of regional, mass antiwar demonstrations in 6 to 8 cities around the country on Saturday, October 27th."

The Troops Out Now Coalition called for an encampment in Washington, D.C. from Sept. 22-29 ending with a march on the White House on Sept. 29.

And now the ANSWER Coalition, together with others including Code Pink, Gold Star Families for Peace, Latino Movement USA and the National Lawyers Guild have called for a march on the White House on Sept. 15. ANSWER has also declared its support for the UfPJ call for actions on Oct. 27, and has announced a march for San Francisco on that date.

And that's where we stand.


Who (or what) will take George Bush?

If "the good Lord" (which we scientists will take to mean "natural causes") will take Fidel Castro one day, who (or what) will take George Bush? Impeachment? Nah. Darryl Cherney has a better idea:

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Invoking the name of the Lord

George Bush: "One day, the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away."

Fidel Castro, in response: "Now I understand why I survived Bush's plans and those of presidents who ordered my assassination. The good Lord protected me."


Israel's prisoners, again

A year ago, Israel arrested ("kidnapped" would be more accurate) 64 Palestinian Cabinet ministers, legislators, and other officials. They've pretty much dropped out of the news, at least the Western news, but a sentence in today's New York Times reminds us that most of them are still in Israeli prisons:
Of the 74 Hamas legislators, 40 are in Israeli prisons.
On what grounds? As I wrote last September, supposedly because membership in Hamas, classified as a "terrorist organization," is illegal under Israeli law, except for one thing, as I pointed out: the West Bank and Gaza are not Israel, and Israeli law shouldn't apply in Palestine any more than American law applies in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of course the real "law" that's being applied is the same one the U.S. applies in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere) - might makes right.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Michael Moore, "Sicko," health care in Cuba, and ignorance in America

What is it with American TV personalities that they're not only abysmally ignorant about the quality of health care in Cuba, but are so eager to parade their ignorance in front of the public? This weekend I watched Richard Roeper (of "Ebert & Roeper at the Movies") with guest host (Roger Ebert still being off the air) Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune reviewing Michael Moore's new film, "Sicko" (you can watch the review, at least for a while, here). At the end of the review, there was this exchange:
Roeper: "And yes, we know that when he goes into the Cuban hospital well of course they're going to show how great they are for Michael Moore and his cameras."

Phillips: "Yeah, I don't buy that part about Cuba either."
Last night, Jay Leno interviewed Moore, and after making the same suggestion (that the Cubans just "put it on" for Moore), asks, "Is the health care really good in Cuba?" Moore sets him (and Roeper and Phillips) straight, recounting a story which makes it clear that the 9-11 workers got exactly the same treatment as normal Cubans (he also recounts the story of the "healthcare Olympics" that he staged, in which NBC refused to allow him to say on the air that Cuba had won).

Here's the video:

By the way, I think I've told this story before, but in any case: many years ago now, during the brief period of the Carter Administration when it was legal to go to Cuba, I was there and got sick. I was immediately treated by a doctor in the hotel, then taken by ambulance to a hospital for more extended examination (nothing serious, as it turned out). All free, no questions asked. Some years later, on my second legal trip to Cuba, I was riding a bike which slipped on some sand on the road and I skinned my elbow. Not only did the hotel doctor (or possibly nurse, I'm not sure what her status was) treat me at no charge, but she even refused my offer of payment to cover the cost of the dressing.

There is one small grain of truth in some of the criticisms of "Sicko" that I've heard, although it isn't really a criticism. While I, as a tourist visiting Cuba, was indeed treated for free, that doesn't mean that you can simply go to Cuba for an operation and expect to get it for free. "Health tourism" is in fact a major business in Cuba, whether paid for by private individuals (like Diego Maradona) going to Cuba for treatment, or by governments on behalf of their own citizens, like the 650,000+ Venezuelans and people from other Latin American and Caribbean countries who have had their sight restored (cataract operations, mostly) in the last few years by Cuban doctors.


Tom Hayden vs. Stephen Colbert

Monday night, Stephen Colbert interviewed Tom Hayden, and I can't decide who's the bigger tool - Hayden or Colbert? Colbert beating the drums (some will say sarcastically, but I say if you can't tell the difference, then there is no difference) for war, Hayden unable to defend even the simplest concept, such as that it is impossible for the U.S. to "win" in Iraq, not just because of a lack of the right "strategy" or sufficient troops, but because the entire concept is bogus, and what we should be talking about is who lost in Iraq, and that's the Iraqi people.

Anyway, watch the video and you decide, then take the poll.

Update: YouTube pulled the video for copyright infringement, so if you haven't seen it yet, too late!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Whose "family jewels"?

The news today is filled with the release of "the CIA's 'family jewels'." The lead of an article in the Washington Post is typical:
After Fidel Castro led a revolution that toppled a friendly government in 1959, the CIA was desperate to eliminate him.
Nonsense. "The CIA" wasn't desperate to eliminate Castro, the U.S. government was, starting at the top. The CIA doesn't decide to assassinate foreign leaders without direct orders from the President of the United States.

Today's segment of "The Situation Room" (Wolf Blitzer) dealing with the release suffered the same problem, as did BBC World News, with nary a mention of any other part of the U.S. government other than the CIA. You'd get the idea that the CIA is a rogue agency, operating independently of the White House and Congress. This is complete nonsense. The CIA is an arm of the United States government, just as much as the military and the State Department, and its actions implement the policies of that government. A fact you'll be hard-pressed to know listening to the coverage of this event in the corporate media. Almost as much as you'll be hard-pressed to know that the idea that this document represents the "old" CIA and not the current CIA (and government) is pure bollocks.

Update: The New York Times is now out with its take on the story, which actually includes the following analysis, but not until the 21st paragraph of the story, well below the level at which this information makes it into the "short-attention-span" broadcast media:

Historians have generally concluded that far from being a rogue agency, the C.I.A. was following orders from the White House or top officials. In 1967, for instance, President Lyndon B. Johnson became convinced that the American antiwar movement was controlled and financed by Communist governments, and he ordered the C.I.A. to produce evidence.


U.S. Congress: saying "eliminated from the pages of history" is genocide

A few days ago, ever vigilant to show its obeisance to Israel, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to urge the United Nations to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with genocide because of his statement that Israel will be "eliminated from the pages of history," naturally claimed by Congress to have been a call "for the destruction of the State of Israel." This despite Ahmadinejad's very clear statement that the "wiping out" he was referring to is precisely the kind of "wiping out" that happened to the Soviet Union, and has nothing to do with "a fight between Judaism and other religions."

Only two members of the House voted against the resolution, Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich. A handful of others voted "present" or didn't vote. All the rest voted for this absurd resolution.

Update: Looking more closely, I find that the expression of fealty to Israel wasn't just implicit, it was explicit: "Reaffirms the strategic U.S.-Israel partnership and reasserts the U.S. commitment to defend Israel's right to exist as a free and democratic state."

Second update: Just learned a lot more from this blog (via Tom Tomorrow):

"There is reasonable doubt with regard to the accuracy of the translations of President Ahmadinejad's words in this resolution. President Ahmadinejad's speeches can also be translated as a call for regime change, much in the same manner the Bush Administration has called for regime change in Iraq and Iran, making this resolution very ironic," Kucinich said.

Kucinich attempted to insert into the Congressional Record two independent translations of the speech from The New York Times and Middle East Media Research Institute, which contain significant differences in the translations of the speech compared to the resolution before the House. However, Members objected formally and the attempt was blocked.


Israel's prisoners

First posted 6/25/07, 12:24 pm; updated [see below]

Headlines report "Israel freeing 250 Palestinians in peace gesture." Of course, if you read the fine print, the true story is "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that he would seek cabinet approval for the release of 250 Fatah prisoners held in Israeli jails," so whether it will actually happen or not is still a matter of conjecture. But that's not why I'm writing. It's this:

"As a gesture of goodwill towards the Palestinians, I today announced my intention to release approximately 250 prisoners who are members of Fatah who do not have blood on their hands, with their commitment not to involve themselves again in terror," said Olmert.
So if they don't "have blood on their hands," and we can take it that means they weren't even accused, much less convicted, of participation in any attacks on Israelis (soldiers or civilians), then why exactly were these 250 Palestinians (and thousands more) in jail in the first place? Since they are identified as "members of Fatah," it's safe to assume Olmert's not talking about releasing 250 petty thieves, or 250 white-collar criminals. We're talking about 250 people whose "crime" was most likely publicly opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Update: One of the rare mainstream reporters who I've praised on several occasions, McClatchy's Dion Nissenbaum, offers a viewpoint which few others in the corporate media will:

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a plan to release 250 Palestinian prisoners from Abbas' Fatah party, but hedged the offer with conditions that all but ruled out freedom for any politically prominent detainees. While it will grab many headlines, Olmert's offer fell well short of expectations for a package of goodwill gestures, including lifting roadblocks around the West Bank.
Also worth reading: an analysis of the situation by the PSL's Richard Becker, and Jonathan Cook writing on CounterPunch.

Monday, June 25, 2007


The U.S. (media) vs. Iran

An object lesson in reading the media. The following correction appears (somewhere, not sure exactly where) in today's New York Times. To find it online you would have either had to deliberately search for the original article and then notice that it had been modified and the correction added, or click on the fine-print word "Corrections" in the list of the sections of the paper (both rather unlikely events):
A front-page article yesterday described a crackdown in Iran that has included the jailing of three Iranian-Americans, repression or intimidation of nongovernment organizations pressing for broader legal rights, warnings to newspaper editors against articles on banned topics, arrests of advocates for women’s rights and of student leaders, and the detention of 150,000 people for wearing clothing considered not Islamic.

The headline over the article said that Iran was cracking down on dissent and “parading examples” in the streets, and one paragraph in the article also said that young men detained for wearing tight T-shirts or western-style haircuts had been “paraded bleeding through Tehran’s streets by uniformed police officers.” The Times caption on an official Iranian news agency photograph that ran with the article said that it showed a police officer punishing a young man in public for wearing un-Islamic clothing by forcing him to suck on a plastic container normally used for intimate hygiene, a punishment the article also asserted was for that offense.

But the man in the photograph, according to widespread Iranian news reports, was one of more than 100 people arrested recently on charges of being part of a gang that had committed rapes, robberies, forgeries and other crimes. The caption published on the Web site of the news agency, Fars, had said only that the man was being punished as part of a roundup of “thugs” in a Tehran neighborhood.

The current repression has made reporting in Iran difficult. In this case, The Times relied on an interview with a researcher for a nongovernment agency that no longer operates within Iran who said the photograph was evidence of a more visible police role in public crackdowns on what the authorities consider immoral behavior. The reporter then wrongly interpreted what the researcher said as applying to a crackdown on dress, and incorporated the erroneous interpretation into the body of the article, without giving any indication of the source for it.

These errors could have been avoided with more rigorous editing. The article should not have said that young men had been paraded through the streets for wearing un-Islamic dress, and the headline over it should not have said that dissenters were being paraded as part of the crackdown.
Does this prove there is no repression going on in Iran? Of course not. It does prove you have to be very careful about anything that you read on this subject. Look carefully at the correction. A reporter allegedly misinterprets something said by someone who isn't even in Iraq, and whose only data is a picture! That isn't the only subject of the article, clearly, but how trustworthy is the rest of the information?

As a test, consider this sentence: "A recent article on the Baztab Web site said that about 8,000 nongovernment organizations were in jeopardy, forced to prove their innocence, basically because the government suspects all of them of being potential conduits for some $75 million the United States has earmarked to promote a change in government." Well, frankly, being the recipient of money from a country which has threatened acts of war (if not as a country, then by many of its prominent politicians) is a suspect act worthy of being investigated. But let's look further. I'd never heard of Baztab, but it appears to be some sort of independent news organization focusing on Iran. But a search on the site for the word "nongovernmental" reveals that the only articles including the word "nongovernmental" (or "NGO") were reprints of articles from papers like the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and Christian Science Monitor. I didn't read them all to see if they were the source of this "8,000" number, but it certainly didn't inspire confidence that that sentence had any more factual basis than the one for which the correction was issued.

Caveat lector!

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Obscure Audio Post of the Day

In the news today we learned that Hank Medress, a member of the Tokens, has died. An easy choice for music would be the Tokens' biggest hit, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," but I'm pretty sure even those not alive in 1961 can sing that one by themselves (if not exactly hit the high notes as well). The best song ever recorded by the Tokens, earlier that same year, was "Tonight I Fell in Love," a real doo-wop classic if there ever was one ("Dom doo-bee dom, woh-oh, doo-bee doo-bee dom doo-bee dom, woh-oh, tonight I fell in love"). But you can hear that lots of places.

No, instead we reach into the wayback machine, to a time in 1958 when the Tokens were known as Darrell & the Oxfords, and recorded an early doo-wop hit called "Picture in My Wallet." It's definitely not a "gem," but you can hear the echoes of that high-pitched "Lion Sleeps Tonight" sound throughout. In searching for "Picture in My Wallet" with Google, I found a copy of the 45 going for $25 on eBay, so I guess somebody likes it!

Saturday, June 23, 2007


More bait and switch

Or, more accurately, just bait. It's not online, but here's the major headline in the "National News" section of the San Jose Mercury News today: "U.S.: Guantanamo to close," with a subhead, "Jail to be shut down 'as soon as possible'." Yeah, sure it is. And the U.S. is planning to pull troops out of Iraq "as soon as possible" too. Just not that soon.


Afghanistan: the U.S. military changes its tune

A few days ago, the U.S. military killed seven Afghan children in an airstrike, but claimed they didn't know they were there (a claim subsequently retracted), and made this statement of alleged "policy":
"If we knew that there were children inside the building, there was no way that that airstrike would have occurred."
Today, another 25 or more Afghan civilians were killed in an airstrike, including nine women, three infants and an elderly village mullah. And what does the U.S. military say about this attack?
The Taliban launched an attack under the cover of darkness and then retreated into the village of Kunjakak in the Grishk district of Helmand. NATO commanders ordered air support, and the result was devastating.

Lt. Col. Mike Smith, a NATO spokesman, said in a written statement that perhaps 30 Taliban insurgents had been killed in the airstrike, adding that while an unknown number of innocents might have lost their lives, the fault was entirely the enemy’s. "In choosing to conduct such attacks in this location at this time, the risk to civilians was probably deliberate," Colonel Smith said. "It is this irresponsible action that may have led to casualties."
Whether the alleged (a word, by the way, that doesn't appear in the news reports) Taliban actually lived in that village, or were indeed using the villagers for cover, is an open question. But when an enemy retreats into a village in the dark, and you simply bomb that village, then the statement "If we knew that there were children inside the building, there was no way that that airstrike would have occurred" becomes a grotesque lie, because obviously in any village at night there will be innocent civilians. Yes, it could be literally true (of course they didn't "know" that children or anyone else were inside the buildings, since they made no effort to find out whether there were or not), but I'm afraid that doesn't count. Not in my book, and not in the book of international law, either.

Friday, June 22, 2007


The big lie

There are so many "big lies" we've heard in recent years - Iraq kicked out the arms inspectors, we "know" Iraq has WMD, Iran is building nuclear weapons, on and on. Today's White House press briefing saw yet another one of them rear its head:
MS. PERINO: What I can tell is that these matters are very complex on how you get individuals who are picked up on the battlefield to be taken back by their home countries.
If we know anything about the people in Guantanamo, we know that the vast majority of them were not "picked up on the battlefield," unless you define the "battlefield" as "the planet Earth."

The press corps didn't pick up on this specifically, but for once the reporter (unidentified, but from the feistiness, it could well have been Helen Thomas) did react:

Q What are they charged with? What are they -- what did they do?

MS. PERINO: These are unlawful enemy combatants that intended to harm the United States or other Western civilization --

Q That we have designated -- were they defending their own country?

MS. PERINO: No, I don't think they were. They were intending to hurt innocent people.

Q This isn't a matter of thinking. Do you know?


Recommended reading

Two recommendations for today:

First, an extremely informative article entitled "The criminalization of mental illness under capitalism," detailing a portion of the U.S. health "care" system which I don't believe makes it into Michael Moore's "Sicko."

Second, an equally informative article by Meteor Blades at Daily Kos on the murder of 43 years ago today of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, which, among other things, recounts the history of terrorism (including murder) against those registering black people to vote in Mississippi and elsewhere, which didn't start with Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.

My contribution will be this song, by Darryl Cherney & the Chernobles, entitled "The Ghosts of Mississippi" (from his delightful album "Real American"), which links the events of 1964 to Redwood Summer and the bombing of Cherney and Judi Bari in 1990.


Troop reductions in Iraq. Any day now. Honest.

Today is only the second day of summer. Two days ago it was spring. And yet today both AP and Reuters (and quite likely others) are out with stories about what might happen next spring (!!!) in Iraq (I guess they waited until it was officially summer so it wouldn't sound like they were talking a whole year in the future):
AP: "US may reduce forces in Iraq by spring"
Reuters: "U.S. could cut troops in Iraq next spring"
What a joke! Talk about holding the carrot before the nose of the donkey (the donkey being the portion of the American public dumb enough not to catch on to this nonsense)! When you read the article, what Lt. Gen Ray Odierno actually said was this:
"I think if everything goes the way it's going now, there's a potential that by the spring we will be able to reduce forces, and Iraq security forces could take over," Odierno said. "It could happen sooner than that. I don't know."

He also cautioned that, because the insurgents in Iraq have proven so resilient and adaptive, making any prediction is risky. "There's so many things that could happen between now and then," he said, referring to next spring.
Of course, there's also a potential that the U.S. might be increasing forces by next spring, too. I guess Odierno forgot to mention that, and reporters didn't think to ask that question. I guess it required too much thinking.

Reading this story, I couldn't help but thinking of something said the other day on Democracy Now! by Josh Rushing, the Marine made famous by his appearance in the film "Control Room":

"They [reporters covering the Iraq invasion] would ask me before I would go on air live, 'Are there any messages you want to get across today?' Well, yeah. My boss comes straight from the White House, and they have the messages of the day, and so they would give it to us. So I’d say, 'Sure. WMD, regime change, ties with terrorism.' And they go, 'OK. Well, I’ll ask you these questions, so we can get those answers out.'"
There's only one way that troops will really being coming home from Iraq by next spring. And that's if the American (and world) public gets out in the streets for a protest against the war so massive it can't be ignored.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


House says "yes" to regime change in Cuba, Venezuela

The House voted today to increase the money being spent to "promote democracy," otherwise known as intervening in the internal affairs of other countries in the hope of "regime change," in Cuba and Venezuela. It's interesting to note the role of Democrats in this process. In the case of Cuba, liberal Democrats made a big point of resisting a huge increase in the money being spent on Cuba, but primarily on the grounds reminiscent of their "opposition" to the war in Iraq - that the existing program has been "ill-managed" (and basically a boondoggle for right-wing Cubans in Miami), not because they object in principle to interfering in other countries. Committee Chair Rep. Nita Lowey of New York led the fight to keep the money at its current level, but enough Democrats voted with the Republicans that the big increase passed.

But then when it came to creating a new program just for Venezuela, where a range of broadcast and print media far broader than that available in the United States (speaking of mass market media, not small left-wing publications) isn't "democratic" enough for the Democrats (or the Republicans), the very same Nita Lowey immediately endorsed the proposal, and a voice vote was all that was needed for passage.

Hey, I've suddenly had an idea. I think I'll start a new television network and ask Venezuela for $10 million to get it started. Oh yeah, that won't work. Because, just as with the fate of Al Jazeera International, that great "freedom of the press" available in the United States won't actually result in it being shown. When it comes to TV, anyway, that old "freedom of the press belongs to those who own the press" isn't good enough. Now you have to own the cable company as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


One hand giveth, the other hand giveth...a lot more

The other day, the U.S promised (chances of fulfilling the promise are well below certainty) to send $40 million to Palestine. Today the U.S. signed an agreement (note: not a "promise," a signed agreement) to increase its military aid to Israel from $2.4 billion a year to $2.9 billion a year (the increase to occur over a 10-year period). I'm sure I don't need to point out, even to the math-challenged, the extent to which that dwarfs any money the U.S. may or may not give to the Palestinians.

As an aside, it's also an interesting reflection of "democracy" in the United States. Not only has there been, as far as I can tell, no debate in Congress over this (the body which, last I checked, was actually responsible for voting for any money they government spends for any purpose whatsoever), but also the commitment extends over two complete terms of the next President or Presidents, no matter who that might be and how they might feel about military aid to Israel (not that I'm expecting any President elected in the next five years to offer any change in that area). Some "democracy," huh?


The military - active and retired - keeps lying

Just two days ago the U.S. military slaughtered seven Afghan children but made this categorical statement to cover their tracks:
"We had surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications there were children inside the building."
I was actually willing to believe that was true, not that it excused the action of the U.S. military. But, lo and behold, it was an out-and-out lie, if not on the part of the spokesperson making the statement, then certainly on the part of whoever gave him the information to report:
According to several officials, and contrary to previous statements, the U.S. military knew there were children at the compound but considered the target of such high value it was worth the risk of potential collateral damage.
One does wonder how this calculation goes. How many children or other "innocent civilians" are actually worth the life of one "high value target"? And do they multiply that by the probability that they have actually correctly identified the presence of said target? Based on their record trying to take out Saddam Hussein and other "high-value targets" during "shock and awe," I'm guessing that probability is pretty darn low; indeed, as far as I remember, Zarqawi is the only "HVT" that has ever been taken out by a military strike.

That was the active military lying - not much surprise there, really. What about the "retired" part? Appearing in his maiden outing on MSNBC on Countdown tonight, Gen. Wesley Clark had this to say (my transcription):

"It's really hard to know what happens in battle...In this latest case, we don't know if there was misleading or not. It may be just that first reports weren't correct, and by the time they got the special forces guys back in and debriefed them, they realized they had in fact taken a calculated risk of calling in the bombs even though they saw the presence of children in the compound."
But that's a lie in the exact same way that many of the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq were lies. As I've written many times before (I'll skip the links), some people, analogous to Clark's excuses above, say we just don't know if Bush or Cheney or Powell were lying, or if they really believed Iraq had WMD. And that might be true, if they had said to the American public, "We think Iraq has WMD" or "Our most reliable evidence strongly suggests that Iraq has WMD" or something along that lines. As soon as they said "We know Iraq has WMD," they were lying, just as surely as if they had said "The moon is made of green cheese" without ever having been to the moon to subject it to a taste test (which has been done, by the way).

And, in the present case, the military spokesperson could have said, "We're still investigating what happened" (and then never follow up on it, following countless precedents) or "As far as we know, no children were seen." But he didn't. He stated categorically that they had watched the compound all day and not seen children. Now again, we don't know that he personally was lying; chances are in fact that he wasn't. But there's no question that the military was lying. And Wes Clark covering up that fact is itself a lie, because this is not some remarkable insight I'm offering, it's just plain common sense.

The Washington Post's William Arkin has some ideas about why they might have been lying. But that doesn't change the fact that they were.

By the way, we'll see how this develops, but as I write this, MSNBC and Arkin (the latter in an online blog, not a news article) are the only ones to report this development in the story.

Update: It's now the next day, and according to a Google News search, not a single other American corporate news organization is yet reporting this development. As compared to, say, when Matt Drudge reports something, and you can count on practically the entire panoply of corporate media quickly reporting, even without confirmation of their own, that "it is being reported that..."


How serious is the U.S. about Middle East peace?

Reading this article which reports that Tony Blair may become the next "special envoy" for the "Quartet," I learn that the position has been open since April, 2006, more than a year! Not that anything different would have happened had the position been filled, mind you. But still, it does rather reflect the "seriousness" (as in ha, ha) that the "Quartet" treats the concept of a just solution for Israel and Palestine (even on their terms of what that "just solution" might entail).


Hamas speaks

This has to be unprecedented. The Washington Post and the New York Times have simultaneously published today op-eds by Ahmed Yousef, the political adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister (the legitimate one) Ismail Haniya, explaining Hamas' position on recent events. Interestingly, the two are not identical. Read both. Combined with Jimmy Carter's recent statements, perhaps Americans will begin to understand a bit of what is happening in Palestine. Perhaps. But only if this issue gets the "repetition factor" on the talk shows etc. that it requires to penetrate the consciousness of the generally barely conscious American public, which is doubtful.


Bipartisan imperialism

I knew about Barack Obama, but I wasn't aware that all three major candidates (as well as the major Republican candidates, natch) are now calling for "substantial" increases in the size of the U.S. military:
Is the U.S. Army too small?

The Democrats vying to succeed George W. Bush think so. Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama all promise, if elected, to expand our land forces. Clinton has declared it "past time to increase the end-strength of the Army and Marines." Edwards calls for a "substantial increase." Obama offers hard numbers: His program specifies the addition of 92,000 soldiers.

Leading Republicans concur. John McCain has long advocated a bigger Army. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are now chiming in. Giuliani wants to expand the Army with an additional 10 combat brigades. Romney says that "at least 100,000" more troops are needed.
The op-ed article from which this comes was written by Andrew Bacevich, the professor and retired Army lieutenant colonel whose son was killed in Iraq last month. Bacevich's analysis of why this is is interesting, and scathing, but wrong:
This bipartisan consensus — which even includes Bush, who recently unveiled his own five-year plan to enlarge the Army and Marine Corps — illustrates the inability or refusal of the political class to grasp the true nature of our post-9/11 foreign policy crisis. Any politician who thinks that the chief lesson to be drawn from the last five years is that we need more Americans toting rifles and carrying rucksacks has learned nothing.

In fact, this enthusiasm for putting more Americans in uniform (and for increasing overall military spending) reflects the persistence of a second consensus to which leading Democrats and Republicans alike stubbornly subscribe.

This second consensus consists of two elements. According to the first element, the only way to win the so-called global war on terrorism, thereby precluding another 9/11, is to "fix" whatever ails the Islamic world. According to the second element, the United States possesses the wherewithal to effect just such a transformation. In essence, by employing American power, beginning with military power, to ameliorate the ills afflicting Islam, we will ensure our own safety.

This is sheer twaddle, as events in Iraq have manifestly shown.
Alas, Bacevich's illusion that U.S. imperialism is waging a so-called war on terrorism in order to "'fix' whatever ails the Islamic world," while perhaps not qualifying as "sheer twaddle," misses the drive for oil (as well as broader economic control) and power which are at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. Bacevich would do well to read Antonia Juhasz' The Bush Agenda if he wants to really understand what is driving the U.S. ruling class to push for an even larger military.

Supporters of mainstream Democrats like Edwards, Obama, and Clinton, will no doubt delude themselves into thinking that those candidates (and others) don't really want a larger military nor are they motivated by the desire to expand U.S. economic might at the point of a gun, but that they're just making such calls so they don't appear "weak" and ruin their chances of being elected. They would be wrong.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Jimmy Carter vs. the U.S.

Jimmy Carter is going to be even less popular with the establishment after this brush with the truth:
Former President Jimmy Carter accused the U.S., Israel and the European Union on Tuesday of seeking to divide the Palestinian people by reopening aid to President Mahmoud Abbas' new government in the West Bank while denying the same to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was addressing a human rights conference in Ireland, also said the Bush administration's refusal to accept Hamas' 2006 election victory was "criminal."

Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with Abbas' moderate Fatah movement.
During his speech to Ireland's annual Forum on Human Rights, the 83-year-old former president said monitors from his Carter Center observed the 2006 election that Hamas won. He said the vote was "orderly and fair" and Hamas triumphed, in part, because it was "shrewd in selecting candidates," whereas a divided, corrupt Fatah ran multiple candidates for single seats.

Far from encouraging Hamas' move into parliamentary politics, Carter said the U.S. and Israel, with European Union acquiescence, sought to subvert the outcome by shunning Hamas and helping Abbas to keep the reins of political and military power.

"That action was criminal," he said in a news conference after his speech.

"The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah," he said.

Carter said the U.S. and others supplied the Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza with vastly superior weaponry in hopes they would "conquer Hamas in Gaza" — but Hamas routed Fatah in the fighting last week because of its "superior skills and discipline."


The U.S. vs. the Iraqi people

A must-read post at Lenin's Tomb describing in detail the way the United States has devastated city after city in Iraq.


U.S. loses big at the U.N. Human Rights Council

After pushing for a new U.N. Human Rights Council, and then declining to even run for a seat because of the possible humiliation of losing, today came further losses. First came the news that the Council had dropped its special monitor for Cuba (and Belarus as well), one of the U.S.' major priorities, and later, the Council voted to make Israel a permanent agenda item, much to the consternation of the U.S. and Jewish organizations.

How isolated is the U.S. (and Israel)? Out of 47 members of the Council, which include a wide variety of U.S. allies such as Germany, Italy, the U.K., France, Japan, Mexico, and others, only a single country, Canada, was willing to vote against the resolution singling out Israel.


The war that keeps on killing

The title could apply to all too many things (depleted uranium, PTSD in Americans and Iraqis, lowered health care and public health standards in Iraq, and on and on), but in this case, it refers to the tragic death of Sgt. Frank Sandoval (right), his brain injured in a November, 2005 IED explosion. Sandoval had been making a good recovery, went through rehabilitation, was just about (with his wife) to buy a house, but died yesterday at the Palo Alto VA Hospital as a result of a follow-up brain operation.

As of this moment, the official Department of Defense casualty listing of those who have died in Iraq lists 3528 dead. I'll give them a couple days to catch up (although the latest listing is for yesterday, the day Sgt. Sandoval died), but I seriously doubt we'll see Frank Sandoval's name on that list, even though, as I've pointed out before, some who die outside Iraq do appear (for example, Michael Bechert who died on 6/14/07 in San Antonio, TX). Needless to say, Frank Sandoval's name belongs there as well, along with many, many other American victims of this illegal war and occupation.

By the way, something else I've said before but bears repeating, numbers like "3528" are so hard to grasp. Go to the list of American fatalities (incorrectly labeled "casualties") and just look at your screen. Even with a big screen like I'm using, and a full browser window, the list of casualties you see on the screen without scrolling doesn't even go back past the beginning of June. Every line on that screen, every one of those names, a real person with a real (now gone) life, and with real, devastated family and friends. Then, if you can bear it, think for a minute about the Iraqis, whose list (if it existed) couldn't even fit all the ones who died today on your screen.

Update: The DoD list now does include Frank Sandoval. Maybe they were going to do it anyway, or maybe they read this post and I embarrassed them into doing it. In any case, Frank is dead.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Living lightly on the land

I usually try to avoid personal details on this blog, but this one is too good to pass up. I have a close friend whose favorite saying, an old World War II slogan, is this:
Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make do,
Do without.
Now it so happens I'm a tea drinker. I've owned a "Mr. Coffee" for years, but it typically only gets used every few years when my mother comes to visit. This summer, for no obvious reason, I've taken up drinking iced coffee, so I suddenly found myself using filters for the Mr. Coffee more regularly, and just came to the end of the box. Inside the box was a coupon for 15 cents off my next box. Just one little problem...the coupon expired on June 30, 1983!

I think that qualifies as "using it up," don't you?

Do individuals making personal decisions to "live lightly on the land" make a difference? Of course they do. Is that a substitute for activism to force more fundamental changes in the way society operates? Of course not. But as long as the former doesn't detract from the latter, it's a good thing.

Waste not, want not. And the planet will last just a little bit longer at the same time. :-)


What is killing the people of the world?

I've had one long-running series about those things which cause many times as many deaths each year in the world as terrorism, and another entitled "Capitalism Kills." In this post I add one more item to both threads courtesy of Antonia Juhasz' new book, The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time:
Over 20,000 farmers committed suicide in India in response to identical policies [the policies of the WTO which have a destructive impact on small farmers] between 1997 and 2003.
I had the pleasure of hearing Juhasz speak at a local independent bookstore last week, and, since I believe in supporting such activities (independent bookstores and progressive activist authors), I bought a copy of the book. I've only gotten though one chapter so far (from which the discussion on the WTO and the above quote comes), and it's a little dry (she's no Greg Palast, which is probably a good thing), but Juhasz is extremely knowledgeable. I have no doubt that the book, like her excellent talk, is packed with good information.

Since I can't really endorse the book yet, having only read one chapter, I'll close with an endorsement from the book frontplate from Cindy Sheehan:

"The Bush Agenda lays out the 'noble cause' for which George Bush asked [Ed. note: and continues to ask] our sons and daughters to give their lives: to open Iraq to U.S. corporate control. All potential military recruits should read this book and then decide if Halliburton and Chevron are worth fighting for."


Police smash global pedophile ring

The title of the post doesn't sound like the usual fare at Left I on the News, does it? It isn't. I mention because the story, about the arrest of 700 people in 35 countries worldwide, comes just days after the release of this year's State Department "Trafficking in Persons" report, which, as I've written about extensively in 2004 and 2005, singles out Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea among the handful of "Tier 3" countries, the "worst of the worst." And why is that relevant? Because, in this latest story of 700 people being arrested, all the ones we know of come from Britain (the largest bunch), the United States, Canada, and Australia (I haven't found a complete list yet, but I'm willing to bet that none of them are from Cuba, Venezuela, or North Korea). All the countries whose citizens are involved in this ring except the United States are "Tier 1" countries, the "good guys" in this area (no, the United States isn't a Tier 2 or 3 country; it's not included in the State Department ratings).


"Government to government" contacts

I won't spend too much time on the latest from the U.S. government, and Condoleezza Rice in particular, on developments in Palestine, but I do want to note one particular comment from Rice:
"The United States would 'resume full assistance to the Palestinian government and normal government to government contacts.'"
Can you really have "normal" government to government contacts when one of those "governments" is an almost entirely unelected body which isn't actually is control of anything, and certainly not of anything remotely resembling a country, or even a colony?

Rice did promise (and you know what that's worth) that the U.S. would contribute $40 million to the U.N. to help Palestinians. Meanwhile, the amount the Israeli government has stolen ("withhheld" is the corporate media euphemism) from Palestine has reached nearly 15 times that amount, $562 million. Not a word from Rice demanding that Israel release that money, although Israel says it's "considering" giving back ("releasing") the money. Not for the first time. The "considering" part. Not the actual "giving back" part.


Human shields?

Seven Afghan children were killed in a U.S. airstrike. The spokesperson for the U.S. military says:
"This is another example of al-Qaeda using the protective status of a mosque, as well as innocent civilians, to shield themselves."
He didn't actually use the phrase "human shields," at least not in that quote, but White House spokesperson Tony Snow did, as has every TV report I've heard on various channels.

But think about it for just one second. Another "coalition" spokesperson says:

"If we knew that there were children inside the building, there was no way that that airstrike would have occurred."
Not that I believe him, but if the alleged Taliban (or anyone else) really wanted to use "human shields," wouldn't that only work if the shields were, you know, visible? Like the one shown here. Invisible shields may work great in science fiction. But in the real world, the idea of a hidden human shield is as preposterous as the idea that the U.S. actually tries to find out (or cares) who's inside the buildings they're bombing from thousands of feet in the air. Not as long as they can count on the corporate media to dutifully repeat the "human shields" story.

Update: Lawrence of Cyberia documents Israeli use of real human shields.


Michael Moore on the "healthcare Olympics"

Amy Goodman spent the full hour of Democracy Now! this morning with Michael Moore. This story was particularly interesting to me, not because of what it says about Cuban health care (which is well known, at least to readers of this blog), but about the American media (which, I admit, is also well-known, but this is a particularly dramatic example):
I had a TV show on back in the '90s called TV Nation, and one day I just -- I thought it would be interesting to have like a race. So we sent a camera crew to an emergency room in Fort Lauderdale, a camera crew to an emergency room in Toronto, and then one to Havana. And they would each wait until someone came in with a broken arm or a broken leg. And then they were going to follow that person through and see how good the quality of the care was, how fast it was and how cheap it was. And I convinced Bob Costas and Ahmad Rashad, sportscasters, to do the play-by-play of what we called the Healthcare Olympics. And so, it was a race between the US, Canada and Cuba. And to make a long story short, Cuba won. They had the fastest care, the best care, and it cost nothing.

We turn the show in to NBC that week, and we get a call from the censor. They're not called "the censor," they're called Standards & Practices. And so, this woman calls. She's the head of Standards & Practices -- Dr. Somebody. I don't know they -- she actually had a "Dr." before her name, but I forget her last name now. But she calls, and she says, "Mike, Cuba can't win." I said, "What?" "Cuba can't win." "Well, they won. What do you mean they can't win? They won." "No, we can't say that on NBC. We can't say that Cuba won." "Well, yeah, but they won! They provided the fastest care. They were the cheapest. And the patient was happy, and the bone got fixed." "No, it's against regulations here." I said, "Oh, well, I'm not changing it."

Well, they changed it. They changed it. Two days later, when it aired, they changed it so that Canada won. And Canada didn't win. Canada almost won, but they charged the guy $15 for some crutches on the way out. So it's bugged me to this day that anybody who saw that episode, you know, where it said, you know, "and Canada won the Healthcare Olympics," and in fact it was Cuba, but that couldn't be said on NBC, because God knows what would happen.


George Bush's (not-so) secret fantasies

I'm no fan of Bob Woodward, and not a reader of his books, but I'm surprised I had to learn about this from the latest reflection (essentially the latest entry in what could be the world's most widely read blog, and probably the only one published in eight languages) from Fidel Castro:
In his book, State of Denial, [Woodward] says that on June 18, 2003, three months after the Iraq war had begun, as he was on the way out of his White House office following an important meeting, Bush slapped Jay Garner on the back and said to him:
"Hey, Jay, you want to do Iran?"

"Sir, the boys and I talked about that and we want to hold out for Cuba. We think the rum and the cigars are a little better...The women are prettier."

Bush laughed. "You got it. You got Cuba."
Bush was betrayed by his subconscious. It was in his mind when he declared what scores of dark corners should be expecting to happen and Cuba occupies a special place among those dark corners.
Reality places strong limitations on imperialism, but imperialism's ambitions literally know no bounds.


"Wiped off the map"

It's not just an imaginary construct, but something very real. Just not what politicians and the media and the Israeli lobby would have us believe. With the old "Iran has called for Israel to be wiped off the map" nonsense making its appearance in the comments two posts down, and the same charge being repeated against Hamas, this map (hat tip Lenin's Tomb) couldn't be more relevant in shedding light on the real situation of who's being "wiped off the map" - quite literally (click for a larger view):

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Measuring "progress"

Needless to say, I don't endorse the idea that the pacification of Iraq, were it ever to occur, would constitute "progress" of any sort. But surely, from the point of view of imperialism, it must be awfully hard to use the word "progress" with a straight face when four and a quarter years after the invasion of Iraq, the American Secretary of Defense is still making unannounced visits to Iraq.

From now on, any politician from President on down claiming "progress" in Iraq is required to visit Iraq and make their itinerary public at least a week in advance. Heck, I won't even require them to walk through public markets without an armed guard or body armor!


Iran: blaming the victim

The California legislature moves to divest $2 billion investment in companies that do business with Iran:
Despite opposition from state pension board leaders, the Assembly overwhelming passed an Iran divestment measure by El Cajon Republican Joel Anderson. With an initial 68-0 vote, Assembly Bill 221 heads to the state Senate.
And why?
"This is a country looking to pick a war. We can't have our retirement (funds) there," Anderson said.
Iran is "a country looking to pick a war"? Don't you wonder what life must be like on the other side of that looking glass?

Back here in the real world, of course, just today we have ex-Vice Presidential candidates of the Democratic Party, and Republican Vice Presidents of the country (and many others), demonstrating the bipartisan nature of U.S. foreign policy by openly calling for war on Iran. And, as they do so, the media helps them along by studiously avoiding any mention of the word "war" in this context. They're only calling for "limited military strikes," don't you know. Launching any military strikes on another country, "limited" or not, is an act of war. But you'd never know it reading the articles about Lieberman or Cheney or any of the other politicians calling for such actions.



Returning to the theme of Gay and Lesbian Pride music, a threesome of famous gender-bending songs. Three in one post, because there's really not much I can say about them you probably don't know. In chronological order:

Lola, from the Kinks (1970)

Walk on the Wild Side, from Lou Reed (1972)

The Crying Game, from Boy George and Culture Club (1992) [a great song and a must-see movie]

Friday, June 15, 2007


Calling all left-wing videographers!

In a couple months, CNN and YouTube will be combining to allow the "public" to ask questions via YouTube videos at upcoming Democratic and Republican Presidential debates. Now we all know that, just like when live audience members are allowed to ask questions, the questions are all pre-screened, so the chance that a different kind of question (example: Do you feel George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice should be prosecuted as war criminals?) will be actually asked are just as unlikely in this YouTube variant as in the normal variant.

But...the difference is that, in the YouTube variant, all the questions will be available online for people to at least view. Which means that a question like that, or one on Palestine, or Cuba, or a host of other issues, if not actually asked of the candidates, will at least have a chance to be heard by a much wider public than reads, say, this blog. Questions have to be less than 30 seconds, but I figure you can put together some nice little video clips framing your question in that time. So get to work! The rules are here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Alison Stewart smacks down Bill O'Reilly

On last night's Countdown on MSNBC, Alison Stewart (subbing for Keith Olbermann) took up the subject of a recent study which showed how FOX News provides significantly less coverage than other cable channels, and in particular, Bill O'Reilly's "defense" of FOX News. You can watch the whole piece (2:53), but I'll quote here the closing line, for which I'm particularly appreciative, for reasons which will be obvious:
O'REILLY: Do you care if another bomb if another bomb went off in Tikrit? Does it mean anything? No, it doesn't mean anything.

STEWART: MSNBC actually does not report every bombing in Iraq, but I bet each one at least, at the very least, means something to the families - American, British, or Iraqi - who have to bury their loved ones.
Took the words right out of my mouth, Alison.



A new socialist newspaper, downloadable in PDF format. Check it out.


Michael Moore, Part II

Yesterday I talked about Michael Moore's comments at a rally in Sacramento. Inside, he had even more to say, as listeners to Democracy Now! learned this morning. Here are just a couple excerpts:
Let me just pause for a second and say something on behalf of the health insurance corporations in America. Our laws state very clearly that they have a legal fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for the shareholders. If they don't do that, they could be put in jail. They're required by law to turn as big a profit as they can. And the only way that can turn the big profit is to not pay out the money, is to not provide the care. So therefore, there is no way that this can work. There is no way that we can continue to have these health insurance companies making these decisions. Nor should we have private profit-making hospitals making decisions. The hospital that has to make a decision based on the bottom line as to whether or not to provide care, this is absolutely antithetical to human rights. And we're the only country in the western world that doesn't believe it is a human right to provide free universal health coverage for every one of its citizens.
What is wrong with us? That’s not who we are, that’s not what we used to be about! This "every man for himself" attitude, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." "You got your problems, I got mine." "Don't bother me." This "Me, me, me." That’s not how they exist in these other countries – in Canada, Britain, Ireland, France, these other places. They believe in "we, we." They believe we're all in the same boat and we sink or swim together. They believe that if too many people fall between the cracks, their society suffers as a result of it. What happened to us? I think we used to believe that somewhere along the line, somewhere way, way back.
Moore may have illusions about the reality of life in Canada etc., and about how life "used to be" in the United States, but he also gets the attention of a lot of people, and a lot of people hearing messages like the ones above is a good thing.

Not to mention that both he and I thought that the word "antithetical" was a perfect word to describe the situation. :-)


Gay marriage safe in Massachusetts

A proposal for a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts to overturn the legality of same-sex marriage in that state goes down to a resounding defeat:
Massachusetts lawmakers blocked a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday that would have let voters decide whether to ban gay marriage in the only state that allows it.

The proposal, which sought to change the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, needed 50 votes to advance to the 2008 statewide ballot. It got 45, with 151 lawmakers opposed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Civil war in Palestine

It's a tragedy that it comes to that. But as most readers of this blog will surely recognize, the ultimate blame stems from years of occupation, and the unprecedented embargo placed on an occupied nation by Western powers. What may come as a surprise to Americans, used to American news, is that even BBC reporter Matthew Price, reporting on BBC World News tonight (video link), was willing to acknowledge that on the air:
"Years of poverty, isolation, and conflict with Israel have all helped to create this situation.
"For decades, Palestinians have been brutalized, pushed to the limit. There's a real chance now, that in a land of despair, a land without hope, it will be the gunmen, the extremists, who ultimately rule."
Words I guarantee you will never hear or read from a reporter in the American corporate media. No, he didn't explicitly blame Israel or the U.S. or the U.K. for what is happening in Palestine, but the implication was rather clear.


The long reach of the Cuba blockade

The latest example of the long extraterritorial reach of the U.S. economic blockade (or economic warfare, if you prefer) of Cuba:
Last week the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") released its monthly summary of penalties imposed by the agency.

In one case the agency levied a fine of $31,336 and in another the fine was $2800. One of those two cases involved violation of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the other involved violation of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Control Regulations. Guess which one got the bigger fine.

If you guessed the Cuba case, you win the cigar (Honduran, of course). Acme Furniture got the $31,336 fine for shipping furniture from China to Cuba. Hecny Transportation got the smaller fine for dealing with goods produced by a foreign person designated under the WMD Control Regulations.

Three of the other cases reported by OFAC involved a perennial favorite of the OFAC enforcement staff: people who buy Cuban cigars over the Internet. One particularly dangerous cigar purchaser was fined $2304, only a few dollars less than it cost Hecny to deal with a designated purveyor of WMD.


Quote of the day

I've written many times that what people want, and need, is not health insurance, but health care. Michael Moore, speaking in Sacramento yesterday, agrees (as do the thousand nurses and others who cheered him on):
"What kind of sick, cruel system is this?...There's no room for the concept of profit when it comes to taking care of people when they're sick. That question, of how this will affect our bottom line, how will it affect our profit, is an immoral question, and it should never be asked. There's no room for compromise here. There's no room for the health insurance company in an emergency room. There's no room for a health insurance company in a hospital room. There's no room for them in the executive headquarters of their own companies, because I believe that we have to eliminate the private health insurance companies from our health care system. We have to get of them once and for all. It's time for them to go."
Of course, I'd go much further than Moore. Even in the field of health care, not only is there "no room for the concept of profit when it comes to taking care of people when they're sick," there's no room for the concept of profit before they're sick either, otherwise known as preventive health care. Or adequate food, housing, and other living conditions either. Not to mention the manufacturing of drugs and medical equipment which are two of the biggest contributors to the high cost of medical care.

But getting people thinking about the question with respect to health care alone is a good start!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


We're literally surrounded by WMDs

American ones, dumped at sea:


The numbers are staggering:

The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste - either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.

These weapons of mass destruction virtually ring the country, concealed off at least 11 states - six on the East Coast, two on the Gulf Coast, California, Hawaii and Alaska. Few, if any, state officials have been informed of their existence.

The chemical agents could pose a hazard for generations. The Army has examined only a few of its 26 dump zones and none in the past 30 years.

The Army can't say exactly where all the weapons were dumped from World War II to 1970. Army records are sketchy, missing or were destroyed.

The Army's secret ocean-dumping program spanned decades, from 1944 to 1970.
Let's note that the claim covers the Army's admitted secret program; that doesn't mean they aren't continuing it to this day that they simply haven't admitted yet. Of course, there are also the WMDs the U.S. drops daily on Iraq and Afghanistan. No secret about those, except in the corporate media who likes to call them "conventional" weapons, when they mention them at all.

(Hat tip Skippy)


The "victory" in the Ali al-Marri case

Typical headlines in yesterday's decision in the case of Ali al-Marri run along the lines of this one from the New York Times: "Judges Say U.S. Can’t Hold Man as 'Combatant.'" So you'll be forgiven if you think that Mr. al-Marri might find himself a free man anytime soon. Because you need to read the fine print (emphasis added):
The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled yesterday..."military detention of al-Marri must cease." Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the majority of a divided three-judge panel.

In a statement, the Justice Department said it would ask the full Fourth Circuit to rehear the case, which could eventually reach the Supreme Court.
I frequently mention the case of the Cuban Five, and, as it turns out, what has happened to the Cuban Five is highly relevant to the al-Marri case - a divided three-judge panel of a Federal Appeal Court (in Atlanta in that case, in Richmond in this one) ruled that their trial had been unjust and invalid, but rather than set them free, the government kept them in jail and appealed the case to the full court (a virtually unprecedented action according to the attorneys). A full year later, after no doubt intense pressure was applied from above, the full court reversed the decision of the three-judge panel, leaving the original trial verdict to stand (and the Five still unjustly imprisoned).

If "justice delayed is justice denied," what is "injustice delayed"? Even greater injustice, that's what. While the courts dither, and take years to make rulings, Mr. al-Marri continues to rot in jail. Who will give him his life back when and if he's finally set free? Who will give the Cuban Five their lives back, should they ever be set free?

Monday, June 11, 2007


Gays in the military and Quote of the Day

Another aspect of Colin Powell's interview on Meet the Press, which has received some press attention (and some of it inaccurate, by the way), were his comments on gays in the military. Before exploring that, though, let's just pull one line from that interview out as quote of the day:
"The military...exists for one purpose and that’s to apply state violence."
You just have to love the bold, direct, honest answer encapsulated in that sentence. No talk of "defending our liberties" or "extending democracy" or "protecting us from terrorism" or "deterring attacks from our enemies." Nope, it's just "applying state violence," pure and simple. Love it (the quote, not the violence).

Incidentally, do you suppose the Swiss military, or the Cuban military, or many others, would describe their role as "applying state violence"? No, only a member of the ruling class of an imperialist power would do so.

On to gays in the military. In the Republican debate, Rudy Giuliani ("at a time of war, you don’t make fundamental changes like this") and Mitt Romney ("this is not the time to put in place a major change, a social experiment, in the middle of a war going on") said something almost identical to what Colin Powell said yesterday:

"Don’t ask, don’t tell" was an appropriate response to the situation back in 1993. And the country certainly has changed. I don’t know that it has changed so much that this would be the right thing to do now. My successor, General Shalikashvili has written a letter about this. He thinks it has changed sufficiently. But he ends his letter by saying, "We’re in a war right now, and let’s not do this right now." I will not second-guess the commanders who are serving now, just as I didn’t want to be second-guessed 12 or 13 years ago. But I think the country is changing. We may eventually reach that point. I’m not sure.
Now this is one of those things you have to think about for a minute, the claim that the policy can't be changed in time of war. Because what "policy" is being talked about? It's not like anyone is talking about going on a major recruitment drive to recruit gays in the military. No, what we're talking about is kicking people out of the military who admit they are gay, and the change we're talking about is not kicking them out. Even if it weren't for the absurdity of kicking out Arabic translators, wouldn't it be a lot less disruptive to any particular unit to keep people in the unit, rather than kicking them out? [Not that I'm looking to make the U.S. military more efficient, mind you, I'm happy to have them completely inefficient, but I'm phrasing the argument from their point of view, not mine]


With friends like these...

...Iran doesn't need enemies. Joe Lieberman is calling for military strikes on Iran. And the opposition? Here you go:
"The invasion of (Iran) is only going to destabilize that part of the world more," [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said on Monday after speaking at a forum hosted by the Center for American Progress think tank.

"I know Joe means well, but I don't agree with him," the Nevada Democrat added.
Illegal? Immoral? None of those things bother Reid, or virtually any Democrat or member of the "opposition," no more than they came into play when it came to invading Iraq or Afghanistan. Only the likelihood of an undesirable consequence deters them.


Colin Powell can't stop lying

Appearing on Meet the Press yesterday, Colin Powell continues to defend this statement:
"My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
He even asserts that "I went to the UN having dumped a lot of stuff on the side of the road because it wasn’t multiple source" (Quite a bit milder than the "I'm not reading this, this is bullshit" quote that's been attributed to him, I might add!).

But that's simply not true. As noted here, one of the most ominous and dramatic claims, the mobile biological weapons labs (a.k.a. "Winnebagoes of death"), came from a single source (Curveball), and now it turns out that Powell was being told by the CIA as recently as the night before the speech to leave that point out.

But in the end, it's all nonsense. Because, to repeat a series of excerpts I posted here, here are some of the "facts" presented by Powell at the U.N.:

"While we were here in this Council chamber debating Resolution 1441 last fall, we know, we know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was dispersing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agent to various locations, distributing them to various locations in western Iraq.

"Most of the launchers and warheads had been hidden in large groves of palm trees and were to be moved every one to four weeks to escape detection.

"We know that Iraq has at least seven of these mobile, biological agent factories.

"There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. And he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction.

"Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons." [Emphasis added]
In his Meet the Press interview, Powell makes a big point how, with respect to the famous aluminum tubes, he made a point of saying (emphasis added), "Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium." Not that even that was true, by the way, but at least he allowed in that sentence as to some doubt. As far as the other claims, they were assertions, contrary to Powell's claim, and presented as facts, not as "conclusions based on solid intelligence." When you have a "conclusion based on solid intelligence," you say "we think that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons," not "there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons."

Colin Powell was lying then, and when he says this on Meet the Press, he's lying still:

"The information was faulty, but it wasn’t faulty because people in the intelligence community were lying or trying to deceive. It was faulty because intelligence sometimes can be faulty, and it wasn’t managed properly, it wasn’t processed properly and we should have realized the inadequacy of some of our sourcing earlier. But it wasn’t venal behavior on the part of the intelligence community."
In a word, bullshit.

And, just a reminder - the man who told the truth to Powell's lies, Iraqi General Amer al-Saadi, continues to rot in jail to this day, and still has not been charged with any crime.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Bush meets the Pope

George Bush met with Pope Benedict. The Vatican says this:
In his meeting with Bush, the Vatican said the pope raised "the worrisome situation in Iraq."
Yes, it's "worrisome." If you're the Pope. If you're an Iraqi, it's quite a bit more than "worrisome."

Bush (who, I emphasize, is hardly an unimpeachable source), clarified just what the Pope's "worries" are:

"He was concerned that the society that was evolving would not tolerate the Christian religion," Bush explained at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi during the president's swing through Europe.

"He's worrisome about the Christians inside Iraq being mistreated by the Muslim majority."
That is a worry, of course, in ways it wasn't before the U.S. and its friends invaded Iraq (I wonder if the Pope noted that in his talk with George). And it's legitimate that the Pope was worried about it. But if that were indeed the extent of his worry (and again, I emphasize that we only have Bush's self-serving report on which to base this claim), it would be truly repugnant. Because of all the "worries" about what's happening in Iraq, that's hardly on the top of the list.

Incidentally, I wonder if the Pope asked Bush about the fate of one particular Christian (albeit not a Catholic [Ed. note - see comments; apparently he is a Catholic]) - Tariq Aziz, last seen more than a year ago and still rotting away in prison, having been convicted of...nothing.

On a lighter note, Fidel Castro reminds us that, going into the meeting, Bush had claimed that he and the Pope "share a 'common respect for human life and human dignity.'" Of course Bush was referring to unborn life; his "respect" for human life knows no bounds -- no lower bounds.


Terrorist pleads guilty. Press yawns.

I've written about the case of Robert Ferro before. This is the Southern California man who was caught with the largest cache of weapons ever seized in the United States - more than 1500 weapons, including 35 machine guns, 130 silencers, two short-barreled rifles, a live hand grenade, a rocket launcher tube and about 89,000 rounds of ammunition, all intended (according to Ferro) for use in overthrowing the Cuban government. On Thursday, after having the charges reduced to a single (!) charge of possessing 17 firearms (!), Ferro pleaded guilty.

And the press coverage as the trial of an actual terrorist reached fruition? Identical to that leading up to it - the guilty plea has been mentioned in two local papers, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and the Press-Enterprise. Period. It seems likely a slap on the wrist, and little more than time served, or perhaps another year or two, will be his fate.


Friday, June 08, 2007


This is a post about Paris Hilton

Not. But it is prompted by media discussion about her jail/house arrest/jail, and even more so by a comment from the Republican debate that I let slide at the time. Discussing the possibility of a parole for "Scooter" Libby, sentenced to jail for 30 months, Rudy Giuliani had this to say:
"Well, this is a very important issue. This is a very, very important — a man’s life is at stake."
A man's life is at stake. Really? The Cuban Five have been in jail for nine years, with two of them serving life sentences and another one double life, for the "crime" of trying to prevent terrorism. Leonard Peltier, a man almost certainly framed for a murder he didn't commit, has been in prison for 31 years. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man almost certainly innocent and certainly the recipient of an unfair trial, has been in prison for 26 years. Stanley Tookie Williams had his life taken from him literally, not figuratively. I could go on, but you get the point.

Has Rudy Giuliani, or any of the right-wingers pushing for a pardon for Libby, or any of the news people now spending time worrying about the justice (or lack thereof) of a 45-day sentence for Paris Hilton, ever uttered a sympathetic word about how "a man's life is at stake" when it comes to the cases of the Cuban Five, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Tookie Williams, or any of the countless other victims of the American "justice" system?

Giuliani, and all the other right-wing defenders of Libby, keep talking (incorrectly) about how "there was no underlying crime involved." Are they aware that the Cuban Five were convicted of "conspiracy to commit espionage" despite never having performed any act of espionage or even attempted espionage? Not a single classified document or piece of information was in their possession, yet they were convicted of "conspiracy to commit espionage." Talk about "no underlying crime!" Yet these men are in jail not for 30 months (not that I think Libby will serve anything like that, if anything at all), but for a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of double life!

Free the Cuban Five! Free Leonard Peltier! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! And, hell, free Paris Hilton too. Her sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment...to the American public who will be denied "news" of her partying for a full month and a half! Can't have that.

Update: Politics in the Zeros reminds us what happened when another famous woman, Martha Stewart, went to prison.


Skewing the news with anecdotal reporting

There's nothing wrong with anecdotal reporting, but it's important to realize that it's a mainstay of propagandistic reporting. The problem comes when people recognize it as such when coming from the right or the left, but seem to think the "mainstream" media is immune from using such reporting to push a political agenda. Of course it isn't.

It's a question that came to mind when I read this op-ed from Los Angeles Times staff writer Tony Perry. It starts like this:

Under a sweltering Iraqi sky, the general asked for questions from his troops. Many were reluctant, but one stepped forward.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jack Kessel, 19, of Raleigh, N.C., asked about something that had been gnawing at him as he and his buddies go about the business of winning hearts and minds in Al-Anbar province.

"How are we supposed to fight a war when people back home say we've already lost?" he asked.
You damn peaceniks! Demoralizing the troops! How dare you!

Before we read any further, though, isn't it obvious that there's more here than meets the eye. For starters, how many Marines, even ones capable of facing death of a daily basis, would have the courage to stand up publicly in front of a General and say, "When are we getting out of this shithole?" Not many.

Later on, the reporter shares his conclusion from five trips to Iraq:

After my fifth trip to Iraq to report on Marines, I've concluded that, at least among Marines, morale remains high - high not despite the public's disaffection with the war but possibly because of it. The declining poll numbers and rising political upheaval appear to have driven Marines closer together.
Well, maybe so. But Marines are only one-sixth of all the troops fighting in Iraq, and we all know that Marines have a gung-ho militaristic attitude far surpassing the other services. So talking only to Marines is hardly the way to get a picture of the attitude of the troops as a whole.

But there's more. Despite the reporter's claim about Marine morale and the quote which leads off the article, not until the 15th paragraph, 2/3 of the way through the article, do we read this:

In my many discussions with Marines, Lance Cpl. Kessel was one of the few who raised the issue of support for the war.
So the lead of the article was entirely atypical, chosen by the reporter to make his point, not because it represented some kind of widespread opinion.

The irony is that this op-ed article appeared in my local paper on the very same paper that this article, about the death of a soldier from the area, appeared, carrying the headline: "Friend says slain soldier's faith in war was waning." We read:

Arnie Becker, a longtime friend of the family who knew [Army Sgt. Andrew Higgins, a Hayward soldier who died Tuesday while fighting in Iraq] since birth said Higgins fully supported the invasion of Iraq during the beginning of the war. But as time went on, he became deeply concerned that the war "was only fermenting the insurgency and creating needless deaths of both Americans and Iraqis," Becker said Higgins told family and friends.
Another anecdotal news item, with a far different message.


And in a tiny victory for gay rights...

...anti-gay bigot Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace is out. He won't be missed.


RCTV: The full story

Two important new articles on the non-renewal of the license of Venezuela's RCTV (mislabeled by some as the "closing" of RCTV):

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