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Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Spot the missing item

Headline: "Iraq civilian, U.S. military tolls at new low in Oct."

Notice anything missing? I hope so. It's the group of whom I have never seen a cumulative count - Iraqi police and army. However, this particular article does have the last two months' data:

Figures from Iraq's health, interior and defense ministries recorded 758 civilians killed in violence in October, along with 117 policemen and 13 Iraqi soldiers.

In September, 884 civilian deaths were recorded, and 62 policemen and 16 Iraqi soldiers were killed.
So an alternative headline might have included this phrase: "Iraqi police tolls double in October." But that doesn't fit the "message," and although the actual numbers did make it into this article, you can bet money that the story on TV news will include only the data on Iraqi civilians and U.S. military, and won't mention anything else.

As far as the other Iraqis, the resistance forces? The only time you ever hear about them is when you read a headline like "U.S. forces kill 40 insurgents" (a good percentage of whom are almost always in reality civilians, not resistance fighters). As far as cumulative totals, forget it. The only place you'll see them is in scientific studies like the Johns Hopkins survey, which as we all know aren't even worth mentioning to the corporate media.


Audio Fourplay

I've been slacking off from posting songs, so this afternoon I got ambitious (and inspired by various current events) to post not one, not two, not three, but four count 'em four blasts from the past. Don't forget you may need to wait a few seconds (or quite a few) after you click each arrow; do not click twice! And don't click two of the arrows at once because both songs will (eventually) start to play!

First up, in honor of last night's earthquake, the first significant one we've felt in these parts since "the big one" in 1989, one of the first huge hits (1957) from the Sun Record label (and yes, that's what I'm holding in my hand, not some later compilation album), Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" (and yes, that's how it's spelled, not "Lotta' Shakin'" or "Goin' On"):

Next up, two for Halloween, for which the ghosts and goblins should be showing up any minute now - the well-known 1962 hit from Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, "Monster Mash", followed by a less well-known, but equally delightful 1958 hit from Sheb Wooley, "The Purple People Eater":

But I've saved the best, and least-known, for last. If you watched the Democratic debate last night, you got to hear Dennis Kucinich talking about seeing UFOs. And no one has ever done a better song on the subject than Buchanan and Goodman, way back in 1956 with their double-sided song, "The Flying Saucer, Part I and Part II" (this is both sides in a row). See how many of the song clips you can recognize:


Are you getting your $50 billion worth?

We learn today that U.S. spending on "intelligence" (and no, that isn't the education budget) is just over $50 billion. You know, that valuable "intelligence" that informed the world that Iraq had WMD and was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden, that "informs" the world that Iran is busy working on nuclear weapons, and so on.

Of course it isn't all just "intelligence" gathering. Plenty of that money goes for creating things as well - things like creating phony "resistance" groups like Ahmed Chalabi's (who also then serve the purpose of providing some of that "intelligence"), funding anti-Cuban terrorists out of Miami, and no doubt many things we can only guess at, like attempting to overthrow Hugo Chavez (I'm referring to the future, not the past attempt), plotting a "transition" in Cuba, and lots more.


Correction: World to U.S.: "In your face!"

Two items below this one, I titled a post about the latest U.N. vote condemning the U.S. blockade of Cuba as "World to Bush: 'In your face!'" The reference to Bush was to the fact that just days before, Bush had made a plea to the world to join him in intensifying pressure on Cuba; the world answered yesterday.

But in looking at that today, I realized how that headline could be misread, and so I need to remind readers (on the off-chance that they need reminding) that the U.S. blockade of Cuba has gone on for decades under both Democrats and Republicans, and that all the leading Democratic candidates for President not only endorse the blockade, but, with minor exceptions, endorse the intensification of the blockade that has occurred in the last few years under Bush (the minor exception being Obama, who wants to make it easier for Cuban-Americans, but not other Americans, to go to Cuba).


Non-reassuring Quote of the Day

"I am not in favor of this rush for war [with Iran]."

- Sen. Hillary Clinton in last night's debate
Yes, no doubt she'll make sure there are enough troops, that they have body armor, and the she has a "plan" for the occupation before going to war. How utterly reassuring.

As far as a justification for war that would stand up under international law? Not her concern; only kooks like Dennis Kucinich have the nerve to bring up international law in a debate like this. Imperialist might knows no law but itself.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


World to Bush: "In your face!"

It's getting harder and harder, but the United Nations General Assembly just set another record in voted to condemn the U.S. "embargo" (blockade) of Cuba. Last year the vote was 183-4 with 1 abstention; this year it inched up to 184-4 (Nicaragua, with a government no longer bowing to the U.S., was the addition; last year it didn't vote). As last year, the only countries in the world supporting the criminal and inhumane U.S. policy were Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands. By the way, total population of the last two is 83,000 people, just slightly more than the seating capacity of Qualcomm Stadium.

So much for Bush's plea to the world to join him in isolating Cuba.

Update: An interesting footnote from the Cuban press:

The Bush administration tried in vain to "persuade" UN members prior and during the General Assembly sessions, but the pressure only worked on Albania, which did not show up, and Iraq and El Salvador whose representatives left the room before taking the vote.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Morning news: imperialists on parade

On a rare Sunday morning when I was sitting around watching TV, I was reminded why I try to avoid it. First up was California's liberal Senator, Barbara Boxer. Asked by Wolf Blitzer her opinion of the Israeli bombing of Syria, she responded by saying she hadn't been briefed yet, but she could still talk about international law. As Franklin Pangborn used to say (or was it Jack Benny?), "Go onnnnnn..." How does international law come into play in this situation according to Boxer?
"International law says every country has the right to defend itself."
It took me a millisecond to realize that that "every country" didn't refer to Syria, but to Israel, who was "defending itself" by bombing an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor. And she certainly wasn't referring to Iran's right to build nuclear weapons to defend itself against Israeli nukes, or North Korea's right to build nuclear weapons to defend itself from the United States!

A few minutes later, it was on to Iran. Is Iran embarked on a program to build a nuclear weapon, asked Blitzer? "I think Iran would love [emphasis hers] to have a nuclear weapon." Don't you just love the way American politicians are able to put themselves into the minds of others, be it Iran or al Qaeda, and know exactly what they are thinking or "wishing for"? No, Barbara, just because the United States is in love with nuclear weapons, and has used them and continues to threaten to use them (as Mike Huckabee did later in the same program), doesn't mean everyone else is. It's called "projection," Barbara.

As bad as the Democrats are, at least they don't make themselves ludicrous. Here was Huckabee, asked by Blitzer if he had any second thoughts about the invasion of Iraq since WMD were never found:

"Just because we haven't found them, doesn't mean they didn't exist. Remember, we haven't found Jimmy Hoffa either."
Yes, Mike, the entire alleged Iraqi WMD stocks and "programs" were dumped into the Euphrates with concrete shoes just like Jimmy Hoffa.

To get serious on that point, I refer readers to one of the very first posts on this blog from 2003. WMD programs and WMD production and stockpiling don't just involve things that can be destroyed or hidden. They involve people - lots of them.

Whether weapons (or weapons programs) existed, or were hidden, or were destroyed, or (in this case) whether orders were received to use them, there were people involved - lots of people. And not just the "key scientists" and generals, but ordinary soldiers, technicians, truck drivers, etc. -- people who would have received the orders to deploy chemical weapons, been guarding the warehouse where they were stored, driven trucks out to the desert to hide or destroy them, received training in how to use them, etc. Now, given the financial (and asylum) incentives being offered for actual evidence of any of this, it is at all plausible that not a single person would have come forward with this evidence?
Wouldn't expect Mike Huckabee (or Wolf Blitzer) to actually think about these things, though. It might cause their heads to explode.


Ethanol - the last straw!

Six months ago, when Fidel Castro started warning about the dangers of using ethanol as a biofuel, few people had even thought about the subject. I'm betting that this news may make more of them sit up and take notice:
Small brewers from Australia to Oregon face the daunting prospect of tweaking their recipes or experimenting less with new brews thanks to a worldwide shortage of one key beer ingredient and rising prices for others.

Oh, and one other thing: Beer prices are likely to climb. How high is anybody's guess.

Barley and wheat prices have skyrocketed as more farmers plant corn to meet increasing demand for ethanol, while others plant feed crops to replace acres lost to corn.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Oct. 27: Stop the War NOW!

Here's what I did today (and tonight), what did you do?:

Update: ANSWER has a good roundup of demonstrations around the country here (with a link back to this video :-)).

Friday, October 26, 2007


The oppressed women of Iran

They are oppressed, without question, but maybe not quite as much as you think:
Amid greater official encouragement for women to participate in physical activities, Iran's female Rugby Union holds weekly training sessions at Tehran's Azadi Stadium.
Rugby! Who'da thunk it?

Not that I'd really want to be playing rugby (I have, exactly once) dressed like this:


A "patriot" "supporting the troops"

I wonder if anyone who is bent out of shape by the fact that Barack Obama is no longer wearing an American Flag pin will have anything to say about this:
The former head of the Long Island company that provided most of the body armor for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan was arrested at dawn Thursday in his Manhattan apartment by FBI and IRS agents on charges of fraudulently looting the company and investors to pay for a lavish lifestyle.

That lifestyle included supporting a stable of trotting horses; a face-lift for his wife; a diamond, ruby and sapphire-encrusted belt buckle in the shape of an U.S. flag; and an $8 million bat mitzvah for his daughter.
The cost of that "patriotic" belt buckle? 100 grand.

The news, and the reason the man was arrested, is about fraud. The unspoken word is "war profiteering" (ok, two words). He wouldn't have had millions to loot had it not first been looted...from the taxpayers (not to mention from the corpses of the soldiers who died lacking body armor that could have been supplied had all that money been used to hire more employees and produce more body armor, instead of paying for "patriotic" belt buckles and more).


The Cuban response to Bush, Part II

In his speech on Cuba, George Bush addressed (symbolically, since none were actually listening) the "Cuban people." He even specifically addressed members of the Cuban military, and told them "There is a place for you in the free Cuba [if you don't respond with force] "when [sic] Cubans rise up to demand their liberty" (with the implication that there is no place for them if they do use force on that mythical day, something which is spelled out explicitly in Bush's "Plan for a Free [sic] Cuba").

So what was the Cuban response, aside from the speech reprinted below? They reprinted the main parts of Bush's speech (1600 words) in the main Cuban newspaper, Granma (English and Spanish), and even broadcast 15 minutes of the speech on TV (15 minutes more than I personally can take), just to make sure that the Cuban people heard directly what Bush had to say.

There used to be a billboard opposite the U.S. Interest Section in Havana (it may have been replaced) seen below, reading (in translation): "Mister imperialists, we have absolutely no fear of you." Allowing Cubans to hear what Bush had to say is just one bit of evidence of the truth of that statement.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Mind-blowing news from Cuba

Well, it won't blow my mind, but maybe it will blow George Bush's:
Runoff elections for Cuban Municipal Assembly delegates will be held on Sunday, part of the first stage of the general elections in progress in the country.

Authorities of the National Electoral Commission -CEN- confirmed that 2,971 town council candidates, those left to complete the 15,236 delegates that will be part of the municipal governments, will be elected this time.
Imagine that. Not only are Cuban elections contested (that is, require multiple candidates) by law, but a full one-fifth of the districts had no candidate (presumably out of three or more) get a majority, and a runoff is required so that the winner will be elected by a majority. What was the percentage of actually contested (as opposed to nominally contested) races for U.S. Congress, again?

Here's another statistic to blow Bush's mind - 47.09 percent of those elected currently occupy their post. In other words, there was a turnover of more than half of all the elected positions. Not exactly anyone's idea of an entrenched bureaucracy, or a place where the Communist Party nominates a single candidate (actually, they don't nominate anyone, mass public meetings do) and everyone votes for them, year after year.

Don't worry, though. Bush has a "plan" to "restore" "democracy" to Cuba. Democracy American-style, where money talks, and everybody else walks.

Incidentally, for another comparison, 3,288 women and 2,053 young people were elected out of the 12,265 so far elected - 27% women and 17% "young people" (undefined). In the U.S. Senate (not directly comparable, admittedly, since these Cuban elections are at a lower level), there are 13 women (13%), while in the House of Representatives, there are 61 (14%). As for "young people," it's hard to say without a definition, but whatever the definition, I think it's safe to say the percentage is well below 17%.


Cuba responds to Bush

I know many of you (ok, three of you ;-) ) have been waiting for me to comment on Bush's diatribe against Cuba. Alas, every once in a while work rears its ugly head (believe it or not), and I've been (and still am) really busy. In lieu of my thoughts, here's what Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque has to say, which you won't be reading about (at any length, anyway) in the U.S. press (I hope to add to it later):
Replying to three spurious initiatives for Cuba proposed by George Bush in Washington on October 24, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque set out 12 points "covering what the U.S. president should propose as aid" to the island.

He warned that time is running out for the U.S. president but that does not make him less dangerous.

The Cuban foreign minister convened the national and accredited international press here "to respond in the name of the government and people of Cuba to the statements made by President Bush."

In a speech lasting a little over one hour, Felipe Pérez Roque stated that Cuba considers that the words of the U.S. president herald "an unprecedented escalation in the anti-Cuba policy" of more blockade, more subversion, and more attempts at isolation.

He noted that the policy in force within the Bush regime is a change of regime in Cuba "including via the use of force," which the U.S. leader calls "accelerating the process of transition" and Fidel describes as "the re-conquest of Cuba by force."

The foreign minister analyzed the "threatening and arrogant language" of the speech in the White House and the significant change of words and concepts.

"In January 2004," he stated, "Bush talked of 'working toward a rapid and peaceful transition to democracy;' in May it was 'speeding up the day that Cuba would become a free country;' and, in October, 'the Cuban people should be freed.'

"Three years later, last June," the minister noted, "Bush advocated 'heavy pressure for the freedom of Cuba;' and now he is saying in this speech; 'the word in order in our future dealings with Cuba is not stability, it is freedom.'

"Cuba understands these words as an irresponsible act that reflects the level of frustration and calls for violence to defeat the Revolution."

Pérez Roque noted the fact that "Bush is leaving open the option of a hypothetical and fantasy internal uprising that everybody knows is politically impossible because the Revolution has the support of the people," but also leaves open the possibility of an external aggression.

"Time is running out for Bush but that does not make him any less dangerous," the minister warned, adding that in his Washington speech he made "a vain and ridiculous attempt to recruit" our Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior, whose lives he would spare if they betrayed the Revolution.

"I have a message for you, you are raving, you are talking to an army of liberation" and to security combatants who have prevented more than 600 assassination attempts on Fidel. You are mistaken, you do not know this people, who are not in the category of the mercenaries whom you pay here."

"Cuba's reaction is one of indignation, but of absolute serenity and confidence in our strength. The word in order here is courage.

The foreign minister also commented on Bush's three new initiatives for Cuba, evidence, he said, of that there is almost nothing left to try out against the island.

He referred to Bush's disposition to consider granting licenses to non-governmental organizations and religious groups to supply computers to young Cubans and access to the Internet.

"A ridiculous announcement that would be laughable if it was not inserted into this intensification of the anti-Cuba policy. In a country that, despite the blockade, has more than 500,000 computers installed; which, next year is to install another 150,000; and, from 2008 can assemble 120,000 per year. Where 600 Youth Computer Clubs are operating that give free access to the Internet to more than two million Cubans every year." Felipe Pérez Roque continued: "Moreover, he is inviting young Cubans, the sons and daughters of his mercenaries in Cuba, to join a 3-year grant program implemented for Latin America. "This, for a country with 65 universities where 730,000 young Cubans are currently studying and which, in addition, has 30,000 scholarship students from 120 countries."

Lastly, Bush proposed the creation of an International Fund for the Freedom of Cuba, with the aim of other countries contributing money to defeat the Revolution," the foreign minister noted. "Mr. President made a desperate call on other countries to join the blockade," Pérez Roque highlighted, "evidence of his isolation, that he has no support in the world. "He might be the most powerful person, but he is not the most respected one. The international community does not go along with his policy and today, rejection of the genocidal blockade is almost universal."

After commenting on the "initiatives," the foreign minister listed the 12 points that "the U.S. president should propose as aid" to the island:
1. Respect for Cubans' right to their independence and sovereignty.

2. An immediate end to the policy of aggression and threat.

3. An end to intervention in Cuba's internal affairs and attempts to manufacture an internal opposition.

4. An end to subversive acts against Cuba and the dismantling of the radio and television that offend the name of the national hero (José Martí).

5. The immediate lifting of the blockade.

6. The elimination of the ban on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens and family visits by Cubans living there.

7. An end to the stimulation of illegal emigration from Cuba. The repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the fulfillment of the Migratory Agreements.

8. An end to the aggressive disinformation campaigns.

9. The release of the five anti-terrorist fighters, political prisoners in U.S. jails.

10. The extradition of the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela or his trial in the United States.

11. The immediate closure of the torture center he created on the Guantánamo Naval Base.

12. The cessation of pressure on the international community to support his anti-Cuba policy.
Pérez Roque reiterated that Bush will not succeed in his designs against Cuba. "There is no human or natural force in the world capable of making the Cubans desist from their dreams of justice, freedom and independence. We are a victorious Revolution and we have won the respect of everybody."

Almost at the end of his speech, the Cuban foreign minister recalled that on the 45th anniversary of the October (Missile) Crisis: "The Cuban people have the same serenity, the same integrity, the same sentiment of national unity and patriotic pride as in those luminous and sad days – as Che called them – when the Cuban people were even prepared to confront a nuclear holocaust before renouncing their principles and their sovereignty."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Bush repeats call for Europe missile offense

No wait, the headline reads "defense," not "offense." But of course the U.S. has a "defense" department which has little or nothing to do with "defense," and everything to do with "offense."

Why is George Bush pushing a missile "defense" of Europe, to defend against non-existent Iranian long-range missiles with non-existent nuclear weapons? I wrote yesterday about one side of the coin - that Iran's motivation for developing long-range missiles (if indeed they are) would be as a deterrent to an attack by the U.S. and its allies. But this headline reminds us that there is another side to the coin as well. What is the motivation for the U.S. to put up a missile defense system to prevent such an attack? Because what it would prevent (if it actually worked) would be the deterrent capability of Iran's missiles. In other words, the "missile defense" system proposed for Europe is actually a first-strike "weapon,", designed to allow the U.S. to attack Iran without fear of retaliation. Which is very much something the U.S. wants at least the capability to do, which in turn is why it is so intent on pushing Europe into this missile "defense" system.


More on the Israeli strike on Syria

An article in today's Washington Post returns to the recent Israeli strike on Syria. We're "informed" that independent experts have pinpointed a site which may be the site of the strike, and which shows buildings which are "roughly similar" to North Korean nuclear reactors.

For starters, who are these "experts"? David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). And what do we know about these men? From the ISIS site, we learn that Albright, the President and founder, does have a Masters degree in Physics. The "Senior Research Analyst," Brannan, has a B.A. in Government. Well, that certainly qualifies you as an expert on nuclear reactors.

But back to the article. After the hype of the start, we finally start getting to some caveats halfway through the article. "I'm pretty convinced that Syria was trying to build a nuclear reactor," says Albright. "Pretty convinced"? And that warrants a front-page article? A few paragraphs later, we get some insight into that "pretty convinced": "Albright acknowledged the difficulties of proving what the site is, in part because the roof was put on at an early stage, blocking views of the foundation and obscuring any potential reactor components." And finally, well into the article (and the very last paragraph that made it into the San Jose Mercury News reprint), we read: "Some nuclear experts urged caution in interpreting the photos, noting that the type of reactor favored by North Korea has few distinguishing characteristics visible from the air..."You can look at North Korea's [reactor] buildings, and they look like nothing," said John E. Pike, a nuclear expert and director of GlobalSecurity.org. Not that Pike is necessarily any more reliable than Albright. His website doesn't mention his education, but does note "Pike began his career as a political consultant and science writer."

We may have located a site which Israel bombed which may contain a building which looks somewhat similar to a building with "few distinguishing characteristics." Page one material for sure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The threat from Iran is real

George Bush, today:
"Iranian officials have declared that they are developing missiles with a range of 1,200 miles, which would give them the capability to strike many of our NATO allies, including Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and possibly Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. Our intelligence community assesses that, with continued foreign assistance, Iran could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States and all of Europe before 2015. If it chooses to do so, and the international community does not take steps to prevent it, it is possible Iran could have this capability."
And, guess what, George Bush is right. Iran developing an ICBM that could reach the United States and all of Europe is a threat. And what is it a threat to? The idea that Iran would launch a first strike on the United States or Europe (or Israel) is beyond preposterous. So why would they want such a missile (if indeed they do)? Because it is a deterrent to an attack by the United States (or some U.S. ally). And that is a threat. Because if there's one thing that stands in the way of U.S. hegemony of the entire world, it's the ability of a nation to defend itself. And we can't have that.

Monday, October 22, 2007


How do you spell "relief"?

I don't spell it this way:
Hillary Clinton, under fire from her Democratic rivals who claim she is a hawk on Iran, has dispatched a message to voters insisting she is "opposed to letting President Bush take any military action" without the approval of Congress.
In other words, Hillary Clinton (like every Democrat except probably Kucinich) thinks the Congress can authorize a war crime by authorizing an attack on Iran. How delightful.


What planet is Fareed Zakaria on?

Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria takes on conservatives (Norman Podhoretz specifically) who claim that Iranian President Ahmadinejad is "like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism." Zakaria responds, correctly:
Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?
So far so good. But naturally it wouldn't be a column in the corporate media without the author assuring his readers (and his editors) that he's not some crazy leftist, so he feels obligated to add this:
If I had to choose whom to describe as a madman, North Korea's Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, I do not think there is really any contest. A decade ago Kim Jong Il allowed a famine to kill 2 million of his own people, forcing the others to survive by eating grass, while he imported gallons of expensive French wine.
Has Fareed been to the liquor store lately? I'm not sure what kind of expensive French wine he buys, but does he really think that for the money you could spend on it you could feed 2 million people? The idea that Kim Jong Il "allowed a famine to kill 2 million of his own people" is so preposterous that I wouldn't take it seriously, were it not for the fact that a mainstream publication chooses to publish it, and for my expectation that such a preposterous claim won't even raise an eyebrow among its readers.


American values, Part II

Today's debate on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews:
Should the U.S. bomb Iran now?
What kind of country do I live in when you can find someone to take the affirmative in that debate? And what kind of country do I live in when you can even ask that question?

Yes, I know the answer, and it starts with "i." But the scary part is the number of people who will answer "yes" (or will answer "no, later") who aren't even part of the ruling class (although it is true that pretty much all of the people you'll hear on TV or read in op-ed columns who espouse such a position are at least "ruling class sycophants," that is, people who earn their living by spouting positions which match the needs of the ruling class).

Update: Just saw a clip of liberal icon Valerie Plame on "Countdown" (the clip was, I believe, from the "Today Show") claiming that there is "no doubt about Iran's [nuclear] intentions" and that they are "malevolent." No doubt, Ms. Plame? No doubt? None whatsoever? What will you tell us next, Ms. Plame? That "the British Government has learned that Iran recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"?


Fuzzy math

George Bush wants yet another $46 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which brings the total requested for the budget year that started Oct. 1 to $196.4 billion. And from this, AP concludes that "military operations [are] running about $10 billion a month." The last I checked, $196.4/12 was $16.4 billion a month, not $10 billion. Or perhaps military operations really are running $10 billion a month, and Bush is socking away the extra $6.4 billion/month to spend should a miracle ever occur and Congress ever refuse to appropriate more money.

But hey, what's $6.4 billion a month between friends? I'm sure none of us can think of anything better to do with the money.

This is, of course, yet another difference between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans will claim the money is needed to "win the war on terror." Democrats will claim we need to spend $16.4 billion a month because "we can't abandon the troops while they're in the line of fire." No doubt the dead troops and the dead Iraqis are most appreciative of that difference.


American values

This morning I was eating breakfast, reading the paper and listening to TV news at the same time (my normal practice). On TV, the discussion was about the possible move of the San Francisco 49ers from San Francisco to Santa Clara. Santa Clara has a population of just over 100,000, but is being asked to pony up a subsidy to the millionaire (billionaire?) owners of the 49ers of $160-$220 million.

And in the paper? An article about how the State of California (population 36 million) is contemplating saving $7 billion/year ($19 million/year of which would be saved by the citizens of Santa Clara) by eliminating its subsidy to the University of California system (UCLA, UC Berkeley, UCSD, UC Santa Barbara, etc.). And the consequences?

Tuition would climb, jumping more than 80 percent by 2010-11, to $15,306 a year for undergraduates. Under this scenario, UC could lose affluent students to smaller private colleges, reducing the academic quality of the student body. Low-income students would flock to less expensive schools, reducing diversity. Graduate assistantships would be in shorter supply and faculty workloads would climb. Lucrative research would gain importance over teaching.
But hey, we can't afford that kind of subsidy for the "luxury" of education. We're too busy subsidizing rich corporations (and, of course, paying for the U.S. war on the world).

By the way, those alleged consequences are optimistic at best. Those "less expensive schools" that the low-income students would flock to are the state's community colleges, already overcrowded and underfunded. A far more likely consequence is that they won't go to college at all.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Venezuela "destabilizing" other countries?

So says the Miami Herald's columnist, Andres Oppenheimer:
"There is no mystery about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's intent on destabilizing U.S.-backed Latin American democracies: he says so on his own government's website."
And just what consititutes "destabilizing" a government to Mr. Oppenheimer? Here's the nefarious plan he found on that Venezuelan government website:Sure sounds to me like the Venezuelan government is interested in strengthening democracy in Latin America, not "destabilizing" other governments.

As for Mr. Oppenheimer, it delights me to point out that he published a book entitled "Castro's Final Hour"...in 1992. :-)

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Celebrating a massacre

It wasn't enough that the U.S. government, via the CIA, sponsored an invasion of Cuba in 1961 (one in a long line of illegal attempts to overthrow a foreign government) at the Bay of Pigs. Now they're celebrating a massacre that was part of that invasion:
The Bay of Pigs invasion has been a low point for the U.S. government since its failure more than four decades ago. Now, the men who volunteered for the mission are being remembered at an art gallery at -- of all places -- the CIA, which plotted the clandestine operation.

Veterans of the ill-fated attempt to topple Fidel Castro -- Cuban exiles, CIA contract pilots and the families of four Alabama Air National Guardsmen who died in Cuba -- will gather Thursday at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Ala. There, an oil painting will be unveiled that depicts one of the successes of the covert operation: an April 1961 aerial attack on Castro's forces that took out an estimated 900 soldiers.

Titled Lobo Flight, the 40- by 30-inch painting shows a vintage B-26 twin engine bomber flown by Connie Seigrist -- the lead pilot of a convoy of B-26s painted to look like Cuban aircraft -- dropping bombs onto a column of Cuban troops heading to the beach, where a group of CIA-trained Cuban exiles had landed to attempt to overthrow Castro.
Quoting Dana Carvey as the Church Lady, "well, isn't that...special." What's next, a painting celebrating the "success" of the firebombing of Tokyo, or the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How about a painting of the "success" at My Lai? Oh sorry, those weren't CIA "successes." OK, we'll go with a painting of the murder of Salvador Allende. They're probably still toasting that "success" at CIA headquarters.


There is a difference between Republicans and Democrats

And don't let me hear anyone say otherwise:
Can Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert actually get on the primary ballots in South Carolina?

The answer is yes, although it could get pricey.

The fee to be considered for the Democratic ballot is $2,500, while it’s a hefty $35,000 to gain admittance into the Republican primary.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


S-CHIP as foreign policy

That stands for "Superb Cuban Healthcare In Peru." In the two months following the earthquake in Peru that killed nearly 600 people, 77 Cuban doctors, who arrived just days after the disaster and brought with them their own field hospitals (precisely what they could have done after Katrina), have treated 61,000 patients including 500 surgeries.

In an example of the way foreign policy (and healthcare in general) should work, the doctors have extended their care to anyone in need:

Nieves reported that he fractured his tibia and fibula in an accident. An institution in Lima was charging $2,000 to perform the necessary operation, offering him the option of amputating the leg for less.

"I was resigned to losing my leg, but a doctor told me about the hospital the Cubans had set up here in Pisco and I came immediately," he said.

"They haven’t charged me a thing and they have saved my leg. I am very grateful for what they have done," he added.
Healthcare based on need rather than ability to pay. And not even limited to citizens of your own country. What a concept. A concept called "socialism."


Condi Quote of the Day

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Bethlehem, visiting the Church of the Nativity, and emerged saying that it was "a reminder the Prince of Peace is still with us." Really? Are we sure it's not the Prince of Darkness? Personally I haven't noticed much "peace" in the region, save for the peace of the grave.


What is a "massacre"?

Several years ago I wrote:
Massacre: "The act or an instance of killing a large number of humans indiscriminately and cruelly." ...perhaps the most famous "massacre" on American territory, the Boston Massacre, involved the killing of five men by British soldiers. The equally famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre involved the killing of seven men. What makes all three of these events a "massacre" is their one-sided nature; the fact that the people killed were not fighting back, but were simply gunned down in cold blood.
Of course there's another part of the definition - it's a "massacre" when the "bad guys" do it, but not when the "good guys" do it.

Case in point, today's news from Darfur:

Darfur slaughter blamed on troops

African Union and U.N. officials are looking into reports of a new massacre in Darfur, in which witnesses described government troops and their allied militias killing more than 30 civilians.
Certainly a "massacre" if the reports are true. But the massacre which occurred in Baghdad on Sept. 16, in which Blackwater mercenaries brutally gunned down 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians? Here's one of the initial reports from The New York Times:
Blackwater USA, an American contractor that provides security to some of the top American officials in Iraq, has been banned from working in the country by the Iraqi government after a shooting that left eight Iraqis dead and involved an American diplomatic convoy.
Not only wasn't it a massacre, but the shooting apparently just "happened." A few days later it was clear the shooting was done by Blackwater and was unprovoked, but words like "slaughter" or "massacre" still weren't deemed relevant. The Washington Post likewise saw fit to use only the word "killing" (not even "murder") to describe the event. A month later, "massacre" has finally started to appear in the corporate media to describe the event, but only because some Iraqis have filed a lawsuit in which the words "massacre" and "senseless slaughter" were used, and the news reports quote the words from the suit, but still don't use the words themselves to describe the deed.

If it happens in Darfur, though, and "Arabs" did the deed, "slaughter" and "massacre" are the words of the day. No third-party attribution required; it's The New York Times and the rest of the corporate media providing the description.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Unintentional irony of the day

Condoleezza Rice, speaking (indirectly) to Hamas:
"You're going to have to renounce violence."
This from the Secretary of State of a country which has attacked Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, and many, many others, a country which actively supported the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and a country where Presidents and Presidential candidates routinely threaten nuclear attacks ("no options are off the table") against Iran. Yes, who better to tell someone else to renounce violence?


Hope springs eternal in the liberal breast

Just a few days ago, Hillary Clinton published a long article in Foreign Affairs magazine outlining what she alleges to be her thoughts on foreign policy ("alleges" because what her actual foreign policy will be if she becomes President may bear little or no resemblance to what she wrote). In that article, she wrote:
We must withdraw from Iraq in a way that brings our troops home safely, begins to restore stability to the region, and replaces military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq's future. To that end, as president, I will convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council and direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home, starting within the first 60 days of my administration.
So she says that within two months she's going to ask for a plan to withdraw American troops from Iraq (not that they'll be coming home, by the way; she also writes that "The war is sapping our military strength, absorbing our strategic assets, diverting attention and resources from Afghanistan" and that "The forgotten frontline in the war on terror is Afghanistan, where our military effort must be reinforced"). And, even when (if, really) that plan is implemented, it's not as if all the troops will be leaving Iraq:
I will order specialized units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist organizations in the region. These units will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel in Iraq and train and equip Iraqi security services to keep order and promote stability in the country, but only to the extent that such training is actually working. I will also consider leaving some forces in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq in order to protect the fragile but real democracy and relative peace and security that have developed there.
Is there anything there that isn't precisely what U.S. troops are already doing, or, conversely, is there anything U.S. troops are doing now that isn't covered by those "exemptions"?

So what about the "hope springing eternal"? Today, popular liberal blog Firedoglake is touting "Breaking News: Hillary Pledges to End War 'Immediately' Upon Taking Office." Wow. And on what basis springs this hope? Why, at a fund-raising luncheon, she said "she would end the Iraq war immediately upon taking office." And, believe it or not, all evidence (like the rather significant Foreign Policy article) to the contrary, this was sufficient to cause a swelling in the breasts of the liberals who heard her "promise."



Give peace starvation a chance

I don't know if Newsweek's Jonathan Alter calls himself a liberal, but he certainly appears almost nightly on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" knocking the Bush Administration. But his latest piece is certainly a typical liberal position. Headlined "Before We Bomb Iran...," with an implicit suggestion that someday we just might have to, it's subtitled "Shouldn't we give peace a chance? A look at the divestment movement." But economic warfare, whether it starts with divestment or moves on to sanctions, embargoes, or blockades, is warfare, intended to starve an opponent into submission. It's just the "kinder and gentler" "liberal" kind of warfare.

And why should we do that? Here's the lead-in to the piece:

Debra Burlingame says there's got to be a better way to confront Iran. Her brother Charles F. (Chic) Burlingame was the captain of American Airlines Flight 77, the airliner hijacked and flown into the Pentagon on 9/11. Since then, Ms. Burlingame can't get over our failure to fight a smarter war on terror, a war that wouldn't get more people killed. "We should be using all the tools we have—including our enormous wealth—to prevent our enemies from coming after us," she says.
And thus the seed is planted. The fact that Iran not only had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, the fact that Shiite Iran is an opponent of Sunni Al Qaeda, the fact that Iran hasn't launched a war in hundreds of years and hasn't threatened anyone - none of this is even mentioned in the article. We simply go from a reference to "fighting a smarter war on terror" to the "need" to "do something" about Iran, without the slightest justification as to why.

Jonathan Alter would be aghast if one were to suggest he has anything in common with George Bush. But by attempting to link 9/11 with a supposed need to deal with the "threat" of Iran, he's right in line. As with the old joke about the prostitute, he only differs with Bush in arguing about the price to be paid.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The Israeli strike on Syria: what do we know, and when did we know it?

I don't know. :-)

A week ago I quoted Noam Chomsky (from his latest book) talking about Seymour Hersh's "revelations" about Iran:

"You've got to understand that any report from an unidentified intelligence or diplomatic source is what they want you to believe. It may or may not be true."
If only the corporate media could read that and take it to heart. Tonight's ABC World News broadcast begin with these words: "We now know what the target was of that Israeli strike on Syria," and proceeded to "inform" us that it was a Syrian nuclear reactor (under construction) being built with North Korean help.

Somehow I really doubt that ABC World News, based on their own independent information, knows any such thing. What they do know, although they provided no attribution for the claims whatsoever, is that that is what the U.S. government (or perhaps the Israeli government or both) is telling them.

And if they would only listen to their own broadcast, they'd know this! As part of the segment, reporter Martha Raddatz claimed that the U.S. government had known about this reactor since last summer, but that while Dick Cheney had said the evidence was strong, Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates said it was ambiguous, and were worried about the fact that the "intelligence" about Iraqi WMD had proven wrong. But then, in the very next sentence, listeners were informed that the evidence was conclusive. Really? Just like "everyone" who "knew" that Iraq had WMD? That was pretty darn conclusive as well, at least if you listened to the corporate media.

And from there, it was just a step of no length at all to "inform" us that they "knew" what the target was. Not what "it is now thought" the target was. No, what it was. Full stop. But, requoting Chomky, the only thing we really know is what they (the U.S. and Israeli governments) want us to believe. Other than that, we know...nothing.

Friday, October 12, 2007


What did Condi say?

AP reports (and most media follow with similar language):
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday accused Iran of "lying" about the aim of its nuclear program, saying there's no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons and has deceived the U.N.'s atomic watchdog about its intentions.
George Bush has said that many times, of course, and possibly Rice has as well, but that is a complete distortion what she said yesterday.

Note that the word "lying" is just a single word in quotes in the AP story. Here's the full quote in which Rice used the word lying (a quote which is actually included in the AP story):

"There is an Iranian history of obfuscation and indeed lying to the IAEA."
As far as I know it's a lie that Iran has a history of "lying" to the IAEA, but even if that were true it is not the same as "'lying' about the aim of its nuclear programs"; those are simply words AP puts in Rice's mouth.

As for the "no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons," Rice again said no such thing (although certainly she and Bush believe it and Bush has said so). What she did say is "And there is Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons -- nuclear technologies that can lead to nuclear weapons grade material." Not only is there no "no doubt" in that sentence, but the dash indicates to me that the second half of the sentence is basically Rice catching herself, backing away from an unprovable assertion into a statement which is true. Indeed, just a few sentences before she had used an almost identical formulation - "the fact that these are technologies that they are pursuing that have the capability to lead to nuclear weapons grade material," clearly not saying there is "no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons."

What the Administration is saying and doing is bad enough; there's no need for the press to exaggerate it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Patti Smith on Guantanamo

Readers know I'm a big Patti Smith fan (see many previous posts), so I can't believe it wasn't until listening to this morning's Democracy Now! that I had heard of her latest song (scroll down), called "Without Chains," about the release of a prisoner "detainee" from Guantanamo. You can download the mp3 file or read the lyrics at the link above, or just listen here:


Iran's WMD programs expand

So implies the Los Angeles Times:
The Justice Department will announce today the creation of special task forces around the country to prevent unfriendly nations such as Iran from illegally obtaining U.S.-made parts and technology for their militaries and fledgling nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs.
So now Iran not only is developing nuclear weapons, but has "fledgling" biological and chemical weapons programs as well. No, the sentence doesn't exactly say that, an English major could no doubt argue that the phrase "such as Iran" is just an example of an "unfriendly nation," and that it's other unfriendly nations who have those fledgling programs, but rest assured that 99% of the readers of this article won't read it that way.

Incidentally, this move is far from benign. Recall that one of the major causes of the deaths of more than a million Iraqis from the U.S./U.K. ("U.N.") sanctions was the prohibition against importing "dual-use" chlorine for use in water purification plants. No doubt we can expect to see efforts to block the sale of such items to Iran as well. Which just illustrates the absurdity of the "logic" that Iran should be willing to purchase fuel for its future nuclear power plants from other countries rather than producing it itself. Placing your country at the mercy of others is a recipe for future blackmail, or worse.

Update: And, since "genocide" is in the news, let's remember that the deaths caused by the deliberate destruction of the Iraqi water supply followed by the use of sanctions to prevent their reconstruction was a deliberate act of genocide on the part of the U.S. government. One for which the U.S. Congress won't be apologizing any time soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Forgive and forget?

Stephen Zunes has an excellent article out today detailing his thoughts on why we cannot "forgive and forget" those (like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards) who voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. He notes that, by their vote, they implicitly renounced the U.N. Charter and the United States' obligation to obey international law.

One thing he writes about which I had forgotten is the reason I'm posting this. That is that there was a resolution in Congress which authorized force against Iraq if authorized by the UN Security Council (not that I believe that was an acceptable course of action, but it would at least have been legal according to international law), and that that resolution was voted down by a bipartisan majority.

The final vote in the Senate on the authorization of force resolution itself is here. Zunes doesn't mention it, but in the vote to make that authorization contingent on a UN resolution, the nays included all the Presidential candidates - Clinton, Edwards, McCain, Dodd, Biden, and Brownback. All explicitly rejected required authorization from the U.N., that is, all of them explicitly rejected obeying international law.


Holocaust denial...again!

AP headlines: "Bush opposes Armenian genocide measure." But that's not the holocaust denial I wanted to mention, after all, that was reported last week. No, it's AP itself. Here's the lead paragraph of their article:
President Bush urged Congress to reject legislation Wednesday that would say it was a genocide when thousands of Armenians were killed around the time of World War I.
Thousands? THOUSANDS? A full 17 paragraphs later, AP finally gets around to this:
At issue is the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I.
1.5 million is not thousands!! And the number of Iraqis killed thanks to the U.S. invasion of their country, not to mention the number killed during the decade of U.S./U.K. ("U.N.") sanctions is also not "thousands" or even "tens of thousands."


"President Johnson is not going to go to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors."

I've had occasion in the past to praise McClatchy's Middle East reporters, including Leila Fadel, Hannah Allam, and Dion Nissenbaum; somehow, McClatchy just ends up with the best reporters in the corporate press, all of whom maintain very interesting blogs (the latest entry on Allam's blog provides a fascinating first-hand view of Blackwater contractors).

All by way of prelude to an article I discovered by way of Nissenbaum's blog - an extensive report from the Chicago Tribune on the Israeli sinking of the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967. The article appeared more than a week ago, but appears to have attracted little attention. I won't attempt to summarize the extensive evidence presented in it; instead I'll just make a few observations.

The title of this post comes from a quote from Robert McNamara, then Secretary of Defense. 34 Americans died in that attack, but what I didn't know before reading this article was that only 8 of them were killed in the strafing attack by the Israeli jets. The remaining 26 were killed much later in an attack by three Israeli torpedo boats.

And what happened in the interim? Two squadrons of Navy bombers were launched by the American 6th Fleet, squadrons who probably could have prevented the torpedo attack, but they were called back by order of McNamara, allowing the attack to procede. The Israelis weren't embarrassed. 26 sailors (somewhat more than "a few") died, and nearly 200 more wounded (some permanently), in what is now clear was no case of "mistaken identity," but a deliberate attack.


Jon Stewart's latest

Monday night, Jon Stewart interviewed Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico. An excerpt:
Jon Stewart: You're not a fan of like Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez and those guys. We had Evo on the show...

Vicente Fox: Ooh. [Points to head]

JS: Oh, they give you a headache? He seemed very nice, he just talked a little about redistributing...

VF: No, terrible.

JS: Terrible.

VF: Populism. Demagoguery.

JS: Evo Morales? I know Chavez, but Morales as well?

VF: Yeah, both of them, and Correa in Ecuador, who's a third guy.
For the record, here are two of the definitions of that dreaded "populism":"Terrible"? Yes, if you represent the ruling class like Vicente Fox (or Jon Stewart).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007



The Washington Post reports:
Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.

"I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those,' " the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects."

Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.

"I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' "

That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.
True? Possibly. Plausible? You better believe it.

ANSWER's lawyers are already on the case:

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice said her group is investigating witness reports and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies. If such devices are being used to spy on political activists, she said, "it would be a significant violation of people's civil rights."
If it does prove to be a(nother) violation of civil rights, I'm sure the Democrats will be glad to pass a bill making it legal.


Tom Friedman's ignorance on display

Thanks to R.J. Eskow via Lenin's Tomb, I learn that Tom Friedman is now apologizing for the fact that "9/11 made us [sic] stupid." Not, by the way, that he's proposing anything concrete to make amends, like, say, getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, unprovoked invasions of other countries "[were] and [are] necessary to improve our security."

And the ignorance referred to in the title? Two examples:

"I’d love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway."
Whatever the nature of Saddam Hussein's rule, it is an undisputed fact that Iraq before the U.S. invasions and sanctions was one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East, in terms of health care, education, women's rights, and more.

But the real amusing demonstration of Friedman's ignorance (and American arrogance) was...

"I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantanamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans."
Is it possible that Friedman is completely unaware that "poor Cubans" have more access to good health care than poor Americans, and that far from needing our help, Cuba is in fact offering us help in the health care arena? Not only did Cuba offer more than a thousand fully-equipped, disaster-trained medical personnel to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (something the United States itself was unable and/or unwilling to provide itself), but is actually providing free medical school educations to American students willing to serve poor communities?

Do you really want to help Cubans, Tom? How about calling for an end to the crippling blockade of Cuba, which has cost Cuba an estimated $89 billion, money they could have used to pay for all sorts of things to improve the lives of Cubans?


Another U.S. torture victim in the news

The U.S. "justice" system shows its true colors again, as the U.S. Supreme Court denies rendition and torture victim Khaled el-Masri the right to sue the U.S. government because his trial would reveal "state secrets." You know, like the fact that the U.S. government kidnaps people, sends them to third countries, and has them tortured. A secret to Fred Thompson, maybe. Not to the rest of us.

Some will immediately jump to the conclusion that this is yet another Bush Administration innovation. Read to the very end of the article and you'll discover differently:

The state secrets privilege arose from a 1953 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the executive branch to keep secret, even from the court, details about a military plane's fatal crash.

Three widows sued to get the accident report after their husbands died aboard a B-29 bomber, but the Air Force refused to release it claiming that the plane was on a secret mission to test new equipment. The high court accepted the argument, but when the report was released decades later there was nothing in it about a secret mission or equipment.
It is true, however, that as with so many things, the Bush Administration has taken a quantitative leap in these matters:
U.S. presidents used the state secrets privilege six times from 1953 to 1976, according to OpenTheGovernment.org. Since 2001, it has been used 39 times.


U.S. forces beat and torture reporter; news at...never

...at least if you're listening to the U.S. corporate media. Iran's new Al Jazeera-like Press TV reports today that its reporter in Kabul, Afghanistan was detained for 18 hours and beaten and tortured by US forces late Sunday, and threatened that if he continued to work for the news network, his family would also suffer the consequences.

IRNA reports (with little detail) that Press TV broadcasts around the world are being jammed by the U.S. In the U.S., no jamming is required; "freedom of the press" (that is, the freedom of those who own the press and the airwaves to do what they want with them) guarantees minimal or no viewership. The more established Al Jazeera is available on exactly three local cable channels.

Monday, October 08, 2007


More holocaust denial...in Israel

Just two days after writing about George Bush's holocaust denial, what do I read in Noam Chomsky's new book "What We Say Goes" but this:
Q: Israel, which is an ally of Turkey, is also reluctant to use the term "genocide" about the Armenians. In fact, several years ago Shimon Peres said there was no genocide.

A: That's true. Back, I think around the early 1980s, there was a genocide conference in Israel run by a scholar who specializes on the topic, Israel Charny. Elie Wiesel was supposed to chair it. The government of Menachem Begin effectively ordered them to eliminate the Armenian genocide from the conference since Turkey is their very close ally. Wiesel withdrew as chair. Charny went ahead and included the top, but over the government's strong objections.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Weekend reading

Naomi Klein from an article last month in The Nation:
Recently, as protesters gathered outside the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit in Montebello, Quebec, to confront US President George W. Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Associated Press reported this surreal detail: "Leaders were not able to see the protesters in person, but they could watch the protesters on TV monitors inside the hotel.... Cameramen hired to ensure that demonstrators would be able to pass along their messages to the three leaders sat idly in a tent full of audio and video equipment.... A sign on the outside of the tent said, 'Our cameras are here today providing your right to be seen and heard. Please let us help you get your message out. Thank You.'"

Yes, it's true: Like contestants on a reality TV show, protesters at the SPP were invited to vent into video cameras, their rants to be beamed to protest-trons inside the summit enclave. It was security state as infotainment--Big Brother meets, well, Big Brother.

The spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper explained that although protesters were herded into empty fields, the video-link meant that their right to political speech was protected. "Under the law, they need to be seen and heard, and they will be."
Excerpts from Noam Chomsky's new book, "What We Say Goes":
I don't know if it happened, but according to the account from Saint Augustine, a pirate was brought to Alexander, who asked him, "How dare you molest the seas with your piracy?" The pirate answered, "How dare you molest the world? I have a small ship, so they call me a pirate. You have a great navy, so they call you an emperor. But you're molesting the whole world. I'm doing almost nothing by comparison."
On understanding world politics: "This isn't quantum physics. There are complexities and details. You have to learn a lot and get the data right, but the basic principles are so transparent, it takes a major effort not to perceive them.
On Sy Hersh: "He's a terrific reporter, and I'm sure he's reporting exactly what was told to him. But his sources are intelligence officials and diplomats, often unnamed. Their task is not to tell people the truth but to tell people what they want them to hear. You've got to understand that any report from an unidentified intelligence or diplomatic source is what they want you to believe. It may or may not be true."
On "moderates": "...the moderates, who say the attack on Lebanese civilians is 'disproportionate.' It's not disproportionate, it's outrageous."
"Nobody is as pure as the driven snow. But the problem we should be concerned with is the United States. After all, that's us. That's what we're doing."

Saturday, October 06, 2007


The Federal Comedy Hour begins playing in Miami

Although chances are it won't be much of a comedy for the Liberty City 7, given the "standards" that U.S. juries apply to convicting anyone labeled a "terrorist."

Here's the setup for this "comedy," which under any actual "just" justice system would count as prosecutorial misconduct and an immediate mistrial:

Seven men intended to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI buildings to ignite a guerrilla war that would overthrow the U.S. government and pave the way for an Islamic regime, federal prosecutors said Tuesday in opening statements.

On one of the 15,000 FBI recordings, Narseal Batiste is overheard saying he would make sure no one survived destruction of the 110-story Sears Tower because his soldiers would be ready to shoot down anyone who escaped.
Yeah, that'll happen. Particularly when you start with seven homeless men with no weapons and not even a camera to take pictures of their "target" (or, for that matter, bus fare to get to Chicago where the alleged target was in the first place).

OK, here comes the punch line:

"This is a plan, ladies and gentlemen, that's well thought out," [Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard] Gregorie said. "This is not a plan he dreamt up overnight."
Yes, you can tell a lot of thought went into that plan which involved "poisoning salt shakers in restaurants." I'm sure that took weeks to figure out, if not months.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Holocaust denial

Evidently there aren't enough Armenian voters and campaign donors in the United States:
President George W. Bush expressed his opposition today to a congressional resolution on the World War I-era massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, during a conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A U.S. House resolution would ask the president to declare the killings of as many as 1.5 million Armenians nine decades ago a genocide.


Hidden costs of war

People are (rightfully) outraged over the cost of the Iraq war (although of course the war deserves outrage even if the cost were in the millions), but they don't even realize how expensive the war is. Two hidden costs made the news recently. The first is Blackwater. Blackwater? Yes, Blackwater. Sure, everyone (except Fred Thompson, probably) knows all about Blackwater, thanks to their own behavior and the courageous reporting of Jeremy Scahill. And if you've been paying attention, you know that Blackwater has received more than a billion dollars in contracts from the U.S. Government. But those contracts are mostly from the State Department, not the Defense [sic] Department, which means that when Bush asks for (and the Democrats approve) another $190 billion for the war, that money isn't even included.

Hidden cost #2 - disability benefits for veterans. A commission recommended this week that those benefits be increased by 25%, which amounts to another $7.5 billion a year - that's $75 billion more in the next decade, or $450 billion over a 60-year (just to pick a number) lifespan of the veterans. That $450 billion? Also not included in the Defense [sic] budget.

More than a year ago, two Harvard economists released a study which calculated a $2 trillion cost of the war (and that for the U.S. only). And that was an underestimate! Consider this, from the paper (PDF):

Our estimates, for instance, assume that we have 136,000 troops stationed in Iraq in 2006. The Administration has recently announced a troop reduction, from 160,000 due to the pre-election build-up, to 140,000, a number which is still larger than the numbers employed in our analysis.
Well, we all know that assumption went by the boards, and that the costs have actually increased significantly since the paper was written. And then there's the real source of underestimation in the paper:
Assuming that the US begins to withdraw troops in 2006 and maintains a diminishing presence in Iraq for the next five years.
Of course we'd all like U.S. troops to be gone by 2011, but given that the three leading Democrats won't even commit to being out by 2013, it seems like a pipe dream unless the antiwar movement gets a lot stronger.

All in all, I suspect a revised estimate would be looking at $3 trillion now, if not more.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Good news, bad news

Dueling headlines in tomorrow's New York Times:

The good news? "The House overwhelmingly approved a bill that would bring all U.S. government contractors in the Iraq war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal law."

The bad news? That "good news" doesn't amount to much: "Charges May Be Dropped for Marine in Iraq Killings."

Subjecting contractors to the same standards as the U.S. military? How about subjecting contractors and the U.S. military to the same standards as the rest of us?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Cuban "terrorists"

CNN's "The Situation Room" broadcast a debate today on the blockade ("embargo" in U.S. government language) of Cuba, featuring Rep. Charlie Rangel on the "abolish" side and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart on the "maintain" side. Rangel's best moment came at the beginning, when Wolf Blitzer asked him, "Why do you believe it's time now to go ahead and lift the restrictions, lift the embargo, try to normalize relations with Cuba." Rangel's response: "It was time 45 years ago." After that, it was all downhill as Diaz-Balart bullied and blustered and dominated the conversation, grabbing the lion's share of the air time.

And his "shining" moment, the one that occasions this post? His discussion of Cuba's "terrorism" which involved his repeated invocation of the death of Sergeant Gregory Fronius...killed twenty years ago in El Salvador by guerrillas of the FPL, not by Cubans, and of "our forces who were killed in 1983 when our forces invaded and liberated Grenada" [and killed 24 Cuban construction workers who were in Grenada helping to build a new international airport].

Yes, you read all that right. Diaz-Balart's labeling of Cuba as a "terrorist" nation, a label that seems to form the bedrock of his argument as to why U.S. policy toward Cuba should remain unchanged, rests on two events, one which occurred 20 years ago and another 25. One of them didn't involve Cubans at all, and the other involved an event which Diaz-Balart himself correctly characterized as a U.S. "invasion."

Diaz-Balart also invoked the U.S. government's official designation of Cuba as a "state sponsor of terrorism," demonstrating one of many consequences of that ludicrous and unjustified label.


"Justice" in America

Another post about the travesty of "justice" in Jena? No, just something else I read last night in Bill Bryson's latest, "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid":
MOBILE, ALA - The Alabama Supreme Court yesterday upheld a death sentence imposed on a Negro handyman, Jimmy Wilson, 55, for robbing Mrs. Esteele Barker of $1.95 at her home last year. Mrs. Barker is white.

Although robbery is a capital offense in Alabama, no one has been executed in the state before for a theft of less than $5. A court official suggested that the jury had been influenced by the fact that Mrs. Barker told the jury that Wilson had spoken to her in a disrespectful tone.

- The Des Moines Register, Aug. 23, 1958
Think about this the next time you're read about those "backwards" Muslims who cut off people's hands for robbery. This was less than 50 years ago in the United States.

My favorite line in this sick story, by the way, is the bit about the $5. Apparently if Wilson had stolen $5 or $10, this wouldn't have even been a newsworthy story.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


What will happen in Iraq when the U.S. leaves?

If there's one thing I hate (ok, silly expression, there are a lot of things I hate), it's people who claim to "know" what will happen if/when U.S. forces leave Iraq. Of course their "knowledge" is always in the service of justifying their existing position - we "can't" leave Iraq because Iraq will descend into chaos, therefore we have to stay. And the people spewing that "knowledge" are quite often the same people who "knew" that Iraq had WMD, and who "knew" U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators, etc. So I'm not impressed with their "knowledge."

The fact is that no one knows what will happen. Even if I knew (which is impossible), it wouldn't change my position, which is that U.S. troops don't belong in Iraq, never belonged in Iraq, and should get the hell out, regardless of what happens. But...having said that, this story is rather instructive about what has happened in an area of the country from which foreign troops have been withdrawn:

Residents of Iraq's southern city of Basra have begun strolling riverfront streets again after four years of fear, their city much quieter since British troops withdrew from the grand Saddam Hussein-era Basra Palace.

Political assassinations and sectarian violence continue, some city officials say, but on a much smaller scale than at any time since British troops moved into the city after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Mortar rounds, rockets and small arms fire crashed almost daily into the palace, making life hazardous for British and Iraqis alike in Iraq's second-largest city. To many Basrans the withdrawal of the British a month ago removed a proven target.
Yes, Basra is not a microcosm of the entire country, so this doesn't "prove" anything. It does, however, suggest that the "wisdom" from the "things will go to hell in a handbasket" crowd is rather less than a sure thing, as they (and much of the media) would have the American public believe.


No accounting for taste

Personally, the less I have to do with the execrable Alan Greenspan, the better, but others feel differently:


Censorship and self-censorship

Just in case you thought it was only self-censorship keeping reporters (and commentators) in line, CNN's Jack Cafferty revealed last night on The Daily Show that he was censored (post-facto) after calling Donald Rumsfeld a "war criminal" on the air, and forced to issue an apology and say that he "stepped over the line."

There is of course plenty of self-censorship as well. But ultimately, self-censorship happens because of real censorship (like firing, e.g., Phil Donohue), along with what we could call "social censorship" (ostracism).


Unintentional irony of the day

"Reports about very innocent people being thrown into detention, where they could be held for years without any representation or charges, is distressing."

- White House spokesperson Dana Perino, talking about the situation in Guantanamo Burma (the White House seems to have an aversion to the word "Myanmar")
(Hat tip Keith Olbermann)

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