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Monday, June 30, 2008


Double "huh?" moment of the day

USA Weekend yesterday had a cover story on Jimmy Buffett. I wouldn't have even read it except my brother is a Parrothead (fortunately bad taste doesn't run in the family :-) ). I was surprised to read that Buffett describes himself as "an old hippie" and a "Southern radical" who supports Obama and campaigned for Carter and Gore.

On specific issues, here's what he had to say:

He has been opposed to the war in Iraq since the beginning. "Anybody who makes policy in this country oughta have to walk by the Vietnam memorial on the way to work," Buffett says.
OK, so Buffett was opposed to the invasion of Iraq, and we can surmise from his quote about the Vietnam memorial that he thinks that war was a tragic waste (after all, few people would make a comment like that about a World War II memorial). So what is the next question the author, Ann Oldenburg, asks?
So why not vote for Vietnam vet John McCain?
HUH? Buffett should vote for a man because he participated in a war Buffett thinks was a tragedy, McCain who was a strong advocate of both that war and the invasion of Iraq, both of which Buffett opposed, McCain, who is still one of those people who thinks the U.S. could have "won" if only we hadn't stopped bombing and killing and being killed? Is she a compete moron or does she only play one in USA Weekend?

Unfortunately, Buffett blew the chance to respond intelligently to her moronic question, which is why the title refers to "double 'huh'." Instead of pointing out that he is opposed to everything McCain stands for, all he says is:

"I respect John McCain, but it's old stuff. John McCain is older than I am!"
Sorry, Jimmy, if that's the best you can come up with, you'd better stick to singing and avoid interviews on political topics.


Admiral admits U.S. is at war against Cuba

OK, not exactly. What he did say is:
US: Oil blockade constitutes an act of war

The commander of US naval forces in the Persian Gulf says any attempt by Iran to shut down the Strait of Hormuz will be an 'act of war'."
Which is true, although there's absolutely no likelihood that Iran would take such a step unless an act of war had already been committed against it, and whether the precipitate act is actually taken by the U.S. or Israel, it will be evident that the entire "West" will be complicit in such an act.

Meanwhile, the U.S. attempt to prevent other countries from doing any business whatsoever with Cuba is, according to them, just an "embargo." No, it is, every bit as much as a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz, also designed to block trade, an act of war, designed from the start to overthrow the government of Cuba. The fact that U.S. warships aren't actually involved in the activity is completely irrelevant, as demonstrated on a regular basis.

Friday, June 27, 2008


North Korean name-calling

Today's USA Today features an editorial which calls North Korea an "addict" and a "nukoholic" (mixed metaphors, anyone) in referring to "attempts to wean it off its nuclear weapons." Huh? North Korea, if they have any nuclear weapons at all (which is most definitely not a given), has fewer than a handful (literally - fewer than five), while the "USA" of "USA Today" has no less than 5500! Not to mention that it continues to develop new generations of nuclear weapons, continues to talk about developing "usable" nuclear weapons, and, in violation of the non-proliferation treaty, continues to threaten non-nuclear nations like Iran with the use of nuclear weapons.

I tried to come up with a suitable metaphor or phrase of my own to describe this, like "the pot calling the EZBake Oven black," but nothing I could come up with could convey the absurdity of anyone in the United States, much less a newspaper with the name "USA" in its title, referring to North Korea as a nuclear "addict" or "nukoholic." Give me a break.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


War as an environmental disaster

An article in USA Today today reports that the military is facing a $100 billion bill for repairs; no doubt that money has not been included in what we've been told is the "cost" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But buried in the story is this nugget:
Humvees, for example, travel as much as 100,000 miles a year in Iraq, five times the peacetime rate.
Now there is an "as much as" in that sentence, and I don't know how many Humvees are in Iraq, but we also know that Humvees are not exactly high-mileage or low-emission vehicles, and just one Humvee driven for 100,000 miles is generating one heck of a lot of emissions and burning one heck of a lot of gasoline. I don't know if anyone has recently computed the amount of pollution being generated by American vehicles (including planes, of course, as well as Humvees, tanks, and everything else on the ground) in Iraq, nor the amount of non-renewable fossil fuels that have been burned up by that war (as well as in Afghanistan), but I think it's safe to say it's one heck of a large number.

Some hard data in an earlier post to emphasize the magnitude of this problem.

War is many things. One of them is an environmental disaster.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The low value of Iraqi lives

In the latest news of American savagery, American bombs killed six civilians, including four children in Tikrit. And why?
[U.S. officials] claimed that the house was attacked after troops received small arms fire while conducting operations in the area.

The strike took place after the troops saw an armed man moving into a nearby group of buildings, the officials said. [emphasis added]
So it doesn't even take a claim that "an armed man" moved into that particular house they chose to bomb without knowing who else might be inside. It only had to be a "nearby" building. Close enough. They were only Iraqis.

Out now! Not in a "hundred years," and not even "in sixteen months", the best a Republican or Democratic candidate can promise (emphasis on the word "promise"; delivering on promises is another thing entirely). Now!



I've railed against the media's focus on polls rather than issues, but here I want to discuss polls themselves. A widely reported Los Angeles Times poll shows Obama with a 12-point lead over McCain, or a 15-point lead if Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are included in the poll.

My question is simple: why is there an "if" in that last sentence? Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are running for President, and they will be a choice for voters in November (as, in some states, will other candidates, like the Party for Socialism and Liberation's Gloria La Riva and a Green Party candidate, quite likely Cynthia McKinney). So why on earth, when asking voters who they will vote for, would you not include them in the list? Even if you didn't have the motive of giving voters a not-so-subtle clue that Nader and Barr and the others are not "serious" candidates, wouldn't you want to include them just to make your poll more accurate?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


"Success" in Iraq

The news media (and politicians) are spending a lot of time now telling us about the "success" of the "surge" in Iraq, and there's no doubt that violence and deaths of Iraqis and Americans are down substantially. But the question that isn't being asked is, what was the price, and what was the alternative?

The price in American and "allied" lives and dollars is known: 861 865 868 (4 7 more today) Americans and 55 56 (1 more today) "allies" have died since troop strength reached its peak in March, 2007. The cost is a bit less certain, but let's go with $12 billion/month that's $180 billion. The cost in Iraqi lives? Honestly, we have no idea. For sure it's been thousands, and probably tens of thousands - some killed by Americans, others killed by other Iraqis.

Now there's the other side of the equation - what would have happened if the U.S. had packed up and left in March, 2007 instead of escalating their presence? Now obviously that's impossible to know. We do know that the 861 Americans and 55 allied forces would be alive, and that the U.S. would have $180 billion more to spend on schools, health care, rebuilding New Orleans, or, closer to the issue at hand, rebuilding the Iraq we destroyed. We don't know what would have happened in Iraq itself. Would the violence have disappeared? Died down? Escalated? Would the government have been overthrown, and replaced, say, by a government led by allies of Moqtada al Sadr? We simply don't know.

So the point is this - saying that "the surge" was a "success" is like saying it's a "success" when you buy a winning lottery ticket. It might be, but not if you bought 10,000 tickets, and not if you could have made more money investing your money in the stock market (ok, not this year). The fact that violence in Iraq is down does not "prove" that the surge was a "success." And, I hasten to add, it still wouldn't justify the continued U.S. presence, much less the invasion itself, even if it were. Because, with more than a million Iraqis dead, millions more injured, and still millions more displaced from their homes, nothing, nothing, is ever going to make the invasion and occupation of Iraq a "success."


Who said this, about what?

"The perpetrators of these crimes have been able to live in freedom for so long. And some say why go after old men in their last years? Because, in fact, they should not have the opportunity to live out their lives without being held responsible for these horrendous acts. These murders are 30 or 40 years old. Obviously they're difficult to investigate and to prosecute because evidence has been lost or destroyed, witnesses and defendants have died, and memories have dimmed. We must act quickly to bring the long-overdue justice to these victims and their families."
No, it was not someone talking about bringing long-overdue justice to the families of the 73 victims of the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455 by mercenaries hired by Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. It was Republican Dan Lungren, speaking in Congress yesterday (pdf) on behalf of a resolution commemorating the 1964 murder of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner.

The killers of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner have, as far as we know, either faded into the woodwork or died. They're certainly not murdering civil rights workers or bombing black churches any more. In contrast, Posada in particular remains an active terrorist and even more deserving of Congressional attention than the racist murderers, not to mention the fact that he has 73 outstanding warrants against him for first-degree murder in Venezuela. Just last month he was inciting violence at a party in his honor in Miami, and in this century, less than ten years ago, despite his age he was personally involved (and actually convicted) of a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro during a trip to Panama.

As of yet, however, no Congressional resolutions calling for the prosecution or extradition of Posada. Of course, this is a country where the leading "liberal" candidate for President, Barack Obama, just met with a man who was an integral part of another assassination attempt against Fidel, this one in 1998.

There actually was a resolution introduced in Congress calling for the prosecution of Posada. Like the resolution on impeachment, it was referred to the Judiciary Committee...where it sits.


War humor of the day

You'll remember the manufactured "provocation" in which Iranian naval speedboats, aided by a clown nicknamed the "Filipino Monkey" intoning "We are coming at you" and some creative video editing by the U.S., allegedly "threatened" U.S. warships in the Gulf of Hormuz. You'd probably forgotten about it, by US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead hasn't, because he offered it up as an "explanation" for the recent Israeli rehearsal of an attack on Iran, a war "game" which involved not a few speedboats but more than a hundred warplanes:
He, however, opined that the exercise could have been provoked by a January naval encounter between an IRGC speedboat and a US warship in the Strait of Hormuz.
Strangely enough, I believe this was not a deliberate attempt at humor.

Curiously enough, the word "provocation" was never used in conjunction with the Israeli operation. Not, at least, by the Western corporate media. "Show of strength," yes. "Provocation"? No.


More air we breathe

In yesterday's post I talked about the talk about "Hamas attacks and Israeli reprisals" (also sometimes referred to as Israeli "retaliation"). Today, Islamic Jihad fired rockets from Gaza into Israel, which the headline tells us "broke the truce." But why were those rockets fired? Because, as the article admits, they "occurred hours after Israeli troops killed two Palestinians in a West Bank raid." So the cycle was started by Israel, clearly. And did Islamic Jihad "retaliate" or launch a "reprisal"? Hardly - the attack, we're told, was carried out to "avenge" the earlier attack. Which, no doubt, it was. It's just a word you'll never see used to describe Israeli actions.

Incidentally, if Islamic Jihad had not launched these rockets and generated the "truce broken" headline, chances that you would have even read about those two Palestinians killed in the West Bank were slim and none.

Quick update: The AP article cited above uses the word "avenge" in an indirect quote with the implication that this was the word chosen by Islamic Jihad. But Ha'aretz actually gives us a direct quote, in which the word is "reprisal," not "avenge." Now this may be a translation issue; it's quite possible the Arabic word can be translated in multiple ways. Nevertheless, it's interesting, and not surprising, that AP chose the word that sounds the most bloodthirsty and the least "civilized."

Monday, June 23, 2008


A question for John McCain

...which I have not heard a single news reporter or commentator ask: You propose a $300 million prize "for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars." A simple question: do the taxpayers who will pay for the development get to collect the royalties?

Sunday, June 22, 2008


The air we breathe

The corporate media spews out a daily stream of propaganda, but so much of it is taken for granted by is readership it's rarely seen as such. A typical example from the Washington Post today discusses al-Hurra, the Arabic-language television network financed by the U.S. government. Now at first, you might think this is a wonderful example of the "free press"; after all, the basis for the article is how "the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission." But in the course of reading that, you're forced to put up with such propagandistic nuggets as how al-Hurra is "the centerpiece of a U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East" (as if!). You also read the preposterous assertion that "propaganda has become a primary front in the war against terrorism, with the United States and al-Qaeda each investing heavily to win over hearts and minds." Yeah, "propaganda" and several hundred billion dollars worth of bombs and bullets.

Forming a nice counterpoint to the assertion about the "U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East" is this morning's coverage about one of the least democratic rulers in the world, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. There's plenty of coverage about the issue of democracy in Zimbabwe, but when it comes to Saudi Arabia...nary a word.

Staying in the region we have coverage today about the Hamas-Israeli truce. And why did that truce come about? Here's what AP has to say:

Hamas wants credit for ending the blockade and the legitimacy of reaching even an indirect agreement with Israel. Israel needs the halt in daily rocket attacks that disrupted the lives of thousands in the border area. Critics say it gives Hamas a chance to rearm.
Israel? Only the noble motive of preventing the "disruption" of the lives of its citizens. Hamas? Only cynical motives of getting "credit" for ending the blockade and "legitimacy." That they might have actually wanted to end the blockade, not just "get credit" for ending it, evidently isn't a possibility. Earlier in the article, we read that the Gaza fighting has claimed the lives of more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis in the last year. But while the article's author gives Israel credit for concern for the lives of its citizens, there's not a word to suggest that Hamas might have an interest in preventing the more than 50-fold greater deaths of its own people. Incidentally, I'm virtually positive that "more than 400 Palestinians" does not include the 98 Palestinians who have died in hospitals as a direct result of shortages and other problems caused by the blockade (undoubtedly more by now, that figure is four months old), people who were just as surely murdered by Israel and the U.S. (and U.K. and Egypt and other countries enabling and enforcing the blockade) as the ones killed by missiles and bullets. I've also heard on multiple occasions just recently, even on BBC where I would swear I never used to hear such language, about the "endless cycle of Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli reprisals." As if one could tell in such an "endless cycle" which were the "attacks" and which were the "reprisals," even if one were willing to not ask the impolite question about the ultimate original cause of the problem.

The air we breathe is thick indeed with propaganda; it's all too easy to not even notice the stench.


What is killing the people of the world?

In the latest in a long-running series, we take note of yet one more piece of evidence that "terrorism" is one of the last things that requires attention if saving lives is one's concern:
The World Health Organization says more than 4,000 people die every day of water-borne diseases in developed and undeveloped countries.

It further warns that it will kill around 1.6 million people this year unless governments make a concerted effort to clean up their supplies.
I hardly need to point out that that's more than one "9/11"...every single day, year after year. Of course, most of those 4,000 people who die each day are black and brown people from the third world, not anyone the "civilized" world actually cares about, for all the high horses they're able to climb up on when it serves some political purpose (Darfur, Zimbabwe, etc.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Happiness is...

...a fresh apricot eaten right off the tree.

Just sayin'...

This post has been brought to you by the letter "A" as an antidote to all the otherwise depressing things you read here every day, and as a reminder that this blog comes to you from an area once known as the "Valley of Heart's Delight" and the apricot capital of the world.


People (and the planet) before profits

Whether it's private corporations or public operations like parks, schools, or mass transit, the operative philosophy in this capitalism run amok society is that everything must turn a profit (or at least break even). Imagine what would happen if it didn't. Well, you needn't imagine in the case of mass transit, because yesterday Bay Area transit agencies offered free rides (I think as a "marketing tool" rather than as a result of a "Spare the Air" day, because free ridership on the latter has been discontinued as "too costly") and here's what happened:
BART set a single-day record with an estimated 394,000 passengers, and Caltrain saw an 88 percent jump from its average weekday ridership.

Ridership on buses run by the Valley Transportation Authority increased 21 percent, with 123,993 riders compared with 102,500 for a typical Thursday. Light-rail ridership also soared, with 42,809 passengers up from 32,134 a week ago for a 33 percent jump.

Ferry ridership nearly doubled, and ridership on the ACE trains was up 17 percent.
Without question the United States has been developed with serious structural problems - homes in the suburbs, and even further, well away from jobs, and spread out in ways that make even the development of mass transit difficult, much less its usage. Such structural problems will not be solved overnight or even in a decade or more. But without question, free mass transit would have an immediate effect, and for the cost in dollars would be far more beneficial to society and to the planet that the proposed "gas-tax holiday," just to name one thing on which it has been proposed to spend money to ease the burden of commuters.

Not to mention the positive effect such a program could have on unemployment, which has just hit 6.8 percent (and of course is really much higher) in California.

For more reading, an earlier post on this subject.


Capitalist boosterism in extremis

I was surprised to read in today's paper: "prices at the gas pump are finally easing in California." Really? And the evidence? Brace yourself:
Diesel in California: down nearly half a cent. Gas costs in Oakland: down a quarter of a cent. Santa Cruz, Sacramento, Yolo, Merced, Santa Barbara: slight declines. The nationwide average is down slightly and the statewide average in California has fallen, albeit one-hundredth of a cent to $4.609 a gallon from $4.610 earlier this week.
By the way, those numbers are ridiculous, because there is no way you can actually measure the "statewide average" of the price at the pump to a precision of one-hundredth of a cent, or, these days, probably with a precision of even several cents. To do that you would have to obtain the prices of every station in the state simultaneously. In the real world, by the time you've surveyed the last station, the first station you surveyed has already raised its prices another ten cents.

Not quite equally preposterous as the above were the "predictions" for the future: "A growing number of analysts think the dizzy run-up to record prices is tapering off and fears of gas zooming to $5 a gallon are not realistic - at least this summer." It's not even the end of June, gas is already averaging $4.61 a gallon (by the way, that's for regular; premium is already close to $5/gallon and probably over it at some stations), and the likelihood it will hit $5 by the end of summer is "not realistic"? I'm not saying it's likely, but one more "rehearsal" by Israel of a bombing run on Iran and for all we know it could hit $6 a gallon. "Not realistic"? I wish.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Heckuva job, Brownie's successor

Over lunch I turned on CNN, only to see the latest news about this great country of which Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama are so proud - some supplies (kitchenware, towels, cots) which were sent by FEMA to victims of Katrina and Rita three years ago have just arrived, and only because, after sitting in warehouses in Texas and elsewhere for three years, FEMA decided it needed to cut its rental costs and declared the material surplus. Even then, FEMA in Louisiana said they didn't want it; only when community groups and CNN got involved did the material eventually get sent to Louisiana.

Just makes you swell with pride.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


If we don't get George W. Bush's third term...

...we'll get George H.W. Bush's second term:
Obama said he'd be particularly interested in having high-ranking Republicans advising him on defense and national security. "I really admire the way the elder Bush negotiated the end of the Cold War — with discipline, tough diplomacy and restraint ... and I'd be very interested in having those sorts of Republicans in my Administration, especially people who can expedite a responsible and orderly conclusion to the Iraq war — and who know how to keep the hammer down on al-Qaeda."

When I asked him specifically if he would want to retain Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, Obama said, "I'm not going to let you pin me down ... but I'd certainly be interested in the sort of people who served in the first Bush Administration."
The Obamaniacs over at Daily Kos seem surprised, shocked, and chagrined by this "development," but they shouldn't, because it's nothing new. It's completely in line with his interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal in January, in which he praised Reagan for having "tapped into what people were already feeling", dissed the antiwar protests of the 70's as "an anti-military, 70s love-in kind of approach," and talked about how a strong priority in his choice of Vice-President would be someone with "military experience...who intimately understood some of the more tactical issues surrounding military deployments, or, conversely, also understands the bureaucracy of the Pentagon."

If you don't feel inclined to another Bush term, here's an alternate choice, Gloria La Riva, the PSL candidate for President, filling sandbags in Iowa several days before George Bush showed up, late as usual, to take a helicopter tour and learn what he could have learned by watching TV (or reading the paper, but we know he doesn't do that).

And just for contrast with the picture above, a tribute to the late George W. Bush. I trust that everyone knows this picture was taken while New Orleans was under water.


Priorities, people!

McClatchy has just published a major series detailing not only the extensive abuse of American detainees in Afghanistan (in particular) and elsewhere, but also the fact that a great many of the detainees were not only not terrorists of any kind, they were in fact allies of the U.S.!

Physicians for Human Rights has just published a major report detailing the extensive use of torture by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo (and, by inference, all sorts of other places they and we have no access to). In a preface to that report, an retired member of the U.S. Army who was very much in a position to know, Maj. General Antonio M. Taguba, writes (and this absolutely screams out for emphasis added):

"There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
And in light of all this, I turn on the TV over lunch, and what are the cable channels talking about, aside from flooding in Iowa? Whether Michelle Obama is "proud" of America or not.

Incidentally, on a subject that was being addressed (the flooding), there was talk about how the Iowa National Guard was working "all out" to sandbag levees to prevent flooding. I didn't hear a single word, nor have I in the last week, questioning how many more Guardsmen and how much more equipment might have been available for the job were they and it not currently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because if they really were working "all out," and I'm sure they were, then even a few dozen or a few hundred more might have prevented just one of the many levee breeches which did occur, and saved thousands of acres of cropland. But, like the McClatchy revelations and the Physicians for Human Rights study, that's one more place the mainstream corporate media doesn't want to go.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


How to cut the price of gasoline

John McCain and George Bush say offshore oil drilling is the answer to the high price of gasoline. Actually George Bush assiduously avoided the words "offshore drilling" in referring to the subject; he kept talking about "access to the OCS" ("Outer Continental Shelf") because he knows the words "offshore drilling" are anathema to the public.

Here are two numbers to consider:

Oil company profits per gallon? $0.84. Fill up your tank with, say, 15 gallons? $12.60 profit to the oil companies, every time you fill up your tank.

Of course the other contribution to the price of gasoline is the price of oil. It's obvious that some of the current high price is due to U.S. foreign policy. We can't "uninvade" Iraq, but stopping the threats against Iran and Venezuela might well lower the price of a barrel of oil, though by how much I couldn't say. Some say that a significant portion of the current price of a barrel of oil is due to speculation, not "real" factors. I'm willing to believe that's probably true, though I don't have enough information to either confirm it or quantify it.

But for sure, there are very real ways to lower the price of gasoline in the short term. Offshore oil drilling isn't one of them.

As for whether lower gas prices (as opposed to lowered oil industry profits) are a good thing, I'll leave that to Calvin and his dad:

Calvin: Hey Dad, I'm doing a traffic safety poster. Do you have any ideas for a slogan?

Dad: Sure! "Cyclists have a right to the road too, you noisy polluting inconsiderate maniacs! I hope gas goes up to eight bucks a gallon!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


More children left behind

It just gets worse:
The latest annual Kids Count report noted a marked increase in childhood poverty from 2000 to 2006, with 18 percent of U.S. children, or 13.3 million kids, living in poverty. The figure has grown by 1 million children since 2000.

Even more worrisome is the report’s 2005 data showing that 8.2 percent of U.S. babies were born weighing less than 5.5 pounds—the highest rate of low birth weights since 1968. Those babies are at greater risk of early death or long-term disabilities.
In Cuba, where "no child left behind" is a policy rather than a slogan, the low birth weight percentage is 6, well under that of the wealthy U.S. Not only that, but they are actively working on an innovative way to insure the survivability and long-term health of such newborns - "kangaroo care":
Now mothers of infants born weighing less than 2,500 grams [5.5 pounds] are being offered an alternative to traditional incubator care which, according to results at Vila Clara’s Mariana Grajales Maternity Hospital, has increased survival rates and reduced the incidence of disorders associated with low birth weight. Since it began a year ago in the province of Pinar del Río, 43 Cuban mothers have participated in a new paradigm of treatment for critically low birth weight infants known as skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care method.

According to Dr Caridad Manso, director of the provincial neonatal group in Villa Clara, the infants are kept with their mothers 24 hours a day in a kangaroo-like terry cloth pouch worn on the chest. The close contact with the mother keeps the child warm and the mother's heart beat helps in the development of the child's nervous system. The child is allowed to freely nurse and gains weight more quickly than children in traditional incubator setting. Since the mother provides the majority of care complications caused by infections are also less common.


Same-sex wedding protest sign of the day

My favorite sign, held up on TV by a same-sex marriage supporter, standing next to one of the protesters outside San Francisco City Hall:

Update: Those gays are unbelievably powerful! I just watched one of the protesters on TV, making a statement along the following lines: "This nation is in deep trouble. Flooding and tornadoes in the midwest, gas prices are rising, foreclosures, bodies coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan in body bags..." And all because those damn gays insist on getting married! Wow! Who knew? And evidently it's the Masschusetts gays who must be responsible, since California same-sex marriages just started today.

On a different subject, I'm reminded by a different newscast that it was the last liberal Democratic President, Bill Clinton, who signed the "Defense [sic] of Marriage Act" and who instituted the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Just in case you forgot.

Monday, June 16, 2008


An "embargo" or a "blockade"?

The latest episode in the all-out economic warfare being waged by the United States against Cuba that the former insists on calling a mere "embargo," but which examples like this make very clear deserves the name the Cubans use - "blockade" (or, to be precise, "bloqueo"):
A Somerset health shop selling Cuban sugar and a London tobacconist dealing in Habanos cigars are among British businesses told by a bank to cut their ties with the island or move their accounts.

Lloyds TSB has written to customers who have dealings with Cuba saying they will have take their accounts elsewhere, apparently in the wake of threats by the US government, which operates an embargo against Cuba.

The US has said it will prosecute any businesses that have any dealings with Cuba and also have a branch in the US.
Here's something I wrote four years ago, which to my mind still is useful to appreciate not only the viciousness of the American war on Cuba, but also the strength of the Cuban revolution that it has been able to withstand that war. I've added one line to reflect this latest episode:
Imagine if Microsoft set out to crush a smaller rival, a much smaller rival, one so small you've probably never heard of them, let's call them CubaSoft. Now imagine they're doing so in the absence of any law which will restrain their behavior. Imagine if they went to their customers and said, if you buy any software from CubaSoft, we won't let you buy any of our software. Imagine if they went to software stores (back in the day when software was actually sold in stores) and said, if you sell CubaSoft software, you can't sell our software. Imagine if they prevented MSN subscribers from visiting the CubaSoft website, and prevented Hotmail users from sending email to CubaSoft. Imagine if they threatened to pull their sponsorship from a software developer's conference if they allowed anyone from CubaSoft to register. Imagine that they threatened to pull their money out of any bank which conducted any business with CubaSoft or with any of CubaSoft's customers. None of these analogies is exaggerated in the slightest compared to what the U.S. is doing to Cuba. Now think about how incredible it is that Cuba has managed to stand up to this constant pressure, the price they are paying for doing so, and the absolutely despicable nature of the people who maintain this policy, claiming that they are doing the Cuban people a favor by making them suffer.


Congratulations to the happy couple(s)!

Today is "legal gay wedding day" in California, as same-sex marriages become legal, and legendary lesbians Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon become the first to be married. Three and a half years ago I had the privilege of attending one of the first (definitely not the first) same-sex weddings in Massachusetts, but no invitations in California yet, I'm sad to say. Despite that, I offer up best wishes to all the happy couples with this classic from Meg Christian, her "Valentine Song." As with so many early songs of the LGBT movement, there's nothing explicitly "same-sex" about it, but if you were a lesbian, you knew she was singing to you (at least that's what my lesbian friends tell me!). The title of the album ("I Know You Know") may also have had something to do with it.

For more of an "out" song, I'll add another song I posted last year, Christian's "Ode to a Gym Teacher." Click on the single left arrow to start the song playing, and on the double-right arrow to play the next song:

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Father's Day amnesia

My local Sunday paper comes with USA Weekend, which replaced Parade, which in turn replaced the section which was actually written by employees of the paper. But I digress. Today's cover story, for Father's Day, was about "G.I.Dads." The article is 1392 words long. In all those words, there isn't a single mention of those children who won't be seeing their dad on this Father's Day, or on any future Father's Day, and whom in some cases may never have seen their dad at all.

If this were just an article about fathers in general, that would be excusable. In an article about military fathers, many of them fighting in wars from which they may not return, it's more than inexcusable. It's deliberate distortion, designed to hide one of the many costs of war.


Just askin' some more

An AP news reports today refers to "Iran's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad." Has the AP ever referred to George Bush as a "hardline president"? Just askin'.

And while we're just askin', another AP article about the huge prison break in Afghanistan, reports that "even NATO conceded [it] was a success for the militants." Really? Was that actually in question? 870 prisoners were sprung from jail and someone actually thought it worth asking NATO if they "conceded" that the operation was a success?

On a more serious front, we learn today that John McCain wrote this in 1974, a year after being released from prison in North Vietnam:

"The biggest factor in a man's ability to perform credibly as a prisoner of war is a strong belief in the correctness of his nation's foreign policy," McCain wrote in a 1974 essay submitted to the National War College and never released to the public. Prisoners who questioned "the legality of the war" were "extremely easy marks for communist propaganda," he wrote.
Naturally he blames the antiwar movement for creating those "incorrect" perceptions on the part of the prisoners. To John McCain we say: Wouldn't it be simpler to have a "correct foreign policy," so you wouldn't have to worry about whether prisoners of war believed we did? And wouldn't it be simpler not to launch illegal wars in the first place, rather than worrying about prisoners "questioning" that legality, and rather than blaming the antiwar movement? Just askin'.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Just askin'

How come when something like 9/11 happens, or Katrina, the right-wing religious nut jobs are quick to blame gays and lesbians, or liberals, or when an earthquake hits China, Sharon Stone rushes to blame it on bad karma due to alleged human rights violations, but when tornadoes and flooding devastate the Midwest and its "God-fearing" people, not a peep is heard about God's wrath?

Not that I want to encourage that sort of thing. :-) I'm just askin'.

Friday, June 13, 2008


"Not one of them is Cuban"

ABC News tonight had a story about rising starvation in Afghanistan. According to this article, the FAO has up to 18 million Afghans are "food insecure," and, as the article discusses anecdotally, this is leading not just to death by starvation but by suicide as well.

Which, in conjunction with the latest inane statements from Barack Obama, leads me to reprint something published here last year:

900 thousand children die every month because of poverty: not one of them is Cuban.

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

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

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

25 thousand children in the world die every day of measles, malaria, diphtheria, pneumonia and malnutrition. None of them is Cuban.
Incidentally, if you substitute the word "American" for "Cuban" in those statements, it's no longer true.

No, I'm not under the impression that Cuba is a paradise on Earth. What I do know is that they're doing a heck of a lot better than most other nations on earth, and the reason they're being singled out by people like Barack Obama has nothing whatsoever to do with any alleged "tyranny," "darkness," and "terrible and tragic status quo" which Obama claims is found in Cuba. If he wants to find those things in the world, there are an awful lot of places which ought to demand his attention above Cuba. He might start with Washington, D.C., where the life expectancy is 72 years, on a par with the Gaza Strip and well below that of Cuba.


Obama's latest ignorant statement

In an interview with Univisión's Jorge Ramos, Obama commented on a recent column by Fidel Castro in which Fidel commented on Obama's speech to the CANF. And what did Obama have to say about that column?
"I doubt that Fidel wrote his latest editorial. I think he's too sick to do so."
What's "sick" is American politicians, Democratic and Republican alike. What an utterly ignorant statement by Obama. What a complete ass. First of all, anyone familiar with Fidel's speeches and writings recognizes immediately from both the content and the style that Fidel, and only Fidel, wrote that column, as with all the others. Secondly, there is only one person in Cuba with the nerve to write an article in which the words "I" and "me" appear repeatedly referring to Fidel Castro, and that's Fidel Castro. Can you imagine someone else daring to think they had the right to speak in Fidel's name?

Although it may seem paradoxical, Obama's ignorant remark that the column was not written by Fidel stems from the long-standing American obsession, which Obama has absorbed along with 99% of the rest of Americans, that Cuba=Fidel Castro, Fidel Castro=Cuba. Surprisingly to Obama, and most American politicians, the Cuban leadership is actually composed of many people, and if the Cuban government wants to make a statement on something, as they often do, they can do it in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, or the U.N. Ambassador, or as a resolution in the National Assembly, or as a statement from the President (Raúl). They hardly need to disguise observations about Obama in the form of a statement in the name of Fidel Castro but not written by him.

In the same interview, Obama, as he has before, refers to "our enemies in Cuba and Venezuela." Wouldn't it be nice to see some recognition from Obama that Cuba trains American medical students (for free!), offered to send doctors to aid the Gulf Coast, that Venezuela offers low-cost heating oil to poor Americans, and that the only sense in which Cuba and Venezuela are "enemies" is because "we" (the U.S.) target them, and not the other way around. There is a one-sided war going on, and all Obama has to do to remove Cuba and Venezuela from the "enemies list" is to stop that war.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Business boosterism

I often comment on the strong tendency of the corporate press to make unwarranted positive comments about the economy, and/or to look at every economic development in the best possible light (e.g., not taking into the need to account for population growth when reporting job "growth" which is actually "population-adjusted" job shrinkage). But today's example, which combines such capitalist boosterism with gross innumeracy, is a classic.

The headline: "A glimmer of hope on foreclosures"

And what was that glimmer of hope? Foreclosure notices fell 2.5%. But wait! The article itself points out, even in its subhead, that May had "one less [Ed. note: should be "fewer"] business day than April"! Um, let's see - 21/22 [Business days only]=.9545, which means that foreclosures should have fallen by 4.5%! So the fact that they only fell 2.5% wasn't a "glimmer of hope," it was, in fact, a "glimmer of increasing bad news."

Curiously enough, well into the article, we read that "although the total number of defaults filed statewide fell, the average number of defaults filed each day rose 2.4 percent, to an average 2,009 filings per day." So it becomes quite clear the author knew very well that there was no "glimmer of hope" whatsoever in these numbers. But that didn't prevent her, or the headline writer, from asserting that there was. The river of capitalist boosterism (and denial) runs deep and strong.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Obama's Vice-President

There's a story out today headlined "Obama veep vetting team looks at retired military." Why is he doing that? According to the AP writer,
A running mate from the military ranks could help address concerns that Obama lacks foreign policy experience, having served just three years in the Senate. It could also provide a counterpoint to the military bonafides of the Republican ticket, which will be led by Vietnam war hero John McCain.
But "addressing concerns" and "providing a counterpoint" to McCain isn't what Obama himself said about why a military person would be right at the top of this list; he had much more substantive reasons (transcript available, as far as I know, only on this site):
"I would want somebody with competence in areas where I am weaker. The obvious would be military experience. I'm very confident about serving as Commander-in-Chief in terms of my judgments in terms of what our strategic interests are, and so that's the area that I'd be concerned about, but I think having somebody who intimately understood some of the more tactical issues surrounding military deployments, or, conversely, also understands the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, because moving that and changing that can be a very difficult thing."
It isn't "image" or "perception" that Obama is concerned about; it's the very real desire to fight wars more effectively.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Move over, Fidel!

Your speaking crown has been challenged! For four hours and forty minutes tonight, Dennis Kucinich spoke to the (probably largely empty) House of Representatives, reading in 35 (!) Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush (not online yet as far as I can tell). The 35 articles covered literally everything you can think of and then some, from the illegal invasion of Iraq to rendition to torture to violating the Geneva Conventions in numerous ways, including treating children as prisoners of war or worse, and even to lying about Iran's nuclear efforts and funding terrorist groups (the MEK) attacking Iran. It included the words "liar" and "war criminal," quite probably the first time those words have been spoken on the floor of Congress, not to mention "misprison of a felony" (regarding the Valerie Plame affair) and "posse comitatus." And it included several references to Iraqi civilians as victims of the war, noting that "more than a million innocent Iraqis" had died.

Better than anything I've seen on TV in quite a while! Now to sit back and watch how quickly the Democrats put a lid on it. At the very end, he read a list of people who wanted to speak. I think there were four or five names on it, including Lynn Woolsey and Marcy Kaptur. It did not include names you might have expected, e.g., Maxine Waters.

One interesting thing about the speech was that, although this was nominally "Articles of Impeachment," it was actually "Articles of Impeachment" plus all the evidence needed to back up the charges within, with citations from speeches by Bush and Cheney and Rice and Powell all the way to citations from books by George Tenet and articles by Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh. Hearings shouldn't be necessary, just a vote!

Actually the question isn't how quickly the Democrats will bury this; that's pretty much a given. The question is how quickly the media will bury the fact it even happened. There are articles up on the web now from various sources (AP, Reuters, etc.), so it will be reported, but the thing with American media (and the American public) is that a one-day story, even a one-day front-page story (which I doubt this will be), means nothing. Only the stories which get hammered on repeatedly, and talked about by all the talk shows and written about by the columnists make any kind of dent. And the chances that that will happen with this story are pretty much nil.

Tuesday morning media update: The New York Times shows nothing about this on its front page online. Searching there turns up a very short AP article, which contains absolutely nothing of substance, and a short Reuters article, which mentions deceiving the public about the invasion of Iraq as the only substantive content; no reason to believe either appears in the print edition. The situation at the Washington Post is identical - nothing on the front page, searching finds AP and Reuters but who knows if they appeared in print. The Los Angeles Times shows nothing, either on its front page or even by searching.

The story did start late in the "news cycle," and finish even later. Even so, not an auspicious start for the media. As for the companies which don't have a news cycle - CNN, MSNBC, etc.? Nothing at all, even drilling down to their "Politics" pages.


Another "reason" for war against Iran

The warmongers will come up with all sorts of "reasons" to attack Iran, but some of the real reasons will go unmentioned:
Iran has withdrawn a huge sum of its foreign exchange reserves from European banks and has deposited some of it into Asian banks.

Iran has abandoned the dollar in oil trading in favor of the yen, citing the weakness of US currency for its decision.
No doubt they would have switched to the Euro, but for Europe's continual kowtowing to the U.S. in its war-drum beating about Iran.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Cuban Five Demonstration, San Francisco, June 6, 2008

My latest video, nothing fancy. Unfortunately this doesn't play on all systems; I think it requires the absolute latest version of Flash. The crappy resolution YouTube version is here as an alternative.


Sound check

Testing a new audio player:


Once again, Israel shows its opinion of non-violent protest

The vice president of the European parliament, an Italian judge and a
Northern Irish Nobel Peace prize laureate were among the five people injured at Friday's weekly demonstration in Bil'in against the separation fence.

The three dignitaries - Giulio Toscano, Luisa Morgantini and Mairead Corrigan Maguire - were visiting the Palestinian village as part of a three-day international conference on non-violent resistance, which ended Friday.

Toscano, the judge, was hit in the head by a tear-gas dispenser, witnesses and medics said. (Source)


Iran: The balls's in your court, Security Council

Following the latest Israeli threat against Iran, Iran has responded by demanding that the U.N. Security Council actually live up to the U.N. charter:
Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and, thus, requires a resolute and clear response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council," [Iranian U.N. Ambassador Mohammad] Khazaee's letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, dated June 6, said.
Any bets? I'll say that the U.S. will say they'll gladly support a Security Council resolution which condemns Israel's remarks as long as it also condemns Ahmadinejad and reiterates a demand that Iran cease enriching uranium, and then will veto any resolution (if one gets that far) that doesn't do so. A resolution that is limited to condemning Israel for violating interntional law? Not going to happen, any more than a resolution condemning the U.S. for its numerous (and far more serious) violations of international law, mostly involving not just "threats" of unprovoked attack but actual unprovoked attacks.


Landay et al. on Moyers

Just a few days ago I mentioned McClatchy reporter Jonathan Landay, and noted that you'd never see him on the major talk shows (Blitzer, Russert et al.) but only on Bill Moyers. And, lo and behold, yesterday, there he was, along with Editor & Publisher's excellent Greg Mitchell.

There was substantive talk re Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc., but some of the most interesting discussion was about the media, e.g.:

JONATHAN LANDAY: What's disappoints me is that here was an opportunity, once again, but a very large opportunity for major news organizations to do the mea culpa they never did, to admit that they indeed failed to do what they're supposed to do, failed to be the watchdogs they're supposed to be.

And yet we saw exactly the opposite for the most part. And I was just I was left breathless by some of the things that I heard where you heard correspondents say, "Well, we did ask the tough questions. We asked them to the White House spokesmen," Scott McClellan and others. And you say to yourself, "And you expected to get real answers? You expected them to say from the White House podium — 'Yeah, well, there were disagreements over the intelligence, but we ignored them'" when the President made his speeches and the Vice President made his speeches. No, I don't think so.
Hillary Clinton justifiably took a lot of flak for refusing to apologize for her vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq in light of subsequent knowledge. Would that the media would get similar amounts of flak, along the lines Landay discusses.


Human interest story of the day

Couldn't resist posting this one:
All he needs is love — and someone to keep an eye on his glasses.

Ever since thieves twice swiped the iconic round-rimmed spectacles from Havana's John Lennon statue eight years ago, four retirees have rotated 12-hour, round-the-clock shifts to ensure they don't go missing again.

"You have to be here every day because the day you aren't, there the glasses go," said watchman Juan Gonzalez, an 89-year-old retired filing clerk who smokes up to seven cigars a day guarding the bronze statue from a nearby bench.
Tourists! I know it's tourists!

The AP writer seems to have no clue why the statue is there, or at least, if he does, he doesn't let his readers in on it. For the answer, here is an excerpt from the moving speech given by Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Parliament, the day the statue was dedicated:

"This place will always be a testimonial to struggle, a summoning to humanism. It will also be a permanent homage to a generation that wanted to transform the world, and to the rebellious spirit, innovative, of the artist who helped forge that generation and at the same time is one of its most authentic symbols.
"Our boat will continue sailing. Nothing will stop it. It is driven by "a wind that never dies." They will call us dreamers but our ranks will grow. We will defend the vanquished dream and struggle to make real all dreams. Neither storms nor pirates will hold us back. We will sail on until we reach the new world that we will know how to build."

Friday, June 06, 2008


Once again, the threat of Iran's nose to Israel's fist

All we here in the U.S. hear about is alleged, and non-existent, "threats" by Iran against "us" (Israel and/or the U.S. itself and/or "U.S. 'interests'"). But in reality, the very real, concrete threats are all coming from the U.S. and Israel:
An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looks "unavoidable" given the apparent failure of Western sanctions to deny Tehran technology with bomb-making potential, Transportation Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said Friday.

"If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective," Mofaz told the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

"Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable," said the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff who later served as defense minister.
Note that this isn't just any old politician, or pundit. This is the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel and the former IDF chief of staff.

Of course, it's also worth noting that threats from Israel are not just words; Israel has a long history (e.g., bombing Iraq, Syria, leaving aside actual wars against Lebanon, Egypt, Syria) of carrying out such attacks.


Obama on Jerusalem, withdrawal from Iraq

Yesterday CNN's Candy Crowley interviewed Barack Obama. It might have been nice if we had these kinds of questions during the debates, instead of discussing flag pins and other such nonsense, but that's another story. Anyway, since the headlines from that interview are mostly about Obama's discussion of his potential VP choice, and since no transcript seems to exist (or online video, for that matter), I transcribed a key portion of it from my own video which I thought of interest:
Candy Crowley: I want to ask you about something you said in AIPAC yesterday. You said that "Jerusalem must remain undivided." Do the Palestinians have no claim to Jerusalem in the future?

Barack Obama: Well, obviously, it's going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues, and Jerusalem will be part of those negotiations.

Crowley: But you would be against any kind of division of Jerusalem?

Obama: My belief is that as a practical matter it would be very difficult to execute, and I think that it is smart for us to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in old Jerusalem, but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city.

Crowley: You've upset the Palestinians with this, who have said, some of the leaders have said, "It shows he is not for peace, if he believes Jerusalem shall remain undivided." It causes a problem, doesn't it, as the U.S. being an "honest broker"?

Obama: I've said some things, and I even said some things yesterday, that probably some Israelis aren't happy with. You know, there are a whole host of areas where I think there's going to have to be compromise on both sides, and what I said yesterday is that we're going to have to start earlier than we have historically on this process. I recognize that a President comes in with a lot of stuff coming at him, but the Middle East peace process is so important that we can't reserve it to the end of a Presidency. We've got to start soon, and I'm going to be absolutely committed to making that happen.

Crowley: You have said you want to go back to Iraq, see what the situation is on the ground. Is there nothing that they could show you or that Gen. Petraeus could tell you that would move you from wanting to immediately begin removing U.S. troops?

Obama: Well, I would never say there's nothing or never or no way in which I change my mind, obviously I'm open to the facts and to reason, and there's no doubt that we've seen significant improvements in security on the ground in Iraq, and our troops and Gen. Petraeus deserve enormous credit for that. I have to look at this issue from a broader strategic perspective, though. And in terms of long-term strategy, I am absolutely convinced that the best thing that we can do is to set a clear timetable, tell the Iraqis we are going to start pulling out, do it in a careful fashion, make sure...

Crowley: When you say "careful," what are we going to be careful about?

Obama: Well, we're going to be careful about two things. One is we've got to be careful about the safety of our troops. It's not an exercise to bring out the thousands of troops that we have there, the tons of equipment that we have there. So we've got to execute that effectively. But we also have to do it, and pace it, in a way that works in concert with the diplomacy that's happening inside Iraq and in the region. There's a lot of work that's going to have to be done, it's a very complicated operation, and I've got no interest in doing it carelessly or precipitously.

Crowley: So the timetable could slide, then, if you took all those things into consideration?

Obama: But I think it's important for us to say to the Iraqis, "We're not here for the long haul. It's time for you guys to achieve agreement on the critical issues like how you're dividing up oil revenues, how provincial government is relating to the national government." But we have a lot of other interests. We've got to make sure that Afghanistan is not sliding into chaos. We've got to deal with Iran. And we have to tamp down the anti-American sentiment that has become so pervasive in the Middle East. Those are all things that I've got to take into account and that's why I believe that my Iraq approach is much better to an approach that is essentially open-ended, when it comes to John McCain.
I'll let you form your own opinion about whether these remarks represent a "retreat," waffling, or whatever, but I just want to comment on one line - "I've said some things, and I even said some things yesterday, that probably some Israelis aren't happy with." First of all, what he really means is "Jews," not "Israelis." Why do I say that? Because there are a large number of Israelis who are Palestinian, and who therefore can't be counterposed to "I made Palestinians unhappy, but I balanced that by making Israelis unhappy." Second, because although I don't actually think he was trying to be this clever, of course there are "some" Israelis who aren't happy with some things he's said. After all, there are Israelis like Uri Avnery on the left, and then there are Israelis on the far right like Avigdor Lieberman who probably aren't happy with anything other than "let's expel all the Palestinians and bomb the Iranians tomorrow." But as far as the mainstream Israelis, and certainly the main Israeli leadership, I couldn't find a single thing he said at AIPAC that would make them "unhappy." In so many words, this is complete bullshit. He's implying he somehow has presented a balanced stance which has displeased both sides, when that's far from the case.

The discussion about choosing a Vice-President was all about process, so I remind readers of a time earlier this year when Obama did have some substantive things to say about that choice:

"I would want somebody with competence in areas where I am weaker. The obvious would be military experience. I'm very confident about serving as Commander-in-Chief in terms of my judgments in terms of what our strategic interests are, and so that's the area that I'd be concerned about, but I think having somebody who intimately understood some of the more tactical issues surrounding military deployments, or, conversely, also understands the bureaucracy of the Pentagon, because moving that and changing that can be a very difficult thing."

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Support the Cuban Five!

In another in a long series of outrageous decisions in the case, an appeals court has upheld the convictions of the Cuban Five, although it did order the reduction in sentences of three of them, including two of the three life sentences. You can read all about it at the website of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. I'd write more about it, but I've been working all day on a press conference that was held this morning, and now on the demonstrations, so a more insightful/detailed/scathing analysis will have to wait.

In the meantime, today and tomorrow in more than a dozen cities around the country and around the world, there is an emergency protest to demand the immediate freedom of the Cuban Five, along with the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles. Please be there if you can. Details for all the demonstrations can be found here.


A new contender for the chutzpah crown

Uneasy lies the head with the chutzpah crown; there's always someone else eager to demonstrate they've got more. Today's contender, Air Force Brig. Gen. Tom Hartmann, a top official in the impending war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo:
"In the course of trial, they'll have opportunity to present their case, any way they want to present it subject to rules and procedures. That's a great freedom and a great protection we are providing to them. We think...it is the American way."
The "American way." And who can argue? Kidnapped in a foreign country, spirited away to a series of secret prisons, tortured, held without charges or even human contact for nearly seven years, and now they'll have the opportunity to "present their case." Man, if that isn't "freedom" and the "American way," I just don't know what is. Certainly it's something to crow about, as Hartmann demonstrates.

Hartmann does clarify that "American way" a bit:

Hartmann insisted the trials will be fair even though the evidence may include coerced statements and material so classified that even the defendants can't see it or challenge it.
I guess it all depends on the meaning of the word "fair." And don't worry, however unfair it is now, Hartmann is going to do his best to make it even more so. Although relatives of the 9/11 victims weren't allowed in to the trial right now for logistical reasons, Hartman says it was a "mistake," and that an undetermined number would be allowed to attend future sessions. Because, after all, nothing guarantees a fair trial more than the victims of the crime staring in the faces of the jurors (or judges or whoever is nominally deciding). I don't suppose any of the victims of U.S. imperialism will be allowed in to observe.

In other news of U.S. "justice," a U.S. Marine who participated in the coverup of the murder of 24 Iraqis in Haditha was acquitted. After all, all he did was tell one of those who actually were involved in the murder to delete photos from his camera and laptop. Coverup? I see no coverup here. How could there be, since no one has been convicted (and hardly anyone even charged) with any crime in the first place?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Abbas responds to Obama

In case you thought I was off-base (I know you didn't) when I wrote "that 'undivided' part ["Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."] is going to be rather a stumbling block to his claims to be working for a Palestinian state, because no Palestinian leadership, however compromised, is ever going to accept such a situation," alongs comes that compromised leadership in person, Mahmoud Abbas, to back me up:
"This statement is totally rejected," Abbas told reporters.

"The whole world knows that holy Jerusalem was occupied in 1967 and we will not accept a Palestinian state without having Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state."


Obama on Israel

Barack Obama spoke to AIPAC today. Some excerpts:
It was just a few years after the liberation of the camps that David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the Jewish State of Israel. We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle, and decades of patient work.
Note the omission of the role of the U.S. and the U.N.; in this strange history, it was simply Ben-Gurion who "declared" the founding of Israel. Note also the use of the word "just," omitting any mention of the gross injustice that was committed with the lie of "the land without people for a people without land." Note finally the reference to "decades of patient work," which makes it clear that he acknowledges that the establishment of Israel was a long-held Zionist plan, and not a response to the Holocaust (although obviously that's what pushed the plan through to fruition).
"There are still voices that deny the Holocaust."
There are, but he's really referring to Ahmadinejad, who only questions the number killed (absurd, but no less so than Bush, and probably Obama, vastly understating the number killed in the ongoing holocaust in Iraq) and questions why the solution to European anti-Semitism had to come at the expense of a people who had nothing to do with it.
"There are those who would lay all of the problems of the Middle East at the doorstep of Israel and its supporters, as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all trouble in the region."
Yeah, what a wacky idea.
"I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat - from Gaza to Tehran. Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened. As President, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade."
Yes, because Israel's 150 nuclear weapons aren't sufficient to defend itself, and we have no better use for $30 billion here in the United States (or, for that matter, in Palestine, where an investment of $30 billion would do a lot more for Israel's security than spending $30 billion more on tanks and warplanes for Israel).
"There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations. That is why I opposed holding elections in 2006 with Hamas on the ballot. The Israelis and the Palestinian Authority warned us at the time against holding these elections."
I did not know that. What a democrat. Elections? Not if the "wrong" party is going to win.
"As President, I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security."
Notice anything missing? "I will work to help Israel achieve..." Don't the Palestinians figure in here somewhere?
"Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
A blockbuster. "Remain"? Only Israel (I believe) recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that "undivided" part is going to be rather a stumbling block to his claims to be working for a Palestinian state, because no Palestinian leadership, however compromised, is ever going to accept such a situation.
"Syria has taken dangerous steps in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, which is why Israeli action was justified to end that threat."
There isn't any serious evidence that Syria had taken such "dangerous steps," just the vaguest of unsupported allegations, and the notion that Israel was justified in attacking Syria is, to put it mildly, both contrary to international law and dangerous in the extreme.
"As President, I will do whatever I can to help Israel succeed in these negotiations. And success will require the full enforcement of Security Council Resolution 1701 in Lebanon, and a stop to Syria’s support for terror."
That "whatever I can" might be hiding an awful lot of aggressive actions. Remember this as the guy vigorously advocating bombing "sanctuaries" in Pakistan. What is he thinking about now? Who else is he planning to bomb to help enforce 1701 and stop Syria's alleged support for terror?
"There is no greater threat to Israel - or to the peace and stability of the region - than Iran."
The war drums come out. Indeed, the truth is that, aside from the U.S., there is no greater threat to Iran than Israel, whose politicians, just like American politicians, openly threaten military action against Iran. Iran, by contrast, has never threatened action against Israel, and hasn't attacked another country in hundreds of years. Too bad Israel and the U.S. can't say the same.
"[Iran] pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its President denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat."
Until we get to the last phrase ("my goal..."), there isn't a single word of truth in this diatribe (I'll spare the details, which I've covered many times before).
"I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy"
It may start there, but we know where "everything in my power" ends up, and it isn't pretty (or legal, for that matter).
"...whose Quds force has rightly been labeled a terrorist organization."
That's funny, because just a few months ago, Obama criticized Hillary Clinton for voting for a resolution labelling the Quds force a "terrorist organization." Does he think no one remembers?
"Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation."
Just in case you had any doubt. And by "threat of military action," he means "military action." By "confrontation," he means "war."

To listen to Obama (and Bush and McCain and every other major politician and pundit) you'd think that Iranian troops were massing on the Israeli border. Oh wait...there is no such border.

Update: A friend who watched the speech (as opposed to reading the transcript as I did) reports:

I watched some of Obama's speech, and one thing I noticed was that he repeated the phrase "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon" (or words to that effect) twice, and then repeated "everything" as a one-word sentence, and then looked around at the crowd as if to say, "get it."


U.S.: "We're the problem in Iraq"

No, it's not a direct quote, or even a paraphrase. But what other meaning can you take from this:
The U.S. government has opened its first permanent office here for Iraqi refugees seeking to settle in the United States.
The office, which began interviewing applicants May 10, has already finished processing 80 embassy employees for departure.
"The whole goal is to provide greater access to people who are in trouble or in threat based on their association with the U.S.," said an American official in Baghdad.
And, lest you think this is just the Bush administration admitting that associating with Americans in Iraq is potentially fatal, you're wrong, because this is a law passed by Congress:
U.S. officials said the Baghdad office will accept applications under a new law that permits entry to Iraqis who have worked for the U.S. government; the American-led military coalition; contractors "closely aligned with the U.S. mission in Iraq" that have received funding from the U.S. government; and U.S.-based media organizations and nongovernmental organizations.
Iraqis who are in danger simply because of the exponentially increased sectarian tensions enflamed by the U.S., or merely in danger from living in Iraq and walking down the street? Find another country, we don't want you, only those foolish enough to have risked their lives by helping the U.S. in its attempted subjugation of Iraq.

While the U.S. lets in a trickle of the refugees which it created, Sweden, which had nothing to do with the problem, has admitted 40,000 Iraqi refugees. Millions of Iraqis are in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East, although it's unclear how many of those have permanent status like the ones in Sweden.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Thank heavens for McClatchy

McClatchy's Jonathan Landay was one of those rare reporters trying to report the truth in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq; now he's repeating the effort with respect to Iran:
Both McCain, Obama exaggerating Iran's nuclear program

WASHINGTON — The presumptive Republican nominee for president and the leading contender for the Democratic nomination are exaggerating what's known about Iran's nuclear program as they duel over how best to deal with Tehran.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., say that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The U.S. intelligence community, however, thinks that Iran halted an effort to build a nuclear warhead in mid-2003, and the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, which is investigating the program, has found no evidence to date of an active Iranian nuclear-weapons project.
Don't expect to see him interviewed by Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper or Tim Russert or Keith Olbermann. The one and only time I saw Landay on TV, it was with Bill Moyers. The others would rather interview spinmeisters with an ax to grind. Typically a war ax that they're sharpening.


Condi talks "diplomacy"

In one sentence, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ups the threats against Iran:
"Our partners in Europe and beyond need to exploit Iran's vulnerabilities more vigorously and impose greater costs on the regime economically, financially, politically and diplomatically."
and then in the next she tries to pretend she knows the meaning of the word "diplomacy":
"Diplomacy is not a synonym for talking. True diplomacy means structuring a set of incentives and disincentives to produce change in behavior."
Would that there were someone or something that could conduct that kind of "true diplomacy" with the United States, where a "change in behavior" is sorely needed, and not just a change in the faces behind the desks in Washington.


Credit where credit isn't due

The headlines proclaim:
Israel frees Hezbollah spy
You have to read down to the fifth paragraph of the article before you get to this (emphasis added):
Israeli authorities released Nasim Nisr, an Israeli of Lebanese descent, after he completed a six-year sentence for espionage.
I know the U.S. has warped the world's mindset in recent years, holding up to 26,000 people in prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons including prison ships, and most of them without sentences, convictions, trials, or even charges, but honestly, isn't it supposed to be normal for someone to be released from prison after serving their sentence? Because Lebanon simultaneously handed over the remains of some dead Israeli soldiers, the press calls this a "prisoner swap," which is absurd since Nisr was no longer a prisoner.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Bush in the raw

From the autobiography of Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, a Bush "pep talk" with his national security team and generals following the death of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah:
"Kick a**!" he quotes Bush as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"
Ann Coulter couldn't have put it any better.

Needless to say, that "we" coming out of Bush's mouth is pronounced "you."

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Nature moment

This morning, as I'm wont to do, I was out running in a nearby park. In the space of five minutes, I saw an adult California Quail with a half-dozen or more chicks, a doe with two fawns, and finally a female Wild Turkey with two small babies, the first time I had ever seen young Turkeys in the wild. Another generation of some of the amazing variety of life on this planet is under way.

There are millions of species of living creatures. Only one has the potential to destroy the planet. On behalf of the ones that don't, and the planet itself, do your best to make sure that your species prevents that from happening, both in the short term, with actions you can take yourself, and in the long term, by working for radical change in the system itself, which is the only thing that will really assure that the planet endures. "People before profits," a classic socialist slogan, is no longer enough though. It's now "People and the planet (and all its creatures) before profits."

Update: Catching up on yesterday's comics, I discovered there may be another solution...at least for the animals:

Bizarro, by Dan Piraro

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