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Sunday, May 31, 2009


Trick question answer

The Israeli response to President Obama and Secretary Clinton:
"I want to make it clear that the current Israeli government will not accept in any way the freezing of legal settlement activity in Judea and Samaria [West Bank]," Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio.
Which should mean that they accept the freezing of settlement activity, since all settlement activity is illegal.

Well, it's legal under Israeli law. It just happens to be illegal under international law, which Israel doesn't show any evidence of acknowledging.


Robert Gibbs: Unclear on the concept...of truth

Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had this wildly preposterous comment to make yesteray:
"I want to speak generally about some reports I've witnessed over the past few years in the British media. And in some ways, I'm surprised it filtered down," Gibbs began. "Let's just say if I wanted to look up -- if I wanted to read a writeup today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champion's League cup, I might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I'm not entirely sure it'd be in the first pack of clips I'd pick up."

"You're not going to find very many of these newspapers and truth within 25 words of each other," Gibbs continued.
Three words for Gibbs: Downing Street Memos, first published in the British press, and scarcely (if at all) even mentioned in those "truthful" American media Gibbs is presumably fond of. Or perhaps just two words would suffice: Judith Miller. There are, without question, literally thousands of other examples.

And what caused this outburst? Because the Telegraph quoted General Taguba talking about rape photos from Abu Ghraib, photos the public hasn't seen. And now Taguba is "denying" the quote. Yes, what a denial:

"The photographs in that lawsuit, I have not seen," Taguba told Salon Friday night. The actual quote in the Telegraph was accurate, Taguba said -- but he was referring to the hundreds of images he reviewed as an investigator of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq -- not the photos of abuse that Obama is seeking to suppress.
So the essence of the story, that horrible photos is exist, he's actually confirming. It's only the question of whether these were precisely the photos the Obama administration is refusing to release, as if we care about that detail.

Friday, May 29, 2009


What oh what is North Korea "up to"?

I've now heard multiple discussions on TV "news" and "analysis" shows about North Korea's motivations is carrying out bomb and missile tests. There are two and only two theories you will hear discussed. Theory one is "they want attention" (dovetailing into the "they want us to give them something in return for stopping"). Theory two is "there's a power struggle going on in North Korea." Not once have I heard a single pundit or other talking head suggest the obvious third theory - that North Korea has legitimate needs of self-defense, and is carrying out these tests as a way of making sure they are indeed prepared for that self-defense (which, as we all know, in turn actually lessens the chance they'll be attacked).

I'm not saying that the pundits have to agree with theory three. They can still subscribe to theories one or two if they like. But shouldn't they at least note the possibility that theory three might, in fact, be the correct one? Occam's razor and all that? Evidently not.


Cyber "security", or cyber "war"?

Amazing how the same story can be reported in diametrically opposite ways. Here's the AP this morning:
Obama calling for better security for computers

President Barack Obama is calling digital security a top priority, whether it's guarding the computer systems that keep the lights on in the city and direct airliners to the right runway or those protecting customers who pay their bills online.

To oversee an enhanced security system for the nation's computer networks, Obama is creating a "cyber czar" as part of a long-awaited plan stemming from a review he ordered shortly after taking office.
You'd think Obama was concerned that we all don't have the latest version of anti-virus software on our PCs.

Meanwhile, over at The New York Times, a bit more honest look at what's really going on:

Pentagon Plans New Arm to Wage Wars in Cyberspace

The Pentagon plans to create a new military command for cyberspace, administration officials said Thursday, stepping up preparations by the armed forces to conduct both offensive and defensive computer warfare.

The military command would complement a civilian effort to be announced by President Obama on Friday that would overhaul the way the United States safeguards its computer networks.
As I wrote recently (but I can't find it on this blog, so it must have been elsewhere), the U.S. always frames its actions, whether the area be biowarfare, chemical warfare, or cyberwar, as "developing defenses against potential attacks," but time after time, the actual motivation (and the actual result) is offense, not defense.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Capitalism has failed

Last night on the news, in between the police reports it was wall-to-wall education cuts, mass transit cuts, health care cuts, corporate bankruptcies. But the final straw today came in the latest proposed California budget cuts:
Medi-Cal coverage for dialysis and for breast and cervical cancer treatment for those over age 65 would be cut.
Over 65? Sorry, you're a drain on society, we can't afford to keep you alive. Sayonara. In the meantime, perversely, our actual tax dollars, billions of dollars a year, go to support a government which actively prevents people from obtaining medical care and allows even 1-year-old babies to die.

Socialism, anyone?


"It's all about the Supreme Court!"

Every time people on the left object to the idea of voting for a Democrat who is only marginally distinguishable from his Republican opponent, the cry always goes up: "Don't forget the Supreme Court! Roe v. Wade!" So much for that: During the campaign, Barack Obama said (on his website) that he would make "preserving a woman's right to choose under Roe vs. Wade a priority as president." And how high a priority? This high a priority:
The White House added to the concerns of abortion rights advocates, saying that the president did not discuss the issue with Sotomayor before her nomination.

"The president doesn't have a litmus test, and that question was not one that he posed to her," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. Asked whether Obama had not promised to appoint judges who support abortion rights, Gibbs replied: "I'd have to look. I don't remember exactly what he said on that topic."
Actually, what he did say was typical say something while saying nothing (from the 3rd Presidential debate):
Q: Could you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on Roe v. Wade?

McCAIN: I would never, and have never in all the years I’ve been there, imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the Court. That’s not appropriate to do.

OBAMA: Well, I think it’s true that we shouldn’t apply a strict litmus test and the most important thing in any judge is their capacity to provide fairness and justice to the American people. And it is true that this is going to be, I think, one of the most consequential decisions of the next president. It is very likely that one of us will be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe vs. Wade probably hangs in the balance. I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through.
So there was Obama, pretending he was oh-so-concerned about Roe vs. Wade hanging in the balance, but not actually promising to do anything about it, and indeed, that's exactly what he has done.

For the record, there's a difference between a "litmus test" and even bothering to ask someone their views on a particular question. Both Obama and McCain disavowed the former, but I'll bet anything (impossible to prove, of course) that McCain would have at least asked about it. Obama, not so much.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Remember Roxana Saberi?

Of course you do. She was the Iranian-American journalist who was tried, convicted, briefly imprisoned, and then released from Iranian prison after a huge international outcry, despite not being exactly "innocent." It's a safe bet that any politically aware person in the West knows her name, or at least knew it a few weeks ago when it was in the news every day.

As usual, though, the brouhaha over Saberi was one part hypocrisy and one part "enemy-bashing." Because, as Jeremy Scahill reminds us, one of the biggest offenders of imprisoning journalists without trial, and even torturing them, has been the good old U-S-of-A. Al Jazeera journalist Sami al Hajj was imprisoned in Guantanamo for 6 1/2 years before being released, never having been charged with anything, much less given a trial or convicted. Reuters photographer Ibrahim Jassam has been a US prisoner in Iraq since last September, again without charges or trial or conviction, despite an Iraqi court’s order last year that he be freed. And those are far from the only ones.

The impression in the West, and it's hardly a trustworthy one, is that Saberi had a kangaroo trial. Perhaps she did. But at least she had a trial, a conviction, a defined sentence, a chance for an appeal, and now she's free after the appeal shortened and suspended her sentence. Which is one heck of a lot better than what happened to Sami al Hajj or what is happening right now to Ibrahim Jassam. Al Hajj's name actually appeared in the New York Times a few times, although most of them were in a single place, op-ed columns by Nicholas Kristof. Ibrahim Jassam's name has not appeared there even once. Saberi? 1390 hits in a search of the Times.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Serial killer on the loose, claims 337th victim

One by one, the killer claims victims. The latest, a 12-month-old infant named Muhammad Rami Ibrahim Nofal. Just last week, another 1-year-old named Odai Samir Abu Azzoum and 10-year-old Ribhi Jindiyeh. The majority of victims of this serial killer have been children. Remarkably, though, virtually none of these murders have even been reported in the Western media. Much less has there been an outcry to do something about the killer, even though the identity and location of the killer is well-known.

Of course this killer is Israel, but, sad to say, there plenty of accomplices. Active accomplices like the U.S., E.U., and Egypt, who actively help to promote and enforce the blockade which claimed these victims - the 337 Palestinians who have died because they were refused or delayed entry into Israel where they could have obtained medicine or medical care unavailable in Gaza - and many more - the unknown number who have died in Gaza, the victim of "natural" causes which were anything but natural.

Why do I call this murder? I don't know what the law states, but if someone is poisoned and you hold the antidote in your hand and refuse to give it to them, surely you're as much of a murderer as the person who administered the poison. It's not a perfect analogy, since the "poisoner" in at least some of these examples is actually genetics, although in others, it's even worse, since it may well be that the one with the antidote is also the "poisoner," that is, that Palestinians in Gaza are developing deadly medical conditions which never would have occurred in the first place had they been living under less squalid conditions.

And it's actually even worse. Because the person with the antidote isn't just simply withholding it, but using it as an opportunity for blackmail:

According to an August-released report by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, titled Holding Health to Ransom, Tel Aviv employs fatal illnesses as one of its "methods of coercion" to pressure Gazans and to spy on the strip.

Israel, according to the report, prevents patients from leaving Gaza to receive medical treatment unless the government in Tel Aviv is provided with desired information about their relatives.

Medical treatment for "the most helpless members of society", reads the report, "is explicitly or implicitly made contingent upon collaboration" with Israel on a "regular" basis.

"I decide and set the rules, and you'll see that if you do as I say, I'll let you go to Ichilov Hospital," the report quotes an interrogator as telling a patient. "It depends if you accept my demands."
Could there be any more repugnant behavior?

Some pedants will no doubt observe that there is no guarantee that all 337 would have been saved by the medical care they could have received, and that's certainly true. Maybe only 300 would have died. Maybe only 100. There's just no way to know, obviously. But if even a single person died, that's a murder in which the identity of the killer is well-known, but who is still walking the streets, free to kill again. And, until international and particularly U.S. policy changes, more deaths are guaranteed.

A serial killer is on the loose, and the world watches as the victims are stalked, and picked off, one by one. When will the world cry out? When will they act?

Monday, May 25, 2009


The sky is falling! North Korea tested a nuclear weapon!

The U.S. and Israel develop weapons and use them to attack other countries (and, in the case of the latter, helpless people in occupied territories as well). From the U.N., nothing. North Korea, which hasn't been involved in a war with another country in 50 years, tests weapons it might use to defend itself, and it's immediately condemned by the U.N. Security Council, for violating another Security Council resolution they had no right to pass in the first place. The U.S. says the test was "a threat to regional and international peace and security" when in fact the opposite is true - a stronger North Korea makes war less likely.

Now the talking heads are all shouting about what to do. Here's a radical and simple idea - how about signing a peace treaty to end the Korean War, and, while we're at it, throw in a treaty guaranteeing that the U.S. will never attack North Korea unless North Korea first attacks another country. The politicians will say the U.S. shouldn't do something like that without getting concessions from North Korea. Why? Why shouldn't the U.S. be willing to sign such a treaty (for what it's worth anyway, given the U.S. record) on first principles, without any "concessions" required?


Remembering the dead. All the dead.

I was riding my bike through a nearby college today, postering for the upcoming "End the Siege of Gaza!" demonstration, when I came across this remarkable exhibit, entitled "Counting Lives Lost" (click to enlarge):

Counting Lives Lost

Now, I admit that officially speaking, Memorial Day is a day honoring Americans who have died fighting in wars, but even President Obama recognizes the greater generality of the concept of the day, considering that today he continued a tradition of laying a wreath not only at the Tomb of the Unknowns but also on the Confederate Memorial (who were obviously Americans, but who fought against the United States just like, to name one, John Walker Lindh [correction: Lindh was actually in Afghanistan fighting the Northern Alliance. He is imprisoned for fighting Americans, but he wasn't actually doing so]).

But honoring not only those who have been killed, but those they have killed, well, I admit I didn't think too many people were thinking along those lines until I got to this exhibit. The exhibit (there's a closeup in the upper-right of the composite photo) consists of hand-made clay figures, the white ones representing American soldiers who have died in Iraq, and the brown ones representing Iraqis who have died. Quite appropriately, the latter are faceless, reflecting the fact that we don't even know their names in many cases. The text accompanying the exhibit even, remarkably (and perhaps without really considering the meaning of the words too deeply), referred to "Iraqi dead," not Iraqi "civilian dead," suggesting, in the title of the exhibit, that we should remember all the lives lost (although, like virtually the entirety of the media, they left out the more than 300 British, Italians, and other members of the "coalition of the billing" who were killed, not to mention the unknown number of Iraqis who died fighting on the side of the occupying forces).

Sadly, as well-intentioned as the exhibit's creators are, the exhibit demonstrates the continuing power of a lie. The figure used for the ratio of American to Iraqi dead (and hence the ratio of the different figures) is explained in the text to be 1:22. With 4300 American dead, that gives a number of 94,600 Iraqi dead, which is essentially the low-end estimate of Iraq Body Count, which only counts civilians dead from violence, and even then, notoriously undercounts them. Indeed, 94,600 is barely more than the 87,215 dead officially tallied by Iraq since 2005, excluding the first three years of the war!

Well, I should cut them some slack; if they had tried to make a million Iraqi dead, instead of only 93,000, they would have taken up the entire plaza in which the display was situated, and they probably would still be hard at work making the figurines. Still, a remarkable and powerful display.

Update: Press release about the exhibit.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Commemorate the Nakba, go to jail

Public commemoration of Israel's independence as a day of mourning could become a crime subject to prison penalty, should a bill approved on Sunday by a ministerial panel be brought to the Knesset and cabinet for vote.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved a preliminary proposal which would make it illegal to hold events or ceremonies marking Israel's Independence Day as a "nakba," or catastrophe.

According to the bill, those found in violation could face up to three years in prison. (Source)
This is the first cousin, or perhaps the direct descendant, of the law which sends people in many countries, including Israel, to jail for denying the Holocaust. And, no doubt, also a close relative of the common practice of denouncing any criticism of Israel as "anti-Semitism."

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Agent provocateur

Two days ago when I first wrote about the New York terror plot, I wrote that I'd "let the facts settle" before commenting further. There was a solid reason for that, of course. The first news reports on such plots are always based on government pronouncements. The original press reports in that case, as in the latest one, always describe the person as an "informant," but when you wait a few days, you find out that "informing" was the least the person did.

Later, the real story starts coming out. And now, precisely as was the case in the recently-convicted Liberty City 7 case, we learn that this plot was almost entirely the work of one man, not a member of the "gang," but an agent provocateur, preying on people who wouldn't in a million years have committed an act of terrorism had it not been for the agent.

The Nation and The New York Times have the full story about the current agent provocateur.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Terrorists on the loose in the U.S.

Politicians and pundits are all atwitter, and quaking in mock fear, over the prospect of some "terrorists" (and alleged terrorists who "can't be tried") being imprisoned in U.S. prisons, or even, gasp, let loose in the U.S. They've all forgotten that there are numerous terrorists walking the streets of the United States. Of course these are the "good" terrorists, the ones whose acts of terrorism were directed against Cuba.

The gang in New York had 30 pounds of fake C-4. Luis Posada Carriles, along with Gaspar Jimenez, Pedro Remon and Guillermo Novo Sampol, were all caught and convicted in Panama with 20 pounds (some sources say 30) of real C-4, attempting to blow up an auditorium in which Fidel Castro was speaking to a room full of Panamanian students. Just four months later, under pressure from the U.S., the four were pardoned by the outgoing Panamanian President (now a U.S. resident, naturally), and Jimenez, Remon, and Sampol were all given a heroes' welcome upon their arrival in Miami (for various reasons, Posada was required to sneak into the country less than a year later).

Posada, Jimenez, Remon, and Sampol, all of whom have been involved with other acts of terrorism as well, not to mention Orlando Bosch, Posada's partner in masterminding the 1976 mid-air bombing of a Cubana airliner which took the lives of 73 people, are all now walking the streets of Miami, free men, with one of them, Posada, being sheltered to this day from extradition to Venezuela, where he is still wanted on 73 counts of first-degree murder.

Two other terrorist associates of Posada, Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat, were caught with dozens of machine guns, rifles, C-4 explosive, dynamite, detonators, a grenade launcher and ammunition. They spent a year in prison, and now they too are walking the streets of Miami.

On the other coast, there was Robert Ferro, a man whose name has not once made the national or even regional media; only the local paper has covered his case. Why is that so astonishing? Because Ferro had a cache consisting of 1,600 firearms, including 35 machine guns, 130 silencers and two short-barreled rifles, along with a hand grenade, military rocket-launcher tube, and grenade parts, not to mention 89,000 rounds of ammunition! Ferro had even spent two years in prison earlier after being caught with C-4. His latest sentence was 65 months, although, given the history of such people (Alvarez and Mitat had both been sentenced to longer sentences, then had their sentences reduced), we shall see how much time Ferro actually spends in prison (if, indeed, the information ever makes the news). It will be interesting to see what sentences are forthcoming for the would-be terrorists in New York, with no actual C-4 in their possession. I'm betting on a lot more than 65 months.

And Posada? The U.S. has now, after years of investigation, decided that he lied when he said that he wasn't involved with the bombing of hotels in Havana in the 90's which, among other things, killed Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo. So they've charged him with terrorism, right? No, in a feat worthy of the Olympic gold medal in mental gymnastics, they've charged him with perjury for lying when he said he wasn't involved with those acts of terrorism. But actually charging him with terrorism? No, that would be too much to fess up to, after years of protecting him (continuing to this day) from prosecution for the murder of the 73 victims of the Cubana airliner.

Terrorists in the U.S.? Oh yeah, we've got plenty of them running around. And I'm not even mentioning the biggest terrorists of them all, the ones responsible for raining terror and death on the heads of the Afghan and Iraqi people.


Would-be terrorists

The New York Times reveals some of the nonsense surrounding the arrests of a would-be terrorist gang in New York. Eric Snyder, an assistant United States attorney, says "It's hard to envision a more chilling plot." Really, Mr. Snyder? Does "9-11" ring a bell? I'm perfectly willing to admit these men would have liked to pull off a rather nasty piece of business, but "hard to envision a more chilling plot"? You must not be paying attention (or watch much TV).

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg goes him one better: "Sadly, this is just a reminder that peace is fragile and democracy is fragile and we have to be vigilant all the time." Again, this would certainly have been a memorable and nasty incident had anything happened. But it would have had zero effect on the "peace" in this country, and the only way it would have affected the "democracy" (such as it is) in this country would be if Obama or others used it as an excuse to further curtail constitutional rights, as Bush & Co. did with 9/11.

If you want to look for a country where "peace" was fragile, you might try Afghanistan or Iraq, where massive acts of U.S. terrorism have caused the deaths of more than a million people, and where (particularly referring to Iraq), thousands of car bombs have been exploded since those invasions, as opposed to the one which didn't explode in New York. Afghanistan hasn't known peace since 2001, and Iraq since 2003. If only Mayor Bloomberg and the rest of the American ruling class was more sensitive to their need for "peace."


What did California voters say on Tuesday?

To listen to all the media newscasters, pundits, and Governor Schwarzenegger, in the words of the latter, ""We heard the voice of the voters loud and clear, and they want us to go all-out and make those cuts." Voters, they all tell us, were resoundingly against increasing taxes to solve California's budget problems.

Really? There were three actual tax increases on the ballot on Tuesday. In Hayward, voters passed a special 5.5% utility tax to fund local services. In Concord, a $99 parcel tax to fund education failed, but only because of the undemocratic 2/3 requirement. 59% of voters supported that tax, which in a regular election would be called a "landslide." Hardly a rejection of tax increases. Only in Pacifica did a regressive 1% sales tax increase fail to get majority support for voters.

Last November, Barack Obama won a fairly decisive electoral victory. One of his major campaign issues, one that was actively discussed during debates? Increasing taxes of people making more than $200,000/year.

Do the voters reject tax increases as a solution for California's budget woes? How about putting a tax increase for people making more than $200,000/year on the ballot and we'll see about that. Aside from such a measure, I'm not voting for anything budget-related until I get a chance to vote to repeal the absurd and undemocratic rule requiring 2/3 approval for a budget.


A victory and a laugh in the map war

In response to a "barrage" of complaints, the Israeli tourism ad featuring a map of a greatly expanded "Israel" has been pulled from the London Underground. In an attempt to get us all to laugh, no doubt, Israeli Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Shira Kazeh said the decision was made to pull the poster earlier than planned because "we don't mix politics and tourism." Which is no doubt why their tourism poster featured the overtly political fake map of "Israel." And by the way, Shira, you didn't "make a decision" to "pull the poster earlier than planned"; the Britain's Advertising Standards Authority made that decision for you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


"Weapons of mass destruction"

Four men were arrested in New York in the latest "terror plot," with a curiously bifurcated nature - "detonate a car with plastic explosives outside a temple," and "shoot military planes...with Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles." I'll let the "facts settle" before I comment on the plot itself, but I do want to make note of the charge: "conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles." So apparently, according to the U.S. legal system, a car bomb is a "weapon of mass destruction." Bush and Cheney and FOX News were right all along - there were "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. And, sadly, still are.

Note how the use of anti-aircraft missiles is a separate charge. Those, you see, are "conventional" weapons, weapons used by the U.S. government (and others, of course). As such they're "legitimate" weapons. Car bombs? Like suicide bombing and other "weapons of the poor," those are "illegitimate" according to the U.S. "Weapons of mass destruction" even, laughably. Meanwhile "conventional" weapons in use by the U.S. continue to cause more "mass destruction" than all such "weapons of mass destruction" ever have, with of course two notable exceptions - Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Update: Some of those facts have settled, and it appears clearer and clearer that, as was to be expected, this is yet another case of FBI entrapment.


Guantanamo "recidivism"

Pop quiz. What is wrong with this headline?
One in seven freed from Guantanamo reportedly return to terrorism
It was a bit of a trick question, because actually there are two things wrong. The first is that the headline doesn't reflect the actual article, which says that "one in seven of the 534 prisoners...has returned to terrorism or militant activity." Since any actual act is undoubtedly classified as "terrorism," regardless of whether it's a car bomb directed against civilians or an IED directed against American forces, it's a safe bet that "militant activity" amounts to little more than marching in an "End the occupation!" demonstration.

But the real answer to the quiz, the primary problem with the headline, is the word "return" (along with the use of the word "recidivism" in the article). Because these are people who were released from Guantanamo, a prison where hundreds, some of them known to be completely innocent and many of them undoubtedly innocent, are still housed. Do you really think if there was one shred of evidence that the released men had actually been involved in "terrorism" that they would have been among the released? Oh, there might be one or two who were transferred to prisons in other countries, and then released by those countries whose sensibility about things like imprisoning people without trials was higher than our own, but the overwhelming majority of those 534 released prisoners were people against whom there was no evidence whatsoever (much less, of course, a trial and a conviction).

"Return" to terrorism? If the facts are indeed true, that 74 of the released prisoners have subsequently engaged in terrorist acts (accepting just for sake of argument the U.S. definition of "terrorism"), I'd say it's equally or more likely that those 74 were doing so for the first time, having had their hearts and minds poisoned against the U.S. by their experience with the U.S. "justice" system.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Political Humor of the Day

According to Richard Viguerie's "Conservative HQ" website, 91% of "self-identified conservatives" said Obama was either a "socialist," (46%) "Marxist," (24%) "communist," (11%) or "fascist" (10%). That was your first laugh. For your second laugh, here's how Viguerie's "logic" analyzes this result: "proving Obama is no garden variety liberal." "Proving"? Shall I put up a poll here and let the results "prove" that Viguerie is an idiot? No, I don't think I have to, he's pretty much proven that himself. As have his "self-described conservative" readers.


AP's boilerplate big lie(s) on Iran

AP covers yesterday's test launch of an Iranian missile, and ends the article with this boilerplate:
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel's elimination, and the Jewish state has not ruled out a military strike to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat.
Grade: 33%. Ahmadinejad has not "repeatedly," or ever, "called for Israel's elimination," and there is no "Iranian nuclear threat." The "Jewish state" has indeed, however, not ruled out a military strike against Iran. Actually "33%" may be too high, because even that is only a half-truth; a more accurate statement would be "the Jewish state has repeatedly threatened military action against Iran."


Obama and Gaza

Continuing my observations on President Obama's recent press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, let's turn to his remarks on Gaza. Some people have taken it as a positive sign that Obama actually raised the subject. So let's see exactly how he did so.

Obama broached the subject by saying "I think the humanitarian situation in Gaza has to be addressed." Another one of those "implicit future tenses" ("has to be addressed"? When? After hundreds more die and tens of thousands spend more months living in tents? How about addressing it right now?), but at least he said it "has to be addressed," right? So what were the very next words out of his mouth?

"Now, I was along the border in Sderot and saw the evidence of weapons that had been raining down on the heads of innocents in those Israeli cities, and that’s unacceptable. So we’ve got to work with the Egyptians to deal with the smuggling of weapons and it has to be meaningful because no Prime Minister of any country is going to tolerate missiles raining down on their citizens’ heads."
So the first thing that comes to mind when addressing the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is...putting an end to weapons smuggling. After that we'll get to the starving people. No rush.

Obama followed that touching expression of concern for the residents of Sderot with his not nearly as touching concern for the residents of Gaza:

"On the other hand, the fact is, is that if the people of Gaza have no hope, if they can’t even get clean water at this point, if the border closures are so tight that it is impossible for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts to take place, then that is not going to be a recipe for Israel’s long-term security or a constructive peace track to move forward."
Note that what's happening to the residents of Sderot is "unacceptable"; what's happening to the people of Gaza is "not going to be a recipe for Israel's long-term security"! Even his "concern" for the people of Gaza is framed as a concern for Israel!!

As for the effects of the blockade? Not a word. As of last August (can't find more recent figures), 241 Gazan patients had died as a result of the lack of medical care (inability to obtain medicines, lack of permission to cross the border to obtain treatment in an Israeli hospital, etc.); as noted in the post below, two more were added to that list just yesterday. The U.S. could do something about that blockade of Gaza overnight by withdrawing its own support and participation; they don't even need to "pressure" Israel or Egypt to do anything, or threaten to cut off aid. Imagine, instead of the puny "Free Gaza" boats sailing into Gaza with a day or two's worth of supplies, if a U.S. warship (or peaceship if you prefer, but they'll need to be armed to make sure the Israelis take no action) filled with hundreds of tons of supplies were to sail up to Gaza.

I'd call what Obama had to say crocodile tears for Gaza, except honestly, I don't even think his sympathy extended that far; as noted, his "sympathy" for Gaza was actually a concern for Israel.

Yesterday, in California, voters voted down a series of propositions which were designed to reduce the budget deficit. As a result, more teachers will be laid off, more social services of all kinds cut. Meanwhile, the billions of dollars of U.S. military aid flowing to Israel (and Pakistan and Egypt and I won't even mention our own military spending in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere) each year goes on unabated. Concerned about cutbacks in education and other social services? I think we all know where that money has gone.

On June 6, there is an opportunity for the people of the U.S. to send a message to President Obama and the world about the need to lift the siege of Gaza. Protests will be held around the world, including in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C..

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Two more dead children, two more Israeli/U.S. victims

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Tuesday morning that a 1-year old infant died on Monday at a local hospital in Rafah due to several complications, including pneumonia, as his transfer to a hospital outside of the Gaza Strip was not possible due to the ongoing Israeli siege.

The infant was identified as Odai Samir Abu Azzoum, from Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

The Ministry of Interior in Gaza reported that the lack of medical equipment to deal with his case led to the death of the child, even though Gaza physicians had successfully dealt with similar cases before the siege.

The Ministry voiced an appeal to the international community to support the residents of the Gaza Strip, especially the patients, who have the right to medical treatment.

It demanded the international community to end Israeli aggression and ongoing violations against civilians in Gaza.

On Monday, a ten-year old child with cancer died in the Gaza Strip while awaiting permission from the Israeli government to cross the border to reach a scheduled appointment with a specialist inside Israel.

Ribhi Jindiyeh suffered from lymphoma, and underwent chemotherapy last year. In March, however, his condition worsened, and, because of the lack of medical supplies in Gaza due to the Israeli closure, his parents consulted with a doctor in Israel to get the needed medical treatment. (Source)
All out June 6 in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco to say "no!" to these atrocities!

Update: In an ironic twist to this tragic story, today Ya'acov Litzman, Israel's deputy health minister, claimed during his speech at a WHO conference that Israel always sends medical aid to Palestinians in the time of war. Presumably he failed to specify how much aid he was talking about. The number of Palestinians who have died thanks to that "medical aid," like the two described above, number in the hundreds.


Obama still riding the "Iranian nuclear weapons" war train

President Obama's remarks yesterday about Iranian "nuclear weapons" are worth taking note of. He started in his prepared remarks by referring to "the potential pursuit of a nuclear weapon by Iran." Fair enough, although of course pretty much any country with a nuclear power program or even scientists could "potentially" pursue a nuclear weapon.

But it went downhill from there. In the very next paragraph, we find this:

"We want [Iran] to be a full-fledged member of the international community and be in a position to provide opportunities and prosperity for their people, but that the way to achieve those goals is not through the pursuit of a nuclear weapon."
Aside from the arrogance of thinking that the U.S. and its friends get to say who is and who is not "a full-fledged member of the international community," and aside from the hypocrisy of talking about one's desire for the "prosperity" of a country against whom you are leading the effort for boycotts and sanctions, the implied claim here is that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. Of course Iran has denied any such intention (and there is no evidence they aren't telling the truth, even from the U.S. intelligence community).

The next paragraph gets worse still:

"We are engaged in a process to reach out to Iran and persuade them that it is not in their interest to pursue a nuclear weapon and that they should change course."
Iran would only need to "change course" on pursuing a nuclear weapon if they were pursuing a nuclear weapon. Obama simply refuses to accept the fact that they are not.

In the Q&A, more of the same, if not worse:

"I firmly believe it is in Iran’s interest not to develop nuclear weapons, because it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and be profoundly destabilizing in all sorts of ways. Iran can achieve its interests of security and international respect and prosperity for its people through other means, and I am prepared to make what I believe will be a persuasive argument, that there should be a different course to be taken."
Again, leaving aside the perhaps unintentional irony of standing next to the leader of the only country in the Middle East which actually has nuclear weapons, and discussing the potential "nuclear arms race" and "instability" that might occur if another country got nuclear weapons, the claim that Iran needs to be persuaded to take "a different course" once again clearly puts President Obama in Cheney-land, making completely unsupported and unsupportable claims about the nuclear weapons program of another country.

Ah, you think I'm just reading between the lines and putting words in Obama's mouth, do you? Prepare yourself for the coup de grace:

"We’re not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction while Iran proceeds with developing a nuclear -- and deploying a nuclear weapon."
Deploying! Iran is "proceeding" to "develop" and "deploy" nuclear weapons unless we stop them.

No, the countries that needs to be stopped are the U.S. and Israel, with their constant beating of the war drums against yet another country. How many will die or be maimed for life, how many displaced from their homes when this war starts? How many more schools and hospitals will close as we go broke paying for another war?

Monday, May 18, 2009


The "sanctity of life"

If I heard the phrase once I heard it a dozen times in the last few days, about how protesters at the University of Notre Dame were defending the "sanctity of life." News Corpse (via the increasing indispensable FAIR Blog) notes how there was nary a peep at Notre Dame when George Bush, who signed 152 death warrants (in contravention to Catholic teaching every bit as much as abortion), gave the commencement address at Notre Dame.

But we don't need to go back to George Bush. Where were the protests against Obama's "murder by drone" of hundreds of Pakistanis, his escalation of the death and destruction in Afghanistan, his continuation of the occupation and killing in Iraq, or his continuing financial, military, and political support for the slaughter and starvation of the Palestinian people? Apparently some lives (the "unborn" ones) are more sacrosanct than others, because not a peep was heard yesterday about any of those deaths.

On that last point (Palestinian lives), by the way, today President Obama held a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. In the news today, Israel begin construction on the first "new settlement" (as opposed to new settlements which could be given the fig leaf of "expansion of existing settlements") in the occupied West Bank in 26 years. So what did Obama have to say about that?

"And I shared with the prime minister the fact that under the road map, under Annapolis, there is a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements; that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That's a difficult issue. I recognize that. But it's an important one, and it has to be addressed."
I guess "it has to be addressed" is one of those implicit future tenses. Because his silence about the actual settlement expansion going on as he was speaking speaks volumes.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Wiping who off the map?

Map of IsraelWho's wiping who off the map? This is a map of "Israel" courtesy of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, which (hat tip Palestine Solidarity Campaign) isn't just confined to a website, but is now found all over the London Underground (and quite likely elsewhere as well) in ads promoting Israel as a tourist destination. If you look closely at this version (click to enlarge) (not at the version in the tourist ads), you'll find Gaza and (very) small parts of the West Bank in different colors (with roads mysteriously disappearing!), but there's certainly no indication of any place called "Palestine" on this map. The Golan Heights? An integral part of Israel, according to this map.

Curiously enough, on the same Israeli Ministry of Tourism website, you'll find data about the state of Israel asserting that its population is "75.6% Jews, 16.6% Muslim, 1.6% Christian and 1.6% Druze," a claim completely at odds with the "Israel" depicted on the map.

Who wants to wipe who off the map? It's already been done.

Just one more argument for the single-state solution eloquently argued for by Ali Abunimah in his essential book, One Country.

Update: I meant to write, but forgot, that this map isn't just some idle curiosity, or even just a reflection of the Israeli mindset. It also goes directly to the question of "recognizing Israel," which both Israel and the U.S. demand the Palestinians do before any negotiations can occur. Which Israel are they being asked to recognize, exactly? The one in this map? If so, there's really not much point in negotiations, is there?

Friday, May 15, 2009


Cuba, Iran say: "No Nukes!"

Gotta' love it:
U.N. nuclear talks hit a roadblock Friday as Cuba, Iran and other developing nations demanded that the five original nuclear powers accept legally binding commitments to dismantle their nuclear arsenals and provide assurances they will not use such weapons against states that do not possess atomic weapons.
Time to put up or shut up, Barack.


Not that innocent

Britney Spears? No, Roxana Saberi. Despite the "guilty until proven innocent" (and probably even then) attitude toward Iran (and the "innocent even if proven guilty" attitude about Saberi) that one could find in the Western corporate media and from liberals and conservatives alike, it turns out that Iranian-American journalist Saberi wasn't exactly innocent:
Her lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, has said she was convicted in part because she had a copy of a confidential Iranian report on the U.S. war in Iraq. He said she had copied the report "out of curiosity" while she worked as a freelance translator for a powerful body connected to Iran's ruling clerics. Prosecutors also cited a trip to Israel that Saberi made in 2006, he said Tuesday. Iran bars its citizens from visiting Israel, its top regional nemesis.

He said she told appeals court judges that she had copied the document two years ago but did not pass it on to the Americans as prosecutors claimed.
Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Frankly, it's a bit hard to believe she just made a copy of this classified report and then stuck it in a drawer without showing it to anyone. The U.S. claims the charges are "baseless" but that claim has no credibility whatsoever; would they admit it (or would the person making that claim even know?) if she had turned the document over to the CIA? Hardly.

Oh, and by the way, about that charge about entering Israel (although it's not actually clear whether she was charged with that, or whether that is only mentioned because she might have turned over the information to the Israelis)? Israel recently arrested journalist Amira Hass for precisely the same thing (curiously charging her with entering an "enemy state" for entering Gaza, even though Gaza is, as we all know, not a "state" at all).

It's worth contrasting this case, and the outrage it engendered in the West, with another case, that of the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five have spent more than ten years in U.S. prisons after being convicted of "espionage conspiracy." What does that mean? The word "conspiracy" is the clue. If they had possessed a single classified document, they would have been charged and convicted of "espionage." Instead, because they did not have nor had ever seen or attempted to obtain any such document, they were charged with "conspiracy" - they were thinking about obtaining classified material (according to the government). And for that crime they were sentenced to terms ranging from 15 years to double life (two life sentences), sentences which they have now spent more than ten years serving. And here we have Saberi, who apparently admits being in possession of classified Iranian documents, being sentenced to eight years in prison, and those who wish to gin up a war against Iran use that as evidence of the unjust nature and brutality of the Iranian justice system.

Sheer hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is still pushing the lie (to the Pope this time), and the press dutifully reporting the lie, that Iran "says it is going to destroy the Jewish state." Of course this is complete bollocks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Troops in danger? Bring 'em home!

President Obama has now decided to ignore a court order (without any evidence of a planned appeal, in other words, he's decided to break the law) and block the release of further torture photos. Obama claims he's doing this because releasing them would "put our troops in greater danger." All together now: "Hey Barack! If you don't want to put our troops in danger, there's a real simple solution: Stop sending more of them to fight in Afghanistan, and bring the troops already in Iraq and Afghanistan home now!" Problem solved, photos or no photos.

The photos themselves are of little concern to me. What is a concern are the facts that Obama has now joined George Bush in proclaiming his Administration as above the law, and furthermore, he has endorsed the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld "it was just a few bad apples" assertion by claiming that these actions were "carried out in the past by a small number of individuals" and furthermore that "appropriate actions have been taken." In other words, "case closed," move along, torture and prisoner abuse were not widely practiced, not officially ordered and sanctioned, no further investigations are in order.

More of that "change we can believe in." Not.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


"A staggering figure"

The San Jose Mercury News describes the current $15 billion California state deficit as "a staggering figure." The U.S. has been spending $10 billion or more on the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan for more than six years and not once in that time has the Mercury News (or any other corporate media) described that as "a staggering figure," much less the total long-term estimated cost in excess of $3 trillion dollars.


"Fragging" - AP attempts to rewrite history

Covering the tragic story of the American soldier who killed five of his fellow soldiers at a military counseling center in Iraq, AP writes (in the third paragraph no less, which is why I've heard exactly the same thing repeated on TV news broadcasts):
Attacks on fellow soldiers, known as fraggings, were not uncommon during the Vietnam war but are believed to be rare in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Is this plain ignorance on the part of a young reporter, or a willful rewriting of history? My money's on the latter, because a simple trip to Wikipedia will teach you that fragging had nothing to do with killing "fellow soldiers":
Fragging most often involved the murder of a commanding officer or a senior noncommissioned officer perceived as unpopular, harsh, inept, or overzealous. Many soldiers were not overly keen to go into harm's way, and preferred leaders with a similar sense of self-preservation.
Reminding today's readers that American soldiers do not like risking their lives for unpopular causes, and will even go as far as killing their own officers as a result? No, that wouldn't do.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Socialism, not single-payer

Single-payer health care would be a vast improvement over the system we have now in the United States. But as I've written before (e.g., here, here, and here), what we really need is socialism, not single-payer health care. Today's news, that the "health industry" (the term itself is grating, isn't it?) has "promised" (can we get that in writing, please?) to "save" $2 trillion (trillion with a "T") dollars in the next decade (not as much as it sounds, of course, that's only $200 billion/year) in health care "costs." They propose to do this by using "new efficiencies," whatever that means. I'll put my money on one of two things - cutting salaries of workers, or cutting actual care (e.g., kicking people out of hospitals faster). Cutting profits? Don't count on that.

The idea that health - all aspects of health, including not just doctors but drug development and production, building and operating medical schools and hospitals, developing and producing machines like MRI, etc. - should be an area subject to profit, is not just objectionable, but irrational. If the threat of even modest changes in the nation's health care system could force the "industry" to lower its blackmail costs by $2 trillion (or, at least, promise to do so), what does that say about the real savings that could be achieved if the entire system were put under public, democratic control, with the goal of producing health instead of profit? I'm guessing the saving would be at least ten times that amount, if not indeed far more.

Repeating something I've written before: Few outside of the extreme right-wing would question the centrality of public education; why do even liberals like Obama resist so strongly the necessary centrality of public health care?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Hiding behind civilians

In a not-unexpected development, the U.S. is now blaming the Taliban for the deaths of up to 147 Afghan civilian. They seem to be retreating from their earlier claim that some of the civilians were actually killed by the Taliban, and admitting that it was U.S. bombs that did the damage, so now, echoing the Israeli explanation for the murder of hundreds of civilians in Gaza, they've gone to that old standby - the Taliban were "hiding behind civilians."

This is nonsense on two different levels. The first is the idea that the U.S. forces were actually targeting "Taliban," rather than just two Afghan villages. The U.S. admits to making 13 passes (with an unspecified number of aircraft) over the two villages. Sorry, when you make that many passes, you aren't targeting one or two specific houses where you think (or even know) that "Taliban" are hiding; you're targeting the village itself.

But even more importantly, there's the entire concept. The U.S. claims that the Taliban herded all the villagers into a house, and then fired at Afghan government forces from that house. We have no reason to assume that's true, but just for sake of argument assume that it is. What does it mean that the U.S. dropped bombs on houses without knowing who was inside? If an escaped, sentenced-to-death serial killer escapes from prison and runs into your house, and fires at police from the window, do you acknowledge the right of the government to drop bombs on your house, without having any idea whether you or the other members of your family are home, to "take out" that killer? Somehow, I seriously doubt it. Afghan lives (and Iraqi lives and Palestinian lives and everywhere else this scenario repeats itself) are cheap though. Certainly not worth one one-hundredth of an American (or Israeli) life.

We do have to give American forces credit, though. Although they're as quick to accuse their enemies of "hiding behind civilians" as the Israelis, at least they haven't (as far as we know) made hiding behind civilians a routine practice of their own, as the Israelis have (here's the latest on that subject).

Friday, May 08, 2009


The retrain has left the station

I wrote a post with this title four years ago (time flies!), but with President Obama in the news talking about retraining as the solution to the unemployment problem, I take note of Barbara Ehrenreich's op-ed today which echoes what I wrote about in the post: "Retraining for what?"

Here's what I wrote four years ago, no less valid today:

I've been writing for more than a year about the folly of thinking that "retraining" is the answer to joblessness in America. The "really" high-end jobs (the example I used before was Ph.D. microbiologists) are few and far between, and hardly the type of job that someone is going to be "retrained" to do. Other technology jobs are, if anything, easier to outsource than lesser-paid jobs (tech support can be outsourced; WalMart shelf stocker or fast food worker can't be).
And, just to throw a little more water on the fire (or, to perhaps choose a better metaphor, to put another penny on the tracks of that "retrain"), let me note one of the other problems with the hope that retraining is a solution, by noting something I wrote five years ago, and let me note that the situation has gotten even worse than that described in this post:
It seems highly unlikely that "retraining" is some magic bullet that would put a serious dent in the unemployment situation in the United States. But to the extent that it might help, and provide employment for at least some people, this should give serious pause:
"San Jose State University President Joseph Crowley laid out a plan Wednesday for cutting up to $18 million from the campus budget and said he would do everything possible to protect the educational mission and avoid layoffs in the face of sharp declines in state funding.

"The state chancellor of the California State University system already has said CSU's 23 campuses will serve 20,000 fewer students than expected next year to live within its shrunken budget. Students probably will pay higher fees, and some will receive less financial aid."
So not only will the Cal State system undoubtedly (despite claims to the contrary) be laying off some of its own employees (how on earth could they justify not doing so with 20,000 fewer students?), but on top of that, they will be providing an education to 20,000 fewer students next year. As noted here last month, the only "training" most of these 20,000 people are likely to get is from their supervisor at Wal-Mart, showing them how to operate the cash register or stock the shelves.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Left I at the Movies: FTA

If you liked Winter Soldier and Sir, No Sir, a third entrant in this non-trilogy trilogy, FTA, is a must-see. Like the other two, FTA ("F....ree" the Army) is the story of the antiwar movement in the military during the Vietnam War, and an inspiring story it is.

"FTA" was the name of a troupe of actors and singers, led by Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, who put on a show of political skits and songs at venues near military bases in the U.S. and many Pacific Rim countries where U.S. bases were located, like Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines. The songs and the skits carried a powerful message of resistance to the imperialist war machine, and the support of the thousands of soldiers attending these shows is nothing short of amazing (to today's audience), and inspiring in the extreme.

FTA was released in 1972 and played in theaters for one week before political pressure caused it to be pulled from theaters and never seen again, until now. It was finally released on DVD a month or so ago (and is available on Netflix), so now, for the first time in 37 years, we have a chance to see this remarkable show for ourselves.

The film quality isn't ideal, but the content and message couldn't be clearer. Two thumbs up.

If you're a veteran or service member opposed to the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, get involved!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


The ICRC, Israel, Afghanistan, and the "Battered Spouse" syndrome

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been in the news recently. Today, it's because they've been involved in confirming what, as per usual, the U.S. first denied, that dozens of Afghan civilians were killed in the latest U.S. airstrike. Of course the U.S. is sorry:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today expressed deep regret for civilian casualties caused by U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, telling the visiting Afghan and Pakistani presidents that the United States will work hard to "avoid the loss of innocent civilian life."
Afghan "President" Karzai's name is, I wager, most frequently in the news in association with the words "asked the U.S. to please try to minimize civilian casualties"; I see that phrase with regularity. Alas, it's a classic case of battered spouse syndrome. Afghanistan keeps begging for the beatings to stop, and the U.S. keeps promising "they'll do better," but next week the police (or the ICRC) will be called back for the next incident.

The ICRC was also in the news yesterday, but you wouldn't have read about it if you read American media. Internationally, the story was only carried by AFP. See if you can guess why American media failed to carry the story:

The United Nations anti-torture committee on Tuesday asked Israel to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross access to a secret detention facility where torture is allegedly being practised.

The committee of 10 independent experts demanded that Israel release information on the alleged "Facility 1391" which is situated in an "undetermined location within Israel and which is not accessible to the International Committee of the Red Cross or detainees' lawyers or relatives".


The mathematics of capitalism

The U.S. working class is twice as productive as it was in 1968. That is, each worker now produces twice as much value as she or he would have 40 years ago. But our wages have the same value—the same purchasing power—as they did 40 years ago. All that extra value has gone straight to Wall Street, to the already rich.
Let's jump to the conclusion of the article from which this is taken:
Has it ever been more clear? Billionaires, your time is up. You, and your system, are the cause of deepening poverty and economic insecurity. We need socialism now.


What we get to vote on...and what we don't

Here in the Bay Area an election has just taken place. Voters were asked to vote on (and have approved) a measure which would increase their property tax, by amounts ranging from $85 to $242 (depending on the county), to raise money for schools. Basically, the measure read: "We have a gun to your head. Give us your money or your children will be killed...educationally." Three years ago, a similar vote raised our sales taxes to pay for mass transportation.

But never, and I do mean never, do we get to vote on raising our taxes to pay for war. Can you imagine if we got to vote on a measure that read: "The government wants to invade Iraq (or Iran, or anywhere else), a country you may or may not have even heard of before we started whipping up a war fever and demonizing its leader, and most likely couldn't locate on a map. Each family will be charged $1000/year for the duration of the war, which might last a decade or more, as well as $250/year for the following 50 years to pay for medical care for the wounded and other veterans of this war. Vote yes if you approve increasing your taxes to pay for this invasion and associated costs." Oh and, by the way, just like the votes on property taxes and sales taxes, this measure would require a 2/3 approval.

No, I can't imagine it either.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


What is capitalism?

An interesting four-part series on Huffington Post by one of their writers. I don't agree with his comments about socialism/communism, but his analysis of capitalism is pretty much spot on.



With the Supreme Court issuing an opinion suggesting they think that a less than one-second view of Janet Jackson's nipple might be "obscene" (and worthy of a $550,000 fine!), here's what's really obscene:
Bush Library Raises $100 Million in 100 Days
This obscenity is just one of the consequences of the obscenity that is capitalism, with capital amassed in obscene amounts by individuals, and then spent on private priorities rather than on public needs. Capitalists can spend their money to create jobs (e.g., building a new plant) or they can spend it to destroy jobs (by buying and merging companies and then firing the "redundant" employees); they can spend their money on societal needs (like the Gates Foundation and its spending on global health), or on complete inanities like the Bush Library, which will assuredly have less connection with reality and less knowledge to impart than a collection of MAD Magazines.

Monday, May 04, 2009


May Day in San Jose

The last few days have been hectic so it took awhile to put together this video:

My two favorite chants (the first is in the video, the second not):

¡Aqui estamos, y no nos vamos!
¡Si nos echan, nos regresamos!
(Here we are, we're not going
If they throw us out, we're coming back)

Obama, no somos uno, no somos cien
Somos millones, cuente nos bien.
(Obama - we're not one, we're not a hundred
We are millions - count us well)


Why are reporters so ignorant?

CNN's Jim Acosta, a Cuban-American (born in the U.S.), has been reporting from Havana. Here's how "knowledgeable" are reporters that a major U.S. news organization sends to report on Cuba and provide "insight":
He was also surprised, he added, by the Cubans' friendliness. "Nobody has said, 'Yankee go home!' Nobody has said, 'Down with America! Down with USA!'" he said. "There's none of that here. If anything, people are very friendly and they're sort of ready to throw out the welcome mat if you say that you're an American.
If this man knew anything about Cuba, either first-hand, second-hand, or even having read any other reporting, he would hardly have been "surprised" at this. Pathetic.

Acosta was also "surprised" at "the level of poverty," and attributes Cuba's desire for normalization to that. Acosta doesn't say what he's comparing that level to, though. To the suburban Atlanta neighborhood where he probably lives? Maybe he should go to pretty much any other country in Latin America, the Caribbean, or Africa. Maybe then he'd have a better point of reference to judge the state of the Cuban economy, instead of mentally comparing it to the U.S. like American reporters always do.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Those scary Cubans

Silvio Rodriguez is Cuba's most popular folk singer. He was scheduled to play at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration yesterday. The U.S., with the Obama administration picking up where the Bush administration left off, denied his visa application (o.k., technically they didn't "deny" it, they just never approved it). No doubt his appearance would have been a serious threat to U.S. national security, just like the appearance (which was a non-appearance, thanks to another visa denial) of 77-year-old Ibrahim Ferrer (of Buena Vista Social Club fame) back in 2004.

Actually talking about "national security" when you talk about U.S. policy to Cuba is a misnomer. "National insecurity" would be more appropriate.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Quote of the Day

"If Jews can return to Israel after two-thousand years, Palestinians must have the right after sixty."

- Hamas chairman Khaled Mashaal
Mashaal is being more than generous is offering up this comparison, because it isn't just the length of time that distinguishes the two groups. Palestinians who want the right of return want to actually return to a place where either they themselves, or at most their parents or grandparents, actually lived. Many of the Jews "returning" to Israel have no connection to Israel whatsoever in their past, and some of them weren't even Jews until days before arriving in Israel.

Friday, May 01, 2009


The real pandemic

Every six seconds, somewhere in the world a child dies of malnutrition.

I found this statistic in an article in Granma International, the Cuban newspaper. The story actually appeared on April 8, so the story has had plenty of time to circulate. The source is a U.N. report, so it's not as if the source were either obscure or some "Communist propaganda." If you search Google News, you will find that not a single "Western" news source has carried this story. They prefer not to dwell on stories which reflect poorly on the existing world order of capitalism, imperialism, and exploitation.

By the way, for the math challenged, that's 14,000 children every day, a number which dwarfs the number of people who will be killed by terrorism in the entire year. 5+ million children die of malnutrition every year. Just imagine how many of those could have been saved with the $3 trillion the U.S. (not counting other countries) will spend on its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention the million+ Iraqis and Afghans who would still be alive).

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