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Monday, August 31, 2009


Israeli organ harvesting

If you're like me, you read the reports published in a Swedish newspaper about Israel stealing organs from Palestinians with a certain skepticism. The article certainly provided enough information to suggest that a real investigation was called for (although, given Israel's long history of non-cooperation with any kind of international investigation into its crimes, that's probably a vain hope), but hardly constituted any kind of proof. It seemed like a story that really could have benefited from a lot more research before publication.

If you thought that, or even if you were convinced by the charges, here are two articles from CounterPunch, one quite long and thorough, another shorter one, both worth reading, that will give you a lot more food for thought. It's not really a question of deducing that there is fire when seeing smoke. It's more like seeing fire someplace and inferring that there is quite likely also fire close by.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Paraphrasing Stephen Colbert: Obama - big disappointment, or the biggest disappointment?

OK, as far as I'm concerned, Obama is pretty much what I expected. But it should be obvious that many of those who supported him must be getting more and more shell-shocked by the degree to which Obama represents not any kind of change, but continuity with the Bush administration. I was prompted to write this by today's news that the Obama administration will be continuing the Bush policy of allowing the government to search — without suspicion of wrongdoing — the contents of a traveler's laptop computer, cell phone or other electronic device when they enter the U.S.

It's hardly the most egregious of Obama's policies which continue those of Bush, just one more in a long, long list. But it prompts me to think - is it possible that Obama is turning out to be the biggest disappointment to those who supported him of any U.S. President in history? The one who is the least liberal after leading people to think he was liberal, or (considering other Presidents), the least conservative after leading people to think he was very conservative? I think it is possible, but the bias of temporal proximity is an obvious problem, so I throw the question open to readers. Has any previous President been less what his supporters expected him to be than Barack Obama?

Thursday, August 27, 2009



The headlines read:
Merkel ups pressure on Israel on settlements
Really? How did she do that exactly? By saying: "We must make progress in the peace process...and a stopping of the settlement (building) is very important."

Same article, 11 or so paragraphs later:

Merkel also said that Iran, whose president has said he wants to wipe Israel off the map, could face new sanctions in the energy and financial sectors if it failed to show a willingness to negotiate on its disputed nuclear programme.

"If there is no positive answer by September we will have to consider further measures," she said.
Pressure on Iran? Try starving and bankrupting them. Pressure on Israel? Say "tsk, tsk."

I hope I don't also need to point out to readers, as I apparently do to Reuters, that Iran's president has never said "he wants to wipe Israel off the map."

Incidentally, on Palestine/Israel, I just watched a very interesting interview with Jimmy Carter on Al Jazeera. It's not online in any form yet, but it will be interesting to see if his comments, so strikingly at odds with the "conventional Washington wisdom", make any dent in the news.

Update: The Carter interview.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Heroic airplane bombers

As everyone knows, there's been a brouhaha in the West over the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, convicted in the bombing of Pan Am 103, the "Lockerbie bombing." President Obama has demanded that the Libyan government not "welcome" him and instead place him under house arrest. Politicians in New Jersey are demagoguing over the possibility that Libyan President Gaddafi might actually stay in NJ when he comes to speak to the U.N. (because, I presume, staying in New York is so much less an "offense" to the U.S.). And yesterday I had to listen to Cuban-American CNN anchor Rick Sanchez pontificating about the "heroes' welcome" being given to an airplane bomber.

About which two things must be said. First of all, the evidence against al-Megrahi was thin gruel indeed, with $2 million having been paid to the star witness against him, a witness who was interviewed 17 times before prosecutors could finally coax out of him testimony that would be useful to them; even then he still didn't conclusively identify al-Megrahi at the trial. al-Megrahi consistently maintained his innocence, and, if you read the statement he issued upon his release, if your reaction is anything like mine you'll have a hard time believing this man isn't totally sincere and totally innocent of the crime he was convicted of.

And second of all (and yes, Rick Sanchez, I'm looking at you), complaints about a heroes' welcome being given to airplane bombers? You, a member of the Miami Cuban community, have got to be kidding. Just last year, a party attended by 500 people was held in Miami in honor of Luis Posada Carriles, one of the two masterminds (Orlando Bosch, another Miami resident, being the other) of the first commercial airline bombing in the Western hemisphere, the 1976 bombing of Cubana flight 455 which killed all 73 people on board. Luis Posada Carriles, the man still being protected by the United States government (you know, the one headed by that same President Obama) from being extradited to Venezuela to stand trial for that bombing. Yes, Rick, do talk to us about how offended you are when airplane bombers are given a heroes' welcome.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Political Humor of the Day: Billionaire defends millionaires

What can you say? Even AP realized what a joke this was:
Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical companies and their chief executives Friday, declaring that they "don't make a lot of money" and shouldn't be scapegoats in the health care debate.

The mayor — and wealthiest person in New York City with a fortune estimated at $16.5 billion — made the comments on his radio show Friday during a discussion about health care.

"You know, last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don't make a lot of money, their executives don't make a lot of money — not that they couldn't be better," Bloomberg said.

Pharmaceutical CEOs are known to make millions, with generous salaries, stock options and other perks.

Abbott Laboratories Chairman and Chief Executive Miles White's compensation was $25.3 million in 2008. The North Chicago, Ill.-based company saw profit rising 35 percent to $4.88 billion.

Merck's chief executive, Richard T. Clark, received a $17.3 million compensation package for 2008. The company's profit more than doubled to $7.8 billion.


Military coups then and now

Start with the now. Here's a really thorough and useful article explaining the background to, and U.S. involvement in, the coup in Honduras. Here's a bit from the introduction, but trust me, this is a must-read article in its entirety:
Manuel Zelaya was elected president of Honduras in November 2005. Initially, he worked on moderate reforms such as fighting against corruption and bringing about small–scale land reform for the country’s poor. Subsequently, Zelaya pushed his social justice agenda forward—incorporating Honduras into Petro-Caribe , an organization sponsored by Venezuela to provide Central America with subsidized oil, and ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas. He doubled the minimum wage, called for the closing of the American military base of Soto Cano, also known as Palmerola, and proposed changing the military-written 1980 constitution to reflect the widening demand for social change of Honduras’s poor and working class. Each one of these actions brought the president closer to a confrontation with U.S. imperialism.
When you read the full article, you'll be amazed (well, probably not) at the amount of information which has not appeared in the corporate media.

Since the coup, repression against popular forces has resulted in a small number of deaths, and hundreds of arrests. It may or may not escalate from there. But, not entirely by coincidence, two nights ago I watched the newly-released DVD of "When the Mountains Tremble,", a 1983 documentary about the 1954 CIA-organized coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala (a coup organized out of the Soto Cano military base in Honduras, the same one Zelaya was proposing to close) and the decades of civil war and brutal repression which followed as the Guatemalan people resisted the imposition of a military government. An estimated 200,000 people, mostly indigenous, were killed. The film consists of remarkable footage, shot from both sides (e.g., revolutionary forces explaining their cause to the peasants, government helicopters firing on the resistance forces from the air - shot from inside the helicopters). It's a powerful testimony about the extent of the brutality to which oppressors will resort to maintain their control over the oppressed, and an object lesson in the consequences of U.S.-organized (or sponsored or even just tolerated) military coups and the kind of history the U.S. is willing to ignore as it continues along the same path today, even if in a more "sophisticated" and indirect way. The interests of U.S. corporations trump the possibility of hundreds of thousands of deaths of people, every time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Paul Krugman and the "socialist hellhole"

Paul Krugman defends Administration health insurance reform proposals (he calls them "health reform plans") by assuring his readers that no "socialist hellhole" will result. I wonder what "hellhole" he is referring to. Socialist Cuba, a poor island nation, spends one-thirtieth the amount on health care that we do, yet provides its citizens with a life expectancy (77 years) and infant mortality rates (6/1,000) identical to that of the United States, and vastly superior to the comparable figures in many U.S. cities (72 and 12 in our nation's capital, Washington, D.C., for example).

Of course the real comparable countries to Cuba would be nearby island nations, all of them capitalist. In those, life expectancy varies from 72 in Jamaica to as low as 60 in Haiti, while infant morality rates even more dramatically demonstrate the superiority of socialist health care, varying from 17 in Jamaica to 84 in Haiti.

The key to socialist health care isn't simply that health care is completely free (for citizens and tourists alike), but government responsibility of the entire medical care system. Cuba has more doctors per capita (591/100,000 people) than any other country in the world (more than twice that in the U.S.) because they build enough medical schools and train enough doctors to meet their needs (and, indeed, provide free medical education not only to their own citizens but to people from around the world, including dozens of Americans). They then follow that up by building hospitals and clinics all over the country to make sure everyone in the country has access to medical care. Nor do pharmaceutical company profits soak up the health dollar, since Cuba produces many (not yet all) of its own drugs, and has been a world leader in biotech research with a number of very important drugs, such as a Hepatitis B vaccine, on the market.

"Socialist hellhole"? Mr. Krugman, you'd better pick another straw man to attack.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The American "justice" system

From an opinion today from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, fortunately (and somewhat amazingly) in the minority pertaining to the pending execution of Troy Davis:
"This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent."


Health care quote of the day

"Thinking health insurance companies should be part of our health care system is like thinking the Mafia should be part of our public safety system."

- Don Bechler of Single Payer Now
Today's health care reads:

Monday, August 17, 2009



Obama waffles/caves on the public option (something that isn't even remotely comparable to the much-needed single-payer system). His administration talks out of both sides of its mouth on the Defense [sic] of Marriage Act (DOMA}, claiming it thinks the law discriminates against gays and lesbians...but that they are going to defend the law in court.

And then we come to his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars:

"I have made this pledge to our armed forces: I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary. And when I do, it will be based on good intelligence and guided by a sound strategy. I will give you a clear mission, defined goals, and the equipment and support you need to get the job done....And that's why, even with our current economic challenges, my budget increases defense spending."
Look, I'm sure someone (certainly not me, obviously) can make a case for having troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a case that it is "absolutely necessary"? And about that "clear mission" and "defined goals"? Is Obama really going to look us in the eye and tell us what the "defined goal" is in either country? Please.

There was one moment of truth in the speech. The bit about the increase in spending. Although the word "defense" should have been replaced by the word "military," since those expenses have nothing to do with "defense."

Friday, August 14, 2009


Which side are you on?

(Source Click photo to enlarge)

Naturally that's a demonstration organized by the ANSWER Coalition on the left. Most of them are. I think I'm somewhere in the picture. Or, if not, in a similar picture taken in another city on the same day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Iranian election statistics

I've written a number of things about the Iranian election, but one topic I never addressed was something called the Chatham House study (pdf), a study by two researchers in Scotland which is used by critics of the election to "prove" that fraud occurred.

Let's start with simple (but significant!) math errors in the paper. In trying to explain how it could be possible that Ahmadinejad got 13 million more votes than conservative candidates got in the 2005 election, the authors offer three possible explanations:

• The approximately 10.6m citizens who did not vote in 2005, but chose to vote in this election
• The 6.2m citizens who voted for the centrist Rafsanjani in 2005
• The 10.4m citizens who voted for reformist candidates in 2005
Here's the problem. Their own statistics show that in 2005 there were 28.1 million votes cast, with a 63% turnout, which computes to 44.6m total registered voters. That means there were 16.5 million voters who didn't vote in 2005, not 10.6m. Kind of a large error. [Update/semi-correction: They do say "who...chose to vote in this election," which means their 10.6m figure is actually the difference in the number of voters, and is correct. So math-wise, they are correct. But conceptually, they still aren't, because the fact remains that there were 16.5m more registered voters. The ones who didn't vote in 2009 are not necessary the same ones who didn't vote in 2005. In any case it's a minor point; the major point is made below.]

Then there's the fact that they miss an obvious fourth source of more votes - a larger electorate, as would be naturally expected in a country with population growth. Indeed, the 2009 vote total was 39.1m votes and 83% turnout, which calculates to 46.6m total registered voters, an increase of 2 million people. Thus there were actually 18.5 million more people voting, from whom Ahmadinejad needed to draw 13 million votes, even assuming he drew no votes from Rafsanjani voters or reformist voters from 2005.

By far the most quoted line in the study, however, and the "gotcha'" quote for many people, is this one, which is repeated no less than three times in the paper:

In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former reformist voters.
There are multiple things that are wrong or misleading about that statement. That "44%" figure sure sticks in your mind, doesn't it? You probably skipped right over that "up to" that precedes it. In fact, if you look at the authors' Table 3, you'll see there is exactly one province with that 44% figure. There's one with 35%, three with 25%, and after that the outliers drop off the 10% and then 5%. So the 44% figure is misleading right off the bat. Then of course there's that "third of all provinces" figure, which again one tends to skip right over. Of course that means that in two-thirds of all provinces, Ahmadinejad needed no votes whatsoever from former reformist voters.

There's one more factor. Unsurprisingly, just as in with the states of the United States, provinces in Iran have very different populations. 8 of 30 provinces have one million or more people voting for Ahmadinejad, representing 63% of all Ahmadinejad voters. Of those, exactly one, Fars province, is in that third of provinces where, according to the authors, Ahmadinejad needed to pick up reformist voters, and the percentage in that province is 5%, a far cry from 44%. Let's look at the statistics another way. Every single vote that Ahmadinejad received in those "third" of provinces where he had to pick up "up to 44% of former reformist voters" amounts to 5.9 million votes. If Ahmadinejad did not receive a single vote in those ten provinces (obviously a preposterous hypothesis), he still would have won the election by 5.4 million votes!

Now consider Tehran province, by far the largest. There were, according to the Iranian government, 3,819,495 Ahmadinejad voters in that province in 2009. In 2005, Ahmadinejad received 1,500,829 votes in that province and other conservative candidates got 860,548. There were 2,424,653 non-voters in that province in 2005, which means that in the most populous province in the country, not only didn't Ahmadinejad need to pick up any reformist votes to achieve his total, he didn't even need a single vote from former Rafsanjani voters either, just 64% of those who didn't vote in 2005 (taking into account the 2009 turnout and population growth), a number entirely commensurate with his overall vote.

Does this analysis prove there was no fraud of any kind in the election? Obviously not; proving a negative is rather difficult, and, furthermore, we can pretty much expect some fraud in elections in every country in the world. But does the Chatham House study provide the "definitive proof" of fraud that some claim? Not if you actually look at the numbers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


One-sided "wars"

There are many "wars" that are so one-sided that the term "war" is really misused - "assault" or "slaughter" would be more appropriate. The recent Israeli assault on Gaza comes to mind, as does the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But here's one you probably wouldn't think of, unless you read FAIR's article on "Class War." Studying the media, as FAIR does, they find that 90 percent of the references to "class war" or "class warfare" in the media refer to actions or demands by the poor (e.g., demanding higher taxes on the rich), and only 5 percent refer to actions or demands of the rich (e.g., breaking unions). Talk about beleaguered minorities! As FAIR notes, "Going by media coverage, it is not so much a class war as it is a class massacre"...and the poor are winning! As if.


Kill people? Who, us?

Kudos to a Daily Kos diarist for catching this one. A recent AP article claims "A recent U.N. report said at least 1,013 [Afghan] civilians were killed in the first six months of this year from insurgents bombs." But the actual U.N. report says "595 (59%) of these deaths were caused by AGEs ["anti-government elements" - gotta' love the terminology] and 310 (30.5%) by international and national Afghan forces (PGF). The remaining 108 (10.5%) could not be attributed to any of the parties to the conflict.


Capitalism in a nutshell

With fewer people and businesses willing to buy things, it will take longer for the economy to work off all the excess capacity that was built up during boom times.

Think of thousands of idled factories, acres of empty strip malls and ports packed with unsold automobiles, not to mention millions of workers who lost jobs as business scaled back production to keep up with falling demand.

"We have excess capacity and high unemployment across the board," Mishel said. "What we need is customers."
This Marxist analysis of a classic capitalist crisis of overproduction brought to you by the Washington Post. The solution...not so much.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009



From President Obama's town hall today:
"This is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance. I don't believe anyone should be in charge of your health insurance decisions but you and your doctor."
As for me, I want my doctor and myself making decisions about my health care, not about my health insurance. A slip of the tongue on the part of the President? Maybe, but it's telling that the name of the town hall was the "Health Insurance Reform Town Hall." That's the whole focus of what's going on. Not improving health care. Improving health insurance. Which is not what is needed.

Obama did mention the money question:

"By definition, if we're helping people who currently don't have health insurance, that's going to cost some money. It's been estimated to cost somewhere between, let's say, $800 billion and a trillion dollars over 10 years."
To which I take the opportunity to point out once again that the U.S. spends one trillion dollars every year on its military. Which means that a mere 10% cut in military spending would fund the entire increase in health care costs. And actually, according to Obama, most of that $800 billion to a trillion is going to be achieved by "savings," and only "$30 billion to $40 billion a year" is needed to fill the funding gap, for which he's proposing some tax increases. But $30 to $40 billion is only 3% of military spending. It's less than the U.S. will be spending on waging war in Afghanistan during the next 12 months, an expense about which there was exactly zero debate in the Congress (or in the media or anywhere). Just sayin'.

Update: For a sad picture of the current state of health care in the United States, note that an organization called "Remote Area Medical," which normally performs services in third-world countries, has recently conducted health fairs in Virginia, Tennessee, and Los Angeles, providing free health care to thousands of Americans with no other access to health care.

And for an interesting analysis about why the "public option" is not remotely comparable to a single-payer system in terms of savings, read the second letter on this page.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Irony of the day

The misnamed IDF is accused of practicing collective punishment...by the illegal colonizers of the West Bank.


American foreign-policy "legalisms"

I've written many times over the utter absurdity of the way the U.S. employs the "state sponsor of terrorism" designation as if it represented actual facts rather than a purely political weapon to be used against such "enemies" as Cuba. What brings this up again is that I was doing some filing and came across a speech I gave at an antiwar event back in March, in which I noted that the U.S. had just finished renewing its "legal" justification for economic sanctions against Iran on the grounds that the U.S. is in a "national emergency" (an emergency!) because "The actions and policies of the Government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States." Not a potential threat, nor even a simple current threat, mind you, but an "unusual and extraordinary threat," and not just to our "national security" and "foreign policy" but even to our "economy"!

Against this completely counter-factual and nonsensical "legal" determination we have to weigh the U.S.' "legal" determination of whether a military coup has occurred on Honduras. On June 29 the State Department announced they were "studying" whether that was an appropriate determination, and as recently as August 6 they claimed that a review was "still ongoing" (evidently they assigned the review to someone who was on sabbatical). Just as a reminder to the State Department (I'm sure readers of this blog don't need it), the coup involved the military showing up at the home of the President and trundling him out of the country in his pajamas and forging a letter of resignation, and subsequently refusing him re-entry to the country at gunpoint. Anyone who needs assistance in determining whether that constitutes a military coup, please report to summer school for some remedial education.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


You're one in a million

I don't pay attention to these things on a regular basis, but I've just noticed that sometime in the past month, Left I on the News had its one-millionth visitor, making you, dear reader, one in a million! Congratulations to both of us!


"Cash for Clunkers": the unsustainable insanity that is capitalism

There are a variety of details I could object to about "Cash for Clunkers." The fact that you can get $3500 for trading in a car that gets a measly 4 mpg less than the new car is, in a word, crazy. If you didn't see that a priori, the overwhelming and instantaneous "success" of the program demonstrates that the reward was far too great for such a marginal improvement.

But the real insanity was made clear to me when I saw a TV news segment showing a lot full of the "clunkers." The vast majority were perfectly nice cars, in better shape than probably the majority of cars being driven in many third-world countries, and, in fact, in better shape than many cars being driven by poor people in this country who can't afford to buy a new car, $3500/$4500 discount or no. But in order to stimulate the economy and generate jobs, with the side benefit of decreasing gasoline usage, those cars had to be destroyed.

And this, of course, is the ultimate insanity of capitalism, the system that demands we produce for profit and not for use, the system in which companies and economies are judged as failures if they are not constantly expanding. Disposing of perfectly useful items becomes a good thing, rather than the crime against the environment and the planet that it is. Even the alleged "savings" from having higher mileage cars on the road is questionable - after all, how much energy is being used to produce their replacements?

As I wrote in my recent post "Capitalism ad absurdam", in a sane (socialist) world, there is no need to overproduce commodities. If we can design and produce cars which last 20 years (which we can now, of course), or 50, that's a good thing. Not only do we need to consume fewer resources, but the world's workforce (taken as a whole, across all industries, all countries) needs to work for fewer hours, and can enjoy more leisure, all while necessary products are being produced. Under capitalism, we get "cash for clunkers" instead, and perfectly good cars deliberately destroyed in order to stimulate the economy (not to mention perfectly good houses going unoccupied while people live in the streets and a thousand other similar things).

Capitalism - the biggest "clunker" of them all. It's time to send it to the scrap heap.

Friday, August 07, 2009


U.S. terrorism continues

Baitullah Mehsud was almost certainly a nasty piece of work, described as "Pakistan's Taliban commander" responsible for many suicide bombings and assassinations, and a suspect in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. So what do you do with suspected assassins? Why, you assassinate them, of course. Naturally you do so in a way that won't lead corporate media to describe you as an assassin; instead of using a gun at close range, you use a drone firing missiles, a drone operated by someone thousands of miles away. How utterly civilized.

Of course, when you assassinate someone in this way, there is always "collateral damage." If you read The New York Times, you'll find this rather clinical description of the murder:

The strike took place as Mr. Mehsud, a diabetic in his late 30s who had been sick for some time, was on a drip infusion for a kidney ailment. He was being tended by his wife at the time. Pakistani security officials, who had viewed American video of the attack, said they were together in an upstairs bedroom.

They were both at the house of his father-in-law, Mulvi Ikramuddin, in the village of Zanghara, in South Waziristan. Mr. Ikramuddin’s brother, a medical practitioner, was treating him, the Taliban fighters said.
Now you can assume from this that Mehsud's wife was killed in the attack, and possibly the brother-in-law as well, although there's no explicit statement of that. The AP mentions that murder (of course without using that word) of the wife, but no one else, although in the print edition of the San Jose Mercury News that I read, even that minor mention was cut. Only the Washington Post brings us the full report: "Mehsud, along with his wife and seven guards, was killed in Wednesday's airstrike."

Note one other thing. Mehsud and the other eight were killed by the United States government. Why is that significant? Because, as AP notes, "Mehsud has no record of attacking targets in the West." He has done nothing to Americans, not killed or attempted to kill a single one as far as we can tell. Nevertheless, it was Americans that killed him. Legal basis? We don't need no steenkin' legal basis. We're the U.S. Might makes right, and we don't care who gets in the way. Especially because we know that we'll never be called murderers, or assassins, or terrorists. Not by anyone to whom 99.9% of Americans ever listen, anyway.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Medicare for all?

An enlightening article on why "Medicare for all" is no real goal for single-payer advocates to embrace.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


North Korea's "bargaining chips"

For months we heard that North Korea was holding journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling as "bargaining chips." The idea that they might have actually been holding them because they violated a law and were tried, convicted, and were serving a sentence was simply not entertained. The proposition that it was North Koreans who actually snuck across the border and seized Lee and Ling in South Korean territory was (and no doubt still is) seriously entertained.

And now today, Lee and Ling were released ("pardoned," technically) after Bill Clinton showed up to ask for their freedom. And what is the conventional wisdom? I've been listening during the course of the day to CNN, MSNBC, and FOX. Without exception there is only one explanation for what North Korea "got" in exchange for their "bargaining chip" - a photo-op with Bill Clinton. Man, if that's the best thing North Korea can do with their "chips," I want to go play some poker with them. They're obviously not too clever about getting value for money.

There's another thing we've been hearing about for months - Kim Jong Il is sick. He's dying. He's never seen in public. That picture the North Koreans just published - it's really an old picture, doctored to make it look new. Or it's a new picture with Kim photoshopped in.

Now today, there he is, standing next to Clinton, smiling, looking for all the world in perfect health (as much as one can tell by looking). And you know what? Not a single person in the hours of coverage I've heard so far has bothered to mention how all that talk we've heard for month and months was just so much nonsense, just one of the minor elements in the continued demonization of North Korea.

In the course of the day, I've heard how North Korea has been "threatening the world with nuclear attack" (balderdash), has been holding Lee and Ling in a "gulag" (nonsense, they were in a "guest house"), and how "North Koreans love Bill Clinton" (really? was there a poll?). Why do I subject myself to this?


Obama: the truth (maybe), but definitely not the whole truth

Speaking about the passage of a new "G.I. Bill" (by the way, do you know what "G.I." stands for? I never actually thought about it until just now, when I looked it up on the oft-maligned but indispensable Wikipedia), President Obama had this to say:
"And we do this not just to meet our moral obligation to those who've sacrificed greatly on our behalf and on behalf of the country. We do it because these men and women must now be prepared to lead our nation in the peaceful pursuit of economic leadership in the 21st century."
He "forgot" to mention that "we" also do it because without offering special benefits to veterans (not to mention large signing bonuses), the ability to continue recruiting into the military as cannon fodder for imperialist wars would be severely compromised. Indeed, that is even explicit in the bill (well, not the bit about "imperialism"!), which allows the G.I. to transfer benefits to a dependent if the G.I. reenlists for yet another four years.

I have nothing against educating veterans or anyone else, in fact I'm all for it, but the claim that the beneficiaries of this G.I. Bill will follow in the footsteps of the post-WWII G.I.s and "lead our nation etc." is a dubious proposition at best. A huge proportion of American men served in the military in WWII, and the fact that a large number of successful people were beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill is hardly surprising. With an all-volunteer military, and without a direct attack on American soil (or pseudo-American, in the case of WWII Hawaii), the number of men and women eligible for this bill is far smaller, with the vast majority of this generation's young people already pursuing other paths, either in college or in business (or unemployed, but that's a subject for another post).

This really offended me in the speech:

"While so many were reaching for the quick buck, they were heading out on patrol."
Not only is this offensive to millions of young Americans who didn't join the military but weren't pursuing "the quick buck" (and, one might ask, what "quick buck" is he talking about?), Obama forgets that a lot of those "heading out on patrol" were there because they couldn't find any other opportunity to make a buck, quick or otherwise, and were "economically drafted" into the military. There's a reason people like football star Pat Tillman are so celebrated in the media - it's because those with money or good careers who joined the military out of "patriotism" were few and far between.

By the way, this bill will cost $78 billion over the next decade and I don't recall a single person bringing up the cost and asking how we are going to pay for it.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Right wing says: no government restrictions on abortion!

Whaaaaa? OK, I'm extrapolating again, or actually not me, but Keith Olbermann, who nailed it tonight. In their opposition to the "public option" for health insurance (note: not health "care"), the right-wing keeps repeating the mantra: we don't want government bureaucrats between us and our doctors. So, as Keith notes, clearly that means you're opposed to government getting in between a woman and her doctor when it comes to abortion, right? Right?


Israeli court recognizes the right of return...for Jews

One of the fundamental issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the "right of return" - the right, acknowledged by decades-old U.N. resolutions, for those Palestinians evicted and terrorized out of their homes in 1948, to return to their homes. This isn't to be confused with the Israeli "right of return" law, which allows Jews anywhere in the world to "return" to a place neither they nor their ancestors have ever been, Israel, to become citizens.

In the news today is the eviction of 50 Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, people who had lived in their homes for more than 50 years and who have documents showing their legal ownership of the homes preceding the establishment of the state of Israel.

So why were they evicted? Because the court ruled that "the homes were owned by Jews dating back to the late 19th century, and were abandoned during a spate of Arab attacks in the area in the 1920s and '30s" (Note, by the way, that the "Jews" alleged to have owned the homes are not the Jews, nor the ancestors thereof, of the Jews who have moved into the homes, they were just "Jews". They weren't the Cohens' home, or the Lieberman's home, they were just "Jewish" homes.). So the court has clearly ruled that prior ownership of a home (highly questionable in this particular case, but those are the "facts" the court accepted) takes precedence and allows a "right of return," including evicting the current residents.

So, since supporters of Israel constantly affirm that Israel is not a racist state, we'll be expecting them to extend this right to the Palestinians looking to return to their homes any day now. Homes they actually lived in. Some of them even still have their keys (although I'm guessing the locks may have been changed). Right?

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Six years before the mast(head)

The sixth anniversary of Left I on the News! 6,297 posts later, and we're still here. By "we" I mean the "I" of "Left I" as well as many, many readers who have been here the whole time, and those who have come aboard at any time since as well.

Here's what I wrote last year:

Have I had an effect? Well, as typical for those of us on the left, results are hard to measure. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the oppression of the Palestinian people is as fierce as ever, U.S. opposition to Cuba as implacable as ever, the list goes on and on. Iran hasn't been attacked yet, but I'm afraid I can't take much credit for that.

But I'll press on, undaunted. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Will things get better? Only if we make it happen.

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