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Sunday, May 30, 2010


The astonishing lies that are told about Iran

From the Toronto Sun:
Unlike other nuclear powers, Iran has threatened to use nuclear weapons or may be willing to use them through intermediaries or terrorist groups, the source [a senior Israeli official] suggested.
Of course Iran has repeatedly disavowed any interest in nuclear weapons, so whether you believe them or not, the idea that they have threatened to use them is utterly preposterous. Not to the Toronto Sun, apparently, perfectly willing to quote an anonymous Israeli source for this patently absurd claim.

Meanwhile, back in the real world outside the looking glass:

Three German-built Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles are to be deployed in the Gulf near the Iranian coastline.


Asking about Don't Ask Don't Tell

Could Defense Secretary Robert Gibbs be any more offensive? Not only does he want to reassure the homophobes in the military that they have nothing to worry about for quite a while, he also wants to make sure they know he wants to take their reactionary positions into account:
"Every man and woman in uniform is a vitally important part of this review. We need to hear from you and your families so that we can make these judgments in the most informed and effective manner."
So what exactly does that mean? If 51% of the military is homophobic, then to hell with Don't Ask Don't Tell, we wouldn't want to upset the apple cart? What is it exactly that they are "studying"? Whether they need to order pink triangles for the gays so that the homophobes will know who to avoid in the showers? Are they perhaps considering having "straights-only" platoons for the homophobes? And, while they're at it, why not "whites-only" platoons for the racists, too?

Meanwhile, as we all know, whatever the heck it is they're "studying," Obama could order an immediate suspension of the firing of gays who are already in the military...if he wanted to. Clearly, he doesn't.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Hoist with their own petard

Almost literally, in this case:
"A senior United Nations official is expected to call on the United States next week to stop Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes against people suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda."
"[An Army manual defines] the charge of “murder in violation of the laws of war” as a killing by someone who did not meet “the requirements for lawful combatancy” — like being part of a regular army or otherwise wearing a uniform.
"But as the Khadr hearing approached, Harold Koh, the State Department legal adviser, pointed out that such a definition could be construed as a concession by the United States that C.I.A. drone operators were war criminals."
Needless to say, the U.S. solution was to rewrite the manual, not to stop the drone strikes.


Today's math lesson

Item: Democrats cut $24 billion from Medicaid aid to "states" (i.e., people), and $6.8 billion from COBRA (health insurance subsidies for the recently jobless)

Item: $23 billion designed to save the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers is "faltering" in the House

Item: Senate approves spending $60 billion more on war (by the way, that "more" comes from me; if you read the paper literally, you might think that's the actual total).

24+6.8+23 just about equals 60 (couldn't find the approximately equals sign on the keyboard and I'm not sure it would display in everyone's browser anyway).

And lest you think there's no connection between these things, from item 2: "The proposal's chief advocate in the House abruptly canceled a committee meeting to put the money in a war spending bill."


"Democracy" update

I wrote about the upcoming elections back in March and the situation has only gotten worse since then. As the primary approaches (June 8), Gubernatorial hopefuls Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have now respectively spent $68 million and $24 million of their own money in their attempts to buy the Governership of California (meanwhile, while Whitman and Poizner travel the state on private jets, the candidate I'm supporting, Carlos Alvarez, is spending $40 on a bus ticket to travel overnight tonight from Los Angeles to Phoenix for a national protest against the new Arizona immigration law).

But if the Governor's race is bad, at least it's a case where there is at least competition among the rich. Much worse is the distortion (to use a gross understatement) of democracy represented by ballot measures. Locally, the San Francisco 49'ers have now spent $3.6 million ($150 per voter!) to convince voters of nearby Santa Clara to build a new stadium for them, while the opposition has spent a whopping $20,000. I must have seen TV ads touting the new stadium and all its benefits to Santa Clara more than 50 times (I watch a lot of TV), and of course I've heard not a word on the other side.

Even worse is the grossly-misleading campaign being conducted by PG&E on behalf of Proposition 16, the proposition it calls (fraudulently, IMHO) in its ads the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act" (but which in actually is called no such thing), which requires a 2/3 vote before governments can create public power agencies. I have seen this ad (actually three or four different ads) hundreds of times by now, many times per day. PG&E has now spent $44 million financing this campaign, and, as far as I can tell, there hasn't been a penny spent in opposition.

And where is the media in this? Nowhere. The media which absolutely delights in pitting one talking head against another on practically any subject (Need a discussion of global warming? Find the one scientist in a hundred - or more likely a non-scientist - to argue the "other side" against a scientist who understands it. Pit a Democrat against a Republican. A prosecutor against a defense lawyer. On and on it goes, except on certain issues. Like war. Or, in this case, erecting a new stadium or making sure that private power companies like PG&E continue to have a near-monopoly on providing power. Not a single op-ed I've seen, not a single discussion on any news or discussion program, nada. Every single word I have heard on these two subjects, with the exception of one or two letters to the editor of the paper, has been in support of building the stadium and passing the 2/3 vote requirement.

Paraphrasing Gandhi on "Western civilization" - "Democracy? It's a good idea. We ought to try it some time."

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Attacking North Korea

I've been meaning to write up my thoughts on the absurd leaps of "logic" which have pinned the blame for an unknown accident on a South Korean ship on North Korea, first based on a German-made torpedo that "proves" it must have been North Korea since they don't buy arms from Germany so obviously they were doing this to disguise their actions, and then the "conclusion" that Kim Jung-Il must have personally ordered the attack because, well, he must have, but Stephen Gowans has done such a masterful job of laying out the facts that I'll just leave it at: read what he has to say.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Free speech in America

Two days ago, the World Health Organization, led by Cuba and Venezuela among others, voted to condemn the Israeli blockade of Gaza and demand its immediate lifting. Did you read or hear about that in the U.S. corporate media? Of course not. We have "free speech" here. The corporate media is "free" to not tell you about things they don't want you to hear.

Monday, May 17, 2010


What is wrong with this headline?

IDF fears settler violence could spark Palestinian uprising

GOC Central Command tells Kfir Brigade soldiers the IDF does not know of any Palestinian plans for response, but to prepare for possibility.
So "settler violence" is the problem. Is the Kfir Brigade being prepared to deal with and put a stop to that violence? Of course not, they're being trained to put a stop to the Palestinian response to that violence.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This is the country lecturing Iran about nukes

Not to mention pretending that its goal is disarmament (and also not to mention the Nobel Peace Prize):
The White House noted the $80 billion in funding for the nuclear stockpile came on top of more than $100 billion in additional investments in nuclear delivery systems, like nuclear submarines.
And will any member of Congress (outside of a handful of the most powerless members) or any of the leading corporate media utter the phrase, "But we can't afford it?" Don't bet on it. $180 billion for nukes? No problem.


The stock market plummet

Last week, the stock market shocked everyone by dropping a thousand points in a half an hour. The first fingers pointed at the entirely improbable typo (you couldn't really sell a "billion" shares instead of a "million" shares because there aren't a billion shares of any one company in existence), and now, a week later, we're told that the powers that be still don't know what actually happened. Most fingers now seem to point to "high-frequency trading" (i.e., automated computer trading), but what to do about it? Read this sample proposal by one Senator and you'll see that there's still a lot of head scratching, proposals for various kinds of oversight and limitations, etc., etc.

But the truth is, there is a very simple solution to this problem, it's just one that people like the Senator and others in Washington aren't mentioning. What is the supposed purpose of the stock market? It's to provide a vehicle for investing in companies. It's not to provide an alternative to Las Vegas, particularly an alternative where billion-dollar corporations are simultaneously stacking the deck and playing the game. So what's the solution? The transaction tax. Some percentage of every stock market transaction paid as a tax. If you were actually buying stock to "invest" in a company, you'd pay that tax once a year, or once a decade, and you wouldn't notice it. But if you were buying a million shares of stock to sell five minutes later, then you'd take the hit. And, almost certainly, change your behavior as well.

Is this an alternative to public ownership of the means of production (i.e., socialism)? Of course not. But it is a simple step that can be taken to reduce the power of the financial billionaires, the people who add absolutely nothing to society (and, as is increasingly obvious, actually do much worse than nothing). And it is telling that, while a handful of the most progressive Democrats have actually advocated such a thing, that proposal has never come close to being seriously considered by those in actual power.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Let them eat cake!

Actually, Tom Friedman's latest advice to us mortals is even worse - time to go without cake entirely. Yes, Tom wants us to know that the era of the "Tooth Fairy" is over and it's time for a "root canal," by which he means we all (that "we" not including multi-millionaire Tom, of course) have to tighten our belts and do without. I'm sure the people whose lives are detailed in this article, also from today's news, will be thrilled with Tom's advice.

Meanwhile, also in the news today (in the form of a quiz), we learn something about where all the money is "hiding." Goldman Sachs has 12,000 (!) vice-presidents, who earn on average a half million dollars a year - that's $6 billion right there. They also have 2,000 (!) "managing directors", each of whom earn an average of $2 million a year - that's another $4 billion. Enough said.


Corporate felons

In the news today we learn about BP's history of being convicted on more than one occasion of felonies. Now perhaps the article is incorrect, and it was really BP executives convicted of felonies, but the article does say the "corporation" was convicted. Curiously enough, however, in all cases they received only a fine and probation. First of all, how many actual people convicted of felonies get just probation and not jail time? I doubt it's that many. And second, what happens if the corporation does get jail time and not "probation" (whatever that means for a corporation)? Does the entire Board of Directors get sent to jail?

Of course BP's history as a criminal corporation long predates any such actions in the United States, and starts with its origins in Iran and Iraq.

It won't stop the oil gushing from the seabed, but here's one part of what needs to be done: Seize BP!

Saturday, May 08, 2010


The Omar Khadr scandal

The news has broken (in some circles, of course it's not a focal point of the corporate media) about the "scandal" involved in the Guantanamo imprisonment of then 15-year-old (now 23, and still in Guantanamo) Afghan Omar Khadr. It appears that he was threatened with rape and death in order to get him to "confess," which is, incidentally, a war crime.

But the real scandal is why he was in Guantanamo in the first place, charged with murder and terrorism. And why is he charged with those things? Because he was participating in a firefight in which an American soldier was killed. An American soldier who had illegally invaded Khadr's country! And for daring to fight back against that invasion, and possibly killing one of the invaders, Khadr is held not as a prisoner-of-war (which would at least be legitimate if the invasion were legal and a war declared), but as a murderer and a terrorist! If I were British, and the situation weren't so serious, I'd be tempted to say, "What cheek!" Talk about having your cake and eating it too; the Americans get to invade and then charge anyone who resists with murder! Disgusting.

Needless to say, the atrocities being committed by the U.S. in Afghanistan didn't end with the capture of Omar Khadr. Michael Prysner lays out one of the more recent in brilliant detail on PSLweb.org.

Out now!

Monday, May 03, 2010


You can't handle the truth!

So Iranian President Ahmadinejad dared, dared I say, to say at the NPT conference that U.S. threats to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states violates the very NPT they claim to be defending, and of course the U.S. and its toadies walked out of the speech. Couldn't handle the truth. Ahmadinejad also said:
"The nuclear bomb is a fire against humanity, rather than a weapon of defence. The possession of nuclear bombs is not a source of pride. Its possession is disgusting and shameful."
Does that sound like someone hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons? Really?

Perhaps even more shameful than the predictable (and pre-announced) walkout of the U.S. and friends, the head of the supposedly neutral U.N., Ban Ki-Moon, started the conference by focusing his attention on Iran and its supposed renegade status. Not a word from Ban about Israel, not even a signatory to the NPT and possessor of 250 nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, in another development completely unrelated as far as actual news, but completely related in the way the media handled it, BBC reported that North Korean President Kim Jong-Il went to China for a summit meeting, "traveling in his luxury railroad car." Funny how never once have I heard the BBC talk about President Obama (or Bush etc.) traveling in their "luxury jet," although I have absolutely no doubt that the luxury and amenities of Air Force One put any supposed luxuries of Kim's railroad car to shame.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


May Day in San Francisco, 2010

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