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Thursday, September 30, 2010


A tale of two marches

This Saturday, the "One Nation Working Together" march, sometimes called the March for Jobs and Justice, will descend on Washington. Hundreds of organizations, including unions, Black and Latino groups, antiwar groups, and others, are building the march. Have I heard or read a word about that in the corporate media? No.

At the end of October, also in Washington, Jon Stewart is holding a "Rally to Restore Sanity", as he continues to promote the false meme that "left=right" and the problem the country faces comes equally from "extremists" on the left (crazy people who think George Bush was a war criminal!) and extremists on the right (I won't even begin a litany of the very real actions of such people, much less their words). So naturally, we find not only Arianna Huffington promoting that event (free buses for anyone who shows up in New York!) but now President Obama as well (another well-known promoter of the same false meme as Stewart).

Real marches for jobs and justice? Mums the word. Fake marches for fake causes? That's the stuff.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


American citizen executed by foreign soldiers. News at...NEVER

[Originally posted 9/28/10, 10:31 am; updated below]

No matter how shocking and outrageous you thought the Israeli assault and the murder of nine activists on the Mavi Marmara was, it was actually even worse, with at least six of the nine not just murdered, but executed, as revealed by the U.N. report that was recently issued.

Equally (?) outrageous is the almost total lack of coverage of the U.N. report in the U.S. corporate media. Actually I'm being generous; I don't think there's actually been any coverage. How's this for shocking - a search of The New York Times over the past 12 months shows exactly one regular news article in which the name "Furkan Dogan" appears - the article about his funeral. And the Washington Post was even worse; I couldn't find a single article by searching for that name.

By the way, there's a trial going on in Israel right now relating to the murder of yet another American citizen by the Israeli military - Rachel Corrie. Number of mentions of that trial in The New York Times? Zero. Number of mentions in the Washington Post? Also zero.

Update: Two of the nine dead were filming with video cameras as they were shot.

Testimony of an ex-U.S. Marine on board the Mavi Marmara who witnessed the first dead passenger before Israeli troops were even on board. Reported extensively in Ha'aretz. U.S. media? The story has made it to Salem-News.com. That's it.

Today, the full UNHRC approved the report of the investigative committee by a nearly 2/3 vote - 30 out of 47 (and all but one of the rest - the U.S., naturally - abstentions). Reuters, whose coverage appears in Ha'aretz, gives at least a reasonable lead to the story, without actually noting any of the details mentioned above:

The United Nations Human Rights Council Wednesday endorsed a fiercely critical report on Israel's raid on a Gaza aid flotilla in May but stopped short of pressing for an international criminal inquiry.
AP takes a very different tack, leading with a second vote which continued to delay followup (i.e., legal action) from the earlier Goldstone report about the assault on Gaza:
Palestinian human rights groups sharply criticized a U.N. resolution — backed by their own government — that delays action on a report alleging war crimes during the 2009 Gaza conflict.
That's all well and good, but what about the new report and its utterly damning conclusions about the assault on the Mavi Marmara? Here's the sum total of reference to that report by the AP, contained in the penultimate paragraph of the article (and, as I point out so often, no doubt headed for the cutting room floor of most print media and certainly not making the lead of any broadcast reports based on the AP story):
A separate resolution in the council endorsed the findings of an independent expert panel that concluded the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla was "clearly unlawful."
I wonder if that was their lead on 9/12? "Arab terrorists yesterday committed acts that were 'clearly unlawful.'" Yeah, I don't think so.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


More pathetic Democratic electoral strategy

The other day it was Vice-President Joe Biden, motivating people to vote for Democrats with the old scare tactic:
"Don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative."
Now it's President Obama, going for the browbeating strategy:
President Barack Obama says it would be "inexcusable" and "irresponsible" for unenthusiastic Democratic voters to sit out the midterm elections.
Really, it's beyond pathetic.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The language of settlements

ABC News tonight provided a nice object lesson in the going language of Israeli settlements. First we had a reference to the expiration of the "moratorium," with no mention of the fact that actual construction had declined by a whopping 10% since the "freeze." Second, almost going without saying, no mention whatsoever that the settlements were illegal under international law. And finally, and the reason I'm writing this since those first two are totally commonplace, was the description of the land on which new settlements are going to be built as "land the Palestinians want for their state." As if the land is actually Israeli right now, and the Palestinians are asking for the Israelis to be generous and give it to them. That the land is actually occupied Palestinian land that Israel has not the slightest right to was not even hinted at.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Mahmoud and me

At the U.N., Mahmoud Ahmadinejad identified capitalism as the source of the world's problems. So there's one point of agreement. Here's another:

Left I, July 2008:

Offering someone "incentives" to do something is perfectly normal. Offering "carrots," while it may be a relatively common phrase, is also at its core insulting, because it derives from the classic image at right - holding a carrot in front of the nose of a donkey to entice the donkey to continue to move forward in a vain attempt to reach the carrot.

But saying that brings us to the second point about "offering carrots," namely that the United States has a long history of doing precisely that - "offering" carrots but never actually delivering on them.
Ahmadinejad, today:
"The era of following a policy of carrot and stick is over. Even such words are insulting to nations. It's only good for cowboys and those of retarded people. Definitely it has no effect," he said. "They issued resolutions as talks were underway. Still, we are ready for talks."
In truth, as my post from 2008 indicates, all U.S. policies of "carrots and sticks" are just a way to convince the American people that the carrots are the essence of the policy, when in actuality they're a mirage, unlike the sticks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Cuban science on the down-low

Cuban molecular immunologists developed an anti-cancer drug called Nimotuzumab, used in the treatment of advanced esophagus, head and brain tumors, and are now building a huge new plant to increase production. Yet few people will ever realize the origin of this apparently extremely important drug, because the (non-Cuban, no doubt thanks to the U.S. blockade) company that appears to be in charge of worldwide licensing of the drug, YM BioSciences, avoids mentioning Cuba in its press releases, and you have to dig really deep into its website to find any mention of the Center for Molecular Immunology in Havana where the drug was developed.

Just one more consequence of the blockade, which in this instance results in "normal people" (average news consumers) never hearing positive news stories about Cuba. The negative ones? They definitely hear those, even though a story like this has far more relevance to the average person than a story about alleged political prisoners. What the latter story has going for it is its far greater value to the world's capitalists, as they continue their vitally necessary (to them) efforts to discredit socialism, lest their system of capitalism be exposed as the emperor with no clothes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Democratic electoral strategy in a nutshell

Tonight, on the Rachel Maddow Show, Vice-President Joe Biden quoting former Boston Mayor Kevin White:
"Don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative."
Yup, that about sums it up. No actual positive reason to vote for the Democrats whatsoever. Just fear of the Republicans.


Justice watch

Via Glenn Greenwald, whose analysis describing this non-Wonderland very real world version of "sentence first, verdict afterward" you should read:
The Obama administration is considering filing the first criminal charges against radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in case the CIA fails to kill him and he is captured alive in Yemen.
My only quibble with Greenwald, and others who have written on the subject, is the obsession with the fact that Awlaki is a U.S. citizen. Are the rights of the U.S. to kill non-Americans really any different, any more than their "right" to detain people indefinitely without trial? I frankly don't think Greenwald thinks so, but it definitely isn't a point he makes in his analysis.


Sovereignty watch

What is wrong with this paragraph?
The Obama administration is debating whether to make Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, a more central player in efforts to root out corruption in his own government, including giving him more oversight of graft investigators and notifying him before any arrests, according to senior American officials.
If you said the words "his own," score one point.


Misprint of the day

From an article about the third African meeting in solidarity with Cuba:
In a letter addressed to President Obamba, the participants asked for a pardon on the Cuban Five.
Yeah, they got that right.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Democratic math - what is the "middle"?

Democrats are proud that they may actually stand and fight on the principle that tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans, earning $250,000 or more, not be extended (although those very rich individuals will still have their taxes cut on their first $250,000 of income). I'm repeatedly hearing about protecting people with "middle income" and the "middle class." Really? Since when did 98% become the definition of "middle"? Since when did $200,000 become a "working-class" (oh sorry, no politician except Sarah Palin uses that term any more, I mean "middle class") income? Or $150,000 for that matter? Even with two incomes to make up that $150,000, that's still a perfectly respectable income of $75,000 per person.

Well, we can quibble over the line, but honestly, is someone in the top 3%, or top 5%, or even the top 10% of income really earning a "middle income"? And, because the Democrats aren't willing to extend their fight for that principle, how many services for working-class people will be cut as a result? How many teachers will be laid off, how many firefighters, how many bridges will go unrepaired, how much mass transit will go unbuilt?

Sunday, September 12, 2010


The dwindling U.S. economy

The last lightbulb factory in the U.S. is closing, and, the "green jobs" panacea promised by Obama and a host of other politicians notwithstanding, the fact is that there isn't a single CFL factory in the U.S.

And here's the sobering statistic from the article:

The number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has been shrinking for decades, from 19.5 million in 1979 to 11.6 million this year, a decline of 40 percent.
And if they had considered that as a percentage of the U.S. population, rather than as a simple constant amount, the shrinkage would be even more dramatic; the population has grown from 225 million in 1980 to 310 million now, meaning that the percentage of people working in manufacturing has declined from 8.8% in 1979 to 3.7% now.


Tony Blair: a review review

Tony Blair is out with his memoirs, presumably filed in the shops until "Fiction." No way I'll be reading the book, so I'll have to content myself with a review of the review from the Los Angeles Times. It's appearance in my local paper is particularly timely since last night I watched "The Ghost Writer" (more about that later).

After telling us that he [Blair, not the reviewer] has "often reflected as to whether I was wrong," a claim I regard as pure fiction, he asks us (readers) "to reflect as to whether I may have been right." OK, Tony, I considered. You weren't. In support of this claim, he repeats the two fictions behind the invasion of Iraq: one, that Iraq was a "government sharing any part of the terrorists' views or goals," and two, that it was "about to" obtain WMD, and that "there was no way to know that at the time." By the way, at least judging from the review, no mention of that minor impediment called "international law," which, even if both of those falsities were in fact true, still wouldn't justify an invasion.

And then he repeats one of the strangest yet persistent lies of all:

As Blair puts it, paraphrasing a U.N. weapons inspector, Hussein "thought the U.S. and its allies were bluffing when we threatened force and actually we were sincere; and we thought he genuinely had weapons of mass destruction when actually he was bluffing."
How many times do we have to repeat this? Iraq was saying, loudly, publicly, and in print, that it had no weapons of mass destruction. Here's the poker game between Saddam and Tony Blair. "I'm not going to bet," Saddam would say, "because I've got nothing in my hand." "Oh no," Tony would think, I'd better fold these three Aces, because he's obviously holding a full house! Or, better yet, I'll just pull out my gun and shoot him, because I can't stand the chance I might lose to him."

Blair also pontificates about George Bush's "integrity" (guess he never heard the phrase "compassionate conservative" that was so much a part of Bush's election campaign) and "political courage" (as if it takes political courage to whip up the fear of the masses with images of "mushroom clouds"), and then makes this true but strange claim about Dick Cheney:

"[I]t's virtually impossible to have a rational discussion about him," Blair writes. "To those on the left, he is, of course, an uncomplicated figure of loathing. Even for the middle ground, they tend to reach for the garlic and crucifixes. You have to go pretty far to the right to find Dick's natural constituency."
So how far right do you have to go? Apparently about as far right as Tony Blair, because here's what comes next:
After 9/11, according to Blair, the vice president felt that the United States needed to prosecute the war "with terrorists and rogue states that supported them" in a total fashion. "He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it — Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. In other words, he thought the world had to be made anew.... Of course, the attitude terrified and repelled people. But it will be obvious from what I have written that I did not think it was as fantastical as conventional wisdom opined."
So Blair not only subscribed to Cheney's claim that the U.S. needed to go to war against states allegedly supporting terrorists (Iraq), but to continue through the lot of such alleged "enemies."

And throughout, we read about his special admiration for and desire to be tied to the United States. Which is interesting, because, as I said, I just finished watching "The Ghost Writer" last night, one of whose themes is precisely that (of course the movie is vaguely based on real life, so that isn't surprising). The movie was fun to watch, and gripping, with particularly good acting from Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor, but was seriously marred by a number of minor flaws of preposterousness (one example: the ex-British Prime Minister's compound on Martha's Vineyard is super high-security, yet the ghost writer who will be working with him from morning until night on his memoirs is asked to live in a hotel, and commute to and fro every day) and two rather major ones: one, the idea that an ex-British Prime Minister is likely to be investigated by the ICC for war crimes (if only!), and two, the idea that it takes something out of the ordinary to tie Britain to the U.S., as if the two were on opposite sides of every issue until Tony Blair (excuse me, Adam Lang, the character in the move) showed up. It's a movie, and I suppose I could excuse the first plot device as just that, however sadly fanciful in the real world, but the second is just plain silly. I do recommend it, though. Way more than reading the fiction in the memoirs of the real ex-Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Colin Powell still can't stop lying

...and neither can the news media. In another round of phony regret, Colin Powell asserts:
"I will always be seen as the one who made the major public presentation of that intelligence. I regret that it was wrong but, at the same time, we had every reason to believe it was correct."
But, as I've written before, that statement, just like his speech at the U.N. itself, is a bald-faced lie. The CIA itself was telling Powell just the night before the speech that some of the information was suspect and he shouldn't repeat it; he did anyway.

And the media (in this case, the Japanese newspaper Mainichi) can't stop lying either. They assert:

Before his execution in 2006, Saddam Hussein stated that he refused to submit to the inspections even with war looming because he "didn't want to show weakness to Iran."
But that, too, is a bald-faced lie. Not only did Iraq submit to every inspection (making the claim that they didn't rather bizarre), the idea that they didn't want to "show weakness" is contradicted by the fact that they were clearly claiming publicly at the U.N. that they had no WMD. As I have written before, the entire records of Hussein's statements before his execution are online, and you can read every word. No such statement appears.

And still, as I've written before, Gen. Amer al-Saadi, the man who told the truth to Colin Powell's lies, remains among the disappeared, presumably rotting away in some Iraqi prison. As far as any news reporting I have been able to find, he has never had a trial, never even been charged with a crime, but remains in prison.


Who to believe?

The usual two-sided story in Afghanistan:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned an air strike by Nato-led forces which he said killed 10 election campaign workers, although US officials maintained it was aimed at an Islamist leader.

Nato said its airstrike on a car in northern Takhar province's normally quiet Rustaq district killed or wounded as many as 12 insurgents on Thursday, including a Taliban commander and a local head of an allied insurgent group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, responsible for attacks in Kabul and elsewhere.

However Karzai said the airstrike had killed 10 campaigners working for a candidate in Afghanistan's September 18 parliamentary elections.

"I am able to confirm that a very senior official of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was the target and was killed," Gates said.
I obviously have no independent information (other than years of observation about the "truthfulness" of the American military), but one thing is absolutely certain - I know who the Afghan people are going to believe, whatever their opinion of Karzai. I also know this - when and if the U.S. "ends" this war, whoever is the President of the United States won't be acknowledging any responsibility for the deaths of these people and tens of thousands of others like them, whether they turn about to be "real" "insurgents", or a carload full of women and young children (or anything in between).


The hidden Katrina timeline

Here's a part of the Katrina timeline, five years after the fact, that you won't see anywhere else:
How many American lives were lost because those Cuban doctors were never given permission to enter the U.S. we'll never know. What we do know is that that same group of medical personnel, the Henry Reeve Brigade, would go on to serve with distinction, and save countless lives, in Pakistan, Indonesia, and Haiti after earthquakes in those countries, and probably some other disasters I've forgotten about.


And the first compromise comes from...Abbas

You're shocked, right? Today's "peace" news:
Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed Thursday to produce a framework for a permanent peace deal and to hold a second round of direct talks this month.
Without, needless to say, any commitment on the part of Israel to halt the expansion of illegal settlements (which is to say all settlements in the West Bank). Of course Abbas had already made the first compromise by coming to this round of talks (such as they were, probably that should read the first round of photo-ops), but now agreeing to further such talks is, while hardly unexpected, indicative of what happens when two grossly unequal (in terms of power) parties sit down to "negotiate."

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


What is wrong with this headline?

Democrats unlikely to repeal tax cuts for the rich
So writes McClatchey today. But there is no need to "repeal the tax cuts for the rich" or anyone else because they expire. This means that any legislation in Congress will have to be affirmative legislation to extend tax cuts. And, I remind you, if you've been paying attention to activities in Congress this year, we all "know" that it takes 60 votes to get something passed in the Sentate. That means it only takes 40 Senators saying "no, I won't vote to extend tax cuts for the rich" and those tax cuts will simply expire. Which means that if just 2/3 of Democratic Senators refuse to vote for such an extension, it won't happen.

So why is this headline significant? Because this is the "line" that we're going to be fed. We're going to be subject to an attempt by the media and politicians to make us forget that the tax cuts expire automatically, and make us think that they have to be "repealed" and oh, by golly, the Democrats just don't have enough votes to do that.

All that being said, do I think the Democrats will extend tax cuts for the rich? Let's just say I wouldn't bet my hard-earned money against it.


The big lie on Iran continues

Back in 2007, while he was still running for President, Obama signed on to the big lie about Iran: "They're in the process of developing [nuclear weapons]. And I don't think that's disputed by any expert." Of course he wasn't the first, nor the last, to sign on to the big lie. In the last week, we've seen two people who most people probably think of as either liberal or at least somewhat "progressive," certainly not reactionary, signing on.

First was Stephen Colbert, interviewing Jeffrey Goldberg on the subject of why Israel should (or shouldn't right now) attack Iran [transcript mine from the video]:

Colbert: Iran is pushing the world's [emotional] button by threatening to push their [literal] button...Israel sees them as an existential threat because Iran has declared their goal is to wipe Israel off the map.

Goldberg: Iran says they seek the destruction of Israel. They are trying to gain nuclear weapons, this is what most of the world believes. [Colbert um-hum, right, right]

Colbert: For some reason they [Israel] are paranoid about people who want them dead having a nuclear bomb.
And no, Colbert defenders, none of this was remotely offered as sarcasm, irony, or any kind of comedy.

Next was Richard Engel, NBC's "chief foreign correspondent" (practically the only one the way network staffing goes these days), being interviewed by Rachel Maddow:

"If the idea [of the invasion of Iraq was] to stop weapons of mass destruction, Iran has been unleashed, and Iran, by all accounts, is trying to find and create a weapon of mass destruction.
No ifs, ands, or buts, and certainly no challenge from Maddow. Simply conventional wisdom, sorry, make that wisdumb, exactly on a par with the wisdumb that asserted, equally without challenge from the all-knowing voices of authority, that Iraq had WMD.

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