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Saturday, December 25, 2010


Christmas in Iraq

U.S. troops are happily celebrating Christmas in Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraqi Christians are not only trying to keep their celebrations under the radar, they're actually fleeing their homes, homes where, before the U.S. invasion, they could celebrate Christmas (and their religion in general) in peace. I hope the U.S. soldiers (and their masters who sent them there) are happy with their handiwork.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Priorities, people!

Congress finally passed the "9/11 responders health care" bill, after numerous votes, and after cutting $2 billion from the original $6.2 billion because of complaints the expense "wasn't funded." Meanwhile, on a voice vote with no debate, Congress voted to spend $160 billion for another year of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. No voices were heard complaining about the cost, or the deficit.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Another Nobel Peace Prize for Obama?

He got the first one for preaching "peace with the Muslim world" while escalating the U.S. wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now he's claiming success in reducing nuclear weapons while simultaneously spending $86 billion on new nuclear weapons. Surely that's worth another Peace Prize?

Needless to say, not one voice has been raised (at least, none loud enough to be heard) saying "we can't afford it." Indeed, the allegedly deficit-hating Republicans reportedly demanded this $86 billion expenditure as their price for supporting the START treaty (not that I think there was much if any resistance to that request from Obama or the Democrats).

$86 billion for things that will never be used. Can you think of ways to spend $86 billion that would actually provide real security to Americans? How about providing houses for the homeless, or health care for those without it? No, we can't have that.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Asymmetric reporting

AP provides a great example of asymmetric reporting today. In an article about how the CIA chief in Pakistan was chased out of the country by a lawsuit and death threats because of his responsibility for killing civilians with drone strikes, AP writes:
The U.S. spy agency's drone war has eliminated terrorist leaders but also has led to accusations that the strikes kill innocent civilians.
But if anything, this sentence stands reality on its head. Drone strikes may or may not have "eliminated terrorist leaders"; we know from experience that everytime we read a report that "the #2 man in Al Qaeda has been killed," there's a high probability the report is false. And while there certainly are questions about the number of innocent civilians that have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan (not to mention many other countries), it is really way beyond dispute that at least some innocent civilians have been killed. But because it's the U.S. government who claims that "terrorist leaders" have been "eliminated," those claims are simply repeated as fact, while because it's Pakistanis (or Iraqis or Yemenis or Afghans) who are the ones claiming that "innocent civilians" have been killed (never mind that many of those claims have been verified by reporters), those claims are just "accusations," not actual facts.


More WikiLies

As I've written before, caveat lector, or, put another way, consider the source. Information passed on to the U.S. government by U.S. ambassadors is not necessarily any more correct than claims of Iraqi WMD (or an Iranian nuclear weapons program).

Today's case in point? Claims in the media, based on a newly WikiLeaked cable, that Cuba banned the showing of Michael Moore's film "Sicko" because it grossly misrepresented the Cuban health care system in a way that would have made the Cuban population mad had it been shown (because they would have been jealous that the care shown in the film wasn't available to them).

The problem? As explained by Moore himself, it's simply not true! Grossly so. Not only was "Sicko" shown theatrically in Cuba, it was even shown on Cuban TV so that every person in Cuba could watch it! It was even praised by Cuba's health minister, a fact reported at the time by no less than AP.

It will be very interesting to see what kind of "legs" this story has, now that Moore has quickly and publicly denounced it as false. Or, conversely, what kind of "legs" the real story, the fact that everything in WikiLeaked cables is not true, has.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The U.S./Israeli/Palestinian relationship, in one paragraph

Tom Friedman really makes it clear; there's little I can add except the bolding:
The failed attempt by the U.S. to bribe Israel with a $3 billion security assistance package, diplomatic cover and advanced F-35 fighter aircraft — if Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu would simply agree to a 90-day settlements freeze to resume talks with the Palestinians — has been enormously clarifying. It demonstrates just how disconnected from reality both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships have become.
Really, what can you add? Those darn Palestinians. How dare they somehow convince Israel to decline this bribe?


News from Haiti

Sarah Palin staged a photo-op in Haiti this week, which received extensive coverage in the "Western" media.

Also in Haiti, more than 1200 Cuban doctors have treated more than 93,000 cholera patients (40% of all the cholera patients that have been treated in the country). Because of the special experience of the Cuban medical personnel, the mortality rate for patients at the Cuban-run facilities is only 0.83%, while in other hospital institutions it's four times higher - 3.2%. News coverage in the U.S. corporate media? None as far as I can tell, although Reuters did put out a major article which appeared in Business World Online. However don't confuse that with Business Week, which is a major U.S. publication. Business World Online is published in the Philippines. Google News shows no evidence the story ran in any other newspaper.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Self-righteous Americans

Rachel Maddow had a guest on tonight, a Ugandan member of congress who is pushing a bill for life imprisonment and in some cases execution for homosexuality. She suggested he might even find himself up before an international criminal court as a result. We also frequently see American media and politicians excoriating Iran (never Saudi Arabia or other U.S. allies!) for their treatment of women.

Now obviously I completely support the rights of women and gays and lesbians. But I'm also not a self-righteous American who has forgotten that it was well within my lifetime that the U.S. had plenty of sins along all those lines itself. I think I've written before how, when I first became politically active, one of the battles raging was the right of unmarried women to obtain birth control. Around that same time, Bill Baird was arrested several times for distributing birth control information (to emphasize, we're not talking about performing abortions, or distributing information about abortion, we're talking about birth control). Not until 1972, after I had graduated from college, did the Supreme Court rule that the right to privacy guaranteed access to birth control.

And this whole subject was brought home to me again the other day, when Kamela Harris was finally pronounced the newly-elected Attorney General of California. Harris, who is Black, was born in 1964 (I was almost out of high school at the time), and, according to her acceptance speech, she was part of the first class to integrate the Berkeley school system (which didn't happen until 1968, so she may have been exaggerating slightly, but not much).

So while I have a lot of strong opinions, one thing I try not to be is self-righteous, particularly when it comes to lecturing other countries about how they should structure their society. Because I know that, not that this country has achieved anything close to perfection in terms of human rights (far, far from it), but that it wasn't that long ago that we were far, far worse.


The Democratic "compromise"

Government economists say that current unemployment levels will persist for five years (which is a number they completely pull out of their a**, but nevermind about that). Given that, how does it make any sense whatsoever (economically, much less politically) to propose a ONE-YEAR extension of unemployment benefits?

Answer: it doesn't, but it was the absolute minimum Obama could offer to his base to appease them while pursuing his real goal, advancing the class struggle on behalf of the rich.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


And for more amusement...

The latest headlines:

Washington Post: "U.S. abandons push for renewal of Israeli settlement freeze"

AP: "Officials: US drops demand for settlement freeze"

First of all, note how both of these headlines (and hundreds of others running at the moment) talk about a mythical settlement "freeze." Of course there never was a "freeze." There was a halt to granting some permits for new construction in some parts of occupied Palestine, but actual building continued (and continues) apace. And as for the "push" (or, even more laughably, the "demand") on the part of the U.S. for such a "freeze," well, suffice to say the U.S. has put more pressure on Julian Assange in the last week than it has on Israel in 61 years. The "push" consisted of pledges to veto U.N. resolutions unfavorable to Israel (which we know has never happened) and offers of more weapons to Israel (another thing which would have never happened otherwise).

I wish the U.S. government would make "demands" like those on me to pay my taxes.


Some laughs, courtesy of the U.S. government

"There’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound."

- Barack Obama, announcing his "compromise" with the Republicans on tax cuts for the rich
He's right, of course. Republicans represent the rich, support spending money for war and not for social needs, and say so. Democrats represent the rich, support spending money for war and not for social needs, but say the opposite. Very profound.
U.S. to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011

"New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression."

- Philip J. Crowley, assistant Secretary of State
No word on whether Julian Assange will be the keynote speaker.

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