Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kenneth Foster

My father the journalist will berate me for not being a little more careful with my sources, but the following email just went out on the Campaign to End the Death Penalty listserve:

WE WON!!

Keith Hampton’s lawyer just called Bryan McCann in Texas to say that Governor Perry has decided to grant clemency!

AWESOME, WONDERFUL NEWS!! GREAT WORK EVERYBODY — ESPECIALLY TO ALL OF THE TIRELESS FIGHERS IN TEXAS!!!

YOU GUYS ROCK!! YAHOOOOOOOO


MARLENE

This is quite excellent.

[EDIT: here's a link to a more esteemed version of the story, not that I do not share Marlene's immense excitement at finally beating the Texas Death Machine at something.]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

'Modelo Chileno' Doesn't Make the C.U.T.

Today was a massive day of strikes and protests throughout the entire country of Chile. Called early this week by the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Chile (CUT), todays strikes and student protests were in opposition to what has been dubbed the 'Chilean Model.' Despite the booming price of copper, Chile's primary export, the country has an unemployment rate of 7% and has the 11th worst wealth distribution in the world. To put this in perspective, Chile, lauded as one of the strongest economies in Latin America, in this category ranks with Sub Saharan Africa. The minimum wage, less than $150,000 pesos a month (that's less than $285 a month), the completely inefficient Transantiago public transit system, poor school conditions, and a poor health care system were all causes for the protest. (The primary culprit for Chile's current problems dates back to the neoliberal shock treatment and constitutional rewriting that occurred during the 17 years of the military dictatorship headed by Agosto Pinochet. To get a better idea of what this looked like scope out Orlando Sepúlveda's article from last months ISR).

After a relatively quiet morning, several thousand workers and protesters in the capitol were attacked by police on horse with tear gas and by guanacos (tanks that have water canons attached to them named after the llama-relative of the same name that has a propensity to spit), and over 300 were detained after the marchers tried to march on the presidential palace, la Moneda, because they had not obtained a permit to occupy the building. Also, despite the Union's call for peaceful demonstrations, which was carried out by the CUT members in the streets, some students tossed rocks, further provoking a backlash. Nonetheless, police indiscriminately gassed, water cannoned, and arrested protesters and non participants, even managing to club a left-wing senator in the head (watching the excuses offered by the head of police for this attack on the news was quite an entertaining display of cover-your-ass acrobatics).

In the North and South, workers blockaded streets and held large marches. In the timber industry region, the lumber unions held a rally in the middle of a major transport route in memorial of a worker who was killed by company goons (i.e. the cops) during a labor dispute.

In many senses Chile is aflame. Students and workers are sick of nearly 20 years since the end of the dictatorship without any change to Pinochet's constitution or, more importantly, alterations of the brutal Neoliberal measures implemented with the aid of Milton Freidmen and his Chicago boys and the torture and state terror employed to crush dissent. While Chile's President, Michelle Bachellet is by no means a Hugo Chavez, it is clear that the fight against neoliberalism is alive in the Southern Cone. Whether South America's leaders are willing to acknowledge it or not, they have a problem on their hands.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I just couldn't resist

Time for a smart ass comment! This comes from former U.S. attorney in the Clinton Administration Melanie Sloan who was asked to comment on the Craig case:

"If pleading guilty to charges stemming from an attempt to solicit an undercover officer in a public restroom is not conduct that reflects poorly upon the Senate, what is?"

Um, gee wiz, how about not taking any action to stop torture, or perchance continually voting to support the murderous war in Iraq (see ticker), or ok, what about the arms to Israel? Sometimes I think some of those Dems have their heads so far up their arses...

Phew. That felt good to get out of my system.

Lewd Act or Lewd Response?

So, I haven't really been paying attention to the recent controversy surrounding Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig. Frankly, given the Republicans' track record of sex scandals, I cynically assumed he had done something involving minors of the same sex. However, after I read a recent article from CNN, I discovered that earlier this summer Craig was arrested by a plain-clothes cop in the Minneapolis airport for attempting to pick him up. Now, I personally don't find anything wrong with a man trying to pick up another man in an airport bathroom. No money was shown, exchanged, or offered by Craig and the cop was clearly an adult. Nonetheless, he plead guilty to the misdemeanor and paid a $500 fine. Now, apparently, the press and taken hold of this.

Here are my thoughts: a) It's fucked up that we live in a world where a man (or a woman) is so afraid to be openly homosexual that they have to pick people up from a hiding place in a bathroom stall (and that given the fact that we do live in a highly homophobic society that does have real consequences for many LGBT individuals such as loss of employment, ostracism, or violence) b) that given said reality, it is against the LAW to be secretive about your sexuality even if it between two consenting adults and cops try and take advantage of this extremely vulnerable but probably very necessary act for many people and c) that the Republican party is proposing and ethics investigation because one of their flock shows a glimmer of not being straight as an arrow.

That said, my sympathy for Craig does not run deep as he has biggoted track record including support for DOMA, a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, has earned top ratings from social conservative groups such as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, and probably most dispicabley he:

opposed expanding the federal hate crimes law to cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias and, in 1996, voted against a bill that would have outlawed employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, which failed by a single vote in the Senate.


Frankly, his claim that he is the victim of a 'witch hunt' is ludicrous considering his circumstances. The worst thing he faces is the boot from the Republican party and a soon to be rocky marriage. This case highlights the reality for millions of LGBT individuals though who do face the threat of jail the next time they try to pick someone up. And given the consequences of revealing one's sexuality to a hateful person in a bar, a cop, your spouse, or your boss, Craig should count himself lucky that an early retirement from the US Senate is the worst of his worries.

Torture: OK. Talking About It: No.

Apparently, it's okay for the U.S. Army to torture. The trick is that you just can't tell the media about it. The only crime Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan committed, according to his court martial verdict, is talking about the then-ongoing investigation into the activities at Abu Gharib. Using dogs on a detainee? OK. Stripping Muslim detainees nude? OK (imagine if Sunni's did that to a virgin twenty-something woman from Texas...). Not stopping your subordinates (NB: not superiors) from doing these things? OK.

Just be quiet about it.


At a time when Alberto Gonzales is being chastised as though he were humanity's sole architect of torture, we'd do well to keep stories like these in our heads. Torture is not an act of a few bad apples (remember My Lai and the ensuing flurry of congressional and courts martial, anyone?), but rather the conscious policy of an aggressive imperialism. And besides, you can get away with it, too.

Monday, August 27, 2007

One Is Silver and the Other Is Gold

It appears that the Bush administration has taken to heart a nursery rhyme told incessantly by my Irish/Italian grandparents concerning the nature of multiple best friends. Turns out that Alberto Gonzales was "too much of a distraction" to the Administration, preventing them from successfully running the world.

And how do you get to replace a torturing, habeus corpus-denying, warrantless-spying right wing hack? By being a PATRIOT ACT-writing, black people ignoring, war on terror-architecting right wing hack.

I think the discussion surrounding tapping Chertoff as the U.S.'s lead domestic terrorist ensures that any argument made by U.S. liberals (or conservatives) about the uniqueness of Gonzales' neoconservativity is a nonstarter. This resignation, whether brought about by distraction (read: too much talk about what the U.S. foreign policy must imply domestically, namely, a reduction in civil liberties and what can only be called human rights violations on a good day) or personal choice (read: Gonzales was tired of being the fall guy for these policies), is no different than impeaching Bush and ending up with President Cheney. Not only does this not constitute any real shift in domestic perspective for Bush, by replacing the architect of the terror list with the architect of the PATRIOT ACT and the war on terror, it is in fact exactly the opposite: a consolidation of personnel, ensuring that right-wing policies can continue amidst a flurry of public skepticism.

But at least now if my civil liberties are violated in the coming months, I have the recourse of sitting in a crowded football stadium for weeks while people starve, waiting for Mikey to come listen to my grievances.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weekly Dave: Bill O'Reilly

This week's Dave award should be combined with an as of yet unnamed award for silliest grandstanding. Bill O'Reilly has decided to launch a campaign against having Nas play at the welcome back concert for Virginia Tech students, describing it as "an atrocity." Watch the video here. In the video, you get some vintage O'Reilly. He shouts down Bakari Kitwana, a brilliant critic and author, in order to assert some facile point about Nas having a gun conviction. Then, he patronizes the token black conservative (a species well-dissected by Adolph Reed) by asking him if he's ever heard of Stephen King. I'm surprised he didn't cover his bases totally by flat out asking the man if he could read.

O'Reilly then proceeds to recite the cliched conservative litany of ways hip-hop is, in the words of Senator Tankerbell, confusing the youth. They are boring and not worth writing about. I would, however, like to take a moment to point out O'Reilly's staggering hypocrisy.

My j'accuse is thus: O'Reilly is in fact a far greater cause of the ills which he attributes to hip-hop. He is a dedicated opponent of affirmative action, minimum wage increases, or reparations, all of which are necessary if there is ever to be economic parity between Blacks and whites. Since crime is intimately linked with poverty, O'Reilly's defense of a social order built on Black impoverishment implicates him in the very criminality he seeks to condemn. What a fucker.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

One Hand Washes the Other

Pauly's post concerning the crumbling job security of Maliki got me thinking about destabilization in Iraq and the ageless debate within anti-war colloquia between Hillary-ite "occupation is okay" liberals and committed anti-imperialists. The question of stabilization coming from the occupying forces probably leaves many die-hard lefties nonplussed, but it's worth being explicit about exactly what kind of fracturing semi-permanent damage the U.S. is doing in Iraq.

Specifically: it is an integral part of the U.S. strategy in the region to attempt to permanently engender sectarian division in the country. As such, the U.S. needs to turn a blind eye to corruption and arms smuggling. This is the Kosovo-strategy. If the region is marred by entrenched sectarian violence (brought about and nurtured by the occupying forces), then any controlling force will be at the mercy of the United States for protection and financial security.

Anti-war activists should be clear that this news should not be surprising, and is, from the perspective of occupation, a totally logical move. This is a strategy born out of the Reagan-era secret wars and the Clinton-era diplomatic invasions.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Right?

Anyone who has had internet/tv/radio access for the past few months have been unable to avoid the clamor and racist diatribes against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Some may feel that all the anger and backlash is justified given that he entered a guilty plea last Friday. Ok, dog fighting is brutal and Vick has taken responsibility for his actions. That's good enough for me. However, what really burns me is the rampant hypocrisy in the media's (and general public's) attacks on Vick.

Let's put this into context: Paris Hilton: several DUIs, serves some 20 hours in jail. Lindsey Lohan: several DUIs, possession of cocaine (multiple times), posh resort-like 'rehab' clinic. and the biggest whopper, Phil Spector, known gun-toting crazy person and probably MURDERER, still lounges in court and doesn't even make headlines any more.

When you see that white celebrities are getting off relatively scot-free everyday for crimes that young black males are being sent to jail and death row in overwhelming numbers (more black youths sit in jail than in university desks) for crimes they most often don't even commit, the ugliness of racism in the media and in US society cannot be ignored. Ask yourself, if I wouldn't have mentioned Phil Spector, would you have known about his case. I'm sure enraged Beatles/Ramones/Crystals fans aren't using their albums to wipe up shit, or more appropriately blood, in protest against the groundbreaking producer.

Following motyat's post, put Vick's case in the context of the overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that a) the US is torturing and massacring people from Iraq, to Guantanamo to our own prisons, and b) it has received the green light from the highest offices of our government: who really deserves to heat?

US Public has their heads on straight

In the immortal words of IF Stone: All governments lie. Americans got the memo.

They Smilin' in Your Face...



Oh they seem nice enough. Friendly smiles. Good firm handshakes. But don't think for a instant, my cacique compadres, that they won't sell you out at a moment's notice. Becoming the servants of the colonial overlords now ruling your country may seem like a good idea at first, but let's remember in whose interest the occupation is being run. Not yours, m'boys, not yours. You are important only insofar as your interests coincide with those of these fellows.

Indeed, in light of the rhetoric oozing out of Washington lately, I think Nuri al-Maliki has some reason to worry. Memo to Mr. Maliki: when US intelligence agencies tell you your rule “will become more precarious over the next 6 to 12 months,” you might want to consider a change in careers. Quickly.

As Erica Bouris points out, this bullying isn't likely to cause any changes in Maliki's policies. He might even see these threats for what they are and turn to Iran for aid. Even more importantly, I think, is the fact that there is previous little that Maliki can do to stabilize the country. To be blunt: the single act that would stabilize Iraq the most would be the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces. As Maliki is totally dependent on these occupiers for his position, he will certainly not be asking them to leave anytime soon.

Maliki's inability to change the situation in any significant way makes itself felt in the various articles berating him in the consistent lack of alternatives put forward therein. If Maliki is fouling things up so tremendously, what does he need to do to improve? I've yet to see a New York Times article/editorial that calls for anything beyond platitudes about removing corruption and stopping sectarianism, advice which is about on the same level as a doctor telling a cancer patient they need to get better.

What I find most interesting about the obvious contempt the warmakers have for Maliki is the element of displacement in it. The occupation of Iraq is the American ruling class' best chance to maintain global hegemony. Their continuing failure, their stupidity in entrusting the task to Bush and co., and their utter inability to do anything besides massacre Iraqis (not that they feel any guilt about this) must frustrate them to the point of apoplexy. Rather than admit that their own avarice and contempt for the thoughts of ordinary Iraqis has led them to this impasse, they displace their rage onto Maliki. This operation is assisted by a good dose of orientalism, which allows them to portray the entire situation as a simple case of the savages being unable to govern themselves. Any neutral observer, however, upon witnessing what Hurricane Katrina exposed in New Orleans, the contempt this county's rulers have for its workers, or the environmental catastrophe we are rapidly being led towards, would, I think, reach the opposite conclusion as to who is fit to rule.

White People Are Crazy

Now this is just freaky.

Architects of Occupation

A fascinating interview with dissident Israeli architect Eyal Weizman about the logic of the illegal colonization of the Occupied Territories and the Partition Wall.

One particularly chilling section of the book discusses Israeli military techniques for sending assassination squads into the dense urban sprawl of Palestinian settlements.

Rather than use the alleyways and paths of the settlement – and risk ambush – the Israeli soldiers simply blast their way in a straight line through to their target. They cut holes in the walls of residential buildings and literally march straight through people’s living rooms.

The Weekly Dave

It's quite funny how, even though I was a bit worried because I was quite busy this week, it was still incredibly easy to find a winner for the Weekly Dave. This week's winner is Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin. His deed worthy of such high honor? Suggesting that the City of Atlanta have a no-baggy-pants dress code.

You can't make this kind of racism up. Martin was quoted as saying:

It will be like all the discussions we've had around the value of the hip-hop culture. We know there are First Amendment issues ... and some will say I'm just trying to put young black men in jail, but it's going to be fines.
News flash, bud: if the way you frame the debate is, "is hip-hop culture valuable [emphasis mine -MT]?" then you're a racist. Go have another drink at Brothers or Johnny-O's, C.T., and then save us all the trouble, and consider getting out of politics.

Monday, August 20, 2007

All is Not Lost, Alexander

Alexander Cockburn's piece in New Left Review this month brings a necessary combination of sobriety and radicalism into the current Leftist discourse in America. The two qualities are found often enough separately. Witness the Nation's consistent sobriety regarding the chances for significant political change in America. Of course, from this they draw the conclusion that because radical change isn't immediately around the corner, we should content ourselves with whatever craven lip service the Democrats are willing to pay us. Over on the other side, we can see the radicalism of people desperately want the war to end, and think that our action can bring that end about by Christmas. This position vastly underestimates the stakes the US ruling class holds in Iraq.

Cockburn's piece then, strikes a nice balance by both realizing the immense task that opposing imperialism actually is, yet still holding that task as the political necessity facing the Left today. Because of this, it is surely to be welcomed. However, I think the piece holds an overly gloomy tone regarding the current state of struggle in America. More to the point, I think Cockburn vastly underestimates the vitality of working class struggle, and its importance to the antiwar movement.

A look through the labor reportage of Socialist Worker over the past few months gives an idea. Waste Management workers defeat a Fortune 500 company by using inter-union solidarity. Harvard guards win a pay increase. Teachers in Hayward, California forced concessions from the school board. Nonunion workers in Chicago beat back an immigration status based attack. Lastly, there's the movement among undocumented workers which gave us the largest citywide strikes in American history.

Cockburn rightly points out that the war has been absent from the agendas of most of these struggles (though the two aren't hermetically sealed. Witness the VA organizing going on in Washington). However, I think he misses the point. First, this kind of class struggle hasn't been seen in nearly twenty years. Ever since the employers' offensive of the late 70s, workers' confidence has been desperately low. The last few months provide evidence that this is finally beginning to change. This shift alone is reason to be cheerful in the present moment.

But what this shift portends for the future is even more exciting. Successful movements give people the confidence to fight back in other areas, as well as providing a base of experienced activists who can help movements avoid reinventing the wheel. For example, the labor movement of the thirties and forties provided the base of activists and confidence from which antiracists launched an assault on Jim Crow (that this assault was defeated by McCarthyism does not take away from its significance). Similarly, the Civil Rights Movement proper provided the training ground for the first cadres of the anti-war movement. Mario Savio was part of Freedom Summer, Tom Hayden was a Freedom Rider. The Berkeley Free Speech Movement was kicked off when a former grad student at a CORE table refused to show ID to the cops. In its later stages, the Black freedom movement became a major obstacle to the persecution of the war in Vietnam, as the army attests to in its 1970 "Constraints of the Negro Civil Rights Movement on American Military Effectiveness." The Freedom movement also boosted labor, as Larry Isaac and Lars Christiansen argue in "How the Civil Rights Movement Revitalized Labor Militancy." The antiwar movement, in turn, helped to start both the Women's and Gay liberation movements.

I realize that, in relation to where we are right now, this is little more than speculation. No one knows if a revitalized labor movement will translate into a vibrant new antiwar movement. And this little history lesson is undoubtedly of little comfort to folks like Cindy Sheehan, who have spent the last few years devoting everything they have to ending the war and having precious little to show for it. What it does show, I think, is that we are not in the nadir of activism. This is not 2004. The stirrings of the labor movement are an indicator of the opportunities radicals are going to have in the coming years. What we do with those opportunities is up to us.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

From Louisiana to Lima: Property more important than human lives

In rhetoric eerily similar to the Law and Order bullshit spouted by the Federal Government, Ray Nagin, and Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Peru's president Alan Garcia has just dispatched hundreds of soldiers to the areas most devastated by last week's earthquake to prevent people without food, water or electricity from taking things needed for their survival from stores (aka looting):

"My obligation is to establish order in the country, and we're going to do that today, whatever it takes. - Alan Garcia"

In the government's drive to protect private property the nearly 1000 troops deployed to the region are not speeding up the distribution of goods to victims, according to the BBC. In fact, they've kept themselves busy firing shots in the air to protect businesses.

Despite the recent arrival of over 1,000 metric tons of aid supplies, according to one Pisco resident (a mother of seven), "The supply trucks go by and the anguish of watching them pass without giving us anything forces us to stop them and take what we need."

Once again, another government has proven that it is willing to tolerate, as well as contribute to, the unnatural disaster and human suffering accompanying a natural disaster in order preserve property. A system that has such disgusting priorities must be changed.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

US to Earthquake Victims: You're worth $1.25 each

I was downhill skiing yesterday and a Canadian told me that she had heard on the radio that the US was only going to send $100,000 in disaster relief to Peru after last weeks' nearly 8.0 earthquake that left over 500 dead. Sadly, after seeing the miserly response of the US to the South East Asian Tsunami, not to mention the rage and dispair many felt after the government abandoned the Gulf Coast after Katrina, I
was not surprised (especially given that Peru is not a major source of US petroleum or a primary regional military ally and counterweight to sub-regional powers).

While the capitol Lima sustained fairly little damage, major indigenous and rural cities such as Pisco, a city of 60,000 a few hundred miles south of Lima, were literally leveled with over 85% of all structures down. One of the most tragic cases was the collapse of a cathedral with 300 people attending mass. Last night on the 9 o'clock Canal 13 news program, peruanos from Pisco were interviewed and they said that there is no room to bury the victims, many are still trapped in rubble, and there is no water nor functioning sanitation (it was actually kind of disgusting how the Chilean reporter was interviewing these people i.e. "Cómo estás?" to which one man replied "Es fatal, no tenemos agua ni espacio para enterrar los muertos" to which the reportero replied "Perfecto" and moved to the next person). According to initial reports some 80,000 people need direct assistence, but this number is most likely going to rise to lack of water, electricity, and places to bury bodies.

So, according to the USAID assessment of the situation, each person in need of 'direct assistance' deserves less than $1.25 from Uncle Sam, but he has a $30 billion 'investment in peace' for the peace loving Israeli army.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Did He Really Say That?

Today's post is inspired by a Dave Chappelle stand-up special from HBO wherein he asks the question: "You ever see something really racist happen? So racist that you can't even be mad, but you're just like...damn. That's racist?" In honor of such a brilliant social critic, I hereby start a new project on General, Your Tank Is A Powerful Vehicle: The Weekly Dave. The Weekly Dave will be given to the prominent member of society credited with saying the most blatantly racist statement of the week.

Without further ado, this week's (and the first) Weekly Dave goes to Rudy Giuliani, for this miserable piece of filth. In addition to being a pathetic war-mongerer and exploiter of grief, Rudy has apparently managed to convince himself that all Palestinians are inherently terrorists. Congratulations on being as open and inclusive as Torquemada, Rudy. You're really what this country needs more of.

And while I'm on the topic of exposing Presidential hopefuls for their racist, contradictory right wing miscellany, let's talk about John Edwards, champion of the common people and fighter of predatory subprime lending. Apparently by "fighting subprime lending" he actually meant "throwing Katrina victims out of their homes." My mistake, John. Too bad there's no Weekly Dave runner-up, or you'd have one more accolade to add to your long list of accomplishments.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cheney in '94: Invading Iraq would be a quagmire

So, apparently this was on the Daily Show recently, but my buddy pointed it out to me: Cheney in a C-Span Interview about what would have happened if the US were to invade Iraq. Creepily prescient.

No Wonder

This is why this man has been investigated for high treason against Israel. So much for Palestinian-Israelis receiving fair and equitable treatment.

If I WasPresident

A couple of real-life (i.e., not electronic) friends recently asked me what I thought or had to say about recent proposed changes to the Venezuelan constitution made by President Hugo Chavez.

Let's take a moment to law down one axiom for the duration of the discussion: proper socialism, as conceived of in my theoretical tradition ({Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, et seq.}) requires a revolution. Not only is it the response to the commonly touted "you can't change the way people think" objection, but it's also common sense. Ask David Lesar if he feels like giving up his money so that poor people can eat. Not only will he respond in the negative, but he also commands a company that has the ear of the Federal Government (and therefore the military) which can help him make that point abundantly clear.

In that sense, objections to Chavez's proposed abolition of term limits are misplaced. The objections should come in noting that legislation to socialism is not sufficient for a change in the mode of production. Or to put it another way, vote for Nader, but be his fiercest critic on his first day in office. Term limits, per se, are apolitical (remember that the U.S. has a term limit largely by historical accident). If a candidate does good work for the people, that should license the indefinite continuation of his/her political agenda, which is not necessarily disjoint with the candidate.

Do I think Chavez might abuse this term limit removal? Or to reply directly, what of these complaints, raised by the Chavez opposition:

His critics say Mr Chavez is attempting to remain as president for decades, following the example of his close friend Fidel Castro in Cuba.

"Chavez is seeking to reduce the territory held by the opposition and give his intention to remain in power a legal foundation," said Gerardo Blyde, an opposition leader.

These are legitimate fears, but they are not novel to Venezuela. Think of the unending slide rightward of seemingly left-wing candidates. If a pro-war majority of apples can spoil the healthy anti-war apples, then of course we should have systemic fears about political corruption. But this is like saying that just the 2000 election was stolen, as if all elections in the U.S. aren't stolen. Moral: if you like a candidate, that candidate should be allowed to remain in office, but don't confuse punching a ballot box with marching in the streets, and do not allow your candidates to confuse the two, either.

It's also worth noting that the proposed Venezuelan constitutional reforms aren't only about Chavez's term limits, or even majority so. The above article notes that it also brings the national bank under federal control, and mandates a six-hour working day. Six hours! We can't even establish a decent minimum wage in this country!

Furthermore, the legislation expands the local council power. Taken with this in mind, Chavez's term limits seem almost puerile. Some voice concerns at this move:

Mr Lopez agrees that people should have more control of their communities, but he says the president's definition of people power is a contradiction.

"Communal councils have to register themselves with the president's office. But if they're not absolutely loyal to the government, they won't get registered. And if there're not registered, there's no access to government funds.

"You need to promote plurality, tolerance and diversity. Without this, there is no democracy," he continued.

However, history has already shown us what the opposition's conception of plurality is: a military coup. Almost as hypocritical as American politicians claiming to understand democracy.

Speaking of democracy, I will leave with this quote, and a question:
But all this is raising concerns among those who dislike the radical nature of the president's politics. Opposition groups say democracy is being politicised, with the local councils used as hubs for political activism.
I'm not sure how this even has an understandable meaning. How does one politicize democracy?

Speaking of Women's Rights...

It seems it was only yesterday that we were listening to Hillary, Laura Bush, et al. explain how it was imperative that we invade {Iraq, Afghanistan} and protect women for the horrors of fundamentalist (or maybe they forgot that restrictive modifier) Islam.

Seems as though the women in Iraq have much to be thankful to the U.S. for.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Once again, profits come before women's lives

I wasn't sure what controversy was that has surrounded this pill, which is an alternative to surgical abortions and account for some 8-10% of the 1.3 million abortions a year in the US, and was approved in 2000. But, I thought that there had to be strings attached to a safe and affordable abortion pill. So, I thought I'd look a bit into the history of the drug. And after consulting wikipedia the first article I encountered revealed another violent and disgusting aspect of the Bush administration's (and every administration since the drug's initial production in the 80s) anti-abortion policy domestically and internationally, especially in the developing world.

Apparently, mifepristone was initially developed to prevent gastric ulcers,
but soon was discovered to be an excellent (and almost an instantaneous) cure for post-partum hemorrhaging. Here are some facts about this condition:


There are 14 million obstetric hemorrhages a year, killing an estimated 128,000 women, almost all in the developing world, where most births happen at home without skilled medical care. Severe postpartum bleeding is the No. 1 cause of maternal mortality worldwide: One woman dies every four minutes.
Why then is this cheap, heat stable, and easily used 'miracle cure' not widely accessible to woman and physicians world wide? According to Berkeley residents Martha Campbell and Dr. Malcolm Potts, it is simply because governments fear that it will be used to induce abortions. Where it is available in places such as South East Asia and Africa, it fetches black market prices that are far out of reach of most women, but, as the case is in the US or anywhere else, medical care is a luxury for the elite few who can pay.

This situation is extremely complicated by Bush and Cos 'abstinence only' stance toward AIDS in South Africa. In fact, any Planned Parenthood or health organization in Africa that mentions abortion or contraception can instantly lose all funding. Furthermore, this drug is manufactured by Pfizer, who reported that the drug (marketed as Cytotec) made about $180 million as opposed to their anti-cholesteral drug lipitor which made some $12 billion (and who knows how much their fucking anti-ED pills rake in). In fact they send letters to OBGYN urging them to not (mis)use the drug.

Even though the patent expired in 2000 it is pretty obvious that no companies have picked up this product for mass production at low costs (nor has any government made an effort in this direction). The fact that 100,000s of women are dying from this in addition to the 68,000 women who still die a year from back alley abortions lays bare the priorities of the the system we live under.

"Countries have made abortion illegal, and we've got to deal with that. But one of the things women use for an abortion is a rib of an umbrella or a bicycle spoke, and we don't make umbrellas or bicycles illegal," said Potts. "I think it's immoral not to save women's lives when they are dying from postpartum hemorrhage simply because they might use (a drug) for abortion."


Iran and Terrorism (part II)

This is, in many ways, a follow-up to my post on Iran, though somewhat dictated by current events.

So now Iran's biggest military unit is a terrorist organization. Setting aside the triviality of such a labeling process, we would do well to remember what that designation entitles the U.S. government to do. Executive Order 13224 is concerned mostly with financial support for "terrorist organizations," but it also comes with some "Other Effects:"

Other Effects

  1. Deters donations or contributions to designated individuals or entities.
  1. Heightens public awareness and knowledge of individuals or entities linked to terrorism.
  1. Alerts other governments to U.S. concerns about individuals or entities aiding terrorism, and promotes due diligence by such governments and private sector entities operating within their territories to avoid associations with terrorists.
  1. Disrupts terrorist networks, thereby cutting off access to financial and other resources from sympathizers.
  1. Encourages designated entities to get out of the terrorism business.
I certainly hope that the IRGC considers itself sufficiently "encouraged to get out of the terrorism business" (fun imperialism fact of the day: the document listing organizations considered terrorist pursuant to E.O. 13224 is 113 pages long, and available here).

With approval ratings for the war at all-time lows and Democrats falling over each other to propose the right way to deal with the naked exposure of U.S. imperialism, we might do well to examine why the IRGC was labeled terrorist, and for what purpose.

The Washington Post, in the above-linked article, has this to say:
The Bush administration has chosen to move against the Revolutionary Guard Corps because of what U.S. officials have described as its growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East, the sources said. The decision follows congressional pressure on the administration to toughen its stance against Tehran, as well as U.S. frustration with the ineffectiveness of U.N. resolutions against Iran's nuclear program, officials said.
And even though we've not given them a penny, the NYT offers its thoughts:
In taking aim at the guard, the administration is also trying to divide Iran’s population. During his news conference on Thursday, President Bush addressed the Iranian people directly. “My message to the Iranian people is, ‘You can do better than this current government,’ ” Mr. Bush said. “ ‘You don’t have to be isolated. You don’t have to be in a position where you can’t realize your full economic potential.’ "
Apparently, now Bush is for democratic revolution in Iran. Of course, this is the case only insofar as the Iranians choose to realize their "full economic potential" as U.S. allies, I would wager.

There are several things worth mentioning here:
  1. My earlier post showed that the Bush Administration can't be serious about having proof of direct material support from Iran for the Iraqi Resistance. Therefore, this move has to be seen as political in the extreme, and not a reaction to the increased use of roadside bombs supposedly shipped from Iran.
  2. When the U.S. government wants to divide a people, the situation doesn't look like Iran's military being labeled a terrorist organization, but instead, the situation looks like Iraq or (better yet) Kosovo in the wake of Clinton's "humanitarian intervention." If the bourgeoisie of Iran decides to side with Washington, all the better for Bush, but don't count on it being the raison d'etre of the declaration.
  3. Congressional pressure on the Bush administration to toughen its stance against Iran IS up. So much for the Dems taking us out of war.
So what are we left with? In the midst of too much discussion about the ills of capitalism and the war in general, the Bush Administration, abandoned by the U.N. and overstretched by its engagements in Iraq, makes the only logical move: unilateral economic action little stronger than rhetoric. But just don't expect the Democrats to oppose it.

NB: Logic Fun! The IRGC was labeled such because of "its growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East."

U.S. Army in Iraq - Check.
U.S. Army in Afghanistan - Check.
U.S. Army weapons sold to Israel - Check.

Oh, wait...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

RRC: Bono Still a Tool

According to this months' Rap Rock Confidential:

We checked out the web site of Forbes Magazine, co-owned by Bono, in late July and found an endorsement of pro-censorship lunatic Sam Brownback’s flat tax proposal and a relentless drumbeat for lower taxes for the rich. This is fine with Bono, who moved his corporate headquarters from Ireland to Holland to avoid paying a 12.5 corporate tax rate, less than Irish plumbers or teachers pay. Indeed, one reason Bono’s such a fan of George Bush is that Dubya has blocked European attempts to eliminate Continental tax havens. Bono also says that “Bill Clinton did an incredible thing on starting this debt cancellation. He deserves real credit. And now, President Bush deserves credit for finishing it out.”


Bush “finishing out” debt cancellation? Bono is not telling the truth. The May/June issue of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting’s Extra! breaks it down: “Before the G8 summit, African countries owed a combined total of $15 billion a year on debt payments; after the vaunted debt relief agreements, they owed $14 billion a year. Only a quarter of African countries were even eligible for the debt relief program, which required them to enact harmful neoliberal economic stipulations, like privatization of vital services such as water and education, and acceptance of heavily unequal trade rules that prevent true economic development. What’s more, none of them actually received 100 per cent debt cancellation.”


At June’s Technology Entertainment and Design conference in Tanzania, Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan journalist and social worker, spoke out against reliance on foreign charity, pointing out that it had never succeeded in reviving an economy anywhere in the world, least of all Africa. He made his points only with difficulty however because throughout the speech he was heckled from the back of the room with shouts of “Bullshit!” and “Bollocks!” The heckler was Bono, who apparently believes that the nonsense he’s been spoon-fed by the likes of Bush and Tony Blair is gospel. What Bono doesn’t want to hear is the truth: He’s not one of the oppressed, the oppressed never asked him to speak for them, and he has about as much chance of leading Africa out of its economic and political problems as his political pals do of creating peace and justice in Mesopotamia.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Seemingly Fierce Anti-War Lineup for Hollywood

The Guardian ran an article today describing some of the new star-studded anti-war movies that are slated to come out in the next year. I'm a bit skeptical at the moment. I really liked Syriana, however George Clooney's Oscar acceptance speech where gave a nod to the progressive bastion of Americana that is Hollywood for giving an award to Hattie McDaniel, who potrayed Mammy, really took the jelly out of my donut (especially having recently view Spike Lee's seminal "Bamboozled"). On the other end of the spectrum, the recent Mark Wahlberg film "the Shooter" showed a vigilante conspiracy flick where Wahlberg, a disgruntled ex-special ops soldier, gets framed for an assassination of an African leader who is against resource exploitation of his country by the US and the subsequent massacres being carried out in the name of profit and eventually hunts down the evil-doing politician and advisor (Danny Glover). Needless to say, the left-leaning impulse is a breath of fresh air in this well worn reactionary genre (cough cough Rambo), though the politics are muddled to say the least. Nonetheless, the subject matter of these movies seems great: extraordinary rendition, CIA torture, Afghanistan, and PTSD.

It remains to be seen, as the author points out, if these movies will get made, but the over half dozen slotted to be filmed definitely relfect the sea change in public opinion against the war in Iraq and maybe even an increasing questioning of the Afghanistan invasion. The real groundbreaking part of this story is that these films are set to be released while the conflict is still raging. No critical film was made about Vietnam until three years after it ended. Hopefully these films will be right what the Doctor ordered for the anti-war movement, as "Sicko" proved to be for a newly sparked movement for universal healthcare.

No end to Israeli medical malfeasance

After this, we have this. Israeli goon squads prevent an ambulance carrying a patient to a hospital, the patient dies as a result.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Save Darfur Coalition Exaggerates Casualties

This is pretty ridiculous. From the New York Times:

JUST last month, the House of Representatives passed the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act and the United Nations Security Council decided to deploy up to 26,000 peacekeepers to Sudan. Both actions were due in no small way to the work of the Save Darfur Coalition. Through aggressive advertising campaigns, this group has done more than any other to focus world attention on the conflict in the Sudanese region.

But with a ruling Wednesday from Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority, Save Darfur now finds itself in the spotlight. Siding with a business group allied with the Sudanese government in Khartoum, the authority ruled that the high death tolls Save Darfur cites in its advertisements breached standards of truthfulness.

The ruling is more than just a minor public relations victory for Khartoum; it exposes a glaring problem in Save Darfur’s strategy. While the coalition has done an admirable job of raising awareness, it has also hampered aid-delivery groups, discredited American policy makers and diplomats and harmed efforts to respond to future humanitarian crises.

The trouble began last fall when, in ads placed throughout the United States and Britain, Save Darfur denounced the Sudanese government’s scorched-earth campaign against insurgents. “After three years, 400,000 innocent men, women and children have been killed,” the ads said.

That claim provoked a complaint to the British ad authority from the European Sudanese Public Affairs Council. After investigating, the authority found that Save Darfur’s ad campaign violated codes of objectivity, and it ordered the group to amend its ads to present the high death toll as opinion, not fact.

Serious estimates of the number of dead in Darfur are far lower than 400,000. Last November, the American Government Accountability Office convened a panel of 12 experts to assess the credibility of six prominent mortality estimates for Darfur. Three of these came from the American State Department, the World Health Organization and the W.H.O.-affiliated Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. The other three were independent efforts by activists — including one by John Hagan, a sociologist at Northwestern University, for the defunct Coalition for International Justice. Dr. Hagan’s was the highest estimate and the one on which Save Darfur based its claim.

In category after category, the experts overwhelmingly found Dr. Hagan’s estimate of 400,000 deficient. Nine of the experts said that his source data was unsound and that he failed to disclose his study’s limitations. Ten found his assumptions “unreasonable,” and 11 called his extrapolations “inappropriate.” In all, 11 experts held “low” or “very low” confidence in the study.

So how many are dead in Darfur? As the G.A.O. study notes, reliable numbers are hard to come by. But the estimate that garnered the highest confidence was the one from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. From September 2003 until June 2005, the center estimated, there were 158,000 deaths in Darfur. Of those, 131,000 were deemed “excess” — more than normally would occur.

Neither the center nor any other responsible outlet has released a tabulation of the death toll after June 2005, but observations by the United Nations and relief groups register a sharp drop — if for no other reason than much of Darfur’s population now resides in the relative safety of aid camps. In 2005, the mortality rate fell below the level that’s considered to be an emergency.

But now that the government has resumed bombings and the rebel groups are fighting among themselves as well as against the government, violence has increased. In the last half of 2006, civilian deaths averaged 200 per month. Combining these estimates suggests Darfur’s death toll now hovers at 200,000 — just half of what Save Darfur claimed a year ago in its ad and still claims on its Web site.

Of course, whether 200,000 or 400,000 have died, the need to resolve the conflict in Darfur is the same. But Save Darfur’s inflated estimate — used even after Dr. Hagan revised his estimate sharply downward — only frustrates peace efforts.

During debate on the House floor last month, for example, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee claimed that “an estimated 400,000 people have been killed by the government of Sudan and its janjaweed allies.” Ms. Jackson-Lee is hardly alone in making that allegation, and catering to the Sudanese government’s sensitivities may not seem important. But the repeated error only hardens Khartoum against constructive dialogue. If diplomacy, not war, is the ultimate goal for resolving the conflict in Darfur, the United States must maintain its credibility as an honest broker.

Inaccurate data can also lead to prescriptive blunders. During the worst period of violence, for example, the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster estimated that nearly 70 percent of Darfur’s excess deaths were due not to violence but to disease and malnutrition. This suggests that policy makers should look for ways to bolster and protect relief groups — by continuing to demand that the Sudanese government not hamper the delivery of aid, to be sure, but also by putting vigorous public pressure, so far lacking, on the dozen rebel groups that routinely raid convoys.

Exaggerated death tolls also make it difficult for relief organizations to deliver their services. Khartoum considers the inflated numbers to be evidence that all groups that deliver aid to Darfur are actually adjuncts of the activist groups that the regime considers its enemies, and thus finds justification for delaying visas, refusing to allow shipments of supplies and otherwise putting obstacles in the way of aid delivery.

Lastly, mortality one-upmanship by advocacy groups threatens to inure the public to both current and future catastrophes. If 400,000 becomes the de facto benchmark for action, other bloody conflicts around the globe — in Sri Lanka, Colombia, Somalia — seem to pale in comparison. Ultimately, the inflated claims fuel a death race in which aid and action are based not on facts but on which advocacy group yells the loudest.

Two-hundred thousand dead in Darfur is egregious enough. No matter how noble their intentions, there’s no need for activists to kill more Darfuris than the conflict itself already has.

Note the reasonable figure. 131,000 excess deaths. Contrast that with the one million in Iraq. The Burnham et al. report has had to jump through far more hoops than this and passed admirably. This isn't about victim minimization, as the interventionists might allege, but about a blatantly deceitful campaign to promote the expansion of US military power, and they need to be called out on their bullshit.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cracks at the Top Bear Bitter Fruit for Immigrants, Corporate America

Lacking a bill from Congress, President Bush tossed a red piece of meat to his rabid nativist base by declaring some new executive initiatives to deal with our apparently ‘hemorrhaging’ borders. The primary measures, brokered between the department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor and the White House, focus on the enforcement aspect of the immigration compromise divide ( as opposed to the modern slavery of ‘guest worker’ –wing ). This means more Homeland Security and Border Patrol agents increased prosecutions of employers who hire undocumented workers specifically through the use an online Social Security database that checks for false numbers. Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff argued that even with the increase in agents, the government will not be able to punish all employers. But, fret not Tom Tancredo, because Chertoff is confident that he argued that “high-impact, high-visibility enforcement would act as a deterrent.” Hmm, Mike, what could these ‘tactics’ look like? Does the multi-state, Gestapo-style raid of the Swift meatpacking plants of last December strike a chord? In this ‘success’ of immigration enforcement 1,297 people were arrested by ICE while only 274 face charges. It is clear that ‘enforcement’ means the state-led terrorizing of Latinos, be they citizens or not. The story of one resident of Marshalltown, Iowa two months after the raid warrants quoting to show how devastating to families involved:
“When José Mora tucks his 7-year-old niece into bed at night, she often asks, "Where's my mommy?" He doesn't want to say that her mother is in a Des Moines jail awaiting a hearing that could result in her being deported to Mexico. "I say only, 'Your mother might be coming home next month,' " says Mora, who won't discuss the child's legal status. Mora, 41, who has three children, took in his two nieces before Christmas. Their father, Mora's brother-in-law, was deported to Mexico after a Dec. 12 raid at a local meatpacking plant.

The trump card of this plan, the online Social Security database, is believed to have an error rate for citizens estimated as high as 11%. Let’s see, so, if you’re keeping tabs, that means that 11% failure of one initiative on people with documents and slightly more than 20% of the people in raids are actually charged. To me, those seem to be pretty abysmally low odds for ruining people lives.

However, the implications of this action by Bush and Co. cut to the heart of not only the fissures in the Republicans, but between both ruling parties. As far as the Republicans are concerned, Bush has become a pariah. His low approval rating and arrogant actions in Iraq and his inability to pass ‘comprehensive immigration reform’, whatever the fuck that is have gotten him in hot water with his party. But, as the initial responses by the ag-industry, leading Republicans, and Democrats to the announcement of these initiatives show that he hasn’t for some reason Bush is making a last ditch effort of sorts to reconnect with his xenophobic base, from whom he must have been much more estranged than I would have thought.

To me, the most revealing aspect is the outcry from Corporate America. Chertoff himself admits that "there will be some unhappy consequences for the economy out of doing this." How unhappy, you might be asking yourself. As unhappy as if someone stole your birthday? As unhappy as if you got dumped and your dog died? Well, to humor you all we should ask Laura Foote Reiff, co-chairwoman of the Business Immigration Group: "It's going to be awful; the harvest is going to be awful... People will feel it when they go grocery shopping, when they read in the newspaper that we're importing our meat from China." Ooh, a little anti-China sentiment to boot.

As much as I enjoy to such a bourgie bastard squirm, an admission by Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez cuts to the core of the issue: "We do not have the workers our economy needs to keep growing each year. The demographics simply are not on our side. Ultimately, Congress will have to pass comprehensive immigration reform." Clearly the persecution, flight, and general absence of the nearly 2.5 million estimated agricultural workers without documents will have a devastating impact on the ability of agribusiness to pick this years’ harvest. When all seemed lost to the poor growers, in steps the reliable B-Team of US capitalism to save the day. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein decried this move as a “catastrophe… The crisis is that crops will not be harvested.” Not, we need to protect families from being divided and people from being wrongfully detained and deported. That would be too much.

While it is too early to see what the Democrats will propose, their initial reactions not only reveal their loyalties (Big Business) but some of the important inter-workings of US capitalism. One reason that the US has one of the longest undisturbed constitutional governments in history is largely due to the fact that there are two parties, which clearly have their differences, but ultimately when there is a crisis with one party, the other is ready and willing to step up to the plate. For instance, the abrupt end of the ‘Republican Revolution’ at the mid term elections last November where the Republican’s disgusting handling of Iraq led millions of voters to see the election as a referendum on the war and the party that most visibly conducted it. Though the Democrats have done NOTHING to bring the war to an end, this blow to their corporate backers has to have severe repercussions. The question is how far are the Dems willing to alienate their liberal and progressive base in order to please the bosses?

Dead Horses Deserve a Rest

When are they going to stop hauling Daniel Pearl's corpse out every time they need a PR boost? This macabre ritual has gone on long enough. The Black Agenda Report has an excellent (and wide-ranging) article on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's interrogation and the CIA's torture programs in general. It begins with an anecdote about how last March Pearl's widow received a call from Alberto Gonzalez informing her of the "good news" that KSM had confessed to her husband's murder. Ms. Pearl was understandably put off by this obvious publicity stunt. Condi Rice had called her in 2003 to inform her of the same news. The timing of the call was also obviously suspect. Gonzalez has been in quite the hot water for the past few months, and good news has been desperately hard to come by. What's a war criminal to do? The obvious, of course. Remind the public just how eeeeeeeevil the terrorists are by wheeling Daniel Pearl's mummified corpse out once more at which a shocked and awed public can gawk. Marianne Pearl has the good sense to see this grisly stunt for what it is, and exercises a skepticism we would all do well to pick up. "It's not enough for officials to call me and say they believe it," Pearl said. "You need evidence."

You'd think that the administration would have learned by now that their attempts to make martyrs out of those unfortunate casualties of imperialist depravity hasn't been a terribly successful strategy. The attempt to use Nick Berg's death to demonize the Iraqis only resulted in giving more publicity to his father, Michael Berg, a brilliant antiwar activist. The attempt to make Pat Tillman's life into a recruiting ad brought to light just how deep the military's mendacity goes. And the celebration of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's "confession" has exposed not only the tenuous grounds on which said confession rests, but also some more disturbing facts about the military's torture program in general.

(Quick notes about KSM's case before moving to the general points. First, practically no one believes Gonzalez and his inquisitioners' claim that KSM actually confessed to, or actually perpetrated the murder of Daniel Pearl. As mentioned above, Marianne Pearl doesn't believe it. Nor does the Karachi-based journalist with whom the Pearls were staying at the time of the kidnapping. When asked about the case, she said ""The release of the confession came right in the midst of the U.S. Attorney scandal. There was a drumbeat for Gonzales's resignation. It seemed like a calculated strategy to change the subject. Why now? They'd had the confession for years." The head of security at the US consolate in Karachi said "My old colleagues say with one-hundred-per-cent certainty that it was not K.S.M. who killed Pearl." The list could extend indefinitely, but I'll end with Pearl's father, who said "Something is fishy. There are a lot of unanswered questions. K.S.M. can say he killed Jesus - he has nothing to lose." I'll close this with the Karachi journalist's remarks on what Pearl would have thought of the torture extracted confession of KSM:

"I'm not interested in unfair justice, even for bad people." She went on, "Danny was such a person of conscience. I don't think he would have wanted all of this dirty business. I don't think he would have wanted someone being tortured. He would have been repulsed. This is the kind of story that Danny would have investigated. He really believed in American principles."
Unfortunately, it appears that torture really is one of those American principles. In the mad rush after September 11th, Dick Cheney looked to the Phoenix Program from Vietnam as model for the interrogation regime which he sought to impose in Afghanistan. As Alfred McCoy points out, such programs do little in the way of extracting information. They are extremely effective, however, as a terrorist campaign to brutalize and destroy enemy infrastructure through a dragnet method of depravity.

And that's the take home message of this post. Torture regimes are not, I repeat, are not about the extraction of information. For an interesting story about this, read how the FBI sent interrogators to tell 24 they need to stop portraying torture as an effective means of gathering information because it's influencing their recruits. These regimes are part of the infrastructure of imperialist terrorism. As the US seeks to impose its will on non-complying populations around the world, it needs to find a way to bend locals to its will. The American ruling class has never hesitated to use torture as a means to this end. That is what these macabre PR stunts are ultimately about: a justification for the crimes our government is daily perpetrating around the world.

Sicko was Right

Healthcare for the poor is just not a priority. I think it's particularly disgusting that the U.S. Government, instead of being responsible for the deplorable conditions in the Watts-area hospital, instead sees its role as being a punitive one.

Also, folks should check out lenin's post today. It's particularly interesting because the same sort of thing is being done here in the U.S., where the federal government has decided to try to press civilians under antiterror laws whenever their crimes happen to fit the rubric. I think it's especially devious the way this is being implemented: first prosecute the school shooters as terrorists - it's okay, because we all hate school shootings, so there'll be no outcry. Then, and only once people have accepted the logic of that (or even only once the courts have accepted that logic, since that's all that matters), then prosecute the naysayers, ne'erdowells, and radicals.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Of Marriage and Torture

Returning to the focus on simply archiving the news of note, here's what one can refer to about the Democratic candidates' thoughts on gay marriage during the coming months of the new presidential campaign. I think it's particularly interesting that: 1) the title is "Democrats Voice Support" when half of them do not support gay marriage, and 2) that you have to scroll halfway down to get Hillary and Obama's views (SPOILER ALERT: They're the two besides John Edwards who don't support it). I think it's indicative of the NYT knowing that the American public is far more left of the candidates on this issue.

In other news, apparently now you don't even have to be a threat to be tortured.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Laa'!

This is why I love Mahmoud Darwish.

(I think we should agree with the UAE professor and Darwish himself, if that's not abundantly clear).

Euclid's Theorem

This post is somewhat of a follow-up to my previous post on the moving of debt from credit cards and direct loans to the less liquid mortgages generated by the housing boom.

Today the LA Times reported a tumble in U.S. markets because of concerns over liquidity resulting from a preponderance of subprime lending. I think it's important to take stock of what is being done to combat it, and moreover, what this means for the future of the system as a whole (need a refresher on subprime lending? liquidity?).

The U.S. Federal reserve responded, as the article reported, with an influx of cash into the economy. However, this was not done in order to help defaulting lenders repay, but instead ease concerns about liquidity. That means that all it does is stave off or slow the growing subprime crisis insofar as it allows housing market lenders to continue to operate, since they can continue to find the liquidity necessary for lending (which they lack now due to the abundance of default from subprime borrowers during the crash landing of the housing market).

President Bush, despite doing blow for most of his Harvard education, seems to think that a tax break is what is needed. It's interesting that Bush continues to claim that the economy is strong, citing jobs and the flourishing of small businesses. I think that's big-time irrelevant, as we're only in the beginnings of the housing decline. As more and more people (because we should remember that "subprime lenders" is a fancy term for "the working class") begin to have their houses (and other assets) repossessed because of default, the job market and small businesses will be left in the dust.

But what about the tax breaks? We should be clear from this administration (nay, capitalism as a whole)'s past that these breaks will again be for the rich, which makes them tantamount to the Fed's reaction - something intended to stave off liquidity concerns. This is all intended to support investment in the American economy, but it is investment that the economy cannot support given the deflation of the housing market. We should be clear that when the liquidity of the market is the prime concern, we're gonna have problems. This is because of capitalism's need to maximize profit. If the concern is over liquidity, because investment in [insert your favorite market here] is hot for profit right now, the businesses have no choice but to invest to the end of the liquid assets. The kneejerk reaction to this, however, once the money dries up, is a panic of investment of any kind, making Blackhawk Down seem like the Silicon Valley Boom of the mid-90's.

I think it's important that we place the blame where the blame belongs - on the system. Since profit maximization is gospel, lending will occur, at whatever the cost, both to the borrower or the lender. That's why subprime lending exists in the first place.

Oh, and in case you thought that maybe a Democrat in office would help with this situation, consider what Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has to say about the cause of our current woes:

He said the housing crisis occurred in part because borrowers had not read the “fine print” on their mortgages. “There needs to be financial education measures in place,” he said.
Yes, and by that logic, rape victims are to blame because they wear provocative clothing.

Moral of this story: capitalism booms and busts, and there's nothing the Fed can do to stop it.

Why is this so hard for the ruling class? High schoolers seem to have it all figured out already.

Still Better Than the Superdome

If you needed more of a reason to be glad you did not live through Hurricane Katrina as a resident of New Orleans, this is it.

Israel and UN Work Together to Solve the Refugee Problem

No, not that refugee problem. This one. 7.2 million Palestinians' lives aren't worth shit, apparently. But Israel, being the only democracy in the middle east, cares deeply for the suffering Africans. Unless, of course, they happen to be Africans opposing Apartheid in South Africa, British rule in Rhodesia, or Mobutu's kleptocracy in Zaire.

In other news, Israel has announced that academic freedom is a low priority, especially if if it's for Palestinians. I expect a protest from Lee Bollinger and the other running dogs of imperialism to be forthcoming. After all,

"we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the
political disagreements of the moment."

Despite Lou's absense, Crackers still rabid.

"It's not about ethnicity; it's not about race. It's about lawful behavior versus unlawful behavior," Letiecq said ..."It's the folks who come in and try to maintain the culture of the country they came from," Letiecq said. "They don't seem to embrace the American culture, the English language, the social norms of American culture."

And I don't just mean this guy. We know that people of this ilk (the Minutemen, local legislators who are passing laws referred to in this article, Tom Tancredo, etc etc) are not uncommon and that the media tends to give them a highly disproportionate platform. However, the part that really bothers me is the tone of the author: "diversity is now spreading to the suburbs and beyond." It seems like that author is trying to politely describe a plague and to muffle his/her growing panic that 'white' America is becoming a minority. Well, AP fails. It's just as racist if it's the blatant vitriol of anti-immigrant groups or the subtle, often more sinister uses by the media that seem to acheive much more widespread acceptance.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fuck Lou Dobbs

Unfortunately, Lou Dobbs doesn't seem to have an article today at CNN.com. Well Fuck him anyways. We anxiously await his next torrent of filth.

Bombs Over Where?

This article just came out over NYT.com, and I, for one, am a bit perplexed:

An American raid and airstrike killed 32 people in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City today, in what American military officials described as the latest assault on a network linking Iraqi militants with money and deadly roadside bombs from Iran [emphasis mine --mt].
I'm confused because, given all the warmongering concerning Iran these days, I think I would have noted direct proof of Iran's government being involved in Iraq.

Then I recalled the summer two years ago, immediately after the London Bombings, when it was starting to become clear that the U.S. had gotten itself into a war it couldn't win. Blair started to make some outrageous claims. NBC tried to claim a similar thing, but again without any direct evidence. Let's just make a quick logic check on the MSNBC article:

(P) Explosives were smuggled over the Iranian border into Iraq.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Q) The Iranian government is supplying explosives to insurgents in Iraq.

Well, then, by that logic:

(P) American made weapons are smuggled from Iraqi police forces to the Resistance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Q) The American government is supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq.

I would be fine being wrong about this, but the BBC re-reported the same issue a year and a half later, and it appeared to still be without supporting evidence. The U.S. government, around that time, noted that it didn't need to give any proof of this claim. Sure. Then by THAT logic, I don't need to offer you any proof that the U.S. government killed Pat Tillman. You just have to believe it.

Even after all this, another three months went by, and FOX had this to say. THAT article isn't even about roadside bombs, but instead about the day's events in Iraq. If you have all this proof, why the hesitancy?

Finally, this is from this morning. By mid-afternoon, as noted above, apparently we now have enough information to claim that roadside bombs of this type are definitively from Iran.

Clinton Campaign aide a Union buster

In order to potentially secure labor's endorsement for her presidential bid, Hillary Clinton may be forced to give the boot to her campaign aide who works for a PR Firm that has a contract with the notoriously anti-union Cintas company , which boasts about its track record of blocking immigrant and undocumented workers from unionizing.

Though Clinton has refused to comment so far, her campaign has not said that they will fire this guy, who says that he has never been anti-union. Some might say, hey if you're running a campaign, clearly you're going to have members of your team with far-flung business contacts, cut her some slack. However, in his 2000 campaign Bush made top aide Karl Rove sell his shares for a company that he had founded so that his loyalties were not divided. Apparently this is too much to ask of the Democrats who continue to prove, with this act, how much they take labor for advantage and refuse to act in its interest be it on the minimum wage, health care, or the war.

...And Beer for My Horses

This makes me sick - just about as sick as pauly's post on Israeli News.

Brenton Thomas Gray was no longer a soldier when he died a soldier’s death last August on a northern Baghdad road.
I have to beg to differ. What does Cochise Consultancy do, specifically? Find out for yourself. Even the Geneva Conventions states they should be treated as prisoners of war upon capture, or mercenaries if they engage in combat, neither of which is indicative of civilian status (again, see for yourself).

Military officials estimate that 125,000 contractors are working in the country, nearly the number of American troops. The figures on those who carry guns vary widely, depending on the source, but seem to settle on about 20,000. As of June 30, government figures show, 1,001 contractors had died in Iraq since the start of the war.
Whether or not they carry guns is hardly the point. A commissioned officer provides all the same services (depending on rank, I know) that Cochise does, and commissioned officers are rightly considered military personnel.

It's not any wonder that this article has to fall back upon fratboy-esque descriptions of drinking and revelry to try to accomplish its goal, for its goal is impossible. There is no way to tell an Iraqi (or even a shrewd American) that people contracted by the U.S. State Department aren't doing the bidding of U.S. imperialism.


Don't Ever Forget Where You Live

...even for a moment, or you might be deported, even if you're a U.S. citizen. I don't think I even need to comment on this. We're just getting more proof (as if we needed it), that the U.S. government is not concerned with protecting anyone with mental illnesses in the country.

Also, it's interesting that the NYT disagrees about whether or not Mr. Guzman noted that he was a U.S. citizen before being deported.