Friday, September 28, 2007

Ratio Of Blacks In Jail To Blacks In College Is 3 To 1

The Wisconsin State Journal published an AP article on this recent study yesterday:

More than three times as many black people live in prison cells as in college dorms, the government said in a report to be released today.

The ratio is only slightly better for Hispanics, at 2.7 inmates for
every Latino in college housing. Among non-Hispanic whites, more than
twice as many live in college housing as in prison or jail.

The numbers, driven by men, do not include college students who live
off campus. Previously released census data show that black and
Hispanic college students - commuters and those in dorms - far
outnumber black and Hispanic prison inmates.

Nevertheless, civil rights advocates said it is startling that blacks
and Hispanics are more likely to live in prison cells than in college

"It's one of the great social and economic tragedies of our time," said
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the Urban League. "It points to the
signature failure in our education system and how we've been raising
our children."

The Census Bureau released 2006 data Thursday on the social, racial and
economic characteristics of people living in adult correctional
facilities, college housing and nursing homes. It is the first in-depth
look at people living in "group quarters" since the 1980 census. It
shows, for example, that nursing homes had much older residents in 2006
than in 1980.

The new data have limitations. In addition to not including commuter
students, the data do not provide racial breakdowns by gender or age,
though they do show that males make up 90 percent of prison inmates.

Also, most prison inmates are 25 or older while 96 percent of people in
college housing are age 18 to 24.

The data show that big increases in black and Hispanic inmates occurred
since 1980. In 1980, the number of blacks living in college dorms was
roughly equal to the number in prison. Among Hispanics, those in
college dorms outnumbered those in prison in 1980.

There are many reasons black students do not reach college at the same
rate as whites, said Amy Stuart Wells, a professor of sociology and
education at Columbia University's Teachers College.

Black students are more likely to attend segregated schools with high
concentrations of poverty, less qualified teachers, lower expectations
and a less demanding curriculum, she said.

"And they are perceived by society as terrible schools, so it is hard
to get accepted into college," Wells said. "Even if you are a
high-achieving kid who beats the odds, you are less likely to have
access to the kinds of courses that colleges are looking for."

Students who don't graduate high school are much more likely to go to
prison, said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at
UCLA. Nearly 40 percent of inmates lack a high school diploma or the
equivalent, according to the census data.

"The criminal economy is one of the only alternatives in some of these
places," Orfield said. "You basically have the criminalization of a
whole community, particularly in some inner cities."

Blacks made up 41 percent of the nation's 2 million prison and jail
inmates in 2006. Non-Hispanic whites made up 37 percent and Hispanics
made up 19 percent.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Are you serious?

Earlier today General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that he believed, due to his upbringing, that homosexuality is immoral. GENERAL Peter Pace, as in director, architect, and adviser to the Bush doctrine thinks that two adults of the same gender having sex (which I'm sure is occurring very frequently giving all the leisure time troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have) is evil. A man who has undoubtedly supported torture, extraordinary rendition, the invasion, and continued occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan which has led to the slaughter of hundreds of Iraqis and Afghanis THINKS that consensual sex is immoral. Are you shitting me?

It's very telling, given the upcoming election year and the fact that the democrats are often seen as the more friendly (or less blatantly hateful) alternative to the LGBT community, that after several Code Pink anti-war protesters jeered at the General's comments that the Democratic chairman, Senator Robert Byrd, stopped the session, had them removed and sealed the doors before resuming the session. Even more disconcerting were the only dissenting remarks from the Dems reported by AP in the article from Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa), who said he found Pace's previous remarks as "very hurtful" and "very demoralizing" to homosexuals serving in the military. He continued by saying that the General should have a chance to clarify his marks (to me the fact that he already said the same thing in a March Chicago Tribune interview indicates that this expression of his warped moral compass is crystal clear). He ended his stalwart defense of the LGBT community by stating: "It's a matter of leadership, and we have to be careful what we say."

Tisk tisk General, please keep your hateful thoughts to yourself. By the way, great job on the war. We respect you as a leader. We who stand against this kind of hate and as well as the murderous war this guy has helped to carry out need to demand more from the party that claims to stand to the left of the Republicans in the upcoming election year. Only by protesting and outspoken in our criticism and continuing to hold their feet to the fire will we get them to cough up the changes we demand.

Monday, September 24, 2007

US Snipers Use "Bait" to Lure and Kill Iraqis

This is really disgusting. The only thing I would add to the article is the unemployment situation in Iraq, which in some cities reaches over 80%. Thus Iraqis, who are desperate to be able to feed their familes, are killed for finding something on the ground which could be used to buy some respite from hunger. This is what occupation looks like.

Weekly Dave: Kansas City Krackers

This story is a simple illustration of what the Left has been saying all along: political xenophobia of the kind spewing from Congress regarding immigrants turns all too quickly into xenophobic violence.

What merits the Weekly Dave, however, is the news item at the bottom: This same school district suspended a student for the crime of speaking Spanish.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Si me quedo es doble...

The folks at National Review have done me the kind favor of concentrating all the right wing arguments for continuing the occupation of Iraq in one short five-page editorial. I must thank them for providing me with the opportunity to read the essentials of the conservative case without all the ridiculous fluff about freedom and democracy that usually accompanies it Unfortunately, they have declined to post their article online, so I'm forced to give a short summary of their argument.

Their argument can be reduced to three basic points, which supposedly form the nucleus around which a solid case for imperialism can be built. These are 1.) The conflict between al-Qaeda and Sunni tribes in Anbar means that the surge is a military success 2.) We need to stay in Iraq to fight al-Qaeda and 3.) Leaving would precipitate a humanitarian catastrophe. I'll take them in that order.

Given the snorts and grunts of self-satisfaction emanating from Washington over the last few weeks, one would think that in Anbar since the surge they have found both the WMDs and the candy and flowers with which the invaders were supposed to be greeted. As the NR folks say:

Today, al-Qaeda has nearly been routed from Anbar. Its campaign of intimidation, forced marriages, and repressive Islamism backfired...In his surprise Labor Day visit to Iraq, President Bush chose an airfield outside Ramadi for a meeting of his war leaders and the Iraqi government—something inconceivable six months ago.
So apparently the Sunni tribes have agreed to work with the Americans and kick the "terrorists" out of their province and accept the light of democracy from the freedom loving troops, right? Wrong. The residents of Anbar province thoroughly despise the American presence. Since the surge began, the percentage of Iraqis in Anbar who thought the US should leave immediately jumped from forty-nine percent to seventy-six percent. In the same poll, every single respondent from Anbar said that attacks on US troops were perfectly acceptable.

So what has actually happened in Anbar? As the NR boyz note, "The surge slated three additional battalions for Anbar" in early 2007. With an increased US troop presence, local tribal leaders decided it was a better tactic at this point to concentrate on kicking out the takfiris who are attacking their people than to try and attack the just-reinforced US presence. In the process of doing so, the Shaikhs have been more than happy to accept US guns. But this doesn't decrease the hatred Iraqis, and the folks in Anbar in particular, feel for the occupation. In addition, ordinary Anbaris are skeptical of their leaders' collaboration with the Americans, giving them only a 23% confidence rating. In short, none of this conforms whatsoever to the racist right wing myth of the Natives selling out their homeland for whatever trinkets of technology the occupiers can produce.

The second argument for staying, that it is crucial to defeating al-Qaeda is perhaps the most perfidious of the three. The "War on Terror" has never been primarily about terrorism, and the US gov't is not concerned at all about preventing terrorist attacks on the US citizenry. If they were, the first thing they would do is stop invading other peoples' countries and murdering them. Indeed, the 9/11 attacks were an enormous opportunity for the US ruling class to extend its control over oil supplies in the Middle East. I'm not advancing a conspiracy theory here, merely stressing something that is obvious to anyone who's glanced at this country's history: that its rulers don't give a damn for its people. All this to say that they don't really care about fighting al-Qaeda. They care primarily about their defeat insofar as it pertains to the US gaining effective control over Iraq.

That said, it must be further pointed out that the US has been all too willing to encourage al-Qaeda type ideologies in its battle for regional hegemony with Iran. As Patrick Cockburn explained last spring:

The line Bush is taking is actually rather similar to what the people who support al-Qaeda say, which is to blame whatever happens on the Shia side on Iran--to say the Shia are pawns of the Iranians, if not actual Iranians. It’s almost something that could appear on the al-Qaeda Web site, because that’s their argument.

It’s one of the most poisonous conceptions in the Middle East--one which says the Shia in Lebanon and Iraq are just Iranian pawns. It’s going to increase sectarianism in the region, and the smaller Shia minorities are going to be further repressed and victims of terrorist attacks, as they already have been in Pakistan and other places.

In seeking to turn Iraqis against Iran, the US has actually helped to legitimize the Salafist arguments that the Shi'a are mere pawns of an infidel nation. So the NR boyz argument that if we leave we will "enhance the terror group's prestige" is really quite disingenuous. If enhancing the prestige of terror groups is what will effectively block Iran from extending its regional control, then the US is more than willing to do it.

The final, "moral" argument (the shortest of the bunch, it is worth noting) is the most disgusting. It's short enough that I will quote it in full:
V. The Moral Case
THE self-interested reasons to win in Iraq are enough to justify sticking with the surge. But there are compelling moral considerations as well. In almost any other circumstance, many on the left would find these reasons sufficient in their own right to continue our intervention. Without us, there would be more suicide bombings against Shiite targets, ripping apart markets, mosques, and children standing in line to get candy. There would be more Shiite deathsquad killings, with innocent Sunnis abducted, tortured, murdered, and dumped on the streets. The ethnic cleansing already underway would accelerate, and the refugee crisis—2 million Iraqis have fled the country, and 2 million more are displaced internally—would worsen. Forthright opponents of the war admit that a humanitarian catastrophe would follow our pullout. The New York Times editorial page recently conceded that American withdrawal might bring “reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide.” Instead of summoning a ringing call of “never again,” the Times shrugs all this off as the unfortunate price of withdrawal. Barack Obama has explained that we needn’t worry overmuch about genocide in Iraq since we don’t do much to stop it in Africa. As a moral principle, this is perverse. It doesn’t follow from our inability to stop all genocides that we shouldn’t stop them when and where we can—especially in a case where stopping mass slaughter doesn’t require new intervention, but simply the continuation of what we are already doing. We also have a special obligation to Iraq. Unlike in Somalia or Kosovo, where we intervened on humanitarian grounds, we played a direct causal role in bringing about this maelstrom. Yes, Saddam Hussein did much to ruin Iraq, and the country might have fallen apart someday regardless (upon his death or overthrow, for instance). But America picked the day. The Iraqis have paid an enormous price in their struggle to found a new state—and they have paid it at our instigation. Our national honor is therefore implicated. This consideration alone would not justify the cost in blood and treasure that the war extracts, but it is another weight on the scales in favor of finishing what we started.
Note how the pious entreaties to consider the lives of innocent Shi'as and Sunnis gives way at the end to a statement that our national honor is really what counts here. As Nancy MacLean has shown in her brilliant book, Freedom is Not Enough, National Review's roots are in arguing that the Civil Rights Movement should have been met with harsher repression (apparently terrorist bombings and firehoses weren't brutal enough. These are the same people who say we could have won Vietnam if we just would have "untied the arms" of the military.) so I shouldn't be surprised by their moral degeneracy.

The argument itself is specious in the extreme. Take the refugee crisis, for example. While Iraq today is home to the worst refugee crisis on the planet, the NR boyz decline to mention that since the surge began, the rate of ethnic cleansing has actually increased. The number of internally displaced persons doubled since the surge began. The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes every month has gone from 50,000 to 60,000. The refugee crisis is in short a desperate example of why the US must leave now.

The arguments about ethnic strife are similarly disingenuous. As described above, the US is perfectly happy to inflame ethnic hatred against Shi'as if it means countering Iranian designs. Even more chillingly, through the use of "the Salvador option" the US has created an apparatus of Shi'a death squads. These squads were in essence a terror campaign to destroy the initially Sunni-led insurgency. If innocent Sunnis had to die to demobilize the insurgency, the US attitude was basically one of omelettes and eggs. While the failure of the secular left in Iraq is surely part of the reason sectarian identification remains the predominant articulation of political identity, the bulk of the culpability for the crime must lay on US hands. To bring it back the NR boyz, the single greatest blow against the sectarians would be the removal of their greatest sponsor.

To conclude, I realize that there are harder targets than the intellectual flatulence of National Review. However, it's important for our side to take down the talking points of their side. And I'm an implacable polemicist who can't resist easy targets.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Problem with Organized Labor

This news has been breaking recently, noting that this election the AFL-CIO will commit around $53 million to "electing a pro-worker president" and "six pro-worker seats in Congress."

That is to me, dear readers, disgusting. Using statistics from the AFL-CIO website, we can find the highest-ever recorded membership count for the "nation's Union Movement" as 14,070,000 members. This means that even if private sector unionization were at the 1974-5 rate (which I would bet it is not - most numbers put it at around a stunning 8% today), this would amount to $3.77 million per member spent on the Presidential Election. I can't make this up (nor would I, if I wanted to).

What's worse, the union is committing 200,000 "regional organizers" to the task, which no matter how you slice it, means 200,000 less people organizing for the rights of workers across the country. I'll remember that the next time the national union claims understaffing as a reason for not supporting a wildcat strike.

The workingpeople of this country deserve better than $53 million for the hope that a President might listen.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hate Crime: What about the Enablers?

The day after 20,000 people descended on Jena, Louisiana to protest the racist actions against the Jena 6, police in nearby Alexandria arrested two admitted Klansmen (one Klanschild and one adult) for driving around town with two nooses hanging out of the back of their pick up truck in order to intimidate and harass protesters. The 16 year-old told police that his entire family was in the Klan and had KKK tatoos as well as brass knuckles in the vehicle. Following the events in Jena, as well as the obvious implication of the act, one would think that no other charge could be given except that of hate crime. Yet, the police have charged the 18 year-old driver with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" and the passenger with driving while intoxicated. The police report goes to absurd lengths to avoid charging the two with hate crimes as an entry says "Bias Motive: Racial Anti-Black"(another way to say 'hate crime'), leading Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy to say that he is "looking into whether the incident was a hate crime."

Firstly, let's discuss for a moment what hate crimes are:

Hate crimes differ from conventional crime because they are not directed simply at an individual, but are meant to cause fear and intimidation in an entire group or class of people.
Clearly the case of the noose hangings in Jena and Alexandria seek to intimidate a specific group of people, given the painfully recent history of Jim Crow, and the effect, like motyat points out, is instantaneous to anyone who witnesses it. In 1993, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Wisconsin v. Mitchell that
"bias-motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest.... The State's desire to redress these perceived harms provides an adequate explanation for its penalty-enhancement provision over and above mere disagreement with offenders' beliefs or biases. As Blackstone said long ago, 'it is but reasonable that, among crimes of different natures, those should be most severely punished which are the most destructive of the public safety and happiness."
Thus, there can be no doubt that these actions were anything less than hate crimes.

To me, following motyat's post on the Jena 6, the fact that politicians and members of the criminal justice are willfully ignoring the racist nature of these crimes is pivotal for understanding the disgusting manifestations of racism aka the hanging of nooses and the confidence of not only Klansmen, but just racists shits in general, to have the confidence to rear their ugly heads. In the most recent International Socialist Review, an interview with Friends of Justice director Alan Bean, reveals the impact of the Jena District Attorney's dismissal of the act as youthful shenanigans:
The incendiary situation that sparked four days of racial violence in early December in Jena, Louisiana, was created by the very man who is now prosecuting these cases: District Attorney Reed Walters. Had Walters and Superintendent Roy Breithaupt called a hate crime by its proper name, the students of Jena High School wouldn’t have been forced to resolve issues far beyond their competence or understanding.
Short, out of school suspensions are NOT the way to stop racism nor make an example of the perpetrators of blatently racist acts.

Like the bigoted rhetoric of politicians like Rick Santorum gives confidence to gay-bashers that they are justified, or the confidence that anti-immigrant racists like Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs give rise to vigilante violence by groups such as the Minutemen and other extreme right groups, actions by the DA and other public officials who are not willing to take a call a hate crime a hate crime are PART of the problem. As history shows that we can't rely on politicians to end racism, we need to keep fighting like the 20,000 in Jena and other thousands around the rest of the country to end Jim Crow be it from a Klansmen or a politician who gives him the carte blanche.

Poisoned Gift or Second-Hand Present?

Blackwater USA finally went too far. Though they've been committing low-level atrocities outside the jurisdiction of any body with oversight capabilities for some time now, the incident last Sunday that resulted in the deaths of approximately twenty Iraqi civilians appears to have been the final straw. The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior's review, released today, concluded that Blackwater was wholey responsible for the violence, and demanded that they be replaced with Iraqi security companies (a delicious prospect, I must add. Given that the Iraqis overwhelmingly hate the the US occupation, I think that the possibility of key US diplomatic figures being placed under Iraqi care is one that anti-imperialists cannot help but relish).

The US response to this rather rude assertion of Iraqi sovereignty has been, of course, to flatly ignore it. The Yankee occupiers seem to have decided that a week of soul-searching is enough to ensure that Blackwater will cease and desist from such wanton violence in the future. This situation, I think, creates something of a problem for those seeking to blame the occupation's failure on the Iraqi government. While they insist that the al-Maliki government has the power and responsibility to stop sectarian violence, they brazenly inhibit the exercise of Iraqi sovereignty in the most basic areas. Do Iraqis have the power to determine whether insane ex-marines with automatic weapons will operate in their country with no oversight, or do they not? The US has answered decisively in the negative, and in doing so, they have ripped to shreds whatever thin veil of supposed sovereignty with which the occupiers sought to cover their war crimes.

This blatant level of imperial control is interesting, I think, in terms of larger trends in international law in the last century. China Mieville, the Marxist historian and theorist of international law, has described national sovereignty for oppressed nations as "a poisoned gift" (he takes the term from Hardt and Negri.) While on the one hand the removal of the colonial presence is undoubtedly a boon for the colonized, it also exposes starkly the dimension of internal class exploitation which an occupation often hides. At the same time, it casts the liberated country willy-nilly into the Hobbesian world of inter-imperialist rivalries.

Iraq, it seems, received this gift second-hand. The Us has already opened it, and taken all the fun toys, leaving Iraqis with little more than wrapping.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another Blow to Legal Lynching

Another victory in the fight against the death penalty! Yesterday, Tennessee Federal judge Aleta Trauger ruled that the state's method of executing its prisoners, lethal injection, constituted cruel and unusual punishment because the victims were not properly anesthetized. This makes Tennessee the 11th state to block or halt executions based on the nature of lethal injections.

As some of you may remember, last year a California judge ruled that misshandled injections constituted cruel and unusual punishment. According to the judge, "implementation of lethal injection is broken [but] it can be fixed". Following this ruling, in December of 2006 Florida Governor Jeb Bush was forced to halt further lethal injections after the horrific execution of Angel Diaz.

In the Florida case, this is what witnesses had to say about the 'botched' execution

Witnesses said his death took more than twice the usual time - 34 minutes rather than the usual 15.

He needed a second dose of the lethal chemicals as the needles were injected straight through his veins and into the flesh of his arms.

Following the autopsy, the medical examiner concluded the injections had been wrongly administered.

He was found to have large chemical burns on both arms and his lawyer reported that the 55-year-old continued to move and mouth words more than 20 minutes after the initial dose.

Surely, proponents of lethal injection feel that this appalling treatment of human beings can be corrected if the injection is given properly. However, according to a recently published study in the Public Library of Science, lethal injection is NOT humane and can never be.

Execution by lethal injection, even if it uses tools of intensive care such as intravenous tubing and beeping heart monitors, has the same relationship to medicine that an executioner's axe has to surgery.

According to the study, despite the redundancy of the chemicals administered (each is administered in a lethal dose), no government execution is humane nor can it be.
It is not our intention to encourage further research to “improve” lethal injection protocols. As editors of a medical journal, we must ensure that research is ethical, and there is no ethical way to establish the humaneness of procedures for killing people who do not wish to die. Human research to further the ends of governments at the expense of individual lives is an obvious violation of the Declaration of Helsinki, which was conceived largely in response to the atrocities of Nazi “medicine” in order to articulate an international standard for ethical human experimentation. Whatever local law might say in a given place and time, no ethical researcher would propose a study to establish such procedures, no ethical reviewers would approve it, and no ethical journal would publish it. The acceptability of lethal injection under the US Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban on inhumane punishment has never been established; the data presented by Koniaris and colleagues adds to the evidence that lethal injection is simply the latest in a long line of execution methods that have been found to be inhumane. It is time for the US to join the majority of countries worldwide in recognizing that there is no humane way of forcibly killing someone.

Like motyat might say: death penalty apologists, your argument is a nonstarter, and they proved it with science. YAHTZEE.

Welcome to the Dark Ages

The World Health Organization today reported a cholera case which appeared in Baghdad. It might have been bad enough that Iraq is seeing the re-emergence of a disease that is fatal only 1% of the time if treated and nearly nonexistent in developed countries (Wikipedia never lies). But it gets worse: the reason this is even making headlines is that it means that a disease which had been endemic to northern Iraq has spread south.

Why is this acceptable to us? Why does the mainstream media not balk at the fact that cholera should not exist in the modern world, let alone outside of "third world" countries? What's more, the article noted above interviews several who criticize the al-Maliki government for inaction on this point. Where is the criticism of the occupation which is ravaging Iraq so badly that it faces impending epidemic from treatable diseases? The U.S. occupation is the cause of this cholera scare, not the al-Maliki administration.

Shut Up, Congressman

Peter King (R-NY), had this to say, recently:

Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country. There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate. We should be much more aggressive in law enforcement.
This is after August, 2006, where the man proposed using racial profiling openly as a law enforcement tool.

Sounds good to me, Congressman. I think, unfortunately, that we have too many closed offices in this country. There are too many people sympathetic to radical imperialism. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate. We should be much more aggressive in law enforcement. Maybe we could have special checkpoints for middle-aged men of white-ish American descent. Oh, was that racist? I didn't mean it that way. What I meant was that, while not all white men are war criminals, all the most recent war criminals are white men.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hanging from a Hollow Tree

This week is record-breaking in its intensity of racism. It's time to talk about the Jena Six. The assumption for this article is that if you are a regular reader of General, Your Tank is a Powerful Vehicle, you are probably already familiar with the Jena Six, and possibly organizing to support them. If this assumption is not apt, brush up on Jim Crow-era court behavior here.

What concerns me in this article is the recent homogeneity that has appeared in the reaction to activism surrounding the Jena Six. The counterargument to the idea that the Jena Six should be acquitted in self-defense runs as follows: the children who hung the nooses from the "White Tree" to scare off black students (remember, their only crime at this point was to attempt to sit under this tree) "were just playing." It is understandable to doubt that people would actually make this argument, so I provide evidence here and here.

A lot of things could be said at this point. The activist would claim that racism and threats of lynching are not "joking." And she'd be correct. The polemicist would claim that the movement for the freedom of the Jena Six should be blasting the bigots brazen enough to say these things, and he'd be correct, as well.

But this author is a linguist, and so will take those arguments as given, and present a bit of a diversion to point out that there is, theoretically, no such thing as "joking" here. Christopher Potts, a linguist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, has done a lot of work in recent years on "expressives" the class of linguistic items that contains racial epithets. He argues in his work that "expressives do not so much offer content, as inflict it [emphasis mine --MT]." This means that epithets are not simply words that can be used willy-nilly, but instead have more in common with speech acts.

One defining characteristic about a speech act (and particularly the class of items known as expressives) is that it is immediate, which is to say that, once uttered/completed, its impact is immediate, and there is no going back. Potts illustrates this in his paper "The Expressive Dimension" (available here, though it will be hard-going for the non-linguist once Potts deploys his theoretical machinery) with an ingenious anecdote: a newly-instated superintendent at a mixed-race school district nearly loses his job after saying, in the opening of a speech: "To me, niggers come in all colors. To me, a nigger is someone who doesn't respect himself or others."

Potts notes that the superintendent's intentions were pure, and the then asks the question: why was he unable to redefine the meaning of the epithet, as he was trying to do? Here we begin to mix issues for Potts, but the answer is that once he had said the word, the damage was already done. Potts goes on to show, formally, how this notion can and should be captured in theories of natural language semantics/pragmatics.

The point of all this? It's impossible to joke about lynching, as the rebuttals claim. The very act of hanging nooses from the White Tree inflicts its content in the same way that giving the middle finger makes an American driver instantaneously angry, even if meant lovingly. A joke, by nature, needs to have ironic or humorous content associated with it, but it is that very association which is blocked in the immediacy of displaying a noose in a part of the south where memories of KKK lynchings run thick.

And while that was a long digression, let me say this in conclusion to apologists for white-noose-hangers: your argument is a nonstarter, and I just proved it with science.

Who Needs Gas?

This news story is firing all over the wires as you point your browsers to GYTIAPW, dear readers, and it scares me to death. Let's make Derrida proud and do a bit of deconstructing:

Under a plan proposed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel would disrupt electrical supplies, reduce fuel shipments to a bare minimum to run hospital generators, and choke off shipments of goods to allow only essential food and medicine to enter Gaza. In addition, it will continue military operations "against terror organizations."
Disrupting electrical supplies, fuel shipments, and food/medicine, huh? Let's set aside for a moment the ever-present horror of how what Israel says is going through checkpoints never actually does. Even assuming that Israel allows "the minimum" of these things into Gaza, it still sounds eerily to me like something I've read about elsewhere. But never fear, Gazans! It's not all bad:
The ministers, however, voted not to disrupt the water supply to Gaza, the home of 1.4 million Palestinians.
Oh, how gracious of you, Israel. Especially considering that Gaza already suffers from a massive water crisis. I guess you cannot disrupt what does not exist.

Finally, let's talk about this textbook example of what would get you a Weekly Dave, had I not already handed it out this week:
An Israeli government statement said, "The Hamas organization is a terror organization that seized control of the Gaza Strip and turned into a hostile area. This organization carries out hostile actions against the state of Israel and its citizens and are responsible for this activity."
I just want to remind readers that Hamas was democratically elected. But even barring that for a moment, the comment about Gaza's citizens being responsible for Gaza's actions, while standard rhetoric for Israel, simply proves my point. So at this point, I will claim QED.

This is just further proof that Israel's actions, both in Gaza and the West Bank, constitute massive human rights violations. This latest move is, I say again, collective punishment. We need to organize and fight it, before there's no Gaza left.

Sometimes Dems Make it Easy

The authors on this blog can easily be, and often are, berated by mainstream liberals for our unflinching criticism of the Democratic Party. With catchphrases like "the graveyard of social movements" (imagine what we call our significant others, with pet names like that!), it's no wonder that in both 2000 and 2004 the three of us constituted three more votes for G.W.

But sometimes, the Democratic Party makes our jobs easy. One of those times was when two of the authors were thrown out of Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)'s office during a rally because our Palestinian flag "made the issue too real for constituents." Another one of those moments was when Howard Dean attempted to remove my friend from a dinner and Q&A session despite the fact that my friend had been instrumental to bringing Dean to Cornell. His crime? Being associated with a group of hair-brained radicals who dropped a banner demanding Dean take a stand on the Iraq war.

And then there's this newest development. University of Florida police officers tasered a student for asking too many questions. Interesting is that while the University of Florida President has apologized for the incident (which makes sense, since UCLA got slammed for similar actions), the Kerry orgainzation has made, to my knowledge, no comment about the incident, or even the shutting-off of the student's microphone when he asked about black voter disenfranchisement, which provoked the incident.

The conclusion here? Like Michael Moore, true activists or lefties asking real questions are personae non gratae from the Democratic Party. While I understand the draw of the Party in the 2008 elections to voters tired of eight years of Republican autocracy, and am happy to organize with these people here and into the future, I think we can do much better.Publish Post

Monday, September 17, 2007

Remembering Brown v. Board (The Weekly Dave)

This author has been MIA recently because of a move across country, but now has working internet, and managed to hang his six-foot posted of Lenin the other day, so writing for General, Your Tank... can now resume with all due diligence.

With that, here's this week's Weekly Dave. The Tuscaloosa School District responded to complaints about overcrowding by forcibly moving hundreds of minority students. Congratulations, folks, for being so racist that even the New York Times had to analogize your actions to George Wallace's.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Assessing Anbar

Gary Langer on Anbar-

Withdrawal timetable aside, every Anbar respondent in our survey opposed the presence of American forces in Iraq - 69 percent “strongly” so. Every Anbar respondent called attacks on coalition forces “acceptable,” far more than anywhere else in the country. All called the United States-led invasion wrong, including 68 percent who called it “absolutely wrong.”

Greenspan: It's About Oil

Alan Greenspan, apparently afraid of being dragged down to Hades with the deaths of 1.2 million Iraqis on his conscience, has decided that revealing the long lost secret of the occupation of Iraq will save him from eternal hellfire. The only analogous situation I can imagine would be if Anna Nicole Smith had revealed shortly before she died that she had, in fact, married for the money. Open secrets once revealed do not souls cleanse. In other words, Greenspan is still going to hell, though we here at the Tank do greatly appreciate his candor.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Two Blows Against Criminal Justice in America

Following right on the heels of Kenneth Foster's amazing victory against the Texas death machine we have another two strikes against America's justice system. First, Mychal Bell's last remaining conviction was tossed out by a Louisiana judge today, and second, death row prisoner (and law of parties victim) Joseph Lave had his conviction reversed. The victory in Foster's case has pretty clearly both given heart to anti-racist struggles (like the Howard University rally for Mychal and the Jena 6) and forced prosecutors back on their heels. The next step is to push them over.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Democratic Presidential Hopeful: "Americans are fatter, dumber"

So, I've never heard of this guy before, but ex-Alaska Senator Mike Gravel during a Slate sponsored debate moderated by Bill Maher had those choice words for John and Jane Q voter. I'm sure if all Americans had access to the educational health care benefits granted to the offspring of a US senator, things would be different (in fact for every 'limousine insurance' receiving US senator there are approximately 500,000 people without ANY health insurance). Or the fact that the US legislature is probably the only institution in the country that gets to vote to increase its salary while millions of Americans have to live with the woefully inadequate minimum wage. In fact, Congress increased its own salary nearly 10 times between the previous increase in the minimum wage and the most recent.

Especially enraging to me is that this wanker's own party, the one from which he is seeking nomination for the presidency, has gone hand in hand with every measure coveted by the Bush administration, be it No Child Left Behind or continuing to fund and cheer lead the war that is depriving students and families much needed health and educational opportunities (not to mention killing them). He has the gall to suggest that much of the blame rests on 'lazy' teachers who don't work the entire year like 'every else' and that what we need are 'super teachers' who are willing to put in the extra effort. Now, I agree that teachers have a pivotal role in education, but it is hardly their fault that the Democrats and Republicans have gutted public schools from after school programs and subsidized lunches to slashing student aid at the university level while denying pensions all the live long day.

I'm sorry Mister Gravel, but I think you might want to do some reading yourself. As far as obesity, maybe if we had subsidized healthy food for people who can't afford them? I don't see the Democrats chomping at the bit to expand food stamps, WIC, or any other such programs. Oh wait, his party SUPPORTED Bush's 2005 budget that threw some 300,000 people off of food stamps. Perhaps if McDonald's and other fast food locations weren't the cheapest food and easiest solution for families that work too many hours to make meals, like the ex-Senators cleaning staff probably do, I'm sure that some changes could be made.

Interestingly enough, I find myself agreeing with Gravel's closing statement: You can't trust your politicians. They won't make change on their own.

The Inevitable Condescension of Ideology

They really think we're morons, don't they? Get a couple of well-groomed Iraqi kids in front of a camera, and it's instant evidence that the Iraqis want us to stay.

Nevermind, of course, that all evidence is to the contrary.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Solidarity Letter to a Victim of Michael Vick

From Counterpunch:

A Solidarity Letter to a Victim of Michael Vick

By Pius Adesanmi

Dear Comrade Dog,

Greetings from Al-Janna. Before you start wondering where on earth I’m writing you from, Al-Janna is not on earth. It is that place of infinite bliss where Muslims who serve Allah faithfully and adhere strictly to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon Him) during their lifetime go to enjoy eternal life. It is similar to what your American owners call paradise in their evangelical Christian religion. I arrived here last week with all my limbs missing but I am happy all the same that I have finally escaped the Jahannam that your American owners have made of my country, Iraq. I hope you do not pronounce it Airak like your owners. That’s infuriating! It is ee-r-a-k!!!

Lest I forget, Jahannam is the place of eternal damnation in my religion, something like that place they call hell in the Bible of your Christian owners. Your owners may know it as Gehenna if they are Americans of Jewish extraction. Hundreds of my brothers and sisters, my people back in Iraq, arrive here daily bearing tales of women and children in a hurry to get out of the American Jahannam in Iraq and join us here in Al-Janna. How did I get here? Well, we were at my cousin’s wedding, making merry. Next thing I know, a blast and we all vaporized, all hundred guests, including the bride and the groom. Every gathering in today’s Iraq is suspicious in the eyes of an Occupier whose psyche is held hostage by the T word. The only two things the Occupier does not find suspicious are the smell and the sight of oil. Sometimes he even finds himself suspicious, opens fire on himself, and calls it friendly fire. The word on the street is that they suspected our innocent wedding party, called in attack helicopters and a few bunker-busting smart bombs were dropped on us. Anyway, that’s a minor detail of daily life in Iraq. It is really not newsworthy.

But I digress! I apologize. I’ve become quite garrulous and wordy since I got here. This letter is not about me. It is a letter of solidarity and commiseration. News travels fast and I have recently received news from American Muslim arrivals here of your near-death experience in the hands of that barbaric African American football player, Michael Vick, who, I hear, has been declared guilty by the American public before his trial on charges of sponsoring and facilitating dog fighting. The NFL is already making a lot of noise about the distance they have put between themselves and Mr. Vick. Nike has cancelled endorsement deals. Animal-loving, placard-carrying protesters are having a field day. I hear his alleged participation in this primitive, crude, and backward practice has provided a legitimate excuse to call him all kinds of names that would have been considered unacceptable racial and racist slurs had the circumstances been different.I hear that in the society of your owners, it is always welcome for the occasional person of colour to commit a horrible faux pas that could constitute a convenient and legit veneer for the public explosion of secretly-held, long-suppressed prejudices. Now, why would Michael Vick go and do something like this? Something this barbaric, almost lifted out of the practices of his folks in the heart of darkness. I guess your owners are by now murmuring that it is not always easy to take the African jungle out of the African American. Three centuries of trying to inoculate Vick against the primordial barbarity of his African origins and see where we are at!

But I digress again. I am beginning to suspect my own digressions. Remember I’ve only just escaped an enclave of destructive suspicion. It’s too early to expect coherence from me given the incoherent world I’ve just left behind. This letter is not about Michael Vick either. I don’t care about him and I hope he gets his just desserts if proven guilty. This letter is about you. First, I am sorry to hear about all you went through. The details have been graphic and gory. To be raised and trained for the sole purpose of tearing at and destroying your own kind just for the gain, pride, and pleasure of man is an unfathomable fate. Man! What a traitor! What a betrayer! What a way to repay his best friend! You who have served him so faithfully, so absolutely ever since his accursed ancestors domesticated you. If he is a hunter, you helped him in his profession; if he is a shepherd, you’re on duty almost 24/7, rallying the sheep and keeping predators at bay; if he is blind, you’re trained to be his eyes; if he has kids, you play with them; if he is lonely, you keep him company. If he is attacked or approached by strangers, you bark your lungs out, ready to lay down your life for him. I can go on and on. What have you not done for man? You never ask for gold in return. You never ask for silver. You just serve him selflessly. Yet he trains you to turn on on your own?

Given your location in America, I can only ask you to be comforted by the knowledge that the best animal health care delivery service in the world will be mobilized round the clock to take care of your physical scars and injuries. Be comforted by the fact that while they can live with the idea of over 40 million of their fellow citizens being too poor to afford health insurance, Americans will not tolerate, even for a second, an imperfect animal health care system. Be comforted by the knowledge that the world’s best trained dog psychologists, dog therapists, dog masseurs, and dog whisperers will be mobilized to take care of your emotional scars. Take comfort in the fact that American dog dieticians will also intervene with numerous prescriptions of a restorative diet. Academics may even write postmodernist tomes about your experience and the construction of trauma. If you’re a female dog, God help Mr. Vick! The radical feminist establishment may join the fray against him. And if he hasn’t done it yet, it won’t be long before White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow, calls a press conference to condemn Vick and offer you presidential commiseration. Last time a dog died in the White House, Ari Fleischer, one of Mr. Snow’s predecessors, called an international press conference to announce the death of that presidential dog. We laughed then in Iraq and wondered about the strange customs of Americans. We even heard that some Republican friends of President Bush called for a probe to ascertain whether the terrorists were somehow responsible for the death of that presidential pet. You know how rumors tend to fly around in seasons of madness.

In essence, I am happy that you will soon be restored to a life that most poor Americans – especially the folks in the hood, in barrios, in Reservations, etc – cannot even imagine possible. If no one has thought of it, I will even suggest you spend a convalescent year at that famous Manhattan five star pet hotel where Hollywood royalty and America’s rich and famous check in their pets whenever they are in New York. Mr. Vick should, of course, be made to cover your expenses as part of his process of redemption. We can’t possibly expect your owners to pay, knowing that they also suffered terrible emotional pain when you got lost the last time they went strolling with you in the park, only for you to end up in Mr. Vick’s hound harem. Come to think of it, I ought to be careful using the word owners. The relationship between you and your human family in America is not exactly that of ownership. You are a bona fide member of the family, on equal footing with the children of your human Dad and Mom. Sometimes you are more important than their children, your human siblings. At least it looks that way to anyone viewing that culture from the unimplicated location of the outside observer. Where they opt not to have or adopt children, it goes without saying that you are their child. It is not inconceivable for you to be the sole beneficiary of their will, in which case you inherit millions and humans act as trustees on your behalf. It is against this background that the enormity of Mr. Vick’s heinous crimes can be appreciated.

Everything happens for a purpose. I want you to consider your ordeal in the hands of Mr. Vick as the ultimate act of commitment to the cause and salvation of the American public. Your story almost follows the script of the life of Jesus Christ, the only difference being that he actually did die for the salvation of sinful man. If you look closely at things, both of you were persecuted and tortured and both processes were salvational in man’s behalf. You see, before your ordeal, the rest of the world had given up on the American public. If your human Dad and Mom are neoconservatives or fringe, extremist evangelicals, you must be familiar with the rhetoric that the rest of the world needs to have its head examined since America, by nature, can do no wrong. The rest of the world may have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, America is the one perfect exemption. In line with a national fetish, I am sure you have not failed to notice American flags in every room, every square inch of your home. One is attached to the family car. I’m sure they did not forget to put a star-spangled banner in your kennel.

Have I digressed one last time? Sorry. I was talking about the rest of the world giving up on the American public. You see, in the last couple of years, hundreds of thousands of people – yes, we must keep insisting that the Other is people until the American public accepts that fact – have perished in Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq through policies and practices either directly authored and supervised by America’s rulers or approved and funded by them. I am not going to talk about Latin America and Africa. This mass murder of civilians is carried out with the tax of the American public in behalf of the American tax payer. Yet, the rest of the world has watched with utter amazement the seemingly infinite inability of the American public to be outraged by the mass murders committed in its name in the places I’ve mentioned. No one is spared. You already know how I got here. Women, children, and other innocent, non-combatant civilians whose only crime is to have been born in parts of the world blessed with resources coveted by American capitalism.

The rest of the world has watched in disbelief and wondered how a people could go about its myriad quotidian preoccupations with so much insouciance, not a teeny-weeny thought is accorded the horrible fact that somewhere, every second, somebody is being bombed to maintain what American rulers like to call “our way of life”. So, the rest of the world concluded that either the American public has lost the capacity for human empathy or it is governed by conceptions of the human that the rest of us just cannot understand. We concluded that this public’s benchmark for the expression of collective, humanizing outrage is beyond our understanding. Or maybe the American public has ways of determining who qualifies to be a mournable human and such parameters that they have established exclude the Palestinian, the Afghan, the Iraqi, and so many Others. The American public’s insouciance has led us to a moral question we could never have imagined possible: in the event of death, especially violent and needless death, who is a non-mournable human? And we are not alone in giving up. Unable to snap them out of their slumber and insouciance, Cindy Sheehan, the American anti-war activist who got a taste of Iraqi life when she lost her son needlessly to the war, also gave up on her own people and retired from an apparently pointless conscientization cause.

Then comes your ordeal in the hands of Mr. Vick and we discover, to our pleasant surprise, that the American public is endowed with the ability to express public outrage and emotion in the face of the Other’s tragedy! Dear friend, your experience has bestowed on you the exceptional privilege of being the vehicle for the renewed faith of the rest of humanity in the ability of the American public to recognize horror and react to it the way the rest of us do. This letter is already looking like a dream. Dreams, I know, are not the exclusive preserve of the Reverend Martin Luther King, that great American who, were he not in the Christian paradise today, would have been horrified by his compatriots’ self-sedation in the face of civilian massacres in Iraq. Now that this somnambulistic public has shown so much outrage on account of Mr. Vick’s inhuman treatment of you, my comrade and friend, I dare to dream:

that one day, an Iraqi civilian life taken in cold blood by American bombs will elicit half, no, a quarter of the noise Americans have shown themselves capable of making on account of their maltreated dogs.that one day, an Afghan baby’s life, wasted as collateral damage by American-controlled NATO forces, will elicit half, no, a quarter of the decibels Americans have supplied thus far in behalf of yourself and your fellow victims of Mr. Vick.

that one day, a Palestinian woman’s life, taken in cold blood by bombs bought with American subventions, will elicit half, no, a quarter of the noise Americans will continue to make whenever their pets experience trauma.

that one day, when the worth of these people’s lives has equaled a quarter of the worth of the lives of America’s dogs in the eyes of the American people, a future generation of Americans will arrive to increase that worth to half; and other successive generations of Americans will add gradual value to our lives until that generation of Americans arrives, hundreds of years from now, that will actually believe and be seen to actually and truly believe that the Other is people too.

A Your human comrade,Pius Adesanmi

Pius Adesanmi is Associate Professor of English and Director, Project on New African Literatures (PONAL), Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tragedy Reveals Hypocrisy of Police VIolence

So, two Oklahoma police officers face up to (and most likely will receive) up to four years in prison for the accidental shooting death of a five year old child. Apparently the officers tried to kill a snake with their gun and the bullet ricocheted and hit the child in the head. This is awful and tragic and the cops were clearly negligent. However, to me this creates a positive precedent that is woefully ignored when, for instance, the victim is black or brown and the shooting is intentional. Not to capitalize on this incident or anything, but this truly shows the bankruptcy and racism of the criminal justice system : accidentally shoot white kid = prison. Intentionally shoot or beat black person (or legally lynch them with the death penalty) = walk, scot free.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Stadium Workers Win!

The janitorial staff from Camden Yards who started a hunger strike last Monday demanding the city mandated living wage of $11.30 after three years of trying to get an increase won!.

The true priorities (if they were ever in doubt) of the owners, expressed by one of the 2 board members who voted against the increase, expressed his only concern about the potential rise Ravens ticket prices. Disgusting. Maybe it will kill you and bankrupt your crummy team if you have to sacrifice the profits made off of 5 $7 beers to guarantee that your workers can afford to live and eat. I doubt it.

On a brighter note, this most recent in a series of strike victories begs the unavoidable question: Is this the awakening of the labor movement?

Vive la RĂ©sistance

Two excellent articles arguing that the resistance is right. Scott Ritter on Common Dreams, and David Swan at the Black Agenda Report. Ritter, a former Marine, is worth quoting:

"We are occupying their homeland. We are violating their sovereignty. We are butchering, abusing and torturing their citizens. Our continued presence is an affront to the socio-economic-political fabric that is (or was) Iraqi society. If someone occupied my hometown in the same manner Americans occupy Iraq, I’d be killing them any way I could. And I would be called a hero by my own people."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Heideman: Fuck Lou Dobbs

That's right. I'm talking about this guy. Fuck 'em.

My favorite part of the article is where Lou refers to Mexico as "the Great Imperialist." Interesting description, especially when it is contrasted with the United States. Where did Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico come from again?

There's also the wonderful section where Dobbs argues that the US spends too much already helping Mexico. Given that any number of US stores rely on Mexican sweatshops and maquiladoras for the assembly of their products, it's hardly surprising that we have a trade deficit with Mexico. Furthermore, many of the products we sell down there, like corn, are so heavily subsidized by Washington that their resulting cheap price utterly skews the comparison. Needless to say, neither of these phenomena which generate the trade deficit are in any way beneficial to the Mexican people.

Dobbs also says plenty of racist nonsense, like " Even by Mexico's standards, Calderon's blatant hypocrisy is breathtaking." I was unaware that Mexicans are known for their hypocrisy.

Overall, I think the most notable fact about the article is the air of crisis Dobbs maintains. "Felipe Calderon...demanded the United States surrender its sovereignty, abandon the rule of law and accede to Mexico's inherent supremacy." You can read the full text of Calderon's speech here. I assure you it contains nothing of the sort. Dobb's hysteria is a cover for the empty core of his argument. There is no immigration crisis. As Reason, a right-wing libertarian publication, points out, even if you accept the racist logic of assimilation that the debate is framed in, Latino immigrants learn to speak English quite quickly, have lower crime rates, and don't exhibit any problems that weren't associated with Italians, Jews, or the Irish when they started arriving. My favorite quote is "It's hard to tell U.S.-born kids to assimilate while you're treating their parents like outlaws." In short, the hysterical tone is necessary for Dobbs to sell his case that immigrants are somewhere, somehow, causing this country harm. It's a malicious lie, and it kills.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

2 Years After Katrina

Today's Democracy Now! has some great coverage of the tragic state of affairs two years after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast: Public housing is still closed (even when it was never even touched by flood waters), golf courses to be built in the hood, and trailers full of fermaldahyde fumes. Bush is doing nothing (obviously) nor FEMA, nor Ray Nagen.

The tragedy continues, but residents are fighting back. They've occupied the Public Housing Authority. Check out what's going on on the ground.

PS The Curtis Mohammed interview at the end is interesting. He started organizing for SNCC at 18 and has been a radical activist since. Now, his anger with the collapse of the Left over the past 30 years to the point where all that progressive America, in his words, can offer is reformism and writing/lobbying our representatives has led him to decide to leave the country in disgust. His main argument is that COINTELPRO and government attacks on the cadre of the revolutionary and non-liberal far left have been chiseled away to the point that they are non-existent now.

I think we should discuss this more so and I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts. I'd write more now, but I have to hit the hay. More coming tomorrow.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Strike One for Camden Yards Workers

Sports Illustrated has reported recently that temporary workers who clean Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore plan on initiating a hunger strike on Labor Day if the city refuses to pay them a living wage.

The United Workers Association, a Baltimore based human rights organization founded by homeless day laborers that represents 800 cleaners at the park, announced that 11 workers and 3 allies will be participating as the workers make $7 an hour instead of the the city's living wage rate of $9.62 an hour because the stadium is state owned, and thus exempt from the law. This demand is incredibly modest considering that Maryland law mandates that state government contractors in the Baltimore area pay their employees $11.30 an hour, yet the company has found a loop hole that exempts them from providing this wage to temporary workers. According to SI, "the stadium authority has contracted janitorial services to a Michigan firm, which uses subcontractors that hire the temporary workers." Gee wiz, can you say Clean Power? (A subcontractor of janitors in the Southern Wisconsin area that used similar tactics as well as intimidation in order to prevent the unionization of its temporary workers who earned well below the living wage.)

The biggest hypocrisy in this situation, as sportswriter Dave Zirin has argued time and time again, is that states are willing to spend 100s of millions of dollars to build domed arenas in the US with taxpayer dollars (the majority of whom could never afford to attend a game especially if they're making minimum wage). This disgusting example of corporate welfare and it's consequences can be seen from the slave-like conditions of these workers to the diverting of highway/infrastucture funding to certain wars and occupations. *cough cough* Katrina, Minneapolis.

Given the low levels of unionization in the US today, the appallingly low levels of access to quality healthcare, and the embarrassingly low minimum wage (all of which have not been addressed fully by the Dems since November despite the obvious 'mandate'), I wouldn't be surprised if we see more militancy among non-union workers like . Si se puede!

No Rest for the Wicked

It seems like only yesterday that the New York Times was apologizing for its role in leading the country to war in Iraq (of course, this apology came only after it was abundantly clear to the US ruling class that the war was being lost). Yet here they are, at it once more with that admirable level of bloodthirsty vigor required of a major newspaper in the empire. Let's take a moment to examine in detail some of the ways this report blurs reality to make the case for war with Iran.

My favorite example is the paragraph dealing with "the Green Salt Project:"

One involves what Western intelligence officials say is a secretive Iranian entity called the Green Salt Project, which worked on uranium processing, high explosives and a missile warhead design. They suspect links between Green Salt and Iran’s ostensibly peaceful nuclear program. If that evidence were substantiated, it would undercut Iran’s assertions that its program’s sole aim is producing electrical power.
Note the several layers of ambiguity in this paragraph. First, the existence of the project is asserted by Western intelligence. It is not substantiated fact. Then they suspect links between this alleged weapons program and Iran's nuclear program. Then, for the kicker, the Times goes on to speculate about how if these allegations were proved it would damage Iran's credibility. One could write about 9/11 conspiracy theories in a similar fashion:
One theory involves what many professors say is a secret plot by the US gov't, which seeks to manufacture any excuse for leading the country into war. They suspect Vice President Cheney ordered the Air Force not to shoot down the planes, allowing them to crash into their targets. If their allegations are correct, it would seriously undercut Cheney's credibility with the American public.
The unspoken consequences at the end of the paragraphs are key in both quotes. In the first, the ramifications would clearly go beyond a simple disproof of Iranian claims. It would lay all the groundwork Washington needed for an attack on Iran. In the second, proof of Cheney's culpability on 9/11 would also clearly go beyond a simple loss of trust. The real advocacy in both cases is kept hidden, but its absence is so glaring that it can't help but be read. This warmongering fits in well with the timetable Juan Cole exposed for a media blitz around Iran this Labor Day.

For an alternate perspective on Iran and the bomb, check out the Asia Times' reporting.