Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Times of Harvey Milk

The complete documentary of Harvey Milk's life, political life, assassination, and the trial of Dan White from the 1980s. It's available for free online. Everyone should see this. A great companion to 'Milk'.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BONO WATCH: U2 drummer slams Bono's "war criminal" friends

Bono gets it from his own bandmate:

drummer and friend Larry Mullen Jnr said: "Tony Blair is a war criminal and I think he should be tried as a war criminal.

"Then I see Bono and him as pals and I'm going, 'I don't like that.'

"Do I think George Bush is a war criminal? Probably - but the difference between him and Tony Blair is that Blair is intelligent. So he has no excuse for what he did."
Best case scenario: U2 finally breaks up.

Israeli boat rams relief boat to Gaza

Alonger post to come on the current Israeli slaughter of Palestinians (over 360 killed in three days) tomorrow (since I don't have work). But, just to keep folks in the loop, here are some helpful articles. If people haven't checked lately, Israeli ships have rammed a boat carrying humanitarian aid (doctors, food, medicine), journalists, and former US Representative Cynthia McKinney when it tried to land in Gaza.

Here's an interesting interview with a Lakhdar Brahimi from the Nation.

Electronic Intifada
has had great coverage as well.

And a great article from Socialist Worker.

Since Israel and its US backers dominate the organs of information production in the US, wading through the racist drivel and spineless apologism can be tedious, but these links are a good start at getting a real idea of what's going on.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Or, Forrest Gump, Part II

This was not a matter of one's inevitable mortality, of a man going round taking names: it is one thing to know that you are going to die, and something else to know that you may be murdered.
-James Baldwin, J
ust Above My Head

Last night I went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" with my family. I knew little about the film, save that it was about a man who aged backwards, starred Cate Blanchett, and was directed by David Fincher. I thought this provided a decent enough basis for a good movie. I was wrong.

"Benjamin Button" is an awful movie. It it sentimental, mythologizing garbage. Ostensibly concerned with examining the meaning of death, loss, and love, the movie can only deal with these issues in the most milquetoast manner possible, as it evades every aspect of history that makes them matter.

The film begins in New Orleans in 1918, with a blind clockmaker (actually it begins in a modern day hospital in a framing narrative. However, this narrative is completely undeveloped and nonsensical, so I am going to be ignoring it here). The clockmaker has just lost his son in World War I, and has retreated to his workshop to design his masterpiece. When it is finally completed and hung in the New Orleans train station, those present at the ceremony are astounded to see the clock runs backwards. The clockmaker explains that he designed it as such in hopes that he could run time backwards and bring back the boys lost in the war so they could live full lives. This moment is the most significant engagement with history in the film; it's all downhill from here.

Soon afterward we see an Armistice Day celebration. A man rushes home to find his wife dying after giving birth. The child is deformed, he looks like an eighty five year old man. Panicking, the husband dumps the child on the doorstep of an elder care home run by an African American woman, Queenie.

Queenie sees the child, and adopts him, naming him Benjamin. Benjamin spends his childhood in Queenies' elder care home, thus growing up with death as a regular and unremarkable part of life.

This is where the movie's evasions begin. To begin with, there is no hint of racial tension in the New Orleans of Benjamin's youth. At one point, we see Benjamin and an African man he has befriended riding the city public transportation. White and Black sit together comfortably in the same seat in the same section of the train. At one point, the African man even makes a point of frightening some white children, with not the slightest hint of reprisal from the trolley driver or any other white citizen. All of this harmony on the trains in the city of Homer Plessy.

Queenie runs a nursing home taking care of mostly white clients. Though it's never explicitly stated, Queenie appears to be the proprieter of the establishment, making her decidedly wealthier than the majority of inhabitants of the city. That white seniors would hand themselves over to a middle class Black woman is simply a ridiculous premise. It is one thing to have Black maids; it is quite another for whites to patronize Black businesses.

Queenie's character is one of the film's most offensive. She is, to put it bluntly, a mammy. She is a Black woman whose only real purpose seems to be to take care of white people. Her dialect is ridiculous. The audience, of course, is encouraged to laugh at this vile archetype as she dispenses folksy wisdom. At multiple points in the film, she is giving advice to Benjamin and he dismisses her with a curt wave of the hand. Black people are funny, it seems, as long as they know when to shut up.

Benjamin continues growing up (or down) and joins a tugboat crew. His travels eventually take him to Murmansk, Russia, before the Second World War. During the entire period he is in Russia, the film gives not the slightest hint that Benjamin is in the Soviet Union. There's a brief reference to his hotel, the "Winter Palace," but it's unclear whether the film has any consciousness of the significance of this name. The Soviet Union is as equally vacant of history as New Orleans.

Soon the tugboat gets orders to become a military ship, and its crew is drafted. Here we meet Queenie's only rival for the film's most offensive character: Dennis Smith, "a full blooded Cherokee" whose family, Benjamin reminds us, had been in America more than five hundred years. Dennis loves America more than any other character in the movie, even treating us to a nice explanation of why pacifism is wrong: "You have these pacifists. They say they won’t fight on conscience. Where would we be if everybody decided to act according to their conscience?"

Dennis' family may have been in the United States for a long time, but they probably wouldn't have been citizens until 1924 when Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act. Given that Dennis is a Chief Gunner in the movie, he probably was not a US citizen until he was four or five, despite his family's length of residence. His parents were probably alive for the 1879 Standing Bear trial, before which Native Americans weren't even legally human beings. That the film would choose a Native American in the 1940s for its representative of American patriotism is disgusting. It was at this point that I decided I hated the movie.

If Benjamin Button's erasure of history sounds familiar, it's because it is. It was done in much the same way 14 years ago in "Forrest Gump." The similarity between the two movies became glaring partway through, and when I got home I found out that they were both written by the same person, Eric Roth.

Comparing the Benjamin Button to Forrest Gump is not a compliment. Gump is, as H. Bruce Franklin likes to say "one of the worst movies, ever!" Vietnam is a scary jungle that shoots at nice American boys who happen to be walking through it. Vietnam Vets are spat on and called baby killers by antiwar activists. And to top it all off, the film's protagonist is constitutionally incapable of understanding history or his place in it. He bumbles his way through some of the most important episodes of American history, reassuring us that it isn't important to understand the world in order to change it.

Gump and Button also share a specific archetype: the slut who must be punished. In Gump, it's Jenny, Gump's childhood friend who becomes a sexually promiscuous hippie. The film punishes her, quite sadistically, with abusive boyfriends, drug abuse, and finally cancer. In Gump's world, women who stray from their place deserve no quarter.

The same is true in Button. Here it's Daisy, Button's childhood friend, who goes on to become a dancer in Paris and Manhattan. We learn of her scandalous sexual activity in her dance troupe, and when Benjamin visits her she has the audacity to dance with and kiss another man. Like Jenny, she must be punished. A car accident shatters her leg, ending her dance career.

Like Gump, Benjamin Button's evacuation of history results in the film being utterly unable to deal with the issues it raises. The film is a tear jerker for its sentimental lessons about loving life no matter what cards you are dealt, and learning how death makes life valuable. This is standard stuff. But as Baldwin reminds us, there is all the difference in the world between dying and being murdered. Countless characters in the film die of old age after leading fulfilling lives doing what they love. There is not much to be learned about how to love life from studying this.

It would be a far more interesting film that explored how to love a life marked by the bitterness that is cultivated by what human beings can do to each other. Would we be so eager to celebrate Queenie's life if hers had resembled at all that lived by most African Americans in early twentieth century New Orleans? What joie de vivre is produced among les damnés de la terre? This is an emotional and intellectual project worth doing. The length of this review is warranted not by the film's worth, but by the importance of the questions it evades. How we can keep the bitterness that grows out of oppression from consuming our lives is not merely a worthwhile project, it is a necessary one.

Monday, December 22, 2008

One Bank... Two Years Later

A few comrades of mine update the infamous "One Bank" song.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Support Israeli Conscientious Objectors

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gordon Brown Channels William Westmoreland

"The enemy achieved none of his offensive goals in Vietnam. Indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks on populated centers and costly attacks on remote outposts were all he could show for his highly propagandized military efforts. The Tet offensive had the effect of a "Pearl Harbor"; the South Vietnamese government was intact and stronger; the armed forces were larger, more effective, and more confident; the people had rejected the idea of supporting a general uprising; and enemy forces, particularly those of the Viet Cong, were much weaker."
-General William C. Westmoreland, June 30th, 1968, "Report on the War in Vietnam."

"It's been a hard year for our soldiers but it's been a much harder year for our enemies, who found they cannot defeat us."
-Gordon Brown, 2008

What can one do but laugh in the face of such relentless delusion? Especially when it emanates from the mouths of imperial overlords such as these. I'm reminded of the US military's constant invocation of the metaphor "there's a light at the end of the tunnel" in the months leading up to Tet. After Tet, it was widely remarked that the light was an oncoming train. Let's hope Messrs. Brown and co. catch theirs soon.

Indeed, there are some salient points of comparison between Vietnam immediately post-Tet and Afghanistan today. The Tet Offensive left the National Liberation Front in control of almost the entire South Vietnamese countryside. Regaining control of the countryside had been one of the key goals of the Americanization of the war from 1965 onwards, and had actually achieved some success in allowing the puppet government of South Vietnam to extract taxes and rent from rural areas. After Tet this progress was entirely reversed. A State Department working paper from March 3 reported that "our control of the countryside and the defense of urban levels is now essentially at pre-August 1965 levels."

The occupiers of Afghanistan today face a similar situation in some respects. While there has been no decisive push among the neo-Taliban, they now have a permanent presence in 72% of the country. As in South Vietnam, the central government has been reduced to running administrative functions in the capital city.

The recent spate of extremely successful attacks on the occupiers' convoys is also reminiscent of Vietnam. During Tet, the NLF claimed to have successfully destroyed 1,800 American and ARVN aircraft. One NLF spokesperson explained the impact of this destruction of matériel on American forces:

The result in lowered U.S military efficiency was immediately lack of coordination between American and Saigon forces; lack of coordination between their own ground units and between ground units and air support; and frequently a total absence of support for platoons and company-sized units caught in our ambushes.
Although the Taliban have not yet been able to to directly destroy the instruments of American warmaking in this fashion, their consistent attacks on supply convoys are going to result in "horrendous problems" for the occupiers, according to defense analyst Ikram Sehgal.

Though the similarities between the military weakness of the occupiers in both Vietnam and Afghanistan are striking, the political differences between the periods could not be starker. In the US, the antiwar movement is extremely weak at the moment, having been without national expression for over a year. While opposition to the war remains high, there is simply no organized expression of it.

This lack becomes crucial when we compare it with 1968, when a highly visible and confident antiwar movement was able to make significant inroads into the American military, so that by the 1970s one could not speak of one without the other. Today we are far from this position. While Iraq Veterans Against the War does brilliant and courageous work, it is not a substitute for a broad, visible movement against the war.

There's also an important political difference between the Taliban and National Liberation Front. Though the Taliban is certainly less homogeneous than American news media would have you think, its reactionary social program significantly diminishes its ability to forge a united resistance. To take but the most obvious example, women played an extremely important role in the Vietnamese resistance. Read Nguyen Thi Dinh's excellent "Founding of the National Liberation Front in Ben Tre" to get an idea of this role. The Taliban simply cannot inspire this kind of support among Afghan women, and even if they did, they would not allow women to play the kind of role Nguyen Thi Dinh did.

Finally, the comparison with post-Tet Vietnam should not encourage passivity among those seeking to rebuild an antiwar movement. The United States did not leave Vietnam until 1975, and in those seven years it wrought as much destruction on the country as it had in the previous decade. Instead, the military weakness of the occupiers should heighten our activity. Obama's plan to send more troops will undoubtedly intensify the slaughter, but the Empire's current weakness should be seized upon.

Continuing Protests in Iraq to Free al-Zaidi

CNN is reporting on the second day of countrywide protests in Iraq for the release of Muntadhar al-Zaidi. Significantly, protests are being reported in Sunni areas like Diyala and Anbar, now supposedly the bedrocks of American support. Could the warnings of a "shoe intifada" be correct?

Monday, December 15, 2008


Just in case there are any doubters out there.

Iraqis React to al-Zaidi

Selections from the New York Times:

Nawal Jaafer, 30, said: “Yes, we all hate American because it destroyed Iraq and distributed the riot and sectarianism among its people. I think what al-Zaidi did is a real expression on what’s hidden in the hearts of the Iraqis”.

Karim Muan al-Qaisi, a 50-year-old merchant, said: “Despite my hatred of Bush, he’s a president for a big country and a guest for the Iraqi government. And we are as easterners think insulting the guest is an insult for the host. Despite our hatred to the guest there should be respect and diplomacy.”

Ahmad Jeyyad, 36, a professor in the college of Agriculture in Anbar University, said: “What we have seen in TV is more than an action by a journalist. It was an action by an Iraqi citizen who lost his mind because of the woes of occupations. My family clapped when they saw the shoe. They greet Muntader for his action, but we do not know the reasons behind it. He may have had one of his family arrested by American forces or he may have political affiliations or other reasons.”

Ahmad Jbaeir, a 25-year-old law school student, said: “I was very glad when I saw the shoe on TV. I do not care even if he was a journalist or an ordinary citizen, but he expressed the feelings of Iraqis who hate Bush because he killed us. So we are demanding to release him.”

Saddam Loqman, a 21-year-old shopkeeper, said: “My father was arrested by Americans and I wish to do it instead, but if I was a journalist then I have to respect the occupation when I get to the conference hall.” Then he laughed and said “I think that the Iraqi government will permit journalists to attend conferences only after taking their shoes off.”

Nahla Salman, a 26-year-old government employee, said: “What he has done is what is stored inside all Iraqis — anger toward Bush’s incorrect policy. But he made it with hurry. He wasn’t supposed to do it while the prime minister was with Bush, but I still think that he did the right thing.”

Police major Ibrahim Sheikh Ofi, 36, the head of the governor’s bodyguards, said: “It was a wild act and it was an unexplained one. He was supposed to be aware of the Iraqi flag. I think he summed up a huge anger inside him. That is why he exploded this way.”

Habib Ahmed, a 26-year-old reporter, said: “I think what he has done was a brave act and he will be marked in history as the first Iraqi and the first Arab who hit the American President with shoes. It seems that he assembled all the anger of Iraqis and he expressed it this way even if it was not a democratic way.”

Mohamed al-Hili, a 35-year-old policeman, said: “I am happy for what happened because that will reflect how we do not like Bush. And our government has a different attitude and belief than ours. And I’d like to add that Mr. Muntader is a hero and he must be our president or at least P.M. We need to replace al-Maliki with the real Iraqi — Mr. Muntader.”

In a telephone interview, Saber Al-Kinani, a 41-year-old history professor, said: “I agree with Mr. Muntader because he gave Bush what he deserves. I believe that was the feeling of all the Iraqis. Listen America is a big liar because they are calling for freedom … but when you want to say something by the name of freedom against America that time you will be a terrorist and a big criminal.”

Dr. Alia Hamandi, a 33-year-old dentist, said in a telephone interview that: “I do not like for my country, the great Iraq, to face more problems with the U.S. Because all our sufferings are caused by America and that because we are Muslims. And we do not like to be slaves so what happened was a kind of simple Iraqi free man reflects and that was awesome.”

Harith al-Obaidi, a 35-year-old pharmacist, said: “I disagree with what happened because in this time we need to be more quiet until we get the full liberation. At that time we can do anything. But I am happy for one reason and that is Bush became an example for Obama to let him be different than Bush and to help us for the best.”

Hussein al-Dulaimi, a 39-year-old engineer, said in a telephone interview that: “We need to do more than that with Bush, but I do not think that will be win. … We need to win as much as we can of the U.S. trust to accelerate their withdrawal soon.”

Mohamed al-Haiyali, a 29-year-old soldier manning a checkpoint, said: “We have the power. The Army and the richest country around the world … So we do not need somebody to protect us and Muntader told Bush that, but in different way.”

Haitham Karem, a 32-year-old soldier, said: “What happened in the conference is a personal expression for an Iraqi journalist and a citizen. His action is a kind of freedom. The officials have to understand it.”

Ahmad Hasan, a 29-year-old television correspondent, said: “Muntader’s action is not a civilized action by a journalist, but he sent a message from an Iraqi citizen showing that there are many Iraqis who object to the American presence and the [security] agreement.”

Haider Quraishi, a 40-year-old journalist, said: “The action was a frank objection by a member of the educated class in Iraq to the [security] agreement. And the government has to release Muntader immediately. I do not think Bush is upset, but Maliki is really upset.”

Tawfeeq Qais, a 31-year-old barber, said: “Muntader expressed his opinion about the freedom and democracy brought to Iraq by Bush. Bush has to take responsibility for it, and this action should be considered as a kind of democracy.”

Um Mohammad, a 36-year-old housewife, said: “Long live your right hand, Muntader. This is what the American president deserves. I am calling to release Muntader al-Zaidi.”

Abu Ali, a 55-year-old laborer, said: “It is a wedding of all Iraqis. Muntader’s action is less than Bush deserves for killing, displacing and bloodletting Iraqis. I will blame the Iraqi government and American forces if anything wrong happens to Muntader.”

Mohammed Ibrahim, 51, said: “Bush deserves more than that because his soldiers have killed Iraqis. If Saddam had occupied America and killed the American people, then what would be their reaction? What we do expect Muntader to do when he watched the American forces kill Iraqis according to Bush’s order? Long life for your hand, Muntader.”

Dr. Qutaiba Rajaa, 58, said: “Although that action was not expressed in a civilized manner, it showed the feelings of Iraqis who refuse the American occupation. Muntader expressed the real Iraqi feelings.”

Mohammad Zaki, a 27-year-old lawyer, said: “I appreciate the heroic position of Muntader al-Zaidi. I appreciate his love to home and his challenge to the occupier. I will blame Maliki if anything wrong happen to him or to his family.”

Jasim Mohammed, a 24-year-old laborer, said: “Muntader’s action got back the Iraqi dignity. He got back part of our gravity. God bless you Muntader. We are demanding the Iraqi forces to release him.”

Adnan Majwari, a 44-year-old Kurdish journalist, said: “It was a historical moment and if there are organizations who care about human rights and journalists freedom in Iraq then Muntader al-Zaidi has to be released immediately.”

Dr. Amal al-Annaz, a 48-year-old professor, said: “These are the real Iraqis who are well known for their magnanimity. Throwing a shoe on Bush was not a random action, but it is the result of every wound caused by the American president to the Iraqi people, women and children.”

Ahmad Sameer, a 22-year-old student, said: “It was the moment of the age because Bush will never forget it and it was a reminder to Bush about his wars and causalities in Iraq, but in an Iraqi way.”

“I swear by God that this man has freely expressed all Iraqis’ opinions and brought their wishes to reality,” said Mudhar Adeeb, an engineer.

Fawaz Ahmad, a 45-year-old day laborer, said: “He performed an excellent job and a great challenge. Bush deserves more than that.”

“He has done what the whole world could not,” said another man, Hazim Edress.

“This is the second insult directed to America after September’s events,” said Jasim Abdullah, a 29-year-old shopkeeper, in reference to the Sept. 11 attacks. “I suggest having an auction to sell the shoe.”

Yaareb Yousif Matti, a 45-year-old teacher said, “This is the killers and criminals’ dessert. They are Iraqi people’s killers. I swear by God that all Iraqis with their different nationalities are glad about
this act.”

“Muntader’s action is the top of heroism,” said Farhan Khalaf, a teacher. “He represents all Iraqis’ tragedies and sadness, but he has not become a suicide bomber, nor planted an I.E.D., nor beheaded anyone. He practiced the democracy which brought by the American. He has to be released at once. He is in all people’s hearts in Iraq and in the whole world. I am sure that he will supported by the Democrats in America.”

Maten Omar Karkoli, a Turkmen shopkeeper, said: “Muntader has represented the peaceful resistance. It is the language of democracy which was brought by America, but I just wonder if Bush was beaten by a shoe then by what would Iraqi people beat their political leaders and representatives?”

Atyya Mejbil Obaidi, a governmental employee, said: “Bush threw bombs and rockets at Iraq and he destroyed my home by drawing a divisive strategy. So does he not deserve to get something from Iraqis?”

Shirzad Rasheed al-Barazanji, an agricultural engineer, said: “What happened showed the hatreds planted in Iraqi hearts. I am a Kurd, and if I was in his place I would ask Bush an embarrassing question, but not act like that. I do not set aside that behind that journalist, there is a political agenda against Bush and Maliki.”

“When the American army entered Iraq,” he added, “people welcomed them by throwing flowers, but Bush was told farewell by a shoe. So the new American authority has to be careful in their strategy in Iraq.”

In Defense of Throwing Shoes at One's Oppressor

It is a sign of the raging dementia of American political culture that I have to write this. In a half-way sane or civilized country, the spectacle of a journalist throwing his shoe at the man who orchestrated the butchery or dislocation of five million of the former's fellow citizens would not prompt ponderous ruminations on "free speech." It would be seen as one small expression of the loathing felt for that butcher all around the world.

Sad as it is to say, the eructations on free speech are preferable to the flatulence emitted by the right wing press. Ever quick on the uptake, the right wingnutosphere has hastily assembled itself under the banner of "This Could Never Have Happened Under Saddam!" Don't you understand? This is a sign of the freedom Iraq now has! Freedom from their homes, from their possessions, from their family members killed, and most important of all, free to throw shoes.

That the latter is not worth the price of the former is stunningly obvious to all except the kind of people who read Michelle Malkin's blog and think "well, she has a point." Yet it is worth recounting once again, if only briefly, the price Iraqis have paid for the spurious freedom they now enjoy. In all liklihood, over a million Iraqis have died because of the war. Between four and five million are displaced, and 50% of those are under age 12. The Pentagon sponsored sectarian warfare between Shi'as and Sunnis, and when such warfare burned itself out it declared victory.

Let us proceed by analogy. Suppose some civilization more advanced than our own, say Greece, invaded the United States, in the process killing 12 million Americans and making some 60 million into refugees. Suppose also that the Greeks extended to us their health care system, social safety net, and labor laws. Undoubtedly these would be tremendous advancements over the rights America workers currently have in any of these areas. However, I for one would not spend my time celebrating my new ability to get all my shots on time. I'd probably be doing something like this.

The Americans have given Iraqis nothing resembling this. Instead, we have given them a 50% unemployment rate. This is one part of Zaidi's story that I think is being overlooked. This man is an employed journalist. A dangerous job, yes, but a significantly better one than those available to most Iraqis. If the right wing thinks this guy is ungrateful, they should try talking to those who've been without work for five years.

That's enough about the right. More important to dispel, I think, is the liberal nausea at this act of violence. "There are more effective ways to make your point." "Two wrongs don't make a right." "It was irresponsible."

Of course there are more effective ways to fight the occupation. To my knowledge, no one has come out and said Zaidi's shoes struck a decisive blow for Iraqi freedom. However, as a symbolic gesture, it's worth pointing out that the shoes have aroused considerable support from Iraqis. Protests occurred today in demanding Zaidi's release in Sadr City, Najaf, and Basra. Al-Jazeera (Arabic) has reported that up to 100 Arab lawyers have already volunteered to defend him. The Iraqi government can issue all the shamefaced apologies it wants, but Zaidi's gesture was an expression of the contempt felt by millions.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

File Under "Really Bloody Interesting:" The Architecture of Occupation in Kabul

The Archipelago of Fear - Charles Montgomery

Stats on Domestic Violence in the US

Threats and attacks

On average since 2001, for nonfatal intimate partner violence —

  • about one-third of female and male victims reported that they were physically attacked.

  • approximately two-thirds of female and male victims stated that they were threatened with attack.
Average annual percent of threats, attempted attacks, and physical attacks in nonfatal intimate partner victimization, 2001-2005

Percent of victims of
intimate partner violence

Type of violence Female Male

Total 100 % 100 %
Attempt or threat 67.2
Physically attacked 32.8

Up arrow To the top

Type of threat

Between 2001 and 2005, for nonfatal intimate partner violence —

  • 27% of female victims and 15% of male victims reported that the offender threatened to kill them.

  • 23% of male victims were threatened with a weapon and 7% had an object thrown at them.

  • about 1 in 10 female and male victims reported that the offender tried to hit, slap, or knock them down.

Average annual percent of threats, by type, in nonfatal intimate partner violence crime, by gender, 2001-2005

Percent of victims of nonfatal intimate partner violence, 2001-2005

Type of threat Female Male

Threatened to kill 26.9 % 15.1 %*
Threatened to rape 0.5 * --
Threatened with harm 59.3
Threatened with a weapon 17.6
Threw object at victim 7.5
7.4 *
Followed/surrounded victim 5.9
1.8 *
Tried to hit, slap, or knock down victim 14.1
12.6 *

*Based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
Note: Detail may not add to total because victims may have reported more than one type of threat.
--Information is not provided because the small number of cases is insufficient for reliable estimates.

Up arrow To the top

Type of attack

On average between 2001 and 2005, for nonfatal intimate partner violence —

  • about two-thirds of female and male victims reported they were hit, slapped, or knocked down.

  • male victims were more likely than female victims to be grabbed, held, or tripped.
Average annual percent of attacks, by type, in nonfatal intimate partner violent crime, 2001-2005

Percent of victims of nonfatal intimate partner violence who were attacked

Type of attack Female Male

Raped 7.2 % 0.8 %*
Sexual assault 1.9
Attacked with firearm 0.5 * --
Attacked with knife 2.5
8 *
Hit by thrown object 2.1
4.5 *
Attacked with other weapon 0.8 * 1.8 *
Hit, slapped, knocked down 62.7
Grabbed, held, tripped 54.9

*Based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
--Information is not provided because the small number of cases is insufficient for reliable estimates.
Note: Detail may not add to total because victims may have reported more than one type of attack.

Up arrow To the top


On average between 2001 and 2005, half of all females experiencing nonfatal intimate partner violence suffered an injury from their victimization.

Of female victims —

  • about 5% were seriously injured and about 44% suffered minor injuries.

  • about 3% were raped or sexually assaulted.
Average annual number and percent of injuries sustained by female victims as a result of nonfatal intimate partner violence, 2001-2005

Average annual

Intimate partner victim Number Percent

Total 510,970 100 %

Not injured 248,805 48.7 %

Injured 262,170 51.3 %

Serious injury 25,710 5 %

Gunshot wound 595 0.1 *

Knife wounds 4,940 1 *

Internal injuries 3,440 0.7 *

Broken bones 12,155 2.4

Knocked unconscious 3,730 0.7 *

Other serious injuries 855 0.2 *
Rape/sexual assault without
additional injuries
13,350 2.6
Minor injuries only 222,670 43.6
Injuries unknown 435 0.1 *

*Based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
Note: Total may not add to 100% due to rounding.

On average between 2001 and 2005, more than one-third of male victims of nonfatal intimate partner violence were injured; 4% were seriously injured and 36% suffered minor injuries.

Average annual number and percent of injuries sustained by male victims as a result of nonfatal intimate partner violence, 2001-2005

Average annual

Number Percent

Total intimate partner victims 104,820 100 %

Not injured 61,285 58.5 %
Injured 43,540 41.5 %

Serious injury 4,335 4.1 *

Minor injuries only 38,050 36.3
Rape/sexual assault without other injuries 580 0.6 *
Injuries unknown 570 0.5 %*

*Based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
Note: Detail may not add to totals due to rounding.

Up arrow To the top

Medical care

On average between 2001 and 2005 for nonfatal intimate partner violence —

  • less than one-fifth of victims reporting an injury sought treatment following the injury.

  • about 8% of female and 10% of male victims were treated at the scene of the injury or in their home.

  • females experiencing an injury were more likely than their male counterparts to seek treatment at a hospital.
Average annual percent of medical treatment sought as a result of nonfatal intimate partner violence, by gender, 2001-2005

Average annual

Female Male

Not injured 48.7 % 58.5 %

Injured 51.3 % 41.5 %
Injured, not treated 32.8 27.9

Treated for injury 18.5 13.1

At scene or home 8.3 9.8

Doctor's office or clinic 1.3 0.6 *

Hospital 8.7 2.8 *

Not admitted 8.4 2.8 *

Admitted 0.3 --

Other locale 0.2 --
Don't know -- 0.5 %*

*Based on 10 or fewer sample cases.
-- Information is not provided because the small number of cases was insufficient for reliable estimates.
Note: Detail may not add to totals due to rounding.

Up Yours, Yankee Imperialists!

President Rafael Correa of Ecuadar refuses to pay interest on the country's debt.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Not Torturing People Can Be Such a Pain!

William McGurn can't figure out how to close Guantanamo. To any would be do gooder looking to close the camp, he poses the following questions:

Where in America would you put these men? Would you release them on American soil if they are found not guilty? What about those whose home countries will not take them back? And what do you do with the toughest cases: those for whom the evidence is insufficient for a trial, but sufficient to tell us they are far too dangerous to release?

A perplexing quandary, indeed. It would, perhaps, be besides the point to mention that we wouldn't be faced with this spurious "problem" if people like McGurn hadn't been vigorously arguing for the United States' right to kidnap anyone we don't like from anywhere on the planet. Though it may seem

Any discussion of Guantanamo has to begin with acknowledging that two-thirds of the 775 "enemy combatants" who have been held there have been released with no charges. Of these, only a few have been linked to terrorist activity after release. The highest estimate I saw was at National Review, which said 20. Any District Attorney in the United States with such an abysmal record would quickly find herself out of a job.

McGurn's first question sets the tone for the rest. Where in America to put Them? I think first we should acknowledge that there are many former residents of Guantanamo who I would much rather have living amongst us than Mr. McGurn himself. Moazzam Begg, for example, was held for three years before being released. Similarly, Murat Kurnaz seems like a very upstanding fellow. Even though he was kidnapped and held for five years, he says he doesn't hold ordinary Americans responsible for the outrages he suffered. Kurnaz's interview is part of a very valuable McClatchy database of interviews with 66 released prisoners. Reading the interviews, you get a sense of the sheer arbitrariness that characterizes imprisonment at Guantanamo. Jan Mohammed was conscripted by the Taliban in 2001. Wissam Abdul Ahmad was a Jordanian Sunni missionary in Iran arrested by Iranian authorities and turned over to the Americans in Afghanistan. In short, many of the men at Guantanamo were doing nothing wrong when they were kidnapped, and were found to have done nothing worth imprisoning them for.

McGurn's next problem is similarly contrived: What about those countries that won't take prisoners back? Once again, this would not be a problem had the United States not kidnapped these people in the first place. Facing the situation at hand, it would seem that it would be the duty of any civilized country, having wrongfully abducted and imprisoned someone for several years, to provide them with some sort of compensation. Finding a country that would be acceptable to former detainees is the least we could do.

McGurn's first two challenges are effectively smokescreens. Even if we grant the questionable propositions that we can find nowhere willing to take former detainees and we don't want them Here, neither of these is a compelling reason for keeping people captive in six by eight foot cells in a prison known to be a site of torture. Even if McGurn's questions were actual dilemmas, they would still not justify keeping Guantanamo open.

The last question is supposedly the most vexing. What about the eeeeeeevildoers? Well, what about them? What exactly is the evidentiary situation that requries the US to continue holding someone indefinitely but is not enough evidence for a trial?

I think the legal structure of indefinite detention that we are seeing at Guantanamo is a reflection of the open-ended status of American occupations in the Mideast. While in traditional inter-imperialist wars, prisoners of war were held until one state was victorious over the other, the United States' failure in suppressing the insurgency in either Afghanistan or Iraq is leading the state to previously unheard of policies for detention. This is, I believe, part of the reason why the prisoner of war status has been unceremoniously dumped (the other, more important reason is that it confers well-defined legal protections on its subjects.) The open-ended imprisonment of those held at Guantanamo is a manifestation of what Michael Schwartz has called the America's plan for War Without End.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jon Stewart vs. Some Bigoted Cracker

I will be the first to admit that Jon Stewart can represent all that is despicable about liberalism (his comment at the beginning of this interview about abortion exemplifies this.) But here, he represents the best. "I think it's a travesty that people have forced someone who is gay to have to 'make their case.'"

Crash Course on Afghanistan

Now that school is approaching its winter break, I suspect a good portion of my readers will have some extra time on their hands. Why not brush up on your Afghan history?

Begin with Jonathan Neale's The Afghan Tragedy, written shortly after the Soviet invasion. It's very comprehensive on the social roots of Afghanistan's political system, which was determined primarily by the contest between the landowners (khans) and the central government. Neale's Afghanistan - The Horse Changes Riders is your next stop. This article continues the history until the time of the Soviet defeat. Forgive Neale's penchant for using the same anecdotes over and over again. The Long Torment of Afghanistan covers the period from the Soviet defeat to the American invasion, and is very helpful for differentiating the Taliban from other elements of the mujahideen. Finally, Afghanistan: The Case Against the Good War looks at the American invasion and rise of resistance to it.

If you're tired of Jonathan Neale, check out Nir Rosen's incredible reporting from Afghanistan, which reveals the deadly faultlines between different sections of the "neo-Taliban." Finally, Anand Gopal has an excellent article in Socialist Worker on "Who Are the Taliban?"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Poetry from Langston Hughes

The Bitter River

(Dedicated to the memory of Charlie Lang and Ernest Green, each fourteen years old when lynched together beneath the Shubuta Bridge over the Chicasawhay River in Mississippi, October 12th, i942.)

There is a bitter river
Flowing through the South.
Too long has the taste of its water Been in my mouth.
There is a bitter river Dark with filth and mud.
Too long has its evil poison
Poisoned my blood.

I've drunk of the bitter river
And its gall coats the red of my tongue,
Mixed with the blood of the lynched boys
From its iron bridge hung,
Mixed with the hopes that are drowned there
In the snake-like hiss of its stream
Where I drank of the bitter river
That strangled my dream:
The book studied-but useless,
Tool handled-but unused,
Knowledge acquired but thrown away,
Ambition battered and bruised.
Oh, water of the bitter river
With your taste of blood and clay,
You reflect no stars by night,
No sun by day.

The bitter river reflects no stars-
It gives back only the glint of steel bars
And dark bitter faces behind steel bars:
The Scottsboro boys behind steel bars,
Lewis Jones behind steel bars,
The voteless share-cropper behind steel bars,
The labor leader behind steel bars,
The soldier thrown from a Jim Crow bus behind steel bars,
The 150 mugger behind steel bars,
The girl who sells her body behind steel bars,
And my grandfather's back with its ladder of scars
Long ago, long ago-the whip and steel bars -
The bitter river reflects no stars.

"Wait, be patient," you say.
"Your folks will have a better day."
But the swirl of the bitter river
Takes your words away.
"Work, education, patience
Will bring a better day-"
The swirl of the bitter river
Carries your "patience" away.
"Disrupter! Agitator!
Trouble maker!"you say.

The swirl of the bitter river
Sweeps your lies away.
I did not ask for this river
Nor the taste of its bitter brew.
I was given its water
As a gift from you.
Yours has been the power
To force my back to the wall
And make me drink of the bitter cup
Mixed with blood and gall.

You have lynched my comrades
Where the iron bridge crosses the stream,
Underpaid me for my labor,
And spit in the face of my dream.
You forced me to the bitter river
With the hiss of its snake-like song-
Now your words no longer have meaning-
I have drunk at the river too long:
Dreamer of dreams to be broken,
Builder of hopes to be smashed,
Loser from an empty pocket
Of my meagre cash,
Bitter bearer of burdens
And singer of weary song,
I've drunk at the bitter river
With its filth and its mud too long.
Tired now of the bitter river,
Tired now of the pat on the back,
Tired now of the steel bars
Because my face is black,
I'm tired of segregation,
Tired of filth and mud,
I've drunk of the bitter river
And it's turned to steel in my blood.

Oh, tragic bitter river
Where the lynched boys hung,
The gall of your bitter water
Coats my tongue.
The blood of your bitter water
For me gives back no stars.
I'm tired of the bitter river!
Tired of the bars!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Calling All Americans

" hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible, except to God alone." - John Milton

Who in the Western world, who in America, is ready to take to the streets to protest the rampant Islamophobia propagated by America's opinion-makers?

It's finals, so I don't have time to go through this article in detail. I'd just like to point out the bizarreness of the comparison with the Catholic church. The pedophile scandal in the church implicated members of the Catholic hierarchy all the way up to the Vatican. There was a church-wide effort to protect offending priests and keep their crimes from the media. The John Jay report found that 4% of all US Catholic priests had been accused of such improper conduct. In other words, the pedophilia scandal was a church wide problem.

Nothing remotely similar can be said about "Islamism" or whatever other stupid moniker pundits want to use. There is no conspiracy of imams to protect terrorists, and nothing even approaching 4% of Muslim religious leaders have participated in or encouraged terrorism.

In short, it's a comparison that makes no sense, except in the heads of racist blowhards like Friedman who think that finger wagging is the most appropriate response to something as horrible as what happened in Mumbai.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Michael Schwartz on the US-Iraqi security deal

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Local elections in Venezuela

By all accounts, today's state and local elections in Venezuela will determine whether last December's referendum debacle was a temporary set back for Chavez or the beginning of a longer decline for the Venezuelan left.

As with the referendum vote, it does not look like Chavez has prepared well. Chavez is again relying on the military to fight any attempt to sabotage the elections, rather than mobilizing his base, the urban poor, who fended off the 2002 coup attempt. Also troubling is Chavez's reaching out to champion of democracy Vladmir Putin, seeing an alliance with Russia as a bulwark against US intervention. All this seems to suggest that Chavez sees his power as flowing from the barrel of a gun, rather than from the Venezuelan working class.

Since the referendum, the Venezuelan ruling class has attempted to sabotage the economy by hoarding food and jacking up prices. If this Al-Jazeera English report is to be believed, there is discontent within Chavez's base over the limits of progress. Given the failure of the referendum, and the growing problems with food prices, it seems pretty believable. (I'm not sure how reliable Al-Jazeera is on Venezuela. This report is unlike most bald-faced anti-Chavez propaganda that tries to pass off protests by rich students, the same goose-stepping bastards who supported the coup, as a democratic opposition within Venezuela. Any thoughts, gentle readers?)

Is there a Pulitzer Prize for most understated headline?

It's the only explanation for this
Some in Arab World Wary of Clinton

During the Democratic primary campaign, Clinton said the United States could "obliterate" Iran if it launched a nuclear attack on Israel. She said the United States should not negotiate with Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, unless it renounced terrorism. "The United States stands with Israel, now and forever," Clinton told AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, at its conference in June.
Hmm...yes. Disconcerting. Indeed. On the other hand...
Yet Clinton is also the former first lady who famously broke with her husband's administration in 1998 and said Palestinians should have a state of their own.
What the WashPo does not understand is that "Palestinian sovereignty" has a different meaning to the American and Israeli ruling class than to everyone else. Take a look at the prior results of Israel's concession to a "two state solution"
Under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority acts as a subcontractor of the Israeli army in the task of repressing the Palestinians. To the U.S. and Israel, that's virtually the only task the PA is accorded. It's no wonder, then, that Arafat controls nine different police and security operations, accounting for as many as 50,000 cops. These security forces work hand-in-glove with the Israeli security forces and the CIA, which provides "training" to Arafat's police. When Israeli undercover police arrested Palestinians whom they accused of lynching two Israeli cops (in a well-publicized October 2000 incident), Arafat's police were said to have fingered the arrestees.
The two state solution on offer from Israel is not real Palestinian self-determination but an alternative strategy for suppressing Palestinians. It's the old colonial scheme of getting the elite segment of the indigenous population to do the dirtiest work. As Jonathan Cook has shown, politicians like Olmert preach the virtues of two states, precisely because they fear real Palestinian freedom
According to Olmert, without evasive action, political logic is drifting inexorably toward the creation of one state in Israel and Palestine. This was his sentiment as he addressed delegates to the recent Herzliya conference: "Once we were afraid of the possibility that the reality in Israel would force a bi-national state on us. In 1948, the obstinate policy of all the Arabs, the anti-Israel fanaticism and our strength and the leadership of David Ben-Gurion saved us from such a state. For 60 years, we fought with unparalleled courage in order to avoid living in a reality of bi-nationalism, and in order to ensure that Israel exists as a Jewish and democratic state with a solid Jewish majority. We must act to this end and understand that such a [bi-national] reality is being created, and in a very short while it will be beyond our control."

Olmert's energies are therefore consumed with finding an alternative political program that can be sold to the rest of the world. That is the reason he, and Sharon before him, began talking about a Palestinian state. Strangely, however, neither took up the offer of the ideal two-state solution -- the kind Avnery and Neumann want -- made in 2002. Then Saudi Arabia and the rest Arab world promised Israel peace in return for its withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. They repeated their offer last year and Israel has steadfastly ignored them.

Instead, an alternative version of two states -- the bogus two-state solution -- has become the default position of Israeli politics. It requires only that Israel and the Palestinians appear to divide the land, while in truth the occupation continues and Jewish sovereignty over all of historic Palestine is not only maintained but rubber-stamped by the international community. In other words, the Gazafication of the West Bank.
Clinton's position on Palestine may please the Arab ruling class, and even Hamas, but the most clear-headed activists realize the futility of such a course.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Engels on Popular Resistance: Or, Why Decentists Haven't a Leg to Stand On

They [the Chinese] kidnap and kill every foreigner within their reach. The very coolies emigrating to foreign countries rise in mutiny, and as if by concert, on board every emigrant ship, and fight for its possession, and, rather than surrender, go down to the bottom with it, or perish in its flames. Even out of China, the Chinese colonists, the most submissive and meek of subjects hitherto, conspire and suddenly rise in nightly insurrection, as at Sarawak; or, as at Singapore, are held down by main force and vigilance only. The piratical policy of the British Government has caused this universal outbreak of all Chinese against all foreigners, and marked it as a war of extermination.

What is an army to do against a people resorting to such means of warfare? Where, how far, is it to penetrate into the enemy's country, how to maintain itself there? Civilization-mongers who throw hot shells on a defenceless city and add rape to murder, may call the system cowardly, barbarous, atrocious; but what matters it to the Chinese if it be only successful? Since the British treat them as barbarians, they cannot deny to them the full benefit of their barbarism. If their kidnappings, surprises, midnight massacres are what we call cowardly, the civilization-mongers should not forget that according to their own showing they could not stand against European means of destruction with their ordinary means of warfare.

In short, instead of moralizing on the horrible atrocities of the Chinese, as the chivalrous English press does, we had better recognize that this is a war pro aris et focis, a popular war for the maintenance of Chinese nationality, with all its overbearing prejudice, stupidity, learned ignorance and pedantic barbarism if you like, but yet a popular war. And in a popular war the means used by the insurgent nation cannot be measured by the commonly recognized rules of regular warfare, nor by any other abstract standard, but by the degree of civilization only attained by that insurgent nation.

1857 Tribune Article

Yes We Can Win Gay Marriage!

Great video of a gay marriage protest in Chicago.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Anthem for the Crisis

Gang of Four - Capital (It Fails Us Now)

The moment I was born I opened my eyes
I reached out for my credit card
Oh no! I left it in my other suit!
capital it fails us now comrades let us seize the time
capital it fails us now comrades let us seize the time
on the first day of my life I opened my eyes
guess where!? in a superstore.
surrounded by luxury goods
I need a visa. I need a hi-fi.
no credit no goods
come on back I say
they say we're bankrupt
capital it fails us now comrades let us seize the time
capital it fails us now comrades let us seize the time
Capital it fails us now
Scientists blame it on pollution
People are not very happy
This is caused by alienation
oh no! I left it in my other suit!
one day old and I'm living on credit
one day all will be living on credit

Mike Davis on Why the Future Can Wait

Mike Davis has a very good article on Tomdispatch arguing that while infrastructure investment is desperately needed in the US, keeping our existing public institutions like hospitals and schools operating should be top priority:

Yet saving (and expanding) core public employment is, hands-down, the best Keynesian stimulus around. Federal investment in education and healthcare gets incomparably more bang for the buck, if jobs are the principal criterion, than expenditures on transportation equipment or road repair.

For example, $50 million in federal aid during the Clinton administration allowed Michigan schools to hire nearly 1,300 new teachers. It is also the current operating budget of a Tennessee school district made up of eight elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools.

On the other hand, $50 million on the order book of a niche public transit manufacturer generates only 200 jobs (plus, of course, capital costs and profits). Road construction and bridge repair, also very capital intensive, produce about the same modest, direct employment effect.

Is the US post-racial? Think again.

Following the historic election of Barak Obama in a country built on slavery, many in the media, Right and Left have argued that racism has ended and the 'divisive' concept of race has been rendered irrelevant. This article in the New Republic takes this argument to absurd lengths, suggesting that since neo-fascists and white supremacists such as David Duke do not hate Obama, we have somehow entered a new age of tolerance. The author suggests that

white supremacists feel compelled to explain away the confounding notion of an immensely gifted and appealing black man. Yet it also reflects the fact that, unlike Jesse Jackson, Obama simply lacks certain cultural signifiers--not to mention an urban-centric policy agenda--that would viscerally threaten racist whites obsessed with maintaining "white rights," ending affirmative action, and cutting off nearly all non-European immigration.
Frankly, in a country where millions of Americans stand to lose their homes, child hunger is skyrocketing, and jobs are being slashed in the tens of thousands, this country needs more 'urban centric' policies. And pissing off white supremacists is a great thing in my book.

But that's neither here nor there. On the question of racism, a recent incident of police brutality brings to the fore the weaknesses of Obama and his campaign to confront racist attacks from the McCain camp and Hillary Clinton and also to take up issues pertaining to the virulent racism of the criminal justice system (Sean Bell, the Jena Six, Troy Davis).

The father of Green Bay Packers star receiver Donald Driver was brutally beaten by Houston cops on Sunday. Police allegedly picked him up on a warrant for traffic violations and then took him behind a gas station and beat him mercilessly:
As they beat him and forced him to swallow something, the officers told Marvin Driver Jr. he was "going to see Jesus," according to relatives and community activist Quanell Evans, who identified himself as Quanell X.

"Mr. Marvin Driver Jr. is now at Hermann Hospital in ICU where he can't even speak," relatives said in a statement. "Doctors say there is some bleeding on his brain from blunt force trauma."
The two accused officers are still on the street, pending investigation. However, according to a community activist, "One of the officers named in the arrest report is Hispanic and has a history of harassing African-Americans."

This event is a sobering wake up call to people who believe that Obama's election could instantly bring and end to the systemic racism embedded in the US from housing and hiring to the criminal justice system.

In another sense, however, this event presents an opportunity to expose this. As Dave Zirin has argued time and time again, professional sports presents a huge platform for athletes to take a stand on against oppression and political injustice, like Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympics, Billie Jean King's victory in the "Battle of the Sexes". Who knows how the Driver family will respond to this tragedy, especially given the pressures on athletes from their coaches, team mates, and the talking heads in the sports writing world (See Brandon Marshall and Josh Howard?) Despite these pressures, athletes are also affected by the sense of hope and joy that Obama's election brought about nor can they ignore the anger and mass outpouring of activism against the draconian Proposition 8. If Driver's brother's response is any indication of the sentiment shared by the family, we could be in for a battle: "if we can't trust these people, who can we trust? ... I think that my father was targeted for being black."

Eric Holder, Obama's pick for Attorney General

The good:

Holder also advocated closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, transferring the remaining prisoners to the US and adopting an "expedited and procedurally fair" review process.
The bad:
Quick! Name the veteran Department of Justice insider who, shortly after the USA Patriot Act was signed into law and at a point when the Bush administration was proposing to further erode barriers to governmental abuses, argued that dissenters should not be tolerated?

Who invoked September 11, explicitly referencing "the World Trade Center aflame," in calling for the firing of any "petty bureaucrat" who might suggest that proper procedures be followed and that the separation of powers be respected?

John Ashcroft? No.

Alberto Gonzales? No.

It was Eric Holder, the man who has reportedly been selected by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States.
The ugly:
Alongside the claims that Guantánamo will be closed in a new administration, and that the sham military commissions will cease, have come proposals that Guantánamo's closure will require a radical reworking of our justice system in order to ensure that those who the government asserts need to be imprisoned will continue to be held. Frankly, this is the same assertion that in 2002 created Guantánamo for the alleged "worst of the worst," without charge or process.
Although I haven't heard anything Holder has said about a new preventive detention law, I think, given the advice Obama's getting, we can look forward to Holder figuring out new ways to hold people without charges in the name of "fighting terror."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Zirin hits MSNBC

On Morning Joe talking sports, politics and the recession

On Rachel Maddow talking about being a victim of police espionage for constitutionally protected activity

Check out Dave Zirin's new book, A People's History of Sports in the US

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Robin Mejia on The Iraq Math War

Excellent article from Mother Jones on the Bush Administration's war against any accurate accounting of the number of Iraqi dead.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama's potential pick for VA head, Duckworth, helped squelch anti-war candidacies

Many news outlets lead their coverage of yesterday's Veterans Day ceremonies with Obama's photo-op with Major Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran. Most mentioned that Duckworth is the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. At least the AP noted she has run unsuccessfully for congress. Only the local NBC affiliate mentioned that Duckworth is someone with her own political ambitions, and could either replace Obama in the Senate or take the post as secretary of veterans affairs in his administration.

Most interesting to me is Duckworth's role in torpedoing anti-war dissent within the Democratic Party. When truthout recently reposted an article from 2007 on how new Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel ran conservative candidates against anti-war Dems in congressional primaries, I noticed this particularly mercenary episode of how Emanuel shut down Christine Ceglis' campaign for the Democratic nomination in Illinois' sixth district. Ceglis was an information technology worker who had run in 2004 against Henry Hyde, a 16 term Republican in a district that was a Republican stronghold.

Ceglis' decision to run again in 2006 actually convinced Hyde to retire (this is a woman with no political connections). But Emanuel did not take to Ceglis' anti-war stance

Emanuel, himself a congressman from the neighboring 5th District of Illinois, apparently tried to recruit six different candidates to run against Cegelis. According to Kevin Spidel, campaign manager for the Cegelis campaign, all of Emanuel's attempts failed because the potential candidates "all said 'hell no!' They knew the resentment they would face. If you were in the district, you knew how much Cegelis was loved. She built her own machine."

Eventually, Emanuel found a candidate who lived just outside the district, Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth, a helicopter pilot who was severely injured in combat in Iraq, was convinced to run against Cegelis by Emanuel and two Democratic heavyweights, Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama.

Duckworth does not support a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. The Los Angeles Times, quoting Duckworth, reported that she believed the military should not "'simply pull up stakes' in Iraq because it would 'create a security vacuum' and 'risk allowing [Iraq] ... to become a base for terrorists.'" According to the same article, Duckworth supported "a pullout of US forces on a schedule based on the training of Iraq's armed forces."
Duckworth helped the Democrats shut down Ceglis, got appointed to Director of the Illinois VA less than a month after the race by Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich and is now a front runner for a spot in Obama's cabinet.

Granted, Duckworth would have little say on foreign policy if she became head of the VA, and it looks like Jesse Jackson Jr. may get Obama's Senate seat. But it's interesting to note who Obama's surrounding himself with. Also interesting are the political calculations that go into everything Obama does, even something as "sacred" as a Veteran's Day ceremony.

Also, one wonders what a self-described "fiscal conservative" would do for the VA in the middle of the biggest economic crisis in generations. Perhaps we will find out.