Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Food for Thought: Politics

 
In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

- George Orwell

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Open Thread

I'm still having internet connection problems. It's been months now. Apparently, Shaw prefers to send out an endless stream of technicians who are only authorized to do one thing at a time. Now it seems they're finally going to replace the main line outside after another neighbour complained. Right. We'll see what that does.

Worst.customer.service.ever.

Anyway, here's a bit of news to chew on (and it will probably be the only thing I'll be able to post in the 2 minutes of internet connection time I'm being granted a few times a day until they get this thing fixed):

Loonie closes above parity

The Canadian dollar closed above parity Friday for the first time in almost 31 years, as the U.S. greenback continued its dramatic fall against major world currencies.

According to Bank of Canada data, the loonie closed at $1.0052 US, up two-thirds of a cent from Thursday's close.

I'd sure like to know when Canadians are going to start seeing the benefits that reality should be bringing to the retail sector, especially since we've been over-charged for things like books and magazines for years.

What's on your mind? Got any news you'd like to share?
 

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Burma, Bush and Oil

As the situation in Burma worsens, the White House is once again placing itself as the moral authority of the world but the Bush regime has hardly been a beacon of light when it comes to allowing citizens their right to peacefully protest. The most that can be said is at least their thugs haven't killed anybody, as has happened in Burma.

Via Thursday's WH press briefing and this statement read on behalf of Bush, spot the contradiction:

I call on all nations that have influence with the regime to join us in supporting the aspirations of the Burmese people and to tell the Burmese Junta to cease using force on its own people who are peacefully expressing their desire for change. By its own account, the Junta has already killed at least nine non-violent demonstrators, and many others who have been injured and arrested as they seek to express their views peacefully. I urge the Burmese soldiers and police not to use force on their fellow citizens. I call on those who embrace the values of human rights and freedom to support the legitimate demands of the Burmese people."

Let's take a little trip back to the 2004 RNC protests in NYC:

Numerous troubling cases were reported, notably:

* A 15-year-old diabetic girl on her way to a movie was arrested. [39]
* A former vice president of Morgan Stanley was arrested while riding her bicycle. [39]
* A 16-year-old protestor was lost to her mother for two days, even though her mother knew about and supported her daughter's participation. [40]
* Small pens were used to contain "30 to 40 people" at once. [41]
* Many people were detained longer than 24 hours on relatively trivial charges. [42][43] One was a 23-year-old Montreal student arrested for disorderly conduct and released three days later. "He says he spent a total of 57 hours between the pier and Central Booking, during which time he says he was moved 14 times and repeatedly handcuffed and shackled to other protesters as young as 15." [37]

The City reportedly refused to release the prisoners until a judge threatened to fine it for every extra hour every prisoner would spend in prison. The victims of the arrests have filed lawsuits against the City of New York.

One of the most prominent personalities arrested was Eric Corley "Emmanuel Goldstein", an important advocate of public rights and independent medias, and editor of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly [38]. The complete report of 2600 is available at http://www.2600.com/rnc2004/[39].

Several cases have since gone to court, and it has come out that the charges of resisting arrest in those cases were completely fabricated. Video evidence was shown of defendants complying peaceably with police demands. Many of the cases have since been summarily dismissed.

The New York Times has reported on two occasions that the police videotaped and infiltrated protests, as well as acting as agents provocateurs during the protests. [44]

A second citation: "City Police Spied Broadly Before G.O.P. Convention," Jim Dwyer, New York Times, March 25, 2007, Sunday, Late Edition - Final, Section 1, Page 1, Column 5, 2460 words.

Agents provocateurs infiltrate a protest dressed like protesters and try to change the character of the protest, such as by attempting to get the crowd to commit acts of violence or other acts that would incite the uniformed police to take action against the crowd, thereby falsely justifying violence against protesters. Such covert provocation can also change the wider public's perception of what happened at a protest.

In addition, the New York Times reported that prior to the protests, NYPD officers traveled as far away as Europe and spied on people there who planned to protest at the RNC. [44]

And that's only one example of the Bush regime's disdain for peaceful protests.

While the WH attempts to use freedom in America as an example of how regimes should operate, it was revealed in August that it actually has a detailed manual on how to "deal" with protesters. The only thing missing is the actual use of firepower.

As for what Bush actually plans to do to affect the situation there:

Q But what could he do to make the members of the military regime listen? They haven't listened for 19 years.

MS. PERINO: Sanctions have worked in the past in other places. We're going to try to tighten those and make them stronger and stricter so that they have to have -- so that they have some effect that will hopefully force an action.

In addition, what the President can do is use this podium and his bully pulpit in order to shine a bright spotlight on this problem, so that the rest of the world can help -- and can come along and try to help us.

And that's about all he'll do. Anything beyond that would mean dealing directly with China (which is busy crushing the dissent of schoolboys in Tibet) and the fact that China owns massive amounts of American debt which it could leverage at any time to severely impact the US economy, practically ensures that the WH will not entangle itself in Burma's affairs to any extent that might have an impact. And that's not the only consideration for the Bush regime.

The courageous monks and the Burmese people are on their own while the world watches - as much as it can, since coverage of the protests in being channeled through underground sources. On a broader scale, it's been widely reported that the current protests began, in part, as a reaction to higher fuel prices. If there's one thing the Bush regime actually could do that might have an effect in Burma, it would be to stop pursuing and pillaging the world's oil resources. The west's "addiction to oil" obviously has very far-reaching consequences. And the Bush administration's thirst for oil has also spread directly into Burma:

Even in Burma, however, Bush’s support for human rights yields to his fondness for the oil and gas industry. Burma has large natural gas reserves, and multinational oil corporations want to cash in. Chevron Corporation is currently the largest U.S. investor in Burma, with a partnership stake in the multi-billion-dollar Yadana gas pipeline project. The Yadana project was originally developed by Unocal, another American oil company, which was acquired by Chevron last year. (Although new investment in Burma is prohibited, the pipeline is grandfathered in under an exception, pushed by Unocal, for preexisting projects.)

The Yadana pipeline has been repeatedly condemned by human rights and environmental advocates as one of the most destructive “development” projects in the world. The Burmese military government is a direct partner in the project, and Burmese soldiers providing security and other services to the pipeline project have conscripted villagers for forced labor on a vast scale, as well as committing murder, rape and torture. These abuses have been widely acknowledged; before Bush took office, the U.S. Department of Labor concluded that “refugee accounts of forced labor” on the project “appear to be credible.”

The Bush administration has close ties to Chevron. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a member of the Chevron Board of Directors for 10 years before Bush was elected, and even had a Chevron oil tanker named for her until it was quietly renamed after Bush took office. And Halliburton, the oilfield services giant formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, has numerous ties to Chevron, signing several multimillion-dollar contracts during Cheney’s tenure. And yet there is no evidence that the Bush administration has used its connections to convince Chevron to divest its Burmese holdings, despite the evidence of abuses committed on the Yadana project and Bush’s public position on promoting human rights and democracy.

Indeed, even before Chevron acquired Unocal and the Yadana project, Bush’s government actively took steps to thwart accountability for the Yadana project. When refugees who had suffered rape, torture, enslavement, and murder at the hands of soldiers protecting the Yadana pipeline sued Unocal in U.S. court, the Bush administration intervened to try to convince the courts that the lawsuit should not proceed. The administration essentially argued that, even if the case would not actually interfere with U.S. relations with Burma, holding Unocal liable would create a precedent that could conflict with U.S. foreign policy in other parts of the world. (The lawsuit, Doe v. Unocal Corp., was ultimately resolved before the courts considered the administration's position, with Unocal compensating the victims in a historic settlement—see http://www.earthrights.org/legal/unocal/.)

So, Bush can bluster all he wants to about human rights and the need for the protesters to be protected, but he's talking out of both sides of his mouth yet again - all in the name of oil.

Related:
9 Killed in Burma Crackdown on Protests

Human Rights Watch - Burma: Allies Should Call for Peaceful Resolution of Protests

Amnesty International - Myanmar authorities step up crackdown on protesters (text, video and a list of supportive protests being held worldwide this weekend)

Time magazine - Will China Intervene?
 

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bush: Hooked on Phonics

Whoops. It look like a draft of the UN speech made by the supposed most powerful leader of the free world was leaked, causing a little embarrassment for the White House.

Note the Faux Texas Cowboy to English translation his speech writers had to supply the man - whose favourite book is My Pet Goat (for good reason, apparently):

Apparently, a marked-up draft of the president's speech popped up on the U.N.'s website as President Bush delivered his remarks this morning before the General Assembly, USA TODAY's David Jackson reports. The draft included phonetic spellings of some names and countries, and the cellphone numbers for Bush speechwriters.

Press secretary Dana Perino downplayed the incident, and said phonetic spellings are used to help interpreters. Asked if the president has trouble pronouncing some country's names, Perino deemed it "an offensive question."

"There was an error made," Perino said, noting it was not a final draft.

"It was taken down and there's nothing more to say about it."

*****

Update at 12:46 p.m. ET: Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy says he has a copy of the speech that got the White House so worked up this morning. Here are some of the phonetic guides it included, according to the magazine's blog:

• Kyrgyzstan [KEYR-geez-stan]
• Mauritania [moor-EH-tain-ee-a]
• Harare [hah-RAR-ray]
• Mugabe [moo-GAH-bee]
• Sarkozy [sar-KO-zee]
• Caracas [kah-RAH-kus]

Update at 2:33 p.m. ET: Here's an excerpt from the press secretary's exchange with reporters about the speech snafu. It was released by the White House.

PERINO: On the speech -- your question about the speech, the drafts are circulated, and there was an error made in trying to make sure that interpreters had what they needed. I don't know how the draft of the speech -- it was not final -- was posted, but it was, and it was taken down. There's really nothing more to say about it.

REPORTER: And they were phonetic spellings of various countries -- as well, we understand.

PERINO: That's not unusual. We do that for many speeches.

REPORTER: Does the president have a hard time pronouncing some of these countries's [sic] name?

PERINO: I think that's a offensive question. I'm going to just decline to comment on it.

No Dana, what's offensive is that your president has once again shown himself to be an illiterate farce.

I'm surprised the draft didn't include little cartoon pictures as well since that seems to be the intellectual level Bush operates on.
 

America's Need for Enemies

America has a pathological need to have enemies - to play the hero. And when it doesn't have real ones, it creates them.

It's a paranoid way to exist in a world where it has been proven, time and time again, that differences and over-exaggerated threats serve only one purpose: to inflate the importance of America's power. And it's the love of that power that allows so many Americans to buy into the propaganda foisted upon them by successive governments that the idea of "America" must be protected at all costs. It breeds an insecurity so rabid in its citizens that they willingly surrender their own rights in the furtherance of that goal because they are not "the enemy", after all. Or so they think as they fail to acknowledge that their government sees them as exactly that.

Since the country's inception, when native peoples were considered a wholesale threat who had to slaughtered or Americanized in order to be brought into line, when slaves were held as chattel because their un-Americanism made them less than people, when power that women sought by being allowed to vote was seen as a threat to the very fabric of democracy to the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2 followed by the communist witch hunt led by McCarthy, to the need of the powers that be to infiltrate the anti-Vietnam war movement and feel threatened by the civil rights movement to the renewed fear of communists and now the new "terrorists" lurking behind every dark-skinned person who looks at someone differently - Americans have been conditioned to live in fear of the other when, in fact, their friends and family members actually constitute more of an actual threat to them on any given day. Crime perpetrated by strangers ought to be the least of their worries. But that doesn't jibe with the myth that outside forces or from other countries or people who are "different" hold the key to whether or not they will actually live or die.

The Bush administration's successful use of psyops to keep the population living in perpetual fear is still effective - despite the fact that their claims of things like those of Saddam Hussein having WMD or a connection to 9/11 have been proven to be false. And now, the demonization of someone like Iran's president Ahmadenijad and the hysterical reaction it has created in yet another example of how manipulated people will choose to be fooled by a government that has absolutely no track record of credibility.

But, America needs its enemies. Because, when America has enemies, there's power to be grasped and money to be made by those whose business it is to "defend" against those "threats". What ordinary people who refuse to look at why they're being manipulated fail to grasp is that there's a system being fed by their fear and it's not a system that benefits them in any way. It benefits the powermongers, the military-industrial complex, the political operatives, the lobbyists, the arms dealers, the countries the US claims it needs to protect in order to be the keeper of its "interests".

Those interests are power and money that come via the pillaging of the world's resources and the cost of those exploits is the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in foreign lands along with those who willingly sacrifice their lives in the name of the myth. Those sacrifices are the trade off that those in power are willing to make to secure their treasure. Those sacrifices are nothing but names and numbers to people like Bush, Cheney and the neocons. They're expendable people who only serve to keep the oppressive system functioning. The Iraq war is nothing but a modern act of piracy with more sophisticated weaponry.

And Ahmadenijad? The Iranian president who actually has very little power beyond his words and whose government is cooperating with the IAEA's inspections while asserting it his country's right to have nuclear energy and weaponry? He's the new Saddam, according to the Bush administration and leaders of other countries like France and Canada who are acting like nothing more than puppets in order to whip up the same hysteria about him that Bush and his cadre did about Hussein and Iraq. We've been here before. Once again, we have the same warnings from Mohammed elBarardei to let the process work. Once again, we have a compliant world press more than eager to sell an attack on Iran as being justifiable.

This time, however, having been there, we know that the Bush administration can and will do whatever it wants to about Iran because it has proven that it has absolutely no regard for the consequences it foists upon the world as a result of implementing its neocon policies or world dominance and influence.

So we wait.

There's no point in discussing whether or when an attack might happen. What needs to be discussed is the pathology, the history ie. how America has reached this point - because that's the only way it can begin to be changed. That change won't come with a new president in the White House in 2009. The pathological need for an American belief in its own power is ingrained in every single candidate running for office (except perhaps for Dennis Kucinich - but he won't win anyway.)

America is sorely in need of a paradigm shift. Will that come from within or will a country like China finally call in the debt America owes it to actually force a change? Just how much more does American democracy need to self-destruct before the people actually stand up strongly and take notice? More importantly, are they willing to really defend America by insisting that the power games are over - that America is about them - not some stuffed egos in suits in DC who are only in it for themselves?

Perhaps the bottom line is this: do they even care? Or have they been so beaten into submission that the idea of "America" no longer matters any more when all they can muster is enough energy to survive as they flip on the tv everyday to see if this is the day that America has, once again, attacked another country in their name that is no threat to their security? And if it has, what then?

Related:

"Petty and Cruel Dictator" by Cindy Sheehan (h/t Madman in the Marketplace)

A Feeling I'm Being Had by Scott Adams at The Dilbert Blog

Turning Ahmadinejad into public enemy No. 1 by Juan Cole
 

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday Food for Thought: Faith

 
To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.

- Alan Watts

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bloc to vote against the throne speech?

According to the CP, that's the buzz:

In a speech obtained by The Canadian Press and to be delivered to Bloc members on Saturday, Leader Gilles Duceppe outlines five conditions the Conservative government will find almost impossible to accept.

And Duceppe reiterates several times in the speech he is ready to adopt a hardline position that could send Canadians to the polls before the holidays.

Get your winter boots out.

"For Stephen Harper's Conservatives, who have so far survived with half-truths and half-met promises, the next throne speech will be a real test," Duceppe says in notes for his speech, which will be delivered in Rimouski, Que.

"Quebecers will see whether the openness of the Conservatives is real or just a facade."

The Bloc's five conditions for supporting the throne speech are major with the party calling for:

- The elimination of all federal spending powers in provincial jurisdictions.

- The Conservative government to respect the Kyoto Protocol.

-The continuation of supply management in the agriculture sector.

-Promises from the Tories to help Quebec's battered forestry industry.

-And a clear commitment from the government that Canadian soldiers will leave Afghanistan when the current mission ends in February 2009.

Duceppe's conditions indicate the Bloc has decided it no longer wants to be seen as an ally of the government on critical issues. Since the Tories were elected in January 2006, the Bloc has helped them survive three confidence votes, including two on federal budgets.

Well, it's about bloody time Gilles got a clue.

Now, the question is: what will the Liberal and NDP parties do?
 

Friday, September 21, 2007

Breaking News: Mandela Still Isn't Dead

After hearing that Bush had proclaimed Nelson Mandela as being dead:



The Nelson Mandela Foundation confirmed on Friday that he's not dead yet!

And, beyond that, Bush also committed a diplomatic faux pas:

References to his death -- Mandela is now 89 and increasingly frail -- are seen as insensitive in South Africa.

South Africa, meet Mr Insensitivity.
 

Quote du Jour: The US Militarization of Africa

Via Guerilla News Network:

The Congressional Research Service’s latest accounting [PDF] of the Global War on Terrorism, of which AFRICOM would be a part, puts the cost at $611 billion since 2001, not including additional recent requests of $147 billion and another $50 billion.

For less than that $808 billion spent in the last six years, we could provide universal primary education, reduce infant mortality by two thirds and provide universal access to potable water and not just for the United States, but also for the world. These Millennium Development Goals have languished with sporadic investment and big promises, while military solutions to problems are funded robustly.

Reexamining this imbalance seems like a crucial first step. And the battle for African hearts and minds will not be won if it’s clear that it is being waged more for the sake of U.S. strategic interests than African needs.

I urge you to read the entire article.
 

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Video: Olbermann on Bush's Hypocrisy

The US senate on Thursday wasted its precious time debating and passing a resolution condemning MoveOn.org's ad about General Petraeus.

Think about that.

With all of the business the Democratically-controlled senate should be giving serious consideration to, it wasted hours discussing an issue of free speech. Over 20 Democrats rolled over and play scared patriot and went along with the Republican resolution. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) tried to offer an amendment (that was shut down) adding condemnations of the swiftboating of John Kerry and the shameful ad run against veteran Max Cleland in 2004. The important word in that previous sentence is "adding" because the wording of her amendment also included decrying MoveOn's ad.

At every turn, the Democrats have run away from criticism that they aren't "serious" about dealing with terrorism. They fall over any time sometime from the right accuses them of not supporting the troops or the US military. They continue to act out of fear and cowardice even though they have the power to set the agenda. They have been absolutely useless since they won back the house and senate. And now, here they are again, bowing to their right-wing masters who happen to be offended by a newspaper ad.

Keith Olbermann took on this issue on Thursday evening in his special comment: Olbermann to Bush: ‘Your hypocrisy is so vast’ (transcript)

Here's the video and I hope more than a few of those Democratic pushovers watched his show as well:



Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.

~Albert Einstein

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Omar Khadr Turns 21 in Gitmo


On Wednesday, the only Canadian citizen being held indefinitely in Gitmo and who was originally seized as a child soldier in Afghanistan, Omar Khadr, turned 21. Despite new protestations from Liberal leader Stephane Dion, the federal Conservatives continue to take a wait and see approach (which is nothing short of political pandering to the Bush administration's whims) when it comes to attempting to secure Khadr's release any time soon.

Unfortunately, Khadr was dealt yet another blow when the US congress failed to restore habeus corpus rights:

A Republican filibuster in the Senate yesterday [Wednesday] shot down a bipartisan effort to restore the right of terrorism suspects to contest in federal courts their detention and treatment, underscoring the Democratic-led Congress's difficulty with terrorism issues.

The 56 to 43 vote fell short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote on the amendment to the Senate's annual defense policy bill. But the measure did garner the support of six Republicans, a small victory for its supporters. A similar proposal drew 48 "yea" votes last September.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled that such detainees did have the right to appeal their detention in federal court, but the court invited Congress to weigh in on the issue. At the urging of the Bush administration, the Republican-controlled Congress last year voted to sharply limit detainee access to the courts. Since then, the high court has agreed to hear in its upcoming term another legal challenge concerning the habeas corpus rights of detainees at Guantanamo.

The authors of last year's bill said that advocates of such rights would open the federal courts to endless lawsuits from the nation's worst enemies. "To start that process would be an absolute disaster for this country," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force Reserve lawyer who was instrumental in crafting the provision in question in last year's bill.

What Graham and his Republican colleagues don't appear to understand is that the denial of basic legal rights to detainees has already created a "disaster" for their country via the loss of America's integrity and credibility. And Omar Khadr certainly is not one of America's "worst enemies".

And, as senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said after Wednesday's GOP filibuster:

The Senate's action "calls into question the United States' historic role of defender of human rights in the world," Leahy said. "It accomplishes what opponents could never accomplish on the battlefield, whittling away our own liberties."

So, as Omar Khadr sits and waits, this country's inaction is absolutely shameful:

"Canada is alone among Western nations in not having secured the release from Guantanamo of one of its nationals. Prime Minister Harper must finally ensure Mr. Khadr receives the same consular support that any other Canadian -- detainee or not -- would receive," Dion said in a statement released after he met with Khadr's lawyers.

Khadr's U.S. defence counsel, Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the Canadian government has never asked for his client's release.

But he said Dion's comments indicate there is a growing movement to ensure Khadr's legal rights are protected.

"I'm hopeful, based on what we've seen recently from the Canadian Bar Association, which came out and called upon the prime minister to command Omar's repatriation last month, and the very courageous decision by Mr. Stephane Dion and his colleagues today, to call on the government to see that Omar is released from Guantanamo," he told CTV Newsnet.

"I think we're starting to turn a corner in Canada, similar to what happened in Australia and the U.K., when those countries finally got fed up by the treatment of their citizens by this process."

Why has it taken our government this long?

Meanwhile, as I noted here in August, this is what Omar Khadr has been reduced to:

Mr. Edney said that when he saw Mr. Khadr recently, his client was so mentally debilitated that he wanted nothing more than crayons and some paper to colour on. Contrary to federal government assurances that Mr. Khadr is doing just fine, Mr. Edney said, his client is actually "ill and going blind. He needs all sorts of help."

That is Bush/GOP-style "justice" - enabled by my country's government.

Everyone involved in perpetuating Omar Khadr's suffering is culpable.

Saying "happy birthday" just sounds trite. I can only hope that Omar experienced at least some moments of joy on his day - if that's even possible for him anymore.

Related:

U.S. prison stunting Khadr’s development, lawyer charges

Video: Avi Lewis' interview of Micahel Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights regarding Khadr's fate.
 

Hamas: The Israeli government's sanctions are a "declaration of war"

Ehud Olmert announced on Wednesday that his government has decided to cut off fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip - only allowing the flow of water to continue. In response to this contravention of the Fourth Geneva Conventions that address collective punishment, a Hamas spokesman said they considered this move a "declaration of war".

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, wasted no time in coming out and insisting that this move by the Israeli government violates international law but, considering the scores of UN resolutions that Israel has defied for decades, it's doubtful that it will suffer any consequences as a result.

Barak also said that Israel is moving closer to a large-scale military operation in Gaza. "Every day that passes brings us closer to an operation in Gaza," Barak was quoted as saying. He said an array of options would be considered before a major invasion.

The PMO statement also said that there would be restrictions on "the passage of various goods to the Gaza Strip," but stressed that all steps "will be enacted following a legal examination, while taking into account both the humanitarian aspects relevant to the Gaza Strip and the intention to avoid a humanitarian crisis."

The thing is that there is already a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. To state that you intend to look at your legal standing in imposing such crushing sanctions in order to avoid one is absolutely ludicrous.

Meanhwile, Condi Rice is in Israel for a 24-hour drive-by visit - no doubt to bring the White House's support for Olmert's actions while pretending to be concerned about the fate of the Palestinian people as the US government keeps funneling money to Abbas in the West Bank.

Israeli officials are promoting a proposal that the West Bank and Gaza be viewed as separate entities, and that Israel act more forcefully in Gaza to crack down on Hamas militants.

Senior Bush administration officials said no decision had been made. Some State Department officials argue that the administration could only support such a separation if Israel agreed to make political concessions to Mr. Abbas in the West Bank, with the goal of undermining Hamas in the eyes of Palestinians by improving life in the West Bank.

But it would be diplomatically perilous for the United States to be seen as turning its back on Gaza. Almost half of the Palestinian population lives on the teeming strip of land. A more desperate Gaza could become a breeding ground for Al Qaeda.

“Nobody wants to abandon the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in the Gaza Strip to the mercies of a terrorist organization,” said the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack. “We’re certainly not going to participate in extinguishing the hopes of a whole swath of the Palestinian population to live in a Palestinian state.”

The administration has led international efforts to isolate the Hamas-dominated government, demanding that it renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist and abide by existing agreements between the Palestinians and Israel.

So, while state department spokespuppets like Sean McCormack say one thing, the Bush administration is doing the opposite by backing Olmert in this latest move. They are already actively participating in extinguishing those hopes by giving financial and military aid to the Israeli government.

Hollow words.

Needless to say, this is not the way to promote any kind of peace process, especially in the broader volatilities going on in the region with respect to Israel's relationships with Syria and Iran. Egypt also joined Syria today in calling for an IAEA resolution to have Israel's nuclear facilities inspected - a proposal, as the article states, that is brought up regularly by Arab states which has often been put off but which, this time, seems to be receiving more of push from those 2 countries. And Syria has every reason to be concerned after Israeli air strikes occurred within its borders just 2 weeks ago - a move finally confirmed by Netanyahu on Wednesday (although no reason for the strike has yet been given).

It seems Condi's cherished November "peace conference" meeting is in jeopardy as Abbas is now under pressure from Fatah not to attend if other Arab states like Syria are shut out of the meeting. The Saudis are also threatening to boycott the conference is it isn't expected to offer anything of substance. By the time November rolls around, it may just be Rice and Olmert playing footsies at the table while everyone else stays home.

They're even fighting over what to call the damn thing:

White House: Int'l Mideast meeting is not a big peace conference

By Aluf Benn, Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents and The Associated Press

The White House said Tuesday the international meeting on the Middle East proposed by U.S. President George W. Bush should not be viewed as a big peace conference and it is too early to say where or when it will be.

However, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday that the meeting would most likely be held in the United States but the participants are still to be worked out.

White House spokesman Tony Snow at first described the meeting as an international conference, but several hours later he backed away from that portrayal as being too ambitious.

And let's play spot the contradiction yet again:

"This is a meeting," Snow said. "I think a lot of people are inclined to try to treat this as a big peace conference. It's not."

Announcing the meeting in a major policy speech Monday, Bush said it would be chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and attended by envoys from Israel, the Palestinians and Arab nations. He framed the meeting in the context that the world can do more to build the conditions for peace.

Is it any wonder the Bush administration has been completely AWOL on the ME peace process? Let's face it: Bush's agenda is just to coast until he's done his term while passing this situation, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, to whoever wins the WH in '08. Neocons only know how to start wars, not end them. "Peace" is just a word in the dictionary between "paranoia" and "profits".

And it's clear that the Israeli government wants nothing to do with this talk of "peace":

On Tuesday, Israeli officials welcomed Bush's initiative for an international summit, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said that "this is not the time to discuss the key issues."

Eisin said the meeting would provide an opportunity to bring together all those who are truly interested in peace in the Middle East. However, she said it is too early to talk about full-fledged peace talks as long as Palestinian violence against Israel continues. A peace settlement would require agreement on such contentious issues as borders, the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and the status of Israel's disputed capital Jerusalem.

"Israel has been very clear. We don't think at this stage you can talk about final status issues, but such a meeting would certainly add to the capability of arriving at the core issues," she said.

Around and around it goes as tensions between the countries in the region grow as a result of the neglect of any viable path to peace.

And I haven't even mentioned Iran, which has reportedly announced retaliation against Israel should its government attack or the assassination of an anti-Syrian lawmaker in Lebanon today.
 

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Video: Student Tasered at John Kerry Forum



officer.com has a longer version of the video which offers more context about what happened directly before and after the tasering.

A University of Florida student was Tasered and arrested after trying to ask U.S. Senator John Kerry about the 2004 election and other subjects during a campus forum.

Videos of the incident posted on several Web sites show officers pulling Andrew Meyer, 21, away from the microphone after he asks Kerry about impeaching President Bush and whether he and Bush were both members of the secret society Skull and Bones at Yale University.

"He apparently asked several questions - he went on for quite awhile - then he was asked to stop," university spokesman Steve Orlando said. "He had used his allotted time. His microphone was cut off, then he became upset."

Well, university spokesman Steve Orlando, if you actually watched the second video you'll see that Meyer did not go on for "quite a while" and that he "became upset" not because his mic was cut off but because he was grabbed by a police officer just after he asked his Skull and Bones question. Nothing like obfuscating the facts to try and place blame on the victim.

And speaking of blaming the victim, who obviously didn't need to be tasered considering the mass of police officers who descended upon him, the AP has now modified its original story (which I linked to above) adding this:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- A university student with a history of taping his own practical jokes was Tasered by campus police and arrested after loudly and repeatedly trying to ask U.S. Senator John Kerry questions during a campus forum.

The questions he asked Kerry sure seemed dead serious to me and there's no way anyone could conclude that what happened was about trying to instigate a "practical joke".

The AP article continues:

Meyer has his own Web site and it contains several "comedy" videos that he appears in. In one, he stands in a street with a sign that says "Harry Dies" after the latest Harry Potter book was released. In another, he acts like a drunk while trying to pick up a woman in a bar.

The site also has what is called a "disorganized diatribe" attributed to Meyer that criticizes the Iraq war, the news media for not covering the conflict enough and the American public for paying too much attention to celebrity news.

To which I say, so what??.

Meyer spent the nite in jail and was released on Tuesday morning.

Meyer was arrested on charges of resisting an officer and disturbing the peace, according to Alachua County jail records, but the State Attorney's Office had yet to make the formal charging decision. Police recommended charges of resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disturbing the peace and interfering with school administrative functions, a misdemeanor.

Related:

Andrew Meyer's site

The Miami Herald spoke to Meyers' grandmother.

John Kerry has released this statement:

In 37 years of public appearances, through wars, protests and highly emotional events, I have never had a dialogue end this way. I believe I could have handled the situation without interruption, but again I do not know what warnings or other exchanges transpired between the young man and the police prior to his barging to the front of the line and their intervention. I asked the police to allow me to answer the question and was in the process of answering him when he was taken into custody. I was not aware that a taser was used until after I left the building. I hope that neither the student nor any of the police were injured. I regret enormously that a good healthy discussion was interrupted.

I don't know how Kerry couldn't have heard the cries from Meyer to the police not to taser him. Then again, Kerry is so in love with the sound of his own voice, it's quite possible that he wasn't even paying attention.
 

Monday, September 17, 2007

Blackwater's Iraq Contract Cancelled

Via the NYT:

BAGHDAD, Sept. 17 — The Iraqi government said it had revoked the license of Blackwater USA, a private security company that provides protection for American diplomats across Iraq, after shots fired from an American convoy killed eight Iraqis.

Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, said the authorities had canceled the company’s license and barred its activity across Iraq. He said the government would prosecute the deaths, though according to the rules that govern private contractors, it was not clear whether the Iraqis had the legal authority to do so.

“This is a big crime that we can’t stay silent before,” said Jawad al-Bolani, Iraq’s interior minister, speaking on satellite television. “Anyone who wants to have good relations with Iraq has to respect Iraqis.”

The incident took place on Sunday in Nisour Square, an area in western Baghdad that is clogged with construction and concrete blocks. American officials said that a convoy of State Department vehicles came under fire, causing one to break down. It was towed. The officials did not say whether any of the convoy’s security guards fired back or whether they worked for Blackwater.

Typical US government reaction: denial.

The state department's spokespuppet, Sean McCormack, today promised an investigation which will no doubt spare Blackwater any grief.

As I wrote last week, the glaring omission in the testimony of Petraeus, Crocker and the speech given by Commander Guy™ was any reference to the private contractors in Iraq. They certainly won't be able to ignore that reality now and will be all over al Maliki to restore Blackwater's license.

Via Sourcewatch:

Blackwater USA was co-founded by former Navy Seal Erik Prince, a "billionaire right-wing fundamentalist Christian from a powerful Michigan Republican family. A major Republican campaign contributor, he interned in the White House of President George H.W. Bush and campaigned for Pat Buchanan in 1992. He founded the mercenary firm Blackwater USA in 1997 with Gary Jackson, another former Navy SEAL."[2]

Prince's father, Edgar Prince, and Gary Bauer started the Family Research Council, where Prince interned. Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.[2]

Blackwater USA received no-bid contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and "post-Katrina New Orleans" from the current Bush administration.[3]
[...]

"America's Holy Warriors"

Erik Prince[23] is "the secretive, mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater, the private security firm that has built a formidable mercenary force in Iraq," Chris Hedges wrote December 31, 2006, in Truthdig.[24]

Prince "champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. His employees, in an act as cynical as it is deceitful, take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution.[25] These mercenary units in Iraq, including Blackwater, contain some 20,000 fighters. They unleash indiscriminate and wanton violence against unarmed Iraqis, have no accountability and are beyond the reach of legitimate authority. The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a grim taste of the future. It was a stark reminder that the tyranny we impose on others we will one day impose on ourselves," Hedges wrote.[24]

If Blackwater is kicked out of Iraq, the US military will be extremely hard-pressed to fill the spots of those 20,000 since it's already stretched so thin. And with Prince being such a close ally of the Bush's, the White House is bound to fight hard to keep the company there. Pressure on al Maliki will be massive. I wouldn't be surprised if he reverses or modifies his government's decision in the next few days.

Related:
Contractors in Iraq make costs balloon
Citizens' Oversight Projects offers a very detailed list of links, videos and information about Blackwater.
 

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Food for Thought: RFK Speaking About Violence

This clip is from the end of the 2006 movie Bobby.



You can read this speech in its entirety here.

Excerpt:

"Among free men,” said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs.”

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we known what must be done. “When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies – to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sanitizing War

In a weird, frightening way, we believe in violent death. We regard it as a policy option, as much to do with self-preservation on a national scale as punishment for named and individual wrongdoers. We believe in war. For what is aggression – the invasion of Iraq in 2003, for example – except capital punishment on a mass scale? We "civilised" nations – like the dark armies we believe we are fighting – are convinced that the infliction of death on an awesome scale can be morally justified.

And that's the problem, I'm afraid. When we go to war, we are all putting on hoods and pulling the hangman's lever. And as long as we send our armies on the rampage – whatever the justification – we will go on stringing up and shooting and chopping off the heads of our "criminals" and "murderers" with the same enthusiasm as the Romans cheered on the men of blood in the Colosseum 2,000 years ago.

- Robert Fisk, In the Colosseum, thoughts turn to death

It struck me this past week, listening to the testimony of General Petraeus and the speech given by George Bush, that they both seem endeared with using the term "cleared" when it comes to describing killing the so-called "enemy" (and who knows how many civilians at the same time?) - as if slaughter during war time amounts to no more than Bush's hobby at his ranch: "clearing brush". In Iraq and Afghanistan however, it's people who are being rooted out, gathered up - either in body bags or to be stashed away in detention somewhere until they're proven innocent - not just bothersome twigs or branches.

And then there are the "barbarians", as Petraeus and Bush like to refer to al Qaeda and the other insurgents. Are they "barbarians" because their methods of slaughter are more primitive? Because they don't possess the laser-guided missiles or bombs that can be dropped on an entire village in an area that must be "cleared" according to their war strategy? Does it make a difference if a child's head is blown away by an American gun or one of al Qaeda's? Aren't those both barbaric acts?

And what of the victims of US military barbarity? Major news networks and TV talk shows love featuring stories of select children who were horrendously disfigured by the "enemy's" actions - trotting them out to the American public while praising whichever hospital has agreed to do the reconstructive surgery for free - as if those doctors are doing penance on behalf of all citizens - most of whom couldn't be bothered to left a finger to try to do anything to end both wars and the rest of the violence the US inflicts upon the rest of the world year after year, decade after decade. Somehow, fixing one child's face is supposed to be enough. It's not.

If the public was able to view the total, cumulative effects of its military "campaigns" (another word that sanitizes mass killings), it might actually understand the true horror of the military-industrial complex that it's still so willing to support via the country's two major political parties - both of which are just as guilty of enabling war profiteers and the twisted ideal of "clearing" the world of its enemies. And there is a never-ending supply of enemies who must be "cleared".

When Bush spoke of "return on success" during Thursday nite's speech, he acted as nothing more than the CEO of a major corporation trying to guarantee investors a good ROI - Return On their Investment. That was exactly the same business-like stance that Ryan Crocker used during his testimony earlier this week - a dry, passionless, dehumanized summary of what the war profiteers can expect out of the White House until the end of Bush's term. The frustration with al Maliki's government not yet passing the oil law is ever present for those who are growing impatient with not being able to realize their dreams of cashing in on the riches underneath Iraq's desert sands.

Bush and Petraeus were selling a product this week: a future Iraq that will be secure enough for profiteers to operate without fear for their lives. Everything else - the "freedom", the "democracy", the "liberation" - is just a smokescreen. And if the Democrats decide to try to pull out troops before there is some sense of that security, they'll have big-moneyed corporate lobbyists to answer to. They won't defund the war. That's political suicide. And they are just as invested in the so-called "glory" of war that enables far too many Americans to not realistically look at the nightmarish damage their country's military might actually causes.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on Friday at a Pentagon briefing that he couldn't predict how long U.S. forces would be in Iraq, how many, or even what their mission would be. ``We are in a very early stage in this,'' Gates said.
link

Meanwhile, Civilian toll in Iraq may top 1 Million

1 Million

And what of the displaced?

Refugees International has been sounding the alarm for almost a year that Iraqi refugee flows throughout the Middle East are overwhelming the region. More than 2.2 million persons are now displaced inside the country, and an additional 2.5 million have fled to neighboring countries. These numbers continue to grow with as many as 100,000 per month newly displaced within Iraq and 40,000 to 60,000 fleeing to Syria on a monthly basis. With Jordan and Syria now imposing entry requirements on Iraqis, it is becoming increasingly hard to leave the country. Many “safer” governorates inside Iraq have also closed their internal borders, unable to cope with the large influxes of displaced persons.

"Refugees International is extremely concerned by the growing numbers of displaced Iraqis, as well as by the few options that are available to them," continued Ms. Younes. "Whether or not U.S. troops stay or leave Iraq, it is clear that we must respond to the millions of people who cannot access housing, food, medical care and education for their children. Regardless of our future course in Iraq, these people are not going home soon."

Refugees International also addressed Ambassador Crocker's concern for Iraqis who have helped the U.S. and expressed disappointment that only 719 refugees have been resettled in the U.S. this year.
link

So who are the "barbarians"? Those who chose to invade a country that was not an imminent threat or those who choose to fight back/and or take advantage of the occupation? It was Bush, after all, who said, "Bring 'em on". He got exactly what he wanted, didn't he?

And, long after he finally retires to his ranch to once again clear his brush, US military troops and contractors (whose presence was mysteriously absent in the public testimony this past week) will be "clearing" Iraq - of insurgents and civilians. What kind of "return on success" is that for the Iraqi people? And why don't they get to decide what "success" means?

Related: America's Deadly Shock Doctrine in Iraq by Naomi Klein and Henry Holt
 

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The 17 Minute War President

Shorter Bush speechifying: Ya, hey. Thanks for dying and getting your arms and legs blown off. Carry on because there's no end in sight. I'm The Commander Guy™. God bless me.

And here's another version of Bush's speech:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Conservatives Want to Invade Your Privacy

In the rush to catch up to the blatant civil rights violations instituted by our neighbours to the south, it seems the so-called "new" Conservative government now wants to get its hands on our personal information without a court order too.

Via CBC News:

Government agencies are moving to gain access to telephone and internet customers' personal information without first getting a court order, according to a document obtained by CBCNews.ca that is raising privacy issues.

Public Safety Canada and Industry Canada have begun a consultation on how law enforcement and national security agencies can gain lawful access to customers' information. The information would include names, addresses, land and cellphone numbers, as well as additional mobile phone identification, such as a device serial number and a subscriber identity module (SIM) card number.

The consultation also seeks input on access to e-mail addresses and IP addresses. An IP address is a number that can be used to identify a computer's location.

The document says the objective of the consultation is to provide law enforcement and national security agencies with the ability to obtain the information while protecting the privacy of Canadians.

The document says that under current processes, enforcement agencies have been experiencing difficulties in gaining the information from telecommunications service providers, some of which have been demanding a court-issued warrant before turning over the data.

"If the custodian of the information is not co-operative when a request for such information is made, law enforcement agencies may have no means to compel the production of information pertaining to the customer," the document says. "This poses a problem in some contexts."

Well, isn't that just too bad?? If they don't have enough of a reason to be granted a court order for the records, what makes them think they ought to be able to have access to it anyway? Flimsy excuses.

It says enforcement agencies may need the information for matters other than probes, such as informing next-of-kin of emergency situations, or because they are at the early stages of an investigation.

"The availability of such building-block information is often the difference between the start and finish of an investigation," according to the document.

Let's get real. Just how many times has that "next-of-kin" situation been a real problem? It seems to me that there's more than enough personal information of ours on file with the federal government that such an excuse has no bearing on what they really want to do with what they could collect with a warrant. It's those "investigations" that we should all be concerned about.

We do still have rights in this country, as much as the Conservative government seems to hate that fact.

CBC also notes that there is what's supposed to be considered as an adequate time for "public consultation" which is news to some of the stakeholders and privacy groups - not to mention the vast majority of Canadians whose privacy would be impacted by such a decision.

Geist said the other problem with the consultation is that it appears as if the government agencies have already made up their minds on how to proceed and are simply conducting it for appearances' sake.

"The fear is that law enforcement knows what it would like to do — it would like to be able to obtain this information without court oversight — and so it has pulled together this consultation in the hope that they can use that to say they have consulted, and here are the safeguards that the consultation thought was appropriate."

That type of behaviour from Conservatives like Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper comes as no surprise to those of us who live in Alberta where those two cut their political teeth. The Klein government was infamous for its so-called public consultations which consisted of province-wide meetings where they just presented their plans, put up with some inconvenient "input" from the peasants and then went back to Edmonton to implement what they had chosen to do in the first place. Faux democracy. Day and Harper were well-schooled.

Caught with their pants down by the CBC and with opposition being voiced by the privacy commissioner, the Conservative government is now doing damage control:

Mélisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, said the government was not trying to keep the consultation secret and would post the document on the internet on Thursday. The deadline for submissions would also be extended, although no decision on a date has been made yet.

The previous "consultation" period was set to end on September 27th. So much for pulling a fast one with our privacy rights.
 

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 - 6 Years Later

This man - this incompetent, criminal opportunist - is set to speak to Americans again on Thursday. And who would have guessed that, 6 full years after the attacks of 9/11, the topic of his speech would be war with Iraq? Certainly not the neocons who seized on the horrors of 9/11 as an excuse to illegally wage war on that country. They thought it would be a cakewalk. Many of them are now tremendously frustrated that their dreams of pillaging Iraq's oil have not yet been fully realized. "Blood and treasure" was a phrase used throughout the testimony of Petraeus and Crocker the past two days. Why was I reminded of pirates?

And what of the Afghanistan war - the so-called just war waged after the 9/11 attacks? It's been quietly forgotten. When Petraeus was asked how his plans for Iraq might impact the GWOT, he basically said that figuring that out was not his department - that it was his job to focus solely on the Iraq war. He couldn't (or wouldn't) answer how the concentration of American troops might affect the US military's inability to deal with conflicts in the rest of the world and at home. His responses reminded me of the warnings given before and after 9/11 about US intelligence agencies not working together to deal with possible threats. And we all know what the result of that failure was.

Ryan Crocker, acting like a CEO addressing concerned corporate shareholders about their investments in Iraq (and that's really what his testimony was about, wasn't it?) could only parrot Petraeus by admitting he was "frustrated". He spoke with a chilling, distant, business-like indifference about the plight of the actual people - the Iraqis - whose fate is in his hands. No "timelines, dates or guarantees". Nothing.

And neither man could admit that the counter-insurgency strategy that's been implemented has also been practiced (most likely by accident since the official Petraeus manual hadn't been written yet) in Afghanistan - that of working with the locals while not making the much-needed connections to the federal government. The result? War lords back in power. The Taliban continuing its oppression. Karzai crying crocodile tears over all of the civilians NATO and the US military keep killing in air strikes - air power being used because there are not, and never were, enough troops on the ground. Opium once again the number one cash crop driving Afghanistan's economy. But, on this anniversary of 9/11, Iraq was the focus.

Petraeus, claiming he didn't have any sort of political agenda, was basically a two-trick pony: the problems in Iraq are being caused by al Qaeda in Iraq and Iran - convenient targets considering the Bush administration's fearmongering of late. And, as was pointed out to Petraeus, the fact that the Sunnis are rebelling against AQI in al Anbar is not so much about the fact that they've suddenly been won over (in the "hearts and minds" game). The opposition to AQI came about because their people were being raped and slaughtered. The US military seems to have no problem with supporting the Sunnis, especially since they can execute whomever they like without following the rules of war. And while Petraeus heralds this so-called triumph, the political reality of supporting the Sunnis is actually counter-productive to the concept of "national reconciliation" that both Petraeus and Crocker admit has not moved along as expected. Well, what do they expect when neither of them said one thing about the absolutely rampant corruption in al Maliki's government along with his dictatorial actions to shut down any investigations about the wrongdoing?

Shades of Afghanistan once again.

And while Petraeus hopes that touting so-called progress at the micro level is reason enough to convince congress, Americans and the world that the occupation should continue, the Bush administration is placing serious roadblocks to dealing with players in the region, like Iran and Syria, at the macro level - using threats, intimidation and sanctions as a macho form of cowboy diplomacy. How has that worked out so far?

Meanwhile, Karzai is once again trying to negotiate with the Taliban while they refuse to do so with foreign troops in the country and Musharraf pulled out of attending an Afghanistan peace conference in August. As a result of Musharraf's continual inability or reluctance to deal with insurgents in Waziristan, the US government is now placing its hopes in the return of the corrupt Benazir Bhutto. (The NYT has more on Pakistan's current political situation.)

On all of these fronts, there is no coherent and comprehensive policy except the continued push by the White House to assert its executive powers (made up as they go along while shredding the constitution in the process) against the American people.

“Partisanship is our great curse. We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other.”

-James Harvey Robinson, Amercian historian (1863-1936)

The dangerous fawning of the Republicans who place their party and president before their country is still on display this week, despite the mountains of evidence that have proven that the choice to invade Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and that execution of that and the Afghanistan war are massive failures. And they, along with corporatist Democrats who believe they owe their fealty to members of the military industrial complex - including lobbyists for foreign governments like Israel which is now under an even greater threat as a result of the regional destabilization - have sold out their constituents; doomed them to more funerals and the human and financial costs of dealing with the wounded coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan while still creating a hell overseas that they cannot even bring themselves to honestly imagine. Token visits to safe areas like the green zone or tours outside those boundaries under extremely heavy guard do not provide them with an adequate sense of reality. They'd do well to spend time with some of the 2 million refugees, within and outside of Iraq, to really understand exactly what they have wrought. Maybe then they wouldn't keep fiddling while Baghdad and Helmund province in Afghanistan burn as a result of their rash decisions.

So, on this day while America and the world once again mourns for those killed on 9/11, who is mourning for the hundreds of thousands who have died due to the need for revenge that followed that day 6 years ago?

And the question that once again hangs in the air is simple: Was it all worth it?

And who has been held accountable? Keith Olbermann offers "No truth, no consequences":


Where is the mass rebellion?

Update: The 'proxy war': UK troops are sent to Iranian border

British forces have been sent from Basra to the volatile border with Iran amid warnings from the senior US commander in Iraq that Tehran is fomenting a "proxy war".

In signs of a fast-developing confrontation, the Iranians have threatened military action in response to attacks launched from Iraqi territory while the Pentagon has announced the building of a US base and fortified checkpoints at the frontier.

And so it begins...
 

Monday, September 10, 2007

Video: Fascist America on Display

This is absolutely outrageous.

Reverend Lennox Yearwood was arrested while standing in line as he waited to get into the hearing room to watch the testimony of General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker on Monday.

When he questioned why he was not being allowed into the room, this is what happened:



From the LA Times:

Interest in the hearing was hot, likened to Gen. William Westmorland's performance on Vietnam a generation ago. But some tempers were hotter. There weren't enough seats. The acoustics were bad. The overflow room was two buildings away, and it was muggy outside. Clearly, a lot of people were sick of this war, and a lot of other people were sick of the people who were sick of this war.

They started lining up before 8 a.m. Two opposing factions standing in line for five hours with nothing to do is not a recipe for harmony.

Suddenly, there was a lot of scuffling and a clot of Capitol police coagulated in the hallway. In the middle of the clot was the anti-war activist Rev. Lennox Yearwood, who apparently had attempted to push his way into the hearing room and was wrestled to the floor.

Television cameras scurried to the scene. Yearwood was lying on the ground with his legs askew, as though he had been hit by a car. Seizing the moment, Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war protesting mom, started chanting, "Arrest Bush, not Rev!" The police told her, if she said that one more time, they would have to arrest her. She said it one more time and put her hands behind her back before the officer even reached for the cuffs.

The Washington Post reported:

Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, was among the first to be arrested. She was taken into custody shortly after noon and charged with disorderly conduct, Capitol Police said, because she shouted during the hearing.

Christy Anne Miller, Sheehan's sister, was also charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly shouting in the hallway.

Others arrested included Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, who was charged with unlawful conduct after allegedly shouting during the hearing, and the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., of the D.C.-based Hip Hop Caucus, who allegedly refused to move back after jumping in front of a line of people waiting to get inside the room. He was charged with disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer, Capitol Police said.

Yearwood had to be removed by wheelchair and was taken to the hospital as a result. I've watched that video twice and obviously missed the part where he supposedly tried to "push his way into the hearing room" or where he jumped in front of the line.

Code Pink has more on Monday's arrests which included former CIA officer Ray McGovern.

Visit the site of the Hip Hop Caucus.

Update: Rep. Ike Skelton, the Democrat chairing the hearing, called the protesters in the room "assholes".

Skelton: That really pisses me off, Duncan.

Hunter: What?

Skelton: Those assholes. And I don't need a goddamn lecture from Dan Burton neither.

Hunter: Here's their strategy; there's about ten of them, so they say they’re going to sacrifice one every five minutes. If they do that I would boot the whole identifiable group out.

Skelton: How do you do that?

Hunter: Because they're all in the same dress--the pink people. They're an association. So you [makes out the door hand gesture, muttering].

Skelton: Might have to.

Update:
Ray McGovern speaks out about his arrest.

'Swear Him In'

by Ray McGovern

That's all I said in the unusual silence on Monday afternoon as first aid was being administered to Gen. David Petraeus' microphone before he spoke before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

It had dawned on me that when House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) invited Gen. Petraeus to make his presentation, Skelton forgot to ask him to take the customary oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I had no idea that my suggestion would be enough to get me thrown out of the hearing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Food for Thought: Questions

The simplest questions are the most profound.

Where were you born?
Where is your home?
Where are you going?
What are you doing?

Think about these once in awhile, and watch your answers change.

- Richard Bach, Illusions

Saturday, September 08, 2007

It's my birthday!

And you know what that means:

Cheesecake!!


And a song:



(Don't sing and eat at the same time.)

Oh what fun it is to be 29 again...over and over and over and over.

And over and over and over.

And over again and over.

Okay, my hands are tired now.
 

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Fun

New product line: Just For Terrorists™ - covers up the grey in just 5 minutes so you can quickly get back to plotting world domination while looking hot for the ladies.

 

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Video: Olbermann - Surge Protectors & The Great Conflation

All of the buzz leading up to the surge report to be given by Petraeus next week has been like watching movie trailers in which the major action shots released show, for all intents and purposes, the entire content of the movie.

There won't be any surprises.

Olbermann has a look at how "insurgent" numbers have been fixed around the surge policy and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek discusses 'The Great Conflation" ie. the continual, nauseating linking of the Iraq war with 9/11.



The situation in Iraq is such a farce that an independent report this week called for disbanding Iraq's national police force which is rife with sectarian Shiite bias. The Democrats, meanwhile, couldn't put a coherent policy plan together about how to deal with the Iraq war if their lives depended on it. Maybe that's the problem: their lives don't depend on it. They might be singing a different tune if they were all forced to live in the middle of Baghdad for a month or so. In the meantime, they just cobble together whatever they think might make their base happy while blaming those nasty Republicans for not being able to get anything done. (And those Republicans are nasty, but at least they know how to put up a real fight when they go after something they want.)

Dana Milbank, in what is perhaps a precursor to what will surely be the reactions from both parties to the WH/Petraeus report next week, shows how Democrats and Republicans are using the independent commission's report to try and sell the same old schtick about the war. No one, it seems, has any new ideas.

Madeleine Albright seems to think that if only Bush would admit his mistakes, some major corner would be turned for US allies to come in and save the day. It's long past time for that to mean anything and Bush won't do it anyway, so what's the point?

As for what Olbermann and Alter were talking about, here is the WaPo story about how the surge numbers have been manipulated.

The intelligence community has its own problems with military calculations. Intelligence analysts computing aggregate levels of violence against civilians for the NIE puzzled over how the military designated attacks as combat, sectarian or criminal, according to one senior intelligence official in Washington. "If a bullet went through the back of the head, it's sectarian," the official said. "If it went through the front, it's criminal."

"Depending on which numbers you pick," he said, "you get a different outcome." Analysts found "trend lines . . . going in different directions" compared with previous years, when numbers in different categories varied widely but trended in the same direction. "It began to look like spaghetti."

"spaghetti".

There you have it.

I'm sorry, but aren't we talking about dead people here?

Related:
Most of world wants U.S. out of Iraq in a year: poll

New Twist In Saga Over ‘Petraeus Report’: There Will Be No Report
 

Riverbend Leaves Iraq

From Baghdad Burning, an excerpt:

As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn’t want to seem like a baby. I didn’t want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.

The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same- there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?

I wish her and her family all the best. May they all find peace and comfort.

Such a sad reality.
 

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Barak Contemplates Collective Punishment

Via Ha'aretz:

Cabinet likely to back 'punishing' Gaza civilians over Qassams

By Amos Harel, Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents

Government sources believe most Security Cabinet members will support increasing financial pressure on the Gaza Strip during the cabinet's meeting in Jerusalem Wednesday, in response to the ongoing rocket fire at Israel.

Sderot parents, meanwhile, intend to demonstrate outside the Knesset building. Sources in the defense ministry said that Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the Israel Defense Forces Tuesday to examine the implications of temporarily cutting off the Strip from Israeli infrastructure, including electricity, fuel and the supply of basic commodities.

Barak ordered the defense establishment to examine "the operational and legal aspects of steps designed to limit Hamas' rule in the Gaza Strip." Barak told the IDF he wanted to determine the degree to which Israel was obligated to provide services for the Strip.

The call to cut off water, electricity, gas and fuel to the Strip is seen as an alternative - or, if unsuccessful, a prelude - to a broad IDF incursion into northern Gaza. Government sources, however, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was unlikely to authorize an escalation in Israel's military actions in the region.

It seems to me that there isn't much to "examine". Collective punishment of civilians in territories that your government occupies violates the Geneva Conventions. The inclusion of the issue of collective punishment came about as a response to the actions of the Nazis during WW2.

And, as if that wasn't ironic enough - the following statement actually made me gasp:

Earlier Tuesday, Vice Premier Haim Ramon - one of a growing number of cabinet ministers in favor of cutting off utilities to Gaza - said that Israel should attach a "price tag" to every rocket launched at Israel.

"We will set a price tag for every Qassam, in terms of cutting off infrastructures," Ramon told Army Radio. "Hamas will ... know this in advance. We will not continue to supply 'oxygen' in the form of electricity, fuel, and water while they are trying to murder our children."

The first thing that came to mind when I read that was the gassing of the Jews by the Nazis. The intended action certainly isn't the same but the sentiment is.

The oppressed have become the oppressors and if Israel's government has the equivalent of an Alberto Gonzales who manipulated a so-called legal defence for Bush to condone torture, no doubt the Israeli government can come up with some sort of justification to apply this type of collective punishment to the civilians in Gaza as well.

It really is something that Ramon would defend his belief in collective punishment by stating that he's concerned about the lives of Israeli children while the IDF continues to kill Palestinian children, refusing to cease military actions that clearly place those children in the sites of their weapons, while issuing half-hearted apologies. These killings are war crimes.

See also: Gaza: "The children killed in a war the world doesn't want to know about" and If Americans Knew

Meanwhile, the world does nothing - as usual. Or, in the case of the United States government - with support from both Republicans and Democrats, the Israeli government is getting even more money and arms to continue its illegal occupation while the victims have absolutely no voice.

Who speaks for the dead Palestinian children? And who will protect the civilians that Ramon and Barak want to punish for the actions of Hamas? And the bigger question always is, of course, how does any of this advance the peace process? Or does Israel's government even care about that anymore as it continues to apply failed military "solutions"?

Deciding to cut off essential services shows how desperately unwilling that government is to consider anything other than the concept of "might makes right". That hasn't worked. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results - made all the more brutal when children and other civilians become your publicly contemplated targets due to your own failures.

You'd think they would have learned that from their own peoples' history.

Related:
Land Grab at OG&P
Israel town anger at school attack
 

Monday, September 03, 2007

Bush Does Iraq


Bush will indeed cast a very long shadow over Iraq for decades to come.


Administration officials rejected the idea that the trip was a publicity stunt ahead of the progress report by General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker.

“There are some people who might try to derive this trip as a photo opportunity,” the White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said. “We wholeheartedly disagree.”
NYT link




Nope. No photo ops there.

Photo credits: Reuters