Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Actually, the most surprising thing commentator-wise was that the corporate media actually let a no-kidding Out Now!-er on the air. Aaron Brown interviewed Amy Goodman; of course, the interview lasted about ten seconds. Still though, I doubt it would have happened six months ago. Goodman gets on TV occasionally when promoting a new book or something, but I've never seen her used as a political pundit commenting on a presidential speech. Maybe such occurrences are the result of the undeniable fact that Americans are squarely against this war.
The other related misrepresentation was not adequately dealt with in the corporate media's post-speech spin sessions. Bush implied that the primary agents that US troops are fighting in Iraq are the guys that either get called "terrorists" or "foreign fighters". The number of foreign fighters in Iraq has been the subject of debate for two years now and is still essentially unknown. However, one can make a pretty persuasive case that the number of these Jihadists and their significance has been consistently exaggerated.
You only need to look at specific examples. The purpose of the second Fallujah campaign last November, we were told, was to root out hordes of foreign fighters. After the campaign, the city reduced to smoldering rubble, the hordes never materialized. Commenting on the lack of foreign fighters John Hendren of the LA Times noted that the Fallujah campaign gave military commanders some insight into the demographics of the Iraqi insurgency: it"paint[ed] a portrait of a home-grown uprising dominated by Iraqis, not foreign fighters."
In a similar vein, last February Walter Pincus wrote in the Post about a CIA report that described Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda affiliated associates as "lesser elements" in an insurgency largely made up of "newly radicalized Sunni Iraqis, nationalists offended by the occupying force, and others disenchanted by the economic turmoil and destruction caused by the fighting."
Bush's implication that Jihadists are a major factor in the Iraqi insurgency is a willful act of deception. We know that it is willful deception because the Bush administration's policy, as well as its rhetoric (in, for instance, the speech I'm discussing), has recently begun to distinguish between insurgents and terrorists; take, for example, the old Time Magazine story that has recently been resurrected about the US opening a dialog with leaders of the insurgency. The administration defends this policy by explicitly stating it is negotiating with insurgents not terrorists. The reason why it makes sense to negotiate with insurgents is because the insurgency is mostly comprised of, go figure, insurgents.
It was all there in the speech if one cared to listen closely ... the most darkly humorous bit for me was this:
Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others.
In a speech promoting the idea that the Iraq War is about fighting terrorists on their home turf and that it's going swimmingly, the guy says that after two years, almost two thousand Americans dead, over ten thousand Americans wounded, perhaps one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians dead, hundreds of billions spent, we only got hundreds of these boogey-men? How many hundreds is that, George -- two, three. Hell, maybe a gross. Look given that the implication had been that hundreds were going to turn up in Fallujah, the guy just basically admitted that the whole foreign fighters line is a load of bullshit.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Some of you may be familiar with David Neiwert's excellent free lance Internet journalism on the subjects of hate crimes and contemporary white supremacy. He is also an accomplished author, and his most recent book, Strawberry Days, describes the role of Japanese Americans in the creation of Bellevue, Washington, now a suburb of Seattle, in the early part of the 20th Century. Relying predominately upon the voices of the Nisei descendants of the Issei who originally settled there, he portrays their transformation into truck farmers, and the subsequent destruction of their community by the internment during World War II. Some of them are no longer alive.
Perhaps, Neiwert's most impressive achievement is an understated tone that allows the experiences of his Nisei interviewees to shine. In this instance, narrative style possesses an importance beyond the literary. Anyone with the most glancing familiarity with a Japanese American community is aware that a publicly low-key, modest demeanor (regardless of the actual truth in private) was considered de rigeur. Modernist and post-modernist methods of storytelling may be a creative way of producing a ground breaking biography of John Brown, sociological insight into the history of Los Angeles or a compelling oral history of the Spanish Civil War, but utilizing such techniques to describe the Japanese American community of Bellevue would have been a grave cultural error.
Through the diverse experiences of people like Tom, Kazue and Rae Matsuoka, Cano and May Numoto, Toguro and Ed Suguro and others, such as Seichi Hayashida, Neiwert reveals the complexity of the internment as lived by individuals. Some, like Tom Matsuoka, acted quickly, getting himself and his family out of the camps by agreeing to work as agricultural laborers in Montana, where workers were in short supply. His daughter Rae described initial conditions there:
I know that when we went out there to live, and we went up there where the farm was, and he took us to where we were going to live, I wonder what my mother must have thought. There were two rooms and seven of us. One room was the bedroom. We had three little beds and a crib-like thing. We got no heat with that room. And the other room was where Ma did the cooking. And she would try to mop that floor, because she was so fussy, she would try to mop that floor and it would freeze.
Meanwhile, Toguro Suguro, an Issei, was a "no-no", refusing to serve in the US military and swear loyalty to the United States, so he and his Nisei son, Ed, remained at the Tule Lake camp in northeastern California, living through the conflict between the Japanese American Citizens League and a pro-Japanese faction, as did Hayashida, associated with the JACL. Not all "no-nos" were pro-Japanese, but some were, and the conflict between these pro-Japanese "no-nos" and the "yes-yes'", personified by JACL leadership and their perceived privileges, sometimes escalated into violence
By this time, the close knit prewar Japanese American community of Bellevue had already been irretrievably shattered when its members were separated into separate housing complexes within Tule Lake. Cano and May Numoto accepted a transfer to a camp in Minidoka, Idaho, where May died from lupus as a result of inadequate medical care:
Cano, at the doctor's suggestion, telegrammed the Mayo Clinic to see if she could be admitted there. "I got a telegram right back: Stop! Stop! We can't help her. Oh, boy. That's when my heart really sank. I knew that they couldn't do anything. They can't help her. There's no hope, you know. That was the worst news I could get."
But the book is valuable for social insights beyond the internment. For example, Neiwert confronts the corrosive consequences of racism, frequently in unpredictable ways. For example, Nisei uncharacteristically spoke with him about how they were sometimes embarrassed by their Issei parents during the prewar years, people who either did not or could not conform to emerging white middle class norms:
I almost died when when I found out that one of my teachers had visited my parents to let them know how well I was doing in school. In those years, if you made honor roll or got a special recognition . . . , instead of writing a letter, they would visit home to bring the good news. Well, I just about died. I mean, of mortification, when I found out that this one teacher [had visited]. I said, "you didn't feed her anything" and she says, "Yes", yes she did. She had served sembei and those dried cherries and, oh my God--tea, not coffee!
Nisei internalized racism as a form of social ostracism, haiseki:
I was the best speller, I remember, a couple of years in class. And she admonished the rest of the class for not being able to spell better than me, since I was Japanese.
Haiseki found its most symbolic expression in the prewar Bellevue strawberry festival, an event that drew thousands, an event created for whites, with, naturally, a white 'strawberry queen', while Japanese Americans grew and harvested almost all of the strawberries served there. The internment not only signaled the end of the festival, but also, less predictably, the disintegration of a paradoxical social world where whites could simultaneously perceive Japanese Americans as both friends and inferiors.
Neiwert portrays, with an unflinching banality, the internment as the logical, possibly inevitable, consequence of a deeply ingrained white racism against Japanese Americans. Whites in Bellevue, as along the rest of the West Coast, were appallingly consistent: they didn't want Japanese Americans to come there, they didn't want them to permanently settle there, they agitated for the internment and they even resisted their return after the war. As a 1945 Bellevue flier said:
DO YOU WANT JAPS AS YOUR NEIGHBORS, AGAIN?
Throughout the years, a supportive media and political establishment amplified their bigotry, creating periodic hysterias that reached their apogee in the days and months after December 7, 1941. No wonder legendary Senator Henry Jackson was so supportive of the Vietnam War, and the massive loss of life inflicted upon the Vietnamese (just as his present day disciples, the neoconservatives, enthusiastically justify the occupation of Iraq, despite its baneful consequences for Arabs): as a congressman, he agitated for the internment and, later, with the end of the war in sight, opposed the return of Japanese Americans. Neiwert maintains that he has never been able to find any statement of remorse by Jackson during the course of research.
Jackson merely followed the lead of an entrepreneurial business class that envisioned profit from the happy conjunction of economic self-interest and racism. Neiwert puts flesh on the bones of this aspect of the story by emphasizing the role of xenophobic civil icon Miller Freeman. Arriving in the Puget Sound region in 1889, Freeman's malign presence lurks throughout the narrative, as, in marked contrast to the hardships encountered by Japanese Americans, he successfully moves from farming to newspapers to politics to land speculation, playing an integral role in the transformation of Bellevue from an agricultural community into an upper middle class suburban metropolis. All along the way, Freeman missed few, if any, chances to foment hatred towards Japanese Americans, ultimately enriching himself at their expense. Only towards the end of this process did whites begin to express significant opposition to Freeman's demagoguery.
Washington has, for the first time, acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said.
The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on on condition of anonymity.
'They are no longer trying to duck this and have respected their obligation to inform the UN,' the Committee member said.
'They they will have to explain themselves (to the Committee). Nothing should be kept in the dark,' he said.
UN sources said this is the first time the world body has received such a frank statement on torture from US authorities.
The document submitted by the US will not be made public until the committee conducts hearings in 2006.
Meanwhile, Cheney says that the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay should be happy they're "living in the tropics" and Bush speaking on the occasion of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture just said
Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right, and we are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.
which is why, you know, we detain our prisoners in countries outside the United States and why we kidnap suspects and whoosh them away to places like Uzbekistan: there's so much less rule of law to protect them.
America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.
Yeah, bullies suck. Hey, did you hear that Chavez is mad man who doesn't believe in democracy?
All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
Unless, of course we are your oppressors in which case just shut up and eat your lemon chicken.
Friday, June 24, 2005
"Public opinion polls have shown tepid support at best for the [private] accounts."given that it's, you know, false.
Here are some results from a CBS News/New York Times Poll earlier this month:
"Do you have confidence in George W. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about Social Security, or are you uneasy about his approach?"
Confident Uneasy Unsure 27% 66% 7%
"Some people have suggested allowing individuals to invest portions of their Social Security taxes on their own, which might allow them to make more money for their retirement, but would involve greater risk. Do you think allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes on their own is a good idea or a bad idea?"
Good Idea Bad Idea Unsure 45% 50% 5%
"Some people have suggested allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes on their own into a small number of authorized investment funds, which might allow them to make more money for their retirement, but would involve greater risk. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?"
Good Idea Bad Idea Unsure 39% 56% 5%
"What effect do you think allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes on their own would have on the financial situation of the Social Security program itself? Would it make the program's financial situation better, make it worse, or would it not have much impact on the Social Security program's financial situation?"
Better Worse No Impact Unsure 25% 36% 27% 12%
If the above constitutes tepid support I'd like to see what rousing support looks like.
Also I found the response to this question somewhat surprising and illustrative of the direction our elected leaders actually have support to move in if they really are interested in solvency without cutting benefits:
"Currently, people pay Social Security taxes only on the first $90,000 of their annual income. If it were necessary to keep the Social Security program paying benefits as it does now, would you favor or oppose increasing the amount of income that is subject to Social Security taxes?"
Favor Oppose Unsure 63% 30% 7%
I wonder what the numbers on eliminating the wage cap all together look like?
Thursday, June 23, 2005
I ask you, dear readers, why isn't there a political blog named "Wild Speculation"? -- and also not that anyone asked but here's American Leftist's Top Ten Best Named Blogs on the Left Side of the Blogosphere:
10.) Informed Comment -- Juan Cole actually wrote something about the name of his blog in a recent post. I think he said that originally the name was a self-deprecatory joke poking fun at the fact that he was taking on the big pundits of the day but was completely obscure ... Maybe a boring choice but as the name of this blog indicates I'm biased towards names that accurately characterize a blog's contents.
9.) A Fistful of Euros -- Something about connotations of cowboy-ism applied to a non-American blog is pretty amusing. This blog is very moderate, I believe (I don't read it much so I'm not sure), but I still like the name.
8.) King of Zembla -- Obscure literary references are what make the world go 'round (Really. It's true ... ask any grad student...). No, No, Hodge shall not be shot.
7.) Wage Slave -- I was originally going to call the blog you are reading "Wage Slave" until I found out that name was taken ... now, it looks like the bastards aren't even posting.
6.) Suburban Guerilla -- This year's Most Deserving of Wider Recognition Koufax winner...
5.) World O'Crap -- One of the great moments in the history of political blogs was when in the context of the Gannon/Guckert brouhaha some CNN talking head was forced to say "World O'Crap" on TV. Good times, good times.
4.) Opinions You Should Have -- The Onion of the blogosphere. Tom Burka also has a nice template.
3.) Apostate Windbag -- Good name and probably the most under-appreciated leftist political blog period.
2.) Sadly, No! -- I'm not even sure I get this one ... just always thought it was a funny name.
1.) A Tiny Revolution -- From the Orwell quote "A thing is funny when it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution." Just a perfect name.
Mark Brzezinski's (Zbig's son?) Globe editorial on the hypocrisy of the Bush administration's policy towards Uzbekistan.
As Brezizinski points out, it's not just that the US looks the other way regarding Uzbekistan's blatant violations of human rights. The US, of course, does ignore Uzbekistan's human rights record, because the country is strategically located near Afghanistan and puts up with multiple permanent US military bases, but the US does much more than simply ignore the brutality of the Karimov regime -- it actively uses that brutality for its own purposes. Brezizinski writes
It has been reported that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it international condemnation. The US government's program of ''rendition," under which the Central Intelligence Agency transfers terror suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, is said to have resulted in possibly dozens of terror suspects being sent by the United States to Uzbekistan.
The primary source on the above is the testimony of Craig Murray, British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was pushed out after publicly criticizing the US and Britain's warm relationship with the Karimov regime. Here's the Wikipedia on Murray:
In October 2002, on becoming concerned that torture and extra-judicial killings were taking place in Uzbekistan, [Craig Murray] made a controversial speech at a human rights conference in Tashkent, in which he claimed that "Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy" and saying of the boiling to death of two men, "all of us know that this is not an isolated incident." The speech was cleared by the Foreign Office, but not before a dispute over its content. Later, Kofi Annan confronted Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov with Murray's claims.
He was summoned to London and, on 8 March 2003, he was reprimanded for writing, in a letter to his employers, in response to a speech by George W. Bush, "when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in the international fora ... I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan."
In July 2003, some of his embassy staff were sacked while he was away on holiday. They were reinstated after he expressed his outrage to his bosses in the FCO. Later during his holiday, he was recalled to London for disciplinary reasons. On 21 August 2003, he was confronted with 18 charges including "hiring dolly birds for above the usual rate" for the visa department (though he claims that it had an all-male staff) and granting UK visas in exchange for sex. He was told that discussing the charges would be a violation of the Official Secrets Act punishable by imprisonment. He claims that he was encouraged to resign.
He collapsed during a medical check in Tashkent on 2 September 2003 and was flown to St Thomas' Hospital. After an investigation by Tony Crombie, Head of the FCO's Overseas Territories Department, all but two of the charges (being drunk at work and misusing the embassy's Range Rover) were dropped. He returned to work until, in November 2003, he suffered a near fatal pulmonary embolism. In January 2004, the Foreign Office exonerated him of the 18 charges, but reprimanded him for speaking about the charges.
In February 2004, the Mail on Sunday reported his affair with Nadira Alieva. Soon after, his wife left him. In July 2004, he told The Guardian that "there is no point in having cocktail-party relationships with a fascist regime," and that "you don't have to be a pompous old fart to be an ambassador." 
Murray was removed from his post shortly after a leaked report in the Financial Times quoted him as claiming that MI6 used intelligence gained by the Uzbek authorities by torture. The Foreign Office denied there was any direct connection and stated that Mr Murray had been removed for "operational" reasons. It claimed that he had lost the confidence of senior officials and colleagues. Murray countered that he was a "victim of conscience".
Which is all fine and good and will be whooshed down the memory hole in a decade or so when Karimov stops following orders, suddenly becomes a vile monster, and coincidentally a great threat to the United States of America. I can almost picture the Thomas Friedman columns now ... you know, he boils his own people alive!
Monday, June 20, 2005
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Saturday, June 18, 2005
The material wasn't immediately released, apparently, because the government needed time to conceal the faces of the prisoners depicted -- it seems it takes weeks to perform 144 Gaussian blurs... The court order requires the photographs to be redacted by June 30th and it ordered the government to issue a timetable for the redaction of the video footage by June 10th. I haven't been able to find out if the June 10th deadline was met and if there is now a timetable for the release of the videos, but the ACLU said on June 2nd that it "expect[ed] redacted versions of the photographs to be released within the next six weeks", which means we should be seeing them in less than a month.
Given the current political climate, the unpopularity of the Iraq War, Bush's low poll numbers, the renewed sense of outrage about Guantanamo Bay in mainstream political culture, I think these pictures and videos could be a bombshell. Especially given what they are likely to contain.
Seymour Hersh had the following to say about the unreleased Abu Ghraib material during a speaking engagement at some ACLU shindig:
Debating about it, ummm ... Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."
Less graphically, here's a bit of the transcript from MSNBC's coverage of Rumsfeld's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee after the original pictures broke:
[Jim Miklaszewski, NBC Pentagon correspondent (voice-over)]: Rumsfeld then dropped a bomb, revealing that there were more photos, even videos depicting abuses far worse than what has been seen so far.
RUMSFELD: There are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman.
MIKLASZEWSKI: U.S. military officials tell NBC News, the unreleased images, show American soldiers severely beating one Iraqi prisoner to near death; apparently, raping an Iraqi female prisoner; acting inappropriately with a dead body; and Iraqi guards apparently videotaped by U.S. soldiers raping young boys.
(for the above links, see my old post on this subject)
Now, as far as I know, no one has said specifically that this is the sort of material that is about to be released, but if it is not then what is? Because of the rumors of video, I think the above is what the ACLU is lobbying for.
It's going to be fascinating to see if the release of this stuff becomes a major story or a minor story. I can't imagine that it won't be front page news but in recent times no one has gone broke betting on the cowardliness of the corporate press -- so who knows?
Speaking of betting ... let's say that the inconceivable happens and the release of the new photographic documentation of torture at Abu Ghraib doesn't get the play it deserves, I will bet anyone that once bloggers and activists start making a fuss about the lack of coverage, media spokespeople will write editorials explaining that the new photographs are not news because everyone already knows that prisoners were tortured at Abu Ghraib. Any takers?
After a slight uptick in the amount of criticism being directed towards America's extra-legal extra-US prison system -- Joseph Biden and even Thomas Friedman calling for Guantanamo Bay to be shut down -- Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld et al. said go to hell, called Amnesty International's charges "outlandish" even though the allegations were mostly uncontroversially sourced from military investigations, and a week later it turns out that our little Cuban Club Med is going to be expanded and further, I kid you not, that Halliburton has ... umm ... "won" the contract: (from The Independent)
A subsidiary of Halliburton, the oil services group once led by the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has won a $30m (£16m) contract to help build a new permanent prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Pentagon announcement, giving further details of the planned two-storey jail, complete with air conditioning and exercise and medical facilities, is a further sign that the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is determined to keep the jail in operation.
There are some 520 inmates from 40 countries at Guantanamo, some of them held there for more than three years. The new jail will be capable of holding 220 people. Under the contract with the US Naval Engineering Command, the work is to be finished by the end of July 2006. The final deal could be worth as much as $500m.
The work will be carried out by Halliburton's contracting subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). It will include site work, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical work.
Frequent readers of this blog know that usually at this point I would write Man, you can't make this shit up but the really sad thing here is that you can make this shit up, pretty easily. Just pick a topic in foreign affairs, sketch out a policy that is stupid, greedy, and ideological then sit around and wait for the Bush administration to start advocating it...
Oh yeah, hat tip to our stalwart colleague Simbaud, the Zemblan king.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
General Pinochet, traveling with a visa for the United Kingdom and under a diplomatic passport, went to England to have surgery on his back. While recuperating in the hospital, he was arrested so that he could be put on trial on Spain for offenses allegedly committed in Chile. Human rights activists think that this was a good and honorable action on the part of the English authorities, although the extradition effort ultimately failed.
The context was a discussion of Amnesty International Executive Director Bill Schulz's call for the arrest of Bush, Rumsfeld, Feith, Gonzales, and others:
If the US government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty International calls on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior US officials involved in the torture scandal. And if those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them. The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998.
Regarding the above, I'd just like to add ... What no Cheney?
Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big (brother) into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both
regarding Bush's recent comment that comforting the families of the Iraq war dead is "hard work."
Here's another Sheehan quote:
We're watching you very carefully and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people. ... Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life ...
Good luck Cindy, ... Christ, ending the political career of George W. Bush would be grounds for canonization in my book...
The American army in Iraq has been plagued by something they call IED (Improvised Explosive Devices). These devices come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: in rubbish heaps, in dead animal corpses, in little inconspicuous objects thrown on the side of the road in their path. Some are detonated remotely, some are detonated by wire.
One particular insurgent lived in a district called Aamil in western Baghdad close to the road to the airport (or what is now called the Irish Route by the American soldiers). He specialized in filling old tin cans with some dirt and wood sticks and inserting a piece of wire and leaving the ends protruding. He placed those devices on the route of American patrols and convoys. They looked suspicious enough to be taken seriously. Usually the procession was held up until experts examined those devices and declared them safe!
He was called Sharara (Spark).
His game went on for about a year. Finally the US army caught up with him. Late one night, the district was surrounded, helicopters monitored the scene from above and Sharara’s home was encircled. The front door was smashed. There was panic in the family. The man of the house was told that the army wanted Sharara. The man said that his son was asleep, but he would fetch him. Escorted, he came back with Sharara who was half asleep. The soldiers stood bewildered.
Sharara was only a 10 year old boy!
Sharara ended up in prison. This was where Nihad’s brothers met him. It was one of them who told me this story.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
To summarize, stung by the OAS shooting down the US's plan to ratify the demonization of Chavez and by the current crisis in Bolivia, Roger Noriega threw a temper tantrum and blamed Venezuelan meddling for the situation in Bolivia. The Chavez administration shot back denying the charges and stating that if the US is going to make wild accusations it should offer some proof, leading to the US State Department distributing a press release that cited an interview in a rightwing magazine in which Bolivian leftist Evo Morales expressed admiration for Chavez and wire reports about Morales inviting Chavez to Bolivia.
It's hard to express the hypocrisy of the state department's apparent notion of what constitutes fomenting dissent in a sovereign nation: maintaining a warm relationship with a Bolivian political activist is out of bounds but actively backing a coup attempt on the democratically elected Venezuelan government is just fine.
That said, I think Roger Noriega has a point, although his logic is convoluted. Let me explain:
According to well placed sources in La Paz, yesterday, prior to the resignation of Bolivia's president, heir apparent to the Bolivian throne, Congressional leader Hormando Vaca Diez, had gone to Bolivia's military brass with a plan already written for how the military will declare martial law and ruthlessly stamp out the social movements when Vaca Diez becomes president. (Who wrote that plan, Mr. Noriega?).
But the Bolivian generals told Vaca Diez to pound sand: They said, according to our sources, that they were tired of being the villains of history, causing coup after coup, massacring their own people. (This - and perhaps copious amounts of alcohol - explains Vaca Diez's crestfallen voice during his Monday night press conference, heard around the world via Radio Erbol.)
US Ambassador Roger Noriega is red-faced angry that the Bolivian military won't get to work assassinating Evo Morales, Felipe Quispe, Oscar Olivera, the entire city of El Alto, and Authentic Journalists who are covering the story. And Noriega blames Chavez!
Noriega blames Chavez because Chavez - a military soldier admired by many just like him across the hemisphere - has set the gold standard of how to put an Armed Forces to work on behalf of the people instead of against them. And simply by surviving the coup attempts against him, and by continuing his kinder-gentler non-repressive military model, Chavez has showed by example that Latin American military organizations need not be repressors as they have historically been.
That is why, kind readers, Noriega and Washington blame Chavez: not because of any evidence of direct involvement, but because the Bolivian military is balking (so far) at murdering its own people. Damn Chavez! Let one Latin American president reform his military and before ya know it, others are gonna wanna do the same! And then democracy breaks out all over the place, and what is a decaying Empire to do?
The Dreams of Sparrows follows Iraqi director Hayder Mousa Daffar and his team of contributing filmmakers as they share their vision of life in Baghdad under the US occupation. [ ... ]
After the capture of Saddam, Daffar's search for the truth takes him through all walks of life in Iraq, and finally into the arts and culture of Baghdad, drawing the viewer into powerful encounters with Iraqi painters, writers and filmmakers. As the film continues, the interviews veer towards the politics of occupation and resistance, concluding with the battle over Falluja and the devastating death of one of the crew members. In somber self interviews made following the production, the filmmakers reveal the dramatic changes in their beliefs caused not only by the situation in Iraq, but also the process of documenting it.
Might be informative ... I just heard about it, so this post isn't an endorsement. The Fallujah stuff sounds interesting, if nothing else.
Also, has anyone seen Gunner Palace? -- it came to a theater near me but I didn't catch it. These from-the-soldier's-point-of-view nonfiction works often turn out to be jingoism fests, but you never know.
Gunner Palace's trailer may have put me off, but, for example, I read a book about the initial Iraq invasion called Generation Kill because Cursor had made some provocative comments about it several months ago. Taking a look at Generation Kill's cover and name, one would quickly judge it to be total garbage, but the book is definitely worth reading: it includes chilling first-hand accounts of the murder of Iraqi civilians at check points and so forth.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
One of the great imponderables for the Venezuelan opposition is how Chavez is so popular after nearly seven years in office when, according to them, the country is coming apart at the seems. The explanations range from the superficial ("it is all based on promises"), to the bizarre ("Chavez supporters don’t believe in rational things like improving their standard of living"), to the ostrich strategy ("most Venezuelans want him out -- I don’t care what all the polls say"). What the opposition will twist, and turn, and do anything to deny is the real explanation -- that things are getting better under Chavez and that it is this improvement in their standard of living that leads most Venezuelans (over 70%) to support him.
Backing up the above with hard numbers, Oil Wars cites a slide produced by the market research company, Datos Information Resources, for a presentation at the U.S-Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a leftist organization:
[The slide characterizes] the poorest segment of Venezuelan society but also far and away the largest being made up of over 15 million people. Households are big with an average of over 6 people. Household cash incomes are low at less than $200 per month.
However, this slide also holds the key to understanding Chavez’s high level of popularity. In the lower left hand corner it says:"Increase in the average household income versus 2003 53% (33% in real terms)". In other words in 2004 the people in this group saw their incomes go up by a third even after inflation.
How is that possible? Partly the economy grew at a very high rate of over 17%. But that doesn’t seem to be the whole story. The other part is the huge social programs, called Missions, that give fee medical care, inexpensive food, educational opportunities, and stipends to millions of people. The Missions were begun under Chavez and he has spent Venezuela’s oil windfall funding them with billions and billions of dollars. It is this cash and non-cash assistance that has undoubtedly played a major role in the dramatic increase in the standard of living of Venezuela’s poor.
Machado's visit needs to be placed in this context to be understood.
Monday, June 06, 2005
Some on the left have expressed dismay at the unwillingness of purportedly progressive organizations like MoveOn.org to oppose the occupation of Iraq. But perhaps the sky is not quite so dark. On Friday, the New York Times acknowledged the emergence of parents opposed to the military recruitment of their children as an discomforting, anti-establishment force in American politics. Disorientation was in evidence throughout an article entitled, Growing Problem for Military Recruiters:Parents.
After all, parents, not easily stereotyped activists like myself, were asserting that President Bush had lied to them about Iraq, and, even more alarming, they were analogizing Bush’s propaganda and hard sell marketing tactics to the equally dishonest efforts of military recruiters to induce their children to enlist in the military. Furthermore, while some have a past history of activism, most of them are mainstream middle class people fearful over the prospect that their children could be seriously injured or killed in Iraq, the kind of people who otherwise volunteer during school board elections because they sincerely care about the quality of life in their community.
Such people present a constituency against the "war on terror" that cannot be smeared, deceived or manipulated by guilt. How is a NYT neoliberal, pro-occupation columnist like Thomas Friedman supposed to induce them to motivate their children to risk death in Iraq to implement his grandiose vision of the world? After all, the elite no longer steps to the front of the line to volunteer as many did during the Civil War, the Spanish American War and even World War I. In today’s allegedly classless country, some animals are even more equal than they were in the past.
It is doubtful they will be anything other than angered by the threat presented by Colonel David Slotwinski, a former Army chief of staff for military recruiting:
They don't realize that they have a role in helping make the all-volunteer force successful. If you don't, you're faced with the alternative, and the alternative is what they were opposed to the most, mandatory service.
Naturally, neither Slotwinski nor the NYT considered the alternative that the United States could end the occupation of Iraq, but I am more interested in the substance than the predictable ideological bias. Most importantly, the parents are succeeding in their efforts to deprive the US military of the soldiers required to police an expanding empire in the Middle East and Central Asia. Recruitment is trapped in a downward spiral, and, independent of their efforts, experienced soldiers are increasingly looking for alternatives to reenlistment. Release of recruiting data for the month of May has been
uncharacteristically delayed by the Pentagon.
Furthermore, there are signs that the brutality of the war, along with the efforts of high profile individuals like Fernando Suarez del Solar, the father of a son slain in Iraq, and Camilo Mejia, a soldier sentenced to a year in prison for refusing to return to Iraq, are persuading Latinos to follow African Americans and women down the path of declining enlistment. Enlistment of so-called "green card Marines" has fallen by about 25%.
Of course, everyone understands the consequences if declining enlistment does not provoke a fundamental change in US policy: the draft. And, there is good reason to suspect that there is a bipartisan coalition willing to support such an action if necessary. What happens if the Democrats and the Republicans insist upon implementing a draft to prosecute an unpopular war despite a growing resistance that cuts across all classes? The irresistible force will collide with the immovable object.
Perhaps, they are confident that the abandonment of the antiwar movement by MoveOn.org liberals, along with a firewall of political and media elite opinion, will protect them from retribution. If so, they should be less confident. In a similar situation, the French, confronting a unified political and media establishment insistent upon the creation of a neoliberal Europe, brought down the entire corrupt edifice by voting NON!
Thursday, June 02, 2005
The official story is that the Baby Boomers are going to impose a greater burden on the system because the number of working people relative to the elderly will decline, which is true.
But what happened to the Baby Boomers when they were zero to 20? Weren’t working people taking care of them? And it was a much poorer society then.
In the 1960s the demographics caused a problem but hardly a crisis. The bulge was met by a big increase in expenditures in schools and other facilities for children. The problem wasn’t huge when the Baby Boomers were zero to 20, so why when they’re 70 to 90?
The relevant number is what’s called the dependency ratio of working people to population. That ratio reached its lowest point in 1965. It won’t reach that point again until 2080, according to Social Security Administration figures.
Projections that far ahead are meaningless. Furthermore, any fiscal problem that might arise in caring for the elderly "boomers" has already been paid for, by the payroll tax rise of 1983, designed for this purpose. And by the time the last "boomer" has died, the society will be far richer, with each worker producing far greater wealth.
In other words, we’re already past the crisis. Anything that comes is just a matter of one or another kind of adjustment.
He goes on to contrast Social Security with the USA's health care system, which really is in a state of crisis, "one of the most inefficient systems in the industrialised world, with per-capita costs far higher than other nations and among the worst health outcomes", concluding:
But "reforming" the health care system is not on the agenda. So we face an apparent paradox: The real and very serious fiscal crisis is no crisis, and the non-crisis requires drastic action to undermine an efficient system that is quite sound.
Rational observers will seek differences between the Social Security and health care systems that might explain the paradox.
The reasons are simple. You can’t go after a health system under the control of insurance companies and pharmaceutical corporations. That system is immune, even if it is causing tremendous financial problems, besides the human cost.
Social Security is of little value for the rich but is crucial for survival for working people, the poor, their dependents and the disabled. And as a government programme, it has such low administrative costs that it offers nothing to financial institutions. It benefits only the "underlying population," not the "substantial citizens," to borrow Thorstein Veblen’s acid terminology.
The Americans are saying Muhsin was “detained and interviewed”, which makes one think his car was gently pulled over and he was asked a few questions. What actually happened was that his house was raided early morning, doors broken down, windows shattered and he and his three sons had bags placed over their heads and were dragged away. They showed the house, and his wife, today on Arabiya and the house was a disaster. The cabinets were broken, tables overturned, books and papers scattered, etc. An outraged Muhsin was on tv a few minutes ago talking about how the troops pushed him to the floor and how he had an American boot on his neck for twenty minutes.
Talabani was seemingly irritated. He wondered why no one asked him about the arrest before it occurred- as if the he is personally consulted on every other raid and detention. The detention is disturbing. Now I am not personally fond of Muhsin Abdul Hameed- he looks somewhat like a dried potato, and he’s a Puppet. It is disturbing, though, because if this was really a mistake, then just imagine how many other ‘mistakes’ are being unfairly detained and possibly tortured in places like Abu Ghraib. Abdul Hameed is one of their own and even he wasn’t safe from a raid, humiliation and detention. He was out the same day, but other Iraqis don’t have the luxury of a huffy Talabani and outraged political party.
Was it meant to send a message to Sunnis? That’s what some people are saying. Many people believe it was meant to tell Sunnis, “None of you are safe- even the ones who work with us.” It’s just difficult to believe this is one big misunderstanding or mistake.
On the other hand, watching the situation unfold was somewhat like watching one of those annoying reality tv shows where they take someone off of a farm, for example, and put them in New York and then watch how they cope- what was it called? “Faking It”? How will Muhsin feel about raids and detentions now that he’s been on the other side of them?
Good old Riverbend...
To: Massimo Moratti, President of the Milan International F.C. Milan, Italy
From: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos EZLN Chiapas, Mexico
[ ... ] I am letting you know that, in addition to being spokesperson for the EZLN, I have been unanimously designated Head Coach and put in charge of Intergalactic Relations for the zapatista football team (well, in truth no one else wanted to accept the job). In this role I should, perhaps, make use of this letter to move forward in fixing details about the match.
Perhaps, for example, I might suggest that, instead of the football game being limited to one match, there could be 2. One in Mexico and another in Italy. Or one going and one on return. And the trophy known the world over as "The Pozol of Mud" would be fought for.
And perhaps I might propose to you that the game in Mexico would be played, with you as visitors, in the Mexican 68 Olympic Stadium, in CU, in DF, and the stadium receipts would be for the indigenous displaced by paramilitaries in Los Altos of Chiapas. [...] And perhaps we might agree, given that you would already be in Mexico, that we would hold another game in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and that the proceeds would go to provide legal help for the young altermundistas unjustly imprisoned in the jails of that Mexican province and to all the political prisoners throughout the country. Transportation would not be a problem, because I have read that someone here in Mexico, generous as before, has offered his help. [ ... ]
And, perhaps, in order to differentiate ourselves from the objectification of women which is promoted at football games and in commercials, the EZLN would ask the national lesbian-gay community, especially transvestites and transsexuals, to organize themselves and to amuse the respectable with ingenious pirouettes during the games in Mexico. That way, in addition to prompting TV censorship, scandalizing the ultra-right and disconcerting the Inter ranks, they would raise the morale and spirits of our team. There are not just 2 sexes, and there is not just one world, and it is always advisable for those who are persecuted for their differences to share happiness and support without ceasing to be different.
Rushing headlong now, we might play another game in Los Angeles, in California, the US, where their governor (who substitutes steroids for his lack of neurons) is carrying out a criminal policy against Latin migrants. All the receipts from that match would be earmarked for legal advice for the undocumented in the USA and to jail the thugs from the "Minuteman Project." In addition, the zapatista "dream team" would carry a large banner saying "Freedom for Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier."
It is quite likely that Bush would not allow our spring-summer model ski masks to create a sensation in Hollywood, so the meeting could be moved to the dignified Cuban soil, in front of the military base which the US government maintains, illegally and illegitimately, in Guantánamo. In this case each delegation (from the Inter and from the Ezeta) would commit themselves to taking at least one kilo of food and medicines for each of their members, as a symbol of protest against the blockade the Cuban people are suffering.
And perhaps I might propose to you that the return games would be in Italy, with you as the home team (and us as well, since it is known that Italian sentiment is primarily pro-zapatista). One could be in Milan, in your stadium, and the other wherever you decide (it could be in Rome, because "all games lead to Rome"...or is it "all roads lead to Rome?"... ah well, it's the same). Some of the receipts would be to help migrants of different nationalities who are being criminalized by the governments of the European Union and the rest for whatever you decide. But we would certainly need at least one day in order to go to Genoa to paint caracolitos on the statue of Christopher Columbus (note: the likely fine for damages to monuments would be covered by Inter) and in order to take a flower of remembrance to the place where the young altermundist Carlo Giuliani fell (note: we would take care of the flower). [ ... ]
Too many? Fine, Don Massimo, you're right, perhaps it's better to leave it at 2 games (one in Mexico and the other in Italy), because we don't want to tarnish the Inter's record too badly with the certain defeats we're proposing.
Read the whole thing here and also Massimo Moratti's magnanimous letter of acceptance that got this ball rolling.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
A JUDGE has challenged 22 new charges levelled by Israel’s justice ministry against Mordechai Vanunu, the nuclear whistleblower. [ ... ]
“Judge Tzur threw out a charge that Mordechai had attempted to leave Israel when he once tried to travel to Bethlehem in the West Bank,” he said.
“We had pointed out that no Israeli needs a passport or identity card to go there and so it was not foreign territory.”
[Vanunu’s lawyer Michael Sfar] said the judge had also decided that charges that Vanunu had spoken to foreign journalists could not stand.
“He ruled that none of these amounted to maliciously breaching a legal order, which carries a maximum sentence of two years,” Sfar said. [ ... ]
Ernest Rodker, head of a UK campaign to free Vanunu, claimed the ruling was a breakthrough.
“It is the first time in Vanunu’s long history of persecution by the Israeli security services that their ridiculous charges against him have been seriously challenged,” he said.
Anyway, if you're curious about why John Dewey is on the same list as Hitler, it's because, see, John Dewey led straight to fornication in the White House,
John Dewey, who lived from 1859 until 1952, was a "progressive" philosopher and leading advocate for secular humanism in American life, who taught at the University of Chicago and at Columbia. He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes. In Democracy and Education, in pompous and opaque prose, he disparaged schooling that focused on traditional character development and endowing children with hard knowledge, and encouraged the teaching of thinking "skills" instead. His views had great influence on the direction of American education--particularly in public schools--and helped nurture the Clinton generation.
which makes me think, you know, "Human Events Online" actually sounds like a hotbed of secular humanism ...Maybe they should call themselves something like Human Events -- In Which by Human We Mean "Temple of God" That Exists In a World of Moral Absolutes -- Online.
Also I liked their blurb of Das Kapital:
Das Kapital forces the round peg of capitalism into the square hole of Marx's materialistic theory of history, portraying capitalism as an ugly phase in the development of human society in which capitalists inevitably and amorally exploit labor by paying the cheapest possible wages to earn the greatest possible profits. Marx theorized that the inevitable eventual outcome would be global proletarian revolution. He could not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over envy and seek to emulate.
First off, is Human Events Online arguing that capitalists don't seek to maximize profits by paying the lowest possible wages they can? Those reds! -- someone alert their shareholders!
And about America, envy of the world ...I always admire this sort of pleasant schizophrenia on the right. The right lives in a universe in which America is in such a dire situation that it needs to invade sovereign nations as it pleases, wreck countries, establish dozens of foreign military bases, indefinitely detain anyone it deems a threat without due process or oversight in order to ensure its very survival, and it also lives in a universe in which America is envied and emulated by everyone everywhere.
I think Latin Americans, particularly Venezuelans, are pretty lucky that America is so busy being emulated and envied by Iraqis that it hasn't been paying much attention to the extent to which its southern neighbors have been envying and emulating Cuba lately ... but I digress.
To the extent that this self-adulation about America's noble opulence corresponds to reality, it's important to note that the USA is not the only capitalist nation on the earth. Could Marx not have predicted 21st century capitalist Indonesia or 21st century capitalist Haiti or the 21st Century capitalist Dominican Republic, etc., etc.? And I guess the fact that America doesn't look like Indonesia has nothing to do with the rights that were won by leftists, socialists, anarchists, and reds all those years ago: child labor laws, workplace safety laws, forty hour work weeks, the notion of a weekend, the social safety net, etc. -- each of which, of course, capitalists fought desperately against.