Tuesday, August 29, 2006

YouTube Comes to Friendly Neighbour

Since I just found out how easy it is to put YouTube videos into a blogpost, you're going to be seeing a lot more of them. Here's a 1994 performance from Paul Rodgers and Friends. I've always been a huge fan of Paul Rodgers, since the days of the '60s band FREE (biggest hit; All Right Now), and later Bad Company (who had a hit of the same name.) Here they are doing a song called Wishing Well. I LOVE the hook line; "And I know what you're wishing for...Love in a Peaceful World."

Paul's latest tour was with Queen, doing some of their tunes, some Free tunes, and some Bad Company tunes. From the cuts I've seen it must have been a great tour!


Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Proud Republican Redneck

BITES THE DUSTA worker cleans up sludge from the Prudhoe bay oilspill.
Redneck Governor Frank Murkowski has lost his primary race in Alaska,
cleaning up another black spot on the landscape.

The audio tracks here are from the failed primary campaign of lame-duck Republican Governor of Alaska, Frank Murkowski.

"We don't care about no PETA boycott..And we might shoot some wolves from DC-3's."
WTF!?! - Could you be any more blatantly anti-environment than that? The only thing this song doesn't say is that oilspills are good. Frankly, I'm flabbergastered.

Well, now I'm at least getting a bit of what Murky's campaign workers are trying to do. Having filled the previous cut with lyrics about shootin' fer some food, they hit the Alaskan voters with the tune from The Beverly Hillbillies. Subliminal message; when 'real Alaskans' are out hunting to fill their freezers full of meat, they may pull a Jed Clampett, discover some oil, and move to Beverly...Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools, movie stars. Who's going to want to protect the environment with that prospect lookin them in the eye?


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Taking Care Of Business

How about taking care of people?
In This Recent Alternet article, Russ Baker talks about how
the Democratic Party, or at least a good number of its most influential members, are part and parcel of the pro-business culture that permeates the halls of power in Washington, D.C. He uses Joe Lieberman as a classic example.
"Lieberman is...famous in the capital for his undying support for corporate causes. There are countless examples: Remember Lieberman's role in blocking the reforms of stock option accounting that former SEC chair Arthur Levitt was trying to enact? This was a question of honest accounting that became part and parcel of the corporate corruption scandals of recent years, and Lieberman was a champion of the wrong side.

Beyond that, Lieberman happily has done the bidding of the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies and many others... And of course, his support of and continued rationalization of the Iraq invasion, like many of Lieberman's other stances, has served chiefly to benefit large corporations, in this case the "national security/homeland defense" industry that got a huge boost from Bush's reckless military adventurism."
Baker goes on to detail how this perversion of democracy goes well beyond Lieberman, naming prominent consultants and operatives in the Democratic party with close connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore among others. (And of those, by the way, I rather like Al Gore.) It's a lengthy article, and I'd like to use this excerpt to prompt you to read the whole thing.
"Jack Quinn served as Vice President Gore's chief of staff and later as counsel to President Clinton. In January 2000, he left what was still a Democratic White House and formed Quinn Gillespie with Ed Gillespie, a Republican and close friend of Tom DeLay. This firm was among the pioneers of the one-stop-shopping approach that has since swept Washington. Want to influence the legislative process? Now you can get right to the top of both parties by hiring a single firm.

Quinn Gillespie has represented clients who want to drill in fragile areas of Alaska, put the screws to already beleaguered American creditors, and prevent the introduction of more healthy dairy substitutes in school lunches. Quinn helped secure a controversial pardon for the fugitive financier Marc Rich as Clinton was leaving office."
This comes from Russ Baker's Real News Project, blogrolled here for further reading.

Stalin spoke of how he didn't care who voted, only who counted the votes. In the American system of 'democracy', the situation is even worse than that, notwithstanding the potential abuse of Diebold and ES&S voting machines. Who cares who votes when the same corporate moguls decide who both candidates are? The American flag might as well look like this.
Going Deeper:
The Corporation. This Canadian-produced documentary by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot and Joel Bakan is so good it's frightening. Not to my knowledge available on the net in streaming form. I suggest you buy a copy of the DVD set, watch it several times, then donate it to your local library or high school. Same goes for the companion book.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Evangelists Infiltrate USAF Academy

Air Force Cadets: ‘Ten-shun. Right face.'That is what the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado,has been training its cadets to do
– move to the right – politically and religiously.

I find this item from The Bradley Report to be more than a little disturbing. Are taxpayer dollars being spent within the military to ensure an officer class that is predominately Born-Again Christian and Republican? If so, the consequences for America's future worry me. Excerpts;
"This begins with President George W. Bush and goes all the way down to the individual cadet...He is, himself, a born-again Christian evangelist, and that is the starting point. Often Mr. Bush’s self-proclaimed evangelism gets in the way of his duties as president. This is one of those places.
Administrators, staff, upper classmen and cadets all get the message and they get it with abundant clarity – if you are going to be an upstanding United States Air Force officer, well you had better be an upstanding evangelical Christian, or else. If evangelical Christianity exists in the USAF Academy, and clearly it does, this is its mission.
Bush knows this and the Air Force hierarchy knows Bush’s wishes, even if Bush never passed them along directly or specifically.
It is nonetheless reasonable to ask why this particular strain of religious practice suddenly gained hold at the Air Force academy – coincidence? Unlikely. It’s much more likely that no one tried to stop this because the top guy liked this brand of preaching."
So, if no-one tried to stop this, what has been done? And why is there anything wrong with this? Don't the religious believers have a right to discuss their faith with others? (As argued here) Well, I'll try to answer the second question first, by referencing this Washington Post story from last November;
"A private missionary group has assigned a pair of full-time Christian ministers to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where they are training cadets to evangelize among their peers...'Praise God that we have been allowed access by the Academy into the cadet areas to minister among the cadets. We have recently been given an unused classroom to meet with cadets at any time during the day,' the husband-and-wife team of Darren and Gina Lindblom said in [a] letter to their donors.
Michael L. Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy alumnus...has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Air Force of violating the First Amendment's establishment clause by fostering evangelical Christianity over all faiths...'The only group that gets 24/7 unrestricted access to cadets is this fundamentalist, born-again Christian group,' Weinstein charged."
The military, faced with this lawsuit, did an investigation into practices at the Air Force Academy. Citing The Bradley Report again (italics where military report quoted), here are some of their conclusions;
"[T]he air force discounts overt religious discrimination...but is willing to admit that some teachers, administrators and upper classmen failed to discern 'where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expressions of belief.' In other words, some in authority arrogantly proselytized subordinates with their right-wing, evangelical Christian beliefs.

Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, atheists and even some other Protestant worshipers did not enter the Air Force Academy to be discriminated against.
But they were.
They were discriminated against because some administrative USAF Academy staff and some upper classmen protégés tried to preach evangelical Christianity to them, and whenever they failed to win over the given cadets, those young men and women were then treated differently, as though they were utterly without military worth; this was pure religious discrimination, as ugly as it gets."
So, what has been done, officially, is that this report was made. None of the Academy's officers who either tolerated or encouraged this behaviour have been disciplined so far, and I doubt they will be. Last January the Bush White House dishonestly framed the issue as though the evangelicals were the ones being discriminated against, as reported in The Washington Times. "The White House will pressure the Pentagon into being more explicit in saying that military chaplains can pray in the name of Jesus Christ, an evangelical Christian chaplains' group says." For more background on this issue, Religion and Ethics newsweekly (PBS) has a forum here with plenty of links.

Why am I worried about this? I can't help thinking this is happening in the Army, Navy and Marines as well. The administration and their stenographers in the mainstream media have been increasingly trying to blur the line between legitimate dissenting US citizens and terrorist sympathizers. It's almost as if they're gearing up to declare martial law or something. A military officer corps with a monolithic belief in the Führer's President's God-given infallibility would make that a serious concern.

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." -- Pascal
That's what worries me.
(Endnote): Pictured is an F-16 parked in front of the 'chapel', an enormous building that dominates the cadet area of the Air Force Academy. Printable map of campus here.

Related Posts:
Backs Against The Wall
Not Quite Torture?
Constitutional Devolution


Sunday, August 20, 2006

What Can One Man Do?

Putting The War In Iraq on TrialHer whole family died during the bombing

The moral courage of one man has the potential to change the outcome of the war in Iraq. That one man, Army Lt. Ehren Watada, refused last June to deploy with his unit to Iraq, citing his obligation as an officer not to obey illegal orders. He did not run, he did not hide, he stood up and faced the music. The army has charged him with disobeying an order, and he could face court martial. Time magazine reported on his case on the occasion of his first hearing Thursday.
...[L]awyers for Lt. Watada used the opportunity to put the war itself on trial, trying to prove he was right to see the war as "manifestly illegal," and as a result, to refuse to participate. "A soldier has an obligation to disobey illegal orders," said Francis Boyle, a Harvard-trained professor of international law who testified on behalf of Lt. Watada and whose mentor wrote the Army's field manual for land warfare. "Under the circumstances of this war, if he had deployed, he would have been facilitating a Nuremberg crime against peace."
As recently as last summer he was willing to go to Iraq. But the more he learned about the war, the more doubts he had, according to his public statements.
In January, after he became convinced that the war was illegal, he tried to resign rather than go to Iraq, but the Army wouldn't let him do so. As a compromise, he asked to be sent instead to Afghanistan, a war he supports. His request was not granted.
Capt. Dan Kuecker, one of the prosecutors, had this to say: whether the war is legal, "is not a decision for a lieutenant to make — it's a decision for politicians and legislators." What he doesn't say is that Congress has failed in its duty to scrutinize the legality of this war in any way. What he doesn't say is that Congress was defrauded by spurious claims of WMDs and a Saddam-El Qaida connection from the start. He doesn't mention that the Republican majority in congress has blocked Democratic attempts to examine the faulty intelligence that led to the war. He doesn't mention that 'this war' is not even a war under US law, because Congress has never declared it to be one.
The implications of Lt. Watada's decision are enormous. By his refusal to serve in Iraq he is shining a light on a very dark place, forcing the media to pay attention to an issue they would prefer to ignore. His case may force some politicians to reexamine their tacit support of this war. It may lead eventually to war crimes trials against high administration officials. All because of one man's courage. The personal costs to Lt. Watada are by no means insignificant. If court martialed and convicted, he would face up to seven years in prison. Lt. Ehren Watada, we salute you.For further reading on this story, Jeanine Plante at Alternet has this column. And visit Thankyoult.org for background on the support Ehren is getting from his mother, the ACLU, and a former UN Undersecretary General.
Crossposted to Les Enragés


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Backs Against The Wall

When I put up this post yesterday I knew that there would be a lot more to be said about the NSA wiretapping decision reached by US District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor yesterday. The thought at the top of my mind was, "doesn't this expose a lot of people to felony charges?" Well, it does indeed, as pointed out in the follow-up Glenn Greenwald article on the matter here. In fact, the legal consequences for defying the FISA laws passed after Watergate could be weighing heavily on the minds of a number of Bush Administration officials, not to mention those in the NSA who carried out the wiretapping. In retrospect Judge Taylor may have erred by not issuing arrest warrants for at least some of the individuals involved. I think she committed a worse error by allowing the wiretaps to continue in spite of her ruling while awaiting further resolution.
Going back to Glenn's first column yesterday for details of the ruling;
  • The court ... emphasized...that it is vital to our democracy that the administration's conduct not remain beyond the reach of judicial scrutiny.
  • the court ruled -- rather emphatically and without much doubt -- that warrantless eavesdropping violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures
  • the court ruled independently -- again, without all that much reasoning -- that the NSA program violates the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights
  • the court relied upon Youngstown to hold that the Executive's powers in the national security area do not entitle him to act beyond the law or the Constitution
  • since the court found warrantless eavesdropping unconstitutional, Congress could not authorize warrantless eavesdropping by statute.
  • the court made its scorn quite clear for the administration's Yoo theory of executive power because, as the court put it, "there are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution."...the President is subject to constitutional restrictions -- a proposition long unquestioned in our system of government until the Bush administration began inventing radical theories of executive power.
  • the court (a) declared the NSA program to be in violation of FISA, the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment and (b) issued a permanent injunction enjoining the Bush administration from continuing to eavesdrop in violation of FISA. (Which injunction was immediately stayed pending appeal)
The declaration that the program was in violation of FISA is the sticky point on which Glenn's second column follows up. This is serious stuff; the penalty for violating FISA is 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. That's got to have a lot of the people who wear headphones and take notes feeling a little uncomfortable. Higher-ups could be responsible for thousands of individual incidents, the fines reaching levels that would even bankrupt Dick Cheney's Halliburton-bloated holdings. Not to mention the jail time.
It is not unreasonable to assume that the potential defendants of FISA charges, as well as those who are complicit in the torture and murder of those illegally detained in the Great War on Terror will do everything in their power to escape justice. And when 'everything in their power' includes the powers of the Bush White House and the Gonzales Justice Department, that could mean martial law. As scary as that sounds, I wouldn't bet against it. Their backs are really up against the wall, and they know it.
Originally Posted at Les Enragés


NSA Wiretapping Ruled Unconstitutional

Federal Judge Orders Immediate Halt
In perhaps the best news to come along in some time, US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor has unequivocally ruled against the Bush Administration's unwarranted domestic surveillance program, ordering its immediate cessation. The case was filed by the ACLU on behalf of several clients including a number of lawyers with overseas clients.

It's about time. This program has been going on at least since 9/11, and possibly even longer. This blatant defiance of the Constitution boggles the mind. Here are excerpts from the original AP wire report as published by the Idaho Statesman:
"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.
"By holding that even the president is not above the law, the court has done its duty," said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director and the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. Beeson predicted the government would appeal the ruling and request that the order to halt the program be postponed while the case makes its way through the system. She said the ACLU had not yet decided whether it would oppose such a postponement.
Glenn Greenwald of the excellent Unclaimed Territory blog, is understandably jubilant over the decision. The NSA's various programs have been his focus for some time now. I urge readers who want a more substantial analysis of this story to head for Glenn's. This is a legal issue. He is a lawyer. 'Nuff said.

While this is undoubtedly the most significant story in the news today, it is politically embarrassing for the Bush administration that they have been legally determined to be involved in criminal activity. What do you want to bet that the Jon Benet Ramsey story gets 24/7 coverage for the foreseeable future?

Originally Posted at Les Enragés


Republicans Backing Lieberman

False Flag Operation Exposed

Breaking news: In a move that should surprise no-one, the Republican party has withdrawn support from their Senate candidate for Connecticut Alan Schlesinger in favour of Joe Lieberman. This report just in from The New York Observer:
This morning, a source at the National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed in a phone interview that the party will not help Schlesinger or any other potential Republican candidate in Connecticut, and it now favors a Lieberman victory in November.
'We did a poll and there is no way any Republican we put out there can win, so we are just going to leave that one alone,' said the NRSC source.
Instead, the NRSC is pulling for Lieberman over Ned Lamont, who rode an anti-war message to a victory in the Aug 8 primary.
This is sleazy on so many different levels I hardly know where to begin. First is that it unmistakeably exposes Lieberman's entire career as a false flag operation. Well, he's flying his true colours now, and those colours are solid red Republican. Second is that it puts the lie to a longtime Republican talking point that certain measures supported by LIEberman and other DINOs were 'bipartisan.' Third is the laughable idea that Joe is running as a 'Democratic Independent.' Infamous for the kiss he exchanged publicly with George W. Bush at the State of the Union address, one suspects he's kissing a little lower down in private.
h/t to David Sirota of Working For Change, from whom I first heard this story on Al Franken's Air America Radio show. I love that I can stream their stuff up here in Canada.
Originally Posted at Les Enragés


Not Quite Torture?

Unless It's Being Done To You

Remember back on June 29 when the Supreme Court made their decision in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld? It was big news that the Supremes had decided the US government was illegally holding hundreds of prisoners without warrants while awaiting judgement by military tribunal. Here are some excerpts from SCOTUSblog about the decision:
"[T]he principal, powerfully stated themes emanating from the Court, which are (i) that the President's conduct is subject to the limitations of statute and treaty; and (ii) that Congress's enactments are best construed to require compliance with the international laws of armed conflict. Even more importantly for present purposes, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva applies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda."
This last bit (the one about Common Article 3) is the sticky part from the point of view of the Bush administration, because it is the part that leaves them open to criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act of 1996. The Bush crime family is trying to respond to the Hamdan decision in two ways. The first is pure bluff.

Knowing that the 'backwash' 30-something percent that still support them can't don't read the big words anyway, they're pretending that the Hamdan decision has only one component. The component they acknowledge is predictably the one that gives them the least trouble. Flagrantly misrepresenting the true facts of the case, they are pretending that it is just a legal flaw in the way Military Commissions were set up, and that this is something that can be remedied by an act of Congress. It can't, but the claim gives them a flimsy excuse to continue holding the detainees while they get this little problem fixed.

The other way they are trying to respond to Hamdan is even more insidious. Having failed in their hamfisted attempts to separate detainees from their legal rights (they're not covered - they're 'illegal combatants') they now are trying to separate themselves from their own legal culpablity. As this recent article in Slate details, they are now seeking legislation that will retroactively immunize government employees from prosecution under the War Crimes Act. And once again they are using false pretenses to further their agenda, specifically the claim that this proposed legislation only covers acts that are not quite torture, such as waterboarding.
Administration officials say that under Hamdan, CIA and military personnel could be prosecuted for violations of the act, presumably by U.S. attorneys in a future administration, and not merely by "rogue" prosecutors in the existing Justice Department. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently told Congress that [Common Article 3] terms like "inhuman" and "outrages upon personal dignity" are "inherently vague," and that there were "unacceptable" risks of spurious prosecutions under the War Crimes Act.
This is so disingenuous as to defy description. "The administration, in sum, is asking Congress to retroactively decriminalize the abuses we saw at Abu Ghraib." Why? Because, "In many cases, soldiers say that abusive practices were authorized up the chain of command, making military and even civilian officials potentially complicit." That's interesting. So this isn't about helping Pfc. Lynndie England get on with her life. So what are they trying to protect the bigwigs from? Here's a clue.
We now know that dozens of detainees have died in custody in Afghanistan and Iraq. In several cases, interrogators literally beat detainees to death.
No, that's not quite torture. That's murder.

Originally Published at Les Enragés


Olbermann Nails It

With Piece on Politics and Terror
Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
Uh, I think so, Brain, but where will we find a duck and a hose at this hour?

Last Night Crooks and Liars put up this piece with a 12-minute video of Keith Olbermann talking about the nexus between BushCo™'s political fortunes and their deployment of news related to the Great War On Terror (GWOT). - "It refuses to assume that counter-terrorism measures in this country are not being influenced by politics." The premise is simple: whenever the White House finds itself in political trouble or sees a dip in the polls, they haul out whatever dubious terror threat they can cobble up, and use it to knock the bad news off the front pages. When a real threat occurs, it is held 'on ice' and released to the public at whatever time is most propitious for the government. Next to war-mongering, fear-mongering is the Republicans' favourite mongering.

Olbermann starts out with the recent British Airways arrests and the fact that the US pressured British authorities to act precipitously, tying this to the Lamont victory over Joe Lieberman last week. Then he uses this quote from Tom Ridge, the first secretary of Homeland Security. Talking about the infamous colour-coded terror warning system, Ridge said,
"More often than not, we were the least inclined to raise it. Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment, sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on alert There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it. And we said, 'For That?'"
Using this as a takeoff point, Olbermann meticulously associates the top ten instances of dubious, spurious or mis-timed GWOT news releases with some political embarrassment to the White House or the Republicans. Apparently any time little Georgie watched an episode of Pinky and the Brain was reason enough to ring alarm bells. After all, each episode contains the following exchange, clearly subversive;

Pinky: Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?
Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky . . . Try to take over the world!
Now I personally see Pinky as George Bush and the Brain could be KKKarl Rove or Dick Cheney. One could do a dissertation on that subject, but I digress.

Watch the Olbermann report, and see what you think. I think he nailed it.
Originally posted at Les Enragés


Death Takes a Holiday

Well, More Like a Coffee Break.
Eighteen hours into the negotiated ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah both sides are loudly trumpeting the victory they have achieved. I'm very skeptical about those claims. In war there are no winners and losers, only survivors and casualties.
Those inhaling in preparation for breathing a sigh of relief, don't hold your breath. As detailed in this NPR report, the rhetoric coming from both sides gives little cause for optimism.
"Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas remain poised to resume fighting. Israel says its troops will continue to destroy Hezbollah assets until those areas are handed over to the Lebanese army and U.N. troops. The leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, says fighting against Israel will continue as long as Israeli troops are on Lebanese soil."
Hmm, looks like both sides heard 'cease' as an indistinct whisper, but 'FIRE' came through loud and clear. Meanwhile the Israelis have used the pause to direct their military's efforts elsewhere, as reported less than two hours ago by Reuters,
"Israeli aircraft carried out an air strike in Gaza on Monday, witnesses and the Israeli military said.
The Israeli army confirmed the strike, saying it targeted a command center of the Islamic Jihad militant group.
Witnesses said a house was destroyed and that the residents were notified ahead of the bombing. They said the house belonged to the family of a member of Islamic Jihad. There were no reports of any casualties."
Even if things were smoothing out in and around Israel, there's still that other carnage going on in Iraq, as reported by The Guardian.
"More than 60 people were feared dead today after a barrage of rockets and car bombs hit a predominantly Shia Muslim district of Baghdad.
Another 148 people were injured during the wave of violence which started last night in the Zafraniya district in the south of the city."
The predictable response from Iraqi defense officials sounds depressingly familiar,
"The terrorists are in a critical state because they realise the security plan is succeeding so they have begun targeting innocent people."
Yeah, right they're in their last throes. Yo, Death, don't gulp. You'll burn your tonsils.
Originally Posted at Les Enragés


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Israel's Official Policy

Shoot First and Ask Questions Later
Members of the Lebanese army and security forces, coming from the town of Marjayoun which was seized by the Israeli army on Thursday, arrive at the village of Rachaya, north of Beirut August 11, 2006. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

The Scotsman (a good news source - Bookmark it!) has this report on the assault by Israeli warplanes on a convoy of civilians trying to flee southern Lebanon yesterday. At least seven PEOPLE were killed, and 36 wounded. The convoy had been organized by the Red Cross under the auspices of the UN, and one of the dead was a Red Cross worker. The murderous message being sent by Israel is unmistakebly clear, "Stay in your homes and we will kill you. Try to leave and we will kill you anyway."

For about 48 hours after this war broke out I still clung to the meme "Israel has the right to defend itself. Hizbollah and their Arab neighbours have sworn to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth." No more. By their continued and continuing acts of naked aggression, Israel's leaders have lost all claims to any shred of moral authority. Here's what spokespersons for Israel had to say after the attack was a fait accompli;
The Israeli army confirmed it carried out an air strike on the convoy, saying it had acted on the mistaken suspicion Hizbollah guerrillas were smuggling weapons in the vehicles and that it regretted any harm to non-combatants.
The army said a military inquiry concluded the convoy had been denied a request for permission to move but that it had set out anyway.
"The attack was carried out based on a suspicion. It was found to be incorrect," an army spokeswoman said.
Well, I'm sorry but that just doesn't cut it for the seven PEOPLE who lost their lives nor for the 36 who survived the terror of the attack and the agony of their wounds. Many I'm sure will have crippling injuries that they will have to cope with for the rest of their lives. All of those who got away 'unscathed' were nonetheless severely traumatized and will be having nightmares about this for some time to come. Many will have permanent psychological consequences of PTSD.

Asking questions later is not going to make this go away.
Footnote: In this article I capitalize the word PEOPLE when referring to casualties who lost their lives. I will continue to do so in any future reports on this conflict, to emphasise that they were living, breathing, feeling humans who loved and were loved by their families and friends.

Crossposted from Les Enragés


Friday, August 11, 2006

The Truth About the Mainstream Media

An Essay by SadButTrue

David Sirota has this hard-hitting piece on his blog today about the depths to which the American Mainstream Media (MSM) has sunk in recent times. In unequivocal terms he describes how the same MSM who are constantly being accused of liberal bias (ironically these accusations come from the MSM themselves) are in fact parrots for the right wing establishment. Here is a juicy excerpt:
...all the talk of the Establishment's disdain for ordinary citizens is not just talk or conspiracy theory - it's very real, and very powerful.

Take, for instance, New York Times columnist David Brooks's piece yesterday - it is arguably the most brazen admission of elite disdain for democracy that has ever been printed in a major American newspaper. Before you dismiss that as hyperbole, read the third line of Brooks' piece:

"Polarized primary voters shouldn't be allowed to define the choices in American politics."

Yes, you read that correctly: According to one of the most prominent columnists in America, "voters shouldn't be allowed to define the choices in American politics."
It's hard to believe that American public discourse could have reached such a low point. That such a statement could be made in one of the most prominent newspapers without the editor firing this columnist's sorry ass and throwing him out on the street is inexcusable. Less than 90 days from the midterm elections this so-called journalist is all but calling for the suspension of democracy. I'm going to let Jefferson and Lincoln speak for me on the vital link between a free press and a functioning democracy.
"An informed citizenry is the bulwark of democracy" -- Thomas Jefferson
"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts." -- Abraham Lincoln
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be" -- Thomas Jefferson
"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." -- Abraham Lincoln
What can the ordinary citizen do to resist this insidious transition from objective reportage to blatant propaganda? First don't watch it or listen to it. There are thousands of good sites on the internet from which you can get your news. I particularly recommend that you seek out sources from outside the US, who can hardly be accused of partisan political bias. BBC News puts out a very good website version of their worldclass news service. So does The Guardian. Second, bookmark Media Matters for America, a site that issues regular reports on the manipulation of fact by the MSM. You'll be surprised to learn how often (well, constantly) they misrepresent what's going on in the world. Remember that their motive for manipulating the news is ultimately to manipulate you; your beliefs, your opinions, and even your actions. Don't put up with it.

Crossposted from Les Enragés.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Spike In Fearmongering Follows Lamont Victory

Snow Caught Dealing From the Bottom Of The Deck.
You've all heard by now (how could you not have) about the increase in the terror alert level due to the alleged thwarting of yet another plot, this one to blow up airliners travelling between the UK and the US. I just stumbled across a new element that is almost laughable in its idiotic bluntness. This item from Think Progress,
At a press briefing moments ago, Tony Snow claimed that last night’s Connecticut Senate primary gave voters the chance to answer the question, “Do you take the war on terror seriously?” Snow said that Connecticut voters who backed Ned Lamont (and the 57 percent of Americans who support his position on Iraq) were choosing to “ignore the difficulties and walk away.” That is the same approach, he said, that led Osama bin Laden to the conclusion “that Americans were weak and wouldn’t stay the course and that led to September 11th.”
Geez Louise, are these guys wetting themselves over Lamont's victory, or what? And just how long do the Republicans think they can keep playing the fear card before its corners become so dog-eared and tattered that it can no longer be shuffled back into the deck? Grant in Houston over at Les Enragés, had this memorable line in comments, "These guys act like none of us read 'Chicken Little' when we were little kids. I am getting too old for the games they keep throwing our way."

Games indeed. This kind of gamesmanship harkens back to the 1940 Presidential election. The Republicans, who then as now were happy to profit from war in spite of the misery, and who were dealing with both sides, had this as their isolationist campaign slogan, "A vote for Roosevelt is a vote for war." Then as now fearmongering was their strong suit. The Democrats shot back with a slogan of their own, "A vote for Wilkie is a vote for Hitler." The Dems still knew how to sit in on a high stakes game back then.

Well, the more things change the more things stay the same. One difference stands out though. In the upcoming midterm elections, the Democrats could well combine the two slogans, "A vote for BushCo™ is a vote for war. And for Hitler." Anybody ready to place a wager on the outcome?

Cross-posted At: Les Enragés.org


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

All The Bad News Is True

Special Feature: Guest Post By LEN HART, of Existentialist Cowboy.

How did we get here? I don't know —but I have some theories, some hunches, some "off-the-wall" insights. First of all: what is meant by the term here when there is defined as being something somewhere between Thomas Jefferson's near utopian vision of agrarian Democracy and Alexander Hamilton's dreams of an industrialized north? Roughly, Hamilton's dreams have ended in the American version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis found inside Manhattan, Houston, Chicago et al. Jefferson's vision, however, is all but dead and Democracy, like the Constitution under Bush, is quaint. From an IMD review of Fritz Lang's classic: Metropolis:
In the future, the society of Metropolis is divided in two social classes: the workers, who live in the underground below the machines level, and the dominant classes that lives in the surface. The workers are controlled by their leader Maria (Brigitte Helm), who wants to find a mediator between the upper class lords and the workers, since she believes that a heart would be necessary between brains and muscles. Maria meets Freder Fredersen (Gustav Fröhlich), the son of the Lord of Metropolis Johhan Fredersen (Alfred Abel), in a meeting of the workers, and they fall in love for each other. Meanwhile, Johhan decides that the workers are no longer necessary for Metropolis, and uses a robot pretending to be Maria to promote a revolution of the working class and eliminate them. —Claudio Carvalho, Brazil
Ironically, while Hamilton's dreams of industrialization must surely exceed Hamilton's expectations, it is there, I suspect, that in the midst of Bush's assaults upon the rule of law, due process, and presumptions of innocence, that Democracy seems most alive. It is no accident that Bushco pulled off a most un-democratic coup d'etat in Florida. Go figure!

Presently, democracy is like fireflies' flight —winking, blinking, and sometimes disappearing altogether in the darkness. Here and there are easily confused in darkness. But it is possible to outline some characteristics of here. As a nation we have never been more crowded and at the same time more isolated. Even as demographers predict votes with house to house accuracy, the broader picture of ourselves is hidden in plain sight. That is: we are divided along many lines the most pernicious being wealth, on the one hand, and the lack of it on the other. In the past, this dramatic division might have precipitated violent revolution —but not in America where the extremely wealthy have literally hidden themselves away inside ever smaller concentric rings of gated communities —security inside security inside security. This must surely be the domain of dull conversation, duller wit, and misplaced super-materialism.

The rest of us are reduced to being mere consuming machines inside a bigger machine which requires of us our total obeisance. There is no room for Abraham Maslow's "self-actualized" individual in this unfeeling super-structure of corporate bureaucracies and machine designed skyscrapers. Maslow is remembered for having created the human potential movement, for having ranked human needs from the most basic — air, water, food, sex, security, stability —to the more complex: acceptance and love. At the very top: the self-actualizing needs i.e., the need to fulfill oneself, presumably upon criteria of our choosing, our making. But, in fact, we labor not in Maslow's vision of truly free individuals, but in the dark canyons of Metropolis. The only function left us is to create the wealth that trickles up to an un-elected, neo-fascist priesthood. All the bad news has come true!

How do those who cower behind concentric rings of super security rationalize the existence of their regressive, recursive society? Among super sized fries we are sold a myth: that by acquiring the latest gewgaw, we, too, can become truly self realized! We can buy hip; we can buy cool; we can buy self-realization! It comes in a bottle, a pill, an SUV. And it's cheap: your soul!

Thanks to Len Hart for permission to reproduce this here. The original is from Existentialist Cowboy, one of the finest blogs on the web.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Constitutional Devolution

So, how do we feel about Bush's plans for labeling U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants” and their consequent loss of legal rights and protections? There's a nice opinion piece in the ContraCosta Times today. Simply stated and on the money:
“FROM TIME TO TIME in our history, our leaders have allowed, even manipulated, a reasonable concern about a real threat to escalate into an excessive fear that dangerously undermined our liberties. The Red Scare of the McCarthy era was one example. Today, it is fear of terrorists.”
Aziz Huq, author of the soon to be released book, Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in Times of Terror (New Press, 2007) warns, we're all enemy combatants now:
“The power to label individuals as 'enemy combatant'—and detain them indefinitely—presents one of the most basic threats not only to elemental human liberties, but also to the democratic order. Why? Because a government that can simply banish its foes—and those it erroneously seizes—from public sight simply by labeling them as beyond the pale is not a government that labors under the rule of law.”
Even top military leaders oppose Bush's plan for special courts. And although an early draft of the plan, leaked to the courts last week, has been softened, the new plan still allows the Secretary of Defense “to add crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction...[and] would be likely to put more individuals than previously expected before military juries.” CSM posted a good description of how the proposal would dramatically expand military court powers today.

Damn lamenting, liberty-loving liberals!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

An Exciting New Project

I have been extremely busy over the last three days on a very exciting project: a team blog created for a group of enthusiasts who had never blogged before, but who were all regular commenters at Americablog and Sans-culotte.org. The site is called Les Enragés, (unrulymob.blogspot.com) and is very much patterned after the work of sans-culotte.

Sans is, as my regular readers know, my favourite all-time independent blogger. His boundless enthusiasm for what he does is matched by an uncanny ability to gather and analyse the most relevant information. On top of that is his habit of finding the rare and unusual items that other bloggers seem to miss. I personally see very little point in visiting ten or twenty blogs in a day that are all discussing the same issue, and all giving it the same spin. The occasional rare nuggets that sans finds provide a break from the same-old same-old. The problem is that sans has been inexplicably missing since July 23, which left his regulars feeling, I think, as though they had been set adrift.

My stopgap solution, suggested by reader and now blogger RevPhat, was to create a team blog patterned after san-culotte's work. This has been a smashing success, as a team of seven (including myself) has now formed. Of the seven, only myself and one other, Dena Shunra, have ever written blogs before. Three of the rookies, RevPhat, *grins* and Hornet, have already stepped up to the plate, and driven terrific pitches out of the park. Home run! Dena, a major asset in today's trying times in the middle east due to her being a Hebrew speaker, has also shown herself to be an excellent blogger, as well as an inspiringly sensitive soul. I have no doubts that the remaining team members, HillCountryGal and Jump to the Left, will also make significant contributions when their respective schedules allow it. In three short days this fledgling blog has come a long way towards being an outstanding effort.

My only regret in this is that I haven't had time to visit and comment at my other favourite blogs, all unique and outstanding in their own ways. So here's a shoutout (and a link that will bring their technorati rankings up a bit) to those places I haven't been able to visit since last Monday, with their latest posts linked as well.

Existentialist Cowboy: Israeli Soldiers Were Captured, Not Kidnapped

Firestarter5: Would You Like Fries With That?

Get In Their Face!: Hillary Makes Rumsfeld Squirm

Ice Station Tango: Report--Neocons Using Bush and NSA to start Four-Front War

Les Enragés: Breaking: Venezuala Recalls Ambassador From Tel Aviv

Welcome to Pottersville: Bob Herbert: Hot Enough Yet?

I love to end my posts with a quote or two, and it happens that my fellow Canadian blogger Firestarter5's penultimate post, Table Scraps, is rife with a lot of very good and timely ones. I blatantly ripped him off to provide you with the following food for thought. Take it away, Firestarter5:

America is a country that produces citizens who will cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won't cross the street to vote.

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor,
for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword.
It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows
the mind.
And when the drums of war reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has 'closed',
the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry.
Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all their rights unto the leader and gladly so.
How do I know? For this is what
I have done. AND I AM CAESAR." --Julius Caesar

“There is no war on crime. There is no war on drugs, no war on terrorism. There is only the ongoing effort by the federal government to collect as much information on as many people as possible.” — Jim Redden author of,
Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned Into the Eyes and Ears of the State

I don't have to like Bush to love America

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President..." -- Theodore Roosevelt

It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a new bomber.

Update: Word is just in that in her latest post on Les Enragés, Shunra (which means cat in Aramaic) has scored an English-language exclusive, scooping Reuters and the BBC in providing the story of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez's recall of his ambassador from Tel Aviv. Not bad for a blog that's only into its third day of existence. Kudos, Shunra.

Update 2:We've done it again! Shunra beat out the bigs in reporting a Military push into Ramallah, picked off yNet and published ahead of the Mainstream Media.