Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Liberal Barack?

Two weeks ago a Miami television new's show host asked me, "Is Camelot back?" The world (I included) was amazed and overjoyed that Obama had been elected, that reason and dignity and intelligence would return to the White House. The press was talking about Caroline Kennedy for the United Nations, Robert Kennedy, Jr for the Environmental Protection Agency. We were dizzy about the possibility of bright, good people representing the people of the United States. And we were still stunned that the Reign of Terror would soon be over.

That same week, Michael Moore, also jubilant, nonetheless darkened the horizon, recalling Obama's call for more troops to Afghanistan and his bizarre stay-the-wrong-course views on the Middle East, noting that the best we could hope for was that Obama would break most of his campaign promises in the tradition of all presidents.

Now it seems, for the time being at least, that Obama is yet another Clinton-style Republocrat. His cabinet even includes Bush's Secretary of Defense and his followers are crying foul.

Here's a paragraph from Peter Baker's December 8th article the New York Times:

Liberals Wonder When Obama’s Team Will Reflect Them



"CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama’s appointments have tilted so much to the political center that they have drawn praise from the likes of Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh. That alone would seem enough to set off a revolt in his liberal base. But a month into Mr. Obama’s transition, many on the political left are trying to hold their tongues."

Here's a link to the rest of the article.

So much for Camelot, at least for now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What Will Become of the Torturers?

There are petitions circulating on the internet, urging politicians to preempt the President's certain and upcoming preemptive pardoning of all his criminal lackeys. The list of crimes and criminals (including the President) is long. Bush, it seems, has the authority to pardon everyone: the torturers, the renditioners, the eaves-droppers (those blessed souls who have read my emails so carefully) and the water-boarders.

But now that intelligence and reason seems to have reappeared (after how long?) in US politics, I wonder if there is hope.

Here's a bit from a recent article in The Progressive:

One of Barack Obama’s first acts as president should be to instruct his attorney general to appoint an independent prosecutor to initiate a criminal investigation of former Bush Administration officials who gave the green light to torture.

At Obama’s press conference on Dec. 1, he spoke of upholding America’s highest values as he introduced Eric Holder as his choice for attorney general. Holder insisted there was no tension between protecting the people of the United States and adhering to our Constitution.

A few months ago, Holder was even more explicit. “Our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance against American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the use of procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution,” he said. “We owe the American people a reckoning.”

For the rest, click here. After that, you might want to read Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bless the Yes Men



Sorry about the graphics, but this is such good news.

Check out the site: http://www.nytimes-se.com/

And the whole story: http://laughingsquid.com/the-yes-men-distribute-fake-new-york-times-iraq-war-ends/

And if you've never heard of the Yes Men, rent the movie.

abrazos.




Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cucos

From Democracy Now

Check out Amy Goodman's superb interview with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.

The blurb says:

"In the late stages of the presidential race, no other name was used more by the McCain-Palin campaign against Barack Obama than Bill Ayers. Ayers is a respected Chicago professor who was a member of the 1960s militant antiwar group the Weather Underground. In their first joint television interview, Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn discuss the McCain campaign attacks, President-elect Obama, the Weather Underground, the legacy of 1960s social justice movements, and more."

You can hear the interview at the best news site in the US: Democracynow.org

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Smart is Back

I am astonished that hope has returned to the world and I'm ready to throw away my conspiracy theory t-shirts. While it is true that there were torture, renditions, black prisons, spying on folks with nothing worth listening to (like me), illegal wars, signing statements, stolen elections, the Patriot Act, ad nauseam, it is all nearly over.

As we watched the election results, my 15-year-old daughter asked me, with tears in her eyes, "Is it real, Dad?" I said, "I think so," and I wept with her. As did the world.

I was interviewed the morning after by a Hispanic TV channel from Miami and by the Ecuadorian version of Wolf Blitzer. They, too, wanted to know if I believed and I said I did. And I do. The guy from Miami asked if this was Camelot and I gushed, sure, yes, I think so, it must be, never in my life. . . . Two Kennedys are being considered for high level positions, I had read. Caroline for the United Nations. Imagine that, I said. A US president believing in the possibilities of the UN. And Robert Jr for Environment.

And all of Latin America awaits the change, countries and cultures being drawn with a finer brush. The end of stupidity and cruelty.

Not long ago, Richard Perle, spokesman for the neocons, said that elections no longer matter, that the creeps had changed the culture. But maybe, light your candles and say your prayers, just maybe they'll all go to jail. They've killed one million civilians in Iraq, the wreck of so many lives, all in the name of mundane evil and oil.

You were wrong, Perle, Bush, Cheney, stupid Old Mac, Miss Alaska. There is a time for all things. The humble and the brilliant have formed an alliance and the world has changed.

Witness the tears in Grant park. God is good.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why not let Norway run the world?

I've been thinking about this for a while. It seems that we should let Norwegians run the world. They do little harm, consistent with the Hippocratic Oath. They're always at the top of the quality of life index. And they're thoughtful.

In a recent poll of some 2,700 Norwegians, 93% supported Obama over Old Mac. That's a smart country, right? Nearly half of Venezuela supports McCain--which suggests that Venezuelans are as stupid as midwestern plumbers and most American men.

But not the Norwegians.

Check out how other countries opined: the stats.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

God looks after drunks

Thank god for Gore Vidal. Here's a snippet from his latest:

October proved to be the cruelest month, for that was the time that Sen. McCain, he of the round, blank, Little Orphan Annie eyes, chose to try out a number of weird lies about Barack Obama ostensibly in the interest of a Republican Party long overdue for burial.

It is a wonder that any viewer survived his furious October onslaught whose craziest lie was that Obama wished to become president in order to tax the poor in the interest of a Democratic Party in place, as he put it in his best 1936 voice, to spend and spend because that's what Democrats always do. This was pretty feeble lying, even in such an age as ours. But it was the only thing that had stuck with him from those halcyon years when Gov. Alfred M. Landon was the candidate of the Grand Old Party, which in those days was dedicated to erasing every policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose electoral success was due to, they thought, Harry Hopkins' chilling mantra, "we shall ... spend and spend and elect and elect." Arguably, the ignorant McCains of this world have no idea what any of this actually signifies; Hopkins' comment is a serious one, and serious matters seldom break through to cliché-ridden minds.

For more juicy Gore, click here.



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Green Party Candidate

Here is Al Jazeera's Riz Khan interviewing Cynthia McKinney. The question is why can't she be on the ballot. The other question is why haven't you heard of Al Jazeera.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Journalism and helicopter blades

It is hard to believe in a world where 40 some percent of Americans support stupid Old Mac and the perfectly inane Alaskan beauty queen that journalism still takes place. After all, we're used the the "best political team on television": CNN's idiot Wolf Blitzer (was he one of Santa's reindeer?) and the great gurgling comb-over Gergen, and what's the dumb-ass Bush czar of something's name? I can't recall. But, they're the best. Ask them.

And then there's Seymour Hersch, always around, writing in places that my conspiracy theorist friends claim no longer exists. While it's true that most Americans, certainly those screaming insults at Obama at Old Mac's rallies, have never heard of much less read the New Yorker, Hersch is still writing. He's there for the seventeen Americans who still remember how to and actually want to read. Bless him. But like Nader, Chomsky and Moyers, Hersch is seventy-something. After them, what? Wolf and the best team in America? Or VP Sarah? (Does she have a kid named Wolf?)

Here's an excerpt from a recent portrait of Hersch:

"In 1970, after his My Lai story, he addressed an anti-war rally and, on the spur of the moment, asked a veteran to come up and tell the crowd what some soldiers would do on their way home after a day spent moving their wounded boys. With little prompting, the traumatised vet described how they would buzz farmers with their helicopter blades, sometimes decapitating them; they would then clean up the helicopter before they landed back at base. 'That's what war is like,' he says. 'But how do you write about that? How do you tell the American people that?' Still, better to attempt to tell people than to stay feebly silent. What really gets Hersh going - he seems genuinely bewildered by it - is the complicit meekness, the virtual collapse, in fact, of the American press since 9/11. In particular, he disdains its failure to question the 'evidence' surrounding Saddam's so-called weapons of mass destruction. 'When I see the New York Times now, it's so shocking to me. I joined the Times in 1972, and I came with the mark of Cain on me because I was clearly against the war. But my editor, Abe Rosenthal, he hired me because he liked stories. He used to come to the Washington bureau and almost literally pat me on the head and say: "How is my little Commie today? What do you have for me?" Somehow, now, reporters aren't able to get stories in. It was stunning to me how many good, rational people - people I respect - supported going into war in Iraq. And it was stunning to me how many people thought you could go to war against an idea.'"

The article, published in the Guardian, is worth your time. Read it here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The New Banana Republic?

Here's a excerpt from an article just published in the Monterey County Herald, where Frank Bajak writes:

In a matter of weeks, a Russian naval squadron will arrive in the waters off Latin America for the first time since the Cold War. It is already getting a warm welcome from some in a region where the influence of the United States is in decline.

"The U.S. Fourth Fleet can come to Latin America but a Russian fleet can't?" said Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa. "If you ask me, any country and any fleet that wants can visit us. We're a country of open doors."

The United States remains the strongest outside power in Latin America by most measures, including trade, military cooperation and the sheer size of its embassies. Yet U.S. clout in what it once considered its backyard has sunk to perhaps the lowest point in decades. As Washington turned its attention to the Middle East, Latin America swung to the left and other powers moved in.

The United States' financial crisis is not helping. Latin American countries forced by Washington to swallow painful austerity measures in the 1980s and 1990s are aghast at the U.S. failure to police its own markets.

"We did our homework — and they didn't, they who've been telling us for three decades what to do," the man who presides over Latin America's largest economy, President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva of Brazil, complained bitterly.

Latin America's more than 550 million people now "have every reason to view the U.S. as a banana republic," says analyst Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington. "U.S. lectures to Latin Americans about excess greed and lack of accountability have long rung hollow, but today they sound even more ridiculous."

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sentence Logic

When I was a child in St. Joseph's Catholic school, I learned the schematic wonders of diagramming sentences. I truly loved the work. Years later, however, I was taught that such exercises were foolish: that language wouldn't be harnessed so neatly and that sentence diagrams don't tell us much really.

But, now I'm wondering. What would Chomsky or my third grade teacher say about this amazing sentence by VP Palin:

"I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people."

Here's Kitty Burns Florey's attempt to sort it out:



Here's a link to Florey's article published in Slate.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Heels are On!

The stakes are getting higher. VP Sarah is getting tougher. First the guns and now the rough talk. "For me, the heels are on, the gloves are off," she told Florida Republicans on Monday. That's right, heels. I'll bet the Florida dinosaurs cheered--as well they should have. We've seen beauty queens in public life plenty of times. But Sarah's most recent declaration suggests something far more daring. We all know what it means to take the gloves off, but when have we heard a politician vow to put on her heels for a fight? This is no wimpy peace/love/couscous candidate. No more Miss Alaska. Sarah's rockin here. Stiletto in the eye Sarah. Ninja Sarah. Supervixen Sarah. Wow. And you thought the governator was tough.

Think of this: we could have the first American dominatrix in the White House, giving the very notion of vice president a nice tweak. Cheney was vicious, Sarah promises real vice.

You can google your own visual. Or a find an appropriate Winston Churchill remark. Or imagine poor Jefferson looking down from his monument.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Best of Times, Worst of Times

What an interesting day.

The people of Ecuador have approved a new constitution which guarantees a free college education and allows 18 year-olds to run for congress. The old constitution only guarantees a high school education, which the government has never funded. So now they'll guarantee college and never pay for that. Well done.

The US Congress narrowly voted against giving 700 billion dollars to Wall Street bankers. Why would they not give all that money to the bankers? Must be something in the drinking water on the Hill. (Do members of congress drink water?)

The stock market "tumbled," registering the biggest drop since the Jurassic period. I lost what was left of my retirement after the divorce.

McCain delivered a tie, according to today's pundits, in the first debate of the election season. I think that's just amazing since he couldn't answer a single question. Well done, Old Mac. (Does the bible say that the morons will inherit the earth?)

VP Sarah Palin is in the news again. The LA Times reports her theory that the dinosaurs and humans lived together. I think I remember that from a Raquel Welch movie that shaped my adolescence.

And VP Sarah's swimsuit competition in the '84 Miss Alaska pageant hit the internet. Different from other contestants, VP Sarah didn't express her obligatory request for "world peace." She's sticks to her guns, bless her hard little heart.

Here's VP Palin on the runway. It is about time that US democracy shows its true colors. Welcome to the new world of government: beauty contestants. She is prettier that Old Mac. I wonder how many women actually lived in Alaska in 1984. Note well that the year coincides with Orwell's title.

I wish I could put a sound track on this blog:

"I'm a model / you know what I mean / and I shake my little tushy on the runway / on the runway."

Hum along was you watch the video.




I am so looking forward to tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Republican Socialists

When the going gets rough, the rich get richer. The grand bankers, now collapsed, need our help to save us all. While herding us off the sub-prime mortgage cliff, they seem to have gotten too close to the edge, lost their solid footing and fallen with us. And they must be saved--by the government. Although the government is no longer of, by or for the people, it is still the people who get to pay. And the money goes to the enemies of banking regulations, universal health care and food stamps because those are socialist programs. Government stepping in to save badly managed private banks, the bankers argue, is not. Hello, as my daughters used to say, rolling their eyes as only adolescents can.

I recommend the recent article, "The Fruit of Hypocrisy," by Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner for economics. Stiglitz writes:

"Houses of cards, chickens coming home to roost - pick your cliche. The new low in the financial crisis, which has prompted comparisons with the 1929 Wall Street crash, is the fruit of a pattern of dishonesty on the part of financial institutions, and incompetence on the part of policymakers.

"We had become accustomed to the hypocrisy. The banks reject any suggestion they should face regulation, rebuff any move towards anti-trust measures - yet when trouble strikes, all of a sudden they demand state intervention: they must be bailed out; they are too big, too important to be allowed to fail.

"Eventually, however, we were always going to learn how big the safety net was. And a sign of the limits of the US Federal Reserve and treasury's willingness to rescue comes with the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, one of the most famous Wall Street names.

"The big question always centres on systemic risk: to what extent does the collapse of an institution imperil the financial system as a whole? Wall Street has always been quick to overstate systemic risk - take, for example, the 1994 Mexican financial crisis - but loth to allow examination of their own dealings. Last week the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, judged there was sufficient systemic risk to warrant a government rescue of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; but there was not sufficient systemic risk seen in Lehman.

"The present financial crisis springs from a catastrophic collapse in confidence. The banks were laying huge bets with each other over loans and assets. Complex transactions were designed to move risk and disguise the sliding value of assets. In this game there are winners and losers. And it's not a zero-sum game, it's a negative-sum game: as people wake up to the smoke and mirrors in the financial system, as people grow averse to risk, losses occur; the market as a whole plummets and everyone loses."

Read the rest of the article in The Guardian.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lawrence Welk of American Politics

I saw this somewhere last week and couldn't resist quoting it. I have no idea who Mr. Shiblikov is, but he sure has some talent for dislike.


"McCain, the walking flag lapel pin, the embodiment of every vapid, stomach turning sentiment of Norman Rockwell paintings, the Lawrence Welk of American politics, the loaded .44 magnum with the hair trigger Uncle Sam has been pressing against his temple for the last 8 years. He would have been even better than Heath Ledger as The Joker. President McCain. Get used to it - and the continuation of America’s utter ruin."

--Mordechai Shiblikov

Monday, August 25, 2008

Proud Nancy

Nancy Pelosi is proud. In her speech at the Dems conventions she said as much:

"I am very proud of the Democrats in Congress.

Working with Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate, here are some of our accomplishments:

-- After years of inaction by Republicans, in our very first act, we passed the 9/11 Commission recommendations to protect the American people. That was just the beginning.

-- We helped rebuild the Gulf Coast for the survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

-- We put recovery rebates into the hands of more than 130 million families.

-- We passed legislation to keep hard-working American families in their homes and to keep toxic toys out of the hands of our children.

-- We increased the minimum wage for the first time in ten years.

-- We improved fuel efficiency for the first time in 32 years.

-- We passed the largest college aid expansion since the G.I. Bill 64
years ago.

-- We passed the largest veterans' health care funding in the 77 year history of the Veterans Administration.

-- And, we enacted a new G.I. Bill to thank our veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by sending them to college."

I am tempted to examine these accomplishents one by one. Some of you will as surprised as I am to learn that college aid and auto fuel efficiency are both better, and that "hard-working" Americans can now stay in their homes. (Only the lazy lost their homes?) And the people of New Orleans have had their world "rebuilt," which means, I guess, their schools privatized and their homes gentrified. My favorite is that the bizarre recommendations of the bizarre 9/11 Commission, with the help of the Dems, are now protecting the us all. How does making a million passengers (including infants) at the Miami airport take off their shoes protect us exactly? I know a person, so insulted by the morons at airport security, that he threw his shoe at one. At that moment, at least, the world was more dangerous than before. There were no shoes thrown at airports before 9/11.

On what planet does Nancy Pelosi live?

If I weren't tired, I'd write a long list of what the Dems didn't do, the non-accomplishments. Here are just a few.

Impeach the president.
Impeach the vice president.
Prohibit torture.
Tell the truth.
Make peace.
Respect the Bill of Rights.

Now that holding cells have been fenced out of Denver parking lots and the National Guard has rented all those Denver hotel rooms for reasons that I assume will become clear, maybe someone will arrest the dems themselves for high crimes. The protesters, unwitting followers of the Hippocratic Oath, don't do much harm. But Nancy Pelosi, Dr Dean, and Giv'em Hell Harry are as guilty as Karl Rove and Cheney.

But at least they got rid of Toxic Barbie and those other dark Chinese toys.

"Ah, humanity," wrote Melville.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Politics of Hypocrisy

I highly recommend the John Brown article excerpted below:


America in the World: Silenced by Bush

by John Brown

"The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity."

--André Gide

One of the legacies of Bush's tragically flawed foreign policy is that it has managed to silence Americans who believe that the United States -- for all its faults -- should condemn aggression in other parts of the world.

If one word describes how Bush has dealt with the rest of our small planet, it is hypocrisy. For the past eight years, the administration's deeds have seldom, if ever, matched its rhetoric. Operation Iraqi Freedom, it now seems clearer than ever, was in fact Operation Iraqi Oil. While the State Department issues human rights reports, the Bush/Cheney regime supports dictators who suppress the innocent. And in Eastern Europe, which the administration proclaims should be a region of peace and stability, it is heightening tensions by installing missile systems against "the Iranian threat."

To prevail in its so-called "war on terror" the White House has allowed the use of inhumane methods -- among them torture -- that go against basic American principles. In a crusade against those it labels as "terrorists" the administration established a detainee camp -- Guantanamo -- that violates fundamental justice.

-------------

I have to wonder if the "basic American principles" that Brown cites have changed. Richard Perle said not long ago that elections no longer matter in the US: his neocons have changed our culture. One change that seems sadly obvious to me is that we have lost the basic principles that made us condemn torture in the past. What in the world will save us? Obama? Pray it be so.

The rest of Brown's article is at Common Dreams.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dangerous Laptops

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the Department of Homeland Security has clarified its policy on seizing laptops at US borders. Ellen Nakashima writes, "Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies...."

One of the differences between protofascism and fascism, according to my friend David, is dissent. Fascists punish it. Yet it seems that we are moving very quickly toward a world where dissent equals treason and is punished. So before I back up my hard drive and delete any writings that might be interpreted as dangerous, I'll share with you Naomi Wolf's article from The Guardian of April 2007. "Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps."

Imagine, if some knuckle-headed border cop at the Miami airport had seized Thomas Paine's writings, he might have prevented the American Revolution.

Try to stay clear of the border till after the elections.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Open Letter to Obama

In the face of recent positions expressed by Senator Obama, I encourage you to read and sign an open letter that asks the candidate to hold strong to the positions that won him support in the primaries. Here's an excerpt:

"Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance–including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters."

The letter is signed by many of the people I most respect in the United States. Among them are Howard Zinn, Barbara Ehrenreich, Gore Vidal, Jonathan Schell and Studs Terkel.

You can read the letter and add your signature on the Common Dreams website.

Since I vote in Arizona, a state famous for electing numbskulls, I'll vote for Cynthia McKinney. The Green Party has to start somewhere.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bea for President

I was going to vote for Cynthia or Ralph, but Bea's got my vote now.

You can send campaign donations (up to $10 each) to cedei.org





Monday, July 14, 2008

What Change?

The Center for Media and Democracy just published an interview with David Sirota that I recommend highly. Sirota, who writes about populism, points out the significant problems with MoveOn.org and Obama. Here's an excerpt:

SIROTA: "Obama's latest flip-flops are not moves to the "center" or the "mainstream" - by the empirical public opinion data on major issues, his moves are ones away from the center and from the mainstream. That's not surprising - he has surrounded himself by Washington insiders whose definition of "the center" is radically different from where the actual center of American public opinion is. If he continues down this path, he will hurt his chances of winning the election. I would advise him to remember where mainstream public opinion is on issues like trade, the war and civil liberties is - and instead of going to the center of a corrupt Washington, go there."

You can read the entire interview here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ecuador's Bankers

Yesterday Ecuador's government seized around 200 companies, including TV stations, associated with the now defunct Filanbanco. In the 1990s, bankers in Ecuador formed hundreds of companies (ghosts in many cases), wrote loans to the new companies from the banks they managed, sent the money off shore, and let the ghost companies go bankrupt. Nearly half of the banks collapsed after the money was stolen and the bankers fled the country to enjoy their stolen millions as Ecuadorian account holders suffered the loss of their savings. The theft was far too much for deposit insurance to cover.

For the last few years, the Ecuadorian government has pushed to recover the assets that guaranteed the false loans, but, as is the S&L crisis in the US, they discovered that the assets were wildly overvalued or protected by transfers to new owners who claim to have no connection with the bank thieves whom the country has not been able to extradite.

Critics of yesterday's seizures are claiming that the Correa government seized the TV stations in an attempt to control the media, yet even most journalists support the seizures.

The issue is yet another example of the failure of contemporary "democracy." Only the very wealthy or their surrogates can afford to get elected and once elected they buy the news media and control the wealth of nations. For many years, the bankers in Ecuador controlled the government just as the weapons makers have taken control in the US. President Correa is perhaps the only president who is trying to give control back to the people and effect justice. Yet the odds of rebuilding a system of government in a country with one of the worst systems of public education in the new world are very slim. Populist candidates here have bought votes by throwing around five-dollar bills and making absurd promises.

Correa promised to sell the seized companies at auction, but only a handful of Ecuadorians can afford to buy a Television company. What if Rupert Murdoch shows up at the auction?

See today's BBC story Ecuador head defends TV seizures

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Collapse of Tower Seven

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is about to publish its findings on the collapse of World Trade Tower Seven, which fell the day after the Twin Towers. The official story will present evidence that the building just got hot and melted, defying all laws of physics. Witnesses described a controlled demolition, but the government, apparently unaware of the melting temperature of steel, will claim that the tower melted.

The tower, located across the street from the Twin Towers, was occupied by the Secret Service, the CIA, the Department of Defence and the Office of Emergency Management, which would co-ordinate any response to a disaster or a terrorist attack. Since all the steel and rubbish from the building was immediately hauled away and melted, it's hard to know what the experts actually studied.

Here's the BBC article about the explanation.

And here's a film of what is clearly a controlled demolition.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

War Crimes

The US Army general who investigated the torture at Abu Ghraib, and who was forced into retirement after publishing his damning report, has accused the Bush administration of war crimes.

In a Physicians for Human Rights report published yesterday, entitled "Broken Laws, Broken Lives," two-star former General Anthony Taguba, wrote, "After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

(You can read the entire report here.)

It is a good question. The Kucinich articles of impeachment have been sent to their grave in committee. No one expects the issue to be taken seriously before Bush and Cheney leave office. Few expect any justice after they leave office. Nancy Pelosi insists that impeachment is off the table and nearly all the Democrats in the house seem to agree. It seems clear that the only reason the Democrats consistently refuse to bring the White House to justice is that they are guilty. Pelosi and others had to have been briefed. The Rove machine was too careful to risk Cheney's hide (though Bush probably isn't bright enough to know the dangers). The best insurance would have been to dirty any potential prosecutors. Bush can probably be found guilty by using his own statements as evidence. Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Charles Mansion, has published a plan to prosecute Bush for murder primarily using Bush's own words. (See The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.) So why are war crimes not important to Pelosi and the other Dems? What business could be more important?

Ray McGovern, an 27-year CIA analyst, has just published an argument on why impeachment needs to happen sooner rather than later. In his article in the Detroit Free Press, McGovern claims that the neocons know that if they are to invade Iran, it will have to be before the next election. McGovern also writes that Rep Conyers, chair of House Judiciary, holds all the power to move the impeachment forward and that Conyers claims that the votes are not there. (He has sat on the articles to impeach Cheney for over a year.)

Again, how can the votes not be there when the evidence is overwhelming and beyond reasonable doubt? Could it be that by indicting the administration, the congressional leaders risk revealing their own complicity and guilt? These are not secrets, after all. Most Americans have long known the Bush misled the country into war and I believe most care. But, as history has shown over and over, most Americans will forget. And very soon. And something great will be lost, the grand dream of possibility that Crevecoeur described even before the American Revolution. "Here there are no princes for whom we toil," Crevecoeur said about the young American nation.

Soon, it seems, there will be little else. The grand princes of Exxon and Haliburton and Dubai for whom we toil. If Pelosi is right and justice is off the table, what exactly is left?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gore Vidal on Impeachment

I quote this Gore Vidal article entirely.

If you can find a whisper of Kucinich's move to impeach in the US "liberal" press, please let me know. When a senior member of Congress accuses the President and Vice President (and their lackeys) of treason, and the New York Times (and its lackeys) doesn't find that accusation newsworthy, something is clearly wrong in paradise.

But, hell, it's just torture, war, kidnapping, wiretapping. As long as Americans have cheap French fries and Macmansions, who cares? Britney's thighs are more interesting and easier to cover (so to speak). Maybe Paris Hilton went without underwear again today. And Anna Nicole is dead, the papers tell us. But then so is Eva Braun. And the republic.

Gore Vidal’s Article of Impeachment

by Gore Vidal

On June 9, 2008, a counterrevolution began on the floor of the House of Representatives against the gas and oil crooks who had seized control of the federal government. This counterrevolution began in the exact place which had slumbered during the all-out assault on our liberties and the Constitution itself.

I wish to draw the attention of the blog world to Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment presented to the House in order that two faithless public servants be removed from office for crimes against the American people. As I listened to Rep. Kucinich invoke the great engine of impeachment — he listed some 35 crimes by these two faithless officials — we heard, like great bells tolling, the voice of the Constitution itself speak out ringingly against those who had tried to destroy it.

Although this is the most important motion made in Congress in the 21st century, it was also the most significant plea for a restoration of the republic, which had been swept to one side by the mad antics of a president bent on great crime. And as I listened with awe to Kucinich, I realized that no newspaper in the U.S., no broadcast or cable network, would pay much notice to the fact that a highly respected member of Congress was asking for the president and vice president to be tried for crimes which were carefully listed by Kucinich in his articles requesting impeachment.

But then I have known for a long time that the media of the U.S. and too many of its elected officials give not a flying fuck for the welfare of this republic, and so I turned, as I often do, to the foreign press for a clear report of what has been going on in Congress. We all know how the self-described “war hero,” Mr. John McCain, likes to snigger at France, while the notion that he is a hero of any kind is what we should be sniggering at. It is Le Monde, a French newspaper, that told a story the next day hardly touched by The New York Times or The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal or, in fact, any other major American media outlet.

As for TV? Well, there wasn’t much — you see, we dare not be divisive because it upsets our masters who know that this is a perfect country, and the fact that so many in it don’t like it means that they have been terribly spoiled by the greatest health service on Earth, the greatest justice system, the greatest number of occupied prisons — two and a half million Americans are prisoners — what a great tribute to our penal passions!

Naturally, I do not want to sound hard, but let me point out that even a banana Republican would be distressed to discover how much of our nation’s treasury has been siphoned off by our vice president in the interest of his Cosa Nostra company, Halliburton, the lawless gang of mercenaries set loose by his administration in the Middle East.

But there it was on the first page of Le Monde. The House of Representatives, which was intended to be the democratic chamber, at last was alert to its function, and the bravest of its members set in motion the articles of impeachment of the most dangerous president in our history. Rep Kucinich listed some 30-odd articles describing impeachable offenses committed by the president and vice president, neither of whom had ever been the clear choice of our sleeping polity for any office.

Some months ago, Kucinich had made the case against Dick Cheney. Now he had the principal malefactor in his view under the title “Articles of Impeachment for President George W. Bush”! “Resolved, that President George W. Bush be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate.” The purpose of the resolve is that he be duly tried by the Senate, and if found guilty, be removed from office. At this point, Rep. Kucinich presented his 35 articles detailing various high crimes and misdemeanors for which removal from office was demanded by the framers of the Constitution.

Update: On Wednesday, the House voted by 251 to 166 to send Rep. Kucinich’s articles of impeachment to a committee which probably won’t get to the matter before Bush leaves office, a strategy that is “often used to kill legislation,” as the Associated Press noted later that day.

National Book Award winner Gore Vidal has written twenty-three novels, five plays, many screenplays, short stories, well over two hundred essays, and a memoir.

Articles of Impeachment

Here are the 35 articles of impeachment that Dennis Kucinich introduced in the House of Representatives on June 9, 2008.

Kucinich requested that we ask our U.S. House Member:

1. Have you read the Articles of Impeachment?
2. If he or she did, ask if they find any of the to be true?
3. If not, why not? If yes, are they going to vote for hearings of Impeachment?

I would add two more questions:

1. Did you support the impeachment of President Clinton?
2. If so, do you consider an illegal war and hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths as serious as fellatio?

Kucinich’s case: the 35 points

Article I

Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq

Article II

Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression

Article III

Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War

Article IV

Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States

Article V

Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression

Article VI

Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114

Article VII

Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.

Article VIII

Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter

Article IX

Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor

Article X

Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes

Article XI

Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq

Article XII

Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation’s Natural Resources

Article XIIII

Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries

Article XIV

Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency

Article XV

Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq

Article XVI

Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors

Article XVII

Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives

Article XVIII

Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy

Article XIX

Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to ” Black Sites” Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture

Article XX

Imprisoning Children

Article XXI

Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government

Article XXII

Creating Secret Laws

Article XXIII

Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act

Article XXIV

Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment

Article XXV

Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens

Article XXVI

Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements

Article XXVII

Failing to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas and Instructing Former Employees Not to Comply

Article XXVIII

Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice

Article XXIX

Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Article XXX

Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare

Article XXXI

Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency

Article XXXII

Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change

Article XXXIII

Repeatedly Ignored and Failed to Respond to High Level Intelligence Warnings of Planned Terrorist Attacks in the US, Prior to 911.

Article XXXIV

Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001

Article XXXV

Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-8), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5), and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (IL-5) all remain adamantly opposed to impeachment - despite the overwhelming evidence of High Crimes, including the "Phase II" report by the Senate Intellligence Committee and Scott McClellan's new book.

And when Rep. Robert Wexler (FL-19) called for Judiciary Committee hearings on Kucinich's Articles of Impeachment against Vice President Cheney in January, only 17 Democrats joined them: Neil Abercrombie (HI-1), Tammy Baldwin (WI-2), Michael Capuano (MA-8), Yvette Clarke (NY-11), Lacy Clay (MO-1), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Sam Farr (CA-17), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-7), Luis Gutierrez (IL-4), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Jim Moran (VA-8), Mike Thompson (CA-1), Ed Towns (NY-10), and Lynn Woolsey (CA-6).

You can sign a petition supporting Kucinich's efforts at
http://www.democrats.com



Thursday, June 5, 2008

The "Terrorists," the "Paramilitary" and their Amazing Computers

According to the US press, laptops found in the bombed FARC camps just inside the Ecuadorian border contained a host of documents linking the FARC to both Venezuela's and Ecuador's governments. We have to wonder how the amazing laptops survived the bombings that killed the FARC soldiers while they slept. In my experience, it's pretty easy to kill a hard drive.

(We also have to wonder why the FARC soldiers suddenly decided to sleep as the Colombian army chased them in "hot pursuit" onto Ecuadorian soil, violating international law. They must have been really tired, but then the war's gone on half a century in Colombia. I'm sure everyone is tired.)

The laptop story is just bizarre and, if nothing else, averts the gaze of the US press from the violation Ecuador's sovereignty, which Ecuador sees as the real issue. Even the Guardian, a British newspaper I respect, got confused over the laptops.

Here is a response to a recent Guardian article.

The author looks more closely at Interpol's examination of the famous indestructible computers and examines connections between President Uribe (Bush's darling) and the Colombian paramilitary.

I have to wonder about the fine lexical difference between "paramilitaries" and "terrorists." What would Orwell have said? Is a right-wing terrorist a paramilitary? Is a paramilitary group one that defends the rich?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chavez Speaks with the US Press

Here are a couple of snippets from Hugo Chavez's recent interview with the US press published Sunday in the Boston Globe.

On President Bush:

I remember when I met George Bush for the first time. It was in Canada during the Summit of the Americas. We shook hands. And I said to him, with a lot of spontaneity and sincerity - and I know very little English - but I said this [in English]: I want to be your friend . . . I was hopeful for about 20 minutes.

On future relations with the United States:

I would love, for instance, to be able to work with the United States, together, and other countries as well, regardless of the ideology, to work in the field of health, for instance, infant mortality, food production. In Latin America, we have 19 million malnourished people . . . Haiti, this is a disaster. Children that die of hunger. Education. So many things that we can do together. Forget about the complexity of ideology. No matter how we think, there's a world waiting for us to tackle injustices. So I wish we can do that together. Well, if we couldn't do all that, at least we can sit down and talk.

I continue to be an admirer of Chavez. (I'm expecting my friend Graciela to scold me for this.) Clearly, I live far the Venezuela's reality and I often wish that Rafael Correa would have chosen Lula as his rhetorical and political mentor rather than Chavez. Our world is too full of black and white choices, but Chavez reminds me of one of Kennedy's remarks: that given the choice between Trujillo and Castro, the US would always choose Trujillo. A tragic choice for Cuba and for the Dominican Republic. But Kennedy didn't know any better. If our choice today is between Bush and Chavez or McCain and Chavez, indeed even between Hillary and Chavez, I'll go with Chavez.

Chris O'Connell asked me a couple of days ago if the Correa[/Chavez] plan is not the obvious way out of the neoliberal failures, what is? What sort of democracy can work? I don't hold much faith in the practice of democratic governments. Until a society can offer its people equal educational opportunities (perhaps the three pillars of the French Revolution: liberté, égalité, fraternité), democracy seems to me no more than a rhetorical strategy for demagogues. Venezuela, I am told, spends more on public education than any Latin American country. Sadly, Correa seems not to have any such plan. But even though educational spending isn't necessarily the answer--the US spends a ton and fails--in Latin America a significant investment in public education has got to be more democratic than the system we have today.

Read the entire interview at the Boston Globe website.

And while you're at it, have a look at the piece on the FARC computer files in Washington Post. (The link here is to the Houston Chronicle where the article is republished.) While the piece is typical Orwellian name calling, the comments by readers are interesting, especially the writer who recalls Colin Powell's famous lies about WMDs at the UN. Another suggests that the moron at the Post should actually read the Interpol report about the files.

Bill Moyers has pointed out that during the run up to the invasion of Iraq, the press would cite government sources and then Rumsfield and the rest would hold up the front page of the NY Times to prove the same point that they fed to the press the day before. Soon we will hear that the FARC is buying aluminum tubes somewhere and that Chavez, surely, is to blame.

But let's look at this from a trade point of view. We get our cocaine from Colombia and our oil from Venezuela. Colombia is our friend and ally and Venezuela is our enemy, led by a "demagogue/dictator," however freely elected. We used to get our oil from Iraq, formerly led by another
"demagogue/dictator." Still wonder why the Navy is moving in?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

US Naval Fleet to Be Positioned Off the Coast of South America

Have a look at this article by Victor Figueroa Clark:

"The news from the Pentagon that the US is re-establishing its Fourth Naval Fleet in the Caribbean, ostensibly to "build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts" unfortunately shows that the days a US military threat to Latin America are far from over."

How about that? Some more confidence and trust in the hemisphere. And now that Hugo Chavez has his new submarines, we'll have confidence and trust on both sides. Anyone recall the Gulf on Tonkin?

Read the rest of the article at Upside Down World

(Thanks to Mark Odenwelder for sending this along.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

When the Truth No Longer Matters

Here is a paragraph from Vincent Bugliosi's new article on prosecuting George Bush for murder. Bugliosi was the lawyer that prosecuted Charles Manson. There is nothing new in Bugliosi's article. The truth has been clear since the Manning Memo was leaked in England. What's clear is that no one in Congress, none of the main-stream presidential candidates, and nearly no one in the US has the will to seek justice.

"On January 31, 2003, Bush met in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In a memo summarizing the meeting discussion, Blair’s chief foreign policy advisor David Manning wrote that Bush and Blair expressed their doubts that any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons would ever be found in Iraq, and that there was tension between Bush and Blair over finding some justification for the war that would be acceptable to other nations. Bush was so worried about the failure of the UN inspectors to find hard evidence against Hussein that he talked about three possible ways, Manning wrote, to “provoke a confrontation” with Hussein. One way, Bush said, was to fly “U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, [falsely] painted in UN colors. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach” of UN resolutions and that would justify war. Bush was calculating to create a war, not prevent one."

Read the article here.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Constitutional Tinkering"?

Check out this short article on Ecuador's Constitutional Assembly in The Economist.

The future of Ecuador looks fairly grim as the Assembly continues to legislate without legal authority. And while new laws appear every day, a new constitution is nowhere in sight. There has been debate recently as to whether the new constitution should guarantee a woman's right to sexual pleasure. One can only wonder about enforcement.

Going Nowhere

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

World Wrestling Entertainment

Watch and listen to the presidential candidates address wrestling fans.

Hilary pledges to "go to the mat" for us all, and McCain likens the war in Iraq to a wrestling match. "Wrestling," says Old John, "is about celebrating our freedom." Could he be remembering Janis Joplin singing, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"?

Even Barack's there with an insider joke: "Do you smell what Barack is cooking?" I don't get it, but now I'm convinced that our candidates are not elitist. I hope you are, too. Or do people cling to wrestling because they're bitter?


Friday, April 25, 2008

Green Candidate

Though nearly no one is interested, I am happy to learn that Cynthia McKinney is the front-runner for the Green party presidential nomination.

Read the article here.

Then google her. She deserves the nation's attention and yours.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Aguinda vs. Texaco

Here's a more thoughtful and accurate description of the lawsuit against Texaco. Check out this article just published in the Los Angeles Times.

"Pursuing the Polluters"

Friday, April 18, 2008

Chevron Sweethearts and Radical Tyrants

If you've wondered why people in the US seem to know nothing worth knowing, consider the bone-headed, gossipy questions asked by the moderators from ABC at the last presidential debate. They made Wolf Blitzer look like a philosopher.

Then have a look at this fine piece of journalism that CNN picked up from Investor's Business Daily. Here are just a few tidbits:

"Ecuador's government is part of a trifecta supporting a $16 billion lawsuit against Chevron Corp. on behalf of 30,000 rain-forest dwellers supposedly suffering from pollution created by the multinational."

Supposedly?

"In America, the suit [against Chevron]was laughed out of court several years ago. But in the fruity logic of the country once famed as a "banana republic," it still has legs."

"Fruity logic?" "laughed out of court"?

"With a group called Amazon Watch looking to make a name for itself and an army of American tort lawyers looking for a payday, it became a plateful of trouble as colorful as anything on Carmen Miranda's head."

Carmen Miranda's head? Get it? more fruit. This is what we call an extended metaphor in Freshman composition. Clever.

"To let failed, rapacious governments like Ecuador's pursue companies like Chevron is surely an incentive for other radical tyrants. It's nothing but a $16 billion shakedown of Chevron. If these activists succeed, all that's left will be even less oil and investment in it than there is now."

The poor oil companies. In the worst world economy we've seen in years, somehow they set new profit records every quarter. But the Bush subsidies must help some, right?

So what is a radical tyrant anyway?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes: the Noble Lie

When Socrates was asked, "Who will guard the guardians?" he answered, "They will guard themselves against themselves. We must tell the guardians a noble lie: we will inform them that they are better than those they serve and it is therefore their responsibility to guard and protect those lesser than themselves. We will instill in them a distaste for power or privilege, they will rule because they believe it right, not because they desire it."

Check out the AP article on yesterday's release of the Pentagon documents that recorded prisoner abuse. My guess is that the guardians, from the top down, never quite believed the noble lie.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Petition for Condoleeza Rice to Resign

The website CondiMustGo has posted a petition asking Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama to call for Rice's resignation. Please sign the petition here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lt General Odom

I quote from a recent article by Helen Thomas:

"Congress should wake up before it's too late and listen to retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency.

"NSA is the nation's largest intelligence agency which monitors messages from all over the world.

"Odom testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week and urged an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. He claimed the troop surge (escalation) has prolonged instability in Iraq and that the only "sensible strategy" is "rapid withdrawal."

"In a separate speech last week, the outspoken general said, "We are certainly to blame for the chaos in Iraq" but "we do not have the physical means to prevent it."

"Odom said the military situation in Iraq is worsened by "the proliferation of armed groups under local military chiefs who follow a proliferating number of political bosses."

"We are witnessing ... the road to Balkanization of Iraq, that is political fragmentation," Odom said."

The entire article, worth your time, is here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Agents of Intolerance"?

The last time John McCain ran for president, he described the religious right as "agents of intolerance." Thank goodness he seems to have seen the light. Here he is with the defunct Rev. Falwell.


And here blissfully nestled in the arms of the president.


And finally an excerpt his Iran foreign policy speech, set irreverently to music by some intolerant YouTube scoundrel.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How Green is the Latin American Left? A Look at Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia

An article by

Daniel Denvir and Thea Riofrancos

Tuesday, 01 April 2008

Across Latin America, resurgent indigenous, labor and campesino movements have contributed to the rise of new governments that declare their independence from the neoliberal economic model, promise a more equitable distribution of wealth and increased state control over natural resources. But it is uncertain how far these new governments have gone to transform the ecologically unsustainable model of development that dominates the region.

This article examines the environmental records of governments in Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia. Over the last decade, in all three countries—as in the rest of the region—there has been growing criticism of over twenty years of neoliberal policies that have exacerbated poverty and inequality. Neoliberalism refers to a trio of economic orthodoxies: privatization of all state enterprises, liberalization of all markets, and currency stabilization. This turn against neoliberalism includes an emerging concern about environmental issues, and particularly about the way in which ecological degradation and its accompanying affects on public health are closely linked to economic exploitation.

As a result of rising oil and mineral prices coupled with global warming, almost all recent major social conflicts in the three countries have revolved around access, control, and ownership of natural resources: oil, natural gas, water, and minerals. These conflicts are centered on two separate, and at times conflicting, popular demands. First, social movements are calling for national control over natural resources. Second, these same movements—in particular those led by indigenous organizations—have also begun to criticize the extractive economic model its accompanying infrastructure of dams, pipelines and mines. This leaves the new left governments of Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia in a difficult bind. Historically, the economies in each country have depended on revenues from natural resource extraction, yet the benefits have always accrued to a small elite. These governments are hard-pressed to fund social programs that redress extreme poverty and inequality without oil and gas revenues. The question remains: how can Latin America construct a sustainable economy that is ecologically and socially just?

You can read the rest of the article at upsidedownworld.org

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Venezuela's Letter to the Washington Post

Venezuela's Minister of Communication and Information has just published a response to the Washington Post's attacks on the Chavez government. The letter is worth reading (while the Post, of course, is not).

Here are the first three paragraphs:

Jackson Diehl
Deputy Editor, Editorial Page
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street NW
Washington, DC 20071
March 25, 2008


Dear Mr. Diehl,

Over the past several years, we have informed you of our concerns regarding the hostile, distorted and inaccurate coverage of Venezuela in your newspaper, and particularly on the Editorial Page. Previously, we communicated our alarm at the unbalanced reporting and writing on Venezuela during the period 2000-2006, which evidenced one-sided analyses and false claims regarding President Chávez’s tendencies and events within the country. Since then, however, the Post coverage has gotten worse. More editorials and OpEds have been written this past year about Venezuela than ever before, 98% of which are negative, critical, and aggressive and contain false or manipulated information. We are therefore led to believe that the Washington Post is promoting an anti-Venezuela, anti-Chávez agenda.

President Chávez has been referred to in Washington Post editorials and OpEds during the past year as a “strongman”, “crude populist”, “autocrat”, “clownish”, “increasingly erratic”, “despot” and “dictator” on 8 separate occasions and his government has been referred to 7 times as a “dictatorship”, a “repressive regime” or a form of “authoritarianism”. Such claims are not only false, but they are also extremely dangerous. The U.S. government has used such classifications to justify wars, military interventions, coup d’etats and other regime change techniques over the past several decades.

Far from a dictatorship, President Chávez’s government has the highest popularity rating in the Venezuela’s contemporary history and Chávez has won three presidential elections with landslide victories and several other important elections, including a recall referendum against his mandate in August 2004, which he won with a clear 60-40 majority. Hugo Chávez is the first president in Venezuela’s history to include the country’s majority poor population in key decision and policy-making. The creation of community councils that govern locally and the increase in voter participation are clear signs of a vibrant, open democracy, demonstrating that Venezuela is far from a dictatorship.

The rest of the letter...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Michael Moore on Darth Vader

Here's a snippet of Moore's recent article on Dick Cheney. (What mother has done better naming a son?)

"The Democrats have had the power to literally pull the plug on this war for the past 15 months — and they have refused to do so. What are we to do about that? Continue to sink into our despair? Or get creative? Real creative. I know there are many of you reading this who have the chutzpah and ingenuity to confront your local congressperson. Will you? For me?Cheney spent Wednesday, the 5th anniversary of the war, not mourning the dead he killed, but fishing off the Sultan of Oman’s royal yacht. So? Ask your favorite Republican what they think of that.The Founding Fathers would never have uttered the presumptuous words, “God Bless America.” That, to them, sounded like a command instead of a request, and one doesn’t command God, even if they are America."

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's Speech

MoveOn.Org is asking that supporters send around copies of Obama's speech.

I find much to like in Obama and in his speech. Nonetheless, because of Obama's positions on torture, the war in Iraq, corporate campaign funding, and most recently, his view on the border conflict between Colombia and Ecuador, I do not support his presidential bid.

The so-called changes that Obama is proposing seem to me carefully and sadly calculated not to offend voters. Another Clinton Republocrat, though clearly the best of them.

------------------------------------------

You can watch or read the whole speech here:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3511&id=12333-2453171-hdTeqI&t=546

If you're busy, here's a highlight from the speech:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3510&id=12333-2453171-hdTeqI&t=547

"We have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle—as we did in the OJ trial—or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina—or as fodder for the nightly news.

"We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

"We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

"We can do that.

"But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

"That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

"This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

"This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

"This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

"I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation—the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

"There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today—a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

"There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

"And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

"She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

"She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

"Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

"Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, 'I am here because of Ashley.'

"'I'm here because of Ashley.' By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

"But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins."

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Invasion of Ecuador

You--especially those of you who support Obama--don't want to miss this article by Greg Palast on Bush and the US presidential candidates' darkly stupid response to Colombia's invasion of Ecuador.

Palast article

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Colombian Attack

Obama Glosses Over Colombian Attack in Ecuador; Clinton Calls for Escalation Against Venezuela

by Robert Naiman

The Clinton and Obama forces have asked us to consider who we want answering the phone at the White House at 3 AM. There is little need to speculate. We have a lot of evidence about how they will respond.

On Saturday, Colombia launched an attack on a FARC camp in Ecuador, with, Ecuador plausibly alleges, U.S. support. Colombia’s President Uribe — a close Bush ally — lied to Ecuador’s President Correa about the attack, claiming it was in “hot pursuit.” Ecuador’s soldiers, when they reached the scene and recovered the bodies of FARC members who had been killed, reported to Correa that they had been asleep when attacked. They were in their underwear. Correa called it a “massacre.” Both Ecuador and Venezuela have moved troops to their borders with Colombia, warned Colombia about violating their sovereignty, and cut diplomatic relations with Colombia.


Read the article at CommonDreams.org

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Barack & Blackwater

From an article by Jeremy Scahill in today's issue of The Nation:

"A senior foreign policy adviser to leading Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has told The Nation that if elected Obama will not “rule out” using private security companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. The adviser also said that Obama does not plan to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009, when a new President will be sworn in. Obama’s campaign says that instead he will focus on bringing accountability to these forces while increasing funding for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the agency that employs Blackwater and other private security contractors. (Hillary Clinton’s staff did not respond to repeated requests for an interview or a statement on this issue.)"

Reprinted on the Common Dreams website.

The Torture Vote

Paul Haggis, who received an Oscar in 2006 for his film Crash, wore an orange ribbon Sunday night at the Oscars, and told the Washington Post:

"The orange ribbons were worn in protest against state sanctioned torture. I wish we had been wearing them to make a statement about torture in Tibet or Burma or in Chinese labor camps. But the ribbons are the color of the jumpsuits at Guantanamo Bay, and at our secret detention camps, where prisoners are kept indefinitely, in violation of our constitution, and tortured. This is something that our government has long condemned as the heinous behavior of dictators, but something that unbelievably we now condone. . Every American of any political party should be loudly condemning this grossly un-American activity, but is barely even mentioned anymore. The orange wrist bands some of us wore said simply "Torture + Silence = Complicity". I received mine from The World Can't Wait campaign."

Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait, wrote yesterday:

"George Bush is threatening to veto a bill passed by the Senate which doesn’t allow the CIA to use waterboarding, limiting it to interrogations allowed in the U.S. Army Field Manual. "

Sweet also notes that Senator McCain voted against the bill. "
I will not restrict the CIA to only the Army Field Manual," McCain explained. Neither Senator Clinton nor Senator Obama voted.

You can read the entire article on the World Can't Wait website.




Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nations without Borders

“Where have all the Leaders Gone?”

I just received an email with excerpts from Lee Iaccoca’s new book that asks, “Where have all the leaders gone?” I’m sure the book will sell (though I won’t buy a copy). It hits just the right note about mediocre world leaders. Will Rogers sung to a tune by the Kingston Trio.

Good Lee writes,

"Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry."

Ah, Lee, your concern for the middle class is touching. Who will cut your lawn if the middle class goes dry? But the answer to your populist question is pretty simple really. There are lots of strong leaders out there--did you forget your support for George W in 2000? But for reasons you ought to know inside out, they don’t seem to get the corporate money they’d have to have to run a political campaign. The Iacocca-run corporations and their lobbyists know exactly where the leaders have gone because those corporations and lobbyists have made sure that the governments of the world don’t get in the way of corporate profits.

But you say, “I believe in America.” Jesus, Lee. Maybe you should get a church or a TV show. You believe in money, Lee, not some antique notion of America. No Chrysler has been built in the US since the one Abe Lincoln drove around the square in Jacksonville, Illinois. These days the brake pedal comes from Jalapa, the transmission from Podunk, Uruguay, the radio from a Japanese subsidiary in Bangkok, the new car smell from a perfume maquiladora in the west of France, the voice on the GPS from a bartender in Soho and the cheesy design from Mars or some other planet. Then you paint it red, white and blue (with paint imported from Seoul) and call it American, as you pretend that Japanese car companies are from Japan. My “Japanese” Izuzu Trooper has a chrome Chevrolet label that was made in China. Car companies don’t belong to nations any more. You know that. Nations are a story you tell the poor so they’ll feel pride or rage.

You know as well as any transnational CEO that nations no longer exist in any relevant way. In the year 2000, 51 of the the world’s 100 largest economies were corporations not countries. Nations are anachronisms, an idea sold to the naive so they’ll send their children to die defending corporate profit, so they’ll hang a flag on a house or stick a ribbon on a car that says “defend our troops” or “freedom isn’t free.” Have you checked out Halliburton’s new address? They quietly left Texas last year and have relocated in Dubai.

In the year 2000, Daimler Chrysler, with sales of $159 billion, ranked #28 in the world’s largest economies. Only Ford, Exxon, WalMart, General Motors and 22 nations had more income. The other 170 or so countries in the world had smaller GDPs than Chrysler and Exxon.

God bless you, Lee, but your question is populist bullshit. If my daughter wants to be CEO of one of the top 100 corporations, she needs to be smart, energetic, get a famous MBA from Harvard or Yale, get into Skull and Bones, and work very hard. The formula is pretty simple, Lee. You went to Princeton. You can read Forbes. Let’s consider the investment and the return. $200,000 ought to buy all that if she’s a smart young woman. And you know better than I what a CEO’s salary is.

But imagine if she wants to be a US Senator. She needs to do all the above, maybe swap the MBA for a law degree, and then if she’s really bright, she’ll still need to raise $10 million to launch her campaign. Ten million dollars, Lee. And you wonder what happened to democracy? If my daughter is not very bright, but still gets into Yale and Skull and Bones, say, on the legacy plan, she can’t be a CEO and probably not a US Senator. But, hell, Lee, if she can get a bit over a hundred million dollars together, she can be President of the United States. And, at least in the year 2000, she might have had your support. Now, we both know that it’s hard to put that sort of money together. But with your help, George W did it in 2000. Maybe you just made “some bad choices,” as the child-rearing knuckleheads say these days.

But let’s get back to my daughter. If she wants to be a US Senator, how can we help her? If the US housing market recovers and I get back the equity I lost in our house--my only real savings--I can pitch in $100,000. But she’ll still need $9,900,000. And some say the housing market won’t snap back. I guess she could ask a million of her friends for $10 each, but I’ve not seen that many friends around the house. So like all the other candidates, she’ll just have to look for corporate donations. And you CEO’s are really generous and democratic in a pure sense, contributing to both the Democrats and the Republicans. You claim that there are no leaders, yet your companies finance their campaigns. Maybe you’re not really looking for leadership exactly, eh? Remember when you got the Congress to guarantee bailout loans to Chrysler in 1979? That was pretty democratic. Do you think all those expensive campaign contributions helped pass that legislation? Where have all the leaders gone? Indeed. You got your salary that year, guaranteed by the United States Congress.

While the US economy has been taking the worst dive in our lifetimes--as you cleverly point out in the excerpts I’ve read--the economy of Exxon Mobil sets new profit records every quarter and is now the most profitable corporation in the history of the world. In the eight years of the Bush presidency, Exxon sales have increased from $163 to more than $404 billion dollars-- and Exxon is now the 18th largest economy in the world, better than the GDPs of nearly 170 of the world’s nations. Lee, do you think that Exxon’s CEO might be one of the leaders you find missing?

In the year 2000, Exxon was the only oil company on the list of the world’s 30 largest economies, but now there are many more. Did those mediocre government leaders help that happen? Is that why you help their campaigns? You studied politics, Lee. Do you remember how much PAC money Abe Lincoln raised?

There are clearly smart leaders in the world, Lee. But they are running oil companies and other multinationals. Let’s look at some annual sales numbers:

Exxon 404 billion
Royal Dutch/ Shell 376 billion
WalMart 375 billion
British Petroleum 281 billion
Chevron 204 billion
Toyota 204 billion
Conoco 172 billion

If these enormous corporate economies are thriving, breaking profit records every quarter, what happened to the nations headed up by the mediocre leaders you finance and then lament? the Bushes whose candidacies you have supported? Follow the money, as they used to say. The US goes broke while the companies that funded the political campaigns are awash in money. You graduated from Princeton. Can you see any cause/effect here? You want to know what happened in New Orleans? Follow the money. Check Halliburton’s profits. Buy a t-shirt that says, “Make levees not war.”

I think my daughter should apply to work at Exxon, don’t you? She could start an NGO, maybe Nations without Borders.

I like this quote of yours, though:

"I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?"

Pretty cool words, Lee, chatty and tough at the same time. But the paragraph needs a little correction. Democracy was hijacked all right, and a long time ago. But if you can figure out how my daughter could run for political office without having to sell her integrity to make your companies even richer, maybe we could get it back. Till then, we’re stuck with the boneheads on the corporate payroll at Fox News, in the Congress and in the White House.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ecuador's Irrelevant New Constitution

One hundred and thirty Ecuadorians are gathered these days to write a new constitution. This will be number twenty they say and will be the second constitution written since I've lived here these 18 years.

The point as I understand it is that a new constitution will bring law and order to a land that is reckless and corrupt. ("Eight Presidents in ten years" is the phrase the US press uses in the first paragraph of every article about Ecuador.) Ecuadorians want order, they say, and they seem to believe that a new edition of the Ten Commandments might make the world more orderly.

The idea is absurd, of course. There's no obvious way to improve upon "Thou shalt not steal," and the Ecuadorian constitution like the Ten Commandments is not the problem. The country would save a great deal of money running a Google search for "constitution" and downloading the document with the most hits. Without further study, I would suggest photocopying the constitution of Norway. (Although one might argue that the Soviet Union had little success using its copy of the US constitution--a document that is also increasingly irrelevant in the United States of George Bush.)

Look at recent Ecuadorian history. When the Ecuadorian Congress decided to expel President Bucuram, they simply and unconstitutionally declared him insane. The Ecuadorian people, fed up with the flamboyantly corrupt Bucuram, issued no protest. Getting rid of the president mattered far more than the law. Only a few years later, when the ambitious and manipulated army colonel Lucio Gutierrez led an unconstitutional uprising to overthrew his commander-in-chief, President Jamil Mahuad, the people cheered his bravado. They were tired of Mahuad. And shortly after, the Ecuadorians chose Lucio Gutierrez as their heroic president. No one seemed to notice the irony when Gutierrez was sworn into office, vowing to uphold the law of the land. He didn't even smirk at the oath. The popular ends justified the unconstitutional means.

A constitution cannot make a people respect the law. And in this land where the injustice of poverty batters so many lives, where education fails so miserably, where children continue to die for lack of potable water, where the rich continue to grab more than they could ever morally deserve, the government could save a great deal of time, money and frustration by adopting the Sermon on the Mount or the Hippocratic Oath as its guiding light and spend the saved resources on educating children. We cannot legislate a new, better society. Legislation is a product of culture not its source. We need to create a more just world by teaching children to do no harm. If we start there, we can move toward the social justice that President Correa and his minions claim to desire.