Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Spirit of Ann Richards

Virginia state Sen. Janet Howell (D) thinks that if the government is going to force women to undergo medically unnecessary tests, then it is only fair to apply the same standards to men.

Republican lawmakers are pushing for legislation that would require pregnant women to have an ultrasound before terminating their pregnancy. In response, Howell introduced an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining erectile dysfunction medication like Viagra.

  Raw Story
The Republican-led Senate narrowly rejected her proposed amendment by a 21 to 19 vote.
Hey, nice try.
The bill, which the state Senate will vote on Tuesday, requires all women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound image taken and for them to be given the opportunity to see the ultrasound image or hear the fetal heartbeat. A copy of the ultrasound is required to be placed on the woman’s medical records.

The bill also requires women who live less than 100 miles from the medical facility to wait 24 hours after the ultrasound before terminating their pregnancy.

Our Economy Is Looking Better!

But we had to change our measuring stick to get there.
Last Friday (January 27) the US Bureau of Economic Analysis announced its advance estimate that in the last quarter of 2011 the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.8% in real inflation-adjusted terms, an increase from the annual rate of growth in the third quarter.


What the presstitute media did not tell us is that almost the entire gain In GDP growth was due to “involuntary inventory build-up,” that is, more goods were produced than were sold.

Net of the unsold goods, the annualized real growth rate was eight-tenths of one percent.

  Paul Craig Roberts
I’m inclined to give the “presstitute” a pass on the implication that they are withholding something. I doubt if there are more than a handful of them who understand that sort of thing. And they no longer investigate anything they're told by the government.
[Even] that tiny growth rate is an exaggeration, because it is deflated with a measure of inflation that understates inflation. The US government’s measure of inflation no longer measures a constant standard of living. Instead, the government’s inflation measure relies on substitution of cheaper goods for those that rise in price. In other words, the government holds the measure of inflation down by measuring a declining standard of living.


It becomes clear that the US economy has had no recovery and has now been in deep recession for four years despite the proclamation by the National Bureau of Economic Research of a recovery based on the rigged official numbers.


More proof that there has been no economic recovery is available from those data series that are unaffected by inflation. If the economy were in fact recovering, these data series would be picking up. Instead, they are flat or declining, as John Williams demonstrates.


Real average weekly earnings (deflated by the government’s CPI-W) have never recovered their 1973 peak. Real median household income (deflated by the government’s CPI-U) has not recovered its 2001 peak and is below the 1969 level.


Housing starts have remained flat since 2009 and are below their previous peak.

Retail sales are below the index level of January 2000.

Industrial production remains below the index level of January 2000.

To repeat, the only indicator of economic recovery is the GDP deflated with an understated measure of inflation.


Today, consumers are too indebted to borrow, and banks are too insolvent to lend. Therefore, there is no possibility of further debt expansion as a substitute for real income growth. An offshored economy is a dead and exhausted economy.

The consequences of a dead economy when the government is wasting trillions of dollars in wars of naked aggression and in bailouts of fraudulent financial institutions is a government budget that can only be financed by printing money.

The consequence of printing money when jobs have been moved offshore is an inflationary depression. This catastrophe could begin to unfold this year or in 2013. If Europe’s problems worsen, flight into dollars could delay sharp rises in US inflation until 2014.

The emperor has no clothes, and sooner or later this will be recognized.
Yeah, but until then, he’s lookin’ gooood.

Plans to Reinstate Our Baby Continue Apace

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier will face trial for corruption but not for human rights abuses, the judge handling the case said on Monday.


Victims of Duvalier's armed forces and the notorious National Security Volunteer Militia, better known as the Tonton Macoutes, sought to have their claims included in the official case against Duvalier, but the government prosecutor's office did not include them in its recommendations to the judge as the alleged abuses fell outside the statute of limitations stipulated in Haiti's constitution, according to a senior judicial official.

The government prosecutor also recommended dropping the corruption charges, the official said, but the judge decided to let them stand.


A 20-page ruling on the charges was delivered to the government prosecutor's office on Monday, Carves Jean, the judge responsible for investigating the case, told Reuters.

It does not include charges for the murders, disappearances, torture and other rights abuses allegedly committed during Duvalier's 15-year rule.

"I did not find enough legal grounds to keep human rights charges and crimes against humanity against him," he said. "Now my job is over. The case is no longer in my hands."

  UK Guardian
He said as he hurried out to deposit his new American dollars into his Swiss bank account.
The Swiss government has sought to confiscate assets valued at 5.8m Swiss francs (£4m). It wants to return the funds to Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Americas and is struggling to recover from an earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people.
Whoa! Strike that…deposit them in his US bank account.
Last week, President Michel Martelly was quoted as favouring a pardon for Duvalier but he later retracted his remarks.
After Bill Clinton went back home.
Since then, Duvalier dines frequently in some of the city's finest restaurants, accompanied by former members of his regime. He has also made unauthorised visits outside the capital.

[He] even managed a handshake with an unsuspecting former US president Bill Clinton at an event outside the capital to mark the second anniversary of the 2010 earthquake.
Unsuspecting? I think not.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

The Ubiquitous American Drone

At least 11 fighters with alleged links to al-Qaeda have been killed in an air strike in Yemen, according to local residents and tribal officials.

Local residents told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that an unidentified drone carried out the attack on two vehicles travelling east of the city of Loder in Abyan province in southern Yemen.

A tribal leader said at least four of those killed were local al-Qaeda leaders, according to Reuters.


"We think they were carried out by American planes," a tribal official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity and without elaborating.

That’s a good guess.

And, meanwhile in Pakistan…

The New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington, says drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in the past eight years.


US President Barack Obama has [finally] confirmed that unmanned drones have regularly struck Pakistan’s tribal areas in his government’s efforts to dismantle what it alleges are al-Qaeda sanctuaries in the region.


"For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military action than the ones we're already engaging in."


A spokesman for Pakistan's foreign ministry reiterated the government's public protest in response to Obama's comments.

"Notwithstanding tactical advantages of drone strikes, we are of the firm view that these are unlawful, counterproductive and hence unacceptable," Abdul Basit said.


The controversial drone programme run by the CIA has often been met with protests in Pakistan amid concerns of civilian casualties. The Pakistani government publicly protests the operations, but is believed to support them.

Which would explain why we don’t even bother to try to placate the government when they do complain. Should the citizenry ever decide they’ve had enough and rise up against the government, we’ll have to dance a little faster.

And then there’s the surveillance drones in Iraq…
President Barack Obama downplayed a recent report about the use of US drones in Iraq, indicating that the unmanned aircraft are mainly used for embassy surveillance.

Obama said during an online event on Monday that a New York Times story citing Iraqi officials as expressing outrage over the use of US drones following last year’s troop withdrawal was “a little overwritten.”

“The truth of the matter is we’re not engaging in a bunch of drone attacks inside of Iraq. There’s some surveillance to make sure that our embassy compound is protected.”

  Raw Story
We’re just watching. If you’re not doing anything wrong….

And no, you can't fly surveillance drones in our skies.

"A little overwritten."

Big Brother Is Watching

And he doesn’t have a sense of humor.
Before his trip, Leigh Van Bryan wrote that he was going to "destroy America".

He insisted he was referring to simply having a good time - but was sent home.


The 26-year-old bar manager wrote a message to a friend on the micro-blogging service [Twitter], saying: "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America."


Mr Bryan told the newspaper that he was questioned for five hours about his Twitter messages.


Trade association Abta told the BBC that the case highlighted that holidaymakers should never do anything to raise "concern or suspicion in any way".

The US Department for Homeland Security picked up Mr Bryan's messages ahead of his holiday in Los Angeles.

  N Juice
Well, his hoped-for but denied holiday.


"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier." ~ GW Bush"

Barack Obama has come under pressure to explain American attempts to extradite a British student accused of breaking US copyright law, after a web campaign to raise awareness of the case propelled it to the top of a presidential question-and-answer session.

A query about Richard O'Dwyer, a 23-year-old Sheffield Hallam undergraduate who faces jail if sent for trial and convicted in the US, was the most asked of more than 133,000 questions submitted to a live online Google+ "hangout" with the president broadcast on Monday.

  UK Guardian
I guess the administration has teased out the one place Americans will take a stand ... their internet.
O'Dwyer was told by Westminster magistrates court last month he was eligible to face trial in the US. He was arrested at his home in Yorkshire by British and American police in November 2010, but does not face criminal charges in the UK.


"Why are you personally supporting the extradition of British citizen Richard O'Dwyer for solely linking to copyright-infringing works using an extradition treaty designed to combat terrorism and to bring terrorists to judgement in the USA?" [Michael] Mozart asked.

The president replied: "I'm not personally doing anything; I want to make sure everybody understands. One of the ways our system works is that the president doesn't get involved with prosecution decisions or extradition decisions and this has been a decision by the justice department."
Quick, pass that buck.

I guess the killings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlaki were made at Justice, huh?

And what about Justice? The following snips are taken from an article by Jennifer Robinson who met Eric Holder at the Sundance Film Festival showing of “Slavery by Another Name” in which Holder’s wife is one of several descendants of blacks who were essentially sold into slavery after the Civil War had supposedly freed them.
Between the Emancipation Proclamation and the beginning of World War II, tens of thousands of African-Americans were arrested on phony charges, slapped with massive fines they could not pay, and then sold into labor to some of the biggest industries in the country to work off their debt.


I began to think about Eric Holder’s legacy — and the irony of his support for a film about the need to look back in order to look forward. After all, the film laments government inaction on slavery at the turn of the century. Today we lament Holder’s inaction on torture.

Holder insists on looking “forward, not back” when it comes to accountability for torture, dropping all cases of alleged illegal treatment of post-9/11 detainees by the CIA and its contractors. (Interesting that Holder, the same man advocating a forward-looking approach, said in 2010 that if the Justice Department could not identify a law under which to prosecute Assange, they would create one.)

While CIA torturers receive immunity from prosecution, Holder just announced that the Justice Department has charged a former CIA agent, John Kiriakou, for allegedly disclosing information to journalists about a CIA agent who engaged in waterboarding during interrogations.

While CIA torturers receive immunity from prosecution, Holder just announced that the Justice Department has charged a former CIA agent, John Kiriakou, for allegedly disclosing information to journalists about a CIA agent who engaged in waterboarding during interrogations.

Holder does not prosecute U.S. torturers; he prosecutes those who speak out about U.S. torture. Will Julian Assange be next?


Then I took the opportunity to ask the attorney general a few questions.

“Mr. Holder, I just wanted to say how powerful I thought your wife’s contribution was to the film and how great it is to see you here, as attorney general, supporting it.” My praise was genuine.

“Thank you, I am a very lucky man,” he responded, warmly and sincerely. I agreed.


”I am a lawyer for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.” Slightly taken aback, a flicker of recognition crossed his face. “How do you think history will reflect upon your treatment of WikiLeaks and Assange?”


“The release of confidential information is a very serious matter, and we have to draw the line somewhere.” [he replied]


Holder continued to emphasize the grave harm he believes the leaked cables caused to U.S. national interests and “even to countries that [Assange] would likely support,” but that he “cannot get into the detail of the harm caused.” These blanket but unspecified allegations about harm allegedly caused by WikiLeaks’ publications (and those by the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais and numerous other newspapers worldwide) have been common in U.S. government statements.

“Then will the Department of Justice state publicly whether or not you intend to prosecute Julian?” I asked.

Holder’s answer was short as he walked away: “We will see.”

Damn! A man can’t even go to the movies without being asked to explain himself by some liberal activist.

And here's a clue to the immaturity of the brains of the prosecutors of American style justice:  “even to countries that [Assange] would likely support.”

Us vs. Them.  Good Countries vs.  Bad Countries.  They can't evolve or mature to the point where you can support a country but be against some of that country's policies.

And beyond even that, Julian Assange is essentially a reporter, and a true reporter doesn't report what's favorable or not to any particular entity - he reports what's happening, so what or who he supports shouldn't even be a question.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Immunity Zone

As we spoke, however, [Israeli defense minister Ehud] Barak laid out three categories of questions, which he characterized as “Israel’s ability to act,” “international legitimacy” and “necessity,” all of which require affirmative responses before a decision is made to attack:

1. Does Israel have the ability to cause severe damage to Iran’s nuclear sites and bring about a major delay in the Iranian nuclear project? And can the military and the Israeli people withstand the inevitable counterattack?

2. Does Israel have overt or tacit support, particularly from America, for carrying out an attack?

3. Have all other possibilities for the containment of Iran’s nuclear threat been exhausted, bringing Israel to the point of last resort? If so, is this the last opportunity for an attack?

For the first time since the Iranian nuclear threat emerged in the mid-1990s, at least some of Israel’s most powerful leaders believe that the response to all of these questions is yes.

At various points in our conversation, Barak underscored that if Israel or the rest of the world waits too long, the moment will arrive — sometime in the coming year, he says — beyond which it will no longer be possible to act. “It will not be possible to use any surgical means to bring about a significant delay,” he said. “Not for us, not for Europe and not for the United States. After that, the question will remain very important, but it will become purely theoretical and pass out of our hands — the statesmen and decision-makers — and into yours — the journalists and historians.”


He warned that no more than one year remains to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weaponry. This is because it is close to entering its “immunity zone” — a term coined by Barak that refers to the point when Iran’s accumulated know-how, raw materials, experience and equipment (as well as the distribution of materials among its underground facilities) — will be such that an attack could not derail the nuclear project. Israel estimates that Iran’s nuclear program is about nine months away from being able to withstand an Israeli attack; America, with its superior firepower, has a time frame of 15 months. In either case, they are presented with a very narrow window of opportunity.


“From our point of view,” Barak said, “a nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with Hezbollah, which has over 50,000 rockets that threaten the whole area of Israel, including several thousand that can reach Tel Aviv. A nuclear Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely restrict our range of operations.”

   Ronen Bergman, an analyst for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in the NYTimes
This is a little different phrasing than Bergman used in an interview on NPR this afternoon. In that interview, he was asked why the Israeli’s think that Iran would attack Israel, knowing Israel has nuclear weapons and would counter, with the aid of the US. He said that it’s not a matter of deterrence, but a matter of not allowing Iran to have the nuclear weapon. The reasoning was this: Barak told him to imagine if Israel decided to attack the Hamas government in Gaza again, and this time they decided “to go all the way” and “take them out.” He quoted Barak as having said that Iran having nuclear weapons wouldn’t necessarily keep Israel from doing so, but it would make them “think twice about it.”

Heaven forbid Israel should have to think twice about “taking out” another country.
As one senior American official wrote to the State Department and the Pentagon in November 2009, after an Israeli intelligence projection that Iran would have a complete nuclear arsenal by 2012: “It is unclear if the Israelis firmly believe this or are using worst-case estimates to raise greater urgency from the United States.”
Gee. I wonder. What a coincidence that the “immunity zone” coincides with the US presidential election.

I suppose, however, that the Middle East being the cradle of civilization, it is only fitting that it should also be its grave.

...and hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

We're Off to the Races

“According to ‘Forbes, the $10 million [billionaire casino mogul Sheldon] Adelson dropped on Gingrich is what his biggest hotel casino, the Marina Bay Sands, can make in profit in one day,” [MSNBC’s Chris] Hayes mentioned. “What if he’s decided to really go for it and gave Gingrich’s Super PAC a hundred million? It’s a testament to the power of the status quo and the force of norms that this campaign hasn’t already become a protracted proxy battle between billionaires.”

  Raw Story
That and Mitt Romney doesn’t need a proxy.
He added: “For all the talk of horse race coverage of presidential campaigns, perhaps the future of presidential elections will be like actual horse races. Billionaires choose their candidates of choice and hire jockeys — that is campaign staff and operatives to ride them. We’ll even have an active betting market among the masses who watch their wealthy race their play things. That’s a dystopic vision. But if things don’t change, that is maybe where we’re headed.”
Not so dystopic. What we have right now is billionaires choosing their agenda and hiring candidates of choice as the jockeys.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

"Sovereign" Iraq - or - Your Tax Dollars at Work

BAGHDAD — A month after the last American troops left Iraq, the State Department is operating a small fleet of surveillance drones here to help protect the United States Embassy and consulates, as well as American personnel.


Some 5,000 private security contractors now protect the embassy’s 11,000-person staff, for example, and typically drive around in heavily armored military vehicles.

When embassy personnel move throughout the country, small helicopters buzz over the convoys to provide support in case of an attack. Often, two contractors armed with machine guns are tethered to the outside of the helicopters.


The program was described by the department’s diplomatic security branch in a little-noticed section of its most recent annual report and outlined in broad terms in a two-page online prospectus for companies that might bid on a contract to manage the program. It foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.


[The] program was tested in Iraq in December 2010. “The program will watch over State Department facilities and personnel and assist regional security officers with high-threat mission planning and execution,” the document said.

In the online prospectus, called a “presolicitation notice,” the State Department last September outlined a broad requirement to provide “worldwide Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (U.A.V.) support services.” American officials said this was to formalize the initial program. [emphasis added]


In the next few weeks, the department is expected to issue a more detailed proposal, requesting bids from private contractors to operate the drones.


The United States [...] needs formal approval from the Iraqi government to use such aircraft here, Iraqi officials said. Such approval may be untenable given the political tensions between the two countries. Now that the troops are gone, Iraqi politicians often denounce the United States in an effort to rally support from their followers.


A senior American official said that negotiations were under way to obtain authorization for the current drone operations, but Ali al-Mosawi, a top adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih al-Fayadh; and the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, all said in interviews that they had not been consulted by the Americans.

Mr. Asadi said that he opposed the drone program: “Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.’s sky.”

That’s what you think.
So militarized is U.S. foreign policy — and so reviled is the U.S. in Iraq — that even when it “withdraws” from that country, it maintains a presence that is so large and menacing as to be unimaginable in most other countries around the world: basically the equivalent of a small army.

  Glenn Greenwald
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vote Fraud in South Carolina?

I'm sure there is plenty, but what do you make of this?
South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles director Kevin Shwedo testified before a House hearing that more than 950 dead people had voted.


The South Carolina Attorney General’s office gave the State Election Commission only 6 names from the list of 950. Of those six, one had died after casting an absentee ballot and the other five were very much alive and eligible to vote.


The Attorney General, Alan Wilson, has been a guest on Fox News claiming that 37,000 dead people were registered to vote. Of those 37,000, the DMV is claiming 950 voted in recent elections. The State Election Commission researched the 37,000 voters whom the DMV identified as deceased and discovered that 10 voters in 8 different counties had applied for absentee ballots for the upcoming Republican primary. In every case, those 10 voters were confirmed to be alive and eligible to vote.


The list, which has remained something of a state secret, is viewable only by Republicans claims Senate Democratic Caucus director Phil Bailey. Apparently it’s more advantageous, politically, to have a list of 950 possible fraudulent voters than to subject the list to the scrutiny of the State Election Commission.

  Jonathan Turley

Meanwhile in Occupied Oakland

Police have fired tear gas and flash grenades while arresting more than 300 people as anti-Wall Street protesters tried but failed to take over downtown buildings, including the city hall, in Oakland, California.

Protesters from Occupy Oakland - the local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street - first targeted the empty Henry J Kaiser convention center on Saturday, before trying to take over the city hall, but were forcibly removed from each area by police.


UK Guardian images

With One Small Correction

The US will deploy its first floating military base to the waters in the Middle East with the purpose of combating the threat emanating from Iran.

You mean for the purpose of creating a threat from Iran.

Obama and Saul Alinsky

I don't watch Bill Maher's show. He's often too arrogantly opinionated for my taste, but sometimes his targets deserve what he gives. He runs a good rant in this clip on Republican rhetoric. (After the "New Rules")

Warning: not work friendly even if you're using headphones.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

And, PS regarding Newt's comment:

On the night of his triumph in the South Carolina primary, Newt Gingrich declared that "The centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky."


Translated, Gingrich’s dog-whistle demagoguery is:
I am sure that a threateningly ethnic and Jew boy name like Saul Alinsky will resonate with Southern Republican voters. Oh, and Barack Obama was a community organizer in Chicago like Saul Alinsky, whose views are at the heart of all that is wrong with our great republic today, and like Saul Alinsky, the man whom I will oust from the White House is an anti-religious radical who demeans our great republic. Did I mention that ours is a great republic?

  Kiko’s House
All well and good for both reactions, but I hope someone will point out that "American exceptionalism" is not a good thing. I don't know whether Newt knows that or not, but I imagine many of his fans don't. They hear "American exceptionalism" and think it means we're exceptionally wonderful. It means we except ourselves from the rules and mores we demand for everyone else. Everyone has to behave legally except America. Everyone has to behave morally, except America.  That's what "American exceptionalism" means.

So Newt should be called on that comment on two counts.

It's Sunday

And you, my friend, could use a little more gospel. To round out January's Sundays as an Etta James (RIP) Jubilee...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Newt on the Moon

Jon Stewart's take here.

You're Fired

"I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," [Mitt] Romney said at a Monday breakfast in New Hampshire, when talking about health care. "You know, if someone doesn't give me a good service that I need, I want to say, 'I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.'"

  CBS 1/9/12
Romney: “If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’”

  WIIIAI 1/27/12
I wonder if Romney wouldn’t be better suited to a TV show like Donald Trump’s “Apprentice.”

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

It Must Be Campaign Season - Part Whatever

The Obama administration announced Friday a new inquiry to investigate fraud in the mortgage-backed securities market, whose billion-dollar implosion helped trigger the global financial crisis.


“By bringing our government’s full enforcement resources to bear, I have no doubt that we will improve our ability to recover losses, to prevent fraud, to bring abuses to light, and to hold those who violate the law accountable,” [Attorney General Eric] Holder said in a statement announcing the probe.


Holder, who spoke just three days after President Barack Obama called for prosecution of wrongdoers in the financial meltdown in his State of the Union address, also stressed the new effort “will improve our ability to ensure justice for victims (and) help restore faith in our financial markets and institutions.”

  Raw Story
Yeah, right.

Not that the “investigation” will find any responsible persons at fault, but they didn’t even pretend to investigate all these years they’ve been in office until now.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Late Great Howard Zinn

Today, January 27, is the second anniversary of the death of Howard Zinn. An active participant in the Civil Rights movement, he was dismissed in 1963 from his position as a tenured professor at Spelman College in Atlanta after siding with black women students in the struggle against segregation. In 1967, he wrote one of the first, and most influential, books calling for an end to the war in Vietnam. A veteran of the US Army Air Force, he edited The Pentagon Papers, leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, and was later designated a "high security risk" by the FBI.

That link contains a tribute to Howard by Noam Chomsky.

Also, if you have never read Zinn’s A People's History of the United States , do yourself a favor. I tried to give it as a present to kids entering high school so they could get some interesting reality with their dry history texts, but none ever expressed appreciation. Imagine that. I was lucky enough in college to have an introductory history course taught by a professor who used the Zinn method of teaching (not Zen). Even then, I was older than the bulk of the lecture hall freshmen, and they didn’t seem to be interested in the class any more than the said high schoolers were in Zinn's book. If you’re an older citizen who likely missed out on American history in any fashion other than Names and Dates of Big People and Big Events, check out A People's History of the United States . While I prefer to have a book (or a Kindle) in my hands, you can read it free online, which is awesome.

Tell your kids.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Better Off Without Saddam - Part Whatever

At least 32 people have been killed, half of them police officers, after a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives at a funeral procession in southeastern Baghdad.

Police officials said the blast occurred on Friday morning in the mostly Shia neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, where mourners had gathered for the funeral of Mohammed al-Maliki, a real-estate agent who was killed along with his wife and son a day earlier.

They said 65 people were wounded in the explosion, including 16 officers, which struck as the procession was transporting Maliki's body for the funeral services.


On the Cheap

Passengers of a stricken Italian cruise liner will get at least 11,000 euros each from its Costa Crociere operator under a deal struck after the January 13 disaster, a consumer group said Friday.


Even children who were travelling for free will get 11,000 euros ($14,400) each, Adoc said.


Passengers will also be reimbursed for the cost of the cruise, estimated at some 3,000 euros each, as well as any travel and medical expenses they incurred after the disaster, it said.

The agreement does not concern those who were injured or who lost loved ones, Adoc said.


“We think around 85 percent of them will agree to this deal,” it added.

  Raw Story
Yeah, if they’re either stupid or can’t find a lawyer. If there were any Americans on there, they won’t be agreeing to it. Oh. Maybe they’re the 15 percent.

Hide and Watch

Appearing on 'John King, USA' (weekdays, 7PM ET on CNN) ultimate Washington insider Bob Woodward told King that he is hearing buzz that Clinton and Biden could eventually switch jobs, putting an Obama/Clinton ticket in 2012 "on the table"

Yeah, and THEN Hillary can run for president in 2016. That plan was hatched in 2008 when she dropped her bid for presidency, conceding to the Great Pretender.

But Joe Biden as Secretary of State? He won’t last long. They could kind of keep him hidden (while, I myself would have liked to see more of and hear more from Joe, just to see who he really is – a good guy or a putz, because I’ve never been sure) as VP, but as Secretary of State, he’ll have way too many public moments of serious import. But I wonder if President #Compromise is truly aware of the share of attention and power Hillary would be consuming as Vice President. She won’t be a Joe behind the curtain, I can guarantee him that.

Let’s see if he really gives her the opportunity. I won’t count those chickens before they hatch. He might have had need of her on the ticket in 2008, but it turns out he didn’t. In 2012, I don’t see that he has any need for her at all. He might have to be very careful about spurning her like he did his adoring and Hopeful supporters, though, if he made a devil’s bargain back in ’08.

We shall see.

And I'll Chip in to Send Him There

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 - 2012: A Space Oddity
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Stephen Colbert's take here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shame Is Not Listed in the Dictionary of Politics

At the big CNN Debate in Florida Thursday, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich got into a back-and-forth over immigration. At one point, Romney’s tough ad attacking Gingrich for saying “Spanish is the language of the ghetto” came up, with moderator Wolf Blitzer asking Romney to repeat the charge.

“I haven’t seen the ad, so I’m sorry, I don’t get to see all the TV ads,” Romney said. “Did he say that?”

The fact that Gingrich did say something like that is a bit awkward for Gingrich, and has been for quite a while. But there was plenty of awkward to go around: Turns out the ad Romney said he’s never heard of is running on the radio from his campaign — and Romney’s voice, in Spanish, is on the end saying he approved it.

Awkward? These guys don’t bat an eyelash when dissembling. It’s just the way politics is practiced these days. Nobody holds them to anything and nobody calls them on anything they say. It might be awkward for a decent human being, but it isn’t even a blip on the radar screen of a politician.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.


Yesterday, the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders released its annual ranking of worldwide press freedom.


[T]he United States — the Land of the Free — ranked 47th: tied with Romania and Argentina, just ahead of Latvia, and behind El Salvador, Tanzania, and Slovenia, among others. That 47th ranking is 11 spots below where the U.S. finished in 2008. The organization cited the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests” as most responsible for this decline, and in prior years has cited U.S. treatment of journalists in war zones as well as the imprisonment of journalists at Guantanamo.

  Glenn Greenwald

Libya: Only Getting Worse

August 26, 2011|By Keith Ellison, Special to CNN


U.S. involvement in the Libyan conflict was hotly debated in Congress and across the country. Americans were understandably weary of war and not happy about a third conflict. We should acknowledge President Barack Obama's leadership and the contribution of our foreign policy to change in Libya.

America had to get involved. Without U.S. and NATO engagement, Gadhafi would have hunted protesters, as he threatened, "house by house" in Benghazi. He would have squashed the rebels and sought revenge against those who dared to question his rule. A Gadhafi victory would have been tragic for the people of Libya, and it would have dimmed hopes for greater freedom in the Middle East.

Yeah, good thing we helped get rid of that bastard.

By the CNN Wire Staff January 26, 2012

Several detainees in Libya have died after being tortured in recent weeks, the human rights group Amnesty International said Thursday.

The humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders said it was halting its work in detention centers in Misrata because detainees are "tortured and denied urgent medical care."


"The torture is being carried out by officially recognized military and security entities as well by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework," Amnesty said in a statement.

Convincing well-intentioned people to support a war in order to depose a wretched tyrant is an easy thing to do — alas, it’s probably too easy to do, since it’s usually what leads to great mischief, human suffering, and even more tyranny under a new name.


It is still early in the post-Gaddafi age, but those who supported the war in Libya — which (like the war in Iraq) included numerous people who did so out of a genuine, well-intentioned desire to see a vile tyrant vanquished — have a particular responsibility to ensure that the same tyranny is not replicated by the forces supported by the invading armies.

  Glenn Greenwald

You Simply Cannot Underestimate a Corporation

Or the humans that run them.
The company [that owns the Costa Concordia – and in turn is owned by Carnival Cruises] called to offer [the victims of the recent disaster] a 30% discount on their next Carnival cruise after 12 people died on the last voyage and 20 are still missing.

  Jonathan Turley
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Rare Good News

I previously wrote about the pending case of United States v. Jones and the effort of the Administration to establish precedent allowing the government to follow citizens with Global Positioning Devices (GPS) without any showing of probable cause. I am happy to report that the Court has ruled unanimously against the government and found the practice to be unconstitutional under the fourth amendment. It is a stinging defeat for the Obama Administration but a roaring victory for privacy and civil liberties at a time when good news is rare.

  Jonathan Turley
As good as the news is, I challenge you to press a successful suit against the government if it does in fact track you via GPS without probable cause. There isn't such a thing. "National security" trumps everything. And they don't even have to tell you why they think you're aiding a terrorist organization; they can push the whole thing in secrecy under the guise of national security.

We already know they don't bother with laws, although they might try to have their actions codified after the fact. Still, if they can't, it doesn't discourage them from continuing illegal activities.

...hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Impeach Nancy Pelosi

Or gag her.
I previously criticized Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for suggesting that she has dirt on Newt Gingrich but would disclose it later. She has returned to that ignoble theme in an interview with CNN, saying that Gingrich will not be elected because “There is something I know.” I have been a vocal critic of Gingrich on this blog, but once again I view this low-grade form of politicking to be grossly unfair to Gingrich and a further degrading of our political system. If you want to attack Gingrich, then do it.


She is not a stupid person and she knows how such comments will be interpreted — particularly after being criticized on the earlier occasion. This is precisely why Congress is now as unpopular as ebola.

  Jonathan Turley

I imagine Newt would do the same if the tables were turned, but it doesn’t make it right.

I would think her fellow Democrats would want to gag her on this. She says whatever it is she “has” on him is in the public record. If that’s the case, then the only thing that’s going to happen when she “reveals” it is that people are going to say in effect, “Give me a fucking break, Nancy,” making herself look worse and Newt better by comparison.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Can I Call 'Em, Or Can I Call 'Em?

Remember my post yesterday noting the president's speech mentioning only the one American hostage rescued in Somalia where I surmised it must be that she was a pretty blond?  (If you don't, it happens to be the one directly below this one.)

Well, here they are...

Okay, so I don't really have boasting rights.  Anybody could have called that.  It's SOP for our "leaders" and our media to play up anything involving a pretty young blond woman.  Apparently that still appeals to the most viewers.  Or maybe that's what appeals most to them.

The old man is lucky he got kidnapped with a pretty young blond woman, or he might have been there a while.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Great Rescue for the US Special Forces

The White House has confirmed that United States Special Forces carried out a nighttime raid in northern Somalia and freed two hostages while killing a reported nine pirates.

A statement released on Wednesday from US President Barack Obama read, "Thanks to the extraordinary courage and capabilities of our Special Operations Forces, yesterday Jessica Buchanan was rescued and she is on her way home."

Jessica must have been the pretty blond one.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.


If, like me, you have long ceased listening to any Obama speech and even longer to any SOTU, because it's all unadulterated hogswallow, you can get some entertaining snippets from WIIIAI.

And that was the first of several campaign speeches - which is pretty much all it was - since he immediately took off for a tour of a few states to make some campaign stops.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

UPDATE: 1/26/12 – All you need to know about the SOTU:
It’s an annual tradition: Trade groups, unions and advocacy organizations scramble to sell their cause in hopes of scoring one of the specific references sprinkled throughout the [State of the Union] speech each year.


“Generally speaking, it is the Super Bowl of politics — it’s as competitive and difficult in that way,” said Robert Raben, president of progressive lobbying firm The Raben Group. [...] “The advocacy and lobbying is intense,” he added.


This year, the White House has been open to hearing from groups that will be critical to Obama’s reelection effort.


And lobbyists aren’t the only ones hoping to influence what will be in the final document. There is also intense internal lobbying by members of the Cabinet and Congress, adding to the competition for White House bandwidth.

As members of Congress greet the president on the floor of the Capitol before the speech, some will quickly convey pitches for their pet issues, in many cases after having consulted with like-minded lobbyists.

Ultimately, the State of the Union address is a test of connections.


AIPAC, Super PAC, and the Slimey Newt

Right now, the anonymous donors to a political action committee, or PAC, can buy ads on behalf of – or against – a candidate, and spend unlimited amounts as long as there is no official connection between the PAC and any candidate. This degree of separation, however, is pure fiction: in reality, “former” aides to the candidate can and do operate these “Super PACs,” which are funded by one Daddy Warbucks or another: no overt coordination is necessary. What’s important here is disclosure, or the lack of it: the PACs don’t have to say who is funding these ads, only that the “Committee for Good Government” or some such semi-fictional entity is paying for it. In this way, [Sheldon] Adelson – a casino billionaire, one of the richest people in the country – can drop a cool $10 million into the race (with more in the pipeline) and in effect buy the election, without the average voter knowing who is paying the bills.

As Stephen Colbert has been gleefully pointing out.
[Adelson] and his allies have been campaigning for war with Iran for years, not only here but in the Middle East. Adelson is a major financial backer of Israel’s ultra-nationalist Likud party, which calls in its platform for a “Greater Israel,” and he has backed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the hilt. [...]He supports the extremist – and increasingly violent – “settler” movement, and is the money-bags behind the “Clarion Fund,” which is responsible for flooding the US with anti-Arab propaganda.


Newt didn’t always believe the Palestinians are a figment of their own imaginations: this idea coincided with Adelson’s generous donations to Gingrich, Inc.

In a 2005 article for the Middle East Quarterly, Professor Newt opined that the Palestinians are “a relatively wealthy, educated, and cosmopolitan people,” who are “in some ways among the most international and most advanced people in the Arab world.”


”“The U.S. government should become the protector of the Palestinian people’s right to have a decent amount of land. The desire of some Israelis to use security as an excuse to grab more Palestinian land should be blocked by Washington even if that requires employing financial or other leverage to compel the Israeli government to behave reasonably on the issue of settlements.”


Upon receiving a record amount of $13 million from Adelson – the latest installment was a check for $5 million from Miriam Adelson, his Israeli-born wife – Newt the Historian woke up one morning to discover that there are no Palestinians – only a horde of drooling Orcs trespassing on Israeli land.
In related news, but on the positive side (mark your calendars!):
On Monday afternoon, [U.S. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts] signed an agreement. Republican Scott Brown described it as a “bold statement that puts super PACs and other third parties on notice that their interference in this race will not be tolerated,” and Democrat Elizabeth Warren added, “Both campaigns will need to remain vigilant to ensure that outside groups do not try to circumvent what is an historic agreement.”

According to the congressional newspaper, The Hill, “The pact signed by Warren and Brown on Monday imposes a financial penalty whenever an outside group intrudes on the race. If an outside group places a television or Internet ad supporting a candidate, the candidate would be required to donate 50 percent of the cost of the ad to a charity of the opponent’s choosing within three days. Negative attack ads would also trigger the penalty, with the candidate whose rival is attacked being forced to forfeit half the cost. Also included in the accord are written requests signed by both candidates to broadcast station managers imploring them to voluntarily enforce the pledge.”


The League of Conservation Voters’ Navin Nayak told Mother Jones magazine, “While we cannot take directions from any candidate on our independent activities, we are inclined to respect the People’s Pledge agreed to by Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown and we hope that Scott Brown will honor his end of the deal when Crossroads and the Koch Brothers inevitably break it.”

  Bill Moyers

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It Must Be Campaign Season

Al Jazeera headline:

Not Ninety Days; Not Even One

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich won't serve any jail time for his role in the slayings of 24 Iraqi civilians in 2005, a military judge said Tuesday.

The judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, said he had planned to sentence Wuterich to 90 days in the brig, but his hands were tied by a plea agreement that the defendant reached with prosecutors on Monday.

Under the deal, Wuterich, 31, pleaded guilty to negligent dereliction of duty and received a reduction in his Marine Corps rank to private. The agreement was approved by the convening authority over the military court-martial, Camp Pendleton Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser.


"I sit here today to take responsibility for whatever measures my words or directions contributed to the tragedy that resulted in the deaths," he said.

  NC Times
Really? How?

Politicians and other crooks who’ve been busted for moral, ethical and legal failures all seem to parrot that phrase: “I take full responsibility.” As though admitting wrongdoing is synonymous with taking responsibility.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

American Justice

[Y]esterday in American justice, a three-judge panel of a federal appellate court in Virginia upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush officials by Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen who was imprisoned for almost three years without charges or even a lawyer and was systematically tortured to the point of permanent mental incapacitation. Padilla sued the former Defense Secretary on the ground that he had authorized Padilla’s illegal imprisonment and torture. The Obama DOJ vigorously defended Rumsfeld, arguing (a) that Rumsfeld is entitled to immunity on the ground that he had reason to believe his acts were legal and (b) an American citizen has no right to sue a government official for the treatment he receives as a designated “enemy combatant” — even if the treatment in question is torture and prolonged imprisonment without charges.

  Glenn Greenwald
Two unconscionable and illegal acts.
Even as [terror victims aka enemy combatants] have been able to pursue claims against foreign officials in countries around the world, often successfully, the Bush and Obama DOJs have insisted, and courts have agreed, that they have no right even to be heard in an American court against the country and its officials most responsible for their (often savage) mistreatment — even if everyone acknowledges that they were completely innocent.


Regarding this heinous story about a campaign manager of a Democratic House candidate in Arkansas coming home to find his child’s cat murdered with the word “LIBERAL” scrawled on the cat’s corpse, a picture of which made its way to the Internet to highlight how horrible a crime it was, one commenter applied the Obama mentality as follows: “We should look forward, not back on this cat killing. But perhaps whoever released that photo should be prosecuted.” And about the Kirakou case, John Cole sarcastically celebrated: “At Long Last, Someone Will Face a Waterboarding Related Prosecution, and then added: “He’s being prosecuted for blabbing about what happened- not the actual crime itself.”


Although the DOJ ultimately decided yesterday against indictments of the lawyers in the case who [attempted to determine which CIA agents actually tortured Gitmo prisoners], the very fact that the DOJ criminally investigated them at all is self-evidently dangerous. About that investigation, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told Savage that “it — and the Obama-era leak investigations more broadly — had had a ‘chilling effect on defense counsel, government whistle-blowers, and journalists’.” That, of course, is exactly its purpose.


The Rules of American Justice are quite clear:

(1) If you are a high-ranking government official who commits war crimes, you will receive full-scale immunity, both civil and criminal, and will have the American President demand that all citizens Look Forward, Not Backward.

(2) If you are a low-ranking member of the military, you will receive relatively trivial punishments in order to protect higher-ranking officials and cast the appearance of accountability.

(3) If you are a victim of American war crimes, you are a non-person with no legal rights or even any entitlement to see the inside of a courtroom.

(4) If you talk publicly about any of these war crimes, you have committed the Gravest Crime — you are guilty of espionage – and will have the full weight of the American criminal justice system come crashing down upon you.


When the purpose of American justice is to shield those who with the greatest power who commit the most egregious crimes, while severely punishing those who talk publicly about those crimes, it’s hard to imagine how it can get much more degraded or corrupted than that.

It’s long past time to rip those blindfolds off of the Lady Justice statues.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Haditha: There Will Be No Justice

Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, 31, the commander of a group of Marines whose other members have been exonerated, entered his plea as part of a deal with military prosecutors in which more serious charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault were dismissed.


The victims included 10 women and children killed at point-blank range. Six people were killed in one house, most shot in the head, including women and children huddled in a bedroom.


The other seven Marines charged in the case have been exonerated through various legal rulings.


Wuterich now faces a maximum sentence of three months of confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for three months and a reduction in rank when he is sentenced on Tuesday at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base north of San Diego, a base spokesman said.

I had a slightly insane discussion the other day with a winger who wanted urgently for me to understand that the Haditha massacre is the kind of thing that happens in war. Whereas I was trying to point out to him that the Haditha massacre is the kind of thing that happens in war. -- Molly Ivins RIP

UPDATE 1/24 9:00pm


Fighters loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have seized back the town of Bani Walid and raised the late dictator's green flag, in a blow to Libya's struggling provisional government.

  UK Guardian

This Will Not Surprise You

Amid the worst accidental release of crude oil in human history, the Obama administration sought to undermine its own scientists’ estimates of just how much oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, a newly disclosed email reveals.


[T]he message shows how the White House, the National Incident Command (NIC) and Department of the Interior (DOI) recommended scientists with the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) lowball their estimates in public statements.

  Raw Story
Okay, that’s nothing you didn’t already know, but the Gulf Disaster that’s ruined lives both in and out of the ocean and which was caused by willful negligence used to be understated as an oil “spill”, now it’s been downgraded even further to an “accidental release” ?

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Is Newt a Threat to Mitt?

Newt and Mitt. What a duo.

Gingrich’s favorability among general election voters — the metric that many pollsters argue is the key to understanding how the public feels about a candidate — is not high.


So in the short term, Republicans in South Carolina were content to reject Romney as their nominee — he’s the best candidate against President Obama in both national and state polling by far, but by the numbers, he’s always had trouble making the sale to the conservative wing of his own party.

And if he did like Newt (and Mel Gibson) and appealed to their mindless blood thirst and vengefulness, their downright nastiness, he might lose the rest of the party. When it comes to general election voters, he should be more concerned about his Bain days in the news than the fact that Newt won the easily excited Righteous Right in South Carolina. And perhaps he is.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Silence Gives Consent

In three years this president has investigated and prosecuted not a single Wall Street banker or institution, not held up the wave of foreclosures a single week, not addressed the issues of black unemployment or black mass incarceration. But black America has silenced itself to protect the career of the First Black President.

  Black Agenda Report
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Privatization, Medicare & Social Security

The ongoing financial crisis from deregulation and ongoing jobs crisis from offshoring constitute empirical evidence that the belief is false that an unfettered private sector is the source of all good.


[In] a decade that has seen two massive stock market crashes and an amazing amount of financial fraud, libertarians prattle on about privatizing Social Security and about how much larger the retirement pensions would be. They speak about delaying the Social Security retirement age to 70 without any thought to what a person does who is retired by his employer at 65. People who suggest making Social Security and Medicare off limits until people reach 70 need to have a look at the cost of private medical plans for older people.


Many libertarians regard Social Security and Medicare as welfare handouts and as Ponzi schemes, when in fact these programs are a form of private property. People pay for these programs all their working lives, just as they pay premiums for private medical policies and make their deposits into private pension plans. Libertarians are great defenders of private property, so why don’t they defend the elderly’s private property rights in Social Security and Medicare benefits? Social Security and Medicare are contracts that government made with citizens. These contracts are as valid and enforceable as any other contracts. If Social Security and Medicare are in dire trouble, why is the government wasting trillions of dollars in behalf of private armaments industries, a neocon ideology, and Israel’s territorial ambitions? Why isn’t this question the most important issue in the campaign?


Social Security and Medicare are funded with a payroll tax. It is true that the government has stolen the funds, spent them, and left non-marketable IOU’s in their place. But in our deregulated casino financial system with street registration of “securities,” the same thing happens to private holdings. Where is the money that individuals had in MF Global? What happened to people’s savings invested with Madoff? What happened to Enron’s investors? Can AIG make good on its promises to pay the benefits that people have purchased? Can banks whose balance sheets are loaded with subprime derivatives make good on their depositors’ accounts? US government debt is a component of many private pension plans. How secure are the values of Treasury bonds?

The notion that free unregulated markets are totally trustworthy is the enormous mistake that former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan made, for which American and European peoples continue to pay.


[P]eople are the same whether in the government or in the private sector. They will abuse their power regardless of where they perch. That is why government needs to be tied down by the Constitution and the private sector by regulation. Yes, regulation can go too far. Certainly, deregulation has gone too far.

  Paul Craig Roberts, former ass't treasurer under Ronald Reagan
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Meanwhile in Haiti

Lost amidst the heart-wrenching stories and photographs of the “poor Haitians” living in squalor and misery circulating on the second anniversary of the 12 January 2010 earthquake, another set of images appeared. Few people noticed these other images – they received little attention in the mainstream media – but they offer an insight into the prospects for Haiti’s reconstruction and, indeed, into the prospects for Haiti’s political and economic future.

The images were taken during the official commemoration ceremonies at the hillside of Titanyen [pdf], north of Port-au-Prince, where former dictators Jean Claude Duvalier and his father, Francois Duvalier, discarded the bodies of their political opponents. After the earthquake, it became the gravesite of thousands of unidentified earthquake victims. During the ceremonies, local delegates and international diplomats paid their respects to the Haitians that lost their lives and pledged to help those who lived. But the most striking image that emerged during the ceremonies was that of an immoral triumvirate. Rubbing shoulders on stage, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries were Haitian President Michel Martelly, former US President and UN Special Envoy, Bill Clinton, and, Jean Claude Duvalier.

  Black Agenda Report
Wait a minute…Jean Claude Duvalier? Baby Doc? The mass murdering former dictator???
The Obama administration’s relative silence around the return of Duvalier needs to be contrasted with the noise it made while it forcefully tried to prevent the return of Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected President. [...]Let’s remember that under Duvalier (and his father, Francois) nearly 50,000 Haitians were killed, disappeared, and tortured by the reviled tonton macoutes, his private army. At the same time, Duvalier embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars, most of which sponsored an exiled life of grandeur. Despite the calls for his arrest and prosecution by Haitian survivors, lawyers, and international human rights organizations, Duvalier has been allowed to roam Haiti’s streets, even dining at the finest restaurants with the likes of Sean Penn.
But Duvalierism was also good for US politics and economics. In the 1960s, they needed Francois (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier to offset the rise of revolutionary communist Cuba. Under Jean Claude (“Baby Doc”), they were able to open up the Haitian markets and resources to US businesses, expand sweatshops, and lay the basis for the coming neoliberal economic policies. This is where the US-selected President Martelly and “Papa” Bill Clinton come in. As we’ve pointed out here on Black Agenda Report, right-wing candidate Martelly was handpicked by the Obama administration to become Haiti’s president in a forced election marred by irregularities and low voter turn out. More importantly, he is the face – and backbone – of a resurgent Duvalierism. His Duvalier affinities are well known as is his animus towards former President Aristide. He has historic ties with Duvalier loyalists, has called for “amnesty” for Duvalier, and is now in the process of reestablishing the Haitian army.


As the U.S. attempts to consolidate its military presence in the Western hemisphere, control of Haiti is important. For many, this is one of the reasons explaining Haiti’s currently military occupation by the UN-led criminal force, MINUSTAH, the largest UN military force in a country that is not at war. It is also the reason for the massive new US embassy in Haiti, the fourth largest US embassy in the world.

I really wonder sometimes if the universe hasn’t already begun its retraction and we are now going in reverse.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Time Takes It's Toll

The exiled leadership of Hamas now appears to be fragmenting geographically. [Khaled] Meshaal's family has reportedly moved to Amman, and his deputy, Mousa Abu Marzouk, has relocated to Cairo. The military operations leader, Emad al-Alami, has moved his family to Gaza, it has been reported. Many other officials have also left Damascus, ostensibly to move their families to safety.


Khaled Meshaal, the political head of Hamas, is to step down from his position when elections for the leadership of the Palestinian Islamist organisation take place in the next few months.


Meshaal has indicated in recent weeks that Hamas should make a strategic departure from armed struggle to popular non-violent resistance in the wake of the Arab spring revolutions and the success of Islamist parties in elections.

The new approach caused a rift with the internal Gaza leadership, which said there would be no change in Hamas policy.


Meshaal had also been pushing for Palestinian reconciliation and the formation of a national unity government ahead of elections. However, he was reported to be frustrated with the slow and uncertain progress, and few observers believe elections will take place this year.

  UK Guardian

Gingrich in South Carolina

Some 63 percent of voters identified themselves as being evangelical Christians or born again and despite his repeated marital lapses they gave Gingrich 43 percent of the vote, the same share that Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, got in 2008.

  Kiko’s House
He appealed to their larger interest – blood thirst.

It's Sunday

And you could use a little more gospel.

Miss Etta James RIP

Saturday, January 21, 2012

In One Graph

"The dark green line shows the income trajectory for the top 1 percent since 1970, while the light green line shows the bottom 90 percent. Click the orange triangles to learn about critical turning points that helped create the skewed system we have today."

Click the pic.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Costa Concordia Captain

CEO Pierluigi Foschi told Italian state television on Friday evening that the company spoke to the captain at 10:05pm, around 20 minutes after the Costa Concordia struck the reef on January 13, but could not offer proper assistance because the Captain Francesco Schettino's description "did not correspond to the truth".

Schettino did not say he had hit a reef and did not tell crew members "the gravity of the situation," Foschi said.

Video shot by passengers and shown on Italian television indicates crew members were telling passengers to go to their cabins as late as 10:25pm, and the abandon ship alarm sounded just before 11pm.


Costa in recent days has suspended [ship’s Captain] Schettino, announced it is no longer paying his legal fees and has signed on as a civil party in the prosecution, a move that positions it as an injured party and would allow it to seek damages in the case of a guilty verdict.

The captain is going to jail for a while.

Arbor Day in Houston

Volunteers on Saturday will kick off the Arbor Day weekend by planting trees at local parks to replace those damaged by last year’s historic drought.

As a part of the 26th Annual Arbor Day Tree Planting Event, volunteers will plant around 25,000 trees at Memorial, Mason, Hermann and MacGregor parks.

That’s a lot of trees, and I sure hope we don’t have another drought this summer.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

The Obama administration announced Friday it would stand by a policy that requires virtually all private insurance policies to cover family planning, including female contraceptives, essentially guaranteeing near universal access to birth control once all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are implemented.

Friday’s decision comes after the White House was lobbied by religious organizations for an expanded exemption to the rule that would have allowed employers who are opposed to birth control to deny it to their employees.

  Raw Story

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Because It Already Failed

US poet and songwriter Gil Scott-Heron, credited with helping to inspire the development of rap, has died at the age of 62.

Doris C Nolan, a friend of Scott-Heron's, told the Associated Press news agency on Friday that the artist died in the afternoon at St Luke's Hospital in New York. He reportedly fell ill after returning from a trip to Europe.

"We're all sort of shattered," Nolan said.

Scott-Heron - best known for his spoken word piece 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised', which critiqued mass media - used poetry as his vehicle for activism committed to the human rights of people around the world.


Thank You for All Your Songs

Etta James, a pioneering US blues and soul singer who became a music legend with hits like "At Last" and "Tell Mama", has died at the age of 73 from cancer. She would have turned 74 on Wednesday.


The singer was discovered at age 15, when she would sing on street corners in the Northern California city of San Francisco, by bandleader Johnny Otis.

And in an ironic turn of events, Johnny Otis died on Tuesday at age 90.
Legendary basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday as a U.S. global cultural ambassador.

Clinton expressed the hope that Abdul-Jabbar will engage with young people in particular “as a means to create opportunities for greater understanding.”

  Raw Story
Let me tell you a little story about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar engaging with young people.

When he was still playing for the Lakers, and my son was about seven years old, we went to a basketball game between the Lakers and the Warriors in San Francisco. After the game, my son and one other little boy waited well after all the cars were gone from the parking lot, all the other players had gone home, and there was only one left to emerge – Kareem Abdul Jabbar. There were only these two little boys and two parents standing late out in the darkened lot of the arena, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The two little boys, with lights in their eyes that led their way ran to KAJ with their playbooks and pens, and without so much as stopping and stooping to look them in the eyes, with his head aloft, he told them, “I don’t give autographs,” as he walked on. Two little boys dropped their own heads and turned slowly back to their parents. My son returned to my side crestfallen, but even worse, ashamed of himself because he felt that he’d done something wrong.

Maybe KAJ has changed since then. He’ll always be an asshole to me. You don’t have to give autographs if they’re too valuable to give away, or your time is too valuable to get caught up in throngs of adoring fans. But you don’t have to dismiss little children with such arrogance and finality.

If she wanted a cultural ambassador to engage with children who was once a basketball star, she should have chosen Clifford Ray.  That would have been real.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.