Friday, February 13, 2009

ANALYSIS-U.S. raises hackles with Karzai, looks for change

ANALYSIS-U.S. raises hackles with Karzai, looks for change from Reuters via

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.

Karzai has become increasingly vocal about saying that the US killing Afghan civilians is wrong and must end. So, what a shock, now the US is talking about how Karzai must go.

Most of the reasons given in this article are probably bs. The US knew he was basically powerless, and had a big say in creating the office that way. The US has always empowered the warlords outside of Kabul by making their own deals with them. You've never seen the US make any major effort to strengthen the central government or to weaken the warlords.

Nope, this one seems pretty obvious. Karzai has been making statements critical of the US killing innocent civilians in his country. Afghan Govt Condemns Australian Raid That Killed Children is just the latest example. The message to Karzai is very clear ... he's expected to be a puppet that toes the US line. If he won't do that, then he can be replaced.

So, one of Obama's early acts is going to be putting his own puppet leaders into place? Wow, I'm so glad we elected the Obama administration and everything is changing from the way it used to be.

And why is it that the Diem assasination\coup in Vietnam under Kennedy comes to mind?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Price Hollywood?

What Price Hollywood? by Chris Hedges on

Chris Hedges on 'celebrity culture.' Brilliant, as usual with Mr. Hedges. I guess maybe going to the seminary after years of working in war zones gives one an excellent perspective on American culture ... or what passes for culture.

Been reading Cornell West of late. He points out that for a long time, American culture compared itself to and strove to achieve what European culture was achieving. American culture tended to be either a copy. Or the sort of insecure statements that tried to assert American culture as independent of European culture.

Of course, that's changed since WWII and the assumption of the United States of the role of great power in the world. Today its American culture that blasts itself into every brain, and to which other cultural ideas try to compete or imitate. But, is this really culture at all? Journeys to Graceland or Hollywood to gawk at 'the stars'? Or trips to Las Vegas where we can pretend to be a celebrity ourselves and try to live like one, as long as one has the money?

Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully

Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully by Glenn Greenwald on

I always liked the music of the Talking Heads. Right now, I've got that voice going in my head saying

"Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was ..."

A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn't changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.

Same as it ever was. Did you think you voted for Change?

If the Obama administration refuses to prosecute criminal acts that occurred in the previous administration, and if they assertively act in the courts to try to protect and shield those who committed crimes in the previous administration, then that makes the Obama administration an accomplice to those crimes.

No grey area here. You either prosecute torturers, or you protect and shield them. The Obama administration has come down quite clearly on the side of the torturers and is acting to protect and shield them.

Not only is this highly immoral, but its also doing terrible things to the nation. First, it means that any slow down (not a halt, just backing off a bit) of the Obama administration with regard to torture is temporary at best. That's because the Obama administration is sending a clear message to people who serve under future administrations. That is that the law will not be enforced in this area. If a future President feels that torturing other human beings (such as the recent revelations that people's genitals were being sliced), then they can look back on the Obama Administration and feel safe in ignoring the real laws of the land and the world that forbid such torture.

And secondly, the Obama administration is sending a general message to everyone on all fronts, whether it be theft or fraud or kidnapping or murder or torture, that crimes will not be prosecuted. The message is clear that there is no opposition party in this country, and no dedication to a rule of law, therefore, anything goes. If you are a criminal in the guise of a public servant or defender, then you don't need to worry that a change of the party in power might expose you to prosecution. Such criminals are obviously considered to be part of the team, and the protection of such criminals ranks as more important than protecting the nation, the Constitution, or the impartial rule of law in America.

From Glenn Greenwald ...
That's what Barack Obama is now shielding from judicial scrutiny. Those are the torture victims he is preventing from obtaining judicial relief in our courts. And he's using one of the most radical and destructive tools in the Bush arsenal -- its wildly expanded version of the "state secrets" privilege -- to accomplish all of that dirty work. I've been as vigorous a proponent as anyone for waiting to see what Obama does before reaching conclusions about his presidency, but this is a very real and substantial act

and ...
At the end of 2006, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick listed the Bush administration's "10 most outrageous civil liberties violations" and it included this:

6. The State-Secrets Doctrine

Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story on Pullout Plans

Petraeus Leaked Misleading Story on Pullout Plans by Gareth Porter of IPS via

Yesterday, when I was writing, I referred to Gen. Petreus' statements on Afghanistan as a 'Gen. Petreus is mounting a pre-emptive strike against ongoing 'strategy' reviews...'

Of course, I'm not sitting in Gen. Petreus' office, so I didn't know that as a fact. But it seemed logical from bits I'd heard. I'd heard the Obama White House say they were doing 'strategy reviews'. And it just seemed very natural to assume that a political general like Petreus was not just talking randomly to some reporter, but instead was trying to push a specific point of view out into the media. And to do it before the Obama strategy reviews were finalized to both influence those reviews and to get the first shots in of any media campaigns to try to swing the people and Congress to a particular plan. It just seemed logical.

Today, I'm reading, and I see a longer piece by Gareth Porter describing the media manipulation that Gen. Petreus is currently involved in concerning timetables to withdraw from Iraq.

One interesting note is that you almost never see mentioned in the media that the withdraw date for American troops in Iraq has already been set. Its in the SOFA that the US and Iraq signed in the waning months of the Bush Administration. From reading the mass media, it appears that the US feels that this agreement is totally optional, and that Gen. Petreus and\or the Obama administration are perfectly free to pick slower withdrawal plans if the choose.

Of course, there are already other news stories out there that say the US is already violating other terms of that agreement.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Third-Party Delusion and the Need for a Mass Movement for Progressive Change

The Third-Party Delusion and the Need for a Mass Movement for Progressive Change By Dave Lindorff up on

The problem with this piece is revealed if you carefully read Mr. Lindorff's tortured logic. He starts by saying that he routinely hears many people say he's nuts when he calls for pressure on Democratic politicians. Then he goes on to bash 3rd parties throughout the rest of the piece. Easy to see why the Democrats at CommonDreams put it at the top of the page.

But, while he manages to bash any hopes of a 3rd party for several hundred words, he fails to provide any alternative. Mr. Lindorff is one of the people who spent much of the last three years trying to 'pressure' the Democratic politicians into impeachment. How'd that work out for ya? Seems like the Democratic politicians just laughed in his face, that is if they paid any attention to him at all.

The key is to realize is that there is no mechanism for people to try to apply any pressure on Democratic politicians. The Democrats have chosen to build their party entirely on money. They collect huge amounts of money in each election cycle now. They've gone from the party that was always outspent by the Republicans to one that massively outspent the Republicans in the last election. The Obama campaign alone raised over $700,000,000.00.

If you want to pressure the Democrats, one way to do it would be to be a major contributor and threaten to cut off the money. The Democrats certainly listen to their major contributors. Just to give one example, the major contributors to the Democrats include the insurance and health care agencies. So, you see one critic of single-payer health care after another appointed to this administraion.

But, since we all know that we are not the rich moneybags that currently fund the Democratic party, just exactly are the other means to 'pressure' the Democrats? There's only one other way to get their attention. Threaten their ability to win elections. That's the real power over any politician. Threaten their ability to win elections.

There are two ways of doing this. One is to challenge the Democrats within their own party in primaries. Of course, the problem is that the current leaders of the Democrats set the rules for those contests. And they set the rules such that the rich, and the candidates backed by the rich, have huge advantages. There are no campaign funding limits or public financing schemes in internal Democratic party races that are any stricter than federal law. None. The Democrats could set rules in their own races outlawing say contributions bigger than $100. But it ain't gonnna happen. The rich own this party and they intend to keep it.

So, what have we seen since 2000? We've seen precious few real primary challenges inside the Democratic Party. The Democrats appoint well-funded candidates, and if there dares to be a challenger to them, we see 1) pressure on the challenger to withdraw, 2) attempts to take away the challenger's funding and support, 3) major support from national Democratic sources to the candidate for the rich in the primary, 4) no sense of neutrality at all from the national Democrats, and 5) elections often run by well connected Democrats who control local voting boards.

At best it is a very uphill struggle. Its playing a rigged game in a rigged casino. And so far its been very unsuccessful. And then there are the quixotic campaigns like Kucinich that seem designed to go absolutely nowhere, but suck up tons of progressive money and effort.

Nope, if you want to 'pressure' the Democrats, the way to do it is in the General Elections running as a UNIFIED opposition third party. The key is that 'success' in 'pressuring' the Democrats can be had for much fewer votes. All you need is for the Democrat to lose. We don't have to beat them ourselves. Just make them lose.

Think for an instant if the Democrats were looking ahead to the 2010 elections and seeing either 1) a number of internal primary challengers, or 2) 3rd party candidates running campaigns in key districts across the country. The leaders of the Democratic party would just laugh at the first. But the second would cause them to be taking 'safe' races and having to mark them as 'competitive' or 'losing' races. This then would mean they would be taking seriously the notion of losing control of the House. And if its the left that is doing this with the 3rd party, well then congratulations, you've successfully 'pressured' the Democrats. They'll come to you asking what you want, and for the first time in a generation we would see the corporate Democrats picking up progressive causes.

Mr. Lindorff is correct in one way. We need to build a large populist opposition movement. But there is no reason on earth why this can't be done as a part of also building a 3rd party. Heck, its a pre-requisite for success in any case, not some sort of bizarre 'either-or' choice like Mr.Lindorff suggests. He appears to be saying that we need to give up all hopes at political power to build some movement beyond politics that will somehow then change politics and political power in this country. That of course is nonsense.

If you want change, we must build political power. You don't do that outside of politics. You don't do that by running hopeless primary campaigns in a game rigged by the Democrats such that money always wins. The only way to do it is to take the Democrats head on in close races they feel then need to win.

Why Sanjay Gupta is the Wrong Man for the Top US Health Job

Why Sanjay Gupta is the Wrong Man for the Top US Health Job By Vincente Navarro on

I find it highly worrisome that Dr. Sanjay Gupta is likely to be appointed head of the USPHS. He is not an expert on public health and is not sufficiently knowledgeable, or competent, to do the job. Training and experience in neurosurgery do not provide the public health knowledge that the position requires. But, what is far more alarming is that he will most likely be the media spokesperson for the task force on health care reform. And this means that a person hostile to a single-payer system (the type of system that has most support among people in the U.S.); a person clearly unsympathetic to the principle of the government’s guaranteeing universality of health care coverage; a person who is part of the media that have been obfuscating, negating, and avoiding the real problems in health and medical care in this country , will be in control of selling the message of change in U.S. medical care. Is this the change we were promised by candidate Obama?


Two articles on Afghanistan ....
Grim Appraisal in Afghanistan on

Blog entry that contains links to several articles on Afghanistan. The main 'story' is that Gen. Petreus is mounting a pre-emptive strike against ongoing 'strategy' reviews and declaring that Afghanistan is in a 'downward spiral', and that of course the answer is that we need to send more troops and kill more people.

Of course, the main question is .... what on earth are we fighting in Afghanistan for? How is this is the strategic interests of the American people?

A quick review. We supposedly went to Afghanistan because Bin Laden had camps there. Supposedly, the only reason we attacked the Taliban was because they were sheltering Al-Qaida. Well, couldn't we have just left afterwards? Let them know that if they dare to let Bin Laden back, then we'll come back and blow up more stuff? Why on earth are we still there some 8 years later? How is spending billions of dollars, getting young Americans killed, and killing many (700 is the estimate for last year) civilians who dare to do things like hold a wedding party in their home village, doing anything to improve life for Americans?

It makes much less sense for us to be in Afghanistan than it ever did to be in Iraq. And it makes zero sense for us to send MORE troops. The only reason I can see for it is that the Afghan war 'polled' well so Obama and the Democrats seized on it to try to pretend they they can be as viscious and unprinicipled killers as the Republicans even though the Democrats thought we should (slowly) get out of Iraq and (slowly) close Gitmo.

Anti-war lawmakers worry over plan for Afghanistan from the AP

"WASHINGTON – After campaigning on the promise to end one war, President Barack Obama is preparing to escalate another.

Obama's dual stance on the two wars is not lost on congressional Democrats, many of whom also ran on anti-war platforms. In coming weeks, they expect to have to consider tens of billions of dollars needed for combat, including a major buildup of troops in Afghanistan."

Of course, knowing the Democrats, this will amount to just a few speeches and a few symbolic 'No' votes. They'd never do anything real, like refuse to support the House leadership. I'm not sure of the size of the 'anti-war' caucus in this Congress, but I think if they left the Democratic Party then the Democrat's majority in the House would be in question. But, they'd never do anything like that. They'll just make a few statements, cast the symbolic 'no' votes, then let the money and the troops flow to Afghanistan ... and let the body bags start to come home in greater numbers.

Indians face racist mascot backlash

I received the following via email, so no link to follow.

Does anyone remember the debates of the definiion of 'terrorism' right after 9-11? If I remember correctly, the official government definition was along the lines of someone who uses violent acts to try to change political policy.

So, what about people who use death threats and violent physical attacks (throwing a rock at peaceful protestors) to try to change the town policy about a friggin school mascot of all things?

I've long felt that immigrants of middle-eastern background were not nearly the most dangerous 'terror' threat in this country. Maybe its because I grew up in the south at the tail end of the KKK era, but I know the way violence and intimidation have been used by some whites against any other group that may want to have a say in what happens in their community. And don't ever forget who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Shouldn't people who are willing to threaten to kill other people over something as minor as a school mascot be considered very dangerous? More likely the Feds are busy investigating some family of arab immigrants who came here to try to find a better life.

Indians face racist mascot backlash
Posted by: "Mark Anquoe by way of Mark Cohen" acjobim2002
Sun Feb 8, 2009 1:48 pm (PST)

Mark Anquoe
American Indian Movement - West
(415) 566-5788

Corine Fairbanks
American Indian Movement ­ Santa Barbara
(805) 212-4947

Native Americans Face Violence and Intimidation
Over Mascot Removal in Carpinteria
CARPINTERIA, California - The small town of
Carpinteria, California is the latest
battleground in Native Americans’ fight against
racism. The controversy over a supposedly
“harmless” high school sports mascot has
alienated the Native American population of
Carpinteria, who have come to fear violent
reprisals from the non-Native community.

The Carpinteria “Warriors” mascot is the
standard Indian chief stereotype, complete with
generic plains-style war bonnet and stoic gaze.
The school logo consists of a spear with dangling
feathers; a visual symbol also associated with
plains Indian cultures. Last spring, 15 year old
Chumash youth Eli Cordero voiced his objections
to the use of this stereotypical imagery by
Carpinteria High School. On April 22nd, 2008, he
brought his concerns before the school board
which then voted to retire the use of all Native American imagery.

Since the April 2008 decision, many citizens of
Carpinteria have waged a campaign of terror
against those who supported the school board’s
decision, as well as the school board itself. A
local businessman placed a quarter-page ad in the
local newspaper explicitly naming and targeting
Eli Cordero, the young student who originally
brought the issue to the school board. Since that
time, the 15 year old has received death threats
and his family has been harassed. Death threats
were also made against the child of a school
board member who voted to remove the imagery.
Local police began escorting school board members
to and from school board meetings. Some citizens
of Carpinteria shouted racial epithets at John
Orendorff, a Native American Army Reserve colonel
who spoke at a school board meeting in favor of removing the racist imagery.

Some Native American people have moved out of
Carpinteria due to the climate of fear and
anti-Indian sentiment. Ashleigh Brown, until
recently a resident of Carpinteria, spoke of her
decision to move away, “There is a community
member who refused to do our printing for our
cultural awareness event. Her son…started telling
my roommate to keep my nose out of Carpinteria
issues, or else I might regret it…So after other
townsppeople found out where I lived I decided to move out of Carpinteria.”

An organization called “Recall CUSD - Warrior
Spirit Never Dies” (,
has waged a largely successful campaign to
discredit and oust the school board members who
supported the anti-mascot measure. Having
successfully installed pro-mascot sympathizers on
the school board, there is now a petition to
rescind the earlier decision and keep the racist
imagery at the public high school. On January
27th, local Native American people organized a
protest to voice their objection to the measure,
and were met with verbal abuse by drivers and
passers-by. One protestor was hit with a rock
thrown by an adult man shouting obscenities. This
occurred despite the presence of a representative
of the federal justice department, who was sent
from Los Angeles to ensure proper police conduct
and the safety of the demonstrators. Many local
Native Americans, while supporting the
anti-mascot effort, refused to join the protest, fearing violent reprisals
by the townspeople.

The next school board meeting in Carpinteria is
scheduled for February 10th.. At this meeting the
board will hear from a committee which was formed
to assess each specific Native American image on
display at Carpinteria High School. The school
board is then expected to adjourn until February
24th, when the vote to rescind the previous
ruling will be held. Protests and
counter-protests are expected at both board meetings.