Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sanford and the Son

sanford n jesus

Mark Sanford: OK, I'm not going to say, I don't know what the big deal is, because I know it IS a big deal. Cheating is wrong, darn wrong. I let my wife down, I let my adorable children down, I let the employees of the state of South Carolina down, the voters, even the reporters who heard about the emails but were forced to behave as if they didn't know where I was. I let all of you down, and I'm sorry.

Narita Barnswell(AP): Governor, how do to intend to show the people that your no-good South American hussy meant nothing to you, and you mean to move on?

Governor Mark: Narita, I'm not going to say that, because I still love Maria. I don't want to be a hypocrite.

Bing Mathers(Fox News): Governor, are you saying you don't care what the South Carolina voters or even Fox News viewers think, that you are going to choose love over propriety and your miserable career? Is that what you're saying?

Jesus(suddenly appearing): Bing, I think the governor has spoken from the heart. Like me, he values love, and understands its transcendent quality. Mark, I love you, and if you really love your antipodean floozie, I want you to know I support you, as long as your heart is true and your kids don't have a problem with it. Have you asked them?

Gov. Mark: huh?

Jesus: I've noticed that kids from wealthy, loveless families often figure out pretty quickly if mom and dad don't love each other, and if they're good kids the hypocrisy usually gets to them. Or they grow up to have problems with booze and prescription drugs, or maybe betting on the horses. It's a toss-up.

Lori-Ann Santoro(CNBC): Jesus, if that's really you, are you saying the republican party should stick by the governor?

Jesus: Honestly Lori-Ann, I couldn't care less what the republicans do. They're mostly a bunch of soulless weasels, just like the democrats. I'm just here to support Mark, because I believe in love. Does anybody have any pertinent questions?

Dennis Perrin(suspicious character): Hi Jesus. Dennis Perrin here. My question is: will the Lions ever have a decent team again?

Jesus: Man, I don't know. They really ticked the Big Guy off when they refused to trade Barry Sanders, and I don't mind telling you He was hoping for a chance to see Barry play in the Super Bowl, just once. There was a time, they could have gotten an entire defensive line for him, but they decided they'd rather hold him back and sell tickets.

Gov. Mark: Wait a minute. Jesus, are you saying you couldn't care less about my career?

Jesus: Yes. Don't you already have enough money, and didn't you say this Maria is your "soul-mate"?

Gov. Mark: I'm sorry, but I'm confused. I'm doing the right thing, by sticking with my marriage. It's what the voters want.

Jesus: Oh, me. It's what this crowd of moralizing drunkards wants, because they want to scold you on the television and feel powerful when you subsequently toe the line. As far as I can see your marriage ended a long time ago, when you and the missus stopped loving each other. You don't even know or care what the voters want. Maybe you don't even care about what you want. I remember whispering in George Junior's ear a few years ago, about how he needed to take that wad of money his parents gave him and go open a video store in Houston where he could spend the rest of his days harmlessly ogling Rice co-eds renting R-rated movies, instead of running for congress. Because I knew his thwarted desire would keep screwing itself tighter and tighter, and maybe someday he'd kill thousands of people. But he didn't listen either.

Look. Some people in this world have a buffet of choices and others don't, but you seem to think you deserve some kind of credit for pretending you belong in the latter group. A waitress at the Waffle House who's boyfriend is in jail and can't get help raising her kid falls in the no choice category. You don't. Maybe you were so deliberately clumsy about ducking out of the country because you wanted to be caught, you wanted your hand forced so you could come clean and stop being a hypocrite. If that's the case, why are you back-tracking now?

Gov. Mark: I want to do what's right.

Bing Mathers: Jesus, doesn't the governor deserve credit for trying to set right his life, even under such intense media scrutiny?

Jesus: Even under-- do you hear yourself? Bing, neither you nor any of these other characters give a damn about the governor's life, let alone the well-being of his soul. You're just peeved because Fox wouldn't fly you to L.A. to cover Michael Jackson's death.

Helen Thomas(important old lady): Jesus, if we could back up just a bit please. Are you saying weasels don't have souls? What about otters?

Jesus: Hey, Helen. No,I'm not saying that, I just didn't want to call them a bunch of soulless jerkwads, because it doesn't sound like something I'd say. So I tried to put it in terms most of you could relate to. Weasels are OK, and so are otters. Anyway guys, I got other stuff to do. Let he who is without sin, etcetera etcetera. I'm outta here. (Jesus leaves.)

Gov. Mark: What about me?

(a far away clap of thunder is heard. The reporters all go "ooh" and move to the windows of the conference room to look. It starts to rain.)

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

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Iraq: Yesterday's News

I’m a bit surprised that there hasn’t been more attention paid to the first phase of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq cities. Most of the news media hysteria has been focused on the recent election in Iran and the resultant protests. Not that Iran isn’t newsworthy yet when you consider the investment this nation has made in our ill-advised attack against Iraq, the trillion dollar price tag, over 4,000 U.S. troops killed, over one million dead Iraqi, and millions more forced to flee as refugees, that there would be a bit more coverage of Iraq than what is now occurring.

While we are on the topic of price tags what did we buy? Iraq now has possibly the most corrupt government in the world. The infrastructure is still in dismal condition, the land itself has been polluted with depleted uranium, radioactive material that goes on killing which has no doubt gotten into the water and therefore the food chain and of course into people. There are countless unexploded cluster bomblets and land mines still waiting to kill and maim. One could say that the gift we gave the people in Iraq is the kind of gift that keeps on killing, day in, day out, year after year. And what do we get out of it? Contracts to drill Iraqi oil for the giant oil corporations – such a deal.

Juan Cole had the following to say.


T.S. Eliot wrote at the end of "Hollow Men" in 1926, "This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper." He may as well have been talking about the war George W. Bush launched in Iraq in 2003.

The end of routine, independent patrolling of major Iraqi cities by US troops today is a major milestone in modern Iraqi history.

But the US public has moved on, little interested in the foreign wars its armed forces are still fighting, and worried much more about the long-term consequences of the Republican Party's Ponzi-scheme economy of 2001-2008, the collapse of which has cost them or their family and friends their jobs. As in the 1930s, even celebrity gossip and the glitz of Hollywood are more present in people's minds than distant armies on the march. The public and the mass media mysteriously ignored the Afghanistan War right from 2002, and now Iraq is being given the same treatment, even though there are 130,000 or so US troops in Iraq and 38,000 in Afghanistan, and both contingents are still fighting and dying.

I think that is pretty much on the money though I don’t agree on all the particulars. Is the June 30 date truly a milestone? Perhaps. However redeploying the troops is not the same as withdrawing them from Iraq. According to Juan Cole’s numbers there are 38,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan which is touted by Obama and the Democrats as the “right war” the war that Obama has made the centerpiece of his foreign policy yet the estimated number of “residual” troops who will stay in Iraq after 2011 far exceeds that number. Who’s kidding who?

People keep saying we are pulling out of Iraq but they keep ignoring those residual troops. I know I keep harping on this residual topic but the way it is ignored by people who really ought to know better just blows me away. And there is one more aspect of this which would be that even if we withdrew all the troops what is to keep which ever president that happens to be in office from sending them right back again on whatever pretense?

Though the Afghanistan/Pakistan war shall no doubt become extremely important as it is likely to be the death of American supremacy on the world stage it has yet to reach that point. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Iraq War was center stage with liberals howling at the moon over George W. Bush and his lies that entered us into that war. I guess that was then and this is now.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

not a twitter revolution

from the Real News.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

losing coverage

via Christy Hardin Smith, and Avedon Carol, who writes:

It's not just the uninsured; it's the outrageous fraud that people who think they have health insurance are faced with: companies that take your money knowing they will do their damnedest not to give you what you think you are paying for.

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shaky Savants

Mimi points out in a comment that many Americans are content to believe that our leaders know better which in turn infers that people must believe that leaders on the national level have a plan or a goal. And not just any old plan or goal but one that is all-encompassing devised by far-seeing leaders who know things, things that we poor laypeople know nothing of. These “things” often fall under the rubric of State Secrets. But what if say, States don’t really have secrets of any great import? And what great secrets could there be -- the secret recipe for the world’s greatest potato salad?

Okay I’m exaggerating here for there might be a State Secret known only to Bush Jr. and his ex-administration concerning 9/11 as well as other skeletons in presidential closets. But what about the gathering of intelligence though before we examine that I think it would be good to recall one thing about intelligence which is intelligence is not used for the formation of foreign policy. Rather the opposite is true. Foreign policy, specifically and especially going to war, is driven by the needs of those in power -- as opposed to the needs of the nation. It is only after the decision to go to war has already been made that intelligence is used where information gathered by intelligence agencies is cherry-picked to suit the needs of those who wish to justify their motives for waging war.

We now know that under W. Bush the CIA was torturing prisoners in order to make them admit that there were indeed WMD and connections to al Qaida in Iraq. Stove-piping is a term used to describe how Dick Cheney ordered the CIA to turn over raw data -- data that had not been vetted though the vetting of information was the normal process used by the CIA -- in order to find the meanest scrap of bogus evidence to prop up their bogus war. The infamous Yellow Cake and Colin Powell’s vial of snake oil immediately come to mind.

All of this clearly belies any belief that national leaders have a strategy, goals, know things that we don’t, which only they in their wisdom are allowed to see giving them a more complete picture. It rather reminds me of that old saw “The Lord moves in mysterious ways.” Ah, but you say Bush was an exception and you would be entirely in error. One need only recall the Mexican-American War or the Vietnam War, both either initiated or augmented with ginned-up lies.


Two months into the war,U.S. representative George Ashmun, from Massachusetts, rebuked the president. "It is no longer pretended that our purpose is to repel invasion," he protested, "The mask is off; the veil is lifted; and we see. . . invasion, conquest, and colonization, emblazoned upon our banners."

Ashmun and other Whigs could not reconcile Polk's course with ideals of innocence and exceptionalism. Democrats, however, replied that Polk was beyond reproach. When the war ended, Sen. Sidney Breese of Illinois argued that his country's historic commitment to peace and national honor had been maintained. "We have never, sir, since the birth of our nation, given occasion for war, not even with the barbarous tribes upon our borders," he insisted. "It is our pride. . . that our whole history may be explored, and no single act of national injustice can be found upon its page-no blot of that kind upon our national escutcheon."


The official story was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an "unprovoked attack" against a U.S. destroyer on "routine patrol" in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2 — and that North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a "deliberate attack" on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.

The truth was very different.

Rather than being on a routine patrol Aug. 2, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was actually engaged in aggressive intelligence-gathering maneuvers — in sync with coordinated attacks on North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese navy and the Laotian air force.

"The day before, two attacks on North Vietnam...had taken place," writes scholar Daniel C. Hallin. Those assaults were "part of a campaign of increasing military pressure on the North that the United States had been pursuing since early 1964."

On the night of Aug. 4, the Pentagon proclaimed that a second attack by North Vietnamese PT boats had occurred earlier that day in the Tonkin Gulf — a report cited by President Johnson as he went on national TV that evening to announce a momentous escalation in the war: air strikes against North Vietnam.

But Johnson ordered U.S. bombers to "retaliate" for a North Vietnamese torpedo attack that never happened.

Prior to the U.S. air strikes, top officials in Washington had reason to doubt that any Aug. 4 attack by North Vietnam had occurred. Cables from the U.S. task force commander in the Tonkin Gulf, Captain John J. Herrick, referred to "freak weather effects," "almost total darkness" and an "overeager sonarman" who "was hearing ship's own propeller beat."

One of the Navy pilots flying overhead that night was squadron commander James Stockdale, who gained fame later as a POW and then Ross Perot's vice presidential candidate. "I had the best seat in the house to watch that event," recalled Stockdale a few years ago, "and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there.... There was nothing there but black water and American fire power."

In 1965, Lyndon Johnson commented: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

The Tonkin Gulf Incident was then used as a justification to greatly escalate the Vietnam War leading to ever greater tragedy. So as we can see using phony or shall we say “edited” intelligence is neither new nor exceptional.

There is very little evidence that national leaders have any far-reaching plan designed for the benefit of all mankind rather there is a preponderance of evidence that nothing could be further from the truth. What we find seems to be rather shallow and shortsighted people whose overriding concern is the gathering and maintaining of their power. If you don’t believe me just look around you, the economy, the housing bubble, high unemployment, the immanent demise of safety net programs like Medicaid and Social Security, the endless mindless war against terrorism or whatever they call it these days. None of this smacks even remotely of some grand overarching plan, just a lot of greedy souls grabbing what they can in the here and the now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Will we be leaving Iraq? Patrick Cockburn seems to believe that we will, beginning with removing U.S. troops from major cities on June 30 and a complete withdrawal by 2011. Well perhaps the withdrawal will happen as the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan begins to demand more warm bodies to be flung into the fray. However all that may be you will recall that Obama has always maintained that he will keep residual forces in Iraq after the withdrawal in 2011. The question is how you define “residual.” Are 50,000 troops residual? This isn’t a criticism of Cockburn who many deem to have done some of the best reporting on the Iraq War. In fact his essay in today’s Counter Punch is well worth reading. It’s just that I remain extremely skeptical regarding a complete withdrawal, one without preconditions. In fact, considering that an awful lot of things can happen between now and 2011 that could be used as an excuse to stay just a little longer I’m not going bet the farm we will be leaving Iraq. No crystal balls here, we’ll just have to wait and see.

So here we are presented with two contradictory pieces of information – one, that we are leaving Iraq, and two, we are not leaving Iraq via the estimated 50,000 U.S. soldiers that will be staying there as residuals. Already I have been reading a number of articles that point to the recent violence in Iraq that many interpret as a result of the impending June 30 date for U.S. troop withdrawal from major cities. We also know that for the most part the mainstream news are endless cheerleaders for American imperialism always eager and willing to repeat the false narrative emanating from the White House relegating the job of editors and owners of news outlets to that of a tape recorder. This parrot-like nature of the news media certainly helped Bush Jr. sell the Iraq War to the public where evidently even the most rudimentary research by our defenders of the flame of truth would have shot Bush’s sales pitch through with heavy doubts as to the veracity of what we were hearing at the time. Unfortunately it is also evident that the news media never bothered to look, with very few exceptions. And these exceptions were easily lost in the sea of lies we were daily deluged with. On the other hand there was a sad lack of skepticism on the part of the American public as well for the very idea that Iraq was or could have been a threat to the U.S. was patently absurd. These extraordinary claims from the White House should have demanded extraordinary proofs. Unfortunately no such demands were made with a few noteworthy exceptions and in the world of power exceptions do not make the rule.

This sea of lies was so predominant that today, six years later, people still cannot agree on what drove Bush to invade Iraq. A strong case can be made for a whole cadre of reasons. And does it really matter? I don’t think it does the reason being that we as a people and our government --if a bunch of inept buffoons can be dignified with that name – have not learned anything of value from our experience in that broken land we call Iraq. For proof all one need do is read the numerous news articles regarding the escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As astonishing as it may seem to rational people after the debacle we witnessed in Iraq we are charging blindly headlong into another protracted war without skipping a beat.

In the end the Iraq War was about power, power for the executive office which was so eagerly and rabidly given over by Congress and has moved the U.S. further along its path of militarization, and it is a long path, one that we have followed for the last century. If the Iraq War was driven by oil, oil is power, for those who control the oil will have power over those who do not. If the Iraq War was driven by a need to reestablish the U.S. as the prime super power in the eyes of the world after 9/11 the war was about power. If the war was for political gain (Americans love wars especially if they believe we are winning) then the Iraq War was driven by power or the search for more power. Power is an end to itself and for those that seek it no explanations are needed.

Is TV news one-sidedly in support of Israel?

from The Real News:Is TV news one-sidedly in support of Israel?

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

No Man Can Say

June 26, 2059

BAGHDAD — At least 24 Iraqis were killed and more than 80 others wounded Monday in the latest wave of violence sweeping Iraq, Iraqi police said Monday.

The attacks were concentrated in Baghdad and came just days before the June 30 deadline for U.S. combat forces to withdraw from major Iraqi cities, raising questions about whether Iraqi security forces will be able to take control of the country's security.

President George Barack Clinton Jr. made the following statement.

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2061, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops in Iraq and that of the remaining ten Iraqi citizens that are still alive. We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government, such as it is. There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments such as possibly moving the withdrawal timetable to late summer of 3021. But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed. What form that success takes no man can say.

After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to guarding our oil wells. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our oil wells within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 335-500,000,000 U.S. troops.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan U.S. and British forces clashed with Sino-Russian forces (We ran out of Talibans about ten years ago) in an attempt to reopen the oil lines. The new American Commander (the 106th new Commander) has promised to reduce civilian deaths from daily U.S. air strikes.

KABUL, Afghanistan — The new American commander in Afghanistan said he had plans that would reduce the civilian deaths that he said were undermining the American-led mission. General MacDonald said the plan was to paint all Afghan citizen's noses with bright florescent pink paint so as to be easily identifiable by U.S. pilots. According to General MacDonald “The important thing isn’t that civilians are still dying rather it is of the utmost importance not to undermine the mission, though what form that mission shall be no man can say.”

When asked that if the good General was serious about reducing civilian casualties why not just stop bombing them the General replied with a “no comment.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Iran, continued

This recent al Jazeera video (via Juan Cole) seems to partially confirm what I wrote earlier this week about Ahmedinejad's support among rural voters.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Grand Strategy


The Obama administration has turned back pleas for emergency aid from one of the biggest remaining threats to the economy -- the state of California.

Top state officials have gone hat in hand to the administration, armed with dire warnings of a fast-approaching "fiscal meltdown" caused by a budget shortfall. Concern has grown inside the White House in recent weeks as California's fiscal condition has worsened, leading to high-level administration meetings. But federal officials are worried that a bailout of California would set off a cascade of demands from other states.

With an economy larger than Canada's or Brazil's, the state is too big to fail, California officials urge.

"This matters for the U.S., not just for California," said U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the state's Democratic congressional delegation. "I can't speak for the president, but when you've got the 8th biggest economy in the world sitting as one of your 50 states, it's hard to see how the country recovers if that state does not."

I think Californians are lucky that Obama hasn’t put California on the list of terrorist states yet.

Too big to fail? Where have I heard that before? This is reminiscent of the time California asked Bush for help during the energy crisis where Bush replied that “California created the problem, California can fix it.” Yet I suppose that when you are fighting terrorists all over the globe and you are busy passing legislation to fund those wars there may be little time or money to be had for domestic affairs.

And who gets hurt the worst? Why the poor of course because naturally among the first items to be cut from the budget will likely be a welfare system that more than one million people rely on and many other worthwhile programs that give aid to people whose very lives may depend upon like Medicaid. Whether the Obama administration is correct about California or not Congress (or at least in the House, it still has to pass in the Senate) has little problem when it comes to funding Obama’s Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The House passed yesterday a $106 billion bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, as Democrats backed President Obama despite their misgivings about his strategy in Afghanistan.

The 226 to 202 vote came after Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner implored some reluctant Democrats during the day to back the bill, and after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had strongly pressed her colleagues in a closed-door meeting to vote for the bill. In the end, 221 Democrats voted yes, and 32 voted no.

One of those voting yes was Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who had earlier said that he opposed the war funding. "We are in the process of wrapping up the wars. The president needed our support. But the substance still sucks," Weiner said.

And notice how this news story is framed. It’s always “Despite their misgivings” isn’t it? Yes, it is always and forever “though worried about the president’s strategy” or “despite this and that” they always manage to keep the marauding and hulking U.S. war machine chewing up the bodies and spitting them out. My favorite is the “president needs our support” and doggone it, it really, really sucks. Is this an adult speaking? Sucks? Yeah, it really sucks that we are blasting the lives of so many people around the world. It really sucks when you find the decapitated head of a child in the rubble left by U.S. air raids. It’s unavoidable suckiness though, you know -- collateral damage. Yeah, it all really sucks.

The long and the short of it is Congress will always fund the wars no matter how much bad acting and childish gibberish they enthrall us with. And not the least of the problems with Weiner’s statement is that it is completely insulting that we are supposed to be stupid enough to accept it at face value.

Returning to part of Weiner’s statement -- “The president needed our support” -- I would just like to ask what happened to that balance of power that exists in misty legends? If the president is clearly wrong on an issue as Weiner seems to be implying then isn’t it his job as a member of Congress to oppose it? That was a rhetorical question.

To sum it up there is no money to help keep valuable assistance and safety net programs in place for the poor, the aged, and the sick, but there’s nothing so urgent as funding wars under the nonsensical rubric of fighting terrorism.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Let it Never be Said

Obama said the following regarding the Iranian protests over the presidential election…


“When I see violence directed at peaceful protesters, when I see peaceful dissent being suppressed, wherever that takes place, it is of concern to me and it’s of concern to the American people,” he said. “That is not how governments should interact with their people.”

No mention of the U.S. terrorist operations

in Iran, a basically peaceful nation, unlike the one Obama is president of.

But yes, Americans led by Obama are deeply, deeply concerned about peaceful dissent not just in Iran but anywhere in the world. Even places Americans didn’t even know existed (about 90 percent of the world).

I still maintain that Obama is not really that great of an orator, “That is not how governments should interact with their people,” sounds like a parent scolding a child. And of course, therein lays the whole problem. The entire world must live up to American expectations of them, if not, out comes the paddle!

So you see, the Iranian government should not direct violence against Iranian citizens (which I agree with) but it is perfectly alright for the U.S. to direct violence against Iranian citizens. This is how upside-down and inside-out the national narrative is. Obama talks a great deal about threats to the U.S., Iran being one, while seemingly making peaceful overtures to Iran yet the truth is we are funding a terrorist campaign in Iran murdering people the whole while.

Apparently there are many standards to choose from, whatever is most convenient at the time being the usual choice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Painted green

Green may be the current cool color in Western pop culture, but it seems the Mousavi-ites dubbed their movement the green revolution because green is the color is of Islam(!). Or maybe that's just an explanation for global public consumption, so that we don't get too suspicious of all those Iranian young people holding up signs in English. Members of the Anglo press are always flattered when people in foreign countries wave signs in English that speak of freedom, even those TV-types who until very recently had been advocating bombing the crap out of Iran, as Glenn Greenwald has recently pointed out.

(Perhaps especially the ones who had been calling for bombing you.) We don't care about you, just what you stand for, so be a dear and stand for something we understand...

To be honest, I find it awfully difficult to evaluate the current goings-on in Iran. Was the election stolen? I no longer assume that the talking heads on TV care about telling me the unvarnished truth, and given how many decades US elites have invested in meddling in the middle east, it's hard not to be skeptical. On one hand we're told that opposition candidate Mousavi held a narrow lead in Iranian election polling just before the vote. On the other hand, it's hard to know how reliable polling methods are in Iran, and the gap in access to technology between country and rural folk may be substantial. Remember the famous story of how the Literary Digest predicted that FDR would lose reelection in '36 because they relied on polls of persons with telephones, which skewed their results to the republicans? On the other, other hand, as it were, just because a phenomenon plays out the way foreign elites(with a history of meddling in Iran's internal affairs) might have desired, doesn't mean it's bogus.

I note that Xymphora is suspicious that Israel and the US have interfered with the events in Iran, spurring the protests on. Even though Xymphora is prone to see a Zionist conspiracy behind every bush, this strikes me as plausible.

We're getting lots of images of rioting, but in a country of 70 plus million, about 20 million of whom live in the Tehran metro area, the only images we're getting are from the capitol, as opposed to from where the other 50 million live. Pepe Escobar has recently noted [video link]that Ahmedinejad's strongest constituency has always been among the rural poor, i.e., people who are less likely to have internet access. Call them, pace Nixon, Ahmedinejad's "silent majority."

Obviously we don't really know if their election was stolen, and we don't know if it wasn't. Apparently the Iranian government will do a recount of some disputed votes, but one assumes this is more about preserving order and shoring up its legitimacy than intrinsic concern.

I'll admit I wonder, as Xymphora and others do, if outside forces are egging on the disorder. But I also wonder if Americans could be moved to stand up for their rights in a similarly bold way without it being borne out of manipulation by elites.(I suppose I'm over-using that word at this point.)

Maybe, in our post McLuhan, insufferably postmodern, SMS/RSS/Social networking age, it's both easier for authentic grassroots phenomena to catch fire-- and easier than ever to manufacture them. Good luck Iran, even when the West has lost interest in your green revolution, so-called or otherwise, and moved on.

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kenneth Pollack Strikes Again

It would seem that the recent Iranian election, where Ahmadinejad wins by a suspicious lead, has Kenneth Pollack our Middle East “expert” regaling us with the following dire warning.


"But this election and their results are an important caution to Americans and everyone else on the planet: This is not a democracy."

How would Pollack know, has he ever lived in a democracy? Considering our heavy handed departure from a right to privacy, a right to have legal council, and the power of the president to decide if you are a terrorist or not which could ultimately mean you are stripped of your rights completely or as they already are, Pollack has a lot of nerve. Not to mention an election I seem to recall between Al Gore and George Bush. Pollack is on shaky ground though that is nothing new for Pollack. After all our Middle East “expert” was one of the loudest cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq by Bush Junior and our subservient and oh-so pliable congress.

Here is what Pollack advised in his book the Threatening Storm (a cheap rip-off of Churchill’s the Gathering Storm as if Saddam Hussein were a threat comparable to Adolf Hitler).


"the only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam’s regime, and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction.” Pollack predicted, “It is unimaginable that the United States would have to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars and highly unlikely that we would have to contribute even tens of billions of dollars.”

Gee, we know how well all that worked out. And yet here we see that the news media still uses Pollack as a reference despite the fact that Pollack had been so overwhelmingly and spectacularly wrong about the Iraq War. I’m not really surprised by this for as Alexander Cockburn writes…


In other words, any exacting assessment of the actual performance of newspapers rated against the twaddle about the role of the Fourth Estate spouted by publishers and editors at their annual conventions would issue a negative verdict in every era. Of course there have been moments when a newspaper or a reporter could make fair claims to have done a decent job, inevitably eradicated by a panicky proprietor, a change in ownership, advertiser pressure, eviction of some protective editor or summary firing of the enterprising reporter. By and large, down the decades, the mainstream newspapers have—often rabidly—obstructed and sabotaged efforts to improve our social and political condition.

In an earlier time writers like Mencken and Hecht and Liebling loved their newspapers, but the portentous claims for their indispensable role would have made them hoot with derision, as they did the columnist Bernard Levin, decrying in the London Times at the start of the 1980s the notion of a “responsible press”: “we are, and must remain, vagabonds and outlaws, for only by so remaining shall we be able to keep the faith by which we live, which is the pursuit of knowledge that others would like unpursued and the making of comment that others would prefer unmade.”

But of course most publishers and journalists are not vagabonds and outlaws, any more than are the professors at journalism schools or the jurors and “boards” servicing the racket known as the Pulitzer industry. What the publishers were after was a 20 per cent rate of return, a desire that prompts great respect for “the rule of law,” if such laws assist in the achievement of that goal. In 1970 this meant coercing Congress to pass the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, exempting newspapers from antitrust sanctions against price-fixing in a given market. Nixon signed the law and was duly rewarded with profuse editorial endorsements in 1972.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

a reminder:when abortion was illegal

Watch When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

I saw this at the internet archive(here), but I find their embed protocol is a bit buggy when you re-write the html to prevent it from going into auto-play, so here it is via Veoh instead. Then again it may just be my html skills are the problem.

Anyway, the disgusting murder of George Tiller (while attending church) barely two weeks ago reminded me that I've been meaning to post this.

[cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.]

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Suspending Rationality

All but forgotten in the wake of Obama’s wonderful magical speech is the fact that the Palestinians are still living under the jack boot of Israeli domination. Their economy brought to a standstill by the constricting grip of the Israeli occupation the Palestinians live with a shortage of water, food, medicine, power, in other words all the basic necessities that we in the U.S. take for granted. To anyone paying attention it is quite clear that Israel is not interested in peace unless it is on their terms. In fact it seems even clearer that their goal is to drive the Palestinians completely out of Israel.

On the surface, the recent statements regarding the “natural growth” of Israeli settlements by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton sounds like a step in the right direction until one considers that Israel has in the last sixty years taken almost every square inch of Palestinian land already and that much of it is illegal by international law. There is almost a worldwide consensus that a two-state solution is the only way to bring about peace in that war-torn corner of the world. The only two nations that oppose this consensus are the U.S. and Israel. The U.S. is now fully involved in destabilizing different parts of the world through the ever broadening war in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as on other fronts in Somalia and Iraq. Considering the endless wars and occupations you have to ask just how serious Obama and Clinton are in their deep abiding concern for the Palestinians. In my opinion it is nothing but farcical posturing.

There is a confluence of forces at work driving the imperial wars. The industrial-military-scientific-congressional complex, the usage of war as a means for political gain such as Lyndon Johnson’s Tonkin Gulf incident, and then there is the issue of oil. Though there is some controversy over just how much oil is left anyone who believes that there is enough oil to last forever is sadly mistaken. Likely in the next few hundred years the battle for controlling oil sources will intensify as supplies dry up and emerging industrial nations clamor for more. There is also evidence that the recent brutally murderous attack against Gaza by Israel was driven by the fact that natural gas was found off the coast of Gaza and Israel now controls it even though it belongs to the Palestinians.

Compounding the confusion and misconceptions in all of this are the mainstream news media whose purpose is to make a profit like any other business. Guardians of the flame of truth they are not. The most popular opinion-mongers seem to be the most likely to get everything wrong as in the case of Tom Friedman. Yet people continue to take him seriously and the New York Times continues to employ him despite his dismal record of being wrong on almost every issue and topic.

Noam Chomsky touches on all these topics and more in a recent article which is absolutely worth reading.


Obama's "new initiative" is spelled out more fully by John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, now chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an important speech at the Brookings Institute on March 9. (http://kerry.senate.gov/cfm/record.cfm?id=309250). In interpreting Kerry's words, we have to suspend normal rationality, and agree that the actual facts of history are completely irrelevant. What is important is not the contrived picture of past and present, but the plans outlined.

Kerry urges that we acknowledge that our honorable efforts to bring about a political settlement have failed, primarily because of the unwillingness of the Arab states to make peace. Furthermore, all of our efforts to "to give the Israelis a legitimate partner for peace" have foundered on Palestinian intransigence. Now, however, there is a welcome change. With the Arab Initiative of 2006, the Arab states have finally signaled their willingness to accept Israel's presence in the region. Even more promising is the "unprecedented willingness among moderate Arab nations to work with Israel" against our common enemy Iran. "Moderate" here is used in its technical meaning: "willing to conform to US demands," irrespective of the nature of the regime. "This re-alignment can help to lay the groundwork for progress towards peace," Kerry said, as we "re-conceptualize" the problem, focusing on the Iranian threat.

Kerry goes on to explain that there is also at last some hope that a "legitimate partner" can be found for our peace-loving Israeli ally: Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. How then do we proceed to support Israel's new legitimate Palestinian partner? "Most importantly, this means strengthening General [Keith] Dayton's efforts to train Palestinian security forces that can keep order and fight terror... Recent developments have been extremely encouraging: During the invasion of Gaza, Palestinian Security Forces largely succeeded in maintaining calm in the West Bank amidst widespread expectations of civil unrest. Obviously, more remains to be done, but we can help do it."

Routinely, Kerry describes the attack on Gaza as entirely right and just: by definition, since the US crucially participated in it. It doesn't matter, then, that the pretext lacks any credibility, under principles that we all accept -- with regard to others.

General Dayton's forces, armed and trained in Jordan with Israeli participation and supervision, are the soft side of population control. The tougher and more brutal forces are those trained by the CIA: General Intelligence and Preventive Security.

Kerry is right that we can do more to ensure that West Bank Palestinians are so effectively controlled that they cannot even protest the slaughter in Gaza -- let alone move towards meaningful self-determination. For this task, the US can draw on a long history of colonial practice, developed in exquisite detail during the US occupation of the Philippines after the murderous conquest a century ago, then widely applied elsewhere. This sophisticated refinement of traditional imperial practice has been highly successful in US dependencies, while also providing means of population control at home. These matters are spelled out in groundbreaking work by historian Alfred McCoy (Policing America's Empire, forthcoming). Kerry should be familiar with these techniques from his service in South Vietnam. Applying these measures to Palestine, collaborationist paramilitary forces can be employed to subdue the domestic population with the cooperation of privileged elites, granting the US and Israel free rein to carry forward Bush's "vision" and Olmert's Convergence-plus. Gaza can meanwhile be kept under a strangling siege as a prison and occasional shooting gallery.

“In interpreting Kerry's words, we have to suspend normal rationality, and agree that the actual facts of history are completely irrelevant.” This is true not just about Kerry but almost every politician and commentator as well. But go read the whole article.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Mask Slips

Today David Brooks gives us his rundown of Obama’s “address” to the Muslim world. I’m not going to discuss the speech because it has already been dissected to a great extent by some of the better writers like Chris Floyd and also for the mundane fact that I have neither listened to the speech nor read more than two paragraphs of it.

Reading through Brooks’ column it begins with some schmaltz about how great Chicago politicians are with some meaningless and syrupy sentimentality about the “Great Tension in Chicago” and how the Obama administration is at once idealistic, earnest and liberal while also clever, cautious and Machiavellian. This is high praise for a president who managed to create 2 million refugees during his first one hundred days in office, a new world’s record I imagine.

However that all may be the following statement lets slip that overgrown golly-gee Boy Scout demeanor Brooks likes to cultivate when he wrote...

“He was showing people in a region besotted with tiresome hysterics how to talk to one another with understanding and dignity.”

Whoops! I guess that one kind of got away from David. Yes indeed, a region “besotted” with tiresome hysterics. I mean why get hysterical when an American bomb just blew up your house along with everyone in it? Those dirty brown Arabs just have no understanding or dignity. And now the Great White Spirit from the White House has come to show them the way. Nice.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Scream in your Underwear

It’s kind of interesting how bin Laden seems to pop up on a fairly regular basis with dire warnings and threats. It’s also kind of convenient for our hard-charging terrorist hunters in the White House. Everyone is familiar with FDR’s famous line “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” which is rather ironic as fear is the main tool of manipulation employed by Obama. According to Obama the ever-widening war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is central to American interests, safety, and well being. We need to be afraid, very afraid of terrorists according to our leaders. I’m not saying that there will not be some kind of terrorist attack on U.S. soil but it has been many a year since the last one. Considering the fact that terrorism has never brought down any nation, much less one that outspends the rest of the world on all things military, we should wonder just how afraid do we really need to be.

Actually there are things to fear other than fear. California is considering ending Medicaid, the first state to do so adding 2 million people to the list of uninsured. That nothing is being done to bring manufacturing jobs back to U.S. soil is something else to fear. That our alleged government is run by shallow, morally bifurcated hacks and quacks is something else to worry a body. I could go on but you probably know the rest by heart.

These continued jack-in-the-box appearances by bin Laden remind me of a sock puppet show. Every time support for what is now Obama’s war wanes why just get that sock puppet out and tweak the great unwashed masses with it. Sock puppets are cheap entertainment. I suppose every time bin Laden appears Americans are supposed to run screaming out of buildings in their underwear. Of course this is all conjecture on my part. I really don’t know for a fact that these little bin Laden dramas are perpetrated by our government but it’s an interesting idea and certainly wouldn’t be the biggest lie coming from Washington.

When you think about it isn’t it rather odd that bin Laden is still at large, if he is even alive that is. You’d think that after all this time and with the combined efforts of our infallible intelligence community, and those of other nations, bin Laden would have been captured or shown to be dead by now. Perhaps our leaders find it more beneficial to have bin Laden running around on the loose or at least the ghost of bin Laden.

Monday, June 01, 2009

What are they talking about?

Consider these quotes from today’s New York Times which paints a somewhat rosy picture of Obama’s (May he live long and prosper) startling new strategy of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.


The Jalrez Valley is a test case, the first area in Afghanistan where President Obama’s strategy of increasing troop levels has been applied, and it is a promising early indicator.

But in Afghanistan, a complex patchwork of tribes, ethnicities and rivalries, it remains unclear whether the early success in this area can be replicated.

“I learned everything I know about the Jalrez insurgency from ‘The Sopranos,’ ” Colonel Gallahue said. “At the foot soldier level, it’s economically driven.”

In the rules of counterinsurgency, soldiers must move quickly — but carefully — to solidify gains.

“It’s moving as fast as it can,” said Matthew Sherman, the Americans’ political adviser. “If we force it, then it won’t work.”

The article is full of words like “indicator, early success, gains," etc. and in the last quote it is merely referred to as “it.” I included the good Colonel Gallahue’s quote because it is possibly one of the stupidest remarks I’ve read lately. However what is left out entirely is what this ephemeral goal is, …exactly. Yes, I know, the supposed goal is eradicating terrorism wherever it may lurk or at least that is the official jargon. And mix in some nation building and viola, zee master plan haz been revealed. Of course some people like me merely refer to it as imperialism and murder but then I’m one of those fringe lunatics so this must be considered as well.

And so you rightly ask well doesn’t our military presence, blowing up weddings in Afghanistan, followed promptly by blowing up the funeral resulting from blowing up the wedding, etc. mean that we are creating more terrorists? The answer of course is yes but then that is the whole point for national leaders since it is the mayhem and slaughter of war that helps keep them in power which of course is the real goal. Accruing more power and keeping it so that they can stay in power for as long as possible. It’s all that matters to national leaders generally speaking. If bugs get squished along the way, not to worry. It’s also why Obama regales us with tales of scheming blood thirsty enemies everywhere. Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, are all potential threats to U.S. lives. What Obama is really saying is how much we need his leadership and how important it is for us to trust that he will protect us. Even if Korea, Iran, and the rest really aren’t a threat, which of course they are not.

At the bidding of Obama Pakistan is now planning to widen the war against the Taliban. Apparently, perhaps as soon as this summer, there will be a joint U.S./Pakistani assault on Waziristan. More innocents will die, burnt offerings to the empowerment of Obama the peace candidate.


Revenge for army action in Waziristan could cause carnage across the country, severely testing hard-won public support for taking on the Taliban, even destabilizing the country. It would also add to the humanitarian crisis of people displaced by fighting, which stands now at some 3 million.

“Carnage across the country” will only be used as an excuse for our continued presence in a war without goals. Terrorism is a national leader’s dream come true.