Monday, March 29, 2010

The Salt Pit

[this post has been revised and expanded 3.31]

Ghairat Baheer is grateful for his freedom, the US, and Mohammed Karzai.

Is this statement true? I don’t know-- although I suspect while the first part may be, the second and third are probably not so true.Do you like how the pictures go together, with the suggestion that the man in the truck is looking approvingly at Obama, who is visiting his country this weekend? I matched them, like a low-rent, modern day Plutarch. The man on the left was imprisoned by the CIA in 202, and later released.

This is not news here in the US, in itself. By now most people here should know we imprison a lot of people in far off places. Regardless of how they may feel about it, most Americans who at least half-way pay attention to what’s going on are aware of this. But Baheer was captured and imprisoned along with a patient of his, and recently revealed documents revealed the CIA kinda killed Dr Baheer’s patient.

MSNBC/AP:"Death shed light on CIA ‘Salt Pit’ near Kabul"

[Gul Rahman] a suspected Afghan militant was brought to a dimly lit CIA compound northeast of the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The CIA called it the Salt Pit. Inmates knew it as the dark prison. Inside a chilly cell, the man was shackled and left half-naked. He was found dead, exposed to the cold, in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002.
Rahman was arrested with Dr. Ghairat Baheer, a physician who is Hekmatyar's son-in-law and a leader of Hezb-e-Islami, an insurgent faction blamed for numerous bombings and violence in Afghanistan.
Baheer, who said he spent six months in the Salt Pit during six years in Afghan prisons, said in an interview in Islamabad that he never learned what happened to Rahman. Rahman's family repeatedly pressed International Red Cross officials about his fate, Baheer said.
"If he died there in interrogation or he died a natural death they should have told his family and ended their uncertainty," Baheer said.
Rahman had driven from Peshawar, Pakistan, in the northwest frontier to Islamabad for a medical checkup. He was staying with Baheer, an old friend, when U.S. agents and Pakistani security forces stormed the house and took both men, two guards and a cook into custody.
After a week, Rahman was separated from the others. "That was the last time I saw him," said Baheer, now a member of a Hezb-e-Islami delegation that met this month in Kabul, the Afghan capital, for peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Baheer said he was flown to Afghanistan and taken to the Salt Pit, the code name for the abandoned brick factory turned CIA prison. In small, windowless cells, detainees were subjected to harsh treatment and at least one mock execution, according to several former CIA officials.

"I was left naked, sleeping on the barren concrete," said Baheer. His toilet was a bucket. Loudspeakers blared. Guards concealed their identity with masks and carried torches.
Baheer said his American interrogators would tie him to a chair and sit on his stomach. They hung[sic] him naked, he said, for hours on end.
A CIA medic at the site concluded the Afghan[Rahman] died of hypothermia. A doctor sent later confirmed that judgment. But the detainee's body was never returned to his family, and Baheer said his friend's relatives still don't know what happened.

"The Americans have had enough time," said Baheer. "After nearly eight years, enough is enough."

The commonplace conceit on many lefty blogs is to observe, perhaps sneeringly, that Americans want to be the good guys, but don't want to face up to what their government does. Well, stereotype or not, it's true as far as I can tell. I know I want Americans to be the good guys-- I don't think wanting that is the problem, per se. As far as I can see the problem is deciding that simply asserting we are is weirdly sufficient for some people. This magic trick renders our actual actions as secondary, and easily rationalized as any given situation may require.

(It's an interesting coincidence that the Christian Science Monitor is currently running a story about the supposed resurgence of American Calvinism, because to me the problem described above approximately parallels the difference between justification by works vs. justification by faith, and for the longest time I've felt that one of the problems with our foreign policy has been a reliance on a sort of Calvinist reasoning that undergirds US exceptionalism.)

Mimi often asks how do we change things, and Rob Payne often discusses our complacency before Empire, as he did yesterday. Here I'm saying that people need to discard American predestination, or at the very least decide to make some kind of peace with it, so that it causes no more trouble for ourselves and others. Maybe when we stereotypical 'Godless liberals' tell stories like that of Rahman we need to impress upon the listener not only the sin against Rahman and his brothers but the consequent corruption of the torturer's soul. It may sound strange and even indulgent and I know that justification by works has always made more sense to me, but then again I attended Catholic school through the 4th grade. Still, if that's the key to reach some people, we need to take another cue from Christ and not be too proud to try to reach the reachable by speaking in terms that mean something to them.

some additional thoughts[3.31], per the comments:

Rob, yes, I think manifest destiny is very much an extension of the concept of predestination. It's a concept that I have a hard time with on both the national and personal level.

Mimi,I guess the challenge in this context is to persuade people

"what does it profit a man if his country maintains an empire and he loses his own soul?"

I suppose that sounds a bit mawkish but I think some people think like that, and at least some of them may be persuaded by such an argument.

Maybe you need to show people how the guy in the CIA and his victim were both victims of the Bushes and Obamas of the world in order to help them accept the idea that maybe the great brown horde of 1 billion Muslims might actually be, you know, people.

As an Arab-American it occasionally frustrates me to think that might be necessary, because sometimes I just want to say, "look: if you don't want people saying bad things about the US, then you should want the US to stop doing bad things, it really is that simple."

But I guess many people need illustrations-- I think about how Reagan was supposedly persuaded to put the brakes on the arms race because he watched the TV movie "the Day After."

Ideally, from that flows the notion that the Islamic world is not an intrinsic threat to us, and that resentment towards the US is not them "hating us for our freedoms," but founded on legitimate grievances which we can correct without sacrificing security. Many Americans are already there, and I'm convinced many more are malleable on this point. Besides, it's not a question of convincing every last person who considers himself an Evangelical to no longer support imperial wars without end, just enough of "them" to form a strong bloc of American voters against Empire. (Ironically, at one time back in the day it was precisely that portion of the populace that was most isolationist.)

[Watch "Prelude to War" from Capra's 1940s Why We Fight series sometime. Some of it is blunt propaganda, but some of scenes of the pulse-taking of the US are a revelation of a bygone world.]

If anything, I suspect it's probably upper-income voters, both republicans and democrats, who are the one group least amenable to be persuaded to reject the politics of Empire.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Most Likely

Is there even such a thing as American culture? Going to the AOL web page I’m greeted with “Stars most likely to get naked.” It gives one a moment to pause and to ponder what sort of creature gives birth to such inanities.

What influences American culture? Television for one, Fox, talk shows, propaganda from the Pentagon via the major news outlets, violent movies with no plot and no acting based on themes so tired and over used they hang on hooks like boneless chickens. Organized sports where primitive tribalism is on full display in all its glory reinforcing the militant core of American life preparing young minds to accept and do as they are told creating fertile ground for more endless war. Violence lies at the heart of American culture ready to burst out accompanied by chest thumping and primal grunts instigated by the fear mongers in Washington who wield fear like a weapon of mass destruction.

In fear and anger Americans look for someone to blame for the end of their dreams of some kind of secure future. Perhaps in the end it’s our culture of militancy and fear that are the root cause, for it has brought us to where we are today, our nation’s foreign policy run by the Pentagon, a congress on the take, a president who has all the depth of a paper cutout who ordered the deaths of thousands to prove himself as the big macho honcho though in reality has shown himself to be a rather weak leader, that is to say he doesn’t seem to really have any agenda of his own but merely apes his predecessor George W. Bush Junior while buckling in to any pressure from the generals and the money men.

The government is using the fear mongering of terrorism to crush the public into submission. They are using the fear mongering of terrorism as an excuse to dismantle our safety nets (We must be responsible about the national debt) like Medicare and Social Security, and to increase the level of surveillance while decreasing whatever rights remain to us. We have been locked out of courts through tort reform making corporations, like politicians and the wealthy, above and beyond the laws that bind the peasants. Corporations own the president, congress, and the courts. The U.S. military are now mercenaries in their service.

After years of slow painful and dangerous progress in the arena of worker’s rights people are now happy to just have a job, ready to accept lousy jobs, lousy pay, and lousy hours because it beats the unemployment lines and living on the streets. This hasn’t come about by accident, it was engineered, part of the plan to crush us into submission. But our culture demands that we accept what we are dealt. If tariffs are lifted allowing corporations to utilize cheap and sometimes slave labor overseas we must accept it because it’s our fault for wanting too much money for the work we perform. You can’t fight the new global economy! Accept, accept, and accept. If the government tells you that domestic spying is protecting you against bad terrorists, then you must accept it like a good little gerbil.

A majority of people wanted a single payer health plan, and instead are told they must now purchase private corporate insurance, the very thing they most wanted to get away from. You read about all the back room deals Obama made with the insurance and hospital industries, and the pharmaceutical as well, so is there little wonder that regardless of what this legislation is called it certainly isn’t health care reform? But the bottom line is people are basically accepting that this is all we can do, the best that can be had in the name of pragmatism, of reality. Yet the reality seems to be that many Americans are all too willing to accept that they asked for health care reform but got a bailout for the insurance industry instead. That should make people extremely angry but instead some act smug as if they know something very, very clever (which I guess is that they know they are pragmatic).

So what is American culture? It appears to be a culture that is heavily entrenched in militarism, violence, and fear. It’s also a culture that has given up the ghost, willing to accept whatever tidbits are thrown our way, effectively crushed into submission by our government.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

the crazies

Coulter OKC

"I heard people saying things today I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try to get off the back of the bus"

-James Clyburn, D, South Carolina

AP/Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “Democrats deal with broken windows, obscene threats over support for US health care overhaul

Windows were shattered at four Democratic offices in New York, Arizona and Kansas and at least 10 members of Congress have reported some sort of threats…

The brick flung through the window of a county Democratic Party office in Rochester, New York, over the weekend had a note attached: "Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice," roughly quoting 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.
Gun imagery was used in a posting on the Facebook page of Sarah Palin urging people to organize against 20 House Democrats who voted for the health care bill and whose districts went for the John McCain-Palin ticket two years ago. Palin's post featured a U.S. map with circles and cross hairs over the 20 districts.

LA Times, “Threats, Violence Against Democrats Who Voted For Healthcare Bill

As anger has built in some quarters over the Democrats' passage of healthcare legislation last week, Internet posts urging opponents to take action may have sparked a viral spate of vandalism and other threats against members of Congress and their families.
On Tuesday, the brother of Rep. Tom Perriello discovered that the gas line connecting a propane tank to an outdoor grill at his home near Charlottesville, Va. had been severed. Days earlier, members of conservative tea party groups in the area had posted his address online, urging people to "drop by" what they mistakenly believed was the congressman's home.
The brother, Bo Perriello, has four children at home under the age of 8, according to the Congressman's office.

My comment over at Jonathan Schwarz’s Tiny Revolution,
24 March, “A suggestion

Jon S.,
people's memories are short in part because of the deliberate awfulness of the popular/corporate media. Remember how Time ran Ann Coulter on the cover in April 2005, on the 10 year anniversary of the OKC bombing? You want a succinct and powerful symbol of the supposedly liberal media's complacency and enabling, look no further.


Jon Schwarz suggests discussing the OKC bombing in personal terms to illustrate what's wrong with the present situation.[see the link directly above.]Many others have been calling on the GOP to denounce these actions. I wonder if that’s sufficient, or even the best approach-- although I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that. It’s just that when you call on the GOP(i.e. right-wing elites) to denounce right-wing thuggery and leave it at that and avoid more direct appeals, the message you’re sending is, "these are your children.” In other words, yep, we’re the stereotypical secular left and we don’t understand people like that; they’re foreign to us, none of us even have friends or relatives who identify with those values. You are wondering where I’m going with this, no doubt.

Here: you have to avoid suggesting(or even believing) that all conservatives and “values voters” are just savages, and pretending there is no continuum of values that we all belong to, the best and the worst of us. If you do suggest this, you elicit defensiveness from practically all of “them,” when you could be persuading the sane and peace-loving among “them” to feel revulsion towards the crazies in their midst, which is ultimately the only way to extinguish this fire.

A couple of practical illustrations: The message is, if you’re a conservative and you’re not a racist, but you have some racist friends, well, we’re not surprised. But we liberals aren’t like that. Sniff, sniff. Second, the association between racism and religious identity: yes, it’s there, at least at the margins. But if you just offer anodyne platitudes about religious people(because you‘re a little scared and puzzled by them), you prohibit yourself from making this link, and explicitly discussing the difference between sane and crazy believers.

I discussed this at my old blog in January 2005 on the occasion of George W. Bush’s second inauguration, “Inauguration notes, or the other.” I look back at the words I wrote, and I regret that I didn’t more explicitly state that most Christians are sane, well-meaning people who don‘t go around bombing abortion clinics or threatening people‘s lives, etc. (But the crazy minority, though small, clearly aren’t small enough, and they've been growing in number.) And I note that I no longer necessarily care about the democratic party being a majority party quite like I did in 2005. If they can get back to being pre-1984 democrats (as far as domestic policy goes), that's one thing; but at this point my hopes for that are greatly diminished.

On the other hand, at least in the short term, if the House does in fact vote again on the healthcare bill per recent republican maneuvering, I have a hard time saying that wavering democrats should back away from their yes vote from Sunday. Not if it also means enabling and emboldening domestic fascism and thuggery, even if, therefore, it also means not stepping back from a really horrible piece of legislation-- which of course is horrible for mostly very different reasons than the tea-baggers suppose. It’s quite a conundrum.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Going After Social Security and Medicare

According to Stephen C. Goss chief actuary (?) of the social security administration this year social security will pay out more than it receives.


Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, said that while the Congressional projection would probably be borne out, the change would have no effect on benefits in 2010 and retirees would keep receiving their checks as usual.

The problem, he said, is that payments have risen more than expected during the downturn, because jobs disappeared and people applied for benefits sooner than they had planned. At the same time, the program’s revenue has fallen sharply, because there are fewer paychecks to tax.

Goss identifies the culprit and blames the economy which I don’t argue with…as far as it goes. What neither Goss nor Greenspan mentions is that Congress has been spending monies from social security and stuffing it with IOU’s in return.


For more than two decades, Social Security collected more money in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits - billions more each year.

Not anymore. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes - nearly $29 billion more.

Sounds like a good time to start tapping the nest egg. Too bad the federal government already spent that money over the years on other programs, preferring to borrow from Social Security rather than foreign creditors. In return, the Treasury Department issued a stack of IOUs - in the form of Treasury bonds - which are kept in a nondescript office building just down the street from Parkersburg's municipal offices.

Here is what Greenspan said.

“Even if the trust fund level goes down, there’s no action required, until the level of the trust fund gets to zero,” he said. “At that point, you have to cut benefits, because benefits have to equal receipts.”

Under democratic leadership Medicare has been cut to help pay for the so-called health care reform. Now social security will come under scrutiny.

President Obama has appointed a bipartisan commission to examine the debt problem, including Social Security, and make recommendations on how to trim the nation’s debt by Dec. 1, a few weeks after the midterm Congressional elections.

They’ve been after Medicare and social security ever since these programs have been implemented. Referred to as entitlements and handouts despite that these are paid for with your money I see this health care reform as a first step, a first step to finally dismantling Medicare. And social security won’t be waiting long in the wings it appears.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

50,000 Advisors For the Iraqi Morons: A Revisionist’s Tale

The New York Times slays me, it really does. Not satisfied with its role as a mega big mouthpiece for the warmongers in Washington who helped push for the invasion of Iraq the Times now regales us with its coverage of the Iraq elections which it calls the “legacy” of the American War. So now the Iraq War is the American War?

But notice how the Times describes the situation there in Iraq.


In a country burdened by its recent past of sectarian war and its longer past of rule by tyranny, and still unfamiliar with the mechanisms of democracy, every statement is parsed for deeper meaning. When Mr. Maliki invoked his commander-in-chief role and the specter of violence in calling for a recount on Sunday, he raised fears that he would not respect the democratic process.

The implication of the first sentence is that the Iraq War has ended by placing it in the recent past ergo the War is no longer occurring. This despite the violence that accompanied the elections. Amazingly the Times doesn’t mention the U.S. role in Iraq’s present condition, it’s instead described as a country burdened by its recent past of sectarian war. Then we are told that the stupid Iraqi are unfamiliar with the mechanism of democracy, what a bunch of morons! Golly, it’s certainly wonderful that the U.S. is in Iraq to save them from their awful past and ignorance of how to live right. So it’s the good and kindly Americans helping the stupid violent brown people out of a mess of their own making, mostly because brown people are stupid and ignorant unlike Americans. That’s just a little revisionist.

By the end of the article we go from the sublime to the truly fantastic.

A valid election and smooth transition to a new government are seen as pivotal events for the legacy of the American war here, as the United States military plans to remove all combat troops by the end of August, leaving 50,000 troops in an advisory role through 2011.

We’re not leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq rather we’re leaving 50,000 advisors! You will note that the only real piece of reality in this fantasia is left to the very last sentence of the article where it is sure to be not read by most. Still, 50,000 advisors for Iraq? Is that what they are? I’ll be damned, I thought they were combat troops but who am I to question the mighty New York Times. I guess the Iraqi must be really, really, really, really, really, really, really stupid to require 50,000 advisors. How about troops as marriage counselors? Or troops for emotionally disturbed Iraq politicians? Troops for kindergarten classes, troops for the lollipop guild, troops for medical advice, legal advice, troops to advise you on pimples and the best way to pop them. I mean, with 50,000 advisors, the sky’s the limit.

We’re never leaving Iraq, we’re never leaving Afghanistan. 50,000 advisors have told me so.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Do Nothing Dems

With the passage of the medical insurance industry welfare bill one thing was proven. The democratic party can pass legislation without the help from the republican party of which not one voted in favor of this legislation. The excuse has always been that without pandering to the far right nothing can be accomplished which is regarded by many as a realist view of American politics yet this supposed victory seems to disprove that assumption.

In other words if the democrats had chosen to do so they could have passed real health care reform legislation rather than welfare for the insurance industry. The democrats could end the wars in the Middle East but they choose not to do so. It’s not that the republicans force them, it’s what the democrats choose to do, to continue and expand the wars even as jobs evaporate and the U.S. slides ever deeper into another great depression.

So let’s stop saying all these things are inevitable every time the wealthy throw us a crumb from the rich man’s table. It wasn’t inevitable that U.S. manufacturing would transplant itself to China. It isn’t inevitable that we must eat dirt and like it. It isn’t inevitable that we cannot have single payer health coverage. And it isn’t inevitable that the U.S. needs to be engaged in three or four different wars concurrently.

So as the democrats pat themselves on the back with a little smirk pasted on their face let’s keep in mind that despite having everything going for them they still won’t accomplish anything not because they cannot but because they simply don’t want to.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Edumacation: half full?

If Dead Horse site meter stats are accurate, very few people like to click on the links, although I suppose that we could be attracting hordes of people who hover over the links, right-click and open them in another window to see if it's more fun that way, but I'm guessing that's not happening. Anyway, this post only makes sense if you follow the links. Yeah I know, bummer.

(OK, I'll make it a bit easier for you; the MSNBC, CBS News, and Ft Worth Star Telegram stories are all the same, although only the Star Telegram is nice enough to name the AP writer, Big Jim Kuhnhenn.)

MSNBC: Student aid linked to health care gets a trim
Congressional Democrats reduce spending for community colleges

New York Times:"Bill Proposes Increased Aid to the Needy for College"
(Published March 18, 2010)

CBS News: "Student Aid Linked To Health Care Gets A Trim
Lawmakers Trim Student Aid Package Now Linked To Health Care Bill"

Inside Higher Education: "Revamped Aid Bill Boosts Pell -- and Provides $2B for Community Colleges"

Fort Worth Star Telegram: "Student aid linked to health care gets a trim"

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Thursday, March 18, 2010


The very latest news from General McChrystal is that we have thousands of troops in Afghanistan to get, now hold on, to get bin Laden! Since McChrystal is a General he wouldn’t be lying to us because everyone knows Generals are made from sterling silver.


The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that it remains the goal of U.S. troops to capture Osama bin Laden alive and "bring him to justice."

A different McChrystal said we are in Afghanistan to fight insurgents.


“Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible,” General McChrystal writes.

A copy of the assessment, with some operational details removed at the Pentagon’s request to avoid compromising future operations, was posted on The Post’s Web site.

In his five-page commander’s summary, General McChrystal ends on a cautiously optimistic note: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.”

But throughout the document, General McChrystal warns that unless he is provided more forces and a robust counterinsurgency strategy, the war in Afghanistan is most likely lost.

Here we have yet another McChrystal talking to someone named Frank and this McChrystal says we’re in Afghanistan to protect the Afghans.


Flying over terrain that has defeated invaders from the British to the Soviets, McChrystal knows he has to do more than just fine tune a strategy that after eight years of war appears on the brink of failure.

So he has issued a new directive on counterinsurgency operations, telling his troops in writing: "We must change the way we think, act and operate."

Protecting the Afghan people - many of them living in impoverished villages - is now more important than killing the enemy, even if that means taking more risks.

So we are in Afghanistan to capture bin Laden who likely left years ago and to protect Afghans by killing the Taliban who are…Afghans. I guess we’re all supposed to be stupid or something. Gosh, I just can’t figger this out. It’s just so complicated I wish I was a General too so I could be as smart as McChrystal.

It’s the Issues not the Personalities

General Petraeus has stated that Israel is causing problems for U.S. interests in the Middle East. This is a very sane thing to say but before we get all dewy eyed over Petraeus I think we should consider just what Petraeus is really saying which is in order for America to continue to expand its imperial wars Israel must behave itself. So while Petraeus has a certain amount of sanity regarding the blatantly obvious his sanity ends where American imperialism begins.

Just to keep things in perspective if you look at a map of the Middle East we see that the northern most border of Iran is on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. We have invaded Iraq which lies on the western Iranian border and Afghanistan on Iran’s eastern borders. And I think you will see also that any pipeline from the Caspian Basin area would have its most direct route to the Persian Gulf right through Iran not Afghanistan. If you recall the Caspian Basin wherein lies trillions of dollars worth of oil and natural gas, perhaps the largest reserves in the world, became an area of intense interest for more than one nation after the collapse of the old Soviet Union. The prize is the oil in the Caspian Basin, not a pipeline through Afghanistan where it would be impossible to keep it free from attack not to mention a very long way to route a pipeline, much longer than a pipeline that ran through Iran. That we are in Afghanistan for a pipeline just doesn’t hold water, or oil if you prefer. However America would go to war over the immense oil fields of the Caspian Basin and Iran is obviously the quickest route for American access to these riches. 9/11 gave America the excuse to invade both Iraq and Afghanistan thereby sandwiching Iran between the two which gives the added advantage of now having large concentrations of U.S. soldiers readily at hand when the time comes for the invasion of Iran. And honestly you’d think that after being suckered once over WMD that people wouldn’t be so accepting of the same line regarding Iran.

This is what Petraeus is concerned about not the Palestinians that suffer under the thumb of Israeli brutality. Sometimes I’m baffled by the tendency for people to be dazzled by national leaders be they presidents or Generals. People are always looking for some hero to step up and save the day shouldering the world’s problems on Atlas shoulders and are inevitably correspondingly disappointed by their heroes.

Just today I was reading about Kucinich’s sellout on the so-called health care legislation being cooked up to provide socialism for the insurance industry. Kucinich went on about how this was important for Obama’s presidency and I say to hell with that. Leaders aren’t important, they’re a dime a dozen, what is important are the issues goddammit. What was important was making sure everyone has access to health care and no I don’t mean via the emergency ward. But the very idea that Obama is more important than poor people receiving the medical care they deserve if for no other reason than they are fellow human beings is so repugnant to me that I have no words to really express it.

Can we please stop worshiping these self glorifying prancing peacocks already? Let’s pay attention to the issues not the personalities that are paraded in front of our eyes. I believe it was Charles de Gaulle that said the graveyard is full of indispensible people. We’re all dispensable, especially in the eyes of the very people that people idolize and for most of us when we die the world moves on without a blink. That may not make us happy to think about but its true none-the-less.

Kucinich can say all he wants about the importance of Obama but it is particularly galling for me because of all people I am quite sure Kucinich knows better than that. He knows how important real reform is, how this legislation will affect the lives of millions of poor and elderly Americans in an adverse way by reducing Medicare benefits while enriching the already bloated and rapacious insurance industry which makes his fawning over Obama all the more odious.

Friday, March 12, 2010

the real news: Matt Welch discusses European style healthcare

More at The Real News

My computer at home is acting up and for once I don't seem to be able to fix it without outside help. As always I am grateful for Rob Payne for more than holding up his end of the horse, as it were. the above is an interview that Paul Jay did recently with Matt Welch of Reason magazine.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stop Pretending it’s Not a War

What is happening in Afghanistan is called war yet people discuss it as if it is something else especially those defending the war. We invaded Afghanistan with our military and are now occupying some areas and we are killing Afghans which is a pretty good description of war. We aren’t protecting Afghans we are bombing them. Almost every day in the news you hear or read of Afghan deaths resulting from the U.S. and NATO bombs. It’s war so let’s stop pretending that it isn’t. This is where all the drivel about nation building, democracy, and humanitarian efforts stem from not a heartfelt desire to raise the brown heathens to lofty white western standards. And if it all sounds like a lot of self conflicting rubbish that’s because it is.

As near as I can tell in the history of the world no nation ever invaded another nation because the invader believed that the invadee needed help yet today America is different. We aren’t the same as those old style imperialists. We’re new and modern and well, we’re different, don’t you get it? What’s the matter with you? That body lying in the dust isn’t a body, its a bilateral collateral collusion of negative force feed data. See? Never, ever, call anything what it actually is as that would be crass. And thus the illusion of normalcy is maintained and spun at an even and uniform rate.

Yesterday the House overwhelmingly, as in overwhelming,voted to continue the Afghan War by voting down Dennis Kucinich’s resolution to end the Afghan War. People want bipartisanship to get things done? Well here you go. Our bipartisan warmongers have just delivered you more endless war, the fruit of bipartisanship. But then of course people like Kucinich and Ron Paul are just fringe lunatics. Anyone who questions the collective world view held by most politicians are ridiculed while main stream political hacks like Obama are glorified beyond anything reasonable and with little or no real justification other than his charisma and even that is half imagined.

If Dennis Kucinich could introduce and fight for a resolution to end the Afghan War why couldn’t Obama? Obama could but he didn’t and won’t because Obama believes in the imperial road. But look at how the House voted. The vote was 356 to 65 which is a resounding reaffirmation of congressional allegiance to war. A completely bipartisan effort. There simply is almost no opposition to the Afghan War in this House of Representatives. Not on the republican side and not on the democratic side. Meet the War Party as some like to call them. An appropriate name. And let’s stop pretending that it isn’t a war yet I doubt we can do even that.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Atomic Adam

McClatchy reports that the U.S. government knows of no American al Qaida member that was captured in Pakistan. And after all the discussion of capital punishment for the dirty traitor, what a shame. I’m no longer shocked by American’s eagerness to kill, to kill anything, someone, something, there always has to be someone to kill. We could call them the eternal enemy. In California the poor have become the enemy, in the 50’s and 60’s it was the commies, before that it was the Yellow Menace. For David Brooks it’s hippies. For republicans it’s socialists and hippies. For democrats it’s republicans. There was a void that needed to be filled with the end of the Cold War and today’s bogey man is of course Muslims and terrorists, or just Muslims in general really. I can only conclude that Americans need enemies, have always needed, wanted, and desired enemies, couldn’t live without enemies.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

It’s a great success!

It’s a great success as America installs our new puppet government in Iraq. Over one million dead, another million who fled, over 4,000 Americans killed, the very land polluted with radioactive ammunition and who knows what else.

It’s a great success because the choice now facing Congress is either spend money on war or spend it on job creation and health care reform. Guess which is going to win. Don’t get me wrong, from what I’ve read about health care reform it would probably be better if the legislation just died on the vine. As far as job creation if it helped even just a few that would be good but what will bring the good jobs back to these shores? It will take more than the stimulus we have seen so far yet that stimulus is sorely needed and it may not be forthcoming after the last 860 billion spent on stimulus though compared to the 3 trillion dollar price tag of the Iraq War it seems like pocket change.

It’s a great success they tell me as I’ve read that as many as fifty Iraqi voters were blown up by al Qaida during the voting process yet before we invaded Iraq al Qaida wasn’t there though they are now. And after all, this is the neocon wet dream, Iraqi citizens voting in an election. And all those who pushed for the Iraq invasion including mainstream commentators like David Brooks and other respected party line hacks who believe wholeheartedly in the System, the sanctity of the Establishment and of elite rule, can all pat themselves on the back as they view the fruit of their handwork. Too bad over one million Iraqi who still might be alive today aren’t around to see it.

It was a great success when Blackwater thugs sprayed bullets into a crowd of people and no doubt Erik Prince thinks it’s been a great success considering the money he must have made. It was a great success for the Pentagon and their partners the so-called defense industry because there is plenty of tax payer money floating around for those who wish to grab it. It also was a great success for the Iraq woman who when she tried to dig her daughter out of the smoking rubble found the only thing left was her daughter’s head. How many Americans must live with such horrific memories? We truly are generous; nobody can deny our selfless devotion to the people of Iraq.

It was a great success for al Qaida as it allowed them to see another 4,000 Americans killed on top of the 3,000 who died on 9/11. Well, Americans have never been famous strategists; we’re more of the point ‘em in the right direction and shoot type. We asymmetrically played right into al Qaida’s hands which was very clever of us. The funny (or not so funny) thing is that this was a success for the people who have profited from these types of war. An awful lot of money was moved around and we can be sure it ended up in the right hands for the most part. The rest of the country is now boxed into a financial corner as jobs continue to evaporate and we labor under a government who has chosen to pursue war even if the cost is the destruction of our well being. In the end al Qaida and the warmongers in government and the private sector couldn’t have helped each other more and the rest of us less. If I were looking for motive I would wonder if al Qaida and the U.S. government weren’t working together because that’s how it looks to me. This would almost lead me to conclude that our government isn’t all that different from al Qaida and that state terrorism isn’t any better than the non-state variety but then you would probably think I was insane.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Elections in Iraq. The people of Iraq are voting in the democracy brought to them by their benevolent friend the U.S. so you would think with all of the emphasis on nation building that we read about in the news that Obama and so many other leading political leaders would be cheering and crying with tears of happiness. Yet the only thing Obama could say was "We have begun to leave Iraq to its own people," and that was it. After years of war and occupation where actual human beings died on both sides not to mention helping to cripple our economy and indebting future generations of Americans we are rewarded with a single short sentence from Obama.


In 2009, 149 American troops died in battle in Iraq - a higher loss rate than all but two of the 10 years U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan. But in 2010, Mr. Obama has mentioned the Iraq war just three times during formal speeches - twice in a single sentence during back-to-back events in early February for the Democratic National Committee and once in his Jan. 27 State of the Union address.

"We have begun to leave Iraq to its own people," he said in his only line about the war during remarks at the Democratic National Committee meeting on Feb. 6.

The tenuous situation still facing U.S. forces in Iraq was underscored again Wednesday, when a string of suicide bomb attacks struck in quick succession in a former insurgent stronghold northeast of Baghdad, killing 32 people just days before a crucial election that will determine who will govern the country as American forces prepare to depart.

Whatever else one can say Iraq still isn’t quite yet the land of milk and honey nor are their halcyon days just around the corner. Still, why the silence on Iraq by Obama and company? A quick answer might be they want us to forget about the Iraq War. Recall that it was Iraq’s oil that was going to pay for the privilege of being invaded by the U.S. yet there have been problems.


Herman T. Franssen, president of the International Energy Associates in Washington, told the Emirates Business 24/7 agency this week that it is unlikely that Iraq will reach its production objectives.

"Iraq continues to grapple with some very serious problems," he said.

"I'll be surprised if they're able to achieve a supply level of 10 million to 12 million barrels a day in the foreseeable future.

"Iraq does not have the required infrastructure, the ports or pipelines to be able to transfer such huge amounts of oil," Franssen said.

The first big problems the Oil Ministry will encounter will be when the country's production capacity reaches 3.8 million bpd, he stressed.

"That's when Iraq's production will match the quota fixed for Iran. And considering the traditional rivalry between the two countries, Iraq will face difficulties in raising output further," Franssen cautioned.

Geopolitical concerns exacerbate Iraq’s problems even further.


None of the significant issues that threatened to tear Iraq apart during the worst years of violence have been resolved. There is no new hydrocarbons law to share energy revenues; the tense standoff over the disputed territories claimed by the Kurdistan Regional Government continues unabated; and there has been scant progress in disarmament or integration of militia.

The 645,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers who make up the country’s security forces are of varying quality and loyalties, with the police especially prone to infiltration by militia elements; and al-Qaeda’s war against ordinary Iraqis continues to take a heavy toll, claiming more than 1,000 lives since last summer.

A grim reminder of the use of agent orange in Vietnam are the increased rates of birth defects in Fallujah the Iraqi city that was literally flattened by the beneficence of U.S. foreign policy where U.S. forces used not only depleted uranium ammunition which is radioactive but also white phosphorous as the Israeli army did against the Palestinians in Gaza.


Doctors in Iraq's war-ravaged enclave of Fallujah are dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants, compared to a year ago, and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The extraordinary rise in birth defects has crystallised over recent months as specialists working in Fallujah’s over-stretched health system have started compiling detailed clinical records of all babies born.

Neurologists and obstetricians in the city interviewed by the Guardian say the rise in birth defects – which include a baby born with two heads, babies with multiple tumours, and others with nervous system problems - are unprecedented and at present unexplainable.

A group of Iraqi and British officials, including the former Iraqi minister for women's affairs, Dr Nawal Majeed a-Sammarai, and the British doctors David Halpin and Chris Burns-Cox, have petitioned the UN general assembly to ask that an independent committee fully investigate the defects and help clean up toxic materials left over decades of war – including the six years since Saddam Hussein was ousted.

Though there is debate about Obama pulling American troops out of Iraq “on schedule” I would remind that the promise was to pull all “combat” troops out of Iraq which doesn’t include private contractors like Blackwater and doesn’t include between 30,000 and 50,000 U.S. troops who evidently won’t be designated as “combat” troops who will remain there in Iraq after the “combat” troops have been moved most likely to Afghanistan. That’s a lot of troops to be left in Iraq by any standard and don’t be fooled by the “combat” designations, an obvious game with words. This is nothing new and was discussed at length during Obama’s election season and was reported in the news such as it is.

This is the big joke really for what could victory in Iraq look like? A government that is considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world as it is now (we do great work)? There is no such thing as victory only an ugly and brutal occupation without end. The very word “victory” implies that two nations are at war over some wrong done or an unforgivable transgression but what the Iraq War really is can only be construed as an illegal invasion by a vastly superior military force against a small nation based on bald-faced lies regarding WMD, in fact it’s a crime of international proportion and for certain one of the great crimes of the twentyfirst century for it is fraud and murder on an epic scale. But then state terrorism has always been the most destructive variety.

Quite likely the silence on Iraq can be attributed to the embarrassment of two failed wars the other being the Afghan War which has gotten much more press than Iraq in recent times mostly due to the surge in propaganda over the assault on Marjah meant to bolster Obama’s ratings and public support as the war widens. And if they are trying to make the Afghan War more acceptable to Americans they certainly aren’t going to run-on about Iraq or if they do it will be pack of lies or just as it already is.

Can-do-ism and the Afghan War

Part of the national narrative fantasy is that WWII was the Good War where the U.S. saved the world from fascism (only to embrace it in the present) never mentioning the part played by Russia of course. Out of this false perception that WWII was good grew the idea that American industry and know-how could solve any problem and that everything always turns out for the best in the end. It’s a nice little fairy tale but has little to do with reality.

General Petraeus adds to the fantasy by telling us that the nine year old war in Afghanistan will have a positive outcome, after much violence naturally. This, despite the fact that after nine years the Taliban still controls most of Afghanistan and If Iraq is any example of how things turn out okay in the end we should view Petraeus’s reassurances with much skepticism.

Even the lies of the elite are lies because there is no victory not even under its myriad forms which vary with the weather. One day it’s to defeat al Qaida who left a long time ago, or it’s to bring democracy to the Afghans, or it’s to defeat the Taliban who aren’t al Qaida and other such nonsense. Through much of the W. Bush years “victory” in Iraq was always just around the corner which continues today in Afghanistan with Petraeus whispering sweet nothings in our ear speaking of good things to come. The only thing coming down the road is more war which is just fine with Petraeus because the whole idea is to keep the wars going and at all costs.

Petraeus tells us the Afghan War is important because the 9/11 attacks originated there, a return from spreading democracy to “getting” al Qaida, who are somewhere else. Al Qaida doesn’t belong to a particular nation and since the plans for 9/11 were drawn up in Germany, not Afghanistan, by Petraeus’s own logic we should have invaded Germany. That way Petraeus could have told us that not only did the Nazis save Hitler’s brain but transplanted it into the body of bin Laden as well. A miracle of modern medicine! It would be no more ridiculous than what we are being told by our leaders today.

Not everything can be fixed and unjustified optimism isn’t non-cynical it’s just plain stupid. No amount of American know-how is going to make good things come out of these wars whatever Petraeus may tell us.

None of this addresses the morality for these wars where entire nations are brought to a ruinous end with infrastructures destroyed, millions of people driven from their homes and their way of life destroyed perhaps forever, the dead and the dying, the mutilated and the insane, all victims of the toothy parasite known as General Petraeus and the rest of our national leaders, parasites all. How else do describe something that attaches itself to your body politic and sucks the life blood from your nation?

But not to worry, everything is going to be just fine, everything turns out well in the end, god looks after every sparrow in the forest and I would be happy to sell you a bridge or some land in Florida.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Jon Swift, aka Al Weisel

Jon Swift blogger

Barbara O'Brien of the Mahablog reports that Al Weisel, aka Jon Swift of the blogosphere, passed away on Feb 27th, of an aortic aneurysm. (see also Tom Watson, here.) He is survived by his mother but not his father, whose funeral he was attending.

Al Weisel also had a separate, somewhat ironically titled, homepage here.

Swift, as I knew him, offered this on his blog and facebook page as self description:

I am a reasonable conservative who likes to write about politics and culture. Since the media is biased I get all my news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues.

Probably needless to say, this was in jest. Although I note that he was more just than at least one other faux-conservative blogger whose name/moniker I can't remember just now. Kevin Hayden writes:

...And that was as essential as Al's wit. He impressed me mightily as a decent and fair man. He didn't use his blog as a bludgeon to destroy conservatives. He chided and ridiculed, but he also engaged them and encouraged them to respond. They weren't run out of Dodge as occurs on many a liberal site.

His mother posted this at the blog. I can only imagine how she must feel.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Wayne Morse on Democracy and the President’s prerogatives in foreign policy…

Via Counterpunch

When was the last time you heard a politician speak up like that? Wasn’t in the last election, that’s for sure.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Good Liberals

I'm adding this in reference to Rob's post below. It's "Ralph Nader Was Right About Barach Obama," by Chris Hedges, writing at TruthDig.Com. All of it should be read, for its clarity and powerful prose, and here's the link.

It includes:
"The timidity of the left exposes its cowardice, lack of a moral compass and mounting political impotence. The left stands for nothing. The damage Obama and the Democrats have done is immense. But the damage liberals do the longer they beg Obama and the Democrats for a few scraps is worse. It is time to walk out on the Democrats. It is time to back alternative third-party candidates and grass-roots movements, no matter how marginal such support may be. If we do not take a stand soon we must prepare for the rise of a frightening protofascist movement, one that is already gaining huge ground among the permanently unemployed, a frightened middle class and frustrated low-wage workers."

Yes, and we will wring our hands and feel betrayed and wonder why the earth is shifting under our feet, but we'll never, ever blame Obama because we're good liberals and he's--.
Well, he is, isn't he? Or at least, half.