Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Does the US Spend Too Much on Foreign Aid? - Peter Singer

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Tell Me Where it Hurts

Torture is an ongoing feature of the American empire. We used torture as far back as the U.S. invasion of the Philippines after the Spanish American War and likely prior to that time as well considering the way Native Americans were slaughtered. In fact Indian children were torn from their families and horribly abused. Torture is still being used today under Obama despite whatever else he may claim.

So why does Obama not wish to neither investigate nor prosecute the guilty? I have read many opinions on why. One is many Democrats have been complicit in the use of torture. While this is without question true it is also true that torture is ongoing so to seek prosecution of guilty individuals would mean that we recognize that torture is wrong in every sense and therefore we would logically halt the use of torture. But we simply aren’t doing that. It may be that our leaders are afraid that if an independent investigation really occurred that it might ultimately lead to wider recognition that we still torture captives making it more difficult to continue the practice. I believe the simplest explanation is that Obama is a firm believer in American exceptionalism, enthusiastically so. How exciting to be in the big time, a world player choosing who is to live and who will die. Obama believes in the fantasy of world dominion where U.S. interests are always preeminent, always the motive for murderous expansion.

In a previous post I wrote the following concerning the criminal proceedings in Spain against members of the Bush administration for the use of torture…

…Secondly it really obscures the fact that the U.S. is still sending prisoners to secret prisons in foreign lands to be tortured and killed.

My thinking behind that statement was twofold. Firstly, why prosecute underlings when we have Bush and Cheney dead to rights and that by investigating some Bush underlings it creates a false assumption that the use of torture is no longer tolerated by our enlightened shining light, the Saintly Obama, who comes with more Teflon than Reagan ever dreamed of being coated with. And of course if the majority of Americans can be misled into believing that torture has been halted so much the better, so much easier to continue the practice.

Maybe the question should not be why Obama doesn’t want an investigation but why does he actually want an investigation despite his public statements to the contrary? I’m not saying that I know this to be a fact or that I actually believe it, it is merely conjecture. Then again maybe it is enough that with the release of the torture memos the topic of investigation and prosecution is now being discussed which achieves pretty much the same thing, that it creates an assumption that we no longer torture prisoners.

I know I have said this before and that I am repeating myself but the immense hypocrisy of investigating and prosecuting those who have tortured in the past by a government that continues to torture is something that almost boggles the mind.

Shocking behavior by French citizens, 1871.

(cross-posted at Cancer Logic)

I think I just discovered the reason why the "common knowledge" in American society is that the French are "arrogant." I was thinking a few days ago about traveling abroad for graduate study with hopes of repatriating elsewhere after finishing the study. As I was looking through different schools' information, I ran across a Student Guide to Americans studying at an UK university (it was either Sussex or Edinburgh). In that Guide it said something to the effect that the American student should be careful to avoid being loud, pushy, overbearing, impatient because those are the traits that the locals most dislike about Americans in general.

That such an attitude would exist among locals in a country that is a lot like the USA in many ways (especially government-wise, economically, foreign-policy-wise in the past few decades) isn't all that surprising. Our national character may be touted in our public schools as self-reliant, entrepreneurial, hard-working. How it plays out in reality is different. Loud, pushy, overbearing, impatient -- all true. Aggressive, violent, disdainful, sociopathic even... also true.

Would it be such a surprise for another country to find this behavior so unwelcome as to develop a dismissive, even arrogant attitude toward the American government and, by extension, its people?

Especially if that other country happens to speak another language. I mean, it's a common American form of arrogance to be insulted in another nation when someone won't understand the speaker's American-language questions or statements. Especially when the native's failure to understand American is greeted with impatience, rather than patient attempts at bridging the gap in language.

Small wonder, then, that an American in Paris would find Parisians "arrogant." I find most of my fellow Americans astonishingly boorish, pushy, arrogant, impatient, ignorant, self-centered, culturally-narrow and Amerocentric. I can't say that I'm all that proud to be an American when I see the frequency with which other Americans behave as complete assholes on the global stage. And yes, I think our Angel Obamoroni is an utter asshole on the global stage. As was his predecessor Gee Dubs, and his predecessor Slick Willie, and his predecessor Poppy Bush, and his predecessor Ray-Gun. Even James Earl Carter did some stupid stuff, or at least looked the other way when our Military and CIA did stupid stuff. In fact, American presidents have behaved as assholes almost without exception when it comes to foreign relations -- an Imperialist, militarist arrogance has been the underlying theme. Even where we pretended to enter WW 2 to save the world "from Hitler," our leading businessmenFN at the time were profiting mightily by investing in the Weimar Republic (and surreptitiously thereafter in Nazi Germany), or by selling weaponry and other machinery of war to the Weimar Republic (and secretly thereafter to Nazi Germany). And it's pretty hard to call the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki global humanitarianism, isn't it?

I think the real reason it's a "cultural truism" in America to assume the French are arrogant lays in something else entirely, though.

In 1871 there was a revolution in France. In the wake of the revolution, the interim Paris Commune government decreed the following (among others) to restructure the French government (per Wikipedia):
* the separation of church and state;

* the remission of rents owed for the entire period of the siege (during which, payment had been suspended);

* the abolition of night work in the hundreds of Paris bakeries;

* the granting of pensions to the unmarried companions and children of National Guards killed on active service;

* the free return, by the city pawnshops, of all workmen's tools and household items valued up to 20 francs, pledged during the siege; the Commune was concerned that skilled workers had been forced to pawn their tools during the war;

* the postponement of commercial debt obligations, and abolition of interest on the debts; and

* the right of employees to take over and run an enterprise if it were deserted by its owner; the Commune, nonetheless, recognized the previous owner's right to compensation.
What do you think would happen in America if the citizenry were to argue for such measures to be adopted here?

Do you think the Obamessiah would invoke his Divine Power and restructure things with a thunderbolt emanating from his right index finger?

What if we engaged in a letter-writing campaign sending letters to the US Congress. Do you think they would listen to the working and middle class citizens, instead of the rich citizens, corporations, businesses, PACs who ply those Congresscritters with money, toys, whores, food, trips, booze and cocaine?

How about our Supreme Court? Would it honor such radical changes? Or would it nullify them with a loud chorus of banging gavels?FN2

And what of our soldiers, pressed into "emergency" duty as police and headbangers attacking their fellow citizens? Will we see Kent State repeat itself on a broad scale? Or will the Military refuse to do such an amoral thing? And that's not even considering the mercenary goons employed by Blackwater, Aegis, and other like businesses where the business is murder-for-hire and all other forms of violence falling short of murder, also for hire.

You tell me, reader.

Wouldn't it be seen as "arrogant" to want to wrest some power, money and control away from those who have held it for so long? Wouldn't it be seen as arrogant to have a nation where the "little people" have actual input and the government actually takes care of the poor, rather than the rich?

I wonder.


FNFor example, finance house Dillon Read was an aggressive investor in the Weimar Republic & Nazi Germany; DuPont sold explosives and other material to the Weimar Republic & Nazi Germany; Poppy Bush's daddy Prescott Bush was one of the architects of the plan of investing in the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany while also being pivotal financially in scaling up American war operations at home -- double dipping at its finest! Playing both sides of a battle, while sending your countrymen off to die at the hands of those you have financed and given weaponry and machinery necessary for war... a moral example for the aeons!

FN2This has modern relevance for states that have suggested a desire to part company with the federal government on questions of National ID Card requirement, or abrogation of the 2d Amendment gun ownership right. Also relevant for states where there is an active secession movement.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

us versus them, etc

Briefly, two recent items from out there in th' blog-O-sphere:

1.Democratic complicity and what "politicizing justice" really means:

The inability of so many people (both Republicans and Obama-loyal Democrats) to view the need for prosecutions independent of political considerations is a potent sign of how sick our political culture has become. The need for criminal investigations is motivated by one simple, consummately apolitical fact: serious and brutal crimes were committed at the highest levels of the government, ones that left a trail of many victims. A country that purports to live under the rule of law has no choice but to treat its most powerful members who commit serious crimes exactly the same as ordinary citizens who do so. That has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. - Glenn greenwald

2. John Emerson, "Where are the Pitchforks?

"As I've said many times, Republican populism is fake, but Democratic elitism is real."

via the inimitable Avedon.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Condi Rice’s Life-Long Pursuit of Truth and Liberty


And we acknowledge together this remarkable truth: the future belongs to liberty - fueled by markets and trade, protected by the rule of law and propelled by the fundamental rights of the individual.

--Condi Rice, Republican National Convention, 2000


Condoleezza Rice gave permission for the CIA to use waterboarding techniques on the alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah as early as July 2002, the first known official approval for the technique, according to a report released by the Senate intelligence committee yesterday.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Janis Karpinski

This is from Tuesday or Wednesday night, I think. (I don't have access to most cable channels, so I haven't actually seen Olberman's show in quite some time. You may recall that Janis Karpinski was the general in command at Abu Gharib, and consequently one of the fall guys for the scandal.

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Bullshit posturing, obscurantist equivocation -- it's morning in Obamerica!

It's become more than a minor annoyance to hear Donkeybot Obamormons slavering and drooling over the "secret strategy" that supposedly will sandbag those evil Elephants on the subject of the Yoo-Addington-Gonzales-Ashcroft torture memos and their pseudo-legal analysis. The average Obamormon thinks that his/her Angel Obamoroni is a brilliant strategist. The reasons I've heard?
He's a smart man.

He's a brilliant lawyer.

He's a master strategist.
What's the proof of any of these things? Oh sure, I know what is the "proof."

If I'm to use "common knowledge" among Americans, I'd have to conclude that The Obamessiah's education at our Empire's utterly finest Ivy League schools makes him a genius at whatever he does. That's the effect of an Ivy education, according to American folklore -- it takes a humble average soul, and turns that humble soul into the God-Power of (as Tom Wolfe called them) our Empire's Masters of the Universe.

Whenever I hear such trumpeting of Ivy Glory, I am reminded of the days I spent as a litigator in a NYC-area law firm. It was a very good firm, with excellent lawyers. About 60 of them. Not a huge firm, but definitely not small. They came from all different backgrounds, and a variety of colleges and law schools. Curiously, the ones with an Ivy education were no more brilliant, wise, strategic or clever than the ones who went to supposedly 2d tier schools. I found the same when my litigation adversaries were from white-shoe NYC firms. The sad realization: despite American folklore's massive worship of the Ivy League, it's really no different from State School Hell. It's just more pretentious.

So I'm not eager to grasp (much less accept) the implorings of those who insist the Angel Obamoroni is here to deliver divine judgment via some mysterious, waiting-in-the-wings deus ex machina. At least not when those implorings are premised on the supposed superhuman advantages disbursed by the Ivy League academies.

I'm a bit baffled by some of the legal strategy-oriented comments I hear or read from non-lawyers. Apparently they're just accepting the standard Donkeybot Obamormon shilling by some "expert" or other. Who's offering such shilling? Apparently Elizabeth de la Vega, the woman attorney who wrote a book that basically was a legal brief arguing for Bush's impeachment. Ms de la Vega has an axe to grind -- selling copies of her non-selling book -- which depends heavily on the idea that the real culprits in America's current clusterfuck are Those Evil Elephants. De la Vega suggests that the Angel Obamoroni is hiding a secret "gotcha!" strategy that will ultimately lay all culpability on the Bush/Cheney Admin.

Check this fantasy pitch offered in a comment at Chris Floyd's blog:
And whatever else you have to say about Barack Obama, he is a smart lawyer. It’s obvious he has parsed his words with extreme care. Although I can not see into Obama’s heart or character any more clearly than you, it’s my belief that he is actually more of a “radical” than you give him credit for. Indeed, I think it's possible he’s even more radical than you give yourself credit for. He may actually want to make inroads into the system, not just righteously rail against it from the outskirts.
Do you see the distraction and triangulation at work here? It's hard for me to know whether this comment was written by a true Obama team member, or just someone who has bought the Obama message without question. Mr Genius suggests that the real Angel Obamoroni is a true radical, a wolf in sheep's clothing. And he's that radical mainly because Mr Genius is sure that Chris Floyd's not as radical as the Angel Obamoroni is.


Come again?

Obama is radical because Mr Genius thinks Chris Floyd is not radical?

How does that work, exactly?

And what does it have to do with the Angel Obamoroni giving full legal cover to the Bush/Cheney Admin's legal arguments related to torture?

What legal strategy starts with formally adopting your supposed adversary's position, and filing that adoption as your formal legal position via briefs written by your own Justice Department -- briefs in which you heartedly support that supposed adversary's position?

From that start, how does this brilliant "sandbag" strategy play out? Who can tell me? I was a pretty good litigation strategist in my day. I don't see how this supposed "sandbag" is going to play out. Is some other Internet Genius going to explain it to me? I doubt it.

Looking to a legal "expert" on this subject of the Angel Obamoroni singing the praises of Yahweh Dubya's torture position... well, it doesn't seem to be accurate. This isn't a legal argument strategy playing out. It's a political move -- and one that has only a single reason behind it. That reason? I'll let two good journalists tell you.

Here's Chris Floyd:
...the comparison of this case to the Bush Adminstration's perversion of the Justice Department does not hold water. Here, we are not talking about "politicizing" the justice system in any way; we are dealing with glaring, credible evidence of actual crimes that have been committed. In any normal, non-political circumstance, the law should be allowed to take its course against any and all perpetrators of these crimes. The Bush Administration was manufacturing cases where the alleged crimes were either completely non-existent or worked up from speciously applied technicalities by prosecutors and judges with clear partisan bias. The only "politicization" involved in prosecuting the torture case has come from Obama's specific offers of protection from prosecution for the CIA and the Bush White House.

To sum up: Obama released memos that he was legally required to release, while at the same time making very public claims that the CIA perpetrators of the torture would not be prosecuted, and quieter, "deep background" claims to favored press outlets that the officials who ordered the torture would not be prosecuted either. You find this a "radical" course of action that will "make inroads into the system." I'm afraid I disagree.
And here's Dennis Perrin:
The day that senior Bush officials, like Bush and Cheney themselves, take the perp walk in chains and orange jumpsuits is the day I publically register as a Democrat, don an Obama t-shirt, and burn a stack of "Savage Mules." Of course, for justice to be seriously administered, many leading Dems would also have to be charged, not only for supporting or silently tolerating torture and rendition, but for beating the war drums over Iraq, the broken, bloody stage where much of this official "concern" originated with the Abu Ghraib photo sessions. This would naturally include the Vice President and Secretary of State, whose firing, arrest, and prosecution would show just how impartial American justice truly is, a shining counterexample to those lawless states that allow piracy to go unpunished.

But none of this is gonna happen. In American politics, talking and posturing about "justice" is about as good as it gets. Oh, maybe some lower echelon cog will be sacrificed to keep the charade going, but the real crime lords will avoid any jail time or serious censure as Obama urges us to "get past" this "aberration" to our noble system of governance. His slow motion pose about not impeding criminal investigations is simply more imperial pantomime -- chum bait for the rubes.

No matter what he does or doesn't do, Obama will not face a liberal mutiny, and he knows it. While a few Democrats like Glenn Greenwald are making critical noises against Obama's obfuscation, it remains a minority view. The liberal overreaction to the pitiful teabag demonstrations showed their true, loyal colors. That many of the teabaggers hold fantastic concepts of Obama helps his lib admirers, as it diverts attention away from his actual positions, giving Dem mouthpieces like Janeane Garofalo room to rant about idiot crackers who dare protest a black president, something you won't see Garofalo and kindred ideologues ever do, not with the energy and anger they protested Bush.

There are rare moments when the American Fix is so blatant, so obvious, that speaking against it merely reinforces its power and reach. This is one of those moments. Admire it, fellow peasants. You have nothing to lose but your CHANGE.
I could write a further lawyer-ish analysis that would mirror the thoughts offered by Messrs Floyd and Perrin, but I think I'll just rest my case here. Any of you readers having a strategy analysis that runs contrary, please offer it up in a comment. Maybe you can change my mind, maybe you can make me see the secret sandbag strategy of the Angel Obamoroni, in a manner that is more defensible than that which has been offered to date by the flock of Obamormons who are merely fawning over the Voice of God as spoken through the Angel Obamoroni.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Torture, secret memos and piracy(continued)

1.Last week in the comments for Rob's discussion of the Somali piracy incident, I noted that earlier this year Avedon Carol in The Sideshow discussed the Somali piracy phenomenon, and suggested that it was viewed very differently by the locals--

here's the quote, from Johann Hari, (from January '09):

Johann Hari : "You are being lied to about pirates: "In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas. Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. [...] At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. [...] This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent 'strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence'."

2. Last week I intended, initially, to write about the recent court ruling in favor of Minnesota's Al Franken(a mere five months after the election!), and the thick-headed participants in the so-called tea party tax protests, discussing the tribalism of the right, while also touching upon the tribalism of the left.

A few months ago I started an essay I never published in which I proposed a unified field theory of the right and the left in American Politics, in which I pictured the graph of the differences between the two as resembling a bowling pin, in which at the top of the pin, the elite left and the right are actually very close to each other in their views, with the richest and most powerful converging at the top of the pin. Then, as we go farther down, in connectedness, general awareness, and power, the body of the pin representing the middle-class starts to widen(appropriately enough, at the point at which the pin is actually struck by the ball), then when we get to the lower blue-collar depths we have another convergence, albeit one that is often obscured by the bar of the automatic pin re-setter. (By the way, did you know the very top of the bowling pin is called the crown? Strangely appropriate, I'd say.)

I'm reminded of this because when I reflect on the rescue of the American captain, the pirates, and the torture memos against the backdrop of the struggle over the Senate seat in Minnesota and the ludicrous tea party rallies, I'm struck by how the the meaningful differences between the left and the right seem to be lessening precisely as the symbolic(and mostly meaningless) differences between the two are becoming more heated and difficult to bridge.

Of course when I say the meaningful differences I'm talking strictly about those among elected democrats and republicans, not about theories of government. It's as if the mainstream US media
, and not just Fox News, is conspiring to make people even stupider, as if the powers that be actually want heightened social conflict, and not just an unsuccessful Obama presidency(which of course is pretty ironic if they do want that, insofar as Obama is essentially a latter-day Rockefeller Republican.)

I say this because even though I don't think most Americans are as dim as the "tea-baggers". I suspect if the release of the torture memos was properly explained to people by the major news outlets, a lot more people would realize the degree to which Obama represents a nearly seamless continuation of US foreign policy from the Bush II administration, that his hand was forced by the ACLU, and finally the ridiculousness of the argument that acknowledging torture, as opposed to the torturing itself, hurts the US. To buy that it helps if you believe that people in other countries have just as doggedly naive and blinkered a view of the US government as most Americans do, and I guess large numbers of
Americans DO believe that.

Initially, when I meant to discuss just the Minnesota Senate race and the Fox News Tea Parties, my working title was "Al Franken and the Myth of Bipartisanship". I reflected on the so-called Brooks Brothers riot in Florida in November of 2000 when republican activists intimidated a group of poll workers into stopping a recount and had to be extricated from the midst of the preppie rioters by local police. As far as I know, we saw no remotely comparable phenomenon on the democratic side, either in Florida in 2000 or in Minnesota in 2008-2009. Democratic tribalism tends to involve more bourgeois pissiness than threats of violence, even though democrats' same yearning for respectability is part the problem when it comes to the mostly exhausted left's squeamishness about resisting empire, especially now that Our President Jesus has the launch codes.

Whether you want to attribute it to republican tendencies towards authoritarianism or the comparative sheepishness of rank and file democrats, or both, or yet other factors, there are still areas in which the differences between the two parties matter, even if they're fewer than one might like. Of course a lot of that sheepishness comes from rank and file democrats being told to be sheepish by part leaders, as well as by the nice people on television who tell us what to think. One of the things that is rarely remarked upon in this context is the influence that democratic capitulation has not just on voters on the left but so-called independents and even conservative voters: every time a big name democratic politician is seen to agree with criticisms from the right it drives the right rightward, and makes potentially reachable independents less reachable.

OK, to some extent I am tripping myself up with my choice of words:they imply that the democratic party leadership are doing this reluctantly. In fact I no longer think this is the case, and they've actually chosen this path and continue to push faux liberalism rightward, a deliberate choice for at least the past 12 to 14 years. It's tempting to blame Bill "the era of big government is over" Clinton for this, but to recall a cliché, nobody held a gun to John Kerry or Harry Reed, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary, Obama, et al.

Back to the events of last week, and how the simple-minded identities the political leaders and media foist on us make it difficult for people to see them clearly.

(parenthetically, I would urge you to read Arthur Silber's four part series on tribalism(
Part I is here.), if you haven't done so already. I don't know precisely how to measure how his arguments have influenced the present discussion, but I don't doubt they have.)

Anyway-- look at these four different things: the trials of Al Franken, the "Tea parties", the rescue of the American captain and the release of the Torture memos. In a way, all four of these events from last week collapse into each other and are about one another, illustrating how prefabricated media-provided identities help us figure out "where to stand" on these as items to fight over rather than as events to understand.

The supposedly liberal New York Times described it as "another setback" for Norm Coleman, when in fact every count and every judicial ruling thus far has gone against him and you don't have to be a democrat or a Franken supporter to see that Coleman never had a case to stay in the race. I say this without any opinion about whether or not Franken will prove to be a good senator and without having read any of his books.

I saw two brief news stories(video, here and here) about the Tea Parties from April 15th. They didn't talk to anyone who wasn't white, and nobody mentioned being out of work or fear of impending job loss, just fear of paying taxes. I note that conservative media darling "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher was at an event in Lansing, Michigan.(Who pays this guy to run around the country? I'm guessing he has an agent.) The story in the Detroit Free Press(here) says the protesters were concerned about high taxes and mounting national debt, but makes no mention of any concern for the fate of auto workers at Chrysler and GM. This suggests to me that not only are they mean, but almost poignantly stupid, as all of Michigan will suffer if one or both of these companies go under.

I'm also guessing none of the tea part protesters complained when George W. Bush decided to squander the budget surplus he inherited from Bill Clinton by slashing taxes on the wealthy and starting two wars. One of the persons in the 2nd video(above, by the UPI) actually said she wanted to see more money spent to fight terrorism and on defense, although it also sounded like she wanted the troops brought home as well.

But there's the rub-- the tea partiers are right to be angered by the bailouts of the major banks, as well as being right to be concerned about a runaway deficit, even if the lightbulbs only come on when the bad, other guys occupy the throne, and their brains are often filled with a lot of other, screwier thoughts as well, like their hatred of Mexicans, and their fondness for creationism and the womb police. Of course the left will in all likelihood give Obama a pass on the Af-Pak war and torture, even among those cleverer lefties who understand the concept of blowback.

That's another way in which the media fails the citizens-- apart from an intuitive understanding some already have, I'm guessing your average tv news viewer has never seen a robust discussion of the concept, one that has to grow increasingly relevant to an empire in its waning days. You could try to explain that to people, and some of them would get it, and would understand why torture matters and how dehumanizing the Somali kidnappers and being indifferent to their deaths is not necessary in order to be glad the captain wasn't killed as well, and to understand why the whole phenomenon of Somali piracy is itself a kind of blowback.

Of course Dubya also got a pass-- on reckless deregulation and spending, because it was defense spending, the kind we can't question, just as nobody on your television-- not the politicians of either stripe, nor the million dollar reporters-- wonder if curbing the empire might help the US get out of the horrible financial shithole we're in. But what do they care, the people at the top of the bowling pin will stay above the sewage the rest of us will soak in.

see also-

: Bernard Chazelle
They've Always Tortured. The Difference Is Now They Write Memos

Nell Lancaster, Torture: It's not about "intelligence gathering"
(Cross-posted at A Tiny Revolution)

BBC: US boycotts UN racism conference

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama and the Secret Memos: Or How Obama Radicalized Me

One needn’t look too far or too hard to find hypocrisy. Often it is as easy as looking in a mirror yet hypocrisy, when employed in the defense of torture, degrades us all as human beings. For Bush and Cheney it wasn’t torture if you weren’t actually pulling out toenails and teeth with pliers or using thumb presses or slicing away body parts. This type of justification is what leads us down the darker alleys of inhumanity. Obama’s hypocrisy is to shut down the more glaring torture eyesores while allowing the practice to in essence continue by letting non-Americans do the torturing for us.


Barack Obama today released four top secret memos that allowed the CIA under the Bush administration to torture al-Qaida and other suspects held at Guantánamo and secret detention centres round the world.

But, in an accompanying statement, Obama ruled out prosecutions against those who had been involved. It is a "time for reflection, not retribution," he said.

So even though the Obama administration has ruled that indeed torture took place we should all look the other way and contemplate our belly buttons. This stance is to be expected especially when one is still using torture. So on one hand Obama condemns torture yet he will not prosecute the people responsible for committing torture, Bush and Cheney. Obama pretty much lets both off the hook.

Obama, in a statement from the White House, said: "In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carrying out their duties relying in good faith upon the legal advice from the department of justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."

It sounds very much like Obama is saying that since Bush and Cheney had the okay from the justice department they really aren’t guilty of any wrongdoing. The problem with all this fine hair splitting by Obama is that almost everyone believes that torture is wrong, knows torture is wrong, but instead we should all play-pretend that we all were just born yesterday and really didn’t know it was wrong. This is one of a multitude of things that bother me regarding Obama -- that I feel like he is talking down to people, also that we are expected to swallow his numerous lies is insulting. Not only is Obama’s position legally and morally questionable but it is arrogant as well. Basically I find Obama to be arrogant to the point where his judgment is correspondingly affected.

And so life continues on its warped plane of existence and we are told once again that we should look ahead not behind, also that we are reassuring the torturers that the way is clear and all is forgiven. Obama must believe we are all complete idiots. On issue after issue Obama has chosen positions at odds with the chosen one’s image as the peace president, the savvy and smarter Obama. Though if Obama was so savvy one wonders why he needed to ask what the U.S. goal in Afghanistan was after he had already said he intended to escalate the number of troops there. And considering that Obama actively sought out the presidency he should already have had a good idea of just what we are doing in Afghanistan and why since he would be in charge of it. After all, there is no real goal other than the march toward world domination with the war profiteers tagging along for the ride while feeding at the pig trough.

Recently I was talking with a liberal friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in some time. He asked me what I thought of Obama. I said I didn’t care for Obama or his policies. My friend replied that I was the most radical person he knew. The irony is here is Obama continuing with the bulk of Bush policies and I shouldn’t object because, because, because why? Why shouldn’t people object to the blood already dripping from his fingers? I really don’t see how objecting to the death of innocent people, mostly women and children, makes you radical when it ought to make you just plain human. But if objecting to bloodshed makes you a radical then I think this place could use a few more radicals.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What it Stands For

After backing the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia the U.S. once again makes clear its role as police of the world with Obama announcing that the U.S. would work toward eradicating the Somali pirates ensuring justice would prevail. The Lone Ranger couldn’t have said it better. Obama uses words like justice quite freely. But where is the justice for the thousands of murdered Somali people, people murdered by proxy for the U.S., more burnt offerings for the great gods of war and profit, fear and deceit. Somehow the murdered Somali didn’t come up in Obama’s comments on the daring rescue of the sea captain who didn’t go down with his ship. But isn’t that how it always is? We see what we want to and ignore the rest.

And what rare meat this is for the news media, a break from Obama’s new puppy, real pirates, good guys and bad guys, adventure and derring-do. In fact it’s such wonderful fodder for dime store novels that the news media neglects to bring up the slaughter in Somalia backed by the U.S. in its reporting on the piracy much like Obama. How quickly and how naturally do Obama’s words fall out of his mouth as he promises to nix the pirates. It’s a given, thinking on autopilot, that when pirates pop up it’s up to the U.S. to save the world. That’s Obama in a nutshell, a skewed and puerile view of what the U.S. stands for that is no different from any of his predecessors.

CNN reported in quavering tones that “The pirates were now in possession of 100 million dollars worth of oil!” Can you imagine? Though how pirates would unload said oil is beyond me but there you go. But fear not for Obama is here to fight a never ending battle for truth justice and the American way. The piracy also provided that picture perfect moment for Obama to strut his PR skills. The two main tasks facing Obama seem to be one, providing PR to the public to reassure and cajole us into a stupor and the second to continue the expansion of U.S. world dominion no matter the cost.

Beneath the Obama PR there is another reality which resides on the other side of the world in the far-away land of Afghanistan. U.S. and NATO forces continue to murder innocent Afghans attacking remote areas bombing houses in the dead of night. Across the border in Pakistan similar war crimes are being committed with the cowardly use of unmanned drones again resulting in mostly “collateral” damage meaning innocent civilians. This is the real face of Obama lurking behind the hype of respectability imparted by the power he wields so unwisely.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Some recent things

artist: Fay Valentine

Seems there is a

Tell "The Progressive" to drop George McGovern from 100th Anniversary Event
Facebook page. The people signing on are angered that McGovern spoke out against the Employee Free Choice Act. The Progressive magazine is holding its 100th Anniversary Conference in Madison, Wisconsin on May 1st and 2nd.(Not too surprisingly, the magazine also has a Facebook group, which has a discussion board.)

NATO commemorated their 60th anniversary this past Saturday, April 4th. I'm not clear what purpose they serve in the post-Soviet era, let alone why they are fighting in Afghanistan, which isn't exactly a particularly North or particularly Atlantic part of the world. Ironically or not, April 4th is also the anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination.

Al Jazeera, from February 2008, "Asia's hidden arms race"

and more recently,

How to survive a Gaza refugee camp


Why can't Iran have nuclear weapons?
a recent comment forum, also at Al Jazeera, from last month.

a new (to me) web site:

U.S. Media and Israel: Sharing the Balanced Truth about Israel Media Coverage in the U.S.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gregorio de la Rosa, and his son

Raymondville, Texas:
Do you remember the Wackenhut corporation? Apparently they've changed their name and are now the GEO group, but they still run private prisons for a profit and they get themselves in hot water due to their employees' wanton or grossly neglectful behavior. They just lost in their attempt to persuade a Texas appeals court to overturn a 42.5 million dollar judgment for wrongful death:

Houston Chronicle, "Appellate court upholds judgment in inmate's death"

A Willacy County jury had ordered Wackenhut Corrections Corp., now known as The GEO Group, and Warden David Forrest to pay the civil judgment to the family of Gregorio de la Rosa Jr."We find that Wackenhut's conduct was clearly reprehensible and, frankly, constituted a disgusting display of disrespect for the welfare of others and for this state's civil justice system," the Thirteenth Court of Appeals said in last week's ruling affirming the Willacy County civil judgment returned in 2006.

De la Rosa died a few days before his expected 2001 release, when two inmates used padlocks stuffed into socks to beat him to death.

and, from The Brownsville Herald, a PDF of the 114 page opinion. (Raymondville is Deep South Texas, near Brownsville, which is right on the border with Mexico and one of the chronically economically-deprived areas in the state. In the Rio Grande Valley the recession isn't something new but a continuation of the Nixon/Ford era one. ( The Valley is also heavily Democratic, but this is Texas and you know, funding priorities being what they are-- what can you do? )

The Thirteenth Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the case of Wackenhut Corrections Corporation and Warden David Forrest versus Gregorio de la Rosa Sr. His son, Gregorio de la Rosa Jr., was beaten to death with a lock wrapped in a sock while he was an inmate at the Wackenhut private prison in Willacy County on April 26, 2001.

CLICK HERE for the 114 page opinion.

[post revised for clarity- JV]

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Monday, April 06, 2009

I think we're going to be hearing some complaints about Japan and Venezuela

...and mainly from the Obama Admin, the Obamabot nation, the GOP, and any other hawk-minded folks of other ideological views.

It seems that Japan and Venezuela have just created a large national partnership for the purpose of pulling oil from Venezuela's Orinoco belt, and refining that oil. Several large Japanese companies are going to help with the renovation of Venezuela's refinery businesses and facilities.

Think about this. We have just witnessed an Administration that catered openly to, and caused the American government and its military forces to act as proxy for, the oil industry. We're still in Iraq! So the continuity regarding fascism where oil businesses are concerned, it's intact under Obama because he's not doing a thing to change the course in Iraq, and he's banging war drums toward other nations where oil is a commodity (i.e. Iran, Somalia) or where the geographic location is strategic for oil extraction, refining or transport (i.e., Afghanistan).

So I think it's safe to say the American government will do Big Oil's bidding if Big Oil feels threatened.

Hugo Chavez thumbed his nose at Big Oil consistently while Bush was POTUS. And now that Obama's in office, Chavez enters into this massive national partnership not with the USA, but with Japan.

And Japan is a huge creditor of the US Govt.

Add it up, reader.

But first, read this from Venezuela Analysis. Reprinted in full; link here.

Japan and Venezuela Initiate Joint Orinoco Oil Projects and Expand Economic Ties

April 6th 2009, by James Suggett –

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (Left) and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso (YVKE Mundial)

Mérida,April 6th 2009 ( - Venezuelan and Japanese officials met in Tokyo on Sunday and Monday to create mixed enterprises to exploit Venezuela's Orinoco Oil Belt. The officials also planned future economic collaboration in the areas of finance, infrastructure, agriculture, automobile production, and oil-based chemical products.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and the heads of Venezuela's Ministries of Foreign Relations, Commerce, Tourism, Agriculture and Lands, and Energy and Petroleum met with their Japanese counterparts as well as the Confederation of Japanese Business Associations to discuss how Venezuela and Japan can complement each other's import and export needs.

"We came to re-establish a strategic economic, social, and technological alliance with this country that possesses great scientific advancements and which needs energy that we can help to supply," said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez upon his arrival in Tokyo on Sunday.

"Japan is interested in diversifying the sources of its oil supply, while Venezuela wants to diversify the market for oil exportation," he said.

Japanese spokesperson Takachi Kondo also expressed enthusiasm for an expanded relationship between Venezuela and Japan. "President Chávez is very well-known to the Japanese people and with this visit surely we are going to boost our integration and extend the friendship between our two countries," said Kondo.

During the visit, Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA initiated joint projects with Japan's national oil, gas, and metals corporation JOGMEC and several private Japanese firms to extract and refine oil in Venezuela's Orinoco Oil Belt, which is estimated to have the world's second largest crude oil reserves.

To help Venezuela refine more of its extra-heavy crude domestically, the Japanese firms Mitsubishi, Marubeni, and Itochu will finance the renovation of Venezuelan refineries, according to the Bolivarian News Agency. Also, Venezuela's state petro-chemical company PEQUIVEN will study the potential to expand production of oil-based fertilizers and plastics in team with Marubeni and Mitsubishi.

Venezuelan Energy and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramírez, who accompanied Chávez in Japan and signed the energy accords, said, "By entering into this [Orinoco] bloc, Japan automatically assures its supply for at least 25 years."

Chávez said Venezuela could potentially export a million barrels per day to Japan, starting with 100,000 barrels per day this year. He also said Venezuela could begin to export natural gas to Japan within three years.

Japan is among dozens of countries, including Argentina, Brazil, China, Italy, Iran, the United States, Russia and others whose state and private corporations have signed on as minority partners in Orinoco projects since PDVSA purchased the majority share of the Orinoco reserves in 2007.

Chávez has made clear that by signing bi-lateral accords with all of these nations, he intends to multiply the nodes of global economic power and forge a "pluri-polar world" that is not dominated by the United States and U.S.-based financial institutions.

"The center of gravity of the world is moving toward the East and toward the South, and here we are," Chávez said in Japan on Sunday.

Chávez proposed the creation of a multi-billion dollar bi-national investment fund with Japan, similar to the funds Venezuela has already established with Russia, China, and Iran.

He also said he will consider converting a portion of Venezuela's international currency reserves from the dollar to the yen. "Japan uses the yen in all its operations and in addition other nations who hold their reserves in yens, so Venezuela could also consider this for its international reserves," he said.

Such a conversion would be consistent with Chávez's advocacy of an alternative international monetary standard to overcome what he calls "the dictatorship of the dollar."

In addition to energy and financial accords, Japan and Venezuela established a series of joint commissions to plan Japan's future investments in Venezuelan railway lines, highways, and housing.

Other trade-related items discussed were Venezuela's importation of Japanese medical technology and Japan's importation of Venezuelan fruits such as the coveted mango.

Spokesperson Kondo also mentioned a possible accord involving the automobile industry. "Our country exports vehicles and machinery to Venezuela, and this South American country exports oil, aluminum, and cacao to our nation," Kondo told the press.

Chávez's visit to Japan is the final leg of a week-long diplomatic tour during which Venezuela created a bi-national bank with Iran and proposed a new international currency backed by oil reserves during a summit of Arab and South American countries in Qatar.
Okay, so did you catch that last paragraph?

Where was he?

Uh huh.

Watch for Susan Rice or another of her ilk, such as Samantha Power, to start calling for some form of retribution toward Qatar or Iran. A bi-national Venezuela-Iran bank? Oil power is shifting radically. I think some doo-doo is headed toward the fan.

Conditioned for War?


57 percent of Americans want military action taken against North Korea for firing its three stage missile.

So after six years of sinking trillions into two moronic wars which have benefited only a few and wasted an entire nation with still no real end in sight 57 percent of Americans want more? You go figure.

Apparently the propaganda used for scaring Americans is working.

Friday, April 03, 2009

String of Pearls

Three and one half years from now the centrist Obama supporters of pragmatic fame will still be saying, “Well give Obama a chance man, he just got started!”

Meanwhile, in Pakistan people are saying they don’t mind being blown to smithereens, their body parts scattered to the four corners of the world, because Obama is such a cool dude. And to show just how cool Obama is we were graced with this quote today (Obama speaking to the French).

“America is changing, but it cannot be America alone that changes.”

This is not one of the greatest quotes I have read. In fact, if I were Obama I would hire a better speech writer, seriously. However it does achieve its purpose being at once pompous, grand sounding, and absolutely without meaning of any kind. Obama could have said something like, “Let it never be said that it was never said” and I’m sure the NYT would have quoted that as well. Another pearl dropped from the heavenly lips of Obama.

I also find Obama’s quote ironic considering that the worldwide economic crash was caused by America’s banking practices which did indeed change things here and abroad. Never-the-less it is imperative that it is the U.S., having caused the problem, should, with Obama presiding naturally, lead the world to a true and blessed salvation.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

ex-Innocents Abroad

Hu n Obama motherjones dot com

from Helena Cobban, earlier today:

He[Avigdor Lieberman, who was recently appointed foreign minister-JV] also told Haaretz's Barak Ravid, "You won't get any 'Israbluff' with me."

He said he considered Israel was still bound by the Road Map provisions from 2003-- but stated very clearly that the Palestinians must fulfill their side of the Road Map before Israel needed to do anything.

Regarding Syria, he told Ravid: "we have already said that we will not agree to withdraw from the Golan Heights. Peace will only be in exchange for peace."

The positions articulated by Lieberman are very familiar-- they are in line not only with his own previous rhetoric but also with the positions articulated and pursued by B. Netanyahu's earlier government in Israel, 1996-99. No-one should be surprised, therefore, that Netanyahu has done nothing so far to disavow Lieberman's most recent statements.

The foreign ministry statements were made at a ceremony in which Lieberman took over power from Tzipi Livni, who as head of Kadima will now be in opposition to the Netanyahu government. Many senior members of Israel's diplomatic corps were there. Some were reported as visibly shaken when they heard the new line they will have to go out to the world to sell.

I have to say it does clarify matters to have Lieberman speaking with such apparent frankness about what Israel's real policy towards it neighbors will be. In one of the news reports--I forget which-- he was quoted as saying that actually his policy will be the same as that followed on the ground by the preceding government, despite its formal adherence to Annapolis. "How many settlements did they dismantle? How many roadblocks?" he asked.

Very good questions.

So now, what he is promising is a change from the policy of "pursue the colonization and control project on the ground while hiding it by participating in all kinds of meaningless negotiations", by ripping off all the camouflage of the 'negotiations'.

"No more 'Israbluff'", indeed

But on TV it's all Obama and the Missus wowing them at the G20 in Europe, the (chintzy) gift of an Ipod to the Queen, and how Obama supposedly took Hu and Sarkozy aside and made them "listen to reason". On the CBS news Bob Simon and Katie Couric described the G20 as world leaders "setting aside their personal differences"(!?!) and coming together, as if serious policy disputes are just a cover for those churlish Europeans and their unwillingness to quit their fussin' n' feudin'. During a speech Obama compared the G20 meeting of 20 nations to the days of FDR and Churchill getting together and hashing things out, suggesting that it was a lot simpler then, which of course it was, if you look back with US-patented pretendo-vision® and Stalin wasn't part of the picture.

All the same, I couldn't help but think that with his odd metaphor Obama stumbled on another, unintentional meaning-- that when Roosevelt and Churchill met it was the meeting of the superpower on the wane with the new, emerging superpower, and that even though Obama strains mightily to persuade people to compare him to FDR, in this case he's playing, well...let's just say you know Hu's playing him.

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

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