Monday, March 30, 2009

So Torture Doesn't Work...

What a surprise. After having to endure Bush-Cheney apologists blather on about television notions of the hypothetical "ticking time bomb," and other excuses for torture, the verdict is out (again)--it doesn't work. According to a recent article in the Washington Post:

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an Al Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed....The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of Al Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads. In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida - chiefly names of Al Qaeda members and associates - was obtained before waterboarding was introduced....

What a surprise. Full article below.

Officials: Torture confessions not proven useful

White House pressured CIA to extract plots

WASHINGTON - When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an Al Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of Al Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida - chiefly names of Al Qaeda members and associates - was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Moreover, within weeks of his capture, US officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President Bush had publicly described him as "Al Qaeda's chief of operations," and other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.

Read rest of article here.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

The "Good" Empire

In the midst of all the good feeling about America during this new administration, it is good--perhaps very necessary--to remember that the project of "empire" while taken to unique heights during the reign of the neoconservatives, was not anything new. And, with rumblings of expanding colonial adventures in Afghanistan and Pakistan, any US leader is capable of going down that road. With dangerous talk of American exceptionalism being echoed even by those on the "left," a brief reminder above.

Beware blowback.

For more on the video, look here.


Friday, March 27, 2009

The "Good" War

A young Afghan boy stands among the ruined remains of his home after an August 2008 airstrike in Azizabad killed 33 civilians. Until UN and international pressure was brought to bear, the US military had previously claimed the number of dead was six.

Our war in Afghanistan began almost 3,000 days ago, on October 7, 2001. Our war in Afghanistan has lasted longer than World War I, World War II, the Civil War, the Korean War, the first Gulf War in Iraq and the second Gulf War in Iraq. If we are still fighting in Afghanistan a year from now, the war will have lasted longer than the American Revolution. Children who were born on the day the war began are now halfway through grammar school.

Sobering reflections like those offered by columnist William Rivers Pitt at Truthout speak to the ongoing unquestioned occupation and "war" of Afghanistan.

More after the fold...

That the hunt for al-Qaeda necessitated an invasion and regime change in the Central Asian country is at times so sacrosanct that to suggest otherwise is considered heresy if not treason. With the ruins of the twin towers and the broken hull of the Pentagon warship still smoldering in September of 2001, the US Congress rushed near unanimously to demand justice and vengeance, with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) the lone voice urging caution. And the repressive, über misogynist Taliban have only allowed the war's defenders to expand its mission beyond anti-terrorism, and instead as a crusade of democratic freedom and women's rights--which bombs that kill civilians should somehow bring about. The unthinkable notion that the war could expand, to include the unstable nuclear armed Pakistan, is now taken as normal. So common has this idea of Afghanistan as the "good war" become, that even the "progressive" think tank Center for American Progress has put out its own battle plans for how to bring "security" to Afghanistan--complete with a ramp up in military forces and an extended colonial occpuation well into a decade, or more.

Challenges to this "groupthink" have been made by the reasonable, but their voices are too often sidelined or ignored--particularly by the current administration, whose ears seem to be filled with the whispers of hawks who promise they can enforce peace. Never mind the current voices warning against "surges" in Afghanistan were the same warning against the Iraq War, while those urging more war in Aghanistan were cheerleaders or silent partners in 2003 for Bush's invasion plans; it seems in American foreign policy you can only fail up.

It leaves Pitt to ask a profound troubling question:
Is the Obama administration simply working with the hand it was dealt by George W. Bush, or are the same Bush administration mistakes about to be committed all over again?

I suppose time will tell.

Read the rest of the William Rivers Pitt article Enduring Freedom here.

Also check out Normon Solomon's These Colors Won't Run...Afghanistan that asks much the same.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The GOP's Empty Budget

After three months of braying and posturing any fiscal policy out of the White House as "wasteful" or even "socialist," the GOP leadership (a contested title by all accounts), out to prove it is not just the "part of no," today finally released an alternative budget plan. Well... sort of:

Thursday's press conference given by House Republicans was expected to be the unveiling of the GOP budget proposal; but the document announced by Representative John Boehner(R-OH) turned out to be a simple blue-print of conservative values, lacking any real budget numbers.

Say what?

More after the fold...

According to the AP:

House Republicans have released their response to President Barack Obama's deficit-laden budget, but their glossy pamphlet offers little beyond campaign-style talking points. One of the few hard bits of information is a promise to simplify the tax code and cut income tax rates to 10 percent for people making $100,000 or less down. They also promise to cut domestic spending below current levels but don't say whether they are exempting Social Security. It's impossible to determine the projected deficit based on their offering.

So already branded as the "party of no," the GOP's grand strategy is to come up with a budget plan that not only offers no numbers, but rehashes Bobby Jindal-ish talking points (tax-cuts for the wealthy and trickle-down-economics) that helped them lose the last two major national elections? Classic.

With this gem of a pass, it wasn't hard for DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan to go for the three point shot:

"After 27 days, the best House Republicans could come up with is a 19-page pamphlet that does not include a single real budget proposal or estimate. While there had been talk that House Republicans were overriding their Senate counterparts to offer a budget alternative, it's clear after this announcement that neither of them have anything to offer but criticism."

Even their usual allies were left to scratch their heads in wonder:

"I was not the only reporter in the room during the delayed press conference who had expected to see some numbers," David Freddoso over at the conservative National Review commented, "at least ballpark."

And can you believe it gets better? Trying to fend off the questions that inevitably came with this lame rollout, the GOP has promised to unveil a more complete plan... on April 1st... that is, April Fool's Day.

Somebody let this mastadon sink into the tarpits already...

More from Keith Olbermann below:


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not Your Bailout

On Monday Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled the Obama administration’s plan to finance the purchase of up to $1 trillion in so-called "toxic assets" from banks and other ailing financial institutions. The reaction on Wall St went from sour mumblings about the "socialist" in the White House, to jubilation--sending stocks up some 500 points. While corporate backers cheered, so too did corporate media, who hailed this move as a positive step. CNBC, fresh off its humiliation at the hands of John Stewart, called it a "game-changer." Over at the establishment blog Politico, Eamon Javers proclaimed the oft-embattled Geithner had "cleared the bar." And in the alternate-reality dimension that houses all things Rupert Murdoch, Fox-Business claimed the plan had "removed a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over Wall Street." Isn't it amazing how the corporate world manages to find its bright, smiley happy face when you agree to evaporate their near worthless troubles with $1 trillion from the pockets of tax-payers? Go figure.

More below the fold...

Well, it seems not everyone is cheering. David Shuster who was pinch-hitting for Keith Olbermann Monday night probably put it best- "Wall Street loves what it hears—stocks up almost 500 points. But, is what‘s good for Wall Street also good for Main Street?" The answer from many economists and others either brave or not beholden to the whims of the corporate world have tragically answered with a resounding no. While fixing the dire banking institutions may be a part of rescuing a flailing economy, many are asking where is the bailout for the rest of us and when is enough of this corporate welfare *enough.*

On Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman bemoans that rather than seizing this moment for serious reformation and change of the financial sector, the Obama administration has given into what he terms "zombie ideas:"

A zombie idea is an idea that you keep on killing, because it’s a bad idea, but it just keeps on coming back. And what this is is we’ve had this idea since Henry Paulson came out with his plan six months ago, the Bush administration, that the real problem is that the market is undervaluing all of these toxic assets, and what we need to do is have taxpayers go in and buy them at a fair price, and that will solve all of our financial problems. And that’s what happened. The Geithner plan is a complicated, disguised variant on the same idea. It’s the zombie that you keep killing, and it just keeps coming back.

Listen or read transcript of interview here.

Speaking before the plan was announced, a disgusted Matt Taibbi at the Rolling Stone warned that the global economic crisis wasn't a matter of money, but a matter of ensuring that the status quo--those with power--remain in power and more firmly tighten their grip. What was worse, the man people (and the world) helped elect to bring about change, is helping them do it.

It's over - we're officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline - a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.

Read full article here.

Brad Reed at Alternet shoots back at the "brain-dead economic reporting" that neglects to find any criticism of this bailout, highlighting the troubling relationship between journalism and the corporate world:

Our press corps has discovered an important scoop: Rich people approve of using taxpayer money to help rich people....In case you haven't noticed, there's a common thread throughout all of this coverage, which is that Geithner's plan cannot be successful unless it wins the enthusiastic endorsement of the very rich people who drove the broader economy into the ground in the first place. Our press corps' primary gauge of measuring rich peoples' happiness is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which it uses as a general substitute for actual economic statistics.

Read full article here.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Forest for the Trees?

From the halls of Congress to the media punditry, all the news is about the AIG bonus scandal. Who did what? Who knew what? When did they know? Etc. Etc. Politicians get their chance to grandstand for the cameras, and everybody is allowed their moment of populism. But could everyone be missing the forest for the trees? And how is it that the former governor of NY Elliot Spitzer, sent into exile and disgrace following his prostitution bust, is the one who has the courage to point this out?

As the AP put it:

Spitzer says the AIG bonus issue is "penny ante" compared to the billions of the insurer's bailout money funneled to bad banks, and that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner owes America an explanation, quickly.

More after the fold...

Spitzer, in articles and interviews, points out that long ago, he was warning deaf ears about the money sucking black hole that has become AIG.

"We pursued AIG and Wall Street's structural failures in a way that others shied away from because it was politically unpalatable for them to address those issues," Spitzer told host Brian Lehrer Wednesday on WNYC Radio in New York City. "Now it is the flavor of the month. Everybody is jumping up and down serving subpoenas, beating their chests trying to be tougher than the next person."

On CNN Thursday, Spitzer said his initial probes came from AIG's "effort from the very top to gin up returns whenever, wherever possible and to push the boundaries in a way that would garner returns almost regardless of risk.

"Back then I said to people, AIG is the center of the web," he told CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

Whether his ability to find his voice in the midst of this mess will allow Spitzer some vindication is hard to say. But for now, he certainly gets to smugly say, "I told you so."

For more on Spitzer and the AIG debacle:

Crooks and Liars
In Eliot Spitzer's first interview since he resigned as New York's governor, he tells Fareed Zakaria that the problem with Wall St. isn't the individuals involved, but a culture that sought greater and greater returns without taking any of the risk. He also says he hopes Barney Frank will look more closely into the payments to Goldman Sachs via the AIG bailout funds.

Watch video and read full article here.

It's not the bonuses. It's that AIG's counterparties are getting paid back in full. Everybody is rushing to condemn AIG's bonuses, but this simple scandal is obscuring the real disgrace at the insurance giant: Why are AIG's counterparties getting paid back in full, to the tune of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars....So now we know for sure what we already surmised: The AIG bailout has been a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.

For full article, see here.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama & Iran- Respectful Diplomacy ?

President Obama's taped speech to be broadcast to the Iranian people was a clear departure not only from the Bush administration's "Axis of Evil" designation, but from a dismal US foreign policy towards that nation in some two decades.

For the US, the souring of relations with Iran began with the hostage crisis of the 1970s--which would partially help usher in the Reagan Era, and usher out President Jimmy Carter--and Iranian support for nationalist groups (designated terrorists) which threaten US interests, like Hezbollah. But for Iranians, the beginning of those bad relations was at least twenty-five years earlier, when in 1954 the US CIA, along with British interests, enginerred the overthrow of the popular government of Premier Mohammed Mossaddeq. It was Iran's last democratically elected leadership, to be followed by a very unpopular western puppet in the form of the Shah, and later a socially repressive religious orthodoxy. During this time the US supported Iran's enemey Saddam Hussein (politically and militarily) in an aggressive war that would kill hundreds of thousands of Iranians, in the controversial 1988 Operation Praying Mantis, and have imposed sanctions against the existing regime. And though Iran would show profound sympathy for the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and provide key aid in the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, their blatant overtures of diplomacy were repeatedly rebuffed.

Obama's speech is far from anything resembling an apology for the US role in a past tumultuous relationship. Nor should it seen as a backing away from any possible sanction or military attack on Iran over an alleged nuclear program. The administration still loudly refers to an "Iranian Threat" that somehow looms over the world. Yet, it is at least a step away from the brash and thinly veiled hostility of past addresses. There are no calls here to overthrow the current rulers of Iran (something that should be left to the Iranian people to do, if that is what they want), nor the normal arrogance inherent of a "Johnny-come-lately" nation lecturing a country and people that can claim links to the ancient world. And in that, we can at least see a glimmer of hope.


THE PRESIDENT: Today I want to extend my very best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz around the world.

This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.

In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place.

Here in the United States our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian Americans. We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.

For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained. But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together. Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays -- by gathering with friends and family, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.

Within these celebrations lies the promise of a new day, the promise of opportunity for our children, security for our families, progress for our communities, and peace between nations. Those are shared hopes, those are common dreams.

So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran's leaders. We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.

You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.

So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek. It's a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace.

I know that this won't be reached easily. There are those who insist that we be defined by our differences. But let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi, so many years ago: "The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence."

With the coming of a new season, we're reminded of this precious humanity that we all share. And we can once again call upon this spirit as we seek the promise of a new beginning.

Thank you, and Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Iraq War Turns 6

Late night March 19 and early morning March 20 of 2003 launched America's illegal and aggressive war against the Iraq. Six years on, through bombings, Abu Gharibs, displacement and a shattered infrastructure, it's uncertain whether this holy crusade was directed solely upon the Iraqi regime or the Iraqi people--who themselves have repeatedly called for an end to occupation and find shoe-throwers more heroic than US soldiers. The recent inheritors of this imperial ambition have declared the war will time. Though it seems that with a sprawling embassy and a call for retaining residual forces, the imperial footprint of American hegemony never really plans on leaving completely.

So at 6 years, what have we got to show out of this colonial misadventure?

More beneath the fold...

Iraq at 6

Cost of war: $655 billion in allocated funds.

Documented civilian deaths: between 91,121 and 99,500.

Estimated Iraqi deaths due to the US invasion: 1.3 million.

Iraqi civilians killed in February 2009: 346 (including 11 children).

US casualties: 4,259 deaths: 31,131 wounded in action.

US troops deployed to Iraq since 2003: 513,000; deployed more than once: 197,000; deployed three or more times: 53,000.

US soldiers who committed suicide in January 2009: as many as 24, the highest monthly total since the Army started keeping those stats in 1980.

Iraqi unemployment rate: 18 percent; for men ages 15-29: 28 percent.

Iraqi female labor force participation: 17 percent.

Journalists killed in Iraq: 138

Estimated number of Iraqis displaced since 2003: 5 million, nearly 20 percent of the total population.

Iraqi prison population: 15,100 in US custody; 35,000 in Iraqi custody.

Average hours of electricity per day in Iraq: 13.3

*Information from The Nation April 6, 2009 edition.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Gods (Representative) Must Be Crazy

Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI gained headlines when during a tour of Africa, he pontiff claimed that condoms were not the answer to the continent's fight against HIV and AIDS. In fact, according to Benedict XVI, condoms could make the problem worse. Speaking to journalists on a flight frm Cameroon, the Pope stated that while HIV and AIDS was a terrible affliction, it is in the end "a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems." Throwing science out the window, it's not certain what alternative means the Catholic pontiff is suggesting. And, deservedly so, he was swiftly rebuked by health officials, activists and others world wide. A rather good rebuttal posted below. And to think, it was written in 2003!

More after the fold...

Is the Pope Crazy?

By Katha Pollitt

There are many things to be said against condoms, and most people reading this have probably said them all. But at least they work. Not perfectly--they slip, they break, they require more forethought and finesse and cooperation and trust than is easy to bring to sex every single time, and, a major drawback in this fallen world, they place women's safety in the hands of men. But for birth control they are a whole lot better than the rhythm method or prayer or nothing, and for protection from sexually transmitted diseases they are all we have. This is not exactly a controversial statement; people have been using condoms as a barrier against disease as long as rubber has been around (indeed, before--as readers of James Boswell's journals know). You could ask a thousand doctors--ten thousand doctors--before you'd find one who said, Condoms? Don't bother.

But what do doctors know? Or the Centers for Disease Control, or the World Health Organization, or the American Foundation for AIDS Research (Amfar)? These days, the experts on condoms are politicians, preachers and priests, and the word from above is: Condoms don't work.

read full article here.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Covering Up the Past

In 1935 author Sinclair Lewis published It Can't Happen Here, a satirical novel that details the struggles of a lone reporter against fascist US regime that had come to power. Sinclair's novel, while verging on science fiction, was a warning that an oppressive government could sweep into power anywhere, if citizens and a watchful media were not vigilant. Recounting the last eight years under George Bush and the extent to which that administration sought to consolidating and abusing power, one is left to ponder just how close to Sinclair's alternate reality we may have all found ourselves.

Yet, despite all warning signs, our mainstream media culture ignored or downplayed the threat. And even now that the past regime is out of office, many seem reluctant to revisit the past. What's more, seeming numb in the face of power, most seem to have accepted the Obama administration's and Democratic leadership's timid approach to investigations.

The Democratic and Executive reasons for reluctance are clearly obvious, even if not always agreed with, and often stated. As journalist and media activist Eric Alterman points out, "Obama's calculation is clear: investigations would threaten the aura of bipartisanship he seeks in order to pass his ambitious agenda."

But exactly how does this stop the US media establishment from doing its job? Why is big media reluctant to go back and do its own investigation on possible past violations of our rights and liberties? Alterman may have hit the answer on the proverbial head:

But in the case of the mainstream media, the motivation is simply the mindset: admit the dangers posed to our democracy by the Bush administration, and you're admitting that democracy's watchdog was sleeping (or cowering) just when he, and she, were most needed.

Could it be that our media establishment, fearful of its own silent complicity, willful negligence or even propagandizing, now wants to ignore the past--in the hopes that we all forget their role? If so, that's a tragic statement on the status of journalism, whose job it should be to print any past misdeeds into history if only to make certain we have a record--and perhaps ensure that it doesn't happen again. To not do so, and not shoulder their own responsibility, says perhaps that even after those last eight years they managed to learn nothing.

Read Alterman's full article here.


Monday, March 16, 2009

How El Salvador Just Defeated Reaganism

Throughout the 1980s, the FMLN of El Salvador (a coalition of rebel guerrillas) waged a long struggle against the US-backed military government. More than 70,000 people were killed during this war, the overwhelming majority of which the UN concluded were killed by military and paramilitary forces. A pet project of the Reagan administration, El Salvador became synonymous with shady CIA dealings and death squads. This past week however, Mauricio Funes, a one-time leader of the FMLN party, turned the tables on Reagan's legacy. In national elections, Funes won the country’s presidential election, taking 51 percent of the vote and defeating Rodrigo Avila of the ruling right-wing ARENA party. While the Bush administration had previously used bullying tactics that threatened repercussions upon the people of El Salvador for democratically choosing a leftist leader, the Obama administration has pledged itself to neutrality--congratulating the new president.

Will this change be a new beginning for US-El Salvador relations?

See more below the fold...

I would just say—I’ll just quote a song that says, “Y que venga la alegria a lavar el sufrimiento”—“Let the joy come and wash away the suffering.” It’s something on an order I’ve never seen in my life. As a child of Salvadoran immigrants and as someone who’s spent time here and as someone who saw the Obama experience, I really can’t tell you what this is like, when you’re talking about ending not just the ARENA party’s rule, but you’re talking about 130 years of oligarchy and military dictatorship, by and large, that’s just ended last night. You’re talking about $6 billion that the United States used to defeat the FMLN, as you mentioned earlier. You’re talking about one of the most formidable—a formerly political military, now political forces, in the hemisphere, showing the utter failure of not just the ARENA party but of somebody in particular, too, who has a special place in many of our hearts: Ronald Reagan. This is the defeat of Ronald Reagan, nothing less.

The above quote is by Roberto Lovato, contributing associate editor with New America Media and a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine. He blogs at His full interview on Democracy Now can be found here.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Watching the Watchmen

Watchmen -- the astonishing and reverent adaptation of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel -- brings to life a fascinating alternate world....Public fear is reaching a breaking point, and it appears that nothing and no one can prevent humanity's extinction. Not even our superheroes....Watchmen tells of the terrible consequences that can ensue when an individual or a nation assumes unwarranted and unlimited powers; for with the donning of the hero's cloak of righteousness, everything becomes permissible.
--Michael Dudley, Alternet, America Is a Dangerous Vigilante, Heroes Are Sociopaths: The Not-So-Mythical World of 'Watchmen'

The much awaited film adaptation of the graphic novel Watchmen finally hit the movie screens. Judging by who you ask, it was either a disaster or pure genius. Myself, I fall into the latter camp. Not only did I find the film visually stunning (twice), but I thought the on-screen translation of the 1985 classic managed to retain enough of the original novel to remain true to its essence, and yet was not so slavish that it needed another hour (piled upon the already 2 hrs and 45 minutes) to tell the story in full. They even managed to make the much-awaited ending spectacular without a several tons of gigantic psychic squid. I was going to write my own review, but I could not figure out how to unpack all the philosophical and political elements the Watchmen lays bare--from the brutal ugliness of American Empire in the form of Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian, to the anti-hero misfit vigilante Rorschach, to Ozymandias' maniacal plan for global peace.

Thankfully, someone did so for me. Check out Michael Dudley's review at Alternet. Any other thought-provoking pieces will be added as they become available.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Death Squads

"No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination."--President Gerald R. Ford's Executive Order 11905: United States Foreign Intelligence Activities, SEC. 5, (g).

Passed in 1976 by then President Gerald Ford, Executive Order 11905 clearly prohibits political assassination by agents of the US, as part of an attempt to reign in an out-of-control CIA. While the order had ambiguous success, as the 1980s saw the US directly involved in numerous death squads and assassination groups throughout the Americas, it did restrain Presidents and members of the executive office from directly endorsing and directing such activities. Or at least, until the Bush administration.

More after the fold...

In an interview for an upcoming book, investigative journalist Sy Hersh this week revealed what he described as an "executive assassination ring" that operated directly out of the Bush White House:

"Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it’s called....They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office....They reported directly to him. Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on...they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.

If they stand up to the scrutiny they will certainly be put under, Hersh's stunning revelations reveal (once again) just how "dark" the days of the Bush administration had become. And they leave open a great deal of questions. Who was killed in these assassinations? How was this death squad created? How directly tied into this were the legal advisers to the administration? And, most alarmingly, who has control over it now? The accusations being put forth here are far beyond the purvey of Sen. Leah's proposed Truth Commission, meant to examine extrajudicial acts during the Bush administration. Murder and political assassination under the auspices of the US government being carried out directly from the executive office call for indictments and prosecutions. The Obama administration, so reluctant about dealing with the excesses of their predecessors, might find themselves forced to confront crimes too serious to ignore.

Read more below.

Seymour Hersh: "Executive Assassination Ring" Answered to Cheney, Had No Congressional Oversight

By Eric Black,

Investigative journalist Sy Hersh dropped a bombshell revelation on Monday about international killings ordered under Bush.

Read full article here.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama's Awkward Israel Problem

When veteran White House Press Corps reporter Helen Thomas asked President Obama point blank at his first press conference if he could name any country in the Middle East that currently possesses nuclear weapons back in early February, what followed was an awkward pivot and deflection. In the end, the question went unanswered. Because, as pointed out by one commentator, any answer would have been considered a "gaffe." It is almost amazing that the U.S., who threatens war on other nations for any *alleged* construction of nuclear weapons, cannot even be honest about its own allies WMDs. Dated protocols and strategic alliances turn usually soapbox standing politicians of all stripes dumb and mute whenever the question is raised. Stephen Zunes at Foreign Policy In Focus points out this goes deeper however, as acknowledgement of Israel's nuclear arsenal would put the U.S. in the odd bind of enforcing its own laws--namely the 1976 Symington Amendment, which restricts U.S. military support for governments which develop nuclear weapons.

But as the U.S. will continue to funnel some $3 billion each year for the next 10 years to the Israeli military machine, that law could cause more long awkward pauses. Below, Stephen Zunes writes about the current administration's close ties with the Israeli state, and its consequences.

Obama and Israel's Military: Still Arm-in-Arm

Stephen Zunes March 4, 2009


In the wake of Israel's massive assault on heavily populated civilian areas of the Gaza Strip earlier this year, Amnesty International called for the United States to suspend military aid to Israel on human rights grounds. Amnesty has also called for the United Nations to impose a mandatory arms embargo on both Hamas and the Israeli government. Unfortunately, it appears that President Barack Obama won't be heeding Amnesty's call.

During the fighting in January, Amnesty documented Israeli forces engaging in "direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate." The leader of Amnesty International's fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip and southern Israel noted how "Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes." Amnesty also reported finding fragments of U.S.-made munitions "littering school playgrounds, in hospitals and in people's homes."

Malcolm Smart, who serves as Amnesty International's director for the Middle East, observed in a press release that "to a large extent, Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with U.S. taxpayers' money." The release also noted how before the conflict, which raged for three weeks from late December into January, the United States had "been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of [its] weapons."

Amnesty has similarly condemned Hamas rocket attacks into civilian-populated areas of southern Israel as war crimes. And while acknowledging that aid to Hamas was substantially smaller, far less sophisticated, and far less lethal — and appeared to have been procured through clandestine sources — Amnesty called on Iran and other countries to take concrete steps to insure that weapons and weapon components not get into the hands of Palestinian militias.

During the fighting in early January, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization initially called for a suspension of U.S. military aid until there was no longer a substantial risk of additional human rights violations. The Bush administration summarily rejected this proposal. Amnesty subsequently appealed to the Obama administration. "As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights," said Malcolm Smart. "The Obama administration should immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Israel."

Obama's refusal to accept Amnesty's call for the suspension of military assistance was a blow to human rights activists. The most Obama might do to express his displeasure toward controversial Israeli policies like the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories would be to reject a planned increase in military aid for the next fiscal year and slightly reduce economic aid and/or loan guarantees. However, in a notable departure from previous administrations, Obama made no mention of any military aid to Israel in his outline of the FY 2010 budget, announced last week. This notable absence may indicate that pressure from human rights activists and others concerned about massive U.S. military aid to Israel is now strong enough that the White House feels a need to downplay the assistance rather than emphasize it.

Read rest of article here.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

"The Rock" Obama

Your Sunday funny...


Friday, March 6, 2009

That "S" Word...

Socialism. Chances are, the average American can't actually define it. In truth, it comes with many interpretations. The former Soviet Union called itself "socialist." Then again, aspects of socialism are also part of Sweden's economic model, along with other Scandanvian states. Like "capitalism," the term "socialism" remains open a host of social and contextual understandings. Too often however, in the US, the word has been monopolized by the right to crucify any form of progressive politics. Talk about wealth inequality, universal healthcare or government regulation, and you're suddenly advocating sending everyone out to communes and looking forward to breadlines. Yet these same purveyors of doom seem to have little problem when the "welfare state" they so callously malign gives tax-breaks to the rich or has to come to the aid of wealthy financiers, corporations and bankers. Socialism seems fine when it's going to those on the top. Those who would have found the nationalization of banks or government job creation unthinkable, are now adjusting their tune.

More below the fold.

Moving beyond this tired rhetoric and "Red Scare" tactic, Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr. at The Nation have set about a project they have titled "Reimagining Socialism:"

The great promise of capitalism, as first suggested by Adam Smith and recently enshrined in "market fundamentalism," was that we didn't have to figure anything out, because the market would take care of everything for us. Instead of promoting self-reliance, this version of free enterprise fostered passivity in the face of that inscrutable deity, the Market. Deregulate, let wages fall to their "natural" level, turn what remains of government into an endless source of bounty for contractors--whee! Well, that hasn't worked, and the core idea of socialism still stands: that people can get together and figure out how to solve their problems, or at least a lot of their problems, collectively. That we--not the market or the capitalists or some elite group of über-planners--have to control our own destiny.

While not offering a pancea to the global economic woes, Ehrenreich, Fletcher and several other luminaries, offer alternative ways of looking at the current crisis--ideas that at the *least* need to have equal time at the table.

Reimagining Socialism

By Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr.

March 4, 2009

If you haven't heard socialists doing much crowing over the fall of capitalism, it isn't just because there aren't enough of us to make an audible crowing sound. We, as much as anyone on Wall Street in, say, 2006, appreciate the resilience of American capitalism--its ability to regroup and find fresh avenues for growth, as it did after the depressions of 1877, 1893 and the 1930s. In fact, The Communist Manifesto can be read not only as an indictment of capitalism but as a breathless paean to its dynamism. And we all know the joke about the Marxist economist who successfully predicted eleven out of the last three recessions.

But this time the patient may not get up from the table, no matter how many times the electroshock paddles of "stimulus" are applied.

Read full article here.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

CNBC's "Bad Behavior"

Watching CNBC over the past few years has been a grueling process. The all powerful financial network has at every conceivable turn done its best to protect the interests of rapacious free market capitalism and the economic ruin it has caused. As responsible economists warned of the dangers ahead, those wishing to escape reality, could always turn to CNBC to watch a host of pundits declare that all was fine, as an endless parade of financial spokesmen from AIG to Bear Stearns were afforded airtime to keep up their bluff. Without a hint of humility, CNBC has now decided to donate its time to scoffing at any form of progressive economic agenda--from greater regulation to health care reform. One of their latest gems was on Feb. 19, when CNBC reporter Rick Santelli launched into a raving attack on the Obama administration's mortgage recovery plan for foreclosed homeowners. Santelli accused President Obama of "promoting bad behavior," and led Wall St types behind him in a booing chorus. Mind you, this is the same Wall St that has been demanding trillion dollar bailouts from taxpayers, the ultimate reward for the ultimate "bad behavior." When Jon Stewart's The Daily Show invited Santelli he first agreed, then suddenly backed out last Friday--as if sensing the trap.

Not one to let those who put themselves up for public mockery off so easily, Jon Stewart decided to not only take on Santelli, but pull back the curtain on CNBC's history of spectacularly ill-informed predictions as well as their abetting role as an apologist mouthpiece for irresponsible financial giants.

The San Francisco Chronicle called it a "beatdown." Huffington post termed it an "evisceration." I just like to call it, just desserts that have been long overdue.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Compassionate Ethnic Cleansing

In the wake of the Gaza massacre and with a dangerous tilt to the right, some in Israel are now openly expressing the unthinkable--the mass expulsion of "Arabs" from its borders. Conn Hallinan at Jewish Peace News reports:

One of the more disturbing developments in the Middle East is a growing consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel -- in the words of advocates "transfer" -- its Arab citizens to either a yet as unformed Palestinian state or the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.

More after the fold...

At one time relegated to extremists, the idea is gaining popular support among segements of Israel. And with the rise of ultra-nationalist Avigdor Liebermann, who has long called for the expulsion of "disloyal Arabs," in Israeli politics, what was once a fringe ideology is moving steadily into mainstream opinion--under the euphemism of "transfer." And even those who are accepting of an "independent" Palestinian state, are using such a plan to push an agenda of Arab expulsion. As Hallinan notes:

..."transfer" is no longer the exclusive policy of extremists, as it has increasingly become a part of mainstream political dialogue. "My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red lines," Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a group of Tel Aviv high school students last December, "and among other things, I will be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, ' your national solution lies elsewhere.'"

This trend is accompanied by a strong anti-Arab/anti-Palestinian bias that is growing among Israelis. And, according to data Hallinan pulls from the Israeli Association for Civil Rights, anti-Arab incidents (what we would call "hate crimes") have risen sharply:
* Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis say that the state should encourage Arab emigration;

* 78 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose including Arab parties in the government;

* 56 percent agree with the statement that "Arabs cannot attain the Jewish level of cultural development";

* 75 percent agree that Arabs are inclined to be violent. Among Arab-Israelis, 54 percent feel the same way about Jews.

* 75 percent of Israeli Jews say they would not live in the same building as Arabs.

And to think, Israel--along with the support of the US & Canada--is boycotting the Durban racism conference.

These numbers tend to support what many, like former President Jimmy Carter, have pointed out--that Israel is a de facto apartheid state. And though President Carter insisted this apartheid system only existed in the territories, it would seem it is now moving into the metropole of Israel as well. But comparing Israel's policies to minority-white rule South Africa garners a storm of criticism, as both President Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu have learned. And Israel remains the only state that puts forth an ethnic manifesto that is accepted by the world polity, and fiercely supported by benefactors like the United States. So much so, that even President Carter is certain not to dispute the sanctity of Israel to remain a Jewish majority state--forever. Given the recent past, and the horrors endured by people of Jewish descent in Europe during WWII, the nature of this claim is understandable. That it remains however, outside the boundaries of even rational debate, seems to have allowed it to grow into something altogether disturbing.

Electronic Intifada cofounder Ali Abunimah has long pointed to this unwillingness to dialogue openly and fully about Israel as one of the key blocks to any form of lasting peace. And he has warned in the past the dangers inherent in a singular focus on a "two-state solution," if only because ethnic nationalism can so easily degenerate into something much more sinister. His book One Country: A Bold Proposal to the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse seeks another soution:
ONE COUNTRY revives an old and neglected idea of sharing the country. Although living together might seem impossible, Abunimah shows how Israelis and Palestinians are by now so intertwined -- geographically and economically -- that no kind of separation can lead to the security Israelis need or the rights Palestinians must have. He reveals the bankruptcy of the two-state approach, takes on the objections and taboos that stand in the way of a binational solution, demonstrates that sharing the territory will bring benefits for all, and asserts that the country can remain a homeland for both Jews and Palestinians.

Abunimah's ideas have been lampooned as implausible. And not even many Mid-East peace activists dare not touch or mention it. However the time may soon come when the world will have to at least finally *ask* the question of whether any state can remain an ethnically homogenous and still be a democracy, in a modern world that seeks to come together rather than drift apart.

Read full article by Conn Hallinan here.


The Party of Limbaugh- II

Lightening actually struck twice! It was just over a month ago that a Georgia Congressman after bravely confronting radio host Rush Limbaugh, quickly backtracked and gave an apology. Now it seems it's RNC chair Michael Steele who has come back to grovel at the feet of Limbaugh, and beg forgiveness.

More after the fold...

Max Blumenthal at The Nation writes:

When Rush Limbaugh basked in the CPAC spotlight for more than an hour and a half on February 28, drawing boisterous, sustained applause from conference attendees with a stemwinding speech reiterating his desire to see Obama "fail," Steele took action. The following evening, on CNN's D.L. Hughley show, Steele attempted to reassert control over the party. When Hughley referred to Limbaugh as "the de facto leader of the Republican Party," Steele shot back, "No, I'm the de facto leader of the Republican Party!" And he mocked Limbaugh as an "entertainer" whose behavior was "incendiary" and "ugly."

While conservative bloggers and radio talkers piled on, Limbaugh lashed out at Steele with a condescending on-air rant, barking at the chairman "to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do." Finding himself under fire from Rush's army of self-proclaimed "Dittoheads," Steele immediately sued for peace. "I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren't what I was thinking," Steele whimpered. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of peoplewant to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman--and he's not."

What the hell? Does Rush have the One Ring? What makes it all the worse is that Michael Steele is the first "black" chairman of the RNC. As if it isn't bad enough that he hustles the usual "black conservative" diatribe, now he's actually letting Rush Limbaugh--a man with a history of racially insensitive and downright racist comments--browbeat him into submission. What next? Rush going to call him "boy?"

When President Obama and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel joked that Rush Limbaugh was the voice of the Republican Party, it was just a slick tactic. But these guys are going out of their way to show that assessment was right on the mark. I knew the GOP was going to implode after Nov. 4th, but I didn't think the crackup would come this quickly and so bizarrely.

Max Blumenthal's full article below:

Top Republican's Groveling Apology to Rush Limbaugh Is a Media Disaster
By Max Blumenthal, The Daily Beast

Posted on March 3, 2009

Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele assumed the Republican National Committee's chair a month ago with great fanfare. The first African American elected to the position, Steele triumphed over a candidate who once belonged to a whites-only country club, and another who had distributed a CD that included the song, "Barack, the Magic Negro." Days after taking over the party's moribund infrastructure, Steele promised an "off the hook" PR campaign to apply conservative principles to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings"--offering the GOP a much-needed image makeover for the dawning of the age of Obama.

Hip-hop legend Russell Simmons hailed Steele's election in an open letter, assuring his friend, "The hip-hop community remains eager to hear the views of national leaders like you" But Simmons added a warning: "Don't let those who are angry in your base guide your choices or let the people to the left of President Obama push your buttons."

Of course, many of those to "the left of President Obama," including members of "the hip-hop community," greeted Steele's election with a collective yawn. Meanwhile, the RNC chairman made little noise at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference, with one exception that occurred only after he finished addressing a dinner banquet. He turned the mic over to Representative Michele Bachman of Minnesota. "You be da man! You be da man!" Bachmann repeatedly shouted to him. The awkward incident was among the evening's top stories on cable news shows, while Steele's jeremiad against Obama's stimulus package went almost unnoticed.

When Rush Limbaugh basked in the CPAC spotlight for more than an hour and a half on February 28, drawing boisterous, sustained applause from conference attendees with a stemwinding speech reiterating his desire to see Obama "fail," Steele took action. The following evening, on CNN's D.L. Hughley show, Steele attempted to reassert control over the party. When Hughley referred to Limbaugh as "the de facto leader of the Republican Party," Steele shot back, "No, I'm the de facto leader of the Republican Party!" And he mocked Limbaugh as an "entertainer" whose behavior was "incendiary" and "ugly."

Almost as soon as the broadcast ended, a firestorm of criticism erupted on the right-wing blogosphere. "It's not easy watching a black guy stumble around in the dark, but really, I'm trying," wrote Dan Riehl, a marketing manager who hosts the popular conservative blog,, in posting widely circulated on the right.

While conservative bloggers and radio talkers piled on, Limbaugh lashed out at Steele with a condescending on-air rant, barking at the chairman "to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do." Finding himself under fire from Rush's army of self-proclaimed "Dittoheads," Steele immediately sued for peace. "I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren't what I was thinking," Steele whimpered. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of peoplewant to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman--and he's not."

Steele's apology recalled a similar incident from late January, when Republican Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia attacked Limbaugh for "throwing bricks" without paying the consequences. As I reported for the Daily Beast, Gingrey invited himself on Limbaugh's radio show the following day to grovel before the host. "I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments," the penitent congressman said.

But given Limbaugh's well-documented history of racial controversy, and Steele's position as the Republican Party's first African American chairman, his apology is more significant than Gingrey's. Limbaugh has, for example, mocked Obama as a "Halfrican-American" who should "become white;" he has called for a "posthumous Medal of Honor" for the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Earl Ray, and told an African American caller, "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back."

Steele's "off the hook" PR campaign is now off the rails. Within days, he has gone from being "da man" to just another "Dittohead."

Max Blumenthal is a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute based in Washington, DC. Read his blog at


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

CPAC Looney Fest

While the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has often been a gathering of delusion and right-wing quackery, this year's will probably go down as the looniest of them all. From a bouncing Rush Limbaugh mocking Vietnam veterans and once again calling for the failure of an American President, to former UN ambassador (appointed) John Bolton joking (to much audience laughter) about the nuking of an American city, it was a bizarre sight that can only be termed "a hot mess." Oh, let's not forget Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann's attempt at urban black face in her declaration to the first "black" RNC chair Michael Steele, "You be da man!"--as part of the GOP's declared "Hip Hop makeover." And I haven't even mentioned the presence of the unstable and deranged Ann Coulter! Perhaps the Young Turks had the acronym for CPAC right- Crazy People Are Coming. Oh yeah, speaking of which, Joe the Plumber was there...speaking...seriously.

I was going to blog longer on this, but thankfully Jon Stewart does it in a more succinct and funnier fashion than I ever could.


Obama Administration to Boycott Racism Conference at Durban--Just like Bush

Photo used to illustrate issues of environmental racism at Durban I

At a time when racial conflict and discrimination are on the rise around the world, the Administration of the world's first black U.S. president will not be attending the world's most important conference on race and racism. In what may signal a dangerous new, "post-racial" approach to global race relations, President Barack Obama's Administration announced that it will not attend the second World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Geneva next April.
--Robert Lovato, New American Media

When George Bush boycotted the Durban Racism Conference in 2001, I wasn't surprised. To see it happen again, under a black president, an icon of change, is not only disappointing but rises to a level of disgust.

More below the fold.

Bowing to what has become an overwhelming barrage of criticism from media punditry and political lobbying groups, the Obama administration claims the US--a country with a history of racism that is near legendary--cannot attend Durban because of perceived slights to Israel:

The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through that meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism — the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state — to racism.

It is telling that Israel takes such an affront to accusations of racism, much like apartheid South Africa objected to such labels, and as its sponsor (the US) once shunned such depictions from activists like Malcolm X--who threatened to take his case before the UN. Rather than engaging in discussion and debate, these states have simply opted to paint their critics as the actual pariahs.

But, though the Israel-slight mantra is easiest to hide behind, there were other problems that echoed the Bush administration's boycott, as pointed out by Lovato:

Other concerns cited by Administration officials, some of whom recently attended preparatory meetings in Geneva, in their justification of the boycott include a proposal to place restrictions on the defamation of religions and any language calling for reparations for slavery.

While I can see some apprehension to "restrictions on the defamation of religion" and know all-to-well how much the US winces whenever slavery (much less reparations) is brought up, that's hardly a worthy reason for a country with a history of Native American ethnic cleansing, slavery and Jim Crow apartheid to boycott a conference on racism. Durban II will also address issues as far ranging as the trafficking of women and children to rape in the Congo. All of this the Obama administration is giving up, because they disagree on some "wording." Talk about your baby with the bathwater.

Read full article by Robert Lovato of New American Media here.

Excerpts below:

At a time when racial conflict and discrimination are on the rise around the world, the Administration of the world's first black U.S. president will not be attending the world's most important conference on race and racism. In what may signal a dangerous new, "post-racial" approach to global race relations, President Barack Obama's Administration announced that it will not attend the second World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Geneva next April.

Increasing numbers of experts report that most continents -- Europe, Africa, Asia -- are seeing exponential growth in hate crimes, ethnic tensions and other manifestations of the racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, the kind on intolerance that will be discussed at the Durban II Conference. And in the Américas, the very palpable rise in racial tensions, hate crimes and other discrimination are well illustrated by events here in the "post-racial" United States: the NY Post Chimpanzee cartoon scandal, the U.S. visit (including a film screening in Congress) by Danish racist Veert Wilder and the massive protests against the racial profiling, humiliation and other practices of Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, to name a few taking place in the United States. And these were only the events that the Obama Administration was silent about this past week.

The Obama Administration's silence on both these racial incidents and on such fundamentally racial -and global-problems as the "drug war," criminal justice reform and immigrant detention contrasts with the much-lauded statements on race by Attorney General Eric Holder. In statements made to coincide with the start of Black History Month, Holder called the U.S. "a nation of cowards" when it comes to discussion of race.

...with its very dangerous boycott of Durban II in response to pressure from the very powerful Israel Lobby , the Obama Administration may be giving the green light to governments and other groups practicing their own brand of racial discrimination, promoting hatred and other forms of discrimination. While much of the media is discussing the U.S. boycott, most of these reports neglect to the mention the near universal condemnation of the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians, which United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto likened to apartheid last November...


Monday, March 2, 2009

Out of Control

For those who were wondering just how close we were to some Orwellian nightmare in the past eight years, here's a glimpse. On Monday, the Justice Department released a long-secret legal document from 2001. Co-written by former Deputy Attorney General John Yoo, the memo claimed the military could search and seize terror suspects in the United States without warrants, attack domestic apartment and office buildings, deploy a high-tech surveillance system against citizens and, if need be, suspend First Amendment rights of freedom-of-the-press.

Though these acts were never put into affect, they reveal the radical mindstate that dominated those in charge of legal enforcement for the past eight years. As one commentator put it after viewing the documents, "we were an inch away from martial law."

More below the fold.

Extraordinary Measures
A new memo shows just how far the Bush administration considered going in fighting the war on terror.
By Michael Isikoff | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Experts Weigh In On Bush Justice Memos
By Zachary Roth - March 3, 2009, 11:53AM