January 31, 2007

Kropotkin's Spirit of Revolt

Russian prince Peter Kropotkin said that

Courage, devotion, the spirit of sacrifice, are as contagious as cowardice, submission, and panic.

This statement was made in his essay entitled "The Spirit of Revolt," which first appeared in Le Rèvoltè in Geneva in 1880. The following excerpt reads as if he were commenting on current events. The notes inserted in the text point to such contemporary examples listed at the end of this blog post.

The Spirit of Revolt

There are periods in the life of human society when revolution becomes an imperative necessity, when it proclaims itself as inevitable. New ideas germinate everywhere, seeking to force their way into the light, to find an application in life[1]; everywhere they are opposed by the inertia of those whose interest it is to maintain the old order[2]; they suffocate in the stifling atmosphere of prejudice and traditions [3]. The accepted ideas of the constitution of the State[4], of the laws of social equilibrium[5], of the political [6] and economic [7] interrelations of citizens, can hold out no longer against the implacable criticism which is daily undermining them whenever occasion arises,--in drawing room as in cabaret, in the writings of philosophers as in daily conversation. Political, economic, and social institutions are crumbling; the social structure, having become uninhabitable, is hindering, even preventing the development of the seeds which are being propagated within its damaged walls and being brought forth around them. [7]

The need for a new life becomes apparent. The code of established morality, that which governs the greater number of people in their daily life, no longer seems sufficient. What formerly seemed just is now felt to be a crying injustice. The morality of yesterday is today recognized as revolting immorality [8]. Daily, the popular conscience rises up against the scandals which breed amidst the privileged and the leisured [9], against the crimes committed in the name of the law of the stronger [10], or in order to maintain these privileges. Those who long for the triumph of justice, those who would put new ideas into practice, are soon forced to recognize that the realization of their generous, humanitarian and regenerating ideas cannot take place in a society thus constituted; they perceive the necessity of a revolutionary whirlwind which will sweep away all this rottenness, revive sluggish hearts with its breath, and bring to mankind that spirit of devotion, self-denial, and heroism, without which society sinks through degradation and vileness into complete disintegration.

In periods of frenzied haste toward wealth, of feverish speculation and of crisis, of the sudden downfall of great industries and the ephemeral expansion of other branches of production, of scandalous fortunes amassed in a few years and dissipated as quickly, it becomes evident that the economic institutions which control production and exchange are far from giving to society the prosperity which they are supposed to guarantee; they produce precisely the opposite result. Instead of order they bring forth chaos; instead of prosperity, poverty and insecurity; instead of reconciled interests, war; a perpetual war of the exploiter against the worker, of exploiters and of workers among themselves. Human society is seen to be splitting more and more into two hostile camps, and at the same time to be subdividing into thousands of small groups waging merciless war against each other. Weary of these wars, weary of the miseries which they cause, society rushes to seek a new organization; it clamors loudly for a complete remodeling of the system of property ownership, of production, of exchange and all economic relations which spring from it.

The machinery of government, entrusted with the maintenance of the existing order, continues to function, but at every turn of its deteriorated gears it slips and stops. Its working becomes more and more difficult, and the dissatisfaction caused by its defects grows continuously. Every day gives rise to a new demand. "Reform this," "reform that," is heard from all sides. "War, finance, taxes, courts, police, everything must be remodeled, reorganized, established on a new basis," say the reformers. And yet all know that it is impossible to make things over, to remodel anything at all because everything is interrelated; everything would have to be remade at once; and how can society be remodeled when it is divided into two openly hostile camps? To satisfy the discontented would be only to create new malcontents.

Incapable of undertaking reforms, since this would mean paving the way for revolution, and at the same time too impotent to be frankly reactionary, the governing bodies apply themselves to half-measures which can satisfy nobody, and only cause new dissatisfaction. The mediocrities who, in such transition periods, undertake to steer the ship of State, think of but one thing: to enrich themselves against the coming débâcle. Attacked from all sides they defend themselves awkwardly, they evade, they commit blunder upon blunder, and they soon succeed in cutting the last rope of salvation; they drown the prestige of the government in ridicule, caused by their own incapacity.

Such periods demand revolution. It becomes a social necessity; the situation itself is revolutionary.


1) People's access to inexpensive text, audio and visual production technology has allowed germinating ideas to be documented and shared rapidly worldwide. Experiments in alternative business economic models are being tested by necessity in countries, like Argentina, where the corporate globalization model failed catastrophically.

2) The "old order," harbored by corporate shields, is reflected by today's corporate mass media, a model that is itself failing to provide meaningful investigative reporting. News content generators and distribution owners have consolidated and continue to promote a failed world view of corporate-dominated economics. Since 1980, the number of major media content companies has gone from about fifty to about five. Radio ownership has consolidated radically since passage of the 1996 Telecom Act, from a maximum of 40 radio stations per owner to about 1,200 owned at it's peak by the right wing Clear Channel. For many people, TV and mass media represent reality. Now, that reality is in the hands of a few corporations that seek to maintain the status quo. However, the status quo is being challenged by a rapidly growing media reform movement, and alternative sources of information, that are free to explore real solutions because they are not constrained by commercial bondage.

3) The acceptance of corporate globalization as an "immutable, natural economic system" is the most egregious example of a prejudiced traditon. The corporate mass media repeats, "Government: Wasteful, Bad. Big Business: Efficient, Good," until the inherent socially damaging flaws of the corporate capitalist economic system are no longer examined, let alone questioned. Other "traditions," like excessive checks on popular sentiments by the US Senate, stifle solutions to a growing number of real crises.

4) More people are questioning the U.S. Constitution, recognizing it was created by a wealthy elite minority, with provisions for maintaining their economic dominance (Federalist No. 10 is transparent on this topic). The US Senate's service as a barrier to popular progress is one example. Historical elements of the Constitution prove that it isn't as exceptional as we are schooled to believe; the Constitution originally limited voting to land-owning males, did not recognize Native Americans and women, and legalized slavery. Other elements of the Constitution, created to protect the property of the elite minority, are being being questioned particularly as relates to the growing power of corporations.

5) Concerns about historically extreme wealth desparity are so great that they are being voiced in the mainstream media, by Senators on primetime TV, USA Today, MSNBC and stories of Wall Street Christmas bonuses that are so unseemly that corporate leaders send e-mails to caution staff against flaunting their bonuses in public. Social disequilibrium has become so out of balance, and the governing system so incompetent, that prospects for a gradual re-balancing are fading. The potential for rapid, chaotic social restructuring in increasing.

6) As noted in (5) above, political institutions, having become polarized and beholden to corporate interests, seem incapable of solving problems of the day. Rather than providing a real solution, the so-called healthcare reform process is poised to force citizens to give their money to private insurance corporations thereby boosting the profits, read political and economic power, of this disdained industry.

7) Saved only by accounting slight-of-hand, the American financial system is bankrupt both literally and morally. Given the off-shoring of jobs, the aging populace and the off-shoring of corporate profits to shield them from tax responsibilities, the United States itself is incapable of raising sufficient revenues to cover its ballooning debts.

8) For example, people are now taking notice of outrageous bonuses being paid out in financial services corporations. More people are realizing that highly paid media celebrities are part of the establishment and thus incapable of rendering an unbiased critique of the status quo of which they are a part.

9) Scandals of the privileged and the leisured have faces like that of disgraced South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, Wall Street titan Bernard Madoff, hypocritical Senator John Ensign, very connected Jack Abramoff, Paris Hilton, and even the vaunted Tiger Woods to scratch the surface.

10) The war of aggression by the US in Iraq, US use of torture and US backing of blatant war crimes by Israel have made a mockery of principles of civilized behavior of nations. These kinds of grotesque actions, combined with the dismissal of global institutions, like the United Nations, designed to provide a moral compass, provide proof that the law of the jungle is the new normal.


a. "Backlash grows against free tradeæ, Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor February 16, 2007.

b. "The Future is Now," William Greider, The Nation June 8, 2006.

c. Paris Hilton's Tax Relief, Ellen Goodman, June 15, 2006.

January 30, 2007

Edwards Panders in Herzliya Speech

Domestically, John Edwards might be a "Man of the People," but when it comes to international affairs, and Israel in particular, he leaves something to be desired in a presidential candidate. Reading Edwards closed-circuit speech transmitted to Herzliya, Israel, I was disappointed with both his general pandering and his repetition of mainstream narratives that paint a naive, black-and-white view of the situation. [1]

A few points are worth mention. First, Edwards opened his speech with undeserved praise of Ariel Sharon, a war criminal of a high degree.
I am aware that it was at this conference that PM Ariel Sharon gave his courageous speech outlining his disengagement. He helped Israel face some of its major challenges.

Throughout his career and public service Sharon has shown courage, including his historic decision to evacuate Gaza. More than anyone else, Sharon has, in my judgment, believed that a strong Israel is a safe Israel and that Israel needs to defend itself against security threats.

Israel made many concessions. Many settlers gave up there (sic.) land in order to advance peace.

These are discredited mainstream narratives. By associating himself with them, Edwards discredits himself. Many analysts believe Israel's unilateral disengagement plan for Gaza had ulterior motives. "Their suspicions were further aroused when top Sharon aide Dov Weisglass was quoted in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz on October 6, 2004, as saying that the disengagement would prevent a Palestinian state for years to come." [2] More importantly, Sharon was instrumental in the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, which on it's own is reason for Edwards to avoid pandering praise of Sharon.

Phrases from Edwards like, "We share common values such as freedom and democracy," spawn many thoughts. First, knowing of Israel's utter disregard for international laws and moral norms, including the recent disproportionate use of force in Lebanon, and tactics of collective punishment in the occupied zones to give a couple examples, I don't want the values of my nation equated with those of Israel. Second, my cynical side responds with the thought that, true, under the Bush regime America's values regarding freedom and democracy are becoming more like those of Israel, but is that something Edwards wants to highlight? Finally, the US and Israel have shown their disdain for the basic principles of "democracy" by waging war on Hamas in response to it's recent electoral victory. Edwards himself fails to register this basic principle of democracy.

Outside assistance to Palestinian governance is not an entitlement.

Perhaps, but tax money collected from the occupied territories, which is being withheld from the duly elected, Hamas-led, "Palestinian governance", isn't a matter of entitlements. Edwards' use of the term "entitlement" makes him sound like a Republican railing against "unmarried welfare cheats."

The US and Europe need to ensure that money going to the Palestinians does not go to lining the pockets of terrorists.

If Edwards, and his speech writers, were more knowledgeable, they would not have made this statement. The implication is that Hamas is corrupt, yet those who follow affairs in this region know that Fatah is the corrupt Palestinian political party; Hamas may have theologically based politics that are disagreeable, but they aren't corrupt in the traditional sense like Abbas' Fatah.

While Iran is the greatest threat now, but just as alarming is the one on your doorstep. Hamas, with Iranian support, doesn’t make any mistake of its intentions to wipe out Israel, and repeatedly makes calls to raise the banner of Allah over all of Israel.

I'll get to Iran later, but it's simply false to say that Hamas seeks to "wipe out Israel." It's also false, for that matter, to say Iran wants to "wipe out Israel," because, despite what the misinformed western corporate media leads people to believe, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't actually speak for Iran. Former UN Weapons inspector Scott Ritter expands on this important point:

If you read the Iranian constitution, you’ll see that the president of Iran is almost a figurehead.

The true power in Iran rests with the Supreme Leader. He is supported by an organization called the Guardian Council. Then there’s another group called the Expediency Council. These are the people that control the military, the police, the nuclear program, all the instruments of power. And not only has the Supreme Leader issued a fatwa that says that nuclear weapons are not compatible with Islamic law, with the Shia belief system that he is responsible, in 2003 he actually reached out to the Bush administration via the Swiss embassy and said, “Look, we would like to normalize relations with the United States. We’d like to initiate a process that leads to a peace treaty between Israel and Iran.” Get this, Israel and Iran. He’s not saying, “We want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.” He is saying, “We want peace with Israel.” And they were willing to put their nuclear program on the table.

So, Edwards critics are correct; he and his staff lack experience in international affairs. Hamas had a unilateral cease fire with Israel in the year preceding their election to power. After their election, Hamas officials made diplomatic statements that suggested a recognition of Israel. Granted, the statements were vague, the response of Israel and the US indicated they didn't want to explore normalizing relations. Instead, they wanted to foster a proxy war with Hamas using Fatah. This they have done, and Edwards seems to support it:

Israel can take more steps to advance peace like bolstering Abbas against Hamas.

This policy isn't about supporting peace. This is a divide and conquer policy, plain and simple. On these matters, Edwards reflects the "simple."

And, unfortunately, Edwards has also bought into the mainstream narrative on Iran.

At the top of these threats is Iran. Iran threatens the security of Israel and the entire world.

It is one thing to pander for votes, but this is pandering of the worst kind, because it has dangerous secondary effects. This kind of statement unwittingly bolsters the credibility Bush's Iran war mongering. It will also restrict Edward's flexibility if he gains the Democratic nomination for president; he will have to maintain this position, which could lead to him being swept up in a strong current of mass hysteria that leads to an unnecessary conflagration in Iran.

Another unfortunate statement by Edwards was the following:

The war in Lebanon had Iranian fingerprints all over it. I was in Israel in June, and I took a helicopter trip over the Lebanese border. I saw the Hezbollah rockets, and the havoc wreaked by the extremism on Israel’s border.

Hmmm... a lot of people thought the 2006 war in Lebanon had Israel's disproportionate finger prints on it. Surely, Iran was supporting Hezbollah, but by the same measure, the US was supporting Israel, including the shipment of cluster munitions that were used indiscriminately to collectively punish the people of Southern Lebanon in the closing days, after the truce had been negotiated and awaited signature.

Edwards closes:

Your challenges are our challenges. Your future is our future. The US will continue to stand by you. God bless you.

He might as well have said, "Your God is our God, and it isn't Allah." He basically did make this statement within this speech. Edwards said, "Hamas, ... repeatedly makes calls to raise the banner of Allah over all of Israel." It's OK to raise the banner of "our God" over all of Israel, but it certainly isn't acceptable to raise the banner of "their God."


[1] Raw Story, January 23, 2007 Edwards: 'Iran must know world won't back down' by Ron Brynaert Text of Edward's Speech

[2] Wikipedia: Israel's unilateral disengagement plan

January 29, 2007

The Return of Frank and Ed

Check out this bizzare twist on the recent re-arrest of the former Black Panther members. Skim down to the interview with JR.

Update I:

Here's an article, by Claude Marks, that goes into some history on Frank McCoy and Ed Erdelatz.

Here's another article dated August 23, 2005, by Marks, which reports on efforts to resist a California State Grand Jury process.

It seems that Erdelatz was working for the Alameda County D.A.'s Office, and might have been on special assignment to the FBI. A.C. Thompson Article from San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Update II:

The story on Frank and Ed seems to be revealed in this November 15, 2006 article in the San Francisco Weekly, "Echoes of the Revolution: The struggle between Bay Area law enforcement and the Black Panthers is still going on after 35 years," by Martin Kuz.

In early 2003, three men appeared on the doorstep of John Bowman's house in Oklahoma City. Two of them he had never seen before. The third he had hoped to never see again.

"Do you remember me?" Frank McCoy asked.

Bowman stared in disbelief. He recognized McCoy as one of two SFPD detectives who grilled him all those years ago about Sgt. John Young's murder. There could be no forgetting.

McCoy wanted to discuss the Ingleside shooting and Bowman's days with the Black Panthers. Recovering from his initial shock, Bowman declined to answer questions and invited the trio to leave.

A social program developer and father of two, Bowman, 58, speaks in a slow baritone deepened by his barrel-chested build. The sight of McCoy reminded him that his past devotion to the Panthers shades the present. "Because of that commitment that I made in 1967, I'm still being persecuted and punished," Bowman said in a radio interview last year.

Within a few weeks of McCoy accosting him, he received a summons to appear at a federal grand jury hearing in San Francisco. Authorities delivered subpoenas to more than 20 people in all, including at least four of Bowman's ex-Panther cohorts: Richard Brown, Ray Boudreaux, Hank Jones, and Harold Taylor. Each endured drop-ins from McCoy or his old police partner, Ed Erdelatz, the detectives who originally probed Young's killing.

FBI officials tapped Erdelatz and McCoy to resume digging into the Young case. Since neither still held a police badge, the agency in effect deputized them for the job. At the time, Erdelatz worked as an investigator for the District Attorney's Office in Alameda County, a job he quit last year. McCoy apparently had settled into retirement. (Erdelatz did not respond to SF Weekly's interview requests; McCoy could not be reached for comment.) Their surprise visits exhumed dark memories for Bowman and his one-time Panther brethren.

[Harold] Taylor, 58, admitted the trauma of New Orleans lingers, afflicting body and psyche alike. He blames the jailhouse beatings for the chronic neck and back pain that forced him to retire early, and his ears still ring from the head blows he absorbed. A sense of peace eludes him. Early last year [2005], he received a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in San Francisco. Erdelatz and McCoy delivered it.

January 27, 2007

A Black Panther's Message to the American People

The Police State is firing on all cylinders with immigration sweeps, security industry trade conferences, surviellance of progressive organizations, chilling independent media sources, and so on.

Now, a group of former Black Panther Party members have been arrested for alleged crimes commited in 1971, including the killing of a San Fransisco police officer. I've not delved into all the details, but the whole thing reeks of a police state tactic to send us all a message:

If you ever get on the wrong side of the police state, you will never be free from fear of a clamp down.
The breif background is that some of those recently arrested [1] were once charged and released after the court found that their confessions were coerced by torture.

And people have to understand this is actual torture with cattle prods by New Orleans policemen, where San Francisco policemen were sitting outside the room, obviously knowing what was going on to get information. [2]
The New Orleans police would torture the suspects, and then the San Fransisco police would seek a confession. The process was repeated over and over. Eventually, they got their confession.

A recent interview of Richard Brown by The Minister of Information JR is sobering
(Hear the full interview)

First, I want to share the thing that prompted me to transcribe this interview:

JR: I understand that the same [San Francisco police] officers that interrogated and terroized you over thirty four years ago are the same ones who came to pick up you and your co-defendant and are the ones working on your case currently.

Richard Brown: That's correct. Franklin (Frank) McCoy and Ed Erdelatz, these were the two San Fransisco police officers who left San Francisco, went to New Orleans and conducted and participated in the torturous treatment of my friends.

They would come into the room, ask questions. If they weren't answered in the manner that they wanted them answered, if they couldn't get the information, they would leave out the room, New Orleans police would come in and go through their brutal tactics and when they left the [San Fransisco] officers would come back in. This was repeated over and over for days until the men cooperated.

These same men, Frank and Ed, who had retired, but came out of retirement, joined Homland Security and were the same officers that knocked on our door and served the subpoenas for the secret grand jury investigation [that led to recent arrests].

The first words out of their mouths were, "Do you remember me?" So, yea, it's the same people all over again.

Now we have the same people who were in COINTELPRO coming out of retirement and assisting Homeland Security to do the same thing to us all over again.
This suggests a level of domestic psychological warfare that we cannot let go unanswered (confirming source - p.2) [3]. Maybe there's nothing illegal about having Frank and Ed make visits like that, but it could be a huge political mistake on the side of the police state. IF we raise our voices and expose this for what it is, base intimidatio, which is un-American.

Richard Brown closed with a message to Americans:

What I would like to get out to the American people, you have to open your eyes and understand what's going on in America today. I believe the majority of Americans are decent people who believe in justice and equality. We're divided by all kinds of barriers, it's the divide and conquer game. I want the people to understand what Bush is doing when he asks for unlimited power, when he asks for the PATRIOT Act to be reinstalled, when he wants the ability to do anything and everything whenever he gets ready, however he gets ready, and doesn't have to be held accountable to Congress or the American people, we no longer have democracy or a president, we have a dictator. and that's what I want to get out.

[1] Police in California, New York and Florida arrested eight former Black Panthers earlier this week on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Richard Brown, Richard O’Neal, Ray Boudreaux and Henry Watson Jones were arrested in California. Francisco Torres was arrested in Queens New York. Harold Taylor was arrested in Florida. Two men already in jail-- Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim -- were also charged. A ninth man -- Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth – is still being sought. DemocracyNow! January 26, 2007.

[2] Stuart Hanlon. California-based attorney representing Herman Bell. He also worked for 25 years on the case of Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt. DemocracyNow! January 26, 2007.

[3]Echoes of the Revolution: The struggle between Bay Area law enforcement and the Black Panthers is still going on after 35 years, ByMartin Kuz. Article Published Nov 15, 2006. Excerpts Below:

In early 2003, three men appeared on the doorstep of John Bowman's house in Oklahoma City. Two of them he had never seen before. The third he had hoped to never see again.

"Do you remember me?" Frank McCoy asked.

Within a few weeks of McCoy accosting him, he received a summons to appear at a federal grand jury hearing in San Francisco. Authorities delivered subpoenas to more than 20 people in all, including at least four of Bowman's ex-Panther cohorts: Richard Brown, Ray Boudreaux, Hank Jones, and Harold Taylor. Each endured drop-ins from McCoy or his old police partner, Ed Erdelatz, the detectives who originally probed [S.F. Police Officer] Young's killing.

FBI officials tapped Erdelatz and McCoy to resume digging into the Young case. Since neither still held a police badge, the agency in effect deputized them for the job. At the time, Erdelatz worked as an investigator for the District Attorney's Office in Alameda County, a job he quit last year. McCoy apparently had settled into retirement. (Erdelatz did not respond to SF Weekly's interview requests; McCoy could not be reached for comment.) Their surprise visits exhumed dark memories for Bowman and his one-time Panther brethren.

Yet [Harold] Taylor, 58, admitted the trauma of New Orleans lingers, afflicting body and psyche alike. He blames the jailhouse beatings for the chronic neck and back pain that forced him to retire early, and his ears still ring from the head blows he absorbed. A sense of peace eludes him. Early last year [2005], he received a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in San Francisco. Erdelatz and McCoy delivered it.

January 26, 2007

Domestic Terrorism: Sounds Like Routine Corporate Behavior

Has anyone noticed that the USA PATRIOT Act definition of "domestic terrorism" sounds like the routine behavior of many corporations?

Section 802 of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 defines the term `domestic terrorism' to mean activities that--

involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended--
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.
Sounds like what corporations do all the time.


January 25, 2007

Senate House Minimum Wage: Make Tax Cuts for Small Business

The House and Senate struggle over the minimum wage bill can be easily resolved. The Senate feels it has to tack on $8.3 billion over ten years on business tax breaks. Limit those tax breaks to small businesses, and call it a compromise.


JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer, January 24, 2007.

Jim Webb on Wealth Gap: 2007 State of the Union Response

Transcript of the Democratic response to president George Bush's 2007 State of the Union Address. The Democrats selected Jim Webb, freshman senator from Virginia, who has populist sentiments. He shared his views on using the economic system for everyone, not just those who have enough money to make more money. This view is taking hold, now that we have several decades of experience that demonstrate the failures free market fundamentalism. The primary failure is that wealth accumulates among a small minority, and away from the vast majority. Jim Webb addressed the wealth gap head on. Hopefully the Democratic Party understands this and will act on it.

Webb framed the issue as, "... how we see the health of our economy, how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans."

When one looks at the health of our economy it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say things have never been better. The stock market IS at an all time high and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared.

When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did. Today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries of our workers are at an all time low as a percentage of our national wealth even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed, college tuitions are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them. In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future is loosing its place at the table. Our workers know this through painful experience. Our white collar professionals are beginning to understand it as their jobs are disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international market place.

In the early days of our republic, president Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American style democracy. That we should measure the health of our society not at its apex but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.
See E.J. Dionne commentary, "A Reagan Democrat"
I wouldn't put it that way. He's a populist democrat in the tradition of the agrarian revolt of the late 1800s.

January 24, 2007

Stop the Iran War

OK. We can see this one coming from miles away. I know we're already in a covert war with Iran, but we should be able to stop an overt war with them, right?

Maybe this blog entry should be entitled, "Testing Democracy 1... 2... 3..."

Some day Robert Naiman might be cited as one of many voices that "had it right" about Iran before Bush took us to war there. Hopefully, I'm wrong about this. One way to help ensure that I'm wrong is to step up to our democratic responsibility to stop the Iran war.

Naiman provides two courses of action:

1) Ask your Representative to Co-Sponsor the DeFazio (D) "Iran War Powers" Resolution.

2) Ask your Representative to Co-Sponsor the Jones (R) "Iran War Powers" Resolution.

These resolutions re-affirm that President Bush cannot attack Iran without Congressional authorization.

Here's a LINK that Makes it Easy.

Mark This Page

Here are three important links for future use.

Write the US House of Representatives
Write the US Senate
Write the Major Media Outlets

January 23, 2007

Team Bush: They're Giving it Away

This is funny and revealing.

The price says it all:

Team Bush : Leadership Lessons from the Bush White House (Hardcover)
by Donald F. Kettl

61 used & new available from $0.01

http://www.amazon.com/Team-Bush-...e/dp/ 0071416331

Save Your Pennies

"A potential shortage of coins in the United States could mean all those pennies in your piggy bank could be worth five times their current value soon, says an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Sharply rising prices of metals such as copper and nickel have meant the face value of pennies and nickels are worth less than the material that they are made of, increasing the risk that speculators could melt the coins and sell them for a profit."

Reuters Article, Kevin Plumberg, January 22, 2007.

January 21, 2007

Escalating the Progressive Offensive

There's some truth to the saying that "The best defense is a good offense." The progressives in the US have been on the defensive for quite some time, perhaps including the Clinton years.

Those years were dominated by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) Republican Lite orientation. One of their views is that corporate globalization is inevitable, a view that is crumbling under the weight of reality. That period yielded the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which among other things, undermined our sovereignty via NAFTA's Chapter 11. That period also gave us the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which led to the strong consolidation of radio stations, and the grip of right-wing talk radio.

This kind of overt damage done to progressive ideals during the Clinton Administration was enabled, in part, by a complacent public. The thinking was, "Our people are in control now, so we can relax." In other words, the only time the progressive public needs to be active is when "the other guys" are in power, and we need to defend our ideals. If nothing else, the Clinton Administration should have taught progressives a lesson: We need to be on the offense at all times.

Sometimes, it's nearly impossible to be on the offensive. Faced with a multi-front offensive by the Bush administration, it's about all we can do to defend attacks. However, even in these circumstances it is possible to take offensive measures, even if it is only to launch legal investigations into cronyism.

Now that the Democratic Party has taken control of the House and Senate, it is time to escalate offensive actions. One example consistently comes to mind. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering new regulations on media ownership. The debate is framed as, "Should we allow a single corporation to own more media outlets in a local area or not?" Instead, we should go on the offensive and reframe the debate, "Should we reduce the number of outlets that a single media corporation may own in a single market?"

There is ample quantitative evidence, some of which the FCC tried to suppress, which shows that the media consolidation following the 1996 Telecom Act resulted in a degradation of diversity in news and entertainment.

January 20, 2007

Preemptive Saturday Night Massacre at DOJ

The blogs and NY Times Krugman are buzzing about the on-going "purges" at the US Department of Justice. Keeping with Bush's tactic of preemptive strikes, it appears he is commiting a pre-emptive saturday night massacre. The buzz is that Bush is trying to remove honest prosecutors to limit their ability to investigate him.

This is just one more piece of evidence that the Bush administration is a Revolutionary Power, as defined by Henry Kissinger in his PhD thesis. A former director of the Brazilian Mint once told me, "It's easier to prevent a dictatorship than it is to remove a dictatorship." He said this early in Bush's administration, and he spoke from experience.

Contact the US Department of Justice and let them know what you think.

January 19, 2007

Associated Press Tweaks Democrat's 87 Hour Success

Since the 1970s the mantras of "free market economics" and "less government" have been pervasive in the corporate media. So pervasive in fact that certain words have taken on deep cultural meaning. Through framing, repetition and other methods, some words now evoke negative thoughts among almost everyone: Taxes, Government Subsidies. And the notion of forcing anything has a general negative connotation.

I have to wonder how the following paragraph was crafted before it was published by the Associated Press:

Democrats accomplished their early legislative goals in 87 hours, adopting new ethics rules and passing bills raising the minimum wage, expanding taxpayer financed research into embryonic stem cells, forcing more homeland security measures, directing the federal government to negotiate for cheaper Medicare prescription drugs and lowering interest rates on subsidized student loans.

Being attentive to the media, and having followed the high-profile "Democratic Party First 100 Hours", that paragraph struck me. I've repeated it below with several words highlighted.

Democrats accomplished their early legislative goals in 87 hours, adopting new ethics rules and passing bills raising the minimum wage, expanding taxpayer financed research into embryonic stem cells, forcing more homeland security measures, directing the federal government to negotiate for cheaper Medicare prescription drugs and lowering interest rates on subsidized student loans.

Were these highlighted words chosen by AP writer Jim Kuhnhenn, or were they added by an editor? I think we should know. A more positive, or neutral writing of the paragraph might be as follows:

Democrats accomplished their early legislative goals in 87 hours, adopting new ethics rules and passing bills raising the minimum wage, expanding research into embryonic stem cells, enhancing homeland security measures, directing the federal government to negotiate for cheaper Medicare prescription drugs and lowering interest rates on student loans.

I've dropped most of those previously highlighted word, and shortened another. Remember, these are professional writers who almost invariably strive for concise text to minimize column space. Maybe the writer is just being a wordy, or maybe he is trying to be precise. Maybe AP has an editor who wants to tweak the Democrats.


"Energy, ethics and lobby bills advance" January 19, 2007, By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer Web LINK.

January 17, 2007

Domestic Spying: A Common Cause for Liberals and Conservatives

Here's an issue that can help bring conservatives and liberals together; the FISA Court giving the green light for domestic spying. I'll confess that I've not looked deeply into the reports and blog-responses. My point is that conservatives and liberals can, and should, coalesse on issues like this and go on the offensive. A good example of this is progressive groups working with the Christian Coalition and gun rights organizations on media reform issues, like striving to protect equal access to the Internet (network neutrality).

My greater concern is that we are entering a phase of fascist tendancies in this country. This has been expounded on by people like former Nixon Counsel John Dean in his book "Conservatives Without Conscience." I like to preserve the word "conservatives" for people who are honestly conservative. The more appropriate word for where Bush is taking the Country is to the right. "Right wing" means power in the hands of the few, whereas "Left Wing" means power distributed among the many (i.e., little "d" democratic).

Language aside, the concern is that the FISA Court seems to be giving more power to what is already an "Imperial Presidency." That's John Dean's phrase. A phrase used by Paul Krugman, Princeton Economist, is Revolutionary Power. That's not Krugman's term. He cites it from Henry Kissenger's PhD thesis. I urge everyone to click on that link and read what Krugman wrote... that is, if you want to experience chills, and understand why it is imperative for honest conservatives and liberals and radical lefties to coalesse and go on the offensive.

John Dean is a conservative. In addition to that perspective, he has many years behind him and has worked at the center of power. He knows that the public needs to stand up and challenge the frightening trends of this president and the people who surround him.

A former director of the Brazilian Mint, who lived through the US-backed coup and dictatorship gave me some sage advice when Bush entered office. He said, "It's a lot easier to prevent a dictatorship than to remove one." That's a call to action around which honest conservatives and liberals must rally.

January 16, 2007

The Free Market: Ain't it Great?

The U.S. military has sold forbidden equipment at least a half-dozen times to middlemen for countries -- including Iran and China -- who exploited security flaws in the Defense Department's surplus auctions. The sales include fighter jet parts and missile components.Read More.


SHARON THEIMER, Associated Press Writer, January 16, 2006. Iran gets army gear in Pentagon sale

January 14, 2007

Bush's war of Terrorism

We've all heard the logical refrain, "Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy that we can target in a war, which means that the 'war on terrorism' is nothing of the sort." Yes, it's just a slogan, one the corporate mass media has been happy to adopt. Unfortunately, so have many progressive voices.

We need to reframe the issue. George Lakoff has introduced the concept of "framing" issues in the public discourse. The title of this essay is one such attempt. Another example is the phrase "the death tax." Once the mainstream debate on estate taxes is framed as "the death tax," an uphill battle is established. It's hard enough to be in favor of taxes, but being in favor of taxing people upon their death becomes even more implausible. Framing is key.

There can be no such thing as a "war on terrorism." Given ample evidence of domestic spying and police infiltration of organizations, new legal definitions like "enemy combatant" for which Geneva Conventions don't apply, the use of torture and renditions, the use of horrific weapons of war (ala "Shock and Awe"), the unleashing to death squads (ala the Salvador Option), adopting Israeli tactics of punishing the familiy members of insurgents [1], it isn't hyperbole to reframe Bush's war on terrorism to be called "Bush's war of terrorism."


[1] One basic principle of urban warfare was described to New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins by a U.S. commander: “the new strategy must punish not only the guerrillas, but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the cost of not cooperating.” According to Brigadier General Michael A. Vane, “We recently traveled to Israel to glean lessons learned from their counterterrorist operations in urban areas.” In the words of Michael Schwartz, collectively "punish the families and neighbors of guerrillas until they decide to reveal their identity and location." This tactic had been used in the village of Abu Hishma, and was going to be used in Fallujah.
See: Fallujah is Bush's Dujail.

A specific example of this appears in a New York Times Magazine article on death squads by Peter Maass, May 1, 2005. See the section entitled Threatening to Kill a Suspect's Son. Here's a brief excerpt witnessed by Maass:

The [Special Police] commandos reached an isolated farmhouse and detained al-Takhi's son, who looked to be in his early 20's. This was an excellent catch. The son of a suspect usually knows where the suspect is hiding; if not, he can be detained and used as a bargaining chip to persuade the father to surrender.

Note how Maass speaks of this as if it is routine. Maass had gone on other raids. He highlighted this example, because it illustrated the use of threatened execution, not the aside about "bargaining chips."

Another source on the use of threats against family members is Dahr Jamail. In a January 2007 audio interview with Flashpoints Radio that I transcribed, Jamail described torture continuing at US detention centers. Then he continued:

Other things that have become even more rampant, that have been reported on in the past, but are even being more utilized by the US military now are, if there's a particular resistance fighter in a community, they'll figure out sometimes who that is, and they'll go detain his wife and then hold her and say, "If you don't come and turn yourself in we'll begin raping her quite soon and then if you still don't come in, maybe we'll go get your kids too."

So that's basically a standard policy now. I'm getting reports pretty often at this point, and we'll be doing a story on that before too long, so let's be real clear that torture in Iraq is rampant and that's because it is policy.

January 13, 2007

Exit Strategy for Iraq: Blame the Iraqis

In case it needs to be said, the strategy for extricating the US from Iraq will be to say that "We tried to give Iraq freedom, but they're too primative to grab the golden ring." In other words, "It's not our fault the Iraqi's are unable to seize this golden opportunity."

Both Robert Fisk and Gary Younge have made this observation. They both work for British newspapers.

Keep in mind that this is the strategy for winning the minds of the US public. The rest of the world won't buy this line. The US will have created more animosity and terrorists (AKA blowback). If we want future security in the US, we need to punish those who started the Iraqi war of aggression. This will buy some good will from people in the world who despise the US. It will help the US gain some of its lost credibility.

Punishing Bush and his war-of-aggression conspirators won't solve all ills, but it would make things better.

Surely the blame lies with Bush for starting the war of aggression. But that might be too sweeping for some to swallow. Here's a more specific example from an article by Peter Maass

A scathing report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, still in draft form [in May 2005] but posted on the center's Web site, blames senior American officials for these failures of Iraqi will. ''The police and the bulk of the security forces were given grossly inadequate training, equipment, facilities, transport and protection,'' states the report, written by Anthony Cordesman, a military expert and former Pentagon official. ''These problems were then compounded by recruiting U.S. police advisers -- some more for U.S. domestic political reasons than out of any competence for the job -- with no area expertise and little or no real knowledge of the mission that the Iraqi security and police forces actually had to perform.'' The report seems to be referring to, among others, Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, who was the first police adviser to L Paul Bremer III, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Kerik left after three and a half months. Although the report notes some progress in recent months, it concludes: ''Unprepared Iraqis were sent out to die. . . The fact that some died as a result of U.S. incompetence and neglect was the equivalent of bureaucratic murder.''

January 12, 2007

No Honeymoon with the Democrats

Steve Benen, of the Carpetbagger Report, wrote a good critique showing there was "No Honeymoon" between CNN and Democrats even before Democrats took power.

It stuck me as paradox. I agree with Benen's critique, yet I also feel it's appropriate that there be "No Honeymoon with Democrats." I feel that the stakes are so high, and the issues are so time-sensitive and fluid, we need to hold their feet to the fire immediately. I'll say a bit more on this after addressing the apparent paradox.

Honeymoons are defined between two amicable partners who are celebrating a union. So, it isn't appropriate to apply the term to the Democratic leadership and the corporate media. Upon reflection, I was agreeing with the Carpetbagger's critique of CNN's misuse of their FCC license, not the notion of a truncated honeymoon. Yet there's nothing new in Benen's critique, just another example of many. Cable TV's abuses of their privilages are actually far worse than most people think, as documented in Jeff Cohen's "Cable News Confidential."

The paradox is resolved by recognizing that Cable TV and the Democratic leadership don't have a relationship that could involve a honeymoon; however, the voting public, who helped bring the Democrats to power, could have a honeymoon.

Some people, about 70 activists including Cindy Sheehan who shouted down Democrat Rahm Emanuel the day Democrats took power, feel "no" honeymoon is appropriate at this time. An aside, I felt Barbara O’Brien, of Mahablog, carried on longer than necessary questioning the wisdom of Cindy Sheehan's demonstration directed toward Emanuel. Scroll Down to see the Thread. My primary criticism of O'Brien's perspective, that Sheehan's tactics were unconstructive, is that Sheehan is a symbol defined in great part by the corporate media. Focusing a critique on Sheehan plays into the corporate media framing of the peace movement, and isn't fair to Sheehan.

Back to the subject of justifying "No Honeymoon with Democrats." I'll be brief, recognizing more could be said. First, the Democratic leadership are part of the Discredited American Political Elite. Our society is sick and disfunctional. Democrats operate in a context of disfunction so deeply rooted in our culture that even good progressives are guilty of its perpetuation. We need to do everything we can to splash cold water on our collective faces and start breaking out of the grip of this downward spiral.

Second, we know the Democrats have increadible pressure from the commercial sector of society. We need to overcome that with pressure from the unwashed masses. The governing system is geared toward the interests of the plutocrats. I can say this having worked on the inside. Those on the inside absolutely need help from those on the outside. The Democratic leadership doesn't need a frigg'n honeymoon. Democratic politicians need the people to rise up and give them political cover. This will enable the politicians to take bold actions.

To that end, my recent essays have ended with contact links to Congress and the commercial mass media outlets. I'll continue that pattern here:

Congressional Contacts:

Write the US House of Representatives
Write the US Senate

Then, voice the same opinion to local and national media outlets.

Media Contacts:

Write the Major Media Outlets

January 11, 2007

We're Heading for Surge and Iran Unless the Public Speaks Out

Last night as I watched the president's address, I took a couple notes.

Seek out networks in Iran and Syria
Limited diplomacy surge with Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, omitting Iran and Syria.
Glen Greenwald was struck by the same point. He urges everyone to pay close attention to Bush's intentions toward Iran in the days and months ahead. Aside from Bush's argument of "disrupting networks" and pre-empting potential Iranian nuclear ambitions, there is pressure to attack Iran.

In short, Busch can't continue occupying Iraq, because it incites unacceptable violent resistance. Bush can't leave, because his failed mission would increase Iran's power in the region with great influence over a Shia-dominated Iraq. So, where does this leave him? It leaves him with the option of attacking Iran to weaken that nation before leaving Iraq. Unfortunately, the Democrats face the same reality.

Another point struck me:

Bush committed 4,000 more troops to Anbar Province.
My count was 20,000 in Baghdad and 4,000, but today's papers cited 21,500. I had expected Bush to focus solely on Baghdad, but he at least has the "sense" to recognize the troubles extend beyond Baghdad.

Another point struck me:

Capital investment funding for jobs
Bush been one step behind at every turn of this war. He commits more troops, when it's too late. He adopts a socialist job-creation policy, when it's too late. It's too late for reconstruction projects because it has become too dangerous to do the work. How long will it be until we hear "A bomb blast ripped through a line of people applying for jobs....." "The Iraqis were killed by small arms fire while working on a....." "A mini bus with eight Iraqi reconstruction workers was riddled with gun fire...." as if this isn't already happening.

Another political reality is that the Democrats have nothing to gain from withdrawing support for a troop surge. If Democrats withdraw funds and authority for troops, they can be blamed for what ever happens there after. Thus, it's in their political interest to let Bush have enough surge-rope with which to hang himself.

Given these "realities," the US is almost certain to surge the troops, and attack Iran, beyond the covert military operations already underway in Iran.

The only way to avoid this is for the US public to demonstrate a historically high amplitude of opposition to these two acts. The first step is for everyone concerned to immediately write and call their elected officials. I've done it, and it feels good to talk to a human. Ask them if they're receiving similar calls. If so, ask from which side of the issue they're receiving more calls.

Congressional Contacts:

Write the US House of Representatives
Write the US Senate

Then, voice the same opinion to local and national media outlets.

Media Contacts:

Write the Major Media Outlets

January 10, 2007

Give the President Sufficient Rope to Surge

Although Congressman John Murtha is leading an effort to withhold funds for the President's troop surge, Congress will ultimately allow the President's troop surge to go forward. Succeed or fail it is the President's troop surge, and his Iraq strategy.

If Congress pulls the plug on more troops, it would be Congress's Iraq strategy. Failure in Iraq, and the increase in Iran's geopolitical influence would be Congress's failure.

Rather than risk taking the blame, Congress is going to give Bush all the rope with which he needs to hang himself. That is my prediction.

My hope, however, is that Congress will try to prevent a troop surge. If they take this route, they must give the President an unabiguous directive. They must, pursuant to Section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, preclude any additional deployment of United States Armed Forces to the operations in Iraq. Congress must explicitly refused to authorize or appropriate the use of funds for an increase in troop levels. This is necessary to establish an actual confrontation between the legislative and executive branches sufficient to confer standing to Congress in the U.S. Supreme Court should the President disobey their directive and should they seek intervention of the judicial branch. (Campbell vs Clinton).

That's the legal side. But the political side could be influenced by the voices of the people. How strongly do the people feel against a troop surge? Is it strong enough that the Congressional offices are going to be flooded with phone calls and correspondence? Are vast numbers of people going to demand meetings with their Senators and Representatives to voice opposition to an escalation? If not, the Democratic leadership will exercise the "give-him-enough-rope" option.

Write the US House of Representatives
Write the US Senate
Write the Major Media Outlets

January 9, 2007

Puff the Magic Dragon in Somolia

The US has launched air strikes in Somalia, supposedly to "get" Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who allegedly planned the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 225 people. The use of AC-130 gunships implies that the US could have killed a similar number of people if the attack was in a populated area.

AC-130 gunships (and AC-47s), known in the Vietnam war as "Puff the Magic Dragon" or "Spooky," were said to be able to shoot a large bullet into every square foot of an area the size of a football field at 18,000 bullets per minute (three guns at 6,000/min.)
"On a typical black starless night in July, 1973 "Spooky" lifted into the sky over Bien Hoa. Like a vulture "Spooky" slowly circled its target at 2,000 feet and with all [three] its guns blazing, [each] at the rate of 6,000 rounds a minute, there was no place to hide. "Whoever built 'Puff' had a sick mind." said one soldier. "At night it looked like a red line of light coming from the heavens, like Hell leaking fire.

Here's another account from the Vietnam era. The weapons AC-130s carry today are surely more lethal than in the 1960's.... meaning they can cover more area more quickly... 'cuz ya can't get more "lethal" than the following description:

"Once 'Puff' had done his work on a North Vietnamese Army company and we went out on patrol to count bodies," said another soldier. "We walked for about a mile and didn't see anything. First we could smell it, and then we couldn't believe what we saw. What was once 200 men was now a stream of slush. 'Puff' had shredded them to bits leaving nothing but communist mush. It was just like putting 200 men through a meat grinder."

Where I come from we call this "over kill." This isn't new in Somalia, or anywhere the US operates for that matter. The military doctrine of "overwhealming force," is what has lead to a significant increase in civilian deaths when the US engages in military actions.

The larger question is, "what's the US doing engaged in open warfare in Somalia?" Oh yea, the blank-check "war on terror." Add this to weighing the question "Has World War III Started?"


Preliminary reports indicate 10-30 deaths, including a four-year-old and a newly married couple.

Interview with Salim Lone, former spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq and a columnist for the Daily Nation in Kenya. Second interview with Salim Lone.

The world does want to help the US end terror, but the way the US repeatedly is doing it, from Iraq and Afghanistan to now in Somalia, this will increase the amount of terrorism that exists in the world and certainly in this region. It is a totally brutal attack that has killed many civilians. There was no need to do it this way. There are other ways to fight terror. And in this particular case, the best way to fight terror was to work with the Islamic Courts Union, which had lots of support and controlled virtually all of southern Somalia.

Technical Note:

According to Andrew Warinner, "there was a Vietnam weapon nicknamed "Puff the Magic Dragon." It was the AC-47 gunship. "Puff" was the venerable C-47 Dakota airplane (essentially a Douglas DC-3) converted to hold a whole lot weaponry and used in close air support. "Puff" is also used to refer to the AC-130 gunship but it's nickname was "Spooky" or "Spectre." Since the AC-47 was first used in Vietnam in October 1964 and the AC-130 was first used 1967 they cannot be the inspiration for a song written in 1958 and copyrighted in 1963."

Photo Credit: Screaming Cricket

January 8, 2007

Flip Flopping Political Elite and Troop Surges

Tweedle Dem and Tweedle Rep are at it again.

You SAY, "surge today" and I SAID, "surge yesterday," or was that a year ago? Dunno. Soooooooooo lets call the whole thing off.

Much has been said in recent weeks about Bush and how he listens to "commanders on the ground," or doesn't. My version of the story, with some derision spooned out for the deserving Democrats, is provided following the salient bottom line.

Salient Bottom Line:

Even if the political elite keeps flip flopping, some people have known all along what we should all know by now. The American political elite is discredited when it comes to Iraq troop levels and other matters.

We hear more sobering, consistent information from the independent media, here represented in a recent interview with journalist Dahr Jamail.

It's very important for people to understand that there is this illusion that the military has some kind of control in Iraq, as if... "we have control, but maybe if we send 20 or 30 thousand more troops, that will help somehow, we'll have a little bit MORE control."

Well, the reality is there is no control. The British recently got kicked out of their base in Southern Iraq down near Basra. They were being mortared so heavily they had to evacuate the base they were sharing with some of the Danish troops that are over there. Well, same thing in al-Anbar Province for the Americans. I, for example, got an e-mail from a woman whose son is a marine in Ramadi and she was passing on some of his e-mails to me, and this is a little more recent than last Spring, but he was saying that they had 400 marines in Ramadi that were responsible for patrolling half the city of 400,000 people. [1]
The situation is far more horrific than this. The US set up Shia death squads to do the dirty work against the Sunni insurgents, and now the death squads are getting out of control.

We can expect a discredited President to call for a troop surge, intended to stabilize Baghdad. No mention of Southern Iraq, or al-Anbar Province, or other no-name areas of Iraq that don't even make it into the American lexicon. The phrase "pissing on a forest fire" comes to mind, though others would say "pissing in the wind." Unfortunately, the wind is blowing our way.

So, it's time to pull tight on the purse strings. The Congress needs to hear from us, as do the major media outlets. Tell them that King George has no clothes, and that there will be hell to pay if they fund Bush's bogus troop surge.

Write the US House of Representatives
Write the US Senate
Write the Major Media Outlets

The Sad Story: To Surge or Not to Surge

To surge or not to surge, that is the question —
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of admiting the US debacle,
Or to take more arms and troops against
A sea of troubles and, with head in sand,
Prolong them.

In 2003, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki urged the President to deploy more troops to secure Iraq. Bush didn't listen, and Iraq suffered looting of the antiquities that defined its heritage. According to numerous generals, that failure was also largely responsible for the downward spiral in Iraq; we missed a window of opportunity. [2]

In May 2004, Bush said, "General Abizaid and other commanders in Iraq are constantly assessing the level of troops they need to fulfill the mission. If they need more troops, I will send them." and "Commanders on the ground will pay close attention to local conditions. And we will do all that is necessary -- by measured force or overwhelming force -- to achieve a stable Iraq." [3]

In November 2004, Bush said, "I have yet to hear from our commanders on the ground that they need more troops," [4]

In 2005, Senators Biden, Kerry, McCain all urged Bush to deploy more troops. In June 2006, Bush said, "Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave." [5]

Democrat Joseph Biden, who at the wanted MORE troops in 2005, said "I have the phone numbers of generals" who were seeking more troops. Funny how familiar Bush's argument in 2005 sounds; isn't that what the Democratic leadership said on the Sunday talk shows last weekend?

On January 16, 2006, Bush said, General Casey's "recommendations will determine the number of troops we have on the ground in Iraq." Er, maybe not. Bush has decided to replace general's Casey and Abizaid. [6]

But, that was then, and now is now. "You say tomato, I say tomatto." Let's see. Now Bush wants MORE troops and the Democrats want LESS troops (Lieberman doesn't count).


[1] Flashpoints Radio, January 4, 2007. Nora Barrows-Friedman spends an hour with Flashpoints Special Correspondent and independent non-embedded journalist Dahr Jamail on the year that was 2006 in Iraq. Web LINK

[2] Rolling Stone, The Generals Speak, November 2004. Web LINK

[3] May, 2004. President Outlines Steps to Help Iraq Achieve Democracy and Freedom. Remarks by the President on Iraq and the War on Terror. United States Army War College. Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Web LINK

[4] CBS News, November 8, 2004. Web LINK

[5] June 28, 2005 President Addresses Nation, Discusses Iraq, War on Terror. Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Web LINK

[6] Washington Post, President Confronts Dissent on Troop Levels. Bush Indicates Military Won't Dictate Numbers; Top General to Retire. December 21, 2006. By Peter Baker Web LINK

January 6, 2007

Sunday Sun Israeli Nuclear Scoop

Now THAT's a scoop. The British Sunday Times reports that Israel is planning a nuclear strike on Iran's underground uranium enrichment facilities using tactical "bunker busters" that have yeild of about 1/15th of the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima Japan by the US in 1945.

Not only must Israel consider Iran's retaliation, it must consider retaliation from non-State actors who could take any form, stike anywhere in any way. Israel would be responsible for such reprisals.

The Sunday Times January 07, 2007

Uzi Mahnaimi, New York and Sarah Baxter, Washington

Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran

ISRAEL has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear “bunker-busters”, according to several Israeli military sources.

The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

Under the plans, conventional laser-guided bombs would open “tunnels” into the targets. “Mini-nukes” would then immediately be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.

“As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished,” said one of the sources.

The plans, disclosed to The Sunday Times last week, have been prompted in part by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad’s assessment that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons within two years.

Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.

Israeli and American officials have met several times to consider military action. Military analysts said the disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, cajole America into action or soften up world opinion in advance of an Israeli attack.

Some analysts warned that Iranian retaliation for such a strike could range from disruption of oil supplies to the West to terrorist attacks against Jewish targets around the world.

Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran which are believed to be involved in Iran’s nuclear programme:

# Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment

# A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan where, according to a statement by an Iranian vice-president last week, 250 tons of gas for the enrichment process have been stored in tunnels

# A heavy water reactor at Arak, which may in future produce enough plutonium for a bomb

Israeli officials believe that destroying all three sites would delay Iran’s nuclear programme indefinitely and prevent them from having to live in fear of a “second Holocaust”.

The Israeli government has warned repeatedly that it will never allow nuclear weapons to be made in Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that “Israel must be wiped off the map”.

Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, has described military action against Iran as a “last resort”, leading Israeli officials to conclude that it will be left to them to strike.

Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. Three possible routes have been mapped out, including one over Turkey.

Air force squadrons based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, have trained to use Israel’s tactical nuclear weapons on the mission. The preparations have been overseen by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, commander of the Israeli air force.

Sources close to the Pentagon said the United States was highly unlikely to give approval for tactical nuclear weapons to be used. One source said Israel would have to seek approval “after the event”, as it did when it crippled Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak with airstrikes in 1981.

Scientists have calculated that although contamination from the bunker-busters could be limited, tons of radioactive uranium compounds would be released.

The Israelis believe that Iran’s retaliation would be constrained by fear of a second strike if it were to launch its Shehab-3 ballistic missiles at Israel.

However, American experts warned of repercussions, including widespread protests that could destabilise parts of the Islamic world friendly to the West.

Colonel Sam Gardiner, a Pentagon adviser, said Iran could try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for 20% of the world’s oil.

Some sources in Washington said they doubted if Israel would have the nerve to attack Iran. However, Dr Ephraim Sneh, the deputy Israeli defence minister, said last month: “The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran.”

The Logic of Hussein's Execution

Brooks Blog points to Comments by Egyptian President Mubarak stating that the manner in which Saddam Hussein was executed made him a martyr.

Not only has Hussein been made a martyr, but he is also the logical "IF," which calls for a "THEN."

IF Hussein is tried and executed for disproportionate use of force in Dujail,

THEN Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should be tried for disproportionate use of force in Lebanon.

THEN US President George W. Bush should be tried for disproportionate use of force in Fallujah.

January 3, 2007

Bill Kristol: Payola Pundit Skewered

Today I commented on an essay by Anonymous Liberal (AL) at the blog site "Unclaimed Territory" - by Glenn Greenwald. In it AL discredited Bill Kristol's past commentaries, and questioned Time Magazine's hiring of Kristol as a "Pundit Superstar". Here's one of a long list of examples of how Kristol consistently gets it wrong:

"On March 17, 2003, on the eve of our invasion of Iraq, Bill Kristol wrote the following:

"We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam's regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of cooperation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region. It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people's pain. History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts."


Payola Pundits

And to think that Kristol is just one of many got-it-wrong payola pundits. Some FCC licenses should be revoked.

Write a Letter to the Editor letters@time.com

Or call/FAX:
Phone: 212-522-1212
Fax: 212-522-0323

This is just one more example of The Discredited American Political Elite to which I add the corporate media, and propose some remedies.... starting with a letter to Time Inc.

letter to Time:

TO: letters@time.com

To Time Inc.

It is well documented that the major media outlets are employing comentators who are discredited, while preventing better qualified individuals from having access. This growing body of documentation puts you at risk with your investors,.

One of many examples of this, which applies to Time Magazine, is documented in an essay available at http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/ 01/02/07, entitled "Bill Kirstol - Pundit Superstar."

I reject the predictable counter-argument that the matters to which Kristol speaks are too complex to analyze with accuracy. There are many people who consistently provide insightful predictions of events who are prevented from appearing in commercial media, in great part because it is commercial. This is well documented by academics like Robert McChesney of the Univeristy of Illinois. It is also documented, as relates to the oligopolistic cable industry, in "Cable News Confidential" by the founder of Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) founder Jeff Cohen.

I'm asking that you reconsider your contract with Bill Kristol and that you hire comentators that have a better record of getting it right, like former weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

Your failure to take this correspondence seriously could expose you to costly legal challenges of your corporate charter.


- END -

As our Commander-in-Chief once said, "Bring them On"

January 2, 2007

Discredited American Political Elite

It's easy to give examples of the discredited American political elite. At the end of this piece I offer a few positive steps that can be taken to remedy this crisis.

In South America "Mass political and social movements, many of whose members live on less than a dollar a day, have learned to run successful political campaigns and carry out extended protests on people power and a shoestring budget --- a phenomena terrifying to both the nation’s discredited political elite and U.S. economic interests." [1] This level of direct democracy has yet to boil up in the United States; however, the 2006 mid-term elections were a hint of the potential. Others, like Noam Chomsky, observe that Americans political apathy reflects acknowledgement of a dysfunctional, entrenched political elite.

Discredited Electoral Process: Many people recognize the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen. There's a ton of documented evidence compiled by people like Greg Palast, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and John Conyers, who will chair the House Judiciary Committee in the coming Congress.

But that's just the most egregious aspect of deeper discredit. Because of the influence of television on public perception, and the high cost of access to TV due in part to media ownership consolidation, politicians are beholden to money. Because corporations, and the wealthy elite, have consolidated most of the Nation's wealth, most politicians are beholden to these narrow, monied interests. So, Americans have lost faith in an electoral process that only allows them to pick between dumb and dumber.

The Judicial System: The ineffectual role of the Florida Supreme Court, and the radical bias of the US Supreme Court in the electoral process has been exposed. Consider an example of blatantly tainted judicial impartiality, and it makes your skin crawl. Given the bias revealed by his public statements, Scalia should have stepped aside in the Hamdan case, regarding the legality of trying bin Ladin's former driver of war crimes. But it goes deeper. It takes money to defend oneself (defend oneself?) against a slapp suit in our current judicial system. It is nearly impossible to challenge the violations of a huge corporation.

Commercial Media: The mainstream media, the 4th branch, has become part of American political elite. Ownership has been consolidated from about 50 outlets in the 1980s to about six huge transnational corporations. How can General Electric NOT have a conflict of interest? Media personalities have become highly-paid celebrities, with a lot to loose if they don't toe the corporate advertiser line. We all have written off Faux News, thanks to Greenwald's investigations, documented in "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism." We have documentary evidence that Fox News is anything but "fair and balanced." But it doesn't stop at Fox. Jeff Cohen's book, "Cable News Confidential," puts to rest any doubts that the media oligopoly is a market failure of capitalist economic theory. They should not only have their FCC licences revoked, but risk challenges to their corporate charters.

Divide and Conquer:
To the chants of Si Se Puede, we are all reminded that the political elite cannot manage immigration. Republicans tried to use it as a divisive issue in 2006, and failed. We see the 9/11 Commission recommend more security along the Canadian boarder, and the political response is congressional funding of a wall along the Mexican boarder. This mentality isn't limited to Republicans. The Clinton administration began militarizing the border with Mexico in 1994. That the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented in the same year as Clinton's Operation Gatekeeper is no coincidence. "When this all began, (INS officials) told Congress that immigration would spike after NAFTA because it would displace workers." [2]

I could go on:
The fact that we got into the Iraq war. The failure to resolve the Israel/Palestine debacle. The Privatization of US highways, and other "privatization" initiatives, which reflects political impotence to maintain infrastructure, The failure of corporate globalization and desperate talk of tariffs by Democrat Charles Schumer, which seeks to cast blame on China for failing to revalue the yuan. OK China, go ahead. Devalue the dollar (the relative effect of raising the value of the yuan). Bankrupt policy options of the political elite. Did I say "bankrupt?" How 'bout that bipartisan bankruptcy bill? Katrina victims? not just the failures in advance and soon after the levees broke, but the blatant property grabs that amount to ethnic cleansing. Yes, on and on one can go pointing out why America's political elite is discredited.

But what to do about it?


1. Universal Health Care. Why? By reducing this burden on employers, they can be more competitive. Medical innovations will still be able to compete for use. It cuts out the inefficient insurance middle-man. It helps redistribute wealth, which is needed to reduce the growing strain of inequity on our society.

2. Restrict corporate rights at the constitutional level. No informed person can deny that corporations are literally getting out of human control. Inanimate corporations are re-writing our laws and affecting judicial precedent through the perversions of their enormously consolidated power. This will go a long way toward reforming our discredited commercial media and electoral systems.

3. Windfall Profit Taxes. Government largess is well known. Invest about $100 million into further investigation, and we can surely regain $100 billion for tax payers. This will help redistribute wealth, which is needed to reduce the growing strain of inequity on our society.

4. Get a Handle on Hedge Funds. When commodities, like wheat, become the playground for wealthy gambler's, honest farmers pay the price... literally. When foreign currencies can be cornered, countries like Thailand are forced to take seemingly authoritarian steps to protect their economies. Unless the political elite want agrarian revolt or war, they need to reel in this gambling parlor.


[1] Kathryn Ledebur and Gretchen Gordon, 22 November 2005

[2] EDWARD SIFUENTES, North County Times (San Diego), October 3, 2004.

January 1, 2007