June 30, 2008

Disturbing Trend in Iraq

Photo Journalist Zoriah is not alone:

I am noticing a disturbing trend in Iraq right now, one that I feel pretty sure will prove to be a major mistake in this war and cause a fair amount of grief to the Iraqi people and most likely beyond. The U.S. Military is arming and funding militias and civil military groups across the country. After a discussion with a soldier about the Sons of Iraq, what is now called a "neighborhood guard" by the US military, the soldier said, "We are basically paying these guys off with money and weapons to not kill us."

So that's how the surge worked. That and the fact that al Sader's Mahdi Army took a break (and they weren't the only ones who decided to lie low during the surge). In addition, the Sunni Shia ethnic cleansing, and relocation, had played itself out, so the numbers of deaths dropped.

Here's a bit more nuanced take from Nir Rosen, considered by many to be one of the best journalists in Iraq:

Well, the Americans like to think that the reason why the Sunni militiamen, the Sunni resistance, has stopped fighting them is because they’re paying them, because from the American point of view, it was always about money. They never understood the importance of ideology or of occupation or of resistance... I met with many of these people. Nobody joined the resistance for money. They joined because they believed there was an occupation that was threatening their lives or their country or their religion, or they didn’t like the way the new government looked, so they joined the resistance to fight the American occupation, not for money.

And now they joined these Awakening groups, again, not for money, but because they have another interest: “We’re not going to fight the Americans now, we’re going to fight the Iranians [Shia]. Let’s get the Americans off of our back.” In a way, the Sunnis have actually bought the Americans, because now they control territory. The same militiamen who were killing Shias, who were blowing up Americans just a few months ago, who were on the run, now control territory inside Baghdad and elsewhere, and it’s become safe for Sunnis to go to those areas, not only Sunnis from those areas, but even Sunnis who have fled Shia militias in other places can now go there. So you have safe Sunni territories. From there, different Sunni groups can join. They can establish a political movement, which they’re trying to do, and eventually try to retake Baghdad or at least re-fight the civil war.

But the story is even more nuanced, or nefarious, if you look at the role played by General Patraeus over the years.


PHOTO Credit: Zoriah Photo Journalist. Commentary:

The above image is of a confiscated weapons cache housed inside of a US/Iraqi army base in Sadr City. Notice that there are no magazines in these weapons. As I was taking these photos, U.S. soldiers filled their pockets with loaded magazines, intending to distribute them to local militias.

Zoriah's Blog entry, IRAQ WAR PHOTOGRAPHER DIARY - MILITIAS, June 26, 2008.


June 29, 2008

US Kills with Impunity in Iraq... Again

Imagine if one of Vice President Dick Cheney's bodyguards was shot and killed during a Christmas party. Imagine that the trigger-man was known. Do you think it would be big news? Do you think the trigger-man would face some kind of court process? Certainly.

But on Christmas Eve in 2006, a US contractor from Blackwater shot and killed a bodyguard of Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Most Americans probably didn't hear about it in the corporate media and, as of recently, there has been no judicial process.

Now imagine if a relative of President George Bush was killed by a foreign military force conducting a security raid in the United States. Hard to imagine, eh? But the reverse has just happened in the Iraqi state of Karbala. We did hear about this recent incident as the news zipped by in the 24-hour news cycle a couple days ago...

Outraged Iraqi officials demanded an investigation into an early morning U.S. military raid Friday near the birthplace of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. The [Karbala] governor's brother, Hassanein al Khazaali, said late Friday that the Iraqi killed in the operation was a relative of the U.S.-backed prime minister.

How many times have we heard "demands for an investigation," to be conducted by the fox guarding the hen house (US military)? We rarely hear the results of these investigations, and if we do, they're usually like those of the Haditha Massacre. US Marines involved in Haditha have gotten away with venting their deadly rage on three unarmed college students and a cab driver happening by the site of a roadside bombing that killed a Marine. The Marines also entered two houses and killed most of the occupants, including women and children. By the end of their spree, the Marines had killed 24 apparently innocent Iraqis.

We're supposed to believe the Marines were just following standard procedures. If we take them at their word, the US "procedures" can lead to the massacre of 24 civilians, an incident that is probably more common than we'd like to believe [1]. These very destabilizing "standard procedures" are contrary to the stated "security" mission of the US. This chain of logic justifies the withdrawal of US military forces from Iraq, but you won't hear this analysis voiced in the elite media.

My point? High profile killings by US forces in Iraq go by with little news coverage (more examples below). Countless similar incidents occur without any comment. These killings would cease if the US would leave Iraq. Again, the logic is clear: The US government isn't a force of stability in Iraq, rather it is an arm of corporate colonialism, which is very destabilizing.


McClatchy, Iraqi officials outraged by U.S. raid in prime minister's hometown, Hannah Allam and Sahar Issa.

[1] Given the size of Iraq, most incidents go unreported in the media. We get a glimpse into this by high-profile incidents that do make it into the mainstream, like the April 2003 US killing of journalists in the Palestine Hotel, and the US killing of a senior Italian intelligence official, Nicola Calipari, as he was helping evacuate Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena who had been kidnapped in Iraq. Additional insight can be gained from the testimonials of US soldiers who spoke during the March 2008 Winter Soldier Hearings organized by Iraqi Veterans Against War.

Photo Credit: Relatives mourn near the bodies of children killed in a U.S. raid in Tikrit March 15, 2006. Eleven people, most of them women and children were killed when a house was bombed during a U.S. raid north of Baghdad, police and relatives said. (AP Photo/Bassim Daham).


June 27, 2008

"Set Back" Takes on Meaning in High Court's Exxon Decision

Mother Jones Magazine's blog sums up the US Supreme Court's recent decision on cutting the Exxon Valdez oil spill damage penalty to nearly nothing:

After spending hundreds of millions of dollars fighting the $5 billion punitive damage award handed down by an Alaska jury in 1994 for its role in the massive oil spill in Prince William Sound, Exxon today landed a major victory at the Supreme Court. In a 5-3 ruling, with Alito sitting out, the court overturned a lower court decision that had reduced the verdict to $2.5 billion, and sent the case back saying that the punitive damage award was excessive and should not exceed about $500 million, the same as the compensatory damages.

$500 million sounds like a lot, rather than "nearly nothing," until the amount is put into perspective by DemocracyNow:

Last year Exxon Mobil made just over $40 billion in profits. This means the oil company will be able to pay the punitive damages in about four days.

Exxon caused the catastrophic damage over 6,500 days ago (March 1989), and will now pay a scant four days of profits as a damage penalty. The principle of punitive damages is that the penaly is supposed to be large enough to deter similar behavior in the future (the spill wasn't an accident, it was gross negligence). Exxon can easily budget 4-days of profits into its business plan to allow for future a Valdez-like crime and feel no pain. We can see that the US Supreme Court has dashed the principle of punitive damages against Bligh Reef of Prince William Sound.

Regarding the why this is a "set back" a little background on the long-term fate of corporations is in order. The corporate business form is a doomed concept, just like "slavery" was known to be doomed for a long time before slavery finally collapsed. Similarly with corporations, which have become profit-seeking monsters that do more harm to society than good (keep in mind that businesses can exist without having the special protections of being a corporation). If you accept this, we can say that some year, off in the future, corporations will be pronounced as dead as slavery is today. Perhaps this will be in 2108, or sooner, or later.

The Supreme Court's recent decision in the Exxon Valdez case is a precedent that applies to all corporations. Their decision has likely set back the date when corporations will be eradicated. Corporations will continue interfering with our freedom and self-governance for more decades than would have been the case without this Court decision. As a result, many more people will suffer, and even die, because of the harsh edges of greed that are inseparable from the corporate business form.


DemocracyNow, Supreme Court Slashes Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Fine to One-Tenth of Original $5 Billion Ruling, June 26, 2008.

Mother Jones Blog, Supreme Court Overturns Exxon Valdez Verdict, June 25, 2008.


June 26, 2008

Guns: We Might Need them

The US Supreme Court decision striking down the District of Columbia law prohibiting possession of hand guns is likely to have far reaching implications. On a simple level, it means more guns in the hands of "the people." In view of the dictatorial direction of the US Government, driven by Bush's principles of unitary presidency, we might all need the guns to protect our constitution from internal threats. My attitude toward the elite Court's decision is "let us have guns.... if you're that stupid."

And, reading in the July/August 2008 issue of Mother Jones (pre-Court decision) we see that it has become easier to get an assault rifle, and .50-caliber sniper rifles in the US (a single .50-cliber round can cut a person in half). For only $89 you can be the proud owner of an oldie but goodie Soviet army SKS. No problem shooting through they type of body armor typically used by police officers. Now we're really talking protection of the constitution. Message? Don't be a stooge trooper for the elite minority that seeks to undermine the US constitution... 'cuz thar's guns in the hands of them thar people.

This commentary would have little meaning if I was your regular gun-toting Republican or Libertarian. But I'm originally from the Democratic Party fold, and more recently the Green Party fold. Society-watchers might want to take note. Things they are a change'n and it ain't 'cuz of Obama.


June 23, 2008

US Constitution Challenged

Open minded, thinking people will find the set of 3-minute videos, linked below, to be enlightening. Brought to you by the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD), these brief presentations challenge the foundation of our current society.

Their constructive criticism was derived from years of asking why our so-called democracy is so disfunctional. Why does power remain in the hands of so few and how have corporations become so powerful that they dominate our legislative process, judicial system, educational institutions, popular media and the culture that reflects our individual personalities.

WARNING: The ideas raised in these videos will make some people uncomfortable, perhaps angry. Others will find it refreshing to hear people speaking honestly about "we the people" contrasted with the founding fathers.

Click Here for a list of the Videos: (You are leaving this page)


Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy web site.


June 19, 2008

Wall Street Dominos Start to Fall

The Associated Press reports that Bears Sterns hedge fund managers
Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin were accused of encouraging investors to stay in their hedge funds, heavily exposed to subprime mortgages, even as they knew the credit market was in serious trouble.

AP puts this in the context of wider action...

The arrests came as the Justice Department in Washington announced the indictments of more than 400 players in the real-estate industry since March in a crackdown on mortgage fraud. Sixty were arrested on Wednesday alone.

It's hard to say this is honest justice when we know that the system and culture is corrupt to the core. We saw similar actions of "justice" when Enron, Arthur Anderson and others were in the spot light... but there doesn't seem to be a deterrent effect.

It has been noted that "if it pays, it plays" in regard to illegal activity. In addition to jail time, we need to focus on getting the money back that has been stolen. If that means liquidating big player corporations, and paying off the workers who will have to find new jobs, then so be it.

The corporate elite has robbed us every decade via a system that allows it. When John Edwards becomes the next Attorney General, we need to pressure him to change the system. That will be a true test of Obama's mouthing of the word "change."


Associated Press, 2 charged on Wall Street in mortgage meltdown, June 19, 2008.


June 14, 2008

Lieberman: Fascist in Democrat Clothes

If you have not watched the "Lieberman Must Go" video, here's your chance.

Psst. Do Something! Sign the Petition - Lieberman Must Go!


June 10, 2008

Changes to the Insurrection Act

The Insurrection Act is made up of five sections of Title 10 of the United States Code (Entitled Armed Forces). The Sections are 331 through 335.

The changes to the Act, made via the Warner 2007 Defense Authorization Bill, drafted in 2006, are not that significant. What is significant is the the original Act. The Insurrection Act of 1807 is a notable exception to the Posse Comitatus Act, which reads simply:
Sec. 1385. - Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

The Warner 2007 Defense Authorization Bill made the following changes (Sections not mentioned were not changed).

Old Title: "Insurrection"
New Title: "Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order."

Old Section 333: Limited the military to "suppressing" "insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy". Basically, once the violence is over, the feds leave.
New Section 333: Expands the military rights to a more open-ended role to "restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States" for the things cited above, plus "a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition", where "other conditions" remain consistent with old law except that the words "or possession" are inserted to complement the law's application to states. Note how this expansion relates to new language in Section 334.

New Section 333 adds a requirement for the President to notify Congress of his use of this authority and report every 14 days.

Section 334, cited in full below, with new language in bold.

Whenever the President considers it necessary to use the militia or the armed forces under this chapter, he shall, by proclamation, immediately order the insurgents or those obstructing the enforcement of the laws to disperse and retire peaceably to their abodes within a limited time.

for a side-by-side comparison of the old and new versions of the Insurrection Act.

Internal Tags:

Insurrection Act of 1807
How it was changed
old version new
how old and new versions vary
changes made
law before and after changes
Title 10 U.S.C. USC US United States Code Section 331 132 133 134 335
Subtitle A
Part 1
Chapter 15


Cornell Law School US Code Collection Sections 131 - 135.

Wikipedia, Insurrection Act, Posse Comitatus Act.


June 7, 2008

Nearly 40% of Americans Unemployed

Peter Goodman writes...

The unemployment rate does not count people who have given up looking for work. Over all, the percentage of working age Americans employed dropped to 62.6 percent in May from 63 percent a year earlier.

That means nearly 40% are unemployed. Even if one argues that 10% of these unemployed people are unemployable, due to health or other legitimate reasons, the real unemployment figure in the US is closer to 30% not 5% as we are lead to believe.

Goodman's Article is worth reading. It's an example of the establishment media acknowledging a distinction between the Main Street economy and the Wall Street economy.

It also exposes John McCain's superficial and misleading inference that Obama's economic policies represent a return to "the past that advocate higher taxes.." implying this would apply to typical "... families at this critical time..." Goodman lets Obama clarify in his own words that the Obama tax policy would help typical families because, “We can’t afford John McCain’s plan to spend billions of dollars on tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy C.E.O.’s.”


New York Times, Job Losses and Surge in Oil Spread Gloom on Economy, Peter S. Goodman, June 7, 2008.


June 5, 2008

June 4, 2008

Obama the Nominee

It was odd to see the headlines yesterday, "Obama Clinches Nomination; Clinton Seeks VP Spot."

I can't say whether or not this was widely voiced by the establishment media (I try to avoid that media), but it was a Yahoo! News headline.

Here's what I've urged Obama to do. You can Contact Obama too:

Please do NOT put H. Clinton on the ticket. She is very divisive, even if it's not her fault.

DO offer John Edwards the Attorney General position. Let him gather evidence on Bush et al. for future prosecution. The Nation cannot accept impunity if it is to survive in the long run.

Prosecute Bush et. al., Chapter 1 [3-min Video]


June 3, 2008

Mainstream Affirmation of Empire in Decline

So today we read in the mainstream media that..

In the past, a sharp downshift in the US and Europe would decisively slow the rate of global growth. This time, emerging markets appear poised to grow collectively by 6.7 percent this year, according to recent forecasts by the International Monetary Fund.

Some might argue, "No. It's not the US empire in decline. It's a relative shift of other nations ascending, giving the appearance of the US in decline."

I don't think so. Over ten years ago economist and writer, Lester Thurow, documented a twenty-year decline in the US as I've noted before. Don't be fooled by Wall Street Economics when it's Main Street Economics that counts... at least for those who believe in democracy of the people.

It's a "new world order" that the neocons have seen coming. Their answer is to build up the US military and use violent force to cling onto empire. They fail to admit that the decline is due, in great part, to the consolidation of power and wealth in the hands of a few who claim allegiance to the flag, but who have no national allegiance. Ironically, the neocons aren't the elites consolidating power. We hear about fighting among elites, "the neocons" the "pragmatists" and then there are what I'll call "the JFK killers."

The later are the ones who currently run the White House. Nothing is black-and-white, and because they have, in times past, made alliances with "pragmatists" and "neocons" among others, e.g., "liberal bankers," to get things done... among the elite.

The point? We now see all of the elite jockying as the stallion on which they ride, the US, begins to descend on a path of no return. It happened to China, Rome, the Ottomans, Spain, Britain. Our job, as citizens of the US, other than to survive as individuals, is to assist in the transition and ensure that certain elites (the JFK killers) don't do something crazy, like go to war with China, as a desperate means of clinging to a failing empire.


Christian Science Monitor, Amid economic slowdown, signs of new world order, June 3, 2008.


June 2, 2008

Will Edwards Prosecute Bush?

You might have heard it here first.... The call for John Edwards to be Attorney General.

Now we're hearing reports, like the following:

Another Democrat who has discussed strategy with friends in the Obama inner circle said that Mr Obama was openly considering asking Mrs Clinton to join his cabinet, alongside two other former presidential rivals: John Edwards, who is seen as a likely attorney general...

This notion was raised in my first video commentary: Prosecute Bush et al., Chapter 1

Will Ethiopia Crumble Like its Gold?

This just in.... or, add this to the CIA Fact Book:

Ethiopia is discovering that the gold in its vaults is... not gold. We are hearing that the Meles Zenawi government has tried to cash in on gold prices only to find that Mengistu, or some other predecessor, has left a legacy of fools gold in the vaults.

If you're invested in Birr, you might wanna get out.


Can't say.