Sunday, June 10, 2007

News & Notes

Miscellaneous items of note:

Empire Burlesque: Seasons in Hell: Voices From the American Gulag

The Independent has a remarkable story on Sami al-Haj, the Sudanese journalist who has been held in George W. Bush's concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay for five years. Haj has not been charged with any crime, but he is undoubtedly guilty of a grave sin in the eyes of the Bush Regime: he is a cameraman for Al Jazeera.

Orcinus: Ron Paul vs The New World Order
I have to admit that when Rep. Ron Paul announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, I didn't raise much of an eyebrow, even though I am a longtime Paul watcher. After all, he's run before; his 1988 Libertarian Party candidacy attracted little attention because he ran mostly from the fringe, and his views haven't changed substantially over the years.

What I didn't expect was that his anti-war advocacy would attract as many evident admirers from the left as it seems to have, particularly those who are dissatisfied with Democrats' apparent fumbling of the Iraq war issue. Certainly, the message boards at liberal outlets like Crooks and Liars who've carried factual counterinformation about Paul have been flooded with raging defenses of the man, as have some of our comments threads.

To what extent this is an illusion created by Paul's legion of True Believers is difficult to ascertain. Paul is very well organized online -- much of his support is derived from this -- and it's entirely likely the flood of "liberals" and "progressives" who are busy arguing that someone like Paul is worth forming an alliance with are, in fact, simply part of Paul's corps and they're doing their part to muddy the waters and ultimately attract new supporters in a "Third Way" kind of strategy.

And to some extent it seems evident that they're succeeding. Mostly, they seem to be taking advantage of a combination of amnesia among those experienced enough to know better, and simple ignorance on the part of progressives who've never heard of, or paid any attention to, Ron Paul previously. They hear Paul's carefully crafted antiwar rhetoric and his critique of the Bush administration -- all of which elide or obscure his underlying beliefs -- and think it sounds pretty good, especially for a Republican.

As Sara has already explained, there's a real problem with that -- namely, for all of Paul's seeming "progressive" positions, he carries with him a whole raft of positions well to the right of even mainstream conservatives.

Does any of the following sound familiar?

Chris Hedges: Looking Back on 40 Years of Occupation
Israel captured and occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank 40 years ago this week. The victory was celebrated as a great triumph, at once tripling the size of the land under Israeli control, including East Jerusalem. It was, however, a Pyrrhic victory. As the occupation stretched over the decades, it transformed and deformed Israeli society. It led Israel to abandon the norms and practices of a democratic society until, in the name of national security, it began to routinely accept the brutal violence of occupation and open discrimination and abuse of Palestinians, including the torture of prisoners and collective reprisals for Palestinians attacks. Palestinian neighborhoods, olive groves and villages were, in the name of national security, bulldozed into the ground.

Lastly, on "Force labor", formerly known as slavery...

Inter Press Service: IRAQ: Blood, Sweat and Tears at New U.S. Embassy
The U.S. Justice Department is actively investigating allegations of forced labour and other abuses by the Kuwaiti contractor now rushing to complete the sprawling 592-million-dollar U.S. embassy project in Baghdad, numerous sources have revealed.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Child Abductions for Freedom

I just saw this on Glenn Greenwald's blog:

I see that Hilzoy this morning is discussing an amazing new report (.pdf) issued jointly by six human rights groups concerning 39 individuals whose whereabouts are unknown and at least some of whom, it seems quite likely, the U.S. has simply "disappeared," secretly holding in detention. Among the disappeared, Hilzoy highlights, are likely children as young as 7-9 years old. I have a lot to say about this issue -- as I hope everyone would -- but am unable to write anything now, but Hilzoy's post is superb and ought to be read widely.

We will undoubtedly hear at the next GOP debate from Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and company as they explain -- in the face of wild cheers from the "base" -- that they not only favor the disappearance of the children of Terrorists, but think the minimum age of detention ought to be halved from 8 to 4, and the number of secretly detained children doubled at least.

So, naturally, I went over to Hilzoy's post on Obsidian Wings and found more...

This report has gotten a fair amount of play, but in all the coverage I've read, only the Philadelphia Inquirer has mentioned what is, to me, the most awful allegation: that we disappeared young children. The report (pp. 24-26) lists five groups of family members; those who are discussed at greatest length are the sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

"In September 2002, Yusuf al-Khalid (then nine years old) and Abed al-Khalid (then seven years old) were reportedly apprehended by Pakistani security forces during an attempted capture of their father, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was successfully apprehended several months later, and the U.S. government has acknowledged that he was in the U.S. Secret Detention Program. He is presently held at Guantánamo Bay.


After Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest in March 2003, Yusuf and Abed Al Khalid were reportedly transferred out of Pakistan in U.S. custody. The children were allegedly being sent for questioning about their father’s activities and to be used by the United States as leverage to force their father to co-operate with the United States. A press report on March 10, 2003 confirmed that CIA interrogators had detained the children and that one official explained that:

“We are handling them with kid gloves. After all, they are only little children...but we need to know as much about their father's recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care.”

In the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he indicates knowledge that his children were apprehended and abused:

“They arrested my kids intentionally. They are kids. They been arrested for four months they had been abused.”"

Now, thinking back to that widely-reported confession by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a few months ago -- you know, the one where he confessed his responsibility for everything but the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby -- is there any chance that maybe, just maybe, some of that was coerced? I'm just speculating that, perhaps, 4 years of torture in Guantanamo Bay, combined the with the knowledge that his torturers had his children holed up in some similar undisclosed hell-hole, might have had the effect of coloring his testimony a bit. I'm just saying, I know KSM is a confirmed bad-guy and all, but this has to call his already-fantastical testimony into even more doubt.

Who needs evidence when we can threaten your kids?

I saw an episode of The Shield where the Russian mob acted the same way. But that was the Russian mob in a fictional TV show. This is the US government in real life.

See also:

  • The full report reference above (Adobe PDF file)
  • Treaties banning the "disappearing" of civilians
  • KSM: Read the long list of acts claimed by KSM in his secret military tribunal.

Wow, he makes Carlos the Jackal look like a Quaker.

This all further confirms for me what many have already suspected for a while. This whole torture program is designed, not to uncover intelligence on existing terror plots, but instead to create intelligence from whole cloth regardless of the existence of any plot. This manufactured intel is then used to incite fear and promote policies that have already been decided upon. The Iraq invasion, for example.


The Official Restart of the Cold War (Continued)

Per this AP story, our counterproductive Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was at it again today:

Rice: US pursues own missile plan

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer 16 minutes ago

NEW YORK - The United States will pursue its own plans to put a missile defense in Eastern Europe despite Russia's surprise suggestion to locate it outside the region, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told The Associated Press Friday.

In a wide-ranging interview, Rice said Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer to share a Soviet-era radar tracking station in Azerbaijan for the project had caught the Bush administration off guard, but was worth looking into even while missile defense negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic continue....

Translation: "Yeah, whatever. We'll call you. "

Asked for more detail on US designs in Europe, Rice then struck a more diplomatic pose:

"I'll get you, my Puty, and your little dog too!"


Putin Chides President's Comment on Democracy

Putin Cites US' Excessive Use of Force

The Official Restart of the Cold War


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Caribbean Terror Mastermind Exposed

Authorities have identified the mastermind behind the recent spate of terror plots hatched by dastardly Caribbean allies of Al Qaeda. The suspect is shown here in recently-released footage from a training video found during a raid of an alleged Al Qaeda safe house cleverly disguised as a beef pattie stand:

Boo, unlikely Caribbean Islamic extremist!



Don't believe the hypeWhy does Ron Paul hate public education?

A lot of people have been getting excited about Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) lately after his performances in the recent Republican primary debates, his appearance on The Daily Show and Bill Maher's glowing endorsement of him on his show, Real Time. Clearly, he has done a very good job of positioning himself as a new kind of "maverick" republican, willing to push back against the prevailing rightward tilt of the party. But is any of this posturing real?

I've noticed a number of reporters and bloggers out there who have rightfully raised questions about Paul's stances on issues of race. As an example, via C&L I found this post by Dave Neiwert at Orcinus that examines it rather closely. To wit (emphases mine; some hyperlinks added):

What I can tell you -- what all of us need to know before we run out and sign on for a summer of Ron Paul Love Feasts -- is that Paul has some long-standing ties to early-90s Patriot groups -- and some ugly attitudes on race and equality -- that should give us all long and serious pause. Diarist phenry at Daily Kos lays out the particulars here and here.

According to phenry, Paul's newsletter, The Ron Paul Political Report (renamed The Ron Paul Survival Report in 1993, in a bid to pander to the militia audience that was peaking that year) was a Patriot movement must-read, full of helpful advice on tax protest, gold-backed currency, urban race war and other pet legal and social theories of the extremist right. While content is very hard to come by now (Paul has scrubbed much of what was on the Web, and refuses to release the newsletter to the media), phenry dug up a few choice samples, including:

* A 1992 screed on African-American "racial terrorism" in Los Angeles, in which Paul insists that "our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin."

* Another 1992 article, this one asserting that "complex embezzling" is "100% white and Asian;" and noting that young black male muggers are "unbelievably fleet-footed."

* A Houston Chronicle citation from 1996, in which he asserts that Barbara Jordan was a "fraud." Paul wrote: "Everything from her imitation British accent, to her supposed expertise in law, to her distinguished career in public service, is made up. If there were ever a modern case of the empress without clothes, this is it. She is the archetypical half-educated victimologist, yet her race and sex protect her from criticism."

In the second post, phenry outlines Paul's connections to various white supremacists groups. In 1996, Paul was one of only two candidates endorsed by Christian Identity leader Larry Pratt (who had previously worked with David Duke, and resigned from Pat Buchanan's team when his Identity role became public). Paul refused to repudiate the endorsement; and Pratt has stepped forward again with a quasi-endorsement of Paul's current campaign.

Without question, these revelations about Paul's racial views and associations with radical racists are very disturbing and worthy of discussion. A big thank you goes out to people like phenry and Dave Neiwart who have done the work to uncover this information. But I've been surprised that the criticism of him has so far been limited this.

Racism is a big issue, obviously, but it's also a very polarizing one. GOP candidates get accused of racism virtually all the time, often rightfully so. But such an accusation, though cautionary for right-thinking people, will actually function as a badge of honor for others. Sadly, it is not yet something that Americans have finally settled as an issue and, because of that, I think it is a mistake for those of on "the left" to get so caught up in that issue alone. Yes, it should be exposed and pursued, but not exclusively, especially if there's something else about the guy that a vast majority of Americans will find almost equally unacceptable, if not more.

What if it turned out that Ron Paul was diametrically opposed to a policy -- a way of life, really -- that poll after poll reveals is strongly supported by the overwhelming majority Americans? What if, in addition to his repugnant views on a polarizing issue like race, he can also be shown to be in support of radical ideas that are anathema to long-standing American traditions and values? That would be worth pursuing too, would it not? Could such a thing aslo have an effect on the honeymoon he's currently enjoying?

More after the jump

Well, poll after poll does, in fact, show that when it comes to the issue of public education Americans can't get enough of it. By numbers upwards of 60 - 65% Americans have consistently indicated their desire for federal funding of public education to be increased, not decreased. Roughly the same numbers are even willing to pay more taxes, not fewer, in order to publicly fund education and believe public school teachers are payed too little, not too much.

At the same time Americans have registered ambivalence, if not outright rejection of charter schools and private school vouchers as viable alternatives to public education.

For a more comprehensive and current look at public attitudes towards public education please check the 38th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. PDK keeps an archive of their poll results from each year so be sure to check any year to confirm the persistence and consistency with which Americans register these sentiments.

So, where does Ron Paul stand in the face of overwhelming public support for public education?

Well, let's put it this way. The Alliance for the Separation of School & State (the poetically appropriate acronym being ASSS) is an organization founded on the principle that government should have no involvment whatsoever in educating our nation's children. They have a very interesting web site, I must say. In it they make it abundantly clear that they do not favor the mere reform of public education nor merely settling for alternatives to it. No, no, silly-billy. They want to end all government involvement in education. That's K-12, community colleges, universities, GED's -- the whole thing. They don't want No Child Left Behind. The want no child's behind left in a public school. In the section entitled The Case for Separation they make this point clear and I strongly recommend checking it out, if for no other reason, to become more familiar with the rhetoric of these extremists. It's important to be able to recognize it when it's regurgitated by public officials.

In addition, if the preceding was not already clear enough, you also have this:
"I proclaim publicly that I favor ending government involvement in education."
The preceding is a direct quote of a proclamation crafted by the Alliance and set up on their site as an online petition of sorts. Now, here's the kicker. Guess who signed it?

Why, everyone's favorite GOP "maverick", Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), of course.

Now you may ask, "But how will be ordinary families pay for their children's education if government isn't involved to provide a public resource? "

Well the good folks at ASSS have an answer. They'll just deal with it!

"Most people are more able to pay for education than they think."

"Parents would also find creative ways to help fund their children's schooling."

"Keep in mind that many thousands of parents of very modest means now find the resources to send their children to private schools..."

Put simply, Ron Paul wants public education in America abolished.

That's right... ABOLISHED!

How does this radical idea comport with traditional American values or the overwhelming will of the American public? How many of us owe our current standard of living, our earning power and our college educations to the benefits we derived from public education? How many of us were raised in households that could not have afforded private school at all, let alone a decent one? Do public schools play a positive role in your community?

I believe the answers to these questions are self evident. Someone needs to call Ron Paul publicly on his hostility to public education. Make him either recant or explain endorsement of this petition. But, whatevery one does, do not go trusting this man just because he talks a good game on reality TV shows diguised as political debates. TV is not real.

Ron Paul is every bit as radical as the rest of the Republican field.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Official Restart of the Cold War

[Cue mysterious-sounding music]

In a world where domestic budget surpluses abound....

...where international weapons inspectors can completely disarm a tyrant...

...and the "communist threat" suddenly vanishes...

...all your hopes and dreams for a global Armageddon hang in the balance. Now, there's only one man you can turn to...

"I'm the commander guy!"

New, from the the makers of...

"Big Brother 2000"

"Quagmire in Iraq"


"Sosa for Palmiero"

...comes a new dimension in adventure....

"Get dowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwn!

The image


Cold War II

This time, it's completely avoidable!


This is not a film. It has not yet been rated because you're living it right now.