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Obama Needs to Tone Down His Rhetoric on Iran

Posted by libhom Saturday, June 28, 2008 8 comments

The corporate media are claiming that Barack Obama has "moved to the center" after defeating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, but he already was in the center. His shift is starting to make him sound disturbingly right wing. For instance, here are some comments from his infamous AIPAC speech on 6/4/08.

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its President denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

But just as we are clear-eyed about the threat, we must be clear about the failure of today's policy. We knew, in 2002, that Iran supported terrorism. We knew Iran had an illicit nuclear program. We knew Iran posed a grave threat to Israel. But instead of pursuing a strategy to address this threat, we ignored it and instead invaded and occupied Iraq. When I opposed the war, I warned that it would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East. That is precisely what happened in Iran - the hardliners tightened their grip, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President in 2005. And the United States and Israel are less secure.

First, let's correct the factual errors:

1) There is no evidence to support the view that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology, and they have not even suggested "a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists."

2) Iran does not pose a "grave threat to Israel." Israel, unlike Iran, is a nuclear power with an enormous military, paid for by you and me.

3) The main threat of an arms race in the Middle East is Israel's enormous military, not Iran.

Setting aside the factual errors for a moment, there is something more dangerous about Obama's rhetoric. It could help the corporate media create an impression of a broad consensus in our society for an American or Israeli attack on Iran, when no such consensus exists. It also encourages Iranian hardliners to press for a more militaristic stance against our country and to plan retaliation.

The consequences for queer Iranians are terrible. Whenever countries face foreign threats, the right always pushes for cultural conservatism and suppression of dissent. It happened in the time after 911 here, and it currently is happening in Iran.

The US already is in a terribly vulnerable position in the Middle East. We have tens of thousands of troops stuck in Iraq, a country with incredibly strong religious and cultural ties to Iran. Nearly every major Shi'ite and Kurdish political party is an Iranian ally, as are their corresponding militias. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis already support military attacks against the US troops occupying their country. The Bush regime and General "Betray Us" are pursuing an anti-Shi'ite policy in Iraq at the behest of the Saudi Royal Family, which is creating even greater animosity among the majority of the population.

Also, rising petroleum prices already are devastating the US economy. Oil closed at $142.97 on Friday. That means that crude oil prices went up 4% in just one week.

Obama's hyperbolic and irresponsible rhetoric on Iran is only adding to fears of disruption of world oil markets caused by the Bush regime's hyperbolic and irresponsible rhetoric on Iran. A lot of people blame speculators for the rise in oil prices, but the Iraq War, saber rattling with Venezuela, and saber rattling with Iran are giving investors a highly substantial basis for valuing petroleum higher.

This isn't quite the "bubble" the corporate media are telling you it is.

If Iran, one of the world's most important oil producers, is attacked, this will terribly disrupt world oil prices. Such a disruption would be even greater in the highly likely event that Iran retaliated against an attack on its sovereignty. A modest estimate of oil prices would be $250-300 per barrel.

If you don't like gas prices and our economy now...

When you add in the strain on our already overextended military, the Obama/Bush line on Iran is hugely irrational and irresponsible. Our military already is fighting two wars. It would crazy to up the ante to three wars, with the third country much more powerful than the first two combined. You don't have to have any fondness for the heterosexist, rightist, fundamentalist regime in Iran to see that there needs to be a lowering of rhetorical temperature between the US and Iran.

It's nice that Obama is still criticizing the entrance into the war in Iraq, but given his movement towards a pro-war/pro-occupation position in the future, even that is woefully insufficient.

 

Cynthia McKinney's March 17, 2007 speech at "March on the Pentagon" Rally.

She brought up issues that most alleged Democrats won't touch (e.g., right of return for Katrina survivors, impeachment). Although she is running for president as a Green, she is taking a much stronger stance in favor of Democratic Party values and policies than Obama or Clinton ever did.

The majority of Senate Democrats voted against a filibuster of a FISA bill primarily designed to green light wiretapping domestic political opponents of the executive branch. This presents us with a terrible example of political cowardice and the ability of the telecoms to buy politicians with campaign contributions. Seeing this reprehensible behavior was starkly in contrast to a recent press release by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) urging us to remember Leonard Matlovitch. Matlovitch came out in the military all the way back in 1975. Matlovitch's life reminds us of who people really should be and how far from it the scumbag politicians in Washington, DC really are. Here's the text of the press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2008
1:07 PM

Remembering Leonard Matlovitch

WASHINGTON, DC - June 20 - Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) marks the 20th anniversary of the death of retired Air Force Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich by renewing its call for the elimination of the ban on military service by gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans. Matlovich was the first servicemember to take the U.S. military to court over the ban, and one of the most famous gay people of his era.

SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said, “Leonard Matlovich’s extraordinary courage in a time when gays and lesbians faced extreme prejudice is an example for us all. He was a brave pioneer and set off a struggle that we can finally envision winning. The debt that gay veterans—and the entire gay community—owe to Sergeant Matlovich cannot be overstated.”

Matlovich (1943-1988) was the recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star during three tours of duty in Vietnam. Angered by the ban, he purposely declared his homosexuality in a 1975 letter to Air Force Secretary John McLucas and fought to remain in the military. Sergeant Matlovich’s case won widespread media attention. On September 8, 1975, Matlovich appeared on the cover of Time magazine

After losing his bid to remain in the Air Force through their administrative proceedings, a US District Court judge ordered Matlovich reinstated with back pay. After more litigation, Matlovich eventually accepted a financial settlement and an upgrade to honorable discharge. He continued his tireless efforts for gay equality in the civilian sector. Matlovich announced he had AIDS during an interview with Charlie Gibson on “Good Morning America” in 1987. He died on June 22, 1988, just two weeks before his 45th birthday.

Even in death, Matlovich remains an important figure in the gay community. His tombstone in Washington, DC’s Congressional Cemetery, where additional gay veterans have since chosen to be buried, reads "When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one." Matlovich’s military career and lawsuit are documented in the Out Ranks exhibit currently on display at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. Installation of a memorial plaque on the site of Matlovich’s former San Francisco residence in the Castro neighborhood is planned for later this year.

“In Leonard’s memory, and in the honor of all gay veterans and servicemembers, we must redouble our efforts to overturn ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Sarvis.

Statistician Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that there are currently 65,000 gays serving in the armed forces.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a national, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and related forms of intolerance. For more information, visit www.sldn.org.

 

I Have Taken Down the Obama Banner on My Blog

Posted by libhom Thursday, June 26, 2008 11 comments

Barack Obama, like his two main Republican opponents Hillary Clinton and John "Keating Five" McCain, decided that voting to filibuster the unconstitutional and dangerous FISA law changes in the Senate wasn't worth the bother. Only 14 Democrats and one independent socialist voted to keep this sickening legislation off of the Senate floor.

Obama's inaction is only surpassed by his words. See Huffington Post 6/25/08:

"The bill has changed but I don't think the security threats have changed. I think the security threats are similar," said the Illinois Democrat. "My view on FISA has always been that the issue of the phone companies per se is not one that overrides the security interests of the American people. I do want accountability, and making sure, as I've said before, someone is watching the watchers, that you don't have an administration that feels that it can make its own determinations about when warrantless wiretaps are applicable without going through a FISA court and that's what we had."

There is a boldface lie in there.

This FISA bill is not intended to protect "the security interests of the American people." In fact, it undermines our security. FISA currently gives the executive branch everything it needs to fight terrorism. The purpose of warrantless and unconstitutional spying always has been to spy on domestic political opponents. Obama knows this and thinks he can bullshit the American people, just like McCain and Clinton do.

The problem of the GOP style behavior among most Democrats including Obama and Clinton requires examination, not support. I haven't decided what to do in the fall elections, but I am leaning strongly Green after the FISA betrayal by Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party "leadership." If Obama is going to be a Bush/Pelosi/McCain/Clinton/Hoyer/Cheney clone, then it really is time to give up on the Democratic Party and never look back.

 

Feingold May Filibuster FISA Expansion/Telecom Immunity

Posted by libhom Wednesday, June 25, 2008 2 comments

Hat Tip to Marc Crispin Miller's blog Notes from the Underground.

From Democracy Now! 6/24/08:

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Feingold, will you filibuster this bill?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: We are going to resist this bill. We are going to make sure that the procedural votes are gone through. In other words, a filibuster is requiring sixty votes to proceed to the bill, sixty votes to get cloture on the legislation. We will also—Senator Dodd and I and others will be taking some time to talk about this on the floor. We’re not just going to let it be rubberstamped.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you filibuster, though?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: That’s what I just described.

However, a subsequent posting on Notes from the Underground reports on a contact with a Feingold staffer.
Just got off the telephone with Senator Feingold's office. He is dead set against the bill. However, I was repeatedly advised that his comments on Democracy Now were misinterpreted. Oh? Thereafter, I was told that the senator is " not yet " committed to undertaking a filibuster. This is horrific.


This underscores the importance of contacting the Obama Campaign and calling Senators demanding a filibuster of this unconstitutional and unAmerican legislation.

 

Oppose the Unconstitutional Domestic Spying Bill

Posted by libhom Tuesday, June 24, 2008 1 comments

Congress has been way too willing to go along with the Bush regime's efforts to use our constitution as toilet paper. The latest example is legislation that not only gives telecoms and the Bush regime immunity for past illegal spying on the American people, but also gives even more leeway to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

FISA already gives more than enough wiggle room already for any administration to do surveillance on any actual terrorist. The Bush regime had all the intelligence tools they needed to prevent the 911 attacks; they just didn't try. The real reason Bush and his cronies want to get around FISA is because they would like to continue spying on decent, patriotic people whose only "offense" is disagreeing with Bush regime policies.

Background from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Please take the following steps to oppose this attack on American civilization.


1. Barack Obama originally supported this legislation, repeating the Bush/Pelosi spin that it is a compromise. Now, he has clarified his position (hat tip to From the Left) to the extent that he will work to strip the telecom immunity from the final bill. That's a step in the left direction, but he really should filibuster the whole damned thing.

Contact the Obama campaign and demand that he filibuster the unconstitutional domestic spying legislation.


2. Call your Senators and tell them to filibuster the legislation (voting against it is not enough):

From a 6/23/08 email blast by the Center for American Progress Action Fund:

No Immunity for Telecoms that Illegally Spy on US!

Last Friday, the House of Representatives granted de facto amnesty to the phone companies who cooperated with the Bush administration's illegal spying on American citizens. Our final opportunity to prevent this from becoming law lies with the Senate. We must stop the Senate from making the same terrible decision, a decision that chips away at one of our most fundamental and progressive values-the right to privacy.

Please call your senators right now and tell them to vote against any bill that lets the Bush administration and these telecom companies off the hook for shredding the constitution.

We cannot let the Senate give the phone companies and the Bush administration a free ride for past and future violations of our basic civil liberties. If we join together and ask our Senators to stop this bill by supporting a filibuster and voting NO against a bill that gives the phone companies amnesty, we can protect our privacy rights from this assault by conservative forces in Congress.

Call Your Senators Today.

The Senate switchboard is (202) 224-3121 (see below for a list of direct numbers). Tell them your state and ask them to connect you to your senator. Be sure to speak with both senators from your state. When you complete your calls, let us know what happened using this report form.

In addition to giving phone companies a free pass, this bill fails to restore adequate judicial review for future surveillance, which will continue to put our privacy rights at risk. Protecting our privacy rights is a core progressive value. Don't let them slip away. Take action by calling your senator today. And don't forget to report back to us.

...

Direct Phone Numbers to Senators (Listed by State)

Alabama
Sen. Richard Shelby (R) (202) 224-5744; 224-3416
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) (202) 224-4124; 224-3149

Alaska
Sen. Ted Stevens (R) (202) 224-3004; 224-2354
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) (202) 224-6665; 224-5301

Arizona
Sen. Jon Kyl (R) (202) 224-4521; 224-2207
Sen. John McCain (R) (202) 224-2235; 228-2862

Arkansas
Sen. Blanch Lincoln (D) (202) 224-4843; 228-1371
Sen. Mark Pryor (D) (202) 224-2353; 228-0908

California
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) (202) 224-3553; (202)228-2382
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) (202) 224-3841; 228-3954

Colorado
Sen. Wayne Allard (R) (202) 224-5941; 224-6471
Sen. Ken Salazar (D) (202) 224-5852; 228-5036

Connecticut
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) (202) 224-2823; 224-1083
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) (202) 224-4041; 224-9750

Delaware
Sen. Joseph Biden (D) (202) 224-5042; 224-0139
Sen. Thomas Carper (R) (202) 224-2441; 228-2190

Florida
Sen. Bill Nelson (D) (202) 224-5274; 228-2183
Sen. Mel Martinez (R) (202) 224-3041; 228-5171

Georgia
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) (202) 224-3521; 224-0103
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) (202) 224-3643; 228-0724

Hawaii
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) (202) 224-6361; 224-2126
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) (202) 224-3934; 224-6747

Idaho
Sen. Larry Craig (R) (202) 224-2752; 228-1067
Sen. Michael Crapo (R) (202) 224-6142; 228-1375

Illinois
Sen. Dick Durbin (D) (202) 224-2152; 228-0400
Sen. Barack Obama (D) (202) 224-2854; 228-5417

Indiana
Sen. Evan Bayh (D) (202) 224-5623; 228-1377
Sen. Richard Lugar (R) (202) 224-4814; 228-0360

Iowa
Sen. Charles Grassley (R) (202) 224-3744; 224-6020
Sen. Tom Harkin (D) (202) 224-3254; 224-9369

Kansas
Sen. Sam Brownback (R) (202) 224-6521; 228-1265
Sen. Pat Roberts (R) (202) 224-4774; 224-3514

Kentucky
Sen. Jim Bunning (R) (202) 224-4343; 228-1373
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) (202) 224-2541; 224-2499

Louisiana
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) (202) 224-5824; 224-9735
Sen. David Vitter (R) (202) 224-4623; 228-5061

Maine
Sen. Susan Collins (R) (202) 224-2523; 224-2693
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) (202) 224-5344; 224-1946

Maryland
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) (202) 224-4654; 224-8858
Sen. Ben Cardin (D) (202) 224-4524: 224-1651

Massachusetts
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) (202) 224-4543; 224-2417
Sen. John Kerry (D) (202) 224-2742; 224-8525

Michigan
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) (202) 224-4822; 228-0325
Sen. Carl Levin (D) (202) 224-6221; 224-1388

Minnesota
Sen. Norm Coleman (R) (202) 224-5641; 224-1152
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) (202) 224-3244; 228-2186

Mississippi
Sen. Thad Cochran (R) (202) 224-5054; 224-9450
Sen. Roger Wicker (R) (202) 224-6253; 224-2262

Missouri
Sen. Christopher Bond (R) (202) 224-5721; 224-8149
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) (202) 224-6154; 228-6326

Montana
Sen. Max Baucus (D) (202) 224-2651; 224-4700
Sen. John Tester (D) (202) 224-2644; 224-8594

Nebraska
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) (202) 224-4224; 224-5213
Sen. Ben Nelson (D) (202) 224-6551; 228-0012

Nevada
Sen. John Ensign (R) (202) 224-6244; 228-2193
Sen. Harry Reid (D) (202) 224-3542; 224-7327

New Hampshire
Sen. Judd Gregg (R) (202) 224-3324; 224-4952
Sen. John Sununu (R) (202) 224-2841; 228-4131

New Jersey
Sen. Robert Menendez (D) (202) 224-4744; 228-2197
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) (202) 224-3224; 228-4054

New Mexico
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) (202) 224-5521; 224-2852
Sen. Pete Domenici (R) (202) 224-6621; 228-3261

New York
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D) (202) 224-4451; 228-0282
Sen. Charles Schumer (D) (202) 224-6542; 228-3027

North Carolina
Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) (202) 224-6342-; 224-1100
Sen. Richard Burr (R) (202) 224-3154; 228-2981

North Dakota
Sen. Kent Conrad (D) (202) 224-2043; 224-7776
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) (202) 224-2551; 224-1193

Ohio
Sen. George Voinovich (R) (202) 224-3353; 228-1382
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) (202) 224-2315; 228-6321

Oklahoma
Sen. James Inhofe (R) (202) 224-224-4721; 228-0380
Sen. Tom Coburn (R) (202) 224-5754; 224-6008

Oregon
Sen. Ron Wyden (D) (202) 224-5244; 228-2717
Sen. Gordon Smith (R) (202) 224-3753; 228-3997

Pennsylvania
Sen. Arlen Specter (R) (202) 224-4254; 228-1229
Sen. Robert Casey (D) (202) 224- 6324; 228-0604

Rhode Island
Sen. Jack Reed (D) (202) 224-4642; 224-4680
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse(D) (202) 224-2921; 228-6362

South Carolina
Sen. Jim DeMint (R) (202) 224-6121; 228-5143
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) (202) 224-5972; 224-3808

South Dakota
Sen. Tim Johnson (D) (202) 224-5842; 228-5765
Sen. John Thune (R) (202) 224-2321; 228-5429

Tennessee
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) (202) 224-4944; 228-3398
Sen. Bob Corker (R) (202) 224-3344; 228-0566

Texas
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) (202) 224-5922: 224-0776
Sen. John Cornyn (R) (202) 224-2934; 228-2856

Utah
Sen. Robert Bennett (R) (202) 224-5444; 228-1168
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) (202) 224-5251; 224-6331

Vermont
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) (202) 224-4242; 224-3479
Sen. Bernard Sanders (I) (202) 224-5141; 228-0776

Virginia
Sen. John Warner (R) (202) 224-2023; 224-6295
Sen. James Webb (D) (202) 224-4024; 228-6363

Washington
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) (202) 224-3441; 224-0514
Sen. Patty Murray (D) (202) 224-2621; 224-0238

West Virginia
Sen. Robert Byrd (D) (202) 224-3954; 228-0002
Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D) (202) 224-6472; 224-7665

Wisconsin
Sen. Russ Feingold (D) (202) 224-5323; 224-2725
Sen. Herbert Kohl (D) (202) 224-5653; 224-9787

Wyoming
Sen. Michael Enzi (R) (202) 224-3424; 228-0359
Sen. John Barrasso (R) (202) 224-6441

Two Examples of Being the Media

Posted by libhom Saturday, June 21, 2008 2 comments

A lot of media activists talk advise people to "be the media." Here are two examples.

Robert Rouse does a lot of interesting videos that he posts on YouTube. Many are grassroots interviews. In a previous blog posting, I embedded an excellent interview Rouse did with a Burmese pro-democracy activist.

Here is one of several videos from a Fort Wayne For Peace Panel Discussion. Video coverage of events like this is rare, to say the least, in corporate media.



For those of you especially interested in the fall presidential race, here is a change of pace where the contest over the electoral college is analyzed.



Online photojournalism can be quite interesting too. One example is provided by ptvet's photos on SmugMug. Of special interest to me are the photos from Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier protest in Seattle. The pain on the faces of Iraq veterans is caught along with their determination to stop a war without a clear mission.

 

Some Alternatives to Associated Press (AP)

Posted by libhom Tuesday, June 17, 2008 5 comments

In the world of activism and politics, complaining is very important. Without a vocal statement of a problem, a solution simply is not going to happen. However, proposing positive alternatives also is important, as a tactic, and a way of showing what us liberals want, rather than always merely resisting the crap the right throws at us. boycott AP, unassociatedpress.net: The non essential global network


One example of this is in the field of media. I recently posted on issues of AP reliability and rightist bias. The other side of the coin is to list superior media sources to AP, which isn't really that difficult. Here is an admittedly non-exhaustive list of sources that bloggers should be encouraged to cite and readers should be encouraged to take advantage of.

Alternet

Al Jazeera

Common Dreams Newswire (Press releases from liberal to progressive organizations.)

Dahr Jamail

Democracy Now!

Gay City News

The Guardian (UK) [Note: Some US coverage is AP wire stories.]

The Independent (UK - Newspaper)

The Indypendent (NYC - project of the New York City Independent Media Center - also see the international indymedia.org.)

Doug Ireland

The Nation

Greg Palast

Please share alternative news sources in the Comments for this post.

 

Hat Tip to Dusty for calling my attention to the story. boycott AP, unassociatedpress.net: The non essential global network

One of the dilemmas of blogging is dealing with corporate media content. The Associated Press (AP), for instance, is a content service for corporate newspapers, websites, and other customers. They wouldn't be able to sell their stories to corporate customers if they didn't slant them far to the right, and it shows.

Now, AP has infuriated bloggers by bullying the Drudge Retort with notices demanding that the blog take down several items, claiming that the items violate copyright law. (Note that the excellent reporting on this story comes from www.alternet.org, an independent media outlet.)

Rogers Cadenhead, founder and publisher of The Drudge Retort, has been Cease and Desisted by AP News for publishing fragments of their syndicated news articles and reports.

Yes, fragments, not the whole articles. Go to Rogers' site to read the reasons given by AP.

Blogs traditionally have quoted shorted passages of content on other sites and linked to them. This is part of Fair Use, and is an important example of First Amendment protected speech which is important in discussion and debate. AP's actions are an attack on free speech and free press by a press business. It's pretty surreal.

Dusty does a great job in discussing how the DMCA creates a climate which encourages these kind of corporate attacks on the First Amendment. There are two other issues that I've noticed.

The first is that the blog being singled out is to the left of center. I cannot help if that played a role in AP's decision to go after them.

The second issue is what I alluded to in the beginning. Media savvy people know that AP content is too rightist to really be all that credible. Even if AP stops their current legal threats, how much and when should bloggers cite AP content? Why should I risk a lawsuit to cite content that I don't trust that much?

Will the legal bullying by AP result in bloggers relying more heavily on independent media, which is much more trustworthy than corporate media? That certainly would be a good outcome of this mess. I think this is a wake up call to the online community to start working harder to find better sources of information. This is an admittedly tough standard to live up to, given that most of us bloggers don't do this for a living and have limited time and energy. However, we should at least give it some consideration.

One area where quoting and linking of AP content would be missed is in blogging on examples of AP's rightist bias and how it effects the political climate of this country. This could have the effect of censoring discussion of AP's many journalistic failings.

I support the AP Boycott because I support the First Amendment. However, if the AP backs down, that doesn't leave us off the hook to examine the issues involved in linking to biased, corporate AP content.

 

Hat tip to Ten Percent for leading me in the direction of excellent reporting on "Transparency International" (TI) by Calvin Tucker in the Guardian 5/22/08. He exposes the factually in accurate claims TI made against the government oil company in Venezuela. Tucker also exposes the role of the Venezuelan opposition and Big Oil in influencing TI. It's important reading, but, rather than reinvent this wheel, I'll focus on TI and the United States.

You would think that an international NGO focused on government corruption and transparency would make its single biggest focus the Bush regime. That logical expectation certainly is not met by "Transparency International" which gets major media play in here the US corporate media.

Based on primarily on greed and naked political corruption, the Bush regime has gotten the US into a war in Iraq that has cost hundreds of billions of dollars, over 1.2 million Iraqi lives, 4000 US troops killed, and tens of thousands of troops maimed and facing psychological injuries.

The fact that the Bush regime is illegally occupying the White House due to two stolen presidential elections is a rather potent example of the corruption in our government.

Numerous "signing statements" where the Bush regime asserts non-existent constitutional powers to be above the law are something that only the most corrupt of governments would engage in. Dick Cheney's illegal, secret energy policy meetings with energy company donors (including Enron) also show how spectacularly corrupt this illegitimate regime can be.

Some of Many Resources on Bush regime corruption:

- Dennis Kucinich's articles of impeachment against George W. Bush (After Downing Street)

- The Downing Street Memo (more information)

- 8.8 Billion Dollars in US funds "lost" by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

- Corruption in war contracting.

Where did TI put the US in its 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which it asserts as a measure of government transparency?

(A lower ranking number is meant to convey a less corrupt government.)

The Bush regime is tied for position 20?!?!?!?!?


This is less surprising when you follow the money. Take a gander at some of their major donors.

* Anglo American
* Ernst & Young
* ExxonMobil
* General Electric
* Merck & Co.
* Nexen
* Norsk Hydro
* Procter & Gamble
* SAP
* Shell International
* UBS
* Wal-Mart

...

* Credit Suisse
* HSBC Holdings
* KPMG
* XL Capital

That explains a whole lot.

Another major problem is their methodology:
Whose opinion is polled for the surveys used in the CPI?

The expertise reflected in the CPI scores draws on an understanding of corrupt practices held by those based in both the industrialised and developing world. Surveys are carried out among business people and country analysts. The surveys used in the CPI use two types of samples, both non-resident and resident. It is important to note that residents' viewpoints correlate well with those of non-resident experts.

It would be interesting to know who the "country analysts" are. The more transparently disturbing aspect is that they rely on surveys of "business people." Business interests are hardly going to provide accurate or meaningful results. They will only report corruption when it is not in their favor.

Corruption Iraq War contractors, Big Oil, and war profiteers will see the corrupt war in Iraq and the corrupt contracting practices of the Bush regime as fine and dandy. Drug companies whose products don't get adequate scrutiny from the FDA are delighted with the way their campaign contributions pay off. Monopolies like Microsoft and Wal-Mart (a major TI donor by the way) are not going to think that the lack of enforcement of anti-trust laws is a problem.

Sigh.

The upshot is that TI is primarily an advocacy group for the interests of corporations and their wealthy owners. The next time a news outlet cites TI as an information source, you know to take what they say with a grain of salt.

 

Given the horrendous tactics the Clinton campaign used during the Democratic primaries, you would think that they would be humble and apologetic in their behavior. Nope. There have been a flurry of news stories about their hunger for revenge. For instance, take the New York Times 6/11/08.

Mr. McAuliffe, who knows of Mr. Band’s diligent scorekeeping, emphasized that “revenge is not what the Clintons are about.” The accounting is more about being practical, he said, adding, “You have to keep track of this.”

Mr. Band, who declined to comment, is hardly alone in tallying those considered to have crossed the former candidate or the former president in recent months by supporting Mr. Obama. As the Obama bandwagon has swelled, so have the lists of people Clinton loyalists regard as some variation of “ingrate,” “traitor” or “enemy,” according to the associates and campaign officials, who would speak only on condition of anonymity.

Philippe Reines, a spokesman for both Clintons, said neither kept any specific catalog of those believed to have wronged them. “There is no list,” Mr. Reines said.

The lists maintained by supporters tend to be less formal documents than spoken diatribes, with offenders’ names spat forth in rants, gripe sessions and post-mortems.

Several names and entities are common among various list makers. The lineup invariably begins with A-list members like Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico; Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the House Democratic whip; Gregory B. Craig, Mr. Clinton’s lawyer in his impeachment and trial; David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief strategist; Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri; and several Kennedys. Some members of the Democratic Party’s rules committee, the state of Iowa and the caucus system in general are also near the top.

The news media have already focused on some list entries, including the online gossip purveyor Matt Drudge (who had the nerve to show up at Mrs. Clinton’s departure speech on Saturday), Todd S. Purdum of Vanity Fair (the author of a recent profile of Mr. Clinton) and the cable network MSNBC (whose hosts Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann are charter list members, Clinton associates said).

The lists are also reported to include lesser-known Obama-supporting members of Congress (for whom the Clintons campaigned), former ambassadors (appointed by Mr. Clinton) or Clinton White House officials turned Obama advisers (like Anthony Lake, a former national security adviser, and Susan Rice, a former White House and State Department official).

The Clintonistas don't seem to have any idea how politically vulnerable Ms. Clinton is to a potential primary challenge in 2012. In 2006, Jonathan Tasini, Clinton's anti-war, pro-lgbt, pro-labor primary challenger got 17% with very little money and major corporate media censorship of his campaign.

Ms. Clinton has done a lot of things to alienate a lot of people since then. A primary challenger from the left has a built in 30-35% of the vote at this point. If Obama loses in the fall, most Democrats will blame Hillary Clinton for the defeat, and quite accurately so.

A logical strategy would be for the Clintons and their minions doing everything in their power to rebuild the bridges they have been burning at a feverish pace. They would be accepting of people who chose to support other Democratic candidates, and they would be frantically working to elect Obama.

Hillary Clinton's actions and the behavior of her followers have had the unintended effect of making her political future tied to the success of Obama and the forgiveness of his supporters. I wonder if they see that.

 

Texas' "Moment of Silence" Law Challenged in Court

Posted by libhom Wednesday, June 11, 2008 3 comments

map of Texas with an F written on itFrom emailed press release by the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

Americans United, ACLU File Brief Objecting To Government Promotion Of Prayer In Texas’ ‘Moment-Of-Silence’ Law

Promotion Of Religion Is Not Legislators’ Job, Say Civil Liberties Groups

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas submitted a friend-of-the-court brief today to a federal appeals court urging the court to rule against a religiously motivated 2003 amendment to Texas’ “moment-of-silence” statute. The amendment added “pray” to the statute’s list of activities for students during the moment of silence.
“Students were already allowed to pray, meditate, or reflect under the statute before it was amended,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “The addition of the word ‘pray’ where it wasn’t needed clearly shows that legislators intended to promote religion, and that’s not their job.”

In 2003, the Texas legislature enacted amendments to Section 25.082 of the Education Code, making the moment of silence mandatory and changing the list of designated options for students during the moment of silence from “reflect or meditate” to “reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.”

In 2006, David and Shannon Croft, acting on behalf of their children, unsuccessfully sought an order in federal district court preventing the enforcement of the amended “moment-of-silence” statute and declaring it unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The Crofts sued Governor Rick Perry and the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, where their children attended school. The Crofts are now asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the district court’s decision upholding the amendment.

“Given the breadth of the old statute, this amendment serves only one unmistakable, unconstitutional aim: to encourage prayer during the moment of silence,” said T. Jeremy Gunn, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “The state and its public schools should not be in the business of endorsing religious practices.”

“Just as the Constitution generally protects students’ right to pray, it prohibits the state from pushing them to do so,” said Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU of Texas. “Parents don’t want the public schools teaching their children someone else’s religion, and the Constitution doesn’t allow it.”

The brief was written by Americans United Madison Fellow Nancy Leong, in consultation with Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Alex J. Luchenitser, Daniel Mach, director of litigation for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, and ACLU of Texas attorneys Graybill and Fleming Terrell.

* * * *

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

* * * *
Additional information about the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief can be found online at: www.aclu.org/religion Additional information about the ACLU of Texas can be found online at: www.aclutx.org

Obviously, there are important state/church separation issues here. Another important aspect of this is anti-atheist discrimination. Why should our tax dollars be used to finance state efforts to shove religion down peoples' throats?

Democrats and Republicans both need to improve on issues involving discrimination against atheists.

 

Ignoring Militaristic Causes of Higher Gas Prices

Posted by libhom Sunday, June 08, 2008 1 comments

This AP piece on the MSNBC website is typical of how most of the coverage of soaring gas prices mentions little about causes and censors the biggest ones. Here is the lonely paragraph on the rise in oil prices on the world market.

Skyrocketing oil prices are largely to blame for the surge. Soaring demand in Asia and elsewhere ensures global supplies remain tight even as Americans cut back; recent figures from the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration showed U.S. gasoline demand actually fell 1.4 percent over the last four weeks.

Here is the single graph from the CNN.com story.
The $10.75 gain was the biggest one-day advance in dollar value ever, nearly doubling the previous mark of $5.49 set Thursday. Weakness in the dollar, geopolitical concerns and an analyst's prediction of $150-a-barrel oil by July 4 helped spur Friday's advance.

The specific nature of the "geopolitical concerns" were left to the reader's imagination.

Although the San Jose Mercury is usually a relatively good newspaper, their reporting of the story omitted any mention of some of the specific causes of rising crude oil prices, and thus gas prices.

Why aren't these top causes of rising fuel prices getting mentioned?

1) The War in Iraq

2) Bush's saber-rattling with Iran.

3) Bush's saber-rattling with Venezuela.

4) Israel's government's threat to attack Iran.
(They are backing away somewhat from it now.)

One interesting thing is that news prepared for business audiences is a bit more honest. This iStockAnalyst.com story, for instance has the title OIL SURGE:Iran-Israel Tensions To Keep Weighing On Oil-Experts. You don't see much of this kind of coverage in corporate media stories targeting general audiences:
Israel's Transportation Minister, Shaul Mofaz, said in a newspaper report that the country will have "no choice" but to attack Iran if it doesn't stop its nuclear program, sparking fears of a military strike. The statements came as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated Tuesday that Israel is "doomed to go." The remarks, combined with Iran's push to develop a nuclear program, triggered new fears the country could launch a nuclear bomb on Israel if it is in a position to do so.

Amidst these statements, current U.S. president George W. Bush, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and his Republican counterpart, Sen. John McCain, all said in recent days that Iran's nuclear program poses a threat to global security - also sparking speculation the U.S. could back an attack on Iran.

Such an attack would trigger dramatic jitters in international oil supplies. The Islamic Republic is the second largest exporter in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. In addition, experts have feared that Iran may close the Strait of Hormuz - the southern end of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of the world's oil supply travels - were it to enter into a direct military confrontation with the U.S. A U.S. government study earlier this decade concluded that a shutdown of the Strait would cut off about 17 million barrels a day of crude supply.

This is an example of why people who don't own stock need to follow the business news. You need to in order to find out what corporate interests and their government flunkies are doing.

 

It's been a while since I've blogged on the Winter Soldier hearings, but I haven't forgotten them. You shouldn't either.

Sleep deprivation has been a common method of torturing Iraqis during the occupation. I hadn't heard before that mock executions were one of the methods of forcing people to stay awake.



The YouTube page has the following description:

WINTER SOLDIER: CAMILO MEJIA
Staff Sergeant Mejia served six months in Iraq with the Florida National Guard.

One of the many things that makes me so angry about the war is that our National Guard are being used for the occupation of Iraq and the imposition of suffering and death on Iraqis instead of being here at home to help Americans deal with natural disasters. This is so sick and wrong.

Mejia also makes important statements on the dehumanization of our troops and the Iraqi people.

Previous Posts on Winter Soldier Hearings:

Info From Winter Soldier - Part 1 - Traumatic Brain Injury

Info From Winter Soldier - Part 2 - Taking Pictures With Corpses

Info From Winter Soldier - Part 3 - Winter Soldier on YouTube

Action Alert: "Why Are Winter Soldiers Not News?"

 

You may remember the Robert Conrad who was an execrable actor a while back. Now, there is another Robert Conrad who has been nominated by George W. Bush to a federal appeals court. The Center for Investigative Reporting has information on his controversial writings, which should have kept him off the federal bench entirely.

Conrad's critiques of liberal causes could well stir up the Democratic nest: In 1999, when Conrad was a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Western North Carolina, he went after a group of nuns who opposed the death penalty. In a letter to the editor printed in the Catholic Dossier, he referred to Sister Helen Prejean as a "church-hating nun" and said that her book was merely "liberal drivel." In the late 1980s, while he was in private practice, Conrad attacked Planned Parenthood in an Op-Ed titled "Planned Parenthood: A Radical, Pro-Abortion Fringe Group," Conrad claimed in the Charlotte Observer piece that "Planned Parenthood knowingly kills unborn babies, not fetuses, as a method of 'post-conception' contraception, and to them that's OK."

I am so sick of the Big Lie of "unborn babies." There are no such things. Babies, by their very nature, already have been born. The dishonesty on the far right never ceases to amaze me in its brazenness.

Senate Republicans recently used the nomination of Conrad and other nutty Bush appointees and the lack of interest of Senate Democrats in voting on the wingnuts as a pretext to delay consideration on Global Warming legislation. What seemed to be a blind devotion to the most politically unpopular White House occupant ever actually was a desperate attempt to stack the federal appeals courts with rightist judges who hold the Constitution and the rule of law in utter contempt.

NARAL has a petition urging Senators to oppose this reckless and inappropriate nomination.
Conrad has a clear anti-choice record. In 1988, Conrad wrote an op-ed piece for The Charlotte Observer in which he labeled Planned Parenthood a "radical, pro-abortion fringe group" that "promotes a radical abortion agenda."

From 1983 to 1986, Conrad served on the board of directors for the Charlottesville Pregnancy Center, an organization seemingly modeled as a so-called "crisis pregnancy center" (CPC). Many CPCs intentionally misinform and mislead women who are seeking pregnancy-related assistance by providing medically inaccurate information about pregnancy, contraception, or abortion. In fact, the Charlottesville Pregnancy Center's website includes anti-choice propaganda like, "Remember that abortion doesn't erase a mistake - it only adds new ones."

One of the favorite tricks on these anti-choice brainwashing centers is to talk about the medical risks of abortion but conveniently leave out the greater medical risks of full term pregnancies. Here are some facts from Planned Parenthood that the militant fundamentalists continue to deny.
Abortion is a very safe procedure. It's about twice as safe as having your tonsils removed, and is 10 times safer than giving birth if it is performed before the 18th week of pregnancy.

Sign the Petition!

 

Expressing Anger at Politicians Who Are Women

Posted by libhom Thursday, June 05, 2008 7 comments

Women Politicians in a Far From Ideal Social Context

Let's face it. Our political system really bites. Wealthy and corporate interests have far too much power, and most people get their news from corporate media that propagandize for their owners' and advertisers' interests.

Under these circumstances, it should surprise nobody that the easiest way for a politician to rise to the top is for that politician to govern from the right, regardless of public positions taken during the campaigns. The presence of a large minority of militant Christian fundamentalists in our country also puts pressure on politicians to behave in a rightist fashion. A consequence of this is that in Democratic primaries and liberal districts, the path of least resistance for Democrats has been to deceive the voters and do pretty much what the GOP is doing on matters of substance.

The women's movement has created long overdue openings for female candidates to run, win, and be acceptable in positions of power in ways that would have been unthinkable to most people 50 years ago. One unintentional but far from shocking outcome has been that there are women politicians who have risen to power through policies and tactics that are indistinguishable from the most nauseating policies and tactics of male politicians. This is an indictment of the corrupting influence of corporate power and religious extremism in our country, not an indictment of the women's movement. However, those of us who are liberal or progressive need to be aware of what has happened.

Feminism's Promise Not Always Fulfilled

Feminism generally has viewed the growing role of women in politics not exclusively as a matter of justice, but also as transformational. There has been an idealistic notion that women in positions of political power would govern in a dramatically different and more socially enlightened way.

There certainly are examples of this. Barbara Lee, Barbara Boxer, Lynn C. Woolsey, Pat Schroeder, and Barbara Jordan certainly fit the bill. But, we all know about women politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Nancy Pelosi who emulate the most appalling behaviors of their male counterparts. There are appointed officials such as Condoleezza Rice and Madelyn Albright have presided over Iraq policies that have killed over 2 million people. The problem cannot be denied in any meaninful sense by citing party registration or race. Something bigger has happened.

I think some men feel swindled by this. Yet, this implies motives feminists never had. They sincerely believed that women politicians would transform our society, yet many of those politicians have turned out to be powerful instruments of the status quo. Sometimes this belief has been consistent with the evidence, sometimes not. What some men see as a trick is merely a mistake or an overly zealous generalization, made out of idealism.

Admittedly, the situation gets more frustrating when some feminists are in denial about certain women politicians, refusing to acknowledge even to themselves how similar, for instance, Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush really are.

Anger and Gender

All of this has happened in a society where expressions of anger traditionally have been very different when the subjects of frustration are men and women. Although there are exceptions such as "prick" and "dick," most pejoratives for men are not gendered (e.g., "asshole," "shithead," "jackass"). Nearly all used for women are highly gendered (e.g., "cunt," "hag," "ho").

Obviously, this creates a nasty social context for all women, where any time any woman does something that makes anyone angry, being a woman is attacked, intentionally or not.

When we are angry at Nancy Pelosi, do we really want to make our society a more hostile environment for the courageous women in CODEPINK who have stood up to Pelosi more assertively than most men? Do we want to create generalized hostility against the members of the Granny Peace Brigade as women?

Obviously not, when we think about it.


Men, and women really, are socialized to express anger this way pretty much since birth. Words that we associate with being pissed off have cultural consequences that we should resist, not passively reinforce.

Of course, it is easy to see criticism of the words used to express anger at slimy politicians who are women as an effort to avoid the reasons for that anger. It is difficult, at least for me, to have much sympathy for slimy politicians of any gender. However, the issue here is not protecting politicians that deserve to be voted out of office; it's about changing a dysfunctional aspect of our society.

Legitimately Expressing Anger in This Context


Humans are complex because we all simultaneously function as individuals and members of groups. The distinctions between individual and group actions can get fuzzy, especially when we are, shall we say, highly displeased.

But, those distinctions are important. When Hillary Clinton threatened to "obliterate" (nuke) Iran, women as a group certainly did no such thing. Women in Peace Action are working very hard to prevent any military action against Iran, much less destroying the country.

If you are tempted to attack a woman in a gendered way, it's time to stop typing and think. What is the specific reason you are angry at that woman? Type what is actually making you angry instead of the gendered slur. You will be communicating not only in a more just manner, but also in a much clearer manner.

An Example

In order to avoid personalizing this, I'll pick someone who never has posted on my blog, probably never will, and probably has never even heard of it: Randi Rhodes.

When she referred to Hillary Clinton as a "whore," she was using a term that her listeners reminded us was something she generically used to attack bought politicians, and quite often referred to male bought politicians as "whores." Yet, even if she uses that term in a way that is applied to both genders, remember that the word's general usage is quite different. Social context matters.

Let's pretend she were going to post a comment on this blog (just pretend, OK). If she were about to refer to Ms. Clinton as a "whore" again, I would call for her to attack Clinton as a "bought politician." The latter is entirely fair, and doesn't diminish roughly half of the population of the world.

Let's hold politicians of all genders accountable for what they are actually doing. It will be far more effective in modifying their behavior.

 

Hat tips to From the Left for pointing this out and to Firedog Lake for having the guts to expose the evil that Ms. Clinton's campaign has promoted and tried to legitimize.



I was reluctant to even include this video, but it is important to expose and challenge the fanatical racism of the Clintons and their minions. An ironic aspect of this is that some women, like this white supremacist, would vote for John McCain, someone who would appoint misogynist judges to the Supreme Court, instead of Barack Obama, who is stronger on choice than Clinton.

Racism makes people incredibly stupid.

Update: I have realized that people really should call the Clinton campaign and demand that she denounce Harriet Christian's comments. The number for Clinton's national campaign headquarters is:

703.469.2008

 

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