Saturday, May 31, 2008

First Alien Video Due Tomorrow

Alien Video

The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that tomorrow the world might actually see who else is out there. A man, named Jeff Peckman, claims he will reveal video of live alien to the news media Friday. Brace yourselves. Below are some key excerpts from the story:

A video that purportedly shows a living, breathing space alien will be shown to the news media Friday in Denver.

"It shows an extraterrestrial's head popping up outside of a window at night, looking in the window, that's visible through an infrared camera," he said. The alien is about 4 feet tall and can be seen blinking, Peckman said earlier this month.

An instructor at the Colorado Film School in Denver scrutinized the video "very carefully" and determined it was authentic.


The Great Unwashed

The Persian Problem

The Persian Problem

Hooman Majd, HuffPost

I have news for David Brooks and all who agree with him: the Iranians do understand their system, their foreign policy, what their regime stands for, and are quite happy that you are lost in how to deal with them.

Iraqis Protest Proposed Security Pact

Thousands Protest Proposed US-Iraq Security Agreement

Robert H Reid, HuffPost

BAGHDAD — Tens of thousands rallied in several cities Friday against a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, raising doubts that negotiators can meet a July target to finalize a pact to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after the current U.N. mandate expires.

Although U.S. officials insist they are not seeking permanent bases, suspicion runs deep among many Iraqis that the Americans want to keep at least some troops in the country for many years.

"We denounce the government's intentions to sign a long-term agreement with the occupying forces," Asaad al-Nassiri, a sheik loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said during a sermon in Kufa. "Our army will be under their control in this agreement, and this will lead to them having permanent bases in Iraq."

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Claims 40,000

Since 2003 about 40,000 Troops Suffer Post Traumatic Stress

Pauline Jeliner, HuffPost

WASHINGTON — The number of troops with new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder jumped by roughly 50 percent in 2007 amid the military buildup in Iraq and increased violence there and in Afghanistan.

Records show roughly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness, also known as PTSD, since 2003. Officials believe that many more are likely keeping their illness a secret.

"I don't think right now we ... have good numbers," Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said Tuesday.

Defense officials had not previously disclosed the number of PTSD cases from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Republican Civil War

Republican Civil War Erupts

Jennifer Loven, HuffPost

WASHINGTON — In a shocking turnabout, the press secretary most known for defending President Bush on Iraq, Katrina and a host of other controversial issues produced a memoir damning of his old boss on nearly every level _ from too much secrecy to a less-than-honest selling of the war to a lack of personal candor and an unwillingness to admit mistakes.

In the first major insider account of the Bush White House, one-time spokesman Scott McClellan calls the operation "insular, secretive and combative" and says it veered irretrievably off course as a result.

The White House responded angrily Wednesday to McClellan's confessional memoir, calling it self-serving sour grapes.

"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House," said current White House press secretary Dana Perino, a former deputy to McClellan. "We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew."

McClellan was the White House press secretary from May 2003 to April 2006, the second of four so far in Bush's presidency.

He reveals that he was pushed to leave earlier than he had planned, and he displays some bitterness about that as well as about being sometimes kept out of the loop on key decision-making sessions.

He excludes himself from major involvement in some of what he calls the administration's biggest blunders, for instance the decision to go to war and the initial campaign to sell that decision to the American people. But he doesn't spare himself entirely, saying, "I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be.

He includes criticism for the reporters whose questions he fielded. The news media, he says, were "complicit enablers" for focusing more on "covering the march to war instead of the necessity of war."

And McClellan issues this disclaimer about Bush: "I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."

But most everything else he writes comes awfully close to making just this assertion, all the more stunning coming from someone who had been one of the longest-serving of the band of loyalists to come to Washington with Bush from Texas.

The heart of the book concerns Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, a determination McClellan says the president had made by early 2002 _ at least a full year before the invasion _ if not even earlier.

"He signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest," McClellan writes in "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

The book, which had been scheduled for release on Monday, was being sold by bookstores on Wednesday after the publisher moved up its release amid intense media coverage of its contents.

McClellan says Bush's main reason for war always was "an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom." But Bush and his advisers made "a marketing choice" to downplay this rationale in favor of one focused on increasingly trumped-up portrayals of the threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction.

During the "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people," Bush and his team tried to make the "WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were." Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of "the possible unpleasant consequences of war _ casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions."

In Bush's second term, as news from Iraq grew worse, McClellan says the president was "insulated from the reality of events on the ground and consequently began falling into the trap of believing his own spin."

All of this was a "serious strategic blunder" that sent Bush's presidency "terribly off course."

"The Iraq war was not necessary," McClellan concludes.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton referred to the book and its author while campaigning Wednesday in Rapid City, S.D., saying, "In this book this young man essentially apologizes for having been part of misleading America for three years."

Reporters in Los Angeles with John McCain, the Republicans' candidate for president, asked if he believed that Bush used propaganda or deception regarding the war in Iraq. "I have no information on that fact. I am glad for one that Saddam Husein is no longer there," McCain said. He declined to comment on other assertions in the book, saying he had not read it.

McClellan draws a portrait of Bush as possessing "personal charm, wit and enormous political skill." He says Bush's administration early on possessed "seeds of greatness."

But McClellan ticks off a long list of Bush's weaknesses: someone with a penchant for self-deception if it "suits his needs at the moment," "an instinctive leader more than an intellectual leader" who has a lack of interest in delving deeply into policy options, a man with a lack of self-confidence that makes him unable to acknowledge when he's been wrong.

McClellan also writes extensively about what he says is the Bush White House's excessive focus on "the permanent campaign."

"The Bush team imitated some of the worst qualities of the Clinton White House and even took them to new depths," he writes.

McClellan is most scathing on the topic of the administration's embrace of secrecy.

"The Bush administration lacked real accountability in large part because Bush himself did not embrace openness or government in the sunshine," he writes.

Three top Bush advisers come in for particularly harsh criticism.

McClellan calls Vice President Dick Cheney "the magic man" who "always seemed to get his way" and sometimes "simply could not contain his deep-seated certitude, even arrogance, to the detriment of the president."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser earlier in Bush's presidency, "was more interested in figuring out where the president stood and just carrying out his wishes while expending only cursory effort on helping him understand all the considerations and potential consequences" of war. Rice "was somehow able to keep her hands clean, even when the problems related to matters under her direct purview," McClellan says, but he predicts that "history will likely judge her harshly."

And former Bush political guru Karl Rove "always struck me as the kind of person who would be willing, in the heat of battle, to push the envelope to the limit of what is permissible ethically or legally."

The White House was severely damaged by blunders beyond the war, McClellan says.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, for instance, the administration went on autopilot "rather than seizing the initiative and getting in front of what was happening on the ground."

And Bush's drive to remake the Social Security program after his 2004 re-election failed in large part because the White House focused almost exclusively on "selling our sketchily designed plan" instead of doing behind-the-scenes work with lawmakers.

McClellan explains his dramatic shift from defender to critic as a difficult act of personal contrition, a way, to learn from his mistakes, be true to his Christian faith and become a better person. He says he started the book to explain his role in the CIA leak case, in which some of his own words turned out to be what he called "badly misguided," though sincere at the time.

McClellan says Bush loyalists will no doubt continue to think the administration's decisions have been correct and its unpopularity undeserved. "I've become genuinely convinced otherwise," he says.

Indeed, former Bush aides joined current White House aides in expressing disbelief and disappointment at McClellan's account.

"Not once did Scott approach me _ privately or publicly _ to discuss any misgivings he had about the war in Iraq or the manner in which the White House made the case for war," McClellan's predecessor as press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said.

Said Fran Townsend, former head of the White House-based counterterrorism office and now a CNN commentator: "This now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional."

Perino described Bush as "surprised" by the book but said the president wouldn't have anything to say about it. "He has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers," she said.


Associated Press writers Beth Fouhy in Rapid City, S.D., and Liz Sidoti in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

More in Politics...

Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs

If I had a daughter, I would have named her after Special Agent Clarice Starling. The star of the “Silence of the Lambs” series, she is a Protestant from West Virginia. I imagine her Presbyterian a sour personality made of the right stuff. If somebody took her virginity, he probably suffered deeply for his affront.

Clarice took seriously her FBI oath to serve and to protect. Also, putting her at odds with her spineless cohorts, she brings felons to justice. She is the ultimate Presbyter with no use for the subtle gray areas between right and wrong.

The FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover resembled her in zeal. An un-married cross dresser he amassed sexual information on three generations of the power elite. He used these files to blackmail officials to build his power base and to pursue suspected Communist dupes in America.

Since the Presidents have taken over the FBI they have used the files to foster the Presidential agenda. In effect, the administration has combined the three branches of government into one.

This explains much of the inability of the 2006 Democratic majorities to bridge the status quo. The legislators the agencies and the media have already received their marching orders for 2009.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Claims 40,000

Since 2003 about 40,000 Troops Suffer Post Traumatic Stress

Pauline Jeliner, HuffPost

WASHINGTON — The number of troops with new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder jumped by roughly 50 percent in 2007 amid the military buildup in Iraq and increased violence there and in Afghanistan.

Records show roughly 40,000 troops have been diagnosed with the illness, also known as PTSD, since 2003. Officials believe that many more are likely keeping their illness a secret.

"I don't think right now we ... have good numbers," Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said Tuesday.

Defense officials had not previously disclosed the number of PTSD cases from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bush Bankruptcy Despite the 2005 passage of a law that made it more difficult and expensive to file for personal bankruptcy, more Americans are choosing bankruptcy over destitution. Filings — including Chapter 7, which wipes out debt, and Chapter 13, which reorganizes it — totaled 822,590 last year, up 38 percent from 2006. The numbers tell the story of a crippled economy, one in which people owe more than they can pay to their creditors. And it's one more disturbing chapter in the subprime mortgage crisis, in which homeowners unable to handle higher interest payments on their adjustable rate mortgages are turning to bankruptcy to avoid foreclosure.

War on Terror Gone Wrong

How the War on Terror Backfired

Mathew Carr,

Any MPs still wavering over the 42-day detention issue should pay attention to the disturbing chain of events that has unfolded at Nottingham University during the last fortnight.

The story begins on May 14, when a postgraduate student at the university named Rizwaan Sabir was arrested in a joint operation by the West Midlands Counter Terrorist Unit and Nottinghamshire police, accused of downloading and printing the 1,500-page 'Al-Qaeda training manual' from a US government website.

Sabir had printed the document as part of his research into Islamic radical movements, with the help of Hicham Yezza, a 30-year-old Algerian national currently employed at the School of Modern Languages.

Despite the fact that the 'manual' was freely available, a member of staff informed the police, both men were arrested on suspicion of possessing 'material useful for terrorism'. Though Sabir's own tutors affirmed that he was using the document for research purposes, the two were held for six days, their houses searched and their computers confiscated.

On May 20 both men were released without charge, but Yezza was handed over to the immigration authorities for unspecified irregularities in his visa status. Yezza was due to challenge these allegations in a legal hearing on July 16. Last Friday however, the Home Office informed his solicitor that he had been taken to the Coinbrook Immigration Removal Centre and was scheduled to be deported to Algeria this Sunday.

The reasons for this decision are not known and both the Home Office and the police have declined to comment, but there is no obvious explanation for the sudden urgency.

Known as 'Hich' to his friends and colleagues, Yezza (pictured right) has lived in Nottingham for 13 years and is a popular figure on the university campus, where he earned his degree and a PhD in mechanical engineering. He is also a member of a popular theatrical dance troupe and a regular visitor to the Hay-On-Wye literary festival, where he would have gone this week had it not been for his arrest.

None of this is obvious al-Qaeda material. But Yezza is also a longtime peace activist and the editor of a student magazine Ceasefire. Did this political activity qualify him for deportation in the eyes of the authorities? Or has Yezza become a suitably suspicious foreigner, whose removal is intended to deflect attention from a botched investigation?

Whatever the answer, the whole affair does no credit to any of the institutions involved, nor are such procedures likely to do much to advance the cause of counter-terrorism. Yesterday, students and members of staff staged a public protest at Yezza's deportation and the threat to academic freedom posed by the original arrests, in which they read extracts from the al-Qaeda manual.

Alf Nielsen, a research fellow at the School of Politics and International Relations, is indignant at the university's role in an investigation which he believes should never have involved the police in the first place.

Yezza's friends and supporters on campus have cause to question the paranoia, xenophobia and authoritarianism that may result in the deportation of an innocent man. They must also be wondering whether the 'war on terror' is doing infinitely more damage to the brittle facade of British democracy than its terrorist enemies could ever have hoped.


Obama and Osama on FOX Hit List

Jeffrey Feldman, HuffPost

During a live interview, FOX Contributor Liz Trotta jokingly wished for the assassination of Sen. Barack Obama.

This latest incident from FOX News continues the trend in violent rhetoric about Sen. Obama from pundits, politicians, and entertainers.

Grinning While Joking About Killing A Candidate
The incident happen in an exchange with the FOX News anchor. When asked her opinion of the recent scandal surrounding some comments made by Sen. Hillary Clinton, which Trotta described by saying that, "some are reading [it] as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama." Hemmer quickly corrected Trotta, having noticed that she had said "Osama" when she meant "Obama." At this point, Trotta said, "Obama. Well...both if we could!" Trotta then laughed gleefully.

The Progressive Millennial Generation

The Millennial Progressive Generation

Generation Progressive The Millennial generation has always been perceived as socially liberal, but today's young people have progressive views on the economy as well. Not only do Millennials have more progressive economic views than any other age group, but they also believe that increased public investments in health care, education, and other areas are necessary to ensure strong and sustainable economic growth. Furthermore, Millennials reject the conservative viewpoint that government is the problem, and they don't necessarily believe that free markets always have the answers.

Dunkin Donuts Fears Michelle Malkin

Dunkin Donuts has pulled a commercial featuring pitchwoman Rachael Ray wearing a scarf because Michelle Malkin and other conservative observers thought the scarf looked too much like a keffiyeh, what Malkin describes as "the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad."

McCain Boasts of Killing Expertise

McCain’s AP Interview

Liz Sidoti and Barry Massey, AP

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Republican John McCain on Monday sharply criticized Democratic rival Barack Obama for not having been to Iraq since 2006, and said they should visit the war zone together.

"Look at what happened in the last two years since Senator Obama visited and declared the war lost," the GOP presidential nominee-in-waiting told The Associated Press in an interview, noting that the Illinois senator's last trip to Iraq came before the military buildup that is credited with curbing violence.

"He really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq and he has wanted to surrender for a long time," the Arizona senator added. "If there was any other issue before the American people, and you hadn't had anything to do with it in a couple of years, I think the American people would judge that very harshly."

McCain, a Navy veteran and Vietnam prisoner of war, frequently argues that he's the most qualified candidate to be a wartime commander in chief. In recent weeks, he has sought portray Obama, a first-term senator, as naive on foreign policy and not experienced enough to lead the military.

The Iraq war, which polls have shown that most of the country opposes, is shaping up to be a defining issue in the November presidential election.

Mr McCain, his cohorts and his supporters are guilty of preemptive war, which is mass murder. They have so corrupted the various judicial systems they will never stand trial for their crimes.

Fortunately, they can not avoid justice after death.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Vandana Shiva: Food and Water for All

Vandana Shiva: Why We Face Both Food and Water Crises
By Maria Armoudian and Ankine Aghassian, AlterNet.
Policy-makers are finally grappling with the growing global food and water crises that are upon us. While they grope for answers, Vandana Shiva reminds them that it was their wild economic schemes that created these crises in the first place.
The globalized economic structure is simply incompatible with the basic physics of the planet and the principles of democratic governance, she says. And until we align the economic system with those of the ecological system, the problems will only get worse. While many of Shiva's books address some aspect of this fundamental problem, one title captures it most succinctly, Earth Democracy, Justice, Sustainability and Peace.
Shiva is a physicist, author, director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology and Ecology and the founder of Navdanya.
AlterNet: Much of your writing and speaking has focused on our economic structure's incompatibility with the ecological functioning of the earth. Talk about that incompatibility.
Vandana Shiva: One aspect of the inconsistency is between the principles of Gaia, the principles of soil, the ecology, renewability, how the atmosphere cleans itself and the laws of the global marketplace. The global marketplace is driven by the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the illogic of so-called "free trade," which is totally not free. [The result of this incompatibility] is the current food crisis: The more agriculture is "liberalized," the greater the food scarcity, the higher the food prices and the more people will go hungry.
Never has there been this rate of escalation in food prices worldwide as we witness now with the global integration of the food economies under the coercive and bullying force of the WTO.
AlterNet: You have said, in the past, that these activities are done in the name of improving human welfare. But instead, poverty and dispossession have increased. Where do we see this the most?
VS: We see the worst dispossession in the countries of the South -- tragically -- those countries that could feed themselves. India, for example, was food self-sufficient. We were able to feed our people with a universal distribution system, affordable food for all, and agriculture policies that put food first. Small farmers could make a living.
But a decade and a half of globalization's perverse rules have led to 200,000 farmers committing suicide because they can't make a living anymore -- all their money goes to make profit for Monsanto or Cargill. Meanwhile, with the economy's so-called growth, people are starving. Per capita entitlement to food has dropped in a decade and half from 177 kg to 152 kg per year.
This contradicts the false propaganda being spread about the reason prices are rising. They say it is because Indians are getting richer and Indians are eating more. Well, some Indians are getting richer, but they're not eating more. There's a limit to how much you can eat. And the handful of billionaires buys a few more private jet planes and builds a few more private mansions. [But in reality], the average Indian is eating less. The average child has a bigger chance today of dying of hunger. The Cargill's of the world have a stranglehold of the world's economy; they're harvesting super-profits while people die of hunger.
AlterNet: You talk about India being worse off, but many economists -- including those on the political left -- say that places like China and India are, overall, actually improving. But you say that is not true.
VS: It's not true. India, under the perverse growth of globalization, has beaten out Africa in the number of hungry people. While we have 9.2 percent growth measured by GNP and GDP, 50 percent of our children have very severe malnutrition. Fifty percent of deaths for children under five are due to lack of food. That's about a million kids per year.
AlterNet: That is a considerable change that I don't think the world is seeing.
VS: That's because the media orchestrates every analysis and interpretation. They would like this crisis to look like a success of globalization, and they would like to offer more globalization as a solution. In fact, the World Bank has said there should be more liberalized trade. Before the WTO was formed, we had protests with 500,000 farmers on the streets of Bangalore in 1993 to say that this is a recipe for starvation, for destroying agriculture, self-reliance and food security. And the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs -- before the WTO was born -- had a press conference to say that globalization will make food affordable for all.
They forget that food ultimately is not produced in the speculation and commodity exchanges controlled by Cargill in Chicago. It is produced by hard working women and men working with the soil and sun. And if you destroy the capacity of the people to work the land and the capacity of soil to produce, you're going to have hunger. The tragedy is that the hunger of today and the rise of food [prices] is the result of globalization policies, and it is being implemented on a global scale. Unless we bring local food sovereignty and "food democracy" back into the picture, we will not have a solution to this.

AlterNet: We should also talk about water scarcity. There are major water wars occurring and considerable concern about the future of water. Do you think that water scarcity is being created largely by the phenomenon of privatization or is it resulting from climate change and other such phenomena?
VS: Water scarcity [is] being created by non-sustainable systems of production for both food and textile. Every industrial activity has huge water demands. Industrial agriculture requires ten times more water to produce the same amount of food than ecological farming does. And the "green revolution" was not so green because it created demand for large dams and mining of groundwater.
Industrial agriculture has depleted water resources. In addition, as water has become polluted and depleted, a handful of industry saw water as a way of making super-profits by privatizing it. They are privatizing it in two ways. The first is through buying up entire civic, municipal distribution. The big players in this are Bechtel, Suez and Vivendi.
And interestingly, wherever they go, they face protests. Bechtel was thrown out of Bolivia. Suez wanted to take Delhi's water supply, but we had a movement for water democracy and did not allow them to take over. But there's a second kind of privatization, which is more insidious -- and that is the plastic water bottle. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are leading in this privatization. But in India where Coca-Cola was stealing water, I worked with a small group of village women, and they shut their plant down. Across India, these giant corporations are taking between 1.5 to 2 million liters of water a day and leaving behind a water famine.
AlterNet: Given what is happening as a result of climate change, would we still face a water crisis without these practices?
VS: We would not be facing water problems if people have been allowed to have their economies, to practice sustainability and to live their lives. Every step in the water crisis is due to greed. As the water becomes increasingly scarce, the corporations who control the water become richer. It is the same with food. As food becomes scarce, the corporations controlling food become richer. That is the paradox of the global economy. Growth shows up in the profits of corporations while in the real world, the resources from which they make their profits, shrink.
AlterNet: You have also suggested that these same economic principles are incompatible with the sustenance of democratic governance.
VS: There are many levels at which a market economy called corporate globalization has to kill democracy in order to survive. Take the birth of World Trade Organization (WTO), an undemocratic institution. There are no negotiations on the rules it imposes. These rules are created undemocratically. Then, every time these rules are implemented, there are protests. Normally in democracy, if the will of people say change this policy, governments change. Unfortunately, governance today is run by corporations not the people. Every step of deepening the market economy is a depletion of democracy. Our very governments have been stolen from us, and we have to use democracy to counter these rules, this paradigm, and the absolute destruction [it causes].
Note: Vandana Shiva is one of the seminal thinkers and doers of our times. See more stories tagged with: seeds, monstanto, india, farming, water, food, vandana shiva

A Jewish Confusion

Warmongering Jews use McCarthyite tactics that advance the notion that the Holocaust was ‘God’s Will’ for the Jews. They believe that all Israelis must die to usher in the End of Days [the death of mankind and the coming of the Messiah].

UPDATE IV: One of the points which the Haaretz Editorial made in opposing the exclusion of Finkelstein is that right-wing Jewish-American extremists who, unlike Finkelstein, do pose a real security threat, are regularly allowed entry into Israel: "the decision is all the more surprising when one recalls the ease with which right-wing activists from the Meir Kahane camp -- the kind whose activities pose a security threat that no longer requires further proof -- are able to enter the country."

At Open Left, Paul Rosenberg examines an analogous inequity: while even the mildest critics of Israel on the Left are routinely demonized by neocons as "anti-Israeli" or "anti-Semitic," truly extreme hatemongers on the Right -- such as John Hagee -- are not only tolerated but embraced. Thus, Joe Lieberman, who previously compared Hagee to "Moses" in the midst of bathing Hagee with lavish praise, still refuses to repudiate Hagee or cancel his scheduled appearance at a Hagee event even in the wake of Hagee's comments that Hitler and the Holocaust were "God's will" to drive Jews back to Israel. Few things are more destructive than those like Lieberman who transparently exploit "anti-Israel" and "anti-Semitism" accusations to silence debate and for their own political gain.”

-- Glenn Greenwald,

Would Goldwater Have Voted for McCain?

By Sam Stein, HuffPost

John McCain is prone to tout himself as a "Goldwater Republican," the inheritor of a party and ideology that his Senate predecessor from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, helped shape decades ago.

But Goldwater's own family members say that, if the family patriarch were alive today, he would be sour on McCain and shudder at the kind of conservatism that the current GOP nominee is proposing.

"I don't know if he would recognize the Republican Party today," Alison Goldwater Ross, a registered Democrat and granddaughter of the 1964 GOP presidential candidate, told The Huffington Post. "I'm sure if we were to raise his ashes from the Colorado River... he would be going, 'What? This is not my vision. This is not my party.'"

Such bewilderment, Ross offered, would extend to McCain, the man who took over Goldwater's seat in the Senate in 1987 and currently is the GOP standard-bearer. The two Arizonans clashed on several occasions during their political careers. Goldwater, as documented in "Pure Goldwater," a book by the Senator's son Barry Jr., was depressed and angered by McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal. Later in his career, a rift developed between the two after McCain used Goldwater's name -- without his permission -- for fundraising purposes.

"My grandfather felt that he was deceived by McCain," she said. "Because he looked at McCain and said, here was this young guy who has a lot of potential in the Republican Party, who is coming through the ranks, and then he pulled something like this. My grandfather had to ask, 'Is this something I want to be close to?'"

Footpaths 2

Jyotsna, Rising Voices

A woman called Bhabani lives on the footpath of Bowbazar’s Raja Rammohon Ray Sarani with her mother and her son. They have accepted their lot. I think that footpath dwellers live a very painful life. In summer, esp. in the afternoons, the scalding sun heats up the footpath. The nights offer a little comfort. In winter the whole day and night are spent shivering with cold in the open streets. The rainy season is very difficult. You can neither sit, nor lie down, nor eat. Apart from this, footpath dwellers who are daily wage earners have to go out and work hard in storms and bad weather, exposing themselves to the harsh conditions of nature. There is no place to sleep. Some people who have trolley-like vans make these double up as beds in the night. They sleep on these after laying down a plastic sheet on top. There are many other insoluble problems. Often out of the blue, police cars come to dismantle them from their pavement homes. Then they try to hide their possessions as best as they can to prevent them from being confiscated by the police. If once they are taken away, you need to pay money to retrieve them. Some people living on the footpaths in cities often have dwellings in their villages. Those who don’t have these faraway village homes literally have no place to go to.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Millions Will Seek Refuge from the Environment

United Nations Pursues Burmese Mass Murderers

The UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon came out of his meeting this morning with Burma's top general, Than Shwe, bearing news that the junta is finally prepared - after three fateful weeks of prevaricating - to allow "all" foreign workers into the country, writes Edward Loxton for The First Post.

However, it was not clear whether Than Shwe had agreed to give visas to foreign aid workers or let them into the devastated Irrawaddy delta region to deliver aid. As a result, Ban Ki-moon was only able to say that he "thinks" the general's agreement is a breakthrough. Nor was it clear whether Than Shwe was referring only to relief workers from partner countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The UN leader's meeting with Than Shwe came after an extraordinary day during which he was given a carefully orchestrated helicopter tour of the delta region by the military government, including a visit to a "show camp" where Burmese made homeless by cyclone Nargis lined up to greet him outside pristine blue tents (pictured above), many of which were empty.

And whatever Than Shwe may have said this morning to pacify Ban Ki-moon, the reports that continue to emerge from the delta region only reinforce the ugly truth: that in denying the enormity of the destruction wrought by Nargis, the four generals who run this country, Than Shwe, Maung Aye, Shwe Mann and Thein Sein, and their accolytes, are nothing less than mass murderers.

One of the worst reports to emerge from the delta since the cyclone hit 21 days ago concerns 70 homeless refugees who attempted to disembark from their four flimsy boats near Bogalay. Local government officials refused them permission to land and told them to return to their ruined villages. "They were caught in a sudden storm, the boats capsized and all drowned," said a witness.

This sort of cold-hearted behaviour, typical of the regime, is not what was being reported to Ban Ki-moon yesterday by his Burmese guides. Indeed, at the "show camp" and elsewhere, it transpires that the survivors of Nargis were instructed to "show discipline" and refrain from any complaints about their plight.

Some local authorities reportedly accused destitute rice farmers and their families of "damaging Burma's image" by begging for food at the roadside. Four Burmese journalists reporting from the region for independent Rangoon publications were arrested, held overnight and told the next day to leave the region.

Before Than Shwe’s change of heart this morning, UN agencies and international relief organisations were saying that aid has so far reached only a quarter of the people who desperately need it. Relief workers travelling in the delta region give harrowing first-hand reports of thousands of starving people lining the roads and living among the ruins of remote, flattened villages, scavenging in the flooded fields for any food they can find.

In an email to friends in Thailand, one Burmese relief worker said around 10,000 people lined the roadside as he drove to Bogalay, one of the worst-hit delta towns. "These people previously lived in the paddy fields on the left and right side of the road. Now their homes were destroyed and the fields were flooded. So they moved to the roadside. Some could build small tents, but others have to sleep on the open ground. Most of them are women and children. I saw six or seven family members sitting tightly together under a roof of plastic sheeting held up by four posts."

The relief worker witnessed government officials driving refugees out of a monastery where they had sought shelter. The abbot angrily challenged the expulsion order but was ignored. Like the 70 trying to land their boats at Bogalay, the refugees were ordered to return to their destroyed villages.


Human Rights Besiege Tunisian Presidential Palace

Tunisia blocked access to both popular video-sharing websites, Youtube and Dailymotion, in order to prevent Tunisian netizens from watching video content featuring testimonies from former political prisoners and human rights activists. However, and as shown in this example, Tunisian cyberactivists from are successful enough in besieging Carthage presidential palace, on Google Earth, with tens of human rights videos.
And you can explore more human rights videos when flying over other Tunisian regions and cities Google like Bizerte, Kef, etc.

Please, feel free to download this Google Earth kmz file (Keyhole Markup Zip) which will start Google Earth and fly you to Carthage Presidential palace.

Human Rights Videos Besiege the Tunisian Presidential Palace

Sami Ben Gharbia, Global Voices Advocacy

Baby Famine

Jeha's Nail

Global Voices

Jeha’s Nail makes the point of differentiating between “talks” and “dialogue” among other things:

There has been much talk about talk in the news lately, and our insignificant little slice of the Middle East has been the center of much of it, even some ominous talk and “interesting” moves…
Yet for all the useless attention we’re getting, most are missing this little truth;
There’s talk, and then there’s dialogue
The two are not necessarily the same. Such a distinction evades otherwise smart politician. He should take heed from those “leaders” of ours, now in Qatar to continue talking past one another as they had been talking forever. Their talks serve no function other than provide underpaid journalists with a much needed excuse to window shop in Qatar. Yes, Beirut would be more fun, but the yellow rose of downtown has yet to unpack her UNHCR tent.
All this talk about talk misunderstands the real dynamics of the conversation between the United States and the Persians. Before mouthing off about engagement, those “realists” need to consider the persons they are engaging.

Barack Supporter in Gaza

Abu Jayaab, Voices Without Votes

Call him Barack Obama’s man in Gaza. Ibrahim Abu Jayyab, a bookish 23-year-old media studies student, gathers friends to try and rally support for the Democratic candidate by calling U.S. voters from a cybercafé in the Gaza strip.

Abu Jaayab told a reporter for the Ramattan News Network that he has called “tens or hundreds of random phone numbers” in the United States, pleading with people to vote for Obama, who he sees as “the man of the future.”

In an interview with the television network Al-Jazeera, Abu Jaayab explained:

It all started at the time of the US Primaries. After studying Obama’s campaign manifesto, I thought this is a man who is capable of change inside America. As for potential change in the Middle East, he can also do that. He can bring peace to the area. At least this is what he hopes.

For his work and dedication, Abu Jaayab has received death threats from Islamist fundamentalists – and was nominated for an Index on Censorship/Hugo Young Award for Journalism 2007. Undeterred, Abu Jaayab told Ramattan News Network that if Obama becomes President, he will help the Palestinians to achieve their dreams.

“We can not achieve our dreams because of the Israeli occupation, the world did not help us to end the Israeli occupation,” he said “we hope Obama will achieve what the world could not, to help us to live in peace and to achieve our dreams.”

Abu Jayyab believes that as Obama from an Islamic origin and from those who oppressed a long the history, he thinks that he will absorb the suffer of the Palestinians and will not hesitate to help them.

The work of Abu Jaayab and his friends at the cyber café – where the power supply can be precarious at best – is now quite uncommon for residents in Gaza, said Mkhaimer Abu Sada, a political analyst from Al-Azhar University. He told Al-Jazeera that while his students are following the US primaries, they remain intellectually detached.

[W]hether there is a Democratic President or Republican President in the White House, there is not going to be a big difference regarding the Palestinian issue.

The United State’s five-year military engagement in Iraq may be partly to blame, along with the country’s on-again, off-again war of words with Iran. (Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton recently became engaged in that debate, discussed here in Voices without Votes.) As Al-Jazeera – and others – have pointed out, the Israeli-Palestinian issue wasn’t of much interest within the Bush administration until the past year or so.

As presidential candidates concentrate more about Iraq’s future and America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil, bloggers around the region and beyond have picked up Abu Jaayab’s unlikely story and used it as a tool to debate Obama’s foreign policy bona-fides.

Throughout the campaign, Obama’s many intellectual U-turns on Israel and Hamas should warn us that we can’t believe a word he says, argues Israel Matzav:

When Obama said, “nobody's suffering more than the Palestinian people,” did he really mean as he later clarified, that nobody was suffering more from the failure of the Palestinian leadership? Or was he trying to start a “conversation” about whether the U.S. is too focused on Israeli suffering, and not enough on the suffering of the Palestinians?

When he was asked by Brian Williams in a debate last year to name the top three allies of the United States, why did he filibuster the question without naming Israel?

When he said in February, “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you're anti-Israel, and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel,” what did he mean by “pro-Likud”?

… It's a shame that Obama has apparently gotten through the Democratic primaries without his true stance on the issues being fleshed out. Hopefully, they will be fleshed out enough by the Presidential elections to send him reeling in ignominious defeat.

Formally of Iran, Amil Imani warns that Obama may be in physical danger if he follows through with his proposal to meet the leaders of Iran:

Obama boasted that he would embark on a personal diplomacy to solve our foreign policy problems with countries such as Syria and Iran. He said that he would meet their leaders without any preconditions to settle our disputes. Doesn’t that sound like change, a real change of great relief to us all? Never mind the fact that he has about zero experience in foreign policy matters, he is foolish enough to aim to negotiate with the ever-conniving Assad of Syria and masters of deceptions such as the Mullahs of Iran.

Okay Obama, don’t claim that no one warned you. If you get elected President and you receive an invitation from your fellow Muslim brother Ahmadinejad to make good on your promise and visit him in Tehran for a tête-à-tête, don’t you do it.

My advice, Obama: Elected President or not, don’t you hazard a trip to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In fact, don’t you go anywhere near where the crazed Islamists can get their hands on you. You don’t even rate a fatwa from one of the many bloodthirsty crafty Ayatollahs or Moftis asking for your head. Your fate is already sealed. You are on automatic, so to speak– a person who was given the gift of Islam and who ungratefully turned his back to the one and only faith of Allah, so the Muslims believe. The punishment for this kind of betrayal is prescribed as haad (most severe), meaning death.

Even Abu Jaayab has some doubts. Back to Ramattan News Network.

But, Abu Jayyab is so “disappointed and upset” because Obama did not mention the suffering and the security of the Palestinian people when he said that the security of Israel is “holy”.

“Why Senator Obama did not mention to the daily killing the Palestinian people lives in, why he did not talk about the siege on Gaza? What about security, is it not sacrosanct?” he said.

In TV discussion issues of anti-Semitism, with Hilary Clinton, Obama said Tuesday: “… I have been a stalwart friend of Israel and supported the special relationship we enjoy with it… they are among our most important allies and their security is sacrosanct.”

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hillary: It's Obama's Fault

How the Government Passes Secret Laws

Sean Gonsalves, AlterNet

Once upon a time, a team of federal attorneys went before the Supreme Court only to discover that their entire case was based on a revoked executive order and therefore moot.

True story. Look it up. Panama Refining Company v. Ryan. The revoked presidential order was understandably missed by the attorneys. The revocation had never been made public -- an example of what legal scholars refer to as "secret law."

Cases like that caused Congress, in the '30s and '40s, to pen legislation aimed at bringing order to the dissemination of vital government information, amid the chaotic complexity of state administrative laws and downright shoddy record-keeping. Congress also established statutes to keep a growing body of secret law in check.

That's how we got the Federal Register Act of 1935, the Administrative Procedures Act of 1946 and the golden key to open government (and investigative reporting) -- the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Those legislative acts exemplify one of the defining features of American government -- the publicizing of laws and regulations. The political philosophy isn't hard to understand. Secret laws are the antithesis of a free and open society, which explains why the first U.S. Congress mandated that every "law, order, resolution, and vote (shall) be published in at least three of the public newspapers printing within the United States."

But, never mind -- for the moment -- the decline of newspapers, and the harmful implications it has for democratic governance. Even more alarming is the underreported increase of unpublicized "secret laws," clandestinely cultivated in recent years.

We're talking everything from secret interpretations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and opinions from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to secret Presidential directives and transportation security orders.

And don't let the word "opinion" throw you off. If, for example, they're "opinions" issued by the OLC -- like the now infamous Yoo torture memos -- those kind of "opinions" are binding on the executive branch.

So, while the Washington press heavy-hitters were analyzing flag pins and pastors, a Judiciary subcommittee hearing was held on "Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government".

Among the half-dozen or so witnesses to testify was the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, Steven Aftergood -- one of the nation's preeminent authorities on secret law. What should have been a top-story across the country was rendered invisible by a tsunami of triviality.

Here's some testimony you probably missed:

"There has been a discernible increase in secret law and regulation in recent years" to the point where "legislative intervention" is required to "reverse the growth."

Unsurprisingly, secret law really became entwined with the government during the Cold War. But today, "secrecy not only persists, it is growing. Worse, it is implicated in fundamental political controversies over domestic surveillance, torture, and many other issues directly affecting the lives and interests of Americans."

The law that governs espionage activity has been re-interpreted by the FISA Court, the specific nature of which has not been disclosed to the public?

In August 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union petitioned the court on First Amendment grounds to make public those legal rulings, after redacting classified information. The court denied the ACLU petition, claiming it didn't have the expertise to decide what information should be redacted.

The denial was issued despite it being evident "that there is a body of common law derived from the decisions of the (FISA court) that potentially implicates the privacy interests of all Americans. Yet knowledge of that law is deliberately withheld from the public. In this way, secret law has been normalized to a previously unknown extent and to the detriment, I believe, of American democracy," Aftergood testified.

Other areas of concern: "there appears to be a precipitous decline in publication of OLC opinions in recent years ... In 1995, there were 30 published opinions, but in 2005 there were 13. In 1996, there were 48 published opinions, but in 2006 only 1. And in 1997 there were 29 published opinions, but only 9 in 2007."

"One secret OLC opinion of particular significance, identified last year by Sen. Whitehouse, holds that executive orders, which are binding on executive branch agencies and are published in the Federal Register, can be unilaterally abrogated by the President without public notice."

Such orders mean "Congress is left with no opportunity to respond to the change and to exercise its own authority as it sees fit. Worse, the OLC policy ... implies a right to actively mislead Congress and the public."

Here's something else that's been waaaay underreported. As of January 2008, the Bush administration has issued 56 National Security Presidential Directives on a range of national security issues. Most of those directives have not been disclosed. "Texts of the directives or descriptive fact sheets have been obtained for about a third of them (19)," Aftergood testified. Only the titles have been obtained on 8 of the directives and absolutely no information is available for 10.

Congress has also gotten in on the action, having "participated in the propagation of secret law through the adoption of classified annexes to intelligence authorization of bills, for example."

Aftergood concluded his testimony, rightly observing that "it should be possible to identify a consensual middle ground that preserves the security of genuinely sensitive national security information while reversing the growth of secret laws."

That's why he's pushing for the passage of the State Secrets Protection Act -- S. 2533 -- which aims to balance conflicting interests of secrecy and public disclosure.

"The rule of law, after all, is one of the fundamental principles that unites us all, and one of the things we are committed to protect. Secret law is inconsistent with that commitment."

Of course, whenever someone points out how civil liberties have taken a back-seat in the name of "national security" under Bush, what's the typical response of true believers?

They call talk radio, blog and write letters-to-the-editor about how "liberals" and "leftists" aid and abet terrorists with a naive insistence that America's political leaders adhere to quaint luxuries like long-established Constitutional freedoms.

The old saw -- "loose lips sinks ships" -- has been replaced by another now familiar brain-dead mantra: "if you're doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about." But the metastasizing growth of secret law pulls the rug out from underneath that flimsy argument. And for obvious reason: you can't know what you don't know.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

McCain Battles the Man He Was

Arianna Huffington, HuffPost

Still think John McCain is the straight talking reformer of 2000? This week, huge chunks of that facade fell away. His multi-layered lobbying problems sent the reformer chunk tumbling. His one-two rejection of agents of intolerance John "Hitler Was Doing God's Work" Hagee and Rod "Islam is Anti-Christ" Parsley, whose endorsements he actively pursued, revealed the calculation behind his faith-based outreach -- and down came the straight-talk stucco. And his refusal to join the 75 Senators who voted for the new GI Bill (or even show up for the vote), transformed his endless talk of honor, duty, sacrifice, and owing our troops a debt we can never repay into hypocritical dust. No matter who the Democrats nominate, it's increasingly clear McCain's toughest foe in 2008 will be the man he used to be.

Are Americans Going to Hell?

Are Americans Going to Hell?

Almost daily subscribers to the progressive literature can enjoy revelations of malfeasance in high places. Graft, corruption and murder are so commonplace to escape notice.

There is where the information stops. At most we will get an address or a phone number where one can voice a complaint.

Who acts on this? Nobody. Most likely the telecom company will report the caller to law enforcement authorities.

Essentially, no one deals with the real problems that beset the country.

It may benefit the reader to devote a few minutes per day to this issue. How can we put the perpetrators into the jails or onto the gallows?

I address these notions and will be glad to swap ideas on the subject.

People who share the program of Hagee, Bush and McCain have always been willing to fight to the last drop of Jewish blood. Even as Hitler was losing the war, he denied his troops supplies so the trains could carry human cargo to the death camps.
Few Americans appreciate the depths to which their country has fallen. While many of us Jews abhor McCain's kowtowing to the religious right, he and his cohorts have done much more damage to other groups. I refer to six millions Third World citizens murdered during the CIA inspired incursions Vietnam for example. Despite the estimated 70,000 victims who have fallen into the grasp of American torture experts, few Democrats have made it a campaign issue. The US Congress has funded the effort that put 1,000,000+ Iraqis into their early graves.
Many Americans are too sure they are going to heaven despite the evil they have done. Do they think they can fool God with a few slogans?

For example, does Hillary qualify as accessory before the fact [assassination]?

Assassination Bears Bitter Fruit

The Most Savage Shock Jock on Talk Radio
Rory O’Conner and Aaron Cutler, Alternet
Why do so many different people dislike Savage and his Nation? Perhaps it's because Savage dislikes so many different people. In his book The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Language and Culture, he writes, "I was raised on neglect, anger, and hate. I was raised the old-fashioned way." Despite claiming to have originated the term "compassionate conservative" (and threatening to sue George W. Bush for appropriating it), Savage is usually far more passionate than compassionate. On the issue of illegal immigration, he said:
"We, the people, are being displaced by the people of Mexico. This is an invasion by any other name. Everybody with a brain understands that. Everybody who understands reality understands we are being pushed out of our own country."
On CNN news anchors:
"Wolf Blitzer, a Jew who was born in Israel, [is] probably the most despicable man in the media next to Larry King, who takes a close runner-up by the hair of a nose. The two of them together look like the type that would have pushed Jewish children into the oven to stay alive one more day to entertain the Nazis."
On homosexuality:
"The radical homosexual agenda will not stop until religion is outlawed in this country. Make no mistake about it. They're all not nice decorators
They threaten your very survival
Gay marriage is just the tip of the iceberg. They want full and total subjugation of this society to their agenda."
And in conclusion:
"Why should we have constant sympathy for people who are freaks in every society? I'm sick and tired of the whole country begging, bending over backwards for the junkie, the freak, the pervert, the illegal immigrant. All of them are better than everybody else. Sick."
Listening to a host for whom even George W. Bush is too liberal (Savage particularly lambastes the president on immigration issues) can be an intense experience. Yet millions of people do it. As New Yorker editor Ben Greenman says, "People who listen to Savage say that he's a little extreme but that some of the things he says are also true. I think his show does encourage you to think for yourself, because he's so weirdly contradictory."
Savage's three-hour program often consists of apoplectic rants-usually against a particular group or groups of people allegedly doing damage to America-that end with an animalistic, Network-like cry of "I can't take this anymore!" During calmer times, Savage ends his monologues with a huffy "That's just the way I see it." Sometimes Savage exhibits a rare and startling tenderness, for instance in his fond recollections of the lm director Elia Kazan (famous not only for On the Waterfront but also for naming names to the House Un-American Activities Committee).
And every so often Savage changes the subject, mentioning a great barber he's been to recently or a good movie he's just seen. There is something almost hypnotic about the up-and-down anger on the program; even though Savage's views are not always internally coherent, he is supremely confident and comfortable in expressing them. His ability to steer the course without having to resort to logic to support his points is a trait more often seen in politicians than commentators. Indeed, Savage briefly (if laughably) mulled a run for the 2008 presidency on the grounds that since neither the Democrats nor the Republicans were to be trusted, a nonpolitician like him might be exactly what the country needed.
Savage's main sources of anger these days are illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorists (a near-redundancy for him), and homosexuals. Unlike his parents, who legally emigrated to the United States, arriving in Ellis Island, illegal immigrants assault fundamental American values-or so Savage claims. They not only compromise the security of the border and bring drugs, crime, and disease with them, but they threaten the American way of life-or at least the white male way of life. In reference to Arabs, Savage has said that the "racist, fascist bigots" should be converted to Christianity because "Christianity has been one of the great salvations on planet Earth. It's the only thing that can probably turn them into human beings."

A Promise to the Dead

A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman is an indictment of torture and a powerful study of individual and collective memory.

Chile Under Pinochet and the Post-9/11 "War on Terror"

By Sophia A. McClennen, AlterNet.

Torture, the suspension of democracy and civil rights, illegal surveillance, forced displacement, and a culture of fear led by a despot who gains power through an act of violence committed on September 11. Sound familiar? Canadian director Peter Raymont's new documentary, A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman, covers familiar ground but in less familiar territory as he intertwines the life of Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman with the history of Chile and with the events of 9/11 in both Chile and the United States. Author of the award-winning play Death and the Maiden, Dorfman is a novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, journalist, and human rights activist. Born in Argentina in 1942, his family was forced to move to the United States in 1945 only to then become the victims of McCarthyism in 1954. They next fled to Chile, where Dorfman eventually gained citizenship. Exiled again from Chile in 1973, Dorfman has lived since the 1980s in Durham, North Carolina where he teaches at Duke University. Tracing the Dorfman family's multiple displacements, the documentary is an exploration of exile and loss, but it is equally the story of persistent hope, the survival of collective ties, and the triumph of memory.

Dorfman should have died on September 11, 1973 when a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet ousted the democratically-elected Socialist President of Chile, Salvador Allende. Dorfman served at the time as Allende's cultural advisor and his name was included on a list of government officials that would be called in the event of an attack. But he wasn't called. Rather than die alongside his friends and comrades, he lived -- and lived to tell the story. Or, as he tells readers of his memoir, Heading South, Looking North, which served as the basis for the film, "If it is not true that this was why I was saved, I have tried to make it true. In every story I tell. Haunted by the certainty that I have been keeping a promise to the dead."

The haunting presence of the dead and the even more haunting ways that the living hold radically contradictory memories of the dead form some of the central questions that guide Raymont's film. What does it mean to keep a promise to the dead? For Dorfman it means first and foremost telling the story of the thousands of Chileans who were tortured, disappeared, and exiled during the Pinochet years. It means using literature and the power of words to rescue stories that history would like us to forget. It also means being a voice for those that survived but suffered the trauma of losing loved ones. In one especially moving scene Dorfman accompanies Aleida, the daughter of Sergio Leiva, to a Chilean courthouse where he signs an affidavit confirming that he saw her father shot by a sniper while he was a refugee in the Argentine embassy. Until Dorfman's words provided a challenge to official history, she had suffered the trauma of not only losing her father but having his death completely erased from public memory.

Viewed in the current context of extraordinary renditions, secret prisons, and enemy combatants, where bodies disappear and die with no public record, Dorfman's story is both inspiring and chilling. During exile, Dorfman dedicated himself to advancing the cause of the Chilean resistance. His perfect bilingualism, due to having lived in the United States and in South America as a young man, and his skills as a writer uniquely positioned him to tell the story of the dictatorship. But, even though the exile years were spent tirelessly struggling for the return of democracy, those long years also served to distance him irremediably from Chile. This distance became painfully clear when his play, Death and the Maiden, about a torture survivor who confronts her torturer, opened in Chile to less than enthusiastic reviews. Yet it is arguably the most internationally significant play authored by a Latin American writer and has been staged across the globe -- to resounding success. After receiving an Olivier Award for its production in London, it opened on Broadway with Gene Hackman, Glenn Close, and Richard Dreyfus and was later made into a film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, and Stuart Wilson. But it has yet to fully reach Dorfman's intended audience. Dorfman's most internationally successful work brought the story of Chile closer to the world but left him even farther away. Rather than focus merely on Dorfman's successes as a writer, the documentary explores this gap when he has dinner with the actor, Paula Sharim, who diplomatically characterizes the play as "putting a finger in a wound."

Another scene in A Promise to the Dead presses the point of his outsider status when Dorfman appears on a television talk show with a Pinochet supporter shortly after the general's death. The debate is whether Pinochet deserves to have a military burial. Dorfman adamantly opposes the idea, arguing that a man who denies his enemies the ability to bury their dead has violated military codes of conduct. He then directly asks the program's host when he first knew about the torture conducted under Pinochet. The simple truth of Dorfman's words shocks the host and the viewer is left savoring one of those few moments when they have seen someone absolutely refuse to self-censor. It's a moment reminiscent of Stephen Colbert's speech in front of George W. Bush at the correspondent's dinner, except in this case Dorfman was dead serious.

The documentary does an excellent job of balancing between Dorfman's life and the events he has witnessed, but the real success of Raymont's film lies in the way that it captures essential features of Dorfman's aesthetic approach to writing his memoir. The memoir moves back and forth through time and across nations as it recalls the events of the coup in chapters that alternate with memories of Dorfman's life before the coup. Similarly, the film gracefully moves across time and space showing the ways that memory structures not only our sense of the past but also our dreams for the future. Memory is messy, it is flawed, it can confuse us and haunt us. A first-time visit to Dorfman's grandmother's grave reveals that she has been moved to a common unmarked burial ground. Dorfman, running from the loss of her death, had refused to remember her.

Yet memory also is what gives him strength, what inspires his writing, and what allows him to relive the extraordinary camaraderie of the Allende years. In a brilliant scene that reveals both the limits and the resilience of memory, Dorfman meets up with old friends and they reenact a pro-Allende victory march. Linked arm and arm the three men in their 60s erupt in song. When it comes time to turn, they move in opposite directions, having forgotten the actual route they used to take. As they break into laughter over the misstep, the message is clear: Some forgetting is inevitable. Some forgetting is willful. And some forgetting is criminal. When a nation has suffered radical trauma its greatest challenge is over which memories will survive, which will be suppressed, which will be fabricated, and which will be punished.

Pinochet's systematic denial of the dead, the tortured, and the exiled has drastically scarred Chile. It is impossible to watch this film and not feel deep connections between the story of Chile under Pinochet and the post 9/11/2001 world of the war on terror. At one point, Dorfman speaks about all the people who had to have known about the torture -- not just the government and the torturers, but also the people who cleaned the rooms, who cooked for the torturers, and who worked in the myriad jobs that were required to sustain them. Dorfman asks viewers to think about all of the people who knew something horrible was happening to their country and said nothing. He also visits Ground Zero in New York where the tragedy of the attacks and of the response to the attacks resonates eerily with his own memories of Chile.

Measured against these bleak experiences Raymont's film tells another story. It is a story of extraordinary hope. It is the story of the jubilance of the Allende years and the exhilaration of the vote to oust Pinochet. We watch democracy in action: first voting in a Socialist President and then removing a dictator from power. Ballots slip into a box and we think of other elections to come, other opportunities for change, other ways to keep a promise to the dead.

"A Promise to the Dead" will be shown on June 12th at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York. Go here for a full schedule.

Clinton Self-Destructs

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Now You See It! Poof!!! Now You Don't!

James Howard Kunstler, Alternet

"Far from normal."

Those were the words that Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has used to describe the financial markets (and by extension, the economy) these heady spring days when everybody else with a rostrum, it seems, has pronounced the so-called liquidity crisis contained. There's a great wish for American finance to return to business-as-usual -- raking in fantastic fees for innovating new modes of tradable paper and engineering mergers and buyouts that generate huge fees plus $100 million kiss-offs for corporate CEOs in the noble struggle to dismantle America's productive capacity -- but apparently events are still out of hand.

The Federal Reserve itself has been instrumental in promoting abnormality by doing everything possible to prevent the work-out of bad debts in the system. Since money is loaned into existence, and loans are debts, the work-out of bad debt suggests the discovery that a lot of money has disappeared -- which is exactly the case. The Fed has postponed the work-out by sucking up truckloads of impaired, untradable securities in exchange for loans to giant banks that don't have enough cash on hand to pay their janitors.

Personally, my theory has been that the specter of peak oil pretty clearly implies the inability of industrial economies to continue producing real wealth in the customary way. In the face of this, either consciously or at a more mystical level, the worker bees in banking recognize that, in order to maintain their villas in the Hamptons, money has to be loaned into existence some other way (than in the service of industrial productivity).

We've tried just about everything else. There was the so-called service economy, an attempt to replace manufacturing with hamburger sales. Then there was the information economy, in which work would be replaced with knowing about stuff. Then there was the tech thing, which was about bringing internet companies that existed only on the back of cocktail napkins to the initial public offering stage of capitalization -- which allowed a few hundred or so 30-year-old smoothies to retire to vineyards in the Napa Valley while hundreds of thousands of retirees lost half the value of their investment portfolios. Then there was the housing boom, which was all about the creation of more suburban sprawl under the theory that houses (or "homes," in the jargon of the Realtors) represent an obvious sort of wealth, and therefore that using houses as collateral would allow humongous sums of money to be loaned into existence -- along with massive fees for structuring the loans into bundles of bond-like thingies.

This has all failed now because the racket went too far. Every possible candidate for a snookering got snookered. Too much collateral for which there were no takers went into the ground. The insane run-up in house values made a downward price movement inevitable, and as soon as the turnaround happened, it fell into the remorseless algebra of a deflationary death spiral. More importantly, however, this society ran out of tricks for loaning money into existence and instead began to experience the pain of money thought to be in existence being defaulted into a vapor -- and worse, these defaults led to logarithmic chains of money destruction in its places of origin, the investment banks that had created the racket.

The important part of this is that the money is gone. What makes matters truly eerie is that the "bubble" in suburban houses has occurred at exactly the moment in history when the chief enabling resource for suburban life -- oil -- has entered its scarcity stage.

The logical conclusion of all this is not what the American public wants to hear: We have become a much poorer society and are now faced with the unavoidable task of making major changes in how we live. All the three-card monte moves at the highest level of finance lately amount to an effort to avoid the unavoidable, acknowledging our losses. Certainly the political fallout of all this will be awesome. But it's not about politics, really. It's about the entire society's inability to form a workable new consensus of reality.

It's hard to predict how long these institutions at the heart of our economic system can linger in the "far from normal" limbo of pretending that money has not been defaulted out of existence. Since the same process is under way in Great Britain and Spain, places beyond the control of Bernanke, Secretary Henry Paulson and the Boyz on Wall Street, and since actions and reactions there will affect the destiny of money here, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we're at most months away from the brutal recognition that Wall Street has managed to bankrupt itself (and, by extension, the United States). This is the dark heart of the matter of which no one dares speak.

Meantime, on the ground, every mook and minion in the land sees the gas pumps levitate beyond the $4 hash mark, and notes with bugged-out eyes the double-digit price stickers on common supermarket items, and feels the rush of blood from the extremities when some checkout clerk at Wal-Mart declares that a certain proffered credit card is maxed out, and some strangers in overalls -- the neighbors say -- managed to hot-wire the GMC Sierra in the driveway, and took it away ...

The candidates for president will have a lot to talk about. I wonder if they'll dare to.

Guantanamo is in Total Disarray

By Andy Worthington, Andy Worthington's Blog.

Guantánamo is in total disarray.

Anyone who has kept half an eye on the proceedings at the Military Commissions in Guantánamo -- the unique system of trials for "terror suspects" that was conceived in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers -- will be aware that their progress has been faltering at best. After six and a half years, in which they have been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, derailed by their own military judges, relentlessly savaged by their own military defense lawyers, and condemned as politically motivated by their own former chief prosecutor, they have only secured one contentious result: a plea bargain negotiated by the Australian David Hicks, who admitted to providing "material support for terrorism," and dropped his well-chronicled claims of torture and abuse by US forces, in order to secure his return to Australia to serve out the remainder of a meager nine-month sentence last March.

In the last few weeks, however, Cheney's dream has been souring at an even more alarming rate than usual. Following boycotts of pre-trial hearings in March and April by three prisoners -- Mohamed Jawad, Ahmed al-Darbi and Ibrahim al-Qosi -- the latest appearance by Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni who worked as a driver for Osama bin Laden, spread the words "boycott" and "Guantánamo" around the world.

Hamdan is no ordinary Guantánamo prisoner. It was his case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that shut down the Military Commissions' first incarnation in June 2006, when the Supreme Court ruled that they were illegal, a decision that forced the administration to press new legislation -- the Military Commissions Act -- through a sleeping Congress later that year.

But Hamdan's fame meant little to him on April 29, when he too decided to boycott his trial, telling Navy Capt. Keith Allred, the judge in his last pre-trial hearing before his trial is scheduled to begin, "The law is clear. The Constitution is clear. International law is clear. Why don't we follow the law? Where is the justice?"

For his part, Capt. Allred did not give up without attempting to persuade Hamdan that he should believe in the legal process before which he found himself. "You should have great faith in the law," he said. "You won. Your name is all over the law books." This was true, but it was little consolation for Hamdan, who was charged again as soon as the Commissions were revived in Congress. Nor could Capt. Allred's addendum -- "You even won the very first time you came before me" -- sway him, even though that too was true.

Last June, when Hamdan appeared before Capt. Allred for the first time, in the first pre-trial hearing for his new Military Commission, Allred dismissed the case, pointing out that the Military Commissions Act, which had revived the Commissions, applied only to "unlawful enemy combatants," whereas Hamdan, and every other prisoner in Guantánamo for that matter, had only been determined to be "enemy combatants" in the tribunals -- the Combatant Status Review Tribunals -- that had made them eligible for trial by Military Commission.

It was small wonder that Hamdan was despondent, however. Two months later, an appeals court reversed Allred's decision, and Hamdan -- twice a victor -- was charged once more, and removed from a privileged position in Guantánamo's Camp IV -- reserved for a few dozen compliant prisoners who live communally -- to Camp VI, where, like the majority of the prisoners, he has spent most of his time in conditions that amount to solitary confinement, and where, as his lawyers pointed out in February, his mental health has deteriorated significantly.

As he prepared to boycott proceedings, Hamdan had a few last questions for Capt. Allred. He asked the judge why the government had changed the law -- "Is it just for my case?" -- and responded to Allred's insistence that he would do everything he could to give him a fair trial by asking, "By what law will you try me?" When Allred replied that he would be tried under the terms of the Military Commissions Act, Hamdan gave up. "But the government changed the law to its advantage," he said. "I am not being tried by the American law."

Col. Morris Davis condemns the Commissions (again)

Hamdan's eloquent and restrained explanation for his boycott was the most poignant event in his hearing, but it was not the most explosive. That accolade was reserved for Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for the Commissions, who resigned noisily last October, citing political interference in the process. Once the Commissions' stoutest supporter -- in 2006 he told reporters, "Remember if you dragged Dracula out into the sunlight he melted? Well, that's kind of the way it is trying to drag a detainee into the courtroom" -- Col. Davis explained his Damascene conversion in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in December. [more]