Sunday, July 31, 2011
-- Michael Ratner, speaking to Paul Jay (Real News Network -- this link goes to video) about the issues he and Margaret Ratner Kunstler tackle in their new book Hell No, Your Right To Dissent. Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) co-hosts Law and Disorder Radio which airs Mondays on WBAI and around the country on various radio stations throughout the week. Attorneys Heidi Boghosian and Michael S. Smith are the two other co-hosts.
Another Sunday. And we're late again.
First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.
What did we come up with?
We'll see you next weekend.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
That's been obvious for some time but it took an official stating it for the media to stop pimping "violence is less, violence is less." We're sure after the shock wears off it will read: "Violence is up . . . but nowhere near the levels of 2006 and 2007 so it's a win! It's a win!"
It's really amazing how many 'facts' appear to be less about reality and more about vested desires. Roy Gutman's babbles about how the US military must stay has disgraced McClatchy Newspapers and made any Iraqi report with his byline questionable.
But he's not the only one struggling with facts.
How many are honest about Political Stalemate II? Political Stalemate I started after the March 7, 2010 elections. For nine months after, Nouri dug in his heels, refused to allow the winners of the election (Iraqiya) to form a government. It ended only when the political blocs (and the US) met up and agreed to the Erbil Agreement. The agreement said: Nouri gets to remain prime minister, we create a new independent security body and Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi heads that, etc. No sooner was Nouri named prime minister-designate than he began ignoring the Erbil Agreement. This happened immediately. The first meeting of Parliament. And some members of Iraqiya walked out when the new security body was said to be on hold.
After being named prime minister-designate, Nouri had 30 days to form a Cabinet. He couldn't do it. Even with them fudging it by saying that Jalal Talabani hadn't 'officially' named him prime minister-designate yet to buy him a few extra days. Per the Constitution, Nouri's inability to name a full Cabinet meant that he wasn't supposed to move on to prime minister and a new person would be named prime minister-designate. But the Constitution wasn't followed.
Violence, if you've already forgotten the way this started, has been increasing in Iraq. And they have no heads of the security ministries. Nouri couldn't appoint anyone. He appointed himself as a temp. And he's done a lousy job with security. This is Political Stalemate II. Where Iraqiya feels less and less vested in the government due to broken promises. Where Nouri still can't name a head of the Ministry of Interior, of the Ministry of Defense, of the Ministry of National Security.
Even as the violence increases.
And the White House keeps proclaiming 'success' in Iraq.
A lot of lies were required to start the Iraq War, even more lies are required to continue it.
But here's the thing the sad ones forgot: Clark Kent is Superman. Clark Kent is Superman and Clark Kent doesn't go around boasting, "I am Superman!" It's a secret identity. Superheroes don't generally go around revealing their secret identities. Villains, however, often boast of their goodness.
As Barack worked to gut the safety net last week, that comic book truism seemed even more relevant. And Democracy Now? Even less so.
Last Sunday, we were explaining how the 'important' vanity-cast by Amy Goodman ducked the issues that matter to America all week and they more or less repeated that last week.
Monday was news for a segment on marriage equality and then entertainment with a far lengthier segment where Roseanne Barr discussed the history of her hit sitcom.
Tuesday was three segments on Norway and a fourth on a cash settlement for a whistle blower.
Wednesday was two segments on Norway and one of Dave Zirin explaining the plight of the NFL players, those poor downtrodden souls.
Friday was Norway and two very weak segments on immigration.
Thursday? They teased out a study on the wealth gap into a segment but never offered anything of significant value in their segment. Then there was the segment with professional whore Richard Wolff who was supposed to be talking about the invented crisis aimed at scaring Americans but had to be prompted by Juan Gonzalez to return to reality.
Juan Gonzalez: But when you say that the Republicans decided to make theater out of it, it seems to me that the Democrats also have participated in the process by making this seem like it's -- Armageddon will occur unless we get this done by August 2nd. And in essence, at times it seems almost like the Obama administration is seeking this deadline to start moving in a more centrist direction economically that it has wanted to do, but has been absent the type of crisis that it would be able to convince the American public that it needs to do.
Juan Gonzalez was right. Barack's been the biggest instigator of this phony crisis since day one.
And if you doubted that, you missed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday. (For community coverage, see "Iraq snapshot," "Scott Brown in the Committee spotlight," "Senator Johnny Isakson (Wally)" and "Soldiers aren't gods.") It was there in the hearing on the longterm costs of veterans health care that Paul Reickhoff, in his opening statement, no less, attempted to hijack the hearing with his 'We don't know if we'll get our checks! We met with the White House and we still don't know!'
Some idiots -- especially at ABC News -- praised his crap. There was nothing to praise there. The hearing had a topic: Longterm care of wounded veterans. VETERANS. So when Paul started whining about "servicemembers" and about "pay checks and GI checks," he should have been told he need to take that to the Armed Services Committee.
Instead, he was allowed to waste everyone's time while the story of Todd and Crystal Nicely got ignored by the likes of ABC News. Todd's an Afghanistan War veteran, one of only four suriving quadriplegics from the current wars. Crystal is his wife and caregiver. If the Senate Veterans Committee wanted the news stories to be about veterans they screwed that up by letting Paul Reickhoff go 'water cooler topic' on the Committee and talk about things that had nothing to do with the topic. A quick search of news reports on the hearing demonstrates the Nicelys received less than 10% of the press coverage Reickhoff did. That was always to be expected. Reickhoff is a media 'expert' (meaning he knows nothing) on such issues as women veterans, MST and any other issue that might get his name in the paper. Even with military issues related to women, he has demonstrated he's too much of a glory hog to suggest the reporter (often one for The Boston Globe) call a female veteran for the topic.
He never should have been invited. He is the face for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America which has an estimated 200,000 members. How many are disabled or wounded? That information hasn't been disclosed. By contrast, Disabled American Veterans has 1.2 million members. They're also not a fly-by-night that only recently formed; DVA came into being in 1920.
If you're exploring the longterm cost of health care for veterans, DVA was the group to speak to. Another group worth speaking to would have been Paralyzed Veterans of America which was formed immediately after WWII.
Why Paul Reickhoff was there never made sense.
Few things last week made sense. An exception was Jon Stewart who took on Monday's night speech by Barack with the kind of comic zeal that made him Jon Stewart in the first place. But while comedian Stewart found logical fallacies in Barack's speech, newscasters like Diane Sawyer just stared into the camera lost. "Countdown to Crisis" proclaimed the 'clock' Diane and company now show off -- a direct steal from Adam vs The Man (airs on RT Monday through Friday at 7:00 pm EST) but Adam Kokesh and company do their countdown as a joke. And when you're too damn lazy to do a broadcast what do you do? Diane demonstrated you pad it out with a taped shoot-the-s**t with three other ABC News employees segment about the debt ceiling.
Jon Stewart noted that Barack's 'answer' was for people to call Congress, as if he wasn't president and supposed to be talking to Congress. It was funny and accurate. But it still left much to call out for anyone paying attention.
Barack declared in his televised speech Monday, "The first approach says, let's live within our means by making serious historic cuts in government spending; let's cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was president; let's cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars; let’s cut out waste and fraud in healthcare programs like Medicare, [. . .]"
To Amy Goodman's credit, she did air that bit . . . but she and 'expert' Richard Wolff failed to see the problem. The first approach? Waste and fraud?
Sorry to break the news to Barack but as chief of the executive branch, he's already supposed to be prosecuting waste and fraud. Waste and fraud isn't something he needs new laws to look for or prosecute, it's his job right now. If he's found fraud, charges need to be filed. If he suspects fraud, investigations need to be launched. Immediately. His inability to do so goes to his inability to do the job he was elected to do.
Maybe if Diane Sawyer and company worried less about what was the 'saddest movie of all time' and devoting two nights of news to the pursuit of that trivia, they could have explained that to viewers?
Maybe if Amy Goodman wasn't so worried about protecting Barack, she'd be discussing the economic attacks on the African-American community (that's what they are: attacks) with he Black Agenda Report's Bruce Dixon and not Roderick Harrison who recognized there was a problem but couldn't figure out which players helped create it and teased it along (or was too damn weak to name Barack directly).
These days, it's all a fake out. The whole damn thing. ABC News pretending to want to figure out what is happening, Barack's self-created 'crisis,' ABC News ripping off Adam Kokesh, Amy Goodman pretending she's informing anyone and Amy Goodman queen and 'friend' of independent media.
We had hopes last Sunday that, in the days that followed, a few prominent voices would speak out and call out the phony scam to scare Americans. That really didn't happen. Those speaking out last week were pretty much the same ones speaking out the week before that. If more voices had spoken out, we'd be able to do a feature we spent a lot of time researching. Instead, we're folding it in here in this report on the Big Fakes.
Community radio, we on the left were told, was needed, was necessary. We needed low-power broadcasting, we were told. In April 2003, NOW with Bill Moyers (PBS) offered the worst example of what was happening with media consolidation of the airwaves: No one was present. In Minot, North Dakota all the radio statrions were owned by one company and the voices on air weren't on air, but pre-recorded. When an emergency arose, there was no way to get the word out to people via their radios.
That is the worst example of radio failure, it is not the only example. Currently radio failure is taking place with community radio but no one, certainly not Amy Goodman, wants to talk about that. The Prometheus Radio Project is either foolish or dedicated to something other than community radio. They're again fighting to get airwaves freed for more community radio stations. What they should be fighting for is standards for community radio.
About two months ago, we started noticing how, when you went around the dial in various areas, looking for "community radio" it was easy to miss it unless you thought, "Listen for music."
That's the only way you'll find most of them. Supposed community radio that does nothing but play tunes. A KBOO in Portland, Oregon -- which actually provides local news (at least Monday through Friday) -- is oh-so-rare while a WMPG in Portland, Maine is the norm. WMPG has no local news program. How is that possible?
How are you allowed an FCC license and able to circumvent providing a local newscast? That's before you get into the fact that you're calling yourself "community radio" which would appear to put even greater emphasis on the local news than any other form of radio.
On WMPG and its ilk you can get nonstop music, you just can't get local news. But what you quickly notice about these stations is they carry Democracy Now! Amy Goodman's vanity cast -- which is not a news program but a public affairs one -- is being used to give the appearance that news is being covered.
It's not. And there's something really disgusting and really McDonald's Happy Meal-ish about the use of Democracy Now! across the country by stations who want to avoid providing local news programs. Some of these 'community radio' stations, to be sure, see themselves as more than a vanity jukebox where locals who couldn't get on the air (for obvious reasons) as dee jays at corporate radio stations spin tunes. See some, such as KRBX in Boise, see themselves as "music and culture" programming and maybe in Boise that's true. We don't think so, but we don't hold a low opinion of Boise.
The promise of community radio was not supposed to be, "I heard my favorite tunes all day!" The promise of community radio was supposed to be that communities would be served by being better informed about what was going on within their communities. The bulk of community radio stations around the country don't even care enough to program a half-hour of local news five days a week. But without fail, you will find Democracy Now! on each one, giving the appearance that they are semi-interested in something other than tunes but in reality, it's just the same reach-around circle-jerk Amy Goodman's become infamous for. Translation, don't expect Amy Goodman to do an expose on all the 'community radio' failing to serve communities.
In fairness to Amy Goodman, she is a product of the age she lives in -- an age of fakery where fraud and lies are embraced and spewed over the airwaves, where all the media players seem willing and content to screw over the citizens.
Where the wealth's displayed
Thieves and sycophants parade
And where it's made
The slaves will be taken
Some are treated well
In these games of buy and sell
And some like poor beasts
Are burdened down to breaking
-- "Dog Eat Dog," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name
And that's why you get, on the evening news, Diane Sawyer fretting over what is the saddest movie of all time (for two nights in a row!), and why she provides you a poorly videotaped bull session between four ABC News employees as "news coverage." It's why the first thing out of her mouth the day after Barack's speech is that there will be "no new taxes -- not even on the rich" -- and she proclaims it with visible relief.
A country that mistook a War Hawk for a man who'd end the Iraq War is a country that can clearly stomach a lot of artifice. When it has its full then, and only then, the airwaves may be cleaned of the likes of Diane Sawyer and the White House of the likes of Barack Obama. Until then games of buy and sell will continue to pass for democracy.
As Isaiah pointed out in last week's The World Today Just Nuts "Spanked on the Global Stage," Barack's a joke. Back in March, when he was promising it would only be a matter of weeks (a "cakewalk" perhaps?), Barack said Muammar Gaddafi "must leave." Four months later, he's still there.
Thursday, David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times) reported the death of Abdul Fattah Younes. Who?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well this man was the former Interior Ministry of the government in Triopoli. He's a longtime friend of Col Gaddafi as well and he's also a member of the group of young Arab officers who started the revolution with Col Gaddafi. So it was actually a big surprise when he defected and joined the Transitional Council in Benghazi. Now his death, as I mentioned, the circumstances around it aren't known. I've heard different things I'm going to have to confirm. I was told that the rebel forces, the so-called rebels, have claimed that they killed him themselves because he was about to defect --
Kevin Pina: Defect back?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes. He was going to do a second defection. Because a lot of the rebels are also tired of the fighting and I've heard that there might have even been negotiations for them to end the fighting and to come back. But anyways, I've also heard that he probably could have been killed by the government side. So this is not clear and it has to be confirmed.
Zhang Xiang (Xinhua -- link has text and video) reports today, "The Libyan National Transitional Council has confirmed that it had issued a warrant for the arrest of its top general. Abdel Fattah Younes was killed by gunmen on Thursday after he had been held and questioned by an NTC investigator regarding a military matter." Al Jazeera (link has text and video) adds, "Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the NTC, said that the warrant had been signed by Ali Essawi, his deputy, and that after Abdel Fattah Younes, the commander of the rebel armed forces, had been questioned on Thursday he had been released. Jalil, speaking at a press conference on Saturday, said that it was following Younes' release that two men killed the general and two of his aides."
Abdel Fattah Younes' death may end up being one of the most significant moments in the Libyan War after the news that the so-called 'rebels' were backed by the CIA. A number of the forces are what? Libyans. And what message does it send to defectors when they learn that the defector they put in charge of their forces was never trusted?
The message is that no one in the so-called rebels trusts anyone. That's some form of team building exercise . . . for losers.
X-Men readers or just those who saw the first X-Men film may remember the Mutant Registration Act which Jean Grey and Professor Xavier oppose. The proposed legislation would require every mutant to be registered with the government. In July 2006, the Civil War storyling kicked off at a time when the Congress was pushing for the Superhuman Registration Act which would be even more encompassing than the Mutant Registration Act.
The story found the X-Men cast in the role of Congressional Democrats -- unable or unwilling to oppose the Patriot Act. They would, they insisted, take no position. Supposedly, this is because what might come instead could be even more destructive (the X-Men feel that way but, yes, some members of Congress also made statements along those lines).
Tony Stark's craven side was revealed more explicitly than usual. After a brief effort to oppose it, Tony was on board with it and making himself the spokesperson for all of super kind. (Consider him Katrina vanden Heuvel with less body odor.) Tony made himself the enforcer as well and he joined with other turncoats -- such as Mister Fantastic, Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk -- to dictate a party line.
Among those who (eventually) fights back? Captain America who ends up leading the rebel group which also includes Luke Cage, Sue Storm and Johnny Storm.
And as always the putz Spider-Man. Spider-Man's going to flee the country. Not because he opposed the principals of registration but because he fears knowledge of his identity will put Aunt Mae and Mary Jane in danger. They convince him not to worry and, no sooner do they stress that he can get some public recognition finally, Peter Parker's all on board.
This is one of the story's weaker points because the metaphors get mixed and Spider-Man's public revelation comes out less as a comment on the Patriot Act and more of a coming-out-of-the-closet moment, "My name is Peter Parker and I've been Spider-Man since I was fifteen years old."
But before Lady Gaga can sing "Born That Way," Spider-Man is a good little foot soldier in the move to destroy liberty and only reconsiders when he finds out about the prison and the fact that (this really hits home) the government's spying on him!!!! They've got trackers and other things in his suit. This leads Spider-Man to defect and then to publicly rebuke the Superhuman Registration Act.
Shouldn't Spider-Man have had an ethical position long before that? This is the man who refused to kill Carnage after Carnage destroyed NYC due to ethics but in the Civil War storyline, Spider-Man was incredibly vapid.
And dumb. That's really saying something for a man who already thought his parents had returned (they were robots) or was tricked by a Green Goblin-hired actress into thinking she was Aunt Mae or didn't realize Ben Parker was a clone. Time and again, Spider-Man has come off like a putz and a ditz. In the comic world, he makes Daphne Blake look like Brainiac.
And maybe for the Civil War storyline, the point was supposed to be that the universal person (Spider-Man) can end up on the wrong side but still find the strength to do the right thing? Possibly. More likely, when Marvel plots a story to involve all their major characters and need someone to act stupid, someone says, "Give it to Spider-Man, he's always doing stupid things."
Last week, ranter Denis Leary proposed that a dunk tank be created for US House Rep. Eric Cantor. While we have no strong opinion one way or the other on Cantor, we did have to wonder who the hell Denis Leary was to be suggesting a dunking tank for anyone?
We found it as laughable as Eric AlterPunk's recent attack on Noam Chomsky, in fact.
Denis Leary, of all people, is going to try to pursue the high ground?
After a lifetime of stealing the act of Bill Hicks?
When thieves enter the national debate on ethics, we've truly entered the age of the absurd.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 (202) 224-2834
VETERANS: Senator Murray Chairs Hearing to Examine the Human and Financial Costs of War
Hearing shines a light on the often overlooked long-term costs that must be paid to support veterans and their families and how we must protect and plan for this lifetime of care in the current budget climate
Chairman Murray gives opening remarks during today’s Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on the human and financial cost of war.
· WATCH the hearing
The full text of witness testimonies can be viewed
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a hearing to examine the real human and financial costs of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how as a nation we need to plan to keep our promise to these veterans for the rest of their lives.
“As we all know, when our nation goes to war, it’s not just the costs of fighting that war that must be accounted for. We must also include the cost of caring for our veterans and families long after the fighting is over,” said Senator Murray. “No matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how divided we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, and no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets - we must remember that we can’t balance our budget at the expense of the health care and benefits our veterans have earned. The commitment we have to them is non-negotiable.”
At the hearing, Senator Murray heard from Crystal Nicely, the wife of Marine Corporal Todd Nicely, a quadruple amputee veteran of the War in Afghanistan. Nicely described the lifetime of support her and her husband will require and about the red tape she has already faced in her daily struggle to provide Todd with the care he needs. She also discussed their continued frustration over the lack of consistent care and attention her husband has received.
The Senator also heard testimony from Paul Rieckhoff, the Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Rieckhoff outlined the high unemployment rate for new veterans and highlighted the wide range of specific skill sets they hold that translate to civilian trades. Reickhoff also called on the public, private and nonprofit sectors to work together in order to ensure returning servicemembers are able to easily transition into the American workforce.
Finally, the hearing featured the views of budget experts from the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office and the RAND Corporation on the long-term costs associated with providing mental and physical health care, supporting caregivers, maintaining prosthetics, and providing benefits.
The full text of Senator Murray’s opening statement follows:
“Welcome to today’s hearing, where we will examine the lifetime costs of supporting our newest generation of veterans. As we all know, when our nation goes to war, it’s not just the costs of fighting that war that must be accounted for. We must also include the cost of caring for our veterans and families long after the fighting is over.
“And that is particularly true today, at a time when we have more than half-a-million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the VA health care system– an over 100% increase since 2008.
“This presents a big challenge - and one that we have no choice but to step up to meet if we are going to avoid many of the same mistakes we saw with the Vietnam generation. But it’s more than just the sheer number of new veterans that will be coming home that poses a challenge to the VA.
“It’s also the extent of their wounds – both visible and invisible – and the resources it will take to provide our veterans with quality care.
“Through the wonders of modern medicine, service members who would have been lost in previous conflicts are coming home to live productive and fulfilling lives. But they will need a lifetime of care from the VA.
“Today, we will hear from the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, the RAND Corporation and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in an effort to help us quantify and understand those costs, and to ensure that we can meet the future needs of our veterans.
“But today’s hearing is also important to better understanding the social and economic costs borne by veterans and their families. And today we are so fortunate to be joined by one of those brave family members - Crystal Nicely - who is not only a wife but also a caregiver to her husband, Marine Corporal Todd Nicely.
“Todd was seriously injured by an I.E.D. in the southern Helmand Province of Afghanistan and since that time has come home to fight every day, focus on his recovery, and I even heard yesterday that he has already started to drive again.
“I want to take a moment to say thank you so much for your service to our country. You have shown bravery not only as a Marine in Afghanistan, but also through the courage you have displayed during your road to recovery. I invited Crystal here today because I think it is incredibly important that we hear her perspective.
“The costs we have incurred for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and will continue to incur for a very long time - extend far beyond dollars and cents. And when I first met Crystal last month while touring Bethesda Naval Base her story illustrated that. Crystal is here today to talk about the human cost.
“And that cost is not limited exclusively to the servicemembers and veterans who have fought and are fighting these wars, but it also is felt by the families of these heroes who work tirelessly to support their loved ones through deployments and rehabilitation – day in and day out. Many, like Crystal, have given up their own jobs to become full time caregivers and advocates for their loved ones.
“Last month, while testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen told me that ‘without the family members we would be nowhere in these wars.’ I couldn’t agree more - and after we hear Crystal’s story that will be even more clear.
“As the members of this Committee know, over the course of the last few hearings we’ve examined how the veterans of today’s conflicts are faced with unique challenges that VA and DoD are often falling short of meeting.
“We have explored mental health care gaps that need to be filled, cutting edge prosthetics that must be maintained, a wave of new and more complex benefit claims that are taking too long to complete, the need to fulfill the promise of the post 9/11 GI Bill, and the need to support veterans who are winding up out-of-work and on the streets.
“All of these unmet challenges come with costs. Some costs we will be able to calculate. Some will not be fully known for decades. But today’s hearing will be a reminder that in order to meet these costs we must safeguard the direct investments we make in veterans care and benefits, get the most value out of every dollar we spend, and start planning today – at a time when critical long-term budget decisions are being made.
“As we all know, there is no question that we need to make smart decisions to tighten our belts and reduce our nation’s debt and deficit.
“But no matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how divided we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, and no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets - we must remember that we can’t balance our budget at the expense of the health care and benefits our veterans have earned.
“Their sacrifices have been too great. They have done everything that has been asked of them. They have been separated from their families through repeat deployments. They have sacrificed life and limb in combat. And they have done all of this selflessly and with honor to our country. And the commitment we have to them is non-negotiable.
“Not just today, but far into the future.
“Thank you all for being here today, I will now turn to Senator Brown for his opening statement.”
Deputy Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Joan Smith writes a column for the Independent about her and her best gal-pal and thinks she's really on to something but what she's actually done is out a really ugly reality of the British press.
Sarah Helm has written Loyalty and is getting deserved yawns from most for her too-late, too-little onstage soap opera. And Joan's just not going to stand for that, you understand.
Joan insists, "The strain it placed on people who cared deeply about each other may go some way to explain why Sarah decided to write Loyalty. She's been accused of the opposite, but I think that is unfair. She's been true to her passionate conviction that the war was wrong and to her belief in her husband, despite disagreeing with him on one of the most controversial foreign policy decisions of our lives. Her drama says more about the psychological processes enabling the conflict than any number of factual accounts of how it started."
If you're yawning, imagine having to face the actual play.
The soap opera is about the British War Criminals who started the Iraq War. And the author is married to Jonathan Powell (Tony Blair's Chief-of-Staff) and was his live-in as the planning for war began. Helm's probably has a trashy, page-turner paperback in her but she doesn't have a play.
And part of the reason for her bad play may be karma.
See Sarah Helm wasn't just sleeping with Jonathan Powell, she was also a grand standing journalist for the Independent -- prone to insisting she was a "journalist, not a biographer!" while promoting her . . . well, biography on Vera Atkins five years ago. The whole time she was in bed with Powell -- pre-marriage and post -- as the Iraq War started and continued, she was a journalist allegedly working for the newspaper the Independent.
Of course, she had no breaking news stories filed on the impending war or, later, on the ongoing war nor did she quietly feed other reporters at the paper scoops she was afraid to write herself.
Today's she's not much of playwright, back then she wasn't much of a journalist, now was she?
And all the above is pretty damn appalling.
Then along comes Joan Smith with a column for tomorrow's paper in which she tries to stick up for Sarah Helm but ensures that she herself is down in the mud with Helm, ". . . it reminded me that Tony Blair once glared at me at a No 10 party when I reminded him that I wrote for the paper.) The play is described as a 'fictionalised memoir' and it has clearly puzzled critics, who seem to have missed the extraordinary insights it offers into Bush and Blair's relationship; they don't seem to realise either that the painful conflict between Laura and Nick (the Powell character) was played out between other political couples who found themselves on opposite sides of the argument. My partner at the time was a government minister, and I recall Blair's clique forever insisting 'everyone knew' Saddam had WMD."
Was Tony Blair's staff bedding the entire British press?
I'm sorry Joan and Sarah were two horny little girls who didn't understand the wall between observer and participant or the notion of conflict of interest. I'm even sadder that a paper that boasts independence in its title employed journalists who apparently thought you sleep with your sources and that's how you advance. We shouldn't forget the Guardian, both women write for that paper as well.
Joan's suddenly circumspect about who she was f**king. It was Denis MacShane. And how long? From 2003 through 2010. By which time, she would argue, her work was little more than book reviews; it should also be pointed out that this means her f**king Denis took place immediately after the 2002 attempted coup (CIA-backed) in Venezuela and Denis' very public verbal attack of Hugo Chavez in 2002 and continuing to today. That's a detail which more than questions her self-inflated claims of being a human rights advocate.
Denis MacShane did a little column for the Independent in 2010 in which he attacked various witnesses to the Iraq Inquiry and insisted that no one objected in real time (a lie, as the Inquiry found out in public testimony) and he even added, "There was also a cross-media consensus. Today the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph give full coverage to every remark at Chilcot which casts a bad light on Blair. But at the time, the Murdoch-Rothermere-Black Brothers press was rooting for war." Well goodness, when you're f**king nearly every journalist, I guess you get good press.
This year he took to blaming Tony Blair's actions on the Parliament (specifically the House of Commons). MacShane appeared before the Iraq Inquiry. As David Blackburn (Spectator) noted, he told the inquiry one thing but reality was another.
Right now Sarah Helm's play isn't doing too well and a recent attempt to interest US-backers did not go over well though no one's supposed to talk about that (I spoke with the would-be backers before and after they saw the tacky little melodrama). And that might be why Joan shows up in Sunday's paper to defend Sarah and the 'play.' It opened Thursday July 14th and you don't usually find pieces like Sarah's printed 17 days after the play opens (again, it appears in tomorrow's Independent). It might explain why Joan's ex-lover Dennis MacShane also felt the need to praise it this week.
Of course, to many others it will just look those who abused the system are now continuing to do so and using their connections to pimp a play by their friend.
Pimp a play, pimp a war. What's the diff to the British press?
War Hawk Dennis MacShane loves the play. That helps explain to you what garbage it is. Joan Smith loves it. Ditto. It's a bunch of soap opera crap about the struggle . . . for love . . . for commitment . . . the cost war puts on love. What a load of crap. And it underscores that Sarah and her ilk said nothing in real time because they had nothing to say. The stilted dialogue is abstractions and bromides. You quickly discover through the stand-ins for Sarah and Jonathan that their oh-so-rare 'debates' on the Iraq War were never really about war but something to bitch about in order to fill their otherwise dull nights when they weren't trashing one another's mother.
A conservative and a liberal can have a relationship and have many political disagreements. But a couple whose disagreements is on the subject of war? And one of them is in the government pushing an illegal war?
If you're anti-war and your partner is not just pro-war but a part of the government push for war, that's not going to last, not if you have real objections and not just "Oh people are complaining about the war, I better too. I like to see myself as a latter day hippie. I wonder if I could bring back love beads? I bet I could. You know who'd look good in love beads . . ."
No, if you have a real objection to illegal war, you're not f**king the enemy. That's not how it works.
And when journalism works, it does so without the government and the press being in bed together.
Libya war exposes U.S./NATO crimes against humanityBy Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
For almost five months, the combined military forces of the United States and NATO have pounded Libyan cities, towns, villages and ports in an effort to overthrow the government of Moammar Gadhafi.
These bombing operations, now numbering more than 16,000 sorties and 6,100 strikes, have been combined with a naval blockade that includes 17 warships. NATO warships in the Mediterranean have hailed 1,907 vessels, boarded 183 and diverted nine. (Reuters, July 24)
Repeatedly the Pentagon and NATO have claimed that the war on the North African nation of Libya is designed to “protect” civilians from the government in Tripoli, which, in reality, is fighting to crush an imperialist-backed insurgency. Yet many reports indicate that the war, which was launched by the U.S. and several western European countries on March 19, is a systematic campaign to terrorize and subjugate the Libyan people.
On July 25 NATO forces bombed a hospital in the western city of Zlitan, killing seven people, including three physicians. (Associated Press, July 25) Air assaults damaged food warehouses in that city.
Just hours prior to the bombings in Zlitan, NATO carried out a series of air raids on the capital of Tripoli. Bombs hit a government compound, which NATO claimed was a command and control center for the Libyan military.
British military forces took credit for the July 25 air strikes on Tripoli. Major General Nick Pope, the defense staff’s chief communications officer, stated that the Royal Air Force struck the perimeter walls of the Bab al-Aziziyah complex, which has been described as a headquarters for Libyan leader Gadhafi. However, no casualties were reported in that strike on Tripoli.
On July 24 NATO bombed what it described as a military storage facility near the oil port town of al-Brega, a tank and multiple rocket launchers near Gharyan, and a surface-to-air missile launcher and tank in Tripoli. NATO forces also hit other cities and towns, including Waddan and Zintan, where they claimed to have struck military targets.
Contrary to NATO claims, the Libyan government said that a water storage facility was hit in al-Brega killing six security guards. Additional casualties were reported when groups fighting for the Transitional National Council suffered at least 50 deaths when they attempted to attack areas around al-Brega and Misrata during the week of July 18.
Amid the bombing escalations, the Pentagon and NATO have requested additional predator drones to carry out further strikes against Libya. President Barack Obama is considering the deployment of more of these weapons, which have been operational in this North African state for several months.
The Los Angeles Times quoted a NATO officer who said, “It’s getting more difficult to find stuff to blow up. Predators really enable you to study things and to develop a picture of what is going on.” (July 21)
He indicated that in order to deploy more drones in Libya it would be necessary to transfer them from existing theaters of war in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other so-called “counter-terrorism” operations around the world. An unnamed Pentagon official allegedly said, “We are looking at all the possibilities. The reason why this is hard is that everything we have is currently committed elsewhere.”
Although piloted aircraft from the U.S., France, Britain and other NATO countries have carried out most of the bombing operations, Washington’s predator drones have launched 64 strikes against Libya since April.
Libyan war follows similar pattern
The Pentagon and NATO war against Libya is by no means isolated. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the U.S./NATO war has escalated over the last two years since the Obama administration took power.
In December 2009 Obama announced the deployment of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. While the war has spread to neighboring Pakistan, civilian deaths from drone attacks have accelerated and consequently worsened relations between Islamabad and Washington.
Since the beginning of the U.S. and allied states’ invasion and occupation of Iraq, there have been large-scale Iraqi deaths. The war’s pretexts were unjustified since the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein and the Arab Baath Socialist Party had not attacked U.S. territory or harmed its citizens or residents.
The Iraqi people’s ongoing resistance has prevented the withdrawal of U.S. forces that are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011. Resistance organizations inside Iraq have killed more than two dozen U.S. soldiers in recent months.
Journalist Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey cites violations of the Statute of The Hague International Penal Court to provide a legal rationale for charging Washington and NATO countries with war crimes in Libya. He notes that Article 3 of the Statute reads: “Attack or bombardment, by whatever means, against undefended cities, towns, villages, buildings or houses” violates international law. “NATO’s continuous use of civilian targets for military purposes, a scenario which this military organization wantonly and callously calls ‘collateral damage,’ fits this clause exactly and would be the cornerstone of a case accusing this organization of being guilty of war crimes.” (prava.ru, July 25)
The article also points to a clause on “Massive destruction of cities, towns or villages or destruction not justified by military necessity.” The author stresses, “The attack on Libya’s water supply network on July 22 and the attack on the factory making pipes for the supply system on July 23 in al-Brega were not covered under ‘military necessity’ in which case, under Article 3, this was an act of wanton destruction of civilian structures with military hardware.”
Other violations include use of chemical weapons in al-Brega, support for an armed insurgency against a U.N.-member state, and failure to work toward a negotiated settlement to resolve conflict within a particular country.
The U.S./NATO alliance and their surrogates in Libya have rejected numerous efforts by the African Union to broker a ceasefire inside the country. The arming of TNC forces and their recognition by the NATO states further impedes these peace efforts.
Anti-war opposition spreads across U.S.
Despite the corporate media’s virtual silence on the widespread opposition to the U.S./NATO bombing of Libya, protests have occurred throughout the country. The International Action Center’s national tour has brought out hundreds of people in each of the cities to hear former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney. She visited Libya earlier this year and witnessed firsthand Pentagon and NATO destruction.
Major efforts are underway in Detroit to build an Aug. 27 rally featuring McKinney at the University of Michigan Detroit Center. Co-sponsors include the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, the National Conference of Black Lawyers Michigan Chapter, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and Workers World Party.
MECAWI activists plan to do massive outreach for the event and in defense of Libya at an Eastside community speak-out on Aug. 13 and at the African World Festival the following week.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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Return of famine encouraged by free market
by Ken Olende
The Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya was designed for 90,000 people.
It now holds 380,000 who have fled famine in Somalia. Aid workers are terrified this will rise to 450,000.
Their ability to distribute food is already erratic.
Famine was officially declared in parts of Somalia this week. Over ten million people across eastern Africa are threatened.
Donations from the British public to an emergency appeal have already topped £20 million.
In the short-term NGOs can challenge starvation.
But in the longer term the privatisation of humanitarian aid is part of the problem. It is the flip side of International Monetary Fund demands that everything should be privatised.
Famine is the most extreme example of the chaos of the worldwide system of food production and distribution.
Economist Amartya Sen has investigated previous famines in the Horn of Africa.
His research shows that drought kills cattle and crops, which leads to farmers being unable to get money to buy food.
While food production does go down, famine is caused by lack of money to buy the food that is available.
At the same time food prices have risen dramatically. Wholesale prices of staple foods in Kenya have gone up by 160 percent over the past year.
Capitalism’s failure to provide basic nutrition is so clear that even the mainstream charity Oxfam said in a report in June this year:
“Hunger, along with obesity, obscene waste, and appalling environmental degradation, is a by-product of our broken food system.
“A system constructed by and on behalf of a tiny minority—its primary purpose to deliver profit for them.
“Bloated rich-country farm lobbies, hooked on handouts that tip the terms of trade against farmers in the developing world and force rich-country consumers to pay more in tax and more for food.”
This insistence that all food crops should be traded on stock markets has increased the use of speculation on food commodities as a quick way for investors to make money.
Current economic orthodoxy says that only letting the free market rip will end world poverty. David Cameron kept up this mantra on his recent trip to Africa.
Thirty years of free market structural adjustment programmes imposed by the West have increased poverty, not reduced it.
Media reports complain that humanitarian intervention is blocked by the Islamist militia Al Shabab.
The militia controls much of Somalia’s countryside and sections of the capital.
Its suspicion of the West is hardly surprising. The country’s government collapsed in 1990 after it was used as a plaything in the Cold War.
The US invaded in 1992. We were told “Operation Restore Hope” would save people from starvation by “all means necessary”.
Somali people initially welcomed the US military, but this soon turned to revulsion.
On “Bloody Monday” US helicopters fired missiles into peace talks being held by Somali elders, killing at least 54 people.
Disgust united Somali factions until the US was driven out in 1993.
In 2006 the Union of Islamic Courts was finally re-establishing some kind of central government in the country. The US was terrified of Islamic control and encouraged Ethiopia to invade.
The Union’s more conservative elements split to form Al Shahab.
It built its strength in a guerrilla war to push out the occupying Ethiopians, who withdrew in 2009.
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
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"Iraq snapshot," "Scott Brown in the Committee spotlight," "Senator Johnny Isakson (Wally)" and
"Soldiers aren't gods" -- C.I., Ava, Wally and Kat report on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
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"Oh look, it's Miss Priss Jay Carney" and "The shameful Jay Carney" -- Kat and Mike on White House spokesmodel Carney.
"Netflix spits on customers" -- Stan with the latest on Netflix.
"John Halle and websites" -- Elaine explores John Halle's premise.
"Where I was surprised" -- Mike on the only surprise in the administration.
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