Friday, August 28, 2009

All a Twitter over Iran

I was amazed to see how effectively Twitter and cellphones with cameras were used to create the impression that the Iranian elections were a fraud.

Yes, it was only an impression, but it has stuck. The Twittering and i-phone images have been used by pundits and politicians to cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the governance of Iran.

For example, here's the introduction to the overview of a recent week's worth of special reports on Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program broadcast on NPR:

“The turmoil that erupted following Iran's disputed presidential election in June has put the Islamic republic squarely back into the headlines. But in some ways it has obscured a bigger, on-going concern for the U.S. and the international community: the question of whether Iran's theocratic regime is on its way to becoming a nuclear-armed state.”

This is the link to all the segments.

Then, you also have the Washington Post, with this story.

Who Will Stand With Iranians?
Afshin Molavi, A17 (Post)
"...protest a fraudulent election last month, braving...repressive theocrats. Iran's rulers would have...beaten and... "

(Molavi was also a guest on one of the NPR segments above. He sounds like Jerry Rubin of the Chicago Seven, all for regime change, both parties. Of course, I feel that way now about our Congress and President... doesn't seem to make much difference which party is in power.)

Twitter showed it all

Twitter showed the violence, as the media could not in this relatively closed society. I didn't find this much different than the scant coverage of violence and police brutality at the Miami and Seattle G8 conferences, or more recently the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota last year.

Yes, what happened in Iran was violent and passionate. There was death. But, I think we must look at these events through the perspective of history. Iran is going through what America went through in the 1960's. Anti-government, anti-war and civil rights protesters were killed then. Its also noteworthy that while our government tried to pin many of the demonstations in the 60's on the commies, the Iranian government has announced that it didn't find outside interference.

America's protests and civil unrest in the 1960's changed America, as government was forced to respond to the people. It was an internal matter for us, as the demonostrations should be for Iran. It sped our departure from Vietnam and helped insure voting rights for all Americans. I believe Iran's government will also be more accommodating.

Unfortunate outcomes are possible, though. While the demonstrations helped eliminate the draft, it changed our National Guard. This restructuring of our National Guard is what enabled its abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without the draft, the Chicken Hawks can protect their chicks. When control of the Guard shifted from the state and the governor to the President, it undermined state preparedness (New Orleans, Kansas, California), and gave the president an easy way to get troops into wars on foreign soil.

The Good and Bad of Twittered Reality

It's all about perspective. The good, is that through images and words via cell phones and Internet tools people can learn things that otherwise would be hidden. (This is one reason Net Neutrality is vital.) How more powerful would Kent State had been had we seen those students being killed and heard the disbelief and agony of their fellow students on i-phones? Maybe the war would have ended earlier.

Other other hand, as the Iranian experience demonstrates, Twittering can be used as a propaganda tool. Those Twittering were the college demonstrators in the streets. We were getting one perspective and our media and government ran with it.

The truth beyond the Twitter

Policy and decisionmaking should never be based on anecdotal evidence. People shouldn't be driven by soundbites, information out of context, or first impressions.

Despite all the Twittering and subsequent spin, the election wasn't a fraud. The results were in line with independent pre-election polling. This was covered in the press, but the Twittering and the images buried the truth.

History is helpful when trying to shed light on the truth

The truth is that a little more than 50 years ago, the C.I.A. worked with the British to overthrow the a newly established democracy won by the Iranian people when the old Shah died, and install his young son as the new Shah of Iran. This was done to prevent the new government from instituting its plan to nationalize the oil industry. The overthrow of the Shah had been peaceful, while the reinstating the Shah led to murder of over 2,000 writers, educators, political leaders and others involved in creating Iran's short-lived democracy.

In reaction 30 years ago, the Shah's government was again overthrown, this time by the only leadership the people of Iran were allowed to have outside the Shah and his American-financed and trained military, the religious leaders. That is where Iran is today, but it moving forward, if we let it.

The Future of Iran

America, Britain, the Saudi's and Israeli's are trying to dictate Iran's future. They do not want a free and independent Iran nor one that can meet the needs of its people. They want chaos and control. They want war, and its where we are heading. The media on boths sides, from the Huffington Post to the Manchester Union Leader are all for it. Thankfully, Obama is showing restraint, whereas had McCain and the quitter been in office we likely would be more strident.

Don't believe me? Why do you think we are building up in Afghanistan and have our troops garrisoned at permanent bases built by Halliburton-KBR in Iraq? We don't have justifiable reasons for having our troops in either country, but there we are. Just look at a map. It will tell you all you need to know.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The healthcare solution not being debated

For the strength and health of the economy we need a single-payer healthcare system covering all Americans. Call it socialism if you want, but capitalism needs it. The people that have insurance need it, as much as those who aren't insured. The problem is that no one inside the Beltway is talking about it. Too much money at stake.

Looking at the budget

When times are tough, and they are tough on Main Streets all over America, most businesses, households and individuals put together a budget. They look at their allocation of resources, how and where they spend their money and where they can cut costs or save. Our government needs to do the same.

When people stopped spending money because it was getting eaten up by high gas, Rx, and health insurance costs, coupled with Wall Street's issues with greed and the resulting economic downturn, a business owner I know, who has been an employer for over 15 years, cut his health insurance ($600 a month) just to help keep himself paid and not cut payroll. He's in the private market and doesn't have the “options” that Gov. Pawlenty and others representing the health insurance industry say exist. The “smart consumer” doesn't always have a place to turn to in our free enterprise system of healthcare. For one thing, most are covered under employer plans, not chosen by them.

The budget of the United States of America, not just the federal government's budget, is reflected in the Gross Domestic Product. U.S. spending on healthcare is 17 percent of GDP, while other major industrialized countries spend about 10 percent of GDP, and they cover every one their citizens.

These countries save by efficiency. They also save because the emphasis of their single-payer systems is prevention and treatment. In our system the emphasis is profit, and then treatment--if it's covered.

The sick thing is the immense profits aren't being made by doctors providing the care, but the HMOs and insurers who profit through policy limitations and denying people's claims. The sad thing is the people covered by insurance are paying the high costs of the emergency room visits of people often death's door because they did not have insurance and could not get early treatment for their disease. These taxpayers are also picking up part of the tab for the wreckage bankruptcy causes families due to medical catastrophes. So think about it: We are paying 70% more and getting less.

People whose nations have single-payer systems fare better in virtually every measure of health, while we rank with third world countries in such basic measures as infant mortality, 45th, just behind Cuba. These countries don't have the personal bankruptcies we have. The Main Street small business owner doesn't have to decide between hiring another employee or forgoing health insurance.

There are other issues not being addressed or discussed in our government's refusal to even raise the topic of a single-payer system. This is largely because they are bought off with our very own healthcare dollars funneled through K Street.

Even a “Moderate Republican” can understand the current system is adverse to our economic and national security, because we let 50 million Americans fall through the cracks. I ask, are you really worried about a pandemic? If you are, then we need a universal healthcare delivery system.

Keep it Simple

How do we get to a single payer system without too much disruption to the HMOs and insurance industry? We phase it in. Certainly, not through this “public option” being written by lobbyists. It is destined to be a dumping ground for high risk, high cost insureds, and “fail” because its costs will be higher than private industry.

Rather, we do it by extending Medicare, the closest thing we have to a single-payer system, to those 50 years old and older, now. Then in 10 years, drop the age to 35, and then extend it to everyone in 2025. Age eligible persons insured under a group plan could stay on those plans.

Note: Since writing my piece below, Keith Olbermann has done a nice piece on the bi-partisan shakedown.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shakedowns will continue

The current healthcare bill is a mess, and isn't what America needs. We need to move to a single payer modeled on any of several used by the other democratic industrialized countries.

This is something that United Healthcare Group doesn't want to see. After all, they just posted a 155 percent increase in profits a couple of days ago. It doesn't want single payer, and to it even the public option is unacceptable. So, if the dollars they've poured into Congress weren't enough, they also want their "facts" used.

Since the bill was introduced, the GOP has been citing studies by a "non-partisan, independent research organization," the Lewin Group. Turns out, the Lewin Group is a creature of Ingenix, which is a United Healthcare Group company.

United Healthcare Group and other HMOs have been shaking down healthcare consumers by massive profit taking and it has to stop. This plan doesn't address that or the other ills that make our healthcare the best for a few people, but not most; and double the cost of most single payer systems.

If you don't think we're being taken, one needs only look at UHG's Bill McGuire who has made well over a billion dollars off his company. He tried to take home $1.6 billion when he left his post, but getting caught for backdating options halved the amount he could pocket. HMO overhead is ten times that of the Social Security administration, and they don't have the profit motive to prevent citizens from receiving what's due them.

Shakedown II, Congress brings back moneymaker

One thing both Democrats and Republicans in Congress can agree on, they love healthcare reform that goes nowhere. They learned that back in the early 90's with the Clinton plan. It netted both sides of the aisle more money than any other issue they keep out there to keep the money flowing in.

Remember? Nothing happened, and nothing will happen now. Harry Reid and his cohorts, and Nancy and hers will make sure everyone is happy by doing next to nothing. Reid has already postponed a vote in the Senate. The cash is coming in too hot and heavy to vote. I understand Chairman Baucus has already netted about $3 million. Nice money for doing nothing!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Risk-free Capitalism -- Grand Theft Country

Sam Seder, who had a pointed and funny talk show on Air America and can be found on the web, came up with "Grand Theft Country" to describe what was going on during the Bush-Cheney years. Unfortunately, the moniker still sticks even though the country has "flipped" complete control to the Democrats.

Our new Risk-free Capitalism is really theft

Risk-free capitalism is the precedent created with Bush-Paulson's TARP program, paid for by the taxpayers. Many of these taxpayers got hit twice, losing a significant percentage of their 401k's in what I consider just part of the greatest corruption and scandal in the history of the country, Grand Theft Country.

We should have let these companies fail. They took the money and left us holding the bag.

Money doesn't disappear. The money everyone lost in the latest "Goldman-Sach's bubble" (see Matt Taibi's Rolling Stone article called the Great American Bubble Machine) went into someone's pocket. Some of it is going into Congress's pockets to keep the greed machine going.

Why hasn't anyone asked how the financial giants are able to pay themselves such handsome bonuses? Over the last eight years, pay in the financial sector grew at twice the rate of the rest of Americans pay.

More Bonuses.

Today it was reported in the Washington Post, the big banks will pay themselves nearly 25% more than they did last year. Without shame, at a time the nation is experiencing the worst unemployment in decades and the country is experiencing its greatest indebtedness in its history because it bailed out these very banks, these people are taking more.

How was Hank Paulson able to pay himself a half billion dollars in the few years he was CEO of Goldman-Sachs? Whose money went into his pocket? How is it he then goes on board the Bush team to create TARP and without nary a nod to Congress indebts the country to bailout his company and others that went bankrupt because they were all involved in a fraud on investors and overpaying themselves?

Now, it's another Wall Street insider giving away our money, and more bonuses to those who helped create this failed economy through the corporate ownership of Congress and the White House.

This country has lost its way. It has abandoned so many of its principles it is almost unrecognizable to me. People thought they were voting for change, but the leader elected to replace the last is letting the people continue to "Hope for Change" while he continues every policy and practice of the last administration.

I fear we are no longer a country of, by and for the people. The people are now piddly assets and debtors to the Ownership Society.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I smell a cover up, but why not the press?

Supposedly, the program Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to keep secret from Congress involved establishing an assassination squad to take out al Qaeda leaders. Even though since 1989, we have established in law that there is no prohibition from taking out even “leaders of state” in a time of war, and these folks are terrorist leaders, not leaders of state.

Also, the current administration has no problem with killing suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the senior al Qaeda leadership are supposedly sitting in caves planning to bring western civilization to an end. Why wouldn't sending in paramilitary units in the Bush-Cheney administration make sense?

What we're getting doesn't smell right. The press is offering us un-named former CIA sources saying stuff like: “People look at killing terrorists with drones differently than they do with an assassin's bullet... Well, the al Qaeda leadership is all over the world, in different countries, and how do to you effectively coordinate this covert activity with their governments? What if our operatives get caught?” "It sounds practical, but when you look at it, it isn't."

Excuse me?

These excuses are terribly thin. Let's look at this in the context of what we already know.

Other countries are already involved in our covert activities, and in some cases neither our government nor the CIA informed their governments. Extraordinary Rendition was practiced by the CIA, which involved kidnapping innocent people in Italy, Germany, Canada. It supposedly has also netted some not so nice people. In addition, the CIA sent them off to secret Black Prisons located in other foreign countries. In some cases we know the countries were aware of the existence of existence of these prisons, but we still don't know the full story.

BTW: These secret prisons are still in operation, as a key al Qaeda source, who was tortured months before the White Legal Counsel and the Department of Justice rewrote the definition of torture to make it “legal,” died under suspicious circumstances in a Libyan prison a couple of months ago. He was the sole source used by the Bush-Cheney White House to “fix the intelligence to the policy” through his testimony there was a link between al Qaeda and Iraq. One of several falsehoods perpetrated by this administration to invade a harmless country.

CIA operatives have been caught. There is an extraordinary rendition case moving very slowly in the Italian courts involving several CIA operatives.

The record of the Bush-Cheney White House informing Congressional Committees within the law is already shady. An example is the problem of when and how it informed Congress that torture was being used in interrogations. Torture is a war crime. This was a secret kept until images started showing up, and as noted much is still secret. There is movement toward an investigation, but it is being stymied. See today's Washington Post.

CIA has already been accused misinforming members of Congress. An investigation is considered because there are apparently differences in the stories the CIA told the members of the “Gang of Eight” regarding its enhanced interrogation techniques. This is likely because members were either individually briefed or with only a couple of other members present. Under such circumstances the chances of the “Gang of Eight” having gotten a complete record are almost nil. This is hardly fulfilling the obligation of keeping the Intelligence Committees fully informed of covert activities. They still aren't informed. We haven't been informed.

Common Sense. It doesn't make sense that an assassination program wasn't operational. As Senator Bond in today's papers said, a targeted assassination program is exactly what we'd expect our CIA to be involved in. The key targets are supposedly in countries that have our permission to target and kill suspected Taliban, no less al Qaeda leadership, so again, what's the secret that had to be kept from Congress?

The question it really boils down to is why would Vice President Dick Cheney tell the CIA it didn't want Congress to know about a common sense program that would be legal, unlike other programs undertaken by the CIA in secret and with at least partial, if not full knowledge of the Gang of Eight, and with or without the consent the other countries?

There can be only a one plausible explanation, this isn't the program that is being kept secret. This is a cover up. Right now, the press is playing along. They are carrying the same story with the same weak sound bites. I wonder what entertainment news is going to make us, Congress and the DoJ forget all about this?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Clown exits, comedian enters, veep bombs

It's been quite a week. A clown exits the political stage, former comedian and satirist takes the oath... finally, and Vice President Joe Biden shows the administration's hand isn't so different from the last administration's.

Palin runs out on job for the good of Alaska

I'm on the same page as E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post. Sarah Palin's political career is over. She says it's for the good of Alaska and she's right. She wasn't fit for office, and she certainly wasn't fit to be Vice President, although I'm beginning to wonder about Biden.

Despite all the spin, the fact is who wants a leader who quits before the job is done. Adversity or not, no one wants a quitter. It's not like the responsibility of being governor was thrust upon her. She ran for office. She took an oath. She quit before her term was up.

After she's finished with her book, you'll see her on TV again. I was surprised she also left CNN. Wouldn't the wingnuts much rather look at Sarah Palin than "one too many nights in the poker parlor" William Bennett? Bill once had something to say, but since being on message is so important the GOP, they all share the same teleprompter. Sarah will be back, but not running.

Al Franken takes office for the good of Minnesota and our Country

The not-very-confident self-help character played by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live, Stuart Smalley made this part of his Daily Affirmation, "I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me." It certainly fits Senator Al Franken, who finally took office after winning the Minnesota seat from Norm Coleman. However, the last phrase of should probably be modified to "enough people like me."

I met Al Franken at a fundraiser in our neighborhood when he entered the race. I asked him if he was going to fight. He knew what I meant, and said yes. He later said as much when spoke of that other great fighter for Minnesota and the people, Paul Wellstone. By the way, besides being very smart and caring, he and Wellstone also were very good wrestlers. If Al can take them down on the Senate floor like Paul could, Minnesota and the country will have another champion of the people.

Joe the V.P. gives Israel unilateral strike authority echoing the neocons

The most disturbing news this week was Vice President Biden "apparently" giving Israel the green light to bomb Iran's nuclear sites if it feels threatened. President Obama said yesterday that it wouldn't be in line with America's policy. We wouldn't want to see anything that could percipitate war throughout the entire Middle East. (I guess he feels we're doing enough already.)
Unfortunately, our supposed legal scholar of a President didn't want to take the opportunity to renounce President Bush's unilaterally invading another country when there was no real or apparent threat of danger. Yet, another Bush-Cheney violation of international law is allowed to remain as precedent. Yet again, another disappoint upon so many others from an administration not even six months old.

Up until this week, I at least thought Obama would hold for the environment, but Cap and Trade shoots that in the foot, too. More financial trading and not much for the environment... the lawyers and Wall St. win this one.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In our name, but again, not in our news

Pictured above is Razia, an eight-year-old Afghani girl scarcely a year older than Sasha Obama. The house in her village was hit with a white phosphorus bomb. Her two sisters were mercifully killed instantly in the 2300 degree chemical fire that has eaten away the flesh of little Razia.

Phosphorus only needs oxygen to burn, and it will burn until the phosphorus is gone or deprived oxygen. It is also poisonous. So, besides incinerating any flesh, organs or bone it touches, a mere 50 milligrams is enough to kill a person, as the poison attacks the heart, liver and kidneys.

The use of white phosphorus on civilians and the places where they live is a violation of 1980 amendments to the Geneva Convention. But then, our unrepentant violation of the “quaint” Geneva Conventions by committing torture has already made a mockery of international law. The soviet-built Bagram Air Base, where Razia is being treated is another site where we have been warehousing and torturing suspects in our “war on terror.” More than two dozen prisoners have been murdered, tortured to death or have died without autopsies being performed--another violation of treaties our country promoted and signed.

The two countries which produce and use white phosphorus for their arsenals, the United States and Great Britain, have prevented its classification as a chemical weapon. They argue that it is used only for illuminating the battlefield at night, routing the enemy from dug-in positions and to create smokescreens for our troops. The evidence runs to the contrary, as the savagely burned bodies and victims in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in Gaza by the Israeli military, attest.

Dollar and Cents

There is an alternative to white phosphorus: red phosphorus. Red phosphorus is less poisonous and relatively harmless. However, our military doesn't use red phosphorus because it's "too expensive.” This is the same military that has seen its budget increase eight percent a year for the last eight years, increasing its share of our GNP by over two percent. If you think that increase is due to only our wars, think again.

Not in our media

I didn't find these images on an American media web site. I found them on Here we are inundated with partisan sound bites and entertainment coverage like the days and pages of “news” on the death of Michael Jackson. Our media rarely spends any time on war, and we don't see pictures of our wars. Until recently, we couldn't even see pictures of the flag draped coffins of our soldiers who have died without just cause in our criminal campaigns.

With the highest percentage of journalists killed in any war, and with what few journalists left embedded with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are left in the dark about these wars that have already gobbled $1.2 Trillion. Despite great intelligence and maps, I find it more than a coincidence that the same tank that took out Iraqi state television, also destroyed the Baghdad studios of al Jazeera and attacked the Palestine Hotel filled with journalists from all over the world. Our government doesn't want us to see, hear or read about these unjustifiable wars, no less their consequences.

More recently, our military said it would show the world a video that would prove it didn't kill over 120 civilians in a village several months ago, claiming only about 30 died. It didn't show it, and no one will see it. After examining their video, the military retracted their claim and said they wouldn't release the footage because it would only inflame and embolden our “enemies.” I think the images of Razia show we are already inflaming the people of the region.

I cry for Razia, and the families of the hundreds of thousands of innocents, like Razia's sisters, needlessly dead because of our unwarranted invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I cry more for my once beloved country.

The Spin?

I did a Google search and found that there were a few sites carrying an AP (embedded at Bagram) "feel good" story about our American military doctors saving her life, gaving her the doll, etc., but no mention of the illegality of using white phosphorus. A few British papers covered the story, but for the most part their angle was "who was responsible?" Some are blaming the Taliban! But really, the blame is on the United States and NATO for creating this situation by their invasion, occupation and indiscriminate killing of civilians.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quiz! Sex and Politics in the 21st Century: How are these men similar, yet different?

1. What do these guys have in common?
a) All are politicians
b) All are married
c) All involved in sex scandals while in office
d) All the above

2. What made Sen. Craig's story different from the others?
a) He was looking for sex in restrooms
b) He plead guilty after getting busted
c) He pleaded his innocence after pleading guilty
d) All the above

3. What makes Sen. Ensign's story different from the others?
a) He was the first Senator to call for President Clinton to resign when the Monica Lewinsky affair broke
b) He got his mistress a better job
c) He got his mistress's husband a job
d) All the above

4. What makes Sen. Vitter's story different from the others?
a) He was linked to the services of the D.C. Madam
b) He was linked to the services of a New Orleans Madam
c) Like Larry Craig he had no Presidential ambitions
d) All the above

5. What makes Gov. Sanford's story different from the others?
a) He went to Poland without letting key people know
b) He went to Argentina without letting key people know
c) His dereliction of duties is impeachable
d) All the above

6. What makes former Gov. Spitzer's story different from the others?
a) He's the only Democrat
b) He was the only one caught by the FBI, and as a result of "anti-terrorism" legislation
c) He's the only one who resigned his office when the scandal broke
d) All the above

Where's the spin in this?
It's all spin. In these times, we need smart, dedicated, hard working problem solvers in government, not believers in the status quo or hypocrites.
We are hypocrites though, because we believe our privacy should be private, and not fodder for the media. Yet, we believe those who put themselves in the public eye deserve no privacy. To get good people in office the media and our leaders for both practical and ethical (Let he without sin cast the first stone) reasons need to restore that wall of separation between a person's private life and their public life.
There is one caveat: As long as it doesn't disrupt their work. This is the Sanford exception.
I don't think Spitzer should have resigned, and New York is suffering for it. Gary Hart shouldn't have been outed over Donna Rice, and $46 million dollars and months of obsession with Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky did nothing but a harm to the country. On the other hand, Sanford for purely selfish reasons--beyond his unexcused absences and deceit, has made South Carolina suffer and he should go.
If you didn't figure it out, all the answers for all the above are all the above.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Will the Star Tribune print it? Well, they didn't.

Here's a Letter to the Editor of the Mpls. Star Tribune
I sent off a few minutes ago.

In the Star Tribune of June 7, the AP story, "Justice lawyers sought to limit interrogation tactics against terror suspects, but overruled," cites the New York Times for much of the information. The article closes with this excerpt from the Times web site,"that even among those Justice Department lawyers who objected to some of the methods, there were few claims that specific methods violated the law banning torture."

One claim should have been enough to stop it. However, more troubling is the fact that torture of "enemy combatants" is not a domestic issue for the Department of Justice alone. Why didn't these discussions, memos and emails on torturing people from other countries in different countries around the world during a "time of war" include the opinions of lawyers from the State Department and the Defense Department?

These are the organizations that would be most affected, yet their opinions, insight and wisdom are absent from the record. Isn't this the story that the journalists of the Associated Press, the New York Times and Star Tribune should be writing?

--end of letter--

Note: I didn't want to suggest the AP, New York Times and Star Tribune were engaged in spin, nor did I want to diminish the focus of the letter, so I didn't ask another pertinent question: How many of the Justice Department officials involved in these discussions were Bush appointees?

Will the Star Tribune print it? Take part in this week's poll.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Obama's Moonwalk - A Dance of Death

President Barack Obama's backsliding would be enough to make a young Michael Jackson proud. However,the President's routine really is Dangerous. It's a dance with the devil and is resulting in death.

Unfortunately, I believe that death will come to America's shores, and not just in flag draped coffins from our senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Change? There has been no change. We are still in Iraq. President Obama has promised to be there at least three more years, not the one or two the Iraqi people wanted, nor the fewer still the American people wanted.

Memories aren't very good anywhere, but are particularly bad in Washington, D.C. It seems President Obama has forgotten the people who made Senator Obama President Obama by their votes, because nearly everyone of them wanted the unjustified war in Iraq to end and our troops to come home, as soon as possible. Of course, "it's the economy stupid" has come back to haunt, so millions of Americans are more concerned about getting food on the table and their medical bills paid, than whether we kill people on the other side of the planet.

Are we going to completely walk away from Afghanistan? No, we are not. We are attacking their culture and killing their people. In fact, we seem to have had a new program for escalating the conflict this past year, using drones and missiles to blow up wedding parties and any other gathering of Afghani villagers. Keeps our troops out of harms way, until they showup later.

We are also letting contractors get away with murder and supplying Afghanis with ammunition. We learned in Iraq that you can't have much of a war if the other side can't fight back. During the second invasion of Iraq, we left the ammo dumps unguarded. Then, when the Iraqis surrendered in shock and awe, we sent them home with their weapons.

Shortly after 9-11, Osama bin Laden gave us three reasons as to why we were hit, again.

So, we've covered having our troops occupying holy land, and imposing Western will on a devote Islamic country, Afghanistan. The third reason UBL gave us for disintegrating the World Trade Center and striking at the center of our military power was our lopsided support of Israel.

If you haven't noticed, we are back to the "Two-State" solution for solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue, same dance, new partners. We are still providing Israel with the weapons promised in a Bush-Cheney $30 billion, ten year aid deal, even though Israel has failed to follow through on their part of the enabling legislation--using the weapons only for defensive purposes. No one in Congress seemed to have noticed the invasion of Lebanon and the invasion of Gaza. too busy stuffing dollars in their pockets from AIPAC and the Military Industrial Complex to run for office, I suppose.

Like our President or not, his Moonwalk--pretending to move forward, but actually moving backwards--is endangering America.. My guess is before September 11, 2009, the third president not to change Reagan/Bush corporatist ME policies will get a wake up call from al-Qaeda.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Victory in Europe Virtually Forgotten

May 8th marked the 64th anniversary of the end WWII in Europe. It’s sad this day declaring peace in Europe, the end of fascist tryanny, and great sacriface by millions wasn’t recognized.

The Reich was finished a week earlier with the fall of Berlin. The only fighting going on there being against the Russians. The advance of the Americans and British was much easier, with Germans willfully surrendering, much like the Iraqis did during both U.S. invasions. Americans were known as the guys in white hats. Women and children would throw flowers, while our troops threw them candy and other western goods. Those days are over.

While it made sense to the German soldier to lay down his arms to the Yanks and the Brits, as their father's Great War (WWI) had showed that the west treated prisoners humanely, it would be suicide or worse to not fight the Russians to the death. The “worse,” of course is torture and maiming. This wasn’t fighting for Hitler or the homeland, this was fighting to survive the war unscarred.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others say torture is a military and intelligence tool that helps saves lives and win wars. They are wrong, but then their goal has never been to win wars, but to create wars, as their lies to create these wars has proven.

Torture is a crime. Dick Cheney and those that promulgated its use are war criminals, as certain as Goring, Hess or Borman were found to be at Nuremburg. America needs to rejoin the civilized world, and once be known as the guys in white hats. That requires rejoining the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and that means if extradition of U.S. citizens is required for the illegal renditions and torture, then so be it. At least we would be honest in accepting accountability, something that seems lost on our Congress and President.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Every picture tells a story

Whether or not we know the story behind a picture or not, our reactions to images are always valid, and most often right.

Had the picture of Don Ayala and Abdul Salam been taken moments earlier (see previously posted blog below), it could have been as powerful as Eddie Adams’s Pulitzer prize winning photograph of Saigon’s police chief, Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Vietcong prisoner on the street forty years ago, shown here. I’m sure President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates breathed a sigh of relief that picture wasn't as powerful as this one, and that the “justifiable rage” spin quelled any outcries of injustice.


I was a high school student in the D.C. area, who read the Washington Post in the morning and the Evening Star at night, and saw this picture in the newspaper. The war was also on TV, and I followed it as carefully as my mother and sisters because my father had been there once, and was in the process of learning Vietnamese to go back again, this time as one of 44 senior province advisors. The back story I read at the time, 1968, was that some of Loan’s family had been killed in a dawn sapper (terrorist) attack and this man was captured. I remember believing that as horrific as the picture appeared, the killing of this Vietcong by the General was a case of justifiable rage.

For many Americans, knowing the back story didn’t matter. This picture was one of many that lent itself to moral outrage and spurred the anti-war movement. It helped Richard Nixon get elected on his promise to end the war—delayed until he was re-elected, of course. The bottom line is this and other images hastened the end of the war. Who hasn’t seen the Napalm Girl?

It is much, much easier to spin words, than pictures. Great pictures etch themselves on the mind due to their singularity and focus. Words are always in flux, while images are generally immutable.

This is precisely why President Obama listened to Secretary Gates, and reneged on his promise to release the torture pictures. One or more of them could become a horrific symbol of this country’s immoral, unjustifiable and illegal decision to torture. It may bring louder cries to bring those to justice who made the decision to violate the law and torture. If torture stays above the fold in print and online, and leads the news shows, people will link the torture to the wars. Interrogations that caused death and needless suffering, often to innocents, occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan. We haven’t seen the War in Iraq and Afghanistan like we did the Vietnam War, and we won’t as long as a handful of corporations, some who make the machinery of war, control the media.

If we see the street execution of Salam Abdul and this Vietcong as "justifiable under the circumstances," it is only because we view the incidents out of context. The circumstances of both these deaths is solely the result of U.S. making war in these countries on the basis of lies, without justification, and without the support of the people here or in those countries. If we hadn’t been defending our puppet regimes in the South Vietnam, there would have been no sappers. Had we not been defending our puppet regime in Kabul, Loyd or Ayala wouldn’t have been in a village in Afghanistan with a platoon of soldiers, and Paula Loyd and Abdul Salam would be alive, and Don Ayala wouldn't have had his life turned upside down.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Justified rage cuts both ways


This photograph didn’t get much play. In fact, it is hard to find on Google—I found it through the Washington Post, but not until I’d seen it on, Germany’s online version of "der Stern”, a photo magazine, like the Look and Life magazines many of us grew up with. Unfortunately, American corporate media doesn’t show the world as completely as our European counterparts. (The picture was taken in Afghanistan on Nov. 4, 2008, and released to the public on May 8, 2009.)

The story behind the picture…

On May 9th, a contractor for BAE Systems and former Army Ranger, Don Ayala (shown in desert fatigues) was given probation and a fine for his plea of voluntary manslaughter in the execution of a bound Afghani named Abdul Salam. Salam had minutes earlier doused Paula Loyd, another BAE Systems employee with a pitcher of gasoline at set her ablaze. Ayala and Loyd were travelling with an Army platoon in the village of Chehel Gazi. After helping subdue the man and learning of the seriousness of Loyd’s burns, Ayala told an interpreter to tell Salam he was the devil and then shot Salam in the temple with his 9mm weapon. Loyd, who had second and third degree burns over 60 percent of her body, died of her injuries at the famed burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in January.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for a minimum sentence of over six years, but Judge Hilton of the Second District Court in Virginia gave Ayala probation and a $12,500 fine. He said given the horrific circumstances, and that while the incident didn’t occur on the battlefield, it did happen in the middle of a war, his not following sentencing guidelines was appropriate. In their reports, the headliners at Fox, Cox, and the other corporate media outlets framed the second degree murder as “justifiable rage.”

Ironically, Abdul Salam and the Taliban would have used the same argument had Salam made it to trial. They would have said the violent and horrific attack by Abdul Salam was simply a case of justifiable rage. This political party and now citizen army, the Taliban, took credit for the attack on Loyd. From their perspective, as devout Muslims and proud Afghanis, it is an abomination for foreign troops to be in their country attacking their citizens, religion and culture. It was also an affront to their beliefs for this woman to be in a uniform, doing business and speaking as an equal to Afghani men.

Because of Abdul Salam’s attack killing the infidel and his execution Salam is now both hero and martyr to the Afghani people. According to the papers, Don Ayala is considered a hero by family and friends of Loyd. Seeing only their moment in time, like a photograph, they fail to see the big picture. Justifying rage only continues a cycle of death.