Archive for the ‘Politics & Current Events’ Category

“The man who sold the war” (James Rendon, Bush’s general for propaganda)

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

This is a great article from Rolling Stone magazine (one of the few really good magazines for commentary on American Politics that doesn’t just rely on White House press releases) about the man who the Pentagon turns to to market wars to the American people. Please read this article when you get a chance.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/8798997/the_man_who_sold_the_war

Hilarious re-working of Bill O’reilly’s tantrum video

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

If you want a good laugh, check this out.  You probably should see the original if you haven’t already before watching this ‘remix’.

Players, Not Cheerleaders (majority of Americans want out of Iraq, but the government doesn’t listen)

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Good essay by Naomi Klein & Jeremy Scahill

www.naomiklein.org

Players, Not Cheerleaders

“So?”

So said Dick Cheney when asked last week about public opinion being overwhelming against the war in Iraq. “You can’t be blown off course by polls.”

His attitude about the the fact that the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq has reached 4,000 displayed similar levels of sympathy. They “voluntarily put on the uniform,” the Vice-President told ABC news. This brick wall of indifference helps explain the paradox in which we in the anti-war camp find ourselves five years into the occupation of Iraq: anti-war sentiment is as strong as ever, but our movement seems to be dwindling.

Sixty-four per cent of Americans tell pollsters they oppose the war, but you’d never know it from the thin turnout at recent anniversary rallies and vigils.

When asked why they aren’t expressing their anti-war opinions through the anti-war movement, many say they have simply lost faith in the power of protest. They marched against the war before it began, marched on the first, second and third anniversaries. And yet five years on, U.S. leaders are still shrugging: “So?”

There is no question that the Bush administration has proven impervious to public pressure. That’s why it’s time for the anti-war movement to change tactics. We should direct our energy where it can still have an impact: the leading Democratic contenders.

Many argue otherwise. They say that if we want to end the war, we should simply pick a candidate who is not John McCain and help them win: We’ll sort out the details after the Republicans are evicted from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Some of the most prominent anti-war voices–from MoveOn.org to the magazine we write for, The Nation–have gone this route, throwing their weight behind the Obama campaign.

This is a serious strategic mistake. It is during a hotly contested campaign that anti-war forces have the power to actually sway U. S. policy. As soon as we pick sides, we relegate ourselves to mere cheerleaders.

And when it comes to Iraq, there is little to cheer. Look past the rhetoric and it becomes clear that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton has a real plan to end the occupation. They could, however, be forced to change their positions — thanks to the unique dynamics of the prolonged primary battle.

Despite the calls for Clinton to withdraw in the name of “unity,” it is the very fact that Clinton and Obama are still fighting it out, fiercely vying for votes, that presents the anti-war movement with its best pressure point. And our pressure is badly needed.

For the first time in 14 years, weapons manufacturers are donating more to Democrats than to Republicans. The Dems have received 52 percent of the defense industry’s political donations in this election cycle – up from a low of 32 per cent in 1996. That money is about shaping foreign policy, and so far, it appears to be well spent.

While Clinton and Obama denounce the war with great passion, they both have detailed plans to continue it. Both say they intend to maintain the massive Green Zone, including the monstrous U.S. embassy, and to retain U.S. control of the Baghdad Airport.

They will have a “strike force” to engage in counterterrorism, as well as trainers for the Iraqi military. Beyond these U.S. forces, the army of Green Zone diplomats will require heavily armed security details, which are currently provided by Blackwater and other private security companies. At present there are as many private contractors supporting the occupation as there are soldiers so these plans could mean tens of thousands of U. S. personnel entrenched for the future.

In sharp contrast to this downsized occupation is the unequivocal message coming from hundreds of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq Veterans Against the War, who held the historic “Winter Soldier” hearings in Silver Spring, Md. earlier this month, are not supporting any candidate or party. Instead they are calling for immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. soldiers and contractors. Coming from peace activists, the “out now” position has been dismissed as naive. It is distinctly harder to ignore coming from hundreds who have served–and continue to serve–on the frontlines.

The candidates know that much of the passion fueling their campaigns flows from the desire among so many rank-and-file Democrats to end this disastrous war. It is this desire for change that has filled stadiums and campaign coffers.

Crucially, the candidates have already shown that they are vulnerable to pressure from the peace camp: When The Nation revealed that neither candidate was supporting legislation that would ban the use of Blackwater and other private security companies in Iraq, Clinton abruptly changed course. She became the most important U. S. political leader to endorse the ban, scoring a point on Obama, who opposed the invasion from the start.

This is exactly where we want the candidates: outdoing each other to prove how serious they are about ending the war. That kind of issue-based battle has the power to energize voters and break the cynicism that is threatening both campaigns.

Let’s remember: unlike the outgoing Bush Administration, these candidates need the support of the two-thirds of Americans who oppose the war in Iraq. If opinion transforms into action, they won’t be able to afford to say, “So?”

UK Plans To Store Details of Every Phone Call, Email and Web Page Visited by British Citizens

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

From the Telegraph Newspaper in the UK:

Home Office plans to create ‘Big brother’ database for phones calls, emails and web use

Last updated: 7:07 AM BST 20/05/2008

 

The Home Office will create a database to store the details of every phone call made, every email sent and every web page visited by British citizens in the previous year under plans currently under discussion, it has emerged.

 

The Government wants to create the system to fight terrorism and crime. The police and security services believe it will make it easier to access important data as communications become more complex.

Telecoms firms and internet service providers (ISPs) have already been approached by the Home Office, which would be given customer records if the plans were realised.

The security services and police would then be able to access records for any individual over the previous 12 months by gaining permission through the courts.

The plans will raise concern from data protection and civil liberty campaigners and fuel objections to the perceived rise of a “Big Brother” state. There will be worries about the Home Office’s ability to safeguard the data from loss or theft, after recent incidents such as when the child benefit information of every family in Britain with a child under 16 were mislaid.

There will also be doubts about its capacity to manage such a large volume of information. About 57 billion text messages were sent in Britain last year, while an estimated three billion emails are sent every day.

Since last October, telecoms companies have been required to keep records of phone calls and text messages for 12 months.

The plans are being considered for inclusion in the draft Communications Bill to be published later this year. They are at an early stage and have yet to be passed to ministers.

A Home Office spokesman said the move was needed to reflect changes in communication that would “increasingly undermine our current capabilities to obtain communications data and use it to protect the public”.

Story from Telegraph News:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1990999/Home-Office-plans-to-create-%27Big-brother%27-database-for-phones-calls%2C-emails-and-web-use.html

Hunger in America: 28,000,000 Americans soon on food stamps

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Another eye-opening interview from Democracy Now about

the increasing hunger in America.

April 02, 2008

Foodstampsweb

Record Number of Food Stamp Recipients Projected

Government officials are projecting the number of Americans receiving food stamps will reach a record twenty-eight million later this year. Over the past year, more than forty states saw the number of food stamp recipients rise. A ten percent jump in food stamp recipients was recorded in six states: Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, North Dakota and Rhode Island. In West Virginia, one-in-six residents now receive food stamps. We speak with Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center. [includes rush transcript]

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Guest:

Jim Weill, President of the Food Research and Action Center, or FRAC, a national anti-hunger public policy group based in Washington, D.C.

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AMY GOODMAN: US government officials are projecting the number of Americans receiving food stamps will soon reach a record twenty-eight million. The number of food stamp recipients is quickly rising across the nation. Forty states reported an increase in food stamp recipients last year. The biggest increases were in Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, North Dakota and Rhode Island. In West Virginia, one-in-six residents now receive food stamps.

This comes as the price of food is soaring. Over the past year the price of milk in the US has risen 17 percent. Rice, pasta and bread prices have jumped over 12 percent. And the price of eggs has risen by 25 percent. It’s the highest grocery inflation since the early ’90s.

Jim Weill joins us now from Washington, D.C., president of Food Research and Action Center, known as FRAC, a national anti-hunger public policy group. What’s happening, Jim?
JIM WEILL: Well, two things are happening. One, people are losing jobs, their losing hours of work, their wages are going down, so they need more assistance from the government in the form of food stamps and other help. And two, food prices are rising faster than they have in many years, and they’re particularly rising for staples that low-income people buy. The government’s cost-of-living index for the Thrifty Food Plan, which is the cheapest food plan the government has, has risen one-and-a-quarter percent faster over the last year than the rapidly rising price of food generally. So the poor are facing a double whammy. Last week at an anti-hunger summit in Massachusetts, Governor Patrick compared it to Katrina in its effect on low-income families in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: I just learned about a new field of journalism. I was down speaking at Washington and Lee this past weekend in Lexington, Virginia, and there was a special meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists there, and one of the seminars was on poverty journalism, how to cover poverty in this country. They were talking particularly about places like West Virginia. West Virginia, one-in-six people there are on food stamps; in Ohio, one-in-ten?
JIM WEILL: Right. And according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, one-in-three children in Oklahoma has been on food stamps at least at some point during the last year. Often, people aren’t on for the entire year, but two, three or four months. One-in-three children in Oklahoma.
AMY GOODMAN: One-in-three kids?
JIM WEILL: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about how food stamps work?
JIM WEILL: Sure. Food stamps are primarily paid for by the federal government, but you apply through a state food stamp or welfare agency. It’s an entitlement program, so the good news is that as economic conditions can get worse, the program can grow to meet the needs of the additional families that fall into poverty or near poverty. You have to meet a very strict asset test and very strict income test. Those tests in some ways are much too strict, haven’t been changed in thirty years for inflation on the assets side. But once you’re eligible, and we’re now approaching twenty-eight million people who are eligible in this country—or who are receiving benefits—there are far more who are eligible, but not receiving it—once you get benefits, benefits average about $100 a month per person in the family. Those benefits are too small. Everybody agrees that they’re too small. And there’s legislation pending in Congress to improve them a little bit—not enough—in the nutrition title of the Farm Bill. One of the important things Congress has to do this month is get that nutrition title of that Farm Bill passed.
AMY GOODMAN: And what exactly does the Farm Bill say?
JIM WEILL: It improves benefits a little bit by changing the so-called standard deduction, which is part of how you compute benefits, and improving the minimum benefit that hasn’t gone up in a long time, and it makes eligibility a little easier for working families and other—low-income working families and others to get into the program. So it’s a big program, and it costs money to fix the problems with it. And the President has threatened to veto the bill because of the possibility of spending more money on the Farm Bill. But we really need to do this now.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the second stimulus package you’re calling for, Jim Weill?
JIM WEILL: Well, in the first stimulus package, which did some good things—it provided the tax rebate, including to families with very low or little or no tax liability; it provides them a rebate if they have earnings—the first rebate package did some good things, but it didn’t have any improvements in unemployment compensation, and it didn’t have any boost in food stamps, even though the economists and leaders on the Hill and former Treasury Secretary Rubin and Republican economists like Martin Feldstein and Ben Bernanke have all said that the two best ways to stimulate the economy, to move money into the economy quickly and to do good for people who are hurting the most, would be to boost food stamp benefits on a temporary basis and to improve unemployment insurance coverage.
So there is a second stimulus package probably moving through Congress in the next few weeks, and the two most fundamental things that has to do is tackle food stamps and unemployment compensation.
AMY GOODMAN: And the purchasing power of food stamps, what is the average? Something like $1 or $1.07 per person per meal?
JIM WEILL: Right. The average benefit is about $1 per meal per person in the family, which is not enough—it’s not enough to stave off hunger and certainly not enough to buy a healthy diet. One of the things to think about when we have these inadequate benefits in the food stamp program, which mostly goes to kids, is we’re not getting kids enough healthy food so that they can do well in school, so that they can develop, so they can stay healthy, so they can learn. So it’s really self-defeating to have benefit levels that are that low.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s causing the rise in food prices?
JIM WEILL: A variety of factors: more demand for food from overseas, India and China, as more people move into the middle class; competition for crops from biofuels—corn—a lot of corn is being bought up for use as fuel. Those are the two main factors people have pointed to.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jim Weill, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Jim is president of the Food Research and Action Center, known as FRAC, a national anti-hunger public policy group based in Washington, D.C. We’ll certainly link to your website.

Bush is against Iranian reactors but not against Saudi ones

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

If someone made this stuff up, it wouldn’t be considered realistic enough for a novel.

Remember that the most Anti-Western Muslims around are in Saudi Arabia, and that

virtually all of the bombers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. This is from DemocracyNow.Org:

May 20, 2008

Bushabdullahweb2

As US Threatens Iran Over Enriching Uranium, Bush Promises to Give Enriched Uranium to Saudi Arabia

The Bush administration has pledged to support Saudi Arabia’s nuclear power program, including supplying enriched uranium for nuclear reactors. The agreement came out of President Bush’s visit to the Saudi kingdom last week, during which Bush also pledged new US assistance in guarding Saudi oil reserves. [includes rush transcript]

 

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Guest:

Harvey Wasserman, one of the founders of the grassroots movement against nuclear power. He is senior editor of the Ohio-based freepress.org and the editor of nukefree.org.

 

Rush Transcript

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AMY GOODMAN: We turn from cluster bombs to what could be a major development in nuclear proliferation worldwide: the Bush administration pledging to support Saudi Arabia’s nuclear power program, including supplying enriched uranium for nuclear reactors. The agreement came out of President Bush’s visit to the Saudi kingdom last week, during which Bush also pledged new US assistance in guarding Saudi oil reserves.

In a statement, the White House said the deal “will pave the way for Saudi Arabia’s access to safe, reliable fuel sources for energy reactors and demonstrate Saudi leadership as a positive non-proliferation model for the region.” But questions are being raised about the agreement at a time when the Bush administration continues to threaten military action over Iran’s nuclear program.
Harvey Wasserman joins us now, one of the founders of the grassroots movement against nuclear power, senior editor of the Ohio-based freepress.org and editor of nukefree.org, joining us on the phone from Columbus, Ohio.
Harvey Wasserman, what’s going on here?
HARVEY WASSERMAN: You know, I’d like to know the insane asylum in which this policy was concocted. The idea of giving enriched uranium to the Saudis while threatening war with the Iranians for enriching uranium is astonishing. The idea that the Saudis are going to somehow lower the price of oil on the basis of possibly getting nuclear reactors in the future is just almost staggering to think about. It’s something, I guess, we’ve come to expect with the Bush administration.
But the nuclear power industry is trying desperately to spread itself all over the world, and we have proliferation problems. As you may recall, the Clinton administration cut a deal with the North Koreans to build a reactor there, and of course now suddenly, when Bush comes in, they’re a nuclear threat. We have to put this in perspective. We have to remember that when the Shah was in power in Iran so many years ago, he was in the process of buying thirty-six reactors, and had those reactors been completed before he fell to the Ayatollah, Iran would now have thirty-six reactors. So what the Bush administration is telling us is that this current Saudi government is always going to be in power and it’s perfectly fine for them to have nuclear reactors. We know that India and Pakistan built—both built nuclear weapons from their commercial atomic power programs, as perhaps did South Africa. And it’s just almost staggering to think about this prospect.
AMY GOODMAN: How much attention is being paid to this in the anti-nuclear community?
HARVEY WASSERMAN: Well, at this point, there’s not much we can do. We can protest. The idea of sending them enriched uranium is going to raise the price of uranium for atomic reactors here in the United States. Much of this uranium is mined on Native lands, where lung cancer and environmental—general environmental damage is rampant. Water issues, air pollution issues, all of them arise when uranium is mined and milled. There’s only one enrichment facility in the United States, in Paducah, Kentucky, that’s operating now. The impracticalities of this are amazing.
The Saudis do not currently have an operating commercial reactor. If they do build one, it’s not going to come from the United States. It will probably come from France or Japan. And, you know, it’s just hard to fathom. It is such an irrational idea that it almost boggles the mind, in terms of trying to critique it. But suffice to say, it makes no sense whatsoever. Oil is not a major currency when it comes to generating electricity, and nuclear power plants only generate electricity. So this is just some kind of Alice in Wonderland program that is typical of the Bush administration, particularly on nuclear power policies.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Harvey Wasserman, thank you for joining us. Harvey Wasserman is head of freepress.org, one of the leaders of the grassroots movement against nuclear power, also editor of nukefree.org.

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

There are a number of very smart people I know who label

themselves ‘libertarian’. I’ve always been skeptical about this political ideology,

but was never able to articulate it as well as Chomsky does below. I got this

from a blog called ‘The Distant Ocean’.

Chomsky on libertarianism and Murray Rothbard

 

Since it’s relevant in the context of that last posting, here’s one of my favorite selections from Understanding Power, in which Noam Chomsky discusses the difference between libertarianism and anarchism and comments on the world envisioned by Murray Rothbard:
_____________________________

Man: What’s the difference between “libertarian” and “anarchist,” exactly?

Chomsky: There’s no difference, really. I think they’re the same thing. But you see, “libertarian” has a special meaning in the United States. The United States is off the spectrum of the main tradition in this respect: what’s called “libertarianism” here is unbridled capitalism. Now, that’s always been opposed in the European libertarian tradition, where every anarchist has been a socialist—because the point is, if you have unbridled capitalism, you have all kinds of authority: you have extreme authority.

If capital is privately controlled, then people are going to have to rent themselves in order to survive. Now, you can say, “they rent themselves freely, it’s a free contract”—but that’s a joke. If your choice is, “do what I tell you or starve,” that’s not a choice—it’s in fact what was commonly referred to as wage slavery in more civilized times, like the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example.

The American version of “libertarianism” is an aberration, though—nobody really takes it seriously. I mean, everybody knows that a society that worked by American libertarian principles would self-destruct in three seconds. The only reason people pretend to take it seriously is because you can use it as a weapon. Like, when somebody comes out in favor of a tax, you can say: “No, I’m a libertarian, I’m against that tax”—but of course, I’m still in favor of the government building roads, and having schools, and killing Libyans, and all that sort of stuff.

Now, there are consistent libertarians, people like Murray Rothbard—and if you just read the world that they describe, it’s a world so full of hate that no human being would want to live in it. This is a world where you don’t have roads because you don’t see any reason why you should cooperate in building a road that you’re not going to use: if you want a road, you get together with a bunch of other people who are going to use that road and you build it, then you charge people to ride on it. If you don’t like the pollution from somebody’s automobile, you take them to court and you litigate it. Who would want to live in a world like that? It’s a world built on hatred.19

The whole thing’s not even worth talking about, though. First of all, it couldn’t function for a second—and if it could, all you’d want to do is get out, or commit suicide or something. But this is a special American aberration, it’s not really serious.