America: Standing in the Way of Democracy

It is pathetic and even laughable to hear American leaders, and the leaders of the other Western democracies in Europe, cautioning that Egypt’s revolution needs to move slowly, as they call for a “transition” government that would be gently guided to elections by the very man, Omar Suleiman, who for years has headed the dreaded Mukhabarat, the Egyptian secret police, all under the protective umbrella of the Egyptian military.

What is this nonsense?

Did America’s revolutionary government have a slow transition to democracy? Did America’s revolutionaries sign the Declaration of Independence and then hand over the reins of government to a general from the British Army to oversee things as they prepared for elections? No. They immediately set up a democratic system, even in the midst of a bitter war for independence. Did the African National Congress turn to a general from the South African military to run a transition government in South Africa when they finally ousted the Apartheid regime in that country? No, they held an election, and went on to rule as the elected majority. When the People Power revolution in the Philippines toppled the Marcos dictatorship after a generation of autocratic and brutal martial law law, did the people turn to the country’s military and ask it to run the country for a transition year to democracy? No, of course not! They held a snap election and elected the widow, Corazon Aquino, wife of the martyred democracy activist Benigno Aquino.

Democracies don’t need “transitions” run by military rulers and hold-over tyrants. These are tactics designed to subvert, delay and even prevent true popular rule.
Tom Paine would be in Egypt's Liberation SquareTom Paine would be in Egypt's Liberation Square

Exclusive: The Deepening Mystery of Raymond Davis and Two Slain Pakistani Motorcyclists

This article appeared initially in Counterpunch magazine
 

The mystery of American Raymond A. Davis, currently imprisoned in the custody of local police in Lahore, Pakistan and charged with the Jan. 27 murder of two young men, whom he allegedly shot eight times with uncanny accuracy through his car windshield, is growing increasingly murky. Also growing is the anger among Pakistanis that the US is trying to spring him from a Punjab jail by claiming diplomatic immunity.

Davis (whose identity was first denied and later confirmed by the US Embassy in Islamabad), and the embassy have claimed that he was hired as an employee of a US security company called Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, which was said to be located at 5100 North Lane in Orlando, Florida. Business cards for Hyperion were found on Davis by arresting officers.

However ThisCantBeHappening! and Counterpunch magazine have investigated and uncovered the following information:

Firstly, there is not and never has been any such company located at the 5100 North Lane address. It is only an empty storefront, with empty shelves along one wall and an empty counter on the opposite wall, with just a lone used Coke cup sitting on it. A leasing agency sign is on the window.

 Hapless US consular employee, CIA agent or mercenary intelligence black-ops operative?Raymond Davis: Hapless US consular employee, CIA agent or mercenary intelligence black-ops operative?

The empty strip mall in Orlando where Davis claims his company, Hyperion Protective Consultants LLC, is basedThe empty strip mall in Orlando where Davis claims his company, Hyperion Protective Consultants LLC, is based

Shumaila, widow Faheem poisoned herself to death to demand justice for her husband, slain motorcyclist Mohammad Faheem.Shumaila Faheem poisoned herself to death to demand justice for her husband, slain motorcyclist Mohammad Faheem.

America's Happy Talk Media: No Jobs is Good News!

The propagandists in the corporate media are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to paint a rosy picture using the shockingly bad employment news out of the Labor Department today.

Here’s the raw data:

The official unemployment rate fell from 9.4% to 9.0%, when the prediction had been that it was going to move up slightly to 9.5%

The number of new jobs added was a net 36,000, the lowest increase since last September, when the economy was still losing jobs.

Here are some of the media quotes:

Associated Press: “The unemployment rate dropped sharply last month to 9 percent, based on a government survey that found that more than a half-million people found work.”

MSNBC: “The U.S. labor market slowed sharply last month, generating just 36,000 net new jobs, the fewest in four months, as winter storms depressed payrolls growth. Still, the unemployment rate dropped sharply to 9 percent, the lowest level in nearly two years.”

Fox News: “Economic growth is gaining momentum, with factories busy and service firms expanding, but one critical area still lags: job creation.”

Hoops were being jumped through here to try to make something terrible look good.

Here’s the reality: In a trend that has continued now since October, the number of net new jobs created by the US economy has fallen once again, thanks to layoffs by construction companies, warehouse and transportation companies and especially public employers like state and city governments and school districts, which undercut minor gains in the manufacturing and retail sectors. A gain of 36,000 jobs has to be put in perspective too–the US economy has to add 150,000 new jobs a month just to accommodate the growth in the size of the working age population. We haven’t seen those kinds of numbers since October, when the job picture slipped back into the negative zone again.

The average number of jobs created monthly over the last three months was just 83,000, according the the Labor Department.
Looking for jobs that aren't thereLooking for jobs that aren't there

Swapping a Dictator for a Torturer in Egypt

As things now stand, the United States appears ready to have Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak tossed out in exchange for his newly-named Vice President, Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian spy master. That is, maintain the status quo by swapping one dictator for another.

Of course, Israel must sign off on this deal aimed at assuring that Egypt can remain as America’s main base in the region, straddling as it does North Africa and the Middle East. Without that status quo, the U.S. would have to rethink its entire neo-colonial policies  in the region.

But Suleiman looks like a  nasty piece of work. 

You don’t get much about him in the US corporate media, but Agence France Press has pulled together the basics:

“For US intelligence officials, he has been a trusted partner willing to go after Islamist militants without hesitation, targeting homegrown radical groups Gamaa Islamiya and Jihad after they carried out a string of attacks on foreigners. A product of the US-Egyptian relationship, Suleiman underwent training in the 1980s at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina….

Dictator and torturer togetherDictator and torturer together

A Marine Remembers: Learning to Kill, Learning Not to Kill

One of my grandsons recently asked me, “What is wisdom?”   After some discussion, we together concluded that wisdom comes only with experience. 

When it comes to war, though, living in a country that has not experienced a war on its own soil since 1865, Americans, other than those veterans who have actually fought abroad, have no such experience to draw on.

Perhaps this is why so many Americans easily accept, and even cheer the nation’s militarism, and why most of us accept our government’s reflexive resort to military action to settle international disputes.
  
Einstein, who had his share of wisdom, advised forgetting everything one has learned.  This was his way of getting his thinking out of a box. 

Rather than add more to this somewhat evasive notion, let me reflect here on my own experience of war, and on how the concept of war has permeated my life, in hopes of finding  a bit of wisdom to counter the temptation to turn to cynicism. 
   
        “The war to end all wars” ended four years before I was born.  The patriotic fervor that had induced men to fight  and kill in WW I was still alive at that time, although my father’s courage as a medic in France, for which he received a silver star, had left a psychic scar. He had seen more than his share of death, including that of his best friend, who had gone to war despite opposing it, asking to become a machine-gunner to counter accusations that his anti-war sentiment was a reflection of cowardice. 
 
        It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I was drafted into the Marines. (Actually, I chose the Marines out of the Navy pool.)  This time, in  WW II, there was a sense of duty, but no fervor.    

        Boot camp was my first experience at someone trying to indoctrinate me with the code: ‘’To hate the enemy is a requirement.”   

 While I didn’t become a slave to this principle myself, most of the men in the platoon bought it. We were told over and over that a soldier’s mission is to kill, and that message sank in for most of the recruits. To help drive the message home, with our bayonets attached, we were ordered to assault dummies while shouting “Kill!”
Author David Lindorff, ex-Marine, engineer and Jungian analystAuthor David Lindorff, ex-Marine, engineer and Jungian analyst

A Marxist Analysis: Arab Uproar

Long time in the making! Long time suffering poverty, inequality, official murder-torture-imprisonment, despotism, fundamentalism, and governments lackeyed to US/Western powers.

I am no expert on Arabic/Middle East history or politics, other than knowing that US/Israel-led imperialism has had a grip on the entire area for decades, and before that there were other foreign oppressors. I know that in part of the Arab world—so far not involved in this uproar—the US-led “humanitarian” operation has cost over one million Iraqi lives, created millions of refugees, tortured tens of thousands and destroyed incalculable cultural wealth and history. European allies assisted in this butchery. Something similar is occurring in Afghanistan, and extending into Pakistan.

Wikileaks’ disclosure of US Embassy cables from Tunisia—posted in the British Guardian, December 7, 2010 and January 28, 2011—show how duplicitous and corrupt all US governments have been in their relations with the Ben Ali family government over the past two decades.

The US ambassador to Tunisia, Robert F. Godec, wrote in one leaked memo dated July 17, 2009, that the Ben Ali regime is: “sclerotic;” and that “Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems.”

Yet at the same time, Godec expressed the need to continue supporting this regime because, “The government is like-minded on Iran, is an ally in the fight against terrorism…the US Mission has, for the past three years, [responded] by offering greater cooperation…notably in the commercial and military assistance areas.”

The US government similarly supports Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid annually, making the country second only to Israel in US military aid.
Egyptian Protesters and Army Tanks In CairoEgyptian Protesters and Army Tanks In Cairo

The Last Zealots: Hack History On the Right

 
It was a dark and stormy night and Scat Horbath was glad to be out of the weather in the Washington DC metro, where he was to meet the sinister Ali Ben al-Masseur in the last car of the Blue Train.

Al-Masseur ran the Brothers Of Islam Charity Center in Arlington, and he held the clue to a two-thousand-year-old secret that had been scratched in code into the bottom of John Hancock’s pewter chamber pot. The fate of the free world hung in the balance.

The doors opened, and Scat entered the nearly empty car. As the car moved off he became aware of the subtle smell of falafal. Then he saw his man, seated at the end of the car chewing as he read from a copy of The Koran.

Al-Masseur looked up and flicked his tongue, projecting little pieces of yogurt sauce into the air.

“So, Scat, we meet again.”

That’s the opening of my new thriller, The Last Zealots, to be published under my pseudonym Rand Wotan. It’s the first in a series featuring Scat Horbath, a US assassin suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who, for reasons of grave national security, is recruited back into the business by his colleagues in The Agency.

You know the drill: Scat has to come in from the cold and do one last mission.

If my calculations are correct, the novel will bring a fatwah down on me, and the book will sell millions. I plan to Save America one bestseller at a time.

OK. OK. All the above is hogwash. It’s actually a lame satire on the bestselling thrillers of Brad Thor, author of The Last Patriot and The Apostle. Thor is a regular on the Glenn Beck Show and on blogs like Military.Com where he sells his clever books and spreads anti-Islamic phobia.

Discovering how Thomas Jefferson blew the lid on Radical IslamDiscovering how Thomas Jefferson blew the lid on Radical Islam

The similarities between Thor’s fantasy approach to history and that of certain right wing commentators and politicians would seem to suggest a trend.

President Obama’s State of the Union Speech: WTF?

 
I never expected to find myself agreeing with Sarah Palin, but I’ve got to admit that the woman nailed it regarding President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address. Asked to comment on it, she said it had a lot of “WTF moments.”

That’s exactly what I found myself thinking as I read through it!

We’ve “broken the back” of the recession? WTF? The official unemployment rate is still 9.4%, and even that is down slightly from a 9.8% high only because so many people have given up trying to find a job and have left the workforce, taking early retirement or just staying home. And the real unemployment rate–the one that counts those who have given up but would work if there were actually jobs to be had, and those who have grasped at part time work just to survive–is still at between 19% and 22%, depending on how you’re counting. Who’s Obama kidding: us or himself?

We need to “out-educate” the rest of the world? WTF? All across the country, school districts are laying off teachers. In New York City, the country’s largest school district, the world’s richest mayor, $18-billionaire Michael Bloomberg, recently hired corporate hack, Cathleen P. Black, a former magazine publisher who has no educational experience or training, but who does have a reputation for whacking employee lists, as his new school chancellor, and has put out the word to teachers in New York, including those who have earned tenure through years of dedicated work, that their jobs are on the line because of a lack of money. In Philadelphia, another or the country’s largest districts, principals have been warned to prepare for 20-30% budget cuts next school year–this in a district where 40 kids to a classroom the norm, and where kids still study from dog-eared history and science textbooks dating to the 1970s and ‘80s. Obama also talked about the need to focus education on science, math and technology. WTF? What about foreign languages? What about history and political science? What about the arts? If he had actually checked what happens in China–a country he warned was outdoing us in educating its kids–he’d have discovered that music and art are key parts of every kids’s education, and that kids start learning foreign languages when they are little–not in high school. Same in most countries like Korea, Taiwan or Germany, all of which are eating our lunch in global economic competition.

Dave and Sarah, listening to Obama's State of the Union, both say WTF?Dave and Sarah, listening to Obama's State of the Union, both say WTF?

President Obama's State of the Union Speech: WTF?

I never expected to find myself agreeing with Sarah Palin, but I’ve got to admit that the woman nailed it regarding President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address. Asked to comment on it, she said it had a lot of “WTF moments.”

That’s exactly what I found myself thinking as I read through it!

We’ve “broken the back” of the recession? WTF? The official unemployment rate is still 9.4%, and even that is down slightly from a 9.8% high only because so many people have given up trying to find a job and have left the workforce, taking early retirement or just staying home. And the real unemployment rate–the one that counts those who have given up but would work if there were actually jobs to be had, and those who have grasped at part time work just to survive–is still at between 19% and 22%, depending on how you’re counting. Who’s Obama kidding: us or himself?

We need to “out-educate” the rest of the world? WTF? All across the country, school districts are laying off teachers. In New York City, the country’s largest school district, the world’s richest mayor, $18-billionaire Michael Bloomberg, recently hired corporate hack, Cathleen P. Black, a former magazine publisher who has no educational experience or training, but who does have a reputation for whacking employee lists, as his new school chancellor, and has put out the word that teachers in New York, including those who have earned tenure through years of dedicated work, that their jobs are on the line because of a lack of money. In Philadelphia, another or the country’s largest districts, principals have been warned to prepare for 20-30% budget cuts next school year–this in a district where 40 kids to a classroom the norm, and where kids still study from dog-eared history and science textbooks dating to the 1970s and ‘80s. Obama also talked about the need to focus education on science, math and technology. WTF? What about foreign languages? What about history and political science? What about the arts? If he had actually checked what happens in China–a country he warned was outdoing us in educating its kids–he’d have discovered that music and art are key parts of every kids’s education, and that kids start learning foreign languages when they are little–not in high school. Same in most countries like Korea, Taiwan or Germany, all of which are eating our lunch in global economic competition.

Slab City Journal: A Big Man in Alternative Journalism Now Living Off the Grid

Woodrow Tom Thompson was once a big player in the LA news scene . He began
in Yuma, Arizona at KBLU, doing sports radio and TV. After a stint at CBS station KOOL in Phoenix, he reinvented himself with a career in print journalism as news editor for the LA Free Press, one of the nation’s original alternative weeklies.

Penny Grenoble was editor and Charles Bukowski wrote dirty stories. Ron Cobb did cartoons. Tom was a very big man then. He weighed almost four hundred pounds and he covered some very big stories. Not the way the LA Times did. He often got inside info from the people who knew what was going on. Phil Ochs would show up. So would the FBI.

He was a great teacher. All news editors should be like Tom Thompson . He knew how to make a story jump off the front page like a snake. “Who is, or was, Ms. Moon Solstice?” “How did the LAPD Operate its Secret Red Squad?” Tom pushed stories–essential LA Stories the LA Times would never touch. He went behind the news to chase a story. How come the LA County Art Museum bought only certain painters and did not buy others? Could board members be on the take? The Pasadena Chandlers didn’t want to handle stories like that.

As news editor Tom Thompson, a former football player for Temple U., and for one season on a semi-pro league, the Festerville Falcons, weighed in with two smashing fists. Even the publishers of the Freep, as it was known to readers, disliked his pushing the LAPD around. And the IRS.

When the Freep’s owners sold out, and the new publisher changed the format to Star Wars and porn stories, Thompson split and called together a group of former Freep writers and proposed the idea of a collectively run successor alternative paper. Thus was the LA Vanguard born. The new paper, with Tom as ME, Dave Lindorff and Ron Ridenour as editor/reporters, and myself as arts editor, published a manifesto from the Weather Underground. Tom encouraged us to take on the entire US Government by publishing pieces on the phony Warren Commission investigation and cover-up of the JFK hit.

All along the way, at both the Freep and the Vanguard, Tom encouraged reporters to go beyond the WHO, WHAT,WHERE and WHEN and HOW into the essential WHY. And to ask WHO are the real bad guys?
Woody Thompson and Ben PleasantsWoody Thompson, Luke and the author