Send a Pizza to Protesters Fighting the Republican Assault on Labor Rights in Wisconsin!

Ian’s Pizza in Madison, WI, is accepting orders by credit card from anywhere to deliver their pizzas to the protesters at the state capital who are fighting for the right to have their unions against the Koch Brothers’ financed-attack on organized labor by the state’s new Republican governor and Republican legislature. Just call their downtown State St. store at 608-257-9248— and be prepared for a long wait (a lot of people around the country, and world, are placing orders!).

US Caught in The Big Lie: ThisCantBeHappening! was Correct in Exposing Raymond Davis as a Spy

Talk about getting caught in a Big Lie.

So desperate has been the US effort to get the US government killer Raymond Davis sprung from police custody in Lahore, Pakistan following his execution-style slaughter of two Pakistani intelligence operatives in broad daylight in a crowded commercial area, that the government trotted out President Obama to declare that Pakistan was violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by holding “our diplomat,” whom he insisted had only been defending himself, and should in any case be entitled to absolute immunity.

Now both the Guardian newspaper in the UK over the weekend, and the Associated Press today are reporting that sources in both the Pakistani and American governments are confirming that Davis works for the CIA. The AP is even reporting that he is a “CIA security contractor,” which is something less and a little more amorphous than a CIA employee, and that means he has no claim on diplomatic immunity whatever, and that raises the added question of who he actually is and who he actually works for. But more on that later.

The Guardian noted in its article that Davis’s wife had provided phone numbers for information about him to a local TV station and that those numbers turned out to be the CIA. Meanwhile, Agence France Press reported over the weekend that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), a loose-tongued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also apparently inadvertently slipped up and disclosed on the Senate floor that Davis is an “agent”, saying, “We can’t throw this agent over.”

America’s and the President’s reputations lie in tatters as a result of the handling of this bloody incident. Not only did the US dispatch to Islamabad members of Congress, including the oleaginous Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), as well as the reprehensible Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to press for Davis’s release, threatening the withholding of aid to Pakistan (our ostensible ally in the Afghanistan War!). It provided a patently false document to the Pakistani Foreign Office claiming Davis to be an employee of the US Embassy in Islamabad (which would have meant he’d have immunity from arrest and detention), when he was actually working out of the Lahore Consulate, where he would not be entitled to any immunity for his actions). It also tried to exchange his regular passport for a diplomatic one a day after his arrest, again retroactively trying to get him immunity from prosecution for his murderous acts.

Furthermore, the US government, according to the Guardian, induced major US news organizations to hide what they knew about Davis’s real role from the American public. The paper reported that several US news organizations had also learned on their own that Davis is a spy, but then voluntarily withhheld the information from the American public “at the request of the Obama administration,” which preferred to stick to the fictional story line that Pakistan is holding an American “diplomat” in “violation of the Vienna Convention” on diplomatic immunity. In fact, on Feb. 15, when the president lectured Pakistan about releasing “our diplomat” Davis, saying “We’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is, if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution,” not only did he know he was lying, but so did some major news organizations which ran his statement but didn’t tell readers the truth: Davis was no diplomat, but was a spook, or a contractor for a spook agency.

Update Even late today, when the NY Times finally says it got “permission” from the government to publish what it knew–that Davis “worked with” the CIA, it still fudged the issue of its allowing President Obama to lie at his press conference. “Without describing Mr. Davis’s mission or intelligence affiliation, President Obama last week made a public plea for his release,” the self-described “paper of record” wrote. But that’s not what Obama did. He simply lied and called Davis a “diplomat” and demanded his release, claiming he had immunity, and the Times knowingly let him get away with that lie.
This Dept. of Defense Contractor ID found on Davis belies his "diplomat" claim, but also raises questions about whether he's really CIA, or something elseThis Dept. of Defense Contractor ID found on Davis belies his "diplomat" claim, but also raises questions about whether he’s really CIA, or something else

Readers of ThisCantBeHappening! will not be surprised about any of this however.

Cuba's Upcoming Communist Party Congress: Moving Away from Socialism and Workers' Democracy

The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) has set April 2011, the 50th anniversary of the revolution’s victory over the US-Cuban exile mercenary force at the Bay of Pigs, for its 6th Congress. I follow this process with special attention, in part, because I participated in the PCC’s 4th congress preparatory discussion, in 1991.

Like millions of others around the world, I feel the Cuban revolution was (and is) fought for me too. Cubans, including their leader Fidel Castro, help make us feel so. For instance, as recounted in the book Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel Fidel told Lee Lockwood: “Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies… Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.”

Although I was not a Party member, and not a Cuban citizen, I was permitted to participate in the PCC discussions because I was working as a volunteer on an oil tanker in Santiago de Cuba, one of five I sailed on. (My experience was recounted in the article “Cuba at Sea” in the London journal Socialist Resistance.)

After hours of discussing ideas, including my own about the need for greater journalist freedom and citizenry participation in the media, the seamen passed two motions: my proposal, and democratization of decision-making generally. After the meeting, most said these discussions were a waste of words. In the end, they saw no results from their motions, but the Party did listen to some of the one million complaints and proposals.

Several times in the last half-century of revolutionary Cuba citizens have been allowed to discuss national policies (not international ones) but the results have been consultative rather than binding—with the exception of adopting a new constitution in 1976, and modifying it in 1992. Three years ago, shortly after Raul Castro took over the presidency, the Party launched a national discussion about the future of the revolution. Millions contributed ideas, but there was no real mechanism to implement anything debated.

Last November, the leading members of the PCC, several of whom hold key government positions, announced 291 proposals for reforms in 12 areas of economic and social life Cubans. A burning question is if the 800,000 Communist Party members’ discussion, plus that of non-members, will actually affect the policies to be taken at the forthcoming PCC VI congress.

There is no proposed mechanism to assure this happens in the 32-page document. Nor is there any procedure for introducing other matters.
Cuba's Communist Party Congress meets this AprilCuba's Communist Party Congress meets this April

Why Pakistan Cannot Release the Man Who Calls Himself Raymond Davis

(Exclusive to ThisCantBeHappening!)

Islamabad–By now journalists everywhere (except in the US) have come to the conclusion that there is far, far more to Raymond Davis than is being revealed by the US or by Pakistani officials. That he was engaged in anti-state activities in Pakistan and that the two young men he killed were intelligence agents tailing him is virtually an accepted fact.

The US, never famous for its diplomacy (The Ugly American, which made that point more than half a century ago, became a best seller and a very successful movie, starring Marlon Brando), seems to have discovered fresh depths to its strong-arm, coercive diplomacy. The mere fact that no less a personage than the US President has asked that this low-ranked person be granted absolute immunity, is indicative of the US desperation to get him him out of Pakistan and its court system.

One Western journalist has referred to this incident as the “biggest intelligence fiasco since the downing of a U-2 by the erstwhile USSR in 1962.” Obviously, the apprehension is that were he to be tried and convicted in Pakistan and handed a lengthy prison, or even a death sentence, Davis might “spill the beans” and that, were he to do so, those Wikileaks cables could pale into insignificance!

That, in itself, is more than sufficient reason for Pakistan to refuse to hand him over; but there is far more to Pakistan’s problems regarding this issue than just that. However, before we get to those, some comically farcical blunders committed by the US Embassy in Pakistan merit narration, since I am fairly certain these are not being reported by the US media. They illustrate clearly the extent of the desperation American officials are feeling!

On January 25th 2011, just two days before Davis shot and killed the two young Pakistanis, the US Embassy submitted a list of its diplomatic and non-diplomatic staff in Pakistan to the Pakistani Foreign Office (FO), as all foreign nations are required to do annually. The list included 48 names. Raymond Davis was not on the list. The day after Davis shot and killed the two Pakistanis, the US Embassy suddenly submitted a “revised” list to the Foreign Office which added Davis’ name!

When Pakistani police took Davis into custody on January 27th, he had on his person an ordinary American passport with a valid ordinary Pakistan visa, issued by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. On January 28th, a member of the US Consulate wanted the Pakistani police to exchange that passport in Davis’ possession with another one. The fresh passport being offered was a diplomatic passport with a valid diplomatic visa dated sometime in 2009. This visa was stamped in Islamabad by the FO!

It gets ridiculously funnier. The prosecutor representing the Punjab government has presented two letters from the US Embassy as evidence before the Lahore High Court, forwarded to the Punjab government through the FO. The first letter, dated January 27, reads: “Davis is an employee of the US Consulate General Lahore and holder of a diplomatic passport.” The second, dated February 3rd, states that Davis is a member of the “administrative and technical staff of the US Embassy Islamabad!” Just how gullible do the Americans take Pakistanis to be!
Pakistan could explode if Raymond Davis doesn't go to trialPakistan could explode if Raymond Davis doesn't go to trial

She Wants to Be 'The People’s Sheriff' in Philadelphia

A well-known Philadelphia poor peoples advocate has decided to try something different. She’s running for Sheriff of Philadelphia.

Cheri Honkala, founder of the local Kensington Welfare Rights Union and national director of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, announced on Thursday, February 17, she will be running in the November election as the Green Party candidate for Sheriff in the City Of Philadelphia.

“I’m running for Sheriff because something needs to be done to address the plague of home evictions being faced by poor and working families in Philadelphia,” Honkala said. The theme of the Honkala campaign is: “Keeping Families In Their Homes.”

Since evictions and Sheriff’s sale auctions of foreclosed properties are a core task undertaken by the Office Of Sheriff, Honkala’s entrée adds a provocative dimension to an already interesting race.

Cheri Honkala announces she's running for Sheriff of PhiladelphiaCheri Honkala announces she's running for Sheriff of Philadelphia

As “The People’s Sheriff,” Honkala says she will fulfill all the traditional functions of the office that includes transport of inmates to and from city prisons and courthouses, as well as courthouse security. “We will green the transporting of prisoners,” she said, which includes preserving both public safety and the dignity of Philadelphia inmates.

Currently, the Sheriff’s office is facing subpoenas from a US Attorney in a federal grand jury probe addressing things like $53 million missing from the Real Estate Department, the department Honkala has her sights set on. The problems came to light after an audit by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

When Sheriff John Green, who held the elected office for 22 years, was asked about the absence of records covering his staff’s vacation days, he reportedly said he didn’t need records, since Sheriff’s Office workers worked 24/7. Presumably they were working even if they were at one of the new casinos in the city.

Diplomatic and Consular Immunity: One Rule for Foreign Consulates in US, Another for US Consulates Abroad

President Obama, before he was a President or a Senator, was a constitutional law professor. He should know the law.

And yet in the increasingly dangerous show-down over Pakistan’s arrest and detention of Lahore consular contract “security official” Raymond Davis, who is charged with two counts of murder for the shooting deaths of two young Pakistanis on January 27, the president has grossly misstated what international law is with respect to the immunity from prosecution of diplomatic and consular officials.

As the president put it on a few days ago at a press conference, “With respect to Davis, our diplomat in Pakistan, we’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future. If our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution. We respect it with respect to diplomats who are here. We expect Pakistan, that’s a signatory should recognize Davis as a diplomat, to abide by the same convention.”

The first problem is that Davis isn’t a “diplomat.” At best he’s a consulate employee. Furthermore, whoever wrote the president his lines or gave him his background briefing sure didn’t read the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963! Nor did he or she read a document issued last August by the US State Department titled: Diplomatic and Consular Immunity; Guidance for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities (Dept. of State Pub. 10524)
US State Dept. has one rule on immunity for consular officials here, another for our guys overseasUS State Dept. has one rule on immunity for consular officials here, another for our guys overseas

US Misinformation: International Law is Clear that Diplomatic Immunity is Not Absolute

Lahore, Pakistan–You cannot open the TV, or read a paper here without more and more news about Raymond Davis and his murderous act. His killing on Jan. 27 of two young Pakistanis has created international waves, too, plunging the Pakistan-America relationship into stormy waters.

A great deal has been written about the case: Raymond Davis’s employment status, whether he is a diplomat or not, who his victims were and what led to their demise at his hands, and finally whether or not Davis can be detained and ultimately tried under the Pakistani Law.

Interestingly though, nobody in the media has made a study of the Vienna Diplomatic Coventions that discuss diplomatic immunity. The convention of 1961 gets cited routinely by the American government, which claims it grants all diplomatic workers immunity from prosecution.

But that claim overstates the case. The actual document — never actually quoted — is more nuanced.
Yasmeen AliYasmeen Ali

Tyrants Beware: The People of Egypt Have Done It! They Have Driven Mubarak Out!

Breaking News! After 18 days of huge protests, Egypt’s dictator of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, has been driven from power by the uprising of the Egyptian people, who refused to accept his attempt last night to hang on to power.

Mubarak ousted by People Power!Mubarak ousted by People Power!

There is still much to know, but the 20-second announcement on state television at 6 pm Egyptian time informed the country that Hosni Mubarak had been driven from the Presidency of Egypt. It appears that his handpicked successor, the blood-drenched Interior Ministry head Omar Suleiman, who had been “vice president” for a few days, and who made the announcement, has also been pushed out–he said in flat tones on state television that the Army would henceforth be running the country’s affairs.

The reality is that it was the demonstrators and strikers who made this happen, but technically the ousting of Mubarak was a military coup, and It remains to be seen if the army will now to hold power and keep the ruling elite in power, or whether it will hand things over to civilians from the incredible people’s movement that has accomplished this astonishing feat.

One thing’s for sure: it would be hard to push the millions of Egyptians whose peaceful but unflinching protests achieved this revolution back into the shadows and margins of society and economic life where they have lived for half a century.

As one man told an Al Jazeera reporter: “The Egyptian People now know that they can do this. We have just witnessed the rebirth of a great nation!”

The Tahrir Blues

Hosni Mubarak has chosen not to fold his losing hand and to play it to the bitter end.

After the CIA and the Egyptian military said he was going to resign, he didn’t, which further escalated the tension around the question hanging over Cairo: Who is the military going to side with?

Is it the bloated kleptocrat and his bloody sidekick Omar Suleiman – the inseparable ally the generals have been in bed with since the State Of Emergency was declared in 1981 — or the Egyptian citizens who refuse to leave Tahrir Square and demand a suspension of the constitution, then fair and open elections.

For the military the choice seems like whether to let go of your 300-pound mother as she’s pulling you into powerfully raging floodwaters. If you don’t let her go, she’s going to drag you into even more dangerous waters that will assure all your doom.

As a veteran of decades of anti-militarism activism in America – child’s play here compared to Tahrir Square — I feel the people in Tahrir are my brothers and sisters. Like many, I’m moved by their bravery and determination.

Always hanging over them is a relentless wet blanket, an oppressive, smothering force represented by the militarist juggernaut reaching from Washington DC, through Israel and Saudi Arabia, to the deeply funded and entrenched military class of Egypt.

Tahrir Square and Presidents Mubarak and ObamaTahrir Square and Presidents Mubarak and Obama

After Mubarak’s speech on Thursday, the chants rose in Tahrir Square: “The people and the army! Hand in hand!”

Amazingly, the Egyptian Army, by all standards probably one of the more corrupt military institutions in the world, is now the peacemaker in Egypt, perched above it all like a vulture calculating how long the Tahrir Square forces can hold out and how long Mubarak and his fat cronies can keep believing they’re leading Egypt.

Do the generals appease the demonstrators and essentially pull off a coup for democracy, pushing Mubarak into exile, then suspend the constitution and arrange real elections? Or do they appease Mubarak and Suleiman and start shooting demonstrators in front of the international media?