#1: I don’t know why the Left is so so jazzed about FBI raids on the anti-war movement. Shouldn’t we be thanking them for finding it? I mean, that was some serious investigative work. I’m 59 years old. I’ve been going to anti-war demonstrations most of my life. Since a few a biggies in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the peace demonstrations I’ve attended have repeatedly attracted the same 34 people, all of whom hate each other because of differing interpretations of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, and they’re surrounded in a “free speech zone” by barricades and police on horses, and they always have a terrible sound system, so that pedestrians wince and go to the other side of the street.
The FBI thinks the Freedom Road Socialist Organization is a threat to the corporate state? Where do I join?
#2: A few months ago I was wandering around Barnes and Noble and found this giant, remaindered book of New York Times front pages down through history. I was astonished to find one from 1968, the day after a big antiwar demonstration in Washington, and the Times had splashed five big stories about the demonstration across eight columns on the front page, and most of the rest of the stories concerned some tear in the social fabric.
It was astonishing. The Left? In The New York Times? All over the front page? Those were the days, my friend. Maybe the fact that The New York Times actually covered the recent FBI raids will signal the rest of corporate journalism that they can go back to scapegoating the Left instead of ignoring it. Publicity is publicity.
US-led forces in Afghanistan sure did a bang-up job this week at promoting the concept of Western “democracy.”
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the puppet intelligence agency of the Afghan government, between them, arrested and held three journalists. Rahmatullah Nekzad, a freelance reporter for Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, Mohammed Nader, a staff correspondent and cameraman for Al Jazeera, and Hojatullah Mojadadi, an Afghan local radio station manager, were all held without charge for the “crime” of allegedly having developed contacts with the Taliban. Nekzada and Nader were held by US forces for three days. Mojadadi was held by Afghan authorities for six days.
The three were finally released thanks to international pressure and following demands for the release of the two NATO-held journalists made by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The US military was upset with the fact that AP and Al Jazeera stringer Nekzad had developed contacts with Taliban forces. Actually, in the initial press announcement from NATO forces, they said that he was a “suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator, who participated in filming election attacks.” That is to say, he managed to get over to the “other side” in a guerrilla war, to let the outside world see what is going on in Afghanistan. Nader was accused of propagandizing for the Taliban.
The Republican right’s Pledge to America is widely being compared with Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. But for those of us with long enough memories, it more clearly harkens back a decade further, to the early days of the Reagan Administration. Now, as then, the Republican agenda has two major political thrusts.
First, the Republicans are advancing a Reaganesque program based around defense Keynesianism, an economic pump-prime through military spending. It signals a victory for the Pentagon generals who have been fighting Obama to further expand what certainly appears to be a futile war in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan–one that can go on and on indefinitely. Moreover, the Republicans want to fund an expensive missile defense system. Just as with Reagan, once this kind of spending gets going, they will be congratulating themselves on new jobs making armaments. At the same time, they can talk of shrinking the deficit by reducing or eliminating domestic programs.
That’s the nub of the pledge, with one adroit addition. This document makes no mention of reducing or eliminating Social Security. This is good politics before the election, and it’s bound to undercut the Obama administration, which has created the fiscal commission to reduce deficits, and is widely assumed to have Medicare and Social Security in its sights.
At the beginning of the Iraq “surge” in 2007, Senator Barack Obama was leery of General David Petraeus, but now, we learn, he has warmed to the four-star Pentagon celebrity and calls him “Dave.”
In meetings, according to an anonymous White House official, when the talk is of Afghanistan, Petraeus “always brings up Iraq” and the surge there, The New York Times reports.
By all accounts a very savvy politician always aware of his image, it is not strange that Petraeus would remind people of the thing he is most revered for, which is the so-called “surge” in Anbar Province of Iraq, the strategy that turned a hemorrhaging disaster into a stabilized, suppurating wound.
The Fog of War is Thickening in Afghanistan
Now, he is doing the same thing in Afghanistan – except Afghanistan is politically and culturally about six centuries behind Iraq.
ATTN: See a short film by Ted Passon on this story near the bottom of this homepage
During the contentious 1982 murder trial of Philadelphia radio-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, a central argument of the prosecution in making its case for the conviction and for imposition of a death penalty was the trial testimony of two key eyewitnesses who claimed to have actually seen Abu-Jamal fire his pistol repeatedly, at virtually point-blank range, into the prone Officer Daniel Faulkner.
This testimony about Abu-Jamal’s shooting at the defenseless policeman execution-style solidified the prosecution’s portrayal of Abu-Jamal as a cold-blooded assassin.
There was however, always the lingering question, never raised at trial, or even during the subsequent nearly three-decades-long appeals process, of why, if Abu-Jamal had fired four bullets downward at Faulkner, only hitting him once with a bullet between the eyes on the morning of December 9, 1981, there was no evidence in the surface of the sidewalk around the officer’s body of the bullets that missed.
Now ThisCantBeHappening! has raised further questions about that troubling lack of any evidence of missed shots by doing something that neither defense nor prosecution ever bothered to do, namely conducting a gun test using a similar gun and similar bullets fired from a similar distance into a slab of old concrete sidewalk similar to the sidewalk at the scene of the original shooting on the south side of Locust Street just east of 13th Street in Center City, Philadelphia.
The surprise disclosure that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through its state Homeland Security Agency, along with a number of local police departments in the state, have been employing a private Israeli security company with strong links to Mossad and the Israeli Defense Force to spy on law-abiding citizens, grows increasingly disturbing when the website of the company, called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, is examined.
ITRR’s slick site at TerrorResponse.org features a homepage image of an armor-clad soldier or riot policeman preparing to fire an automatic pistol, while the company boasts of being “the preeminent Isreal/American security firm, providing training, intelligence and education for clients across the globe.”
Image captured from ITRR's website
“The Obama administration is debating whether to make Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, a more central player in efforts to root out corruption in his own government, including giving him more oversight of graft investigations and notifying him before any arrests.”
This was the lead paragraph in a front page New York Times story on September 15 by reporters Mark Mazzetti and Rod Nordland.
President Obama, they wrote, has instructed key players in his administration to come up with more “sophisticated” guidelines for dealing with Afghan corruption. Specifically, they want to attack only that corruption that drives Afghans into the arms of the insurgency. All other corruption is OK.
The country that overthrew duly-elected moderate governments in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s, sponsored a bloody 1973 coup in Chile and connived with France to bring down 40 years of war on the people of Vietnam is now “debating” whether to notify the elected president of a sovereign nation before it arrests members of his government?
What other than hubris gives us the right to do this kind of thing?
Dancing for Independence: The weekly Sardana in Barcelona's Old Town
But the new constitution was shot down by Spain’s Constitutional Court three months ago, which declared that the central government alone can legally rule, with no self-rule allowed. A huge demonstration, the biggest in 20 years, followed in Barcelona on July 6th. “Tension is growing daily,” says Guillem, the 22-year-old concierge at our hotel, who resembles a young Paul Newman.
Faced with the bad, but hardly surprising news, that poverty has increased in the US on his watch, to a record level not seen since before President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1965, President Obama is declaring that the answer to poverty and joblessness is economic growth.
He’s wrong, but, as they say on NPR’s “Marketplace” program, “But first, the numbers.”
According to new figures from the Census Bureau, the poverty rate in America in 2009 jumped to 15%, up from 13.2% of the population in 2008. That would be one in seven of us, or about 45 million people living below the poverty line of $22,000 for a family of four. Now, obviously, things are pretty tough for people who are earning a lot more than that. It’s not easy getting by with a family of four on $35,000, especially in some parts of the country, so the real poverty rate is probably a whole lot higher than 15%, but let’s not quibble. The point is that we now have the highest rate of poverty that the country has seen since the mid-’60s.
Obama's rosy view of growth is at odds with reality
Obama is claiming that growing the economy is the answer for these people. As he put it at a White House news conference, “The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there…If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle.”
The problem with this answer is that economic growth doesn’t guarantee jobs, and it also doesn’t guarantee that any jobs created, or already there, will pay better wages.
It’s no surprise that the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress are trying to claim that the recession (which they blame on Bush and Cheney) is over and that the economy is slowly returning to health thanks to their efforts at economic stimulus. At least those highly dubious claims get challenged by Republicans, who can be relied on to counter with evidence to the contrary, and to claim (with equal self-serving deception) that the economy is in a slump thanks to Democratic policies.
The problem comes when the media, which are supposed to take a skeptical stance, start playing economic cheerleaders, and providing the public with false information and false hopes.
This has come to be pretty much the norm these days. Those who warn that the underpinnings of the US economy are eroded, and that there is really nothing left to drive a recovery, or who warn that there is a serious danger of a slide into an even deeper recession or even a depression, are written off as “doomsayers,” and given little credence or ink, while the slightest sign of something positive gets hailed as evidence that things are on the mend.