March 17, 2006

From FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting):
"The Final Word Is Hooray!"
Remembering the Iraq War's Pollyanna pundits

Weeks after the invasion of Iraq began, Fox News Channel host Brit Hume delivered a scathing speech critiquing the media's supposedly pessimistic assessment of the Iraq War.

"The majority of the American media who were in a position to comment upon the progress of the war in the early going, and even after that, got it wrong," Hume complained in the April 2003 speech (Richmond Times Dispatch, 4/25/03). "They didn't get it just a little wrong. They got it completely wrong."

Hume was perhaps correct--but almost entirely in the opposite sense. Days or weeks into the war, commentators and reporters made premature declarations of victory, offered predictions about lasting political effects and called on the critics of the war to apologize. Three years later, the Iraq War grinds on at the cost of at least tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Around the same time as Hume's speech, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas declared (4/16/03): "All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking."

Gathered here are some of the most notable media comments from the early days of the Iraq War. more...

March 16, 2006

The Crumbling Empire
Latin America and Asia are Breaking Free of Washington's Grip
By NOAM CHOMSKY

The prospect that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence has troubled US planners since the second world war. The concerns have only risen as the "tripolar order"--Europe, North America and Asia--has continued to evolve.

Every day Latin America, too, is becoming more independent. Now Asia and the Americas are strengthening their ties while the reigning superpower, the odd man out, consumes itself in misadventures in the Middle East.

Regional integration in Asia and Latin America is a crucial and increasingly important issue that, from Washington's perspective, betokens a defiant world gone out of control. Energy, of course, remains a defining factor--the object of contention--everywhere. more...

March 15, 2006

Election '06
GOP's Culture of Corruption Vs. Democrat's Culture of Weakness
by David Sirota  

The American Heritage Dictionary describes the term "weak" as "lacking firmness of character or strength of will, lacking aptitude or skill, lacking the ability to function normally or fully or lacking authority or the power to govern." Incredibly, even with President Bush at an all-time low, we are watching the Democratic Party in Washington fulfill all these definitions and more.

Let's just forget about the fact that congressional Democrats refuse to take a serious position on the Iraq War - the most pressing national security issue of the day. Let's forget about what a joke it is for the party to think it is going to compete on national security without taking a serious, contrasting position on the war. Let's even forget about the fact that the party is still too afraid to do this while polls have now shown for 3 years that the American public wants a change of direction on war policy. Let's just take a look at what's gone on over the last week.

First, you saw the House Democratic Leadership publicly pee down its leg in knee-shaking fright, removing a major report on Republican corruption from its website. Why? Because they feared the GOP would yell at them about it. Now, a sane person would say - that would be great! If the GOP did that, it would call attention to the report, right? Yes, you are right - but today's congressional Democrats are apparently so afraid of their own shadow, so self-absorbed and comfortable in the minority, that they are afraid even to bait the GOP into doing what they should want them to do.

Then, yesterday (Monday), you saw Democratic Senators run for cover when one of their own - Sen. Russ Feingold (D) - courageously asked the U.S. Senate to stand up and defend the Constitution by censuring the president for breaking the law with his illegal, no-court-order domestic wiretapping scheme. Again, polls show the public believes the president should have to get a court order, and should not be able to simply make up laws on his own. Yet, Senate Democrats - cowering in fear in the comfortable confines of the Senate cloakroom - refused to back up Feingold. more...

March 14, 2006

Robertson Finds Radical Muslims 'Satanic'
By SONJA BARISIC, Associated Press Writer

Television evangelist Pat Robertson said Monday on his live news-and-talk program "The 700 Club" that Islam is not a religion of peace, and that radical Muslims are "satanic."
---snip---

Robertson also said that "the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not, is world domination." more...

**********

The Right's Man
By Paul Krugman

     It's time for some straight talk about John McCain. He isn't a moderate. He's much less of a maverick than you'd think. And he isn't the straight talker he claims to be.     

Mr. McCain's reputation as a moderate may be based on his former opposition to the Bush tax cuts. In 2001 he declared, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us."  

   But now - at a time of huge budget deficits and an expensive war, when the case against tax cuts for the rich is even stronger - Mr. McCain is happy to shower benefits on the most fortunate. He recently voted to extend tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, an action that will worsen the budget deficit while mainly benefiting people with very high incomes.  

   When it comes to foreign policy, Mr. McCain was never moderate. During the 2000 campaign he called for a policy of "rogue state rollback," anticipating the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive war unveiled two years later. Mr. McCain called for a systematic effort to overthrow nasty regimes even if they posed no imminent threat to the United States; he singled out Iraq, Libya and North Korea. Mr. McCain's aggressive views on foreign policy, and his expressed willingness, almost eagerness, to commit U.S. ground forces overseas, explain why he, not George W. Bush, was the favored candidate of neoconservative pundits such as William Kristol of The Weekly Standard.    

 Would Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, have found some pretext for invading Iraq? We'll never know. But Mr. McCain still thinks the war was a good idea, and he rejects any attempt to extricate ourselves from the quagmire. "If success requires an increase in American troop levels in 2006," he wrote last year, "then we must increase our numbers there." He didn't explain where the overstretched U.S. military is supposed to find these troops.     

When it comes to social issues, Mr. McCain, who once called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance," met with Mr. Falwell late last year. Perhaps as a result, he is now taking positions friendly to the religious right. Most notably, Mr. McCain's spokesperson says that he would have signed South Dakota's extremist new anti-abortion law. more...

March 13, 2006

Former Top Judge Says US Risks Edging Near to Dictatorship
Š Sandra Day O'Connor warns of rightwing attacks
ŠLawyers 'must speak up' to protect judiciary
by Julian Borger  

Sandra Day O'Connor, a Republican-appointed judge who retired last month after 24 years on the supreme court, has said the US is in danger of edging towards dictatorship if the party's rightwingers continue to attack the judiciary.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University, reported by National Public Radio and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Ms O'Connor took aim at Republican leaders whose repeated denunciations of the courts for alleged liberal bias could, she said, be contributing to a climate of violence against judges. more...

**********

THE FULL SENATE MUST DO WHAT THE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE WOULD NOT
CENSURE BUSH FOR HIS ILLEGAL WIRETAPS ACTION PAGE

The president has admitted he broke the law. And yet the Senate Intelligence Committed abdicated its oversight responsibility by refusing to even conduct an investigation.

On March 12, Senator Feingold called for the Senate to censure Bush for systematically authorizing illegal wiretaps of Americans in defiance of the authority of the FISA court. Even retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor sees the looming threat of dictatorship.

When will members of Congress who hate Americans and their rights stop conflating the checks and balances in our Constitution with treason? The REAL treason is by those who would defend any criminal behavior by the commander in chief in the name of patriotism. Crimes against our own citizens do NOT make us safer and cannot be tolerated in a free democratic society, and especially not when justified only by fear-mongering about the threat from outside.

March 12, 2006

Guantanamo on the Mississippi
by Jordan Flaherty  

Sometimes the injustices here in New Orleans leave me numb. But the continuing debacle of our criminal justice system inspires in me a sense of indignation I thought was lost to cynicism long ago. Ursula Price, a staff investigator for the indigent defense organization A Fighting Chance, has met with several thousand hurricane survivors who were imprisoned at the time of the hurricane, and her stories chill me "I grew up in small town Mississippi," she tells me. "We had the Klan marching down our main street. But still, I've never seen anything like this."

Safe Streets, Strong Communities, a New Orleans-based criminal justice reform coalition that Price also works with, has just released a report based on more than a hundred recent interviews with prisoners who have been locked up since pre-Katrina and are currently spread across thirteen prisons and hundreds of miles. They found the average number of days people had been locked up without a trial was 385 days. One person had been locked up for 1,289 days. None of them have been convicted of any crime.

"I've been working in the system for the while, I do capital cases and I've seen the worst that the criminal justice system has to offer," Price told me. "But even I am shocked that there has been so much disregard for the value of these peoples lives, especially people who have not been proved to have done anything wrong." As lawyers, advocates, and former prisoners stressed to me in interviews over the last couple of weeks, arrest is not the same as conviction. According to a pre-Katrina report from the Metropolitan Crime Commission, 65% of those arrested in New Orleans are eventually released without ever having been charged with any crime. more...

March 11, 2006

Externalizing the Cost of War
By Charles Sullivan

It must seem odd to the world that while our nation is coming apart at the seams, and every last shred of decency is being severed from the cloth of conscience, all we can do is watch American Idol and Survivor. According to author Mike Green (The Whole Truth about the U.S. War on Terror), there are one hundred and ninety-two recognized nations on earth, and the U.S. has troops stationed in one hundred and thirty-five of them. In total, we have in excess of four hundred thousand troops occupying a substantial majority of the world. The nation with the second largest number of troops deployed is Great Britain with thirty-five thousand, followed by France with twenty-three thousand. Apparently, bringing democracy to the world requires an extensive presence and lots of weapons. If only that were what this is about. It is really about hegemony, domination, global empire.

Perhaps America‚s insatiable demand for entertainment is in fact a form of self medication whose delivery mechanism is television, rather than the hypodermic needle. Mind-numbing, irrelevant, sensory-depriving entertainment is a method to kill the pain of a truth that laves ceaselessly upon the shores of our eroded conscienceųa truth so painful that we must suppress it at all cost. It is American Idol, a program whose mass appeal I have never understood, that keeps the white noise of reality at bay and allows so many to ignore the world‚s pain and misery.

Reality television does many things. But one thing I am quite certain that it does not do is portray reality. Cheap and shallow entertainment only dulls the senses, like imbibing alcohol in excess to keep us comfortably numb, safely insulated from the reality that our nation is foisting upon the world. For many of the world‚s people, America has reduced their reality to piles of broken rubble; lonely hours of endless terror called Shock and Awe; the filth and stench of secret gulags where torture is implemented on a scale known only to the CIA. The disquieting loss of life and its impact upon families is beyond the pale of comprehension. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are not democracy and they never will be.

The cries of anguish can barely be heard above the din of our own personal struggles in a society that values profits above people. Better turn up the volume on the television to drown out the screams of The New World Order‚s democracy. We wouldn‚t want to feel uncomfortable about what the president is doing in our name. The suffering and anguish of faceless, nameless people of other nationalities is a small price to pay for the level of comfort we enjoy. As long as we do not allow reality to come rushing at us all at once, we can manage to live with ourselves. There is safety in ignoranceųthe refuge of all self-loathing cowardice. Thank God, we are a Christian nation steeped in a tradition of puritanical religion, with only the blood of the native peoples on our grasping white hands. Let us pray. more...
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No War in Iraq march.

San Francisco, Ca., January 18, 2003
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Klezmatics

Klezmatics concert photos. (These are uncorrected straight out out of the camera)

On April 3, 2005, Barbara and I went to see the Klezmatics, with guest Joshua Nelson, Jewish gospel singer. To quote the concert program, "Their soul-stirring Jewish roots music recreates klezmer in arrangements and compostions that combine Jewish identity and mysticism with a contemporary zeitgeist and a postmodern aesthetic. Since their founding in New York City's East Village in 1986, the Klezmatics have celebrated the ecstatic nature of Yiddish music with works by turn wild, spiritual, provocative, reflective and danceable." The concert was phenomenal.

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