February 11, 2008

DEAD SEA, Jordan -- Watching Al Jazeera in Jordan I see the Khalid Sheik Mohammad and six others have been charged for the attacks of 9/11. It's something like six years since the crime was committed. It has been used as the justification for any number of government crimes. The accused have been kept in prison in Guantanamo for all these years and the government couldn't even file charges against them. It just maintained a sort of omnipotent stance of: They are guilty because we say so. And they were waterboarded, about which Al Jazeera cautiously says, "which some call torture." But it is torture, whether or not some demur. So the accused were held for six years without charges and were tortured and the case that is finally brought against them is based on information extracted through torture. Who's kidding whom? There's not a shred of legitimacy in the whole process. These guys could be the nastiest bad-ass criminals and mass murderers in the world, or they could just be people who look nasty to people like George Bush and Dick Cheney. We'll probably never know and the truth will probably never be established because the process by which such things are usually determined has been arrogantly discarded by the Bush administration. Some day the truth may come out about what happened on 9/11, but this process has no integrity, so is unlikely to produce much of value. The whole thing is just pathetic. To think that the United States of America has fallen to such thuggish levels is sad.

February 17, 2008

Gee, isn't that funny? According to the New York Times, "Black voters are heavily represented in the 94th Election District in Harlem’s 70th Assembly District. Yet according to the unofficial results from the New York Democratic primary last week, not a single vote in the district was cast for Senator Barack Obama. That anomaly was not unique. In fact, a review by The New York Times of the unofficial results reported on primary night found about 80 election districts among the city’s 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district." Does anybody -- ANYBODY -- believe the U.S. voting system, a majority of which is done with machines that have been proven over and over in scientific tests to be unreliable, has integrity and can be relied on? Does anyone think the former bastion of democracy can now be called one? If this story, which has surfaced in the grand old establishment voice of the New York Times, does not convince that something is seriously amiss, then what will it take? For many, complaining about the voting machines is just irritating noise from cranks and conspiracy theorists. Only a couple of years ago, the issue was almost universally written off in establishment media as conspiracy theory, which should give a little insight into the meaning and use of that term. These 80 districts where allegedly not a single soul felt like casting a vote for Obama, including Black-dominated districts, are evidence that Obama's popularity is overcoming whatever can be done against him in election tampering. It is getting to the point that in order to tip the balance against him with the voting machines, extreme measures must be taken. And they are starting to show up in very odd ways, like this one. Very very interesting. This is a good one for the Coincidence Theory file. The jolly see-no-evil Times informs us that, "The history of New York elections has been punctuated by episodes of confusion, incompetence and even occasional corruption." Even occasionally corruption! Imagine that -- corruption in squeaky clean New York! Could that really be true? However, the Times is incapable of suspicion in this case. Why? Well ... city officials have reassured them. According to the Times, "City election officials said they were convinced that there was nothing sinister to account for the inaccurate initial counts, and The Times’s review found a handful of election districts in the city where Mrs. Clinton received zero votes in the initial results." Oh good! For a second I thought there really was something sinister, but now I feel so much better.
  • On the Other Hand -- According to this writer at Direct Democracy, Obama's claims to be bringing Republicans into the Democratic party to vote for him may well be a Republican plan to eliminate Hillary Clinton. Check out the argument at "Obama Unmasked & Gamed".

    February 18, 2008

    The Beef -- Truthout's Scott Galindez writes that in regard to Obama's substance or not, "It's true that his stump speeches are full of soaring oratory and do not satisfy policy wonks, but do a simple search of his web site and you will find substance. He also regularly gives policy speeches packed with specifics." Read the rest at Truthout.
  • The Yin and the Yang of Barack -- Bill Van Auken, posting on the World Socialist Web Site, writes that Obama has two faces, one that appeals to the populist yearnings of a deeply discontented people, and another that is dealing closely with Wall Street titans. "As for the question of war," Auken writes, "those looking to the Obama campaign as a means of ending American militarism will be sorely disappointed. The Illinois Senator has vowed not to reduce the ballooning US military budget—which consumes an estimated $700 billion annually—but rather to increase it. He has called for the recruitment of another 65,000 soldiers for the Army as well as 27,000 more Marines. He has vowed to put 'more boots on the ground' in the 'war on terror,' the pretext invented by the Bush administration to justify 'preemptive war,' i.e., military aggression aimed at asserting US hegemony over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. As for Iraq itself, his promises to end the war are belied by his pledge to keep American forces in Iraq to defend 'US interests' and conduct 'counterterrorism operations,' a formula that would see tens of thousands of US soldiers and Marines continuing to occupy Iraq and repress its population for many years to come." See "The Two Faces of Barack Obama".


    February 18, 2008

    AMMAN, Jordan -- In the Hyatt hotel in Amman, they actually have Fox News, something I have rarely seen outside of the U.S. CNN has its international versions, honed and targeted to international audiences. But the Fox News I am seeing here looks like the same old crap they broadcast in America, the lurid reports of sordid murders and scandals, the kinds of lowbrow stuff you see on cheap tabloids at grocery store checkout lines designed to keep the masses attention of any meaningful political stories. It's so strange and curious to see Fox outside of America, providing a fascinating glimpse into the American psyche for people in other countries. Embarrassing for Americans with IQs over 40 to show the world its grisly underside. But at least now they can understand why Americans let their government get away with such outrages.
  • And Yet ... Fox News ran a demonstration of hacking voting machines. People are asking why on earth Fox, the Evil Empire of broadcasting would run something exposing the hackability of the machines. I suspect that the repetition of the statistic "Five percent of the country votes on these machines" has something to do with it. It makes it look like a very small threat. It's much greater than that. See the broadcast here:
  • Artful Lies -- The whole world watches the American elections closely, of course, because it affects the lives of billions. A clip of McCain recently showed him posing a typically twisted piece of GOP logic. He framed the healthcare issue as a question between "Whether we’re going to have the government run the health care system in this country, as the Democrats want to do, or we’re going to have families make their choices about health care in America." ( Somehow the HMOs, the mighty corporations who really do control the healthcare system in America got left out of that equation. McCain puts the big bad government on one side, and struggling families on the other. But McCain is talking about continuing the status quo, in which the healthcare of families is controlled by huge corporations who are in the business of making money off of them. With rates going up every year in large jumps and millions of Americans unable to get health insurance at all, it's obvious the insurance companies put their profits first, as corporations are mandated to do, and the welfare of their customers is only a concern as it affects profits.

    February 19, 2008

    Words Words Words -- Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson accused Barack Obama with plagiarism because of a part of an Obama speech that is much like a speech given by gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick in 2006. The clip of the two segments can be seen on The idea of the two speeches is the same, both saying, essentially, I have been accused of having nothing to offer but words, and then going on to quote some of the major passages from great speeches, such as "I have a dream," "Ask not what your country can do for you..." "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Obama uses the same idea as Patrick, but it's mostly quotes of others anyway, and Obama does not use exactly the same quotes in the same order. If it were a literary issue, I doubt that it would be ruled legally as plagiarism. We are talking not about a word-for-word quote, but an idea, and you can't copyright an idea. It's unlikely that Patrick is the first person who ever made that connection in defending against the same argument. It's a pretty lame argument by the Clinton camp, and risky because at best they get some people to think Obama used few lines fromm a speech that responded to the same charges the Clintons have been leveling against Obama. People can see the clip. It seems unlikely it will be something a lot of people will really get excited about. It's not a crime. At worst it looks like the Clinton camp is being petty because they are desperate to bring down Obama as he appears to be pulling away in recent weeks. The Clinton camp has legitimate issues it could bring up about obama. Bringing up this rather weak charge makes it look like they have nothing better to say. Patrick said he shared the ideas with Obama's speechwriters anyway, so in a time when most politicians don't write their own speeches there aren't a lot of legs to this charge.

    February 20, 2008

    Rare Candor -- Hand it to New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, he's not mincing words and tapdancing around the fact that Obama got zero votes in 80 districts, including some with substantial Black representation. In the New York Post, Bloomberg is quoted as saying, "If you want to call it significant undercounting, I guess that's a euphemism for fraud." The New York Times went so far as to report it, but shied away from questioning it. With real or feigned naivete the Times was perfectly satisfied that "City election officials said they were convinced that there was nothing sinister to account for the inaccurate initial counts." So even though the vote counts are obviously way off, the Times is convinced that all is well because some election officials said so, not that it explains what happened. You can always count on the Times to really dig in and ask the tough questions, always on the alert for abuses of power, always watching out for the citizenry! All the news! All that's "fit to print" anyway, according to some mysterious decision makers.

    -- David Cogswell

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