Questions for Karl Rove – and President Bush
by Elizabeth Holtzman and Cynthia L. Cooper
March 31, 2007
San Diego Union-Tribune
The stealth dismissal of U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration carries echoes of the Nixon administration firing special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. Now, as then, we may be witnessing criminal acts of obstruction of justice at the highest levels of government. If left to fester, they will poison our system.
Cox was investigating White House misdeeds when Nixon told Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused and resigned, as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Third-in-charge, Robert Bork, complied, and the “Saturday Night Massacre,” as it was called, came to epitomize an imperial administration, acting above the law and using its power to interfere with legitimate processes of justice.
Outrage among the American people triggered the impeachment inquiry against Nixon and his eventual resignation.
In the current U.S. attorney massacre, the public outrage and the line of inquiry invited by these events feel eerily familiar: Why were these eight U.S. attorneys ousted? Why did the Justice Department misrepresent the reasons for the firings? Why were political aide Karl Rove and other top administration advisers involved in the decisions of whom to fire? Why is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ aide who helped coordinate the firings, Monica Goodling, invoking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress? And what did the president know and when did he know it?
So far the press and Congress have followed evidence of two patterns of firing – for refusing to smear enemies and refusing to protect friends. Fired prosecutors David Iglesias of New Mexico and John McKay of Washington would not pursue criminal voter fraud charges against political opponents in the way the administration wanted. Fired U.S. Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego had prosecuted and was investigating Republicans.
Removal of Frederick A. Black in Guam immediately after he began investigating lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a Bush friend, may be been a precursor to this.
A third firing pattern may exist: using firings to influence election outcomes.
Read the rest here.
31 March 2007
Questions for Karl Rove – and President Bush
The Ordeal of Suzi Hazahza: The Pirates of Homeland Security
By GREG MOSES
One by one, the helium-inflated excuses for arresting and imprisoning Suzi Hazahza have been popped and now lie on the ground. And the single memory humanizing the government that still holds her unlawfully behind bars is the look on one Federal Magistrate's face Thursday in Dallas when he was told by a US Attorney that Congress has stripped the federal bench of any right to order Suzi Hazahza freed until a full six months of illegal detention have passed.
Anguish is the word that some observers have used to describe the look on the judge's face as he wrestled with the impotence of his authority before the power of Homeland Security to arrest and detain innocent immigrants.
"Believe it or not, immigration law is replete with that language," explains New York immigration attorney Joshua Bardavid from his New York office on Friday evening, as sounds of the street honk outside his window. "Congress has told the courts that many discretionary decisions by immigration authorities are unreviewable." In this case, the unreviewable decision involves the unlawful six-month imprisonment of an innocent immigrant in the hellish privatized Rolling Plains prison of Haskell, Texas.
Over the weekend, Bardavid will work up his motion pleading with the Federal Magistrate to exercise his unimpeachable power to enforce the Constitution, with its protections against unlawful seizure and guarantees of due process. But the argument will be a a tough sell politically, because in order to take legal responsibility for Suzi Hazahza, the federal courts will have to state plainly that Homeland Security is using its discretionary authority to break the Constitution on American soil. For an aspiring federal magistrate under the administration of George the Bush II, such a ruling could mean the end of a career and almost certain reversal by the racist Fifth Circuit judges who gave us Hopwood not too many years ago (the ruling that abolished affirmative action in Texas for several years).
"It is extraordinarily upsetting and frustrating that we can live in a system where it is possible that a judge concludes that detention is unlawful but that he himself has no authority to release the prisoner," says Bardavid. But that could be the best hand-wringing effort that the federal courts will make in this case. And it would be a nauseating retreat from the principle of habeas corpus at home.
For Suzi Hazahza, the reality of a powerless judiciary branch, disabled by a weak Congress, will leave her to the hands of a muscular executive power without checks or balances. She will be living in a virtual police state until May 3, when the six-month deadline for her unlawful detention expires. For the rest of us, that leaves a question. If we allow Suzi Hazahza and other innocent immigrants to live in a police state for six months at a time, what are we allowing Homeland Security to make of America?
Read the rest here.
In the same vein, there's this:
From Salem to Gitmo: The Politics of the Witch Hunt
By ROGER MORRIS
A little after two on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2002, Maher Arar, a Canadian businessman of Syrian descent, on his way home to Ottawa after a family vacation, deplaned at New York's JFK Airport -- and walked into a nightmarish history.
Arar also found himself in an all-too-contemporary wasteland of fear, ignorance, racist xenophobia and careerist atavism otherwise known as U.S. foreign policy. It is the service of these two important books to link that gruesome past and present of his emblematic ordeal, a plight in a wider sense we all share.
Canadians will be more familiar with the Arar case, which only two months ago brought a belated public apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a $10.5-million compensation, torture-chamber money that spoke more eloquently than any ministerial words to the shame of the Canadian government. Wrongly accused of ties to al-Qaeda based on plainly bogus information and guilt by the merest association, Arar, his Canadian passport discarded like used tissue, was arrested and interrogated by U.S. agents for five days without seeing a lawyer, and more than a week before the Canadian consul finally showed up -- only to lie to him by saying that the United States would not deport him to Syria as they were threatening.
Days later, he was being beaten and tortured in a Syrian dungeon, where the young McGill University graduate would suffer for more than year, until his wife's tireless campaign and his own desperate false confession brought his release.
In an aftermath of mounting public outrage, Judge Dennis O'Connor's September, 2006, inquiry found categorically that there was no evidence of a terrorist connection, that the RCMP had knowingly passed false information to U.S. authorities, and that Arar -- as Ottawa and Washington both well knew, and some surely intended -- was brutally tortured after being illegally deported to Syria. But Harper's mincing if cash-laden regret for "any role Canadian officials may have played in what happened to Mr. Arar" still ceded the decision to "render" Arar to Syria to the Bush administration, which typically claims it was all quite legal and justified, and in any event secret, a matter of "national security." Judge O'Connor and $10.5-million notwithstanding, south of the border, Maher Arar remains on the terrorist watch-list.
Read it here.
Resisting the Drums of War
The Bush administration promoted the misguided and destructive war in Iraq by targeting our concerns about vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority, and helplessness. The continued occupation of Iraq—or an attack on Iran—will likely be sold to us in much the same way. This video examines these warmongering appeals and describes how to counter them.
As if that was news? From Missing Links
The worse things get in the Middle East, the more it seems English language analysis begins and ends with the realization of the important fact that Bush is an ignorant bully. Unfortunately this often lends itself to melodrama, in the sense that other Mideast actors are assigned only secondary roles, with less than three-dimentional characters. And an incomplete and cartoon-like representation of the players lends itself to further public-relations manipulation. An example: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia referred to the American occupation of Iraq as "illegal" (or "illegitimate") in his opening speech at the Riyadh summit, and this clearly took the American administration by surprise. Since American public opinion had been convinced for a long time that Abdullah was another poodle, this seemed to be little short of a rebellion on the farm. Certaintly it was another manifestation of American policy gone haywire. One part of the PR response from Washington has been to stress that "No, Abdullah has long been impatient with the Bush's lack of action on Palestine; he brought pictures with him to Crawford; he almost walked out until Bush promised to do something; and so on." And the other part is that Abdullah is still on board with the idea of "resolv[ing] the Palestinian issue so they can turn the region's attention to combatting the threat from Iran." In other words, the new spin on Abdullah is that his impatience over the inhumanity of Palestine finally boiled over and he lashed out, in the context of the more-urgent need to get that out of the way so as to combat the threat from Iran. In this way, one cartoon-version of Abdullah, the rebellious poodle, is in the process of being replaced by another, Abdullah the angry humanitarian, cornered.
It is true that what boiled over was the Saudi realization that their regional influence was under threat not only from Iran, but now increasingly from Iraq too. The reference to an illegitimate occupation of Iraq was really an attack on an illegitimate regime, and for Abdullah a threatening regime, in Iraq, sponsored by his supposed ally Bush. It had just recently become clear that the Allawi-American scheme for creation of an alternate, and more Sunni-friendly Green-Zone regime was being discontinued. If there was any one development that pushed Abdullah into using unexpectedly harsh language, that was probably it.
It is true that the feeling of growing threat from Iran and Iraq has changed the Saudi perspective. The Saudi regime now feels an urgent need for local allies, and given the lack of Arab leadership elsewhere (meaning Egypt), this means taking on the missing Arab-leadership role itself, and that in turn means: Promoting action, or at least apparent action, on Palestine. The Saudis are hoping not only for good PR on the Arab street, but also for an end to their feud with Bashar Assad's administration in Syria, weaning Syria away from Iran and back into the Arab fold (and similarly of course with Hamas). While it isn't clear how the proposed Palestinian negotiations will relate to the possible Syria-Israel talks on Golan and other issues, at least the Saudi-Syrian relationship is friendlier than it has recently been (the two having in effect taken opposite sides in the Israel-Hizbullah war). And this is additionally important because Syria and Saudi Arabia have been rivals for influence in Lebanon. What the Saudis are looking for is authority and problem-solving influence in all of these areas. This is not the same as "turn[ing] the region's attention to combatting the threat from Iran".
Condoleeza Rice also wants action, or at least apparent action, on Palestine, so on that point Condoleeza and Abdullah are in apparent agreement. However, this is a question of incremental steps, and the first incremental step that Condoleeza is looking for is gradual de facto recognition of Israel by the Arab regimes in the region generally, so that in any eventual war with Iran, America can be seen as simultaneously on the side of its traditional Arab allies, and on the side of Israel, at the same time. That accounts for the importance of this question of Arab-Israel diplomatic recognition as a first step. The first incremental step for Abdullah is quite different: It is the closing of ranks in the Arab world including Syria and including also Hamas, in order to split both of them from their Iranian relationships and bring them back into the Arab fold. Recognition or otherwise of Israel has nothing to do with it, except in relation to a Palestinian settlement.
Read the rest here.
From An Arab Woman Blues
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Let me ask you something.
Are you as bothered as I am by not knowing the whole Truth?
If anything, the Iraqi "experience" has managed to raise so many questions not only about politics per se but also about perceptions, resilience, sense of belonging, emotions, impulses...in short about humans.
I do not wish to engage you in some phenomenological exercise. I am simply at a point where I need to corner that reflection in the mirror, I need to corner that Truth.
Moving from the political to the personal, from the outside to the inside...
Something about losing one's country is very hard to express in words.
I find myself constantly rummaging through concepts, phrases, trying to find accurate nouns, precise verbs and it keeps slipping through my fingers, evading me, eluding me...
The only sentence I found that is probably as close to what I need to express, came from a mail I received from a fellow Iraqi and this is what he had to say:
"Since March 19, 2003 I am a shadow of my former self. The past four years have changed me forever."
Another mail tells me the same thing using slightly different wordings:
"I no longer recognize myself, I am beside myself..."
Simple powerful sentences that reveal something deep and true...
It sounds as if that former Self that one knows or has gotten used to has also been invaded and occupied...changed forever.
It sounds as if this is no longer my country, this is no longer my home, this is no longer my self...
I am no longer myself. I am shadow of me as if someone else or something else took over and I am standing by the sides watching it all and I no longer recognize anything...
It goes beyond bewilderment, amazement, stupefaction, or shock...It is worse.
It is estrangement from one's self.
We have become strangers to ourselves, strangers to one another, strangers to society, strangers to the group and strangers within...beside ourselves.
Read all of it here.
The New SDS
Twenty-year-old Will Klatt, wearing a green knit hat, baggy jeans and black jacket pulled over a hoodie, stands before a Civil War monument at the center of Ohio University's main campus in Athens. Although a February snow is falling steadily, more than a hundred students have turned out for this rally called by a new organization with a very familiar name: Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
"Many of us at Ohio University have taken classes on the principles of democracy, on justice, on ethics," says Klatt, "and with the presumption that we will use this knowledge, acquired in our classes, to become more informed citizens. Yet this knowledge we acquire is nothing if we do not put it into practice."
The students, including frat boys and jocks, clap and whistle. They are here in protest against new fees, elimination of four varsity sports programs and increased administrative bonus pay. Each decision, organizers say, reflects a lack of student power on campus--as do "free-speech zones" confining student protest to irrelevant corners of campus. "We are talking," says Klatt, "about the corporatization of our university."
Angry at the Iraq debacle, emboldened by the Bush-Cheney tailspin, a new student radicalism is emerging whose concerns include immigrants' rights, global warming and the uncertainties facing debt-ridden graduates. Such considerations distinguish the new SDS from its historical namesake, which took shape in a very different context of economic affluence and establishment liberalism.
The original SDS, formed in 1960, sought "a participatory democracy," the involvement of all in running society from the bottom up, as elaborated in the Port Huron Statement of 1962. Frustrated with conventional liberalism, inspired by the civil rights movement and sustained by opposition to the Vietnam War, SDS grew to perhaps 100,000 members before disintegrating in a shower of fratricidal sparks in 1969.
Read it here.
Study: Alcohol, tobacco worse than drugs
By MARIA CHENG
AP Medical Writer
LONDON (AP) -- New "landmark" research finds that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than some illegal drugs like marijuana or Ecstasy and should be classified as such in legal systems, according to a new British study.
In research published Friday in The Lancet magazine, Professor David Nutt of Britain's Bristol University and colleagues proposed a new framework for the classification of harmful substances, based on the actual risks posed to society. Their ranking listed alcohol and tobacco among the top 10 most dangerous substances.
Nutt and colleagues used three factors to determine the harm associated with any drug: the physical harm to the user, the drug's potential for addiction, and the impact on society of drug use. The researchers asked two groups of experts - psychiatrists specializing in addiction and legal or police officials with scientific or medical expertise - to assign scores to 20 different drugs, including heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy, amphetamines, and LSD.
Nutt and his colleagues then calculated the drugs' overall rankings. In the end, the experts agreed with each other - but not with the existing British classification of dangerous substances.
Heroin and cocaine were ranked most dangerous, followed by barbiturates and street methadone. Alcohol was the fifth-most harmful drug and tobacco the ninth most harmful. Cannabis came in 11th, and near the bottom of the list was Ecstasy.
Read the rest here.
What: MLK Memorial March Commemorating 39th Anniversary of King Assassination
Who: Citizen Activists involved with the, Austin NAACP, Black Press, Interreligious Ministries, PODER, Labor and Peace
Why: A demonstration and demand that human issues like universal health care, racial justice, immigration, peace, employment and educational priorities be addressed.
When: April 4, 2007
11:30 a.m. Assemble at City Hall 2nd/Lavaca
11:45 a.m. Prayer Vigil
12:00 noon March North on Lavaca to 5th St., east on 5th to Congress Ave. and Congress Ave. to the Capital
12:30 p.m. Capital Program with speakers, music, spoken word
1:15 p.m. Program End, Begin Lobbying Campaign of Legislators Inside
Contacts: Akwasi Evans [499-8713-NOKOA 699-1048-cell]
Nelson Linder [482-3300-Linder Insurance 476-6230-NAACP]
"Address Our Issues"
By Akwasi Evans
As the Texas Legislature debates the allocation of $150 billion in our tax dollars, the citizens have yet to see any substantial proposals to improve the quality of life of the people paying the taxes, most especially the working poor and people of color. On April 4, 2007, a group of Austinites led by people of color will assemble at Austin's City Hall at 11:30 a.m. in preparation for a march to the Capital.
April 4, 2007, marks the 39th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee that faithful day after leading a march in force city leaders to address the quality of life of the city's sanitation workers. Many of us who are old enough to remember can probably still envision scenes of the proud Black men marching through downtown Memphis carrying signs that simply said "I Am A Man".
The men working in Memphis where doing the city's dirtiest work and being disrespect for their contribution. They wanted respect. They wanted decent pay. They wanted safer and more humane working conditions. They organized. They invited Dr. King in. America's martyr for peace sacrificed his life for their dignity and they attained it.
There are many people living in Austin whose dignity and quality of life are dismal. We have tens of thousands without adequate health care here in Austin. We have thousands upon thousands of homeless and thousands more of jobless. We have African Americans and Latinos claiming discrimination without justification all day, everyday. We have families concerned about being torn asunder by immigration reform and we have baby's mamas and baby's daddy's bad mouthing each other in the streets because neither can adequately take care of their children. And let's not forget the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the toll they are taking upon our consciousness and economy. Hundreds of millions of dollars wasted, tens of thousands of innocent civilians slaughtered. Countless soldiers and civilians scarred for life by the experience. Where is the discussion of these issues in our legislature?
We have issues of vital importance, issues of life and death, in this state and in this city that are not being addressed by those elected to help us resolve our issues. Evidence shows that elected officials generally address issues that are pressed upon them and issues that attract potentially embarrassing media attention. So the question becomes why aren't the suffering pressing their issues upon their representatives? Why isn't the media asking about health care for all citizens, disparate treatment of African Americans in hiring, sentencing, and executing, or workplace discrimination against women.
These and other issues will be pressed on Wednesday as leaders of Austin NAACP, Black Media, educators, health care advocates, labor rights activists and others march to the state capital to demand that the legislature address our issues and tell us which issues of concern to citizens are being addressed.
For more information contact: Akwasi Evans 499-8713 or 699-1048.
And lest there be any misunderstanding, also failing at everything else they touch. Colin Powell as secretary of state was a failure because he was brow-beaten and hog-tied. Condi Rice is a failure because she is a toady.
Condi's Free Ride: The Fantasy of American Diplomacy in the Middle East
By Tony Karon
They must serve up some pretty powerful Kool Aid in the press room down at Foggy Bottom, judging by U.S. media coverage of Condi Rice's latest "Look Busy" tour of the Middle East.
Secretary of State Rice's comings and goings have long been greeted with a jaded disdain by the Arab and Israeli media. As Gideon Levy wrote plaintively (and typically) in Israel's Haaretz last August,
"Rice has been here six times in the course of a year and a half, and what has come of it? Has anyone asked her about this? Does she ask herself? It is hard to understand how the secretary of state allows herself to be so humiliated. It is even harder to understand how the superpower she represents allows itself to act in such a hollow and useless way. The mystery of America remains unsolved: How is it that the United States is doing nothing to advance a solution to the most dangerous and lengthiest conflict in our world?"
The fact that -- this time -- Rice professes to be advancing just such a solution has hardly convinced Middle Eastern scribes. As Beirut's secular, liberal Daily Star put it in an editorial on Monday, "Already this is Rice's fourth Middle East tour aimed at reactivating a stalled peace process, but so far the only measurable progress she has achieved has been racking up extra mileage on her airplane."
Mainstream U.S. media outlets were alone in their willingness to swallow the preposterous narratives offered by Rice's State Department spinners on the significance of her latest diplomatic efforts. For months, we have been reading a fantasy version of American diplomacy in which Rice was at the center of a realignment of forces in the Middle East, building a united front of Arab moderates to stand alongside the U.S. and Israel against Iran and other "extremist" elements. Last week, we were asked to believe that Rice was now about to head back to the region to choreograph a complex and dramatic diplomatic dance that would include such "challenges" as "trying to get the Saudis to talk to the Israelis." Perhaps none of her aides bothered to let her in on the open secret that the Saudis have been doing that for months -- and not under the tutelage of, or at the prompting of, the Secretary of State either.
On the eve of her departure, the Washington Post informed us, Rice would remake the peace process via a new math: 4+2+4. This was cute jargon for grouping various discussions among the Israelis and Palestinians, the "Quartet" (the U.S., the European Union, the UN, and Russia), and an "Arab Quartet" comprising Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. By Monday, only three days later, however, the new math had mysteriously disappeared -- as if Rice had suddenly entered a world of innumeracy -- replaced by "parallel discussions." With the Israelis unwilling to talk to the Palestinians about the "contours of a Palestinian state," each side was instead to discuss such things separately with Rice in a kind of diplomatic confession booth.
For anyone disappointed by the sudden demise of "4+2+4," Condi assured all involved that "we'll use many different geometries, I'm sure, as we go through this process." A day later, the trip's crowning achievement was reported by the New York Times: "After three days of shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Arab cities and a late night of haggling, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that she had persuaded Israeli and Palestinian leaders to hold talks twice a month." But not, it turned out, on the "final-status issues" -- the contours of a Palestinian state. They would simply chat to "build confidence," while, presumably, regularly reentering her confession booth.
As Lebanon-based Jordanian journalist Rami Khouri put it,
"To overcome the chronic stalemate of bilateral Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy, [Rice] is now expanding this into a trilateral failure, as the principal parties who won't talk to each other only to talk to her. It's hard to decide if this is a comedy or a horror show."
It may be a sign of the contempt with which the Bush administration treats the American media that Condi expects such a Pollyannaish pantomime to be reported as if it were history-in-the-making. And it may be a mark of the naiveté with which much of the U.S. media has, over these last years, chronicled Condi's adventures that, in fact, it is reported as if it were history-in-the-making. The Secretary of State has not only chalked up the miles in the air recently, in media terms here in the U.S., she's invariably been given a free ride.
Read the rest here.
From Informed Comment
According to Sawt al-Iraq writing in Arabic, young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had a sermon read out in his name in Kufa and Baghdad mosques on Friday in which he called for massive anti-US demonstrations in Najaf on April 9, the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to US forces in 2003. That Muqtada chose this date is deliberately ironic, since pro-American Iraqi expatriate politicians have argued for making that date a sort of Iraqi Independence Day. There had earlier been a debate over whether it was appropriate to honor a day that witnessed a Western military incursion into the country.
Shaikh Abd al-Hadi al-Muhammadawi read out the sermon in the Kufa Friday Prayers Mosque. Muqtada demanded that US troops leave the country "even if the American Congress were to decide they should stay in Iraq." He insisted, "The issue of whether US troops should remain in Iraq depends on the Iraqi people, and no one has a right to extend their stay or to demand that they remain."
He added, "The departure of American forces from Iraq at the present time will bestow security on Iraq, represent a victory for peace, and mete out defeat to terrorism." He called on the Iraqi people "to fly the Iraqi flag above their homes and buildings and government offices to signify Iraqi sovereignty and independence."
He also pressed on all sections of the population "the necessity of letting the entire world hear that Iraqis reject the occupation."
He criticized "what has befallen Iraq during the Occupation, including tyranny, despotism, and the shedding of the blood of innocents." He complained about the lack of health and city services."
He added, "The Occupiers did not content themselves with all this, but also isolated Iraq from the Arab and Islamic worlds" and he accused the US, saying "they have proved able to sow the seeds of sectarian and ethnic conflict among Arabs and others, including between Arabs and non-Arabs among Muslims and others." He called on the people of Iraq to aid Iraq and to stand with it. An English language AP report on the speech is here.
Read it here.
30 March 2007
From Wake Up From Your Slumber ..., with thanks.
Israeli Army set attack dog on Palestinian woman
It takes four brave IDF boys and one psyched-up dog to stop one lone unarmed Palestinian woman.
All in a hard day's work for the Yidishe Mentschen of the IDF...
Chicken with Pasilla de Oaxaca Rub (20 March 2003)
This is a recipe that resulted from sending a Canadian Friend a “care-package” that contained some chiles. He did not know much about using dried chiles, nor quite what to do with them, so I wrote and sent the following to him (although the first version omitted the lime and it didn’t have a title). His comments are at the end of the recipe.
1/2 cup almost boiling water
3 Oaxacan pasilla chiles (remove stems and seeds) *
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour very hot water over chiles in a little bowl. When chiles are very soft, put into a blender with remaining ingredients (and a little chile-soaking water, but only if required) and blend into a thick paste (you could substitute olive oil for the water when making the paste).
4 skinless/boneless chicken thighs (breast has no flavour for me, but you could use two of them instead)
Rub the thighs on all sides with the paste, pop into a plastic bag, and marinate for 2 or 3 hours. Then bake (or grill) as usual (I do so in a baking dish with a rack so excess fat drips away).
If you want to add a little more flavour, very slowly sauté a small onion for 20 to 30 minutes until completely caramelized. Spread on top of chicken 5 minutes before removing chicken from oven to heat thoroughly and let flavour infuse chicken.
* Pasilla - a medium spice red chile with a tangy flavour (3-5); Oaxacan pasilla - same, but smoked (4-6); numbers indicate heat on a scale of 1 (no heat) to 10 (extremely spicy)
“Yes, I got two limes and added their juice to the recipe you sent. The yield was certainly enough for three and possibly four breasts, easily four thighs. Anyway, I did two breasts. One's frozen for a future meal and I really enjoyed the other. The smoky taste is wonderful. Using two limes gave it a bit of punch. One might have been enough. I broiled the breasts in my convection oven - the first time I've used it since moving to Gabriola. That, of course, kept 'em moist.” R. Southerland
Another brief comment: I told Ron afterward he could have frozen the leftover rub/marinade in a sealed container.
29 March 2007
War and the Futures Market: Oil Traders Fear an Attack on Iran
By DAVE LINDORFF
Okay, now I'm worried.
There have been several rounds of reports that the war-obsessed Bush administration was getting ready to attack Iran-first last September, then in December, and more recently in January and February.
The one thing that kept me thinking that a catastrophic war with Iran might not be in the offing was oil prices, which didn't seem to be acting as one would expect them to if there were a major war looming in the Persian Gulf. Oil prices, in fact, have been drifting slowly downward since September 2006, when they hit $68.85. Yet if there were going to be a hot war between the U.S. and Iran, one would expect much higher prices. After all, most of the combat would be occurring along Iran's heavily armed coastline and in the Gulf, through which over a quarter of all the world's oil passes. In the event of such a conflict, oil shipments would shut down from that region as underwriters jacked the price of insuring oil tankers in the Gulf to astronomical levels. Estimates of how expensive oil could become in the event of a US attack on Iran, the world's second largest oil producing nation, have ranged as high as $200/barrel-a level that would bring the global economy to a screeching halt.
Well, there are new reports circulating now that an attack by US air and naval forces could come in early April, and this time, the oil traders are taking them seriously. On Tuesday, oil futures shot up $5/barrel to hit $68/barrel-quite a jump, and the highest price for oil since last September.
Reports say that traders were responding to rumors-unsubstantiated-that Iran had fired on an American ship in the Gulf, and no doubt also to the ongoing tensions over Iran's capture and detention of 15 British sailors, whom it claims had illegally entered Iranian territorial waters.
Phil Flynn, a trader with Alaron Trading in Chicago, was quoted as saying that the oil market has been "on pins and needles" because of the tensions in the Persian Gulf between the US and Iran.
Adding to worries about oil supplies from the Gulf, no doubt, is the vast armada that the U.S. has amassed up close to Iran's borders-an armada that includes two fully armed aircraft battle groups, equipped with hundreds of strike aircraft and tomahawk cruise missiles and capable of delivering a crippling blow to Iran's military and industrial infrastructure.
The Bush administration, while repeatedly insisting it has no plans to attack Iran, has pointedly also stated on numerous occasions that "all options are on the table" in dealing with what it claims are Iraqi efforts to develop nuclear weapons capability. The White House and Pentagon have also been running a propaganda campaign-ominously reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq invasion--of trying to make a case that Iran is providing technical aid, weapons and training to Iraqi insurgents, particularly in the use of armor-penetrating explosive devices.
Read the rest here.
This is refreshing - someone who recognizes that there is really just one political party in the US, as does Gore Vidal. Vidal called it the ruling class party, but the thought is there.
Left-Right Alliance Against War?
Jon Basil Utley | March 29, 2007
Editor: John Feffer
Americans opposed to war are a distinct minority. If the Iraq War were going well, most Americans would support it. Yet the Iraq venture has been such a disaster for America that peace groups have a chance to expose the pro-war interests in the nation and advance an alternative foreign policy based on law and international cooperation. Incredible war costs, a growing police state at home, loss of allies, and tremendous anti-Americanism abroad have given most Americans pause about our foreign policies.
Even so, Washington is on the verge of extending the war with an attack on Iran. To change American policy, we need to understand the differences between the antiwar movements on the Left and the Right before identifying how they might cooperate.
The War Party
The leadership of both parties supports war and empire. The Republican establishment’s war promoters include the big conservative foundations, congressional leadership, old-line media such as National Review and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, and the Religious Right’s Armageddonites. The recent Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting suppressed any antiwar debate, while speaker after speaker denounced foreigners, immigrants, and Arabs. Cheers resonated for PATRIOT Act author John Yoo, and John Bolton was a banquet speaker. The current Republican presidential front-runners all favor continuing the wars in the Middle East.
Against the above some lonely libertarians and a very few constitutional conservatives opposed attacking Iraq, both in 2003 and before the first Gulf War in 1990. Although many Republicans opposed the Kosovo war, they did so mainly because a Democrat, Bill Clinton, started it. The rationale for that U.S. intervention, like with Iraq, was also based on falsifications.
Most Democratic congressional leaders also voted for the Iraq war. Outsider Howard Dean, a vocal opponent of the war, was blown away by the Democratic establishment in 2004. In a recent Washington Post analysis, political scientist Tony Smith explains why the Democrats can’t put together a successful vote against the Iraq war. Many of the Democrats, according to Smith, are influenced by an ideology of using American military power for Wilsonian ends. They take their cues from “special interests…that want an aggressive policy-- globalizing corporations, the military-industrial complex, the pro-Israel lobbies, those who covet Middle Eastern oil.” The policies of these powerful “neo-liberals,” Smith writes, coincide with those of the “neo-conservatives.”
War is Washington’s big business. The military industrial complex has never been more profitable. Last year, 15,300 earmarks for defense spending went to projects carefully designed to gain adherents in every state. The F-22 fighter plane, for instance, has 1,000 subcontractors in 43 states. Electronic chips and secret superweapons are so complicated that profits can be hidden all along the production line well beyond the scrutiny of outsiders. Even newly planned missiles for Poland to “defend Europe” from Iran may be less about a grand strategic design than simply about selling more arms. Russia’s resultant concerns and European dismay are considered inconsequential.
Over and over, Washington’s War Party trumps the views of most business interests as well as the foreign policy and academic establishment. The consequences of Washington having made enemies of nearly a quarter of the human race, the Muslims, are only now unfolding. Yet the War Party continues to look for new conflicts, next with China, to justify the vast budget for weaponry mostly irrelevant to the War on Terror. The recent CPAC meeting and much of the conservative media are, for instance, full of dire warnings of a great Chinese military threat to America.
Read the rest here.
I heard the news tonight. Oh boy. It scared me big time.
The storm clouds of a new war are building very quickly on our horizon. The Iranians, in possible retaliation of their officials being held hostage by Americans in Iraq, have captured 15 British sailors, who probably were indeed in what Iran interprets to be it's territorial waters. Under US pressure, the UN Security Council has jacked up the sanctions against Iran and in response, Iran announced that it would reduce its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Democratic Party controlled Congress just dropped the provision from the military appropriations bill that would require Bush to seek their approval before attacking Iran. Seymour Hersh continues to report on Bush regime plans to attack Iran, including Iran-based clandestine operations, the kidnapping of hundreds of Iranians including many "humanitarian and aid workers" by US forces and the revelation that an Iran-Contra-type scandal is being run out of Vice President Dick Cheney's office with some of the illicit funds going to groups "sympathetic to al-Qaeda." Russian and Arab news sources report a US attack is imminent. US Naval forces are in the process of war-gaming in the Persian Gulf off Iran's coast at this moment. Very shortly, four US naval attack squadrons, each with aircraft carriers with hundreds of military attack aircraft and missiles, will be in the Persian Gulf simultaneously. There is considerable open speculation concerning the possibility that this US attack will involve the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Such a step would dwarf Nixon's bombing of Cambodia in its significance.
Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has the right to develop civilian use of nuclear energy and no evidence has been made public that they are in violation. Meanwhile, Israel hsd always refused to sign this treaty and has an estimated 250 illegal nuclear weapons. Locked and loaded. India and Pakistan both developed nuclear weapons in secret, yet remain US allies. The US signed the treaty in 1970, but remains in blatant violation of Article VI in which it promised to disarm its nuclear arsenal.
The personal implications for all of us in the event of such an attack should be profound. At that point, either normal life would necessarily cease or the world would be just to hold those that did not rise in determined resistance as collaborators with war criminals. A defining existential moment may be upon us. What's the contengency plan?
Blair's Faked Border
As former British ambassador Craig Murray points out, the British seem to have faked a maritime boundary.
The British Ministry of Defense has released coordinates where fifteen British sailors and marines were picked up by Iranians after searching a merchant ship:
"As shown on the chart, the merchant vessel was 7.5 nautical miles south east of the Al Faw Peninsula and clearly in Iraqi territorial waters. Her master has confirmed that his vessel was anchored within Iraqi waters at the time of the arrest. The position was 29 degrees 50.36 minutes North 048 degrees 43.08 minutes East.
The MoD asserts that this position is within Iraqi waters:
This places her 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi territorial waters. This fact has been confirmed by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.
Which leads to the obvious question. On what basis are the British asserting that the line they painted in their graphic is indeed the "Iraq / Iran Territorial Water Boundary."
That boundary is simply not well defined and Iran and Iraq have fought several wars about the Shatt al-Arab and its waterways. There is no binding or otherwise recognized international agreement about the maritime boundaries.
Read all of it, see accompanying maps, and read informed comments here.
28 March 2007
Collapsing Colonies: Are GM Crops Killing Bees?
by Gunther Latsch
March 28, 2007
A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture and the economy could be enormous.
Is the mysterous decimation of bee populations in the US and Germany a result of GM crops?
Walter Haefeker is a man who is used to painting grim scenarios. He sits on the board of directors of the German Beekeepers Association (DBIB) and is vice president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association. And because griping is part of a lobbyist's trade, it is practically his professional duty to warn that "the very existence of beekeeping is at stake."
The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker, is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in agriculture.
As far back as 2005, Haefeker ended an article he contributed to the journal Der Kritischer Agrarbericht (Critical Agricultural Report) with an Albert Einstein quote: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
Mysterious events in recent months have suddenly made Einstein's apocalyptic vision seem all the more topical. For unknown reasons, bee populations throughout Germany are disappearing -- something that is so far only harming beekeepers. But the situation is different in the United States, where bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows what is causing the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.
Read it here.
And there's this, submitted by Mariann Wizard:
The mysterious deaths of the honeybees
By CNN's Amy Sahba
March 29 2007: 5:28 PM EDT
Honeybee colony collapse drives price of honey higher and threatens fruit and vegetable production.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Beekeepers throughout the United States have been losing between 50 and 90 percent of their honeybees over the past six months, perplexing scientists, driving honey prices higher and threatening fruit and vegetable production.
At a House Agricultural Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., today, members of various organizations came together to share their concerns about what they have been calling the "Colony Collapse Disorder," or CCD.
Honeybees have been mysteriously dying across the United States, sending honey prices higher and threatening the agriculture industry.
Beginning in October 2006, beekeepers from 24 states reported that hundreds of thousands of their bees were dying and their colonies were being devastated.
In December 2006, beekeepers' associations, scientists and officials formed the CCD working group, in hopes of identifying the cause and solving the problem of CCD.
Most of the beekeepers who have recently reported heavy losses associated with CCD are large commercial migratory beekeepers, some of whom are losing 50 percent to 90 percent of their colonies.
Read it here.
Advocacy Group Files Suit Against U.S. on Denial of Benefits of Medical Marijuana
A lawsuit filed in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California (No. C07-01049) in February names the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as defendants, charging that government regulators have issued "false and misleading statements" about medical benefits of the herb cannabis (Cannabis spp., aka marijuana).1
Americans for Safe Access (ASA; http://www.safeaccessnow.org) in Oakland, CA, the largest national membership organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research, is challenging the government's contentions that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use" and that "no animal or human data support" its safety or efficacy,2 despite what the group's attorney characterized as "mounting scientific and anecdotal evidence to the contrary."1
For example, a just-released study conducted at the Clinical Research Center, San Francisco General Hospital found that smoked marijuana relieved pain of peripheral neuropathy in HIV/AIDS patients.3 Commenting on the results, Rob Kampia, Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group, called them, "all the more remarkable because researchers ... are only allowed to test government-supplied marijuana, which is of notoriously poor quality. There's every reason to believe results would be even better if scientists were permitted to study a better-quality product."4
Studies conducted in England, where researchers face fewer restrictions, have found marijuana itself, its constituent compounds (cannabinoids, etc.), and a standardized pharmaceutical preparation have been useful in relieving side effects of cancer chemotherapy, as well as chronic nerve pain, spasticity of multiple sclerosis, and other conditions.5,6,7,8,9
Moreover, regarding the safety of employing smoked-inhaled marijuana, a study recently conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles,10 and reviewed in the recent issue of HerbalGram (#73),11 has found that smoking marijuana does not appear to increase a person’s risk of developing lung, head, or neck cancers. This study, which was based on a survey of 611 Los Angeles residents with lung cancer, 601 with cancer of the head and neck regions, and 1,040 residents without cancer, found that even the heaviest marijuana smokers did not have an elevated risk of developing cancer.10
Meanwhile, in another matter related to medical marijuana, an administrative law judge has recommended that University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor Lyle Craker be allowed to grow marijuana for research purposes,12,13 in the latest move in Craker's six-year quest to break the present government monopoly on producing marijuana for legitimate researchers.2,14 Unless the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) overrules Judge Mary Ellen Bittner's decision, Lyle Craker and his colleagues may soon provide a high-quality cannabis product for US researchers. If the DEA rejects Bittner's opinion—and it would not be the first time it has done so where marijuana is concerned—it is possible that another lawsuit might be filed against the agency.
— Mariann Garner-Wizard and Courtney Cavaliere
Source and for References
Why Oaxaca Matters
By James Cooke
Mar 27, 2007, 10:12
For anyone interested in social progress, the ‘Oaxaca Commune’ stands out as an event worthy of attention and study. In the Mexican state of Oaxaca the overwhelming majority of people suddenly awoke from political hibernation and became active in shaping social life. In consequence, the old apparatus of the state, dedicated as it was to the interests of the rich, was destroyed, and a new structure, based on direct representation of the many, was established.
The ‘popular assembly’ (APPO) that arose out of the mass movement of Oaxaca was not the first of its kind. History has numerous examples of similar political formations, always birthed amid a revolutionary climate.
The first modern example took place in Paris in 1871, when working-class people revolted against the policies of ‘their’ government, and created a new form of social administration to suit the needs of the average person. Like Oaxaca, the ‘Paris Commune’ consisted of delegates from a varying political/social background, working together to enact policies that reflected the demands of the majority, in contrast with the previous government that ruled according to the interests of a tiny elite.
In 1905 Russia, unmistakably similar organizations sprang into existence. These worker’s councils, called ‘Soviets’, were the organizational basis for the failed uprising in 1905, and were reconstructed anew and on a broader level for the successful revolution of 1917. For several years, the coordinated efforts of the nationwide system of Soviets acted as the backbone of organization for the successful civil-war and subsequent reconstruction. Following the successes of Russia, soviet-style organizational methods were constructed throughout Europe in response to the widespread social turbulence caused by World War I. In 1919, the working class of Germany formed soviets of their own, which acted as the foundation for the heroic but failed revolution.
Years later, the Spanish Revolution made good use of the same independent method of organization, where in many towns, all the functions of normal government were revolutionized to an extent that the word ‘government’ seemed hardly applicable. After World War II, ‘worker’s committees’ and militias sprang into existence in Italy and Greece, accompanied by revolutionary upheavals.
Read the rest here.
Headlong towards World War III?
By Ramón Santiago writes from Mexico City
Mar 28, 2007, 03:07
The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) – Rebuilding America’s Defenses published in September 2000 and authored by infamous hawks and neo cons such as Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle is the blueprint for the US world domination and the wars of the future and now, those of the recent past. The PNAC was founded in 1997 by well-known Zionist neo-conservatives Robert Kagan and William Kristol of the Weekly Standard. It is almost the operational stage to implement in the real world George H. W. Bush’s idea of a New World Order proposed after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Without wanting to be “corny” or “alarmist” and be accused of using the following comparison to “demonize” the Bush regime, the only other blueprint for world domination in recent history was Hitler’s Mein Kampf written in 1923–24 when he was in jail.
Hitler came to power democratically and constitutionally in 1933 and six years later plunged the world into a conflict which cost 50 million lives and destroyed most of Europe and Japan, as well as western parts of the Soviet Union. The PNAC blueprint for world domination has now been activated in 2001 with the invasion of Afghanistan. Iraq followed and there have been threats to Syria and Iran.
In an interview with John Pilger, PNAC co-author Richard Perle stated on the US war on terrorism,
"No stages, this is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq . . . this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war . . . our children will sing great songs about us years from now."
Diplomacy is out of the window since all the plans have been laid about which countries to invade next. Members of PNAC are so self-assured they are advancing the US best interests that they publish policy papers specifically outlining their plans, plans that many fear may be laying the groundwork for a Third World War.
In the original PNAC document the following quote is telling:
“The process of transformation is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” The “new Pearl Harbor” came and went as the Twin Towers were demolished (“pulled” in demolishment jargon) and within hours both Wolfowitz and Cheney were calling for an invasion of Iraq, even before anyone knew who had been responsible for the attacks.
Since that time five and a half years ago, no WMD’s have been found in Iraq, no nuclear weapons, no link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden is still as elusive as ever. So, the justification for invading Afghanistan and Iraq was based on lack of evidence, outright lies, spun and diffused by the corporate media in the pay and at the service of the GOP dominated by hawks and neo cons – especially Fox News. The motivation was not revenge since there’s no proof that Saddam or Osama had anything to do with the attacks on the WTC. The justification was, and still is, the blueprint of the PNAC since these plans have to be executed. This is US foreign policy under the Bush regime and will probably be the same under the “Hillary regime”. The underlying reason is oil and the sustainability of the American Way of Life meaning US world domination.
In a similar way Hitler followed his blueprint using the catalyzing event of the Reichstag fire in 1933, later revealed in declassified documents to have been set by Hermann Goering, to blame this on Jews and communists and so launch a witch hunt against these undesirables. The Lebesraumpolitik (living space policy) described in Mein Kampf led to the conquest of other nations and the demonizing of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other minorities who had to be exterminated to “cleanse the world of such filth”. Nowadays, the corporate media demonizes Arabs and Muslims as “terrorists” as an adjunct to justify military invasions in terms of public opinion and thus the media play their insidious role in furthering the PNAC.
The next PNAC target is Iran. As usual Iran is being painted as a “nuclear threat” since it is enriching uranium to generate electricity. Iran has to do this now since its oil reserves will be almost depleted by 2020. This is like the Iraq-WMD pack of lies so as to justify any attack in the eyes of US public opinion and look as if the US is acting in the interests of “national security” since Iran is now a nuclear threat and could build the Bomb. It is strange that India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons and are not seen as a menace by the US, when neither country has signed the nuclear non proliferation treaty!
At the time of writing the crude oil price has risen to around US$64/barrel due to tension with Iran. This time 15 British sailors were arrested and taken prisoner after violating Iranian territorial waters. This incident may not mean very much but the British navy vessel involved, HMS Cornwall, is filled with the latest electronic gadgetry and the captain must have known where his sailors were. Today Blair said that “efforts to release the 15 Royal Navy personnel will enter a "different phase" if diplomatic moves fail.” Does this sound like a veiled threat?
After Blair’s statement and coincidentally or otherwise, the US Navy has begun its most extensive maneuvers in the Gulf region since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but denies saber-rattling aimed at Iran.
Two days ago, on his weekly TV program, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez read an article aloud and on air from the Russian media which stated that “the US attack on Iran was slated for 4am on Friday (Good Friday) April 6th and is due to last until 4pm the same day. 21 nuclear facilities would be targeted, but not the atomic reactor being constructed jointly by Iran and Russia.”
Let’s all hope that the Russian piece President Chavez read aloud is based more on rumor and speculation than facts. But when he read out this news, the US maneuvers in the Gulf has not begun. Involved in what are hopefully just maneuvers are two aircraft carriers, plus their strike groups in the region and war games have begun involving as many as 100 US war planes.
An attack on Iran and a possible land invasion to take oil installations would place the US Empire on the doorstep of both Russia and China – the main obstacles to US world domination. The closeness of the US to these countries’ borders in Iran and Afghanistan could generate a standoff. In contrast to the nations already invaded, Russia and China possess nuclear weapons and have the delivery systems to launch the missiles.
However, PNAC member Richard Perle, when he was in the Reagan administration calling for coups in Central America, claimed that a nuclear war with Russia could be "winnable”. This attitude is highly dangerous for the whole planet, and with US nuclear hegemony greater than ever, there is no reason to doubt that Perle and his cohorts are even more convinced that a nuclear conflict could be “winnable” twenty years later if a conflict were to arise with either China or Russia. PNAC implicitly foresees this possibility if either country is a threat to US global preeminence. It is unrealistic for the US to fight a conventional war in either of these countries due to the geography and demographics of both.
Assuming the Iranian adventure goes ahead – and we sincerely hope and pray that common sense prevails and it does not – the next target could be Venezuela. With the largest oil reserves of any country on the planet, these resources are just a few hours tanker ride away from the Gulf of Mexico coast and vital as US supplies dwindle. The Bush administration has been at loggerheads with President Chavez for almost 7 years.
Chavez’s vision of integrating Latin America and the Caribbean basin, a multi polar world as opposed to a PNAC unipolar one, plus ideological differences in terms of fair trade versus free trade, socialism versus capitalism and his emphasis on national sovereignty are all anathema to the neo con mindset. In no way do they dovetail with US national interests or “US preeminence” in PNAC speak.
Pressure is continually brought to bear on Venezuela using the corporate and international media misrepresenting and manipulating the reality of the Bolivarian Revolution. The next two years will signal what plans the US has for Venezuela, but that is the subject of another article if and when tensions and US threats are stepped up.
The Bush regime will end in early 2009 and perhaps a more moderate president will be elected and diminish world tensions by replacing PNAC with a more “realpolitik” foreign policy. The hawks will definitely try to push their PNAC plans forward in the coming two years while Bush is still in the White House. This could mean that the world will be heading into a more dangerous phase than at anytime since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
© Copyright 2007 by AxisofLogic.com
The New York Times and Venezuelan inflation
By Joaquin Bustelo
Mar 27, 2007, 02:02
The NY Times writes, "But demagoguery and showmanship will do nothing to solve Venezuela's 20 percent inflation rate.... Venezuela's currency, the bolívar, has lost about a fifth of its value since January"
Nice to see the Gray Lady up to her old tricks.
I haven't been covering economic affairs for a couple of weeks, so I thought on reading this that perhaps I had missed the news of Venezuela's devaluation, though I didn't think so. And a quick check of Google News (in Spanish, the English language press coverage of Venezuela is worthless) tells me that in fact I didn't miss it. It did not happen.
Because Venezuela operates with a system of foreign currency controls and allocations on the basis of a fixed exchange rate set by the Central Bank, if there had been a devaluation, to honestly report on it, the NYT would have had to tell us when the last time was that the Bolívar's official exchange rate changed, but of course that is impossible since the *truth* is that Bolívar's exchange rate has not changed.
What has changed is the black market exchange rate used by wealthy Venezuelans to turn the local currency into dollars for smuggling out of the country. And I know that bourgeois journalists are true experts on black market currency operations. Because operating in the black market is banned by journalistic ethical standards AND the business practices and policies of reputable bourgeois rags like the NY Times. This brings you a very nice profit if you're in a country like Venezuela, because you buy all your local currency on the black market, but report all your local expenses at the official rate, and it can get so extreme that every penny you spend in the country comes back to you dressed as a nickel -- though Venezuela is far from there yet.
However, unlike other countries in the midst of a revolution where the black market dollar became for all practical purposes the only rate, in Venezuela's case the official rate is the dominant one because of the billions of dollars a month the country receives from oil exports.
So what the NY Times is telling us is really that the rich are growing increasing desperate about their prospects in revolutionary Venezuela. So they are willing to take growing exchange losses just to cash out. After telling us for years that Chavez is a wild man, a clown, with no coherent plan or policy, adopting this random measure and that arbitrary decision, all of a sudden it dawns on them that there IS a plan ... a strategic perspective ... of transforming Venezuela's economy from one moved by increasing the private profits of the few to one moved by serving the needs of the many. And the recent nationalizations of several imperialist concerns shows them that the Revolution has both the political will and political power to increasingly take the country on that road.
That leaves only the question of how to present matters abroad to people who do not and cannot possibly know for themselves what's really going on. And hence the Big Lie: Venezuela's currency has dropped 20% since the beginning of the year.
And there will be plenty more reporting and editorializing along the lines of the Venezuelan economic "catastrophe" in coming months and years. For what is coming will be catastrophic for the bourgeoisie and upper layers of the middle classes. Prices will skyrocket in the shops they frequent, full of imported luxury goods which will be priced at the black market exchange rate plus a hefty markup. Many of the stores will fail. It may even get so bad you won't even be able to get Prada handbags anymore in Caracas. And you can be sure you'll be able to read all about it in the lying pages of the New York Times.
So it goes ...
Federal judge dismisses Rumsfeld torture lawsuit
Lisl Brunner at 4:21 PM ET
[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia Tuesday dismissed [press release] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; ACLU case file] against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] for authorizing torture and abuse of detainees by US personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. The suit asserted that Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for detainee abuse and that his actions violated the US Constitution, federal statutes and international law. Chief Judge Thomas Hogan [official profile] based the dismissal on the immunity of government officials from lawsuits and the premise that US constitutional rights do not apply overseas. While noting that the allegations of torture were "horrifying," Hogan concluded that policy considerations counsel against permitting government officials to be sued for political decisions.
The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First [advocacy websites], which had previously sued Rumsfeld [JURIST report] and other military officials in 2005 on behalf of eight former detainees [ACLU profiles]. A war crimes action [JURIST report] is also pending against Rumsfeld in Germany, where the German Federal Prosecutor [official website] is using Germany's universal jurisdiction law [AI backgrounder] to investigate similar allegations.
Source and for links
McCain Checks into Cloud Cuckooland
Senator John McCain has contracted Rumsfeld's Disease. This malady consists of a combination of bad temper, misuse of language to obfuscate reality, and a Panglossian optimism in the face of stubborn, sanguinary facts on the ground.
McCain, for instance, hailed that deployment of Iraqi brigades "at or above 75% of their programmed strength"! Put another way, a quarter of the Iraqi troops ordered to Baghdad technically speaking went AWOL instead! If a quarter of all US troops ordered to Iraq fled to Canada or refused to leave their home base, that would be a catastrophe. But McCain manages to deploy weasel words to make this incredible statistic seem a positive thing. Moreover, even his basic facts may be wrong. Last I knew, one of the Iraqi brigades ordered to Baghdad only came at half strength.
McCain alleged that only about 500 civilians were killed in political violence in Baghdad in February, down from December's toll.
But McCain is wrong to look only at Baghdad. Here is what I wrote on March 1:
An Iraqi official leaked government figures on Iraqi civilians killed in January and February, and tried to spin the US press by saying that there had been a significant drop in such casualties.
But this official reported deaths for 1-31 January and compared them for the toll 1-27 February. Uh, the per day total isn't that different, it is just that February is a short month and the figures were given through the day before it ended!
1990 divided by 31 is 64 per day.
1646 divided by 27 is 61 per day.
While human life is precious and a drop of 3 a day is welcome, I wouldn't call that drop significant.
That is, the Iraqi government statistics for deaths in February were not 500 but 1646. And, as I pointed out, the decline in daily deaths is so far small. In addition, it would not actually be good news that 500 innocent civilians were slaughtered in Baghdad alone in February. Baghdad is a fourth of Iraq by population-- that would be a monthly death rate of about 2000, some 24,000 a year (the Lancet study published last fall found that deaths from violence occur at a similar rate throughout the country). All the real numbers are much worse than the above discussion implies, since passive information- gathering is notoriously unreliable.
McCain ignores the incredible violence against Shiite pilgrims during Ashura, in which hundreds were massacred, mostly outside Baghdad. That is, concentrating on Baghdad is a fallacy. The indications are that the guerrillas are compensating for the higher cost of their operations in Baghdad by shifting some their activities to other cities, such as Baquba and Tal Afar. But they have by no means given up the fight in Baghdad itself, as anyone who followed violence there could tell you.
Click here for the rest and to get the associated links.
What I Did Over Spring Break
I saw this flock of cormorants last year at Padre Island, but had no film left. Last week it was like we had an appointment! They came flying up the National Seashore shoreline from the SW, just at 6 pm, headed towards their fishing grounds and/or the incoming shrimp boats!
Last year the flock wasn't quite so numerous -- they may be nesting down on the 4-wheel-only part of the island, and seem to be prospering -- there are 28 in this group!
Each bird must have a three- to four-foot wingspan. I wish there was something to give some perspective to the pictures, but between the time the birds appeared out of the haze, probably a half-mile distant, and the time I turned the camera IN MY HANDS on, they had come too close, over the flat landscape of sand and surf, and were too high, to get anything but sky and bird in the frame as they sped directly overhead (3rd photo). They appear to beat their wings slowly, like oarsmen rowing with long oars, but the whole formation is truly hauling birdbutt! This 4-photo sequence was taken pretty much as fast as I could track and shoot with a Pentax IQZoom with 130m lens.
Ed's Note: These were to have appeared last week, but I slipped. R. Jehn
26 March 2007
A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But, the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After 2 years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value for your efforts."
The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path.
Every day as we walk back, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."
MORAL: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But, it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.
Remember to appreciate all the different people in your life!
Blessings to all my crackpot friends, and thanks to David MacBryde and Scott Pittman for sharing this story with us.
By Joel S. Hirschhorn
03/26/07 "ICH " -- -- What is this thing called democracy? So easy to talk about, so difficult to make real. Pure democracy is not what our Founders gave us. Who would want a simple majority to control the minority? Instead, America was given a representative democracy within a constitutional republic where laws that protect all people trump majority rule. Standing between majority-won elections and government power are elected representatives: writing, overseeing and implementing laws. But when you can no longer trust the elected representatives what happens to American democracy? It becomes an oxymoron.
We have arrived at a delusional democracy. Delusional because Americans overwhelmingly cannot admit the painful truth that their limited democracy no longer works for the good of most citizens. Instead, through corruption and dishonesty, our representative democracy has morphed into a plutocracy that serves the wealthy, power elites and corporate masters that control the political system and through that the economic system.
The Framers of the Constitution had deep concerns about the long-term viability of the government structure they created. Some think that the checks and balances among the three branches of the federal government preserve its integrity. Really? The money that controls the legislative branch also controls the executive branch, and both of those control the judicial branch. Even worse, it has become clearer to increasing numbers of Americans that many parts of the Constitution – the supreme law of the land – have been directly or more deviously disobeyed or distorted. Constitutional rule is a myth.
We have a Congress that gives its constitutional power to declare war to the President and refuses to impeach him for his many violations of laws. We have a President that openly signs laws but says he will not honor them. We have a Supreme Court that decides who becomes President rather than the voters and often amends the Constitution unconstitutionally. We have elections that are not to be trusted. We have a government using free trade globalization hogwash to sell out the middle class. We have rising economic inequality that is creating a two-class society: the wealthy Upper Class and the Lower Class for everyone else.
Overlaid on this delusional system is the myth that having just two major political parties somehow is right and necessary for our representative democracy. In reality, partisan differences are just another layer of corruption, dishonesty and deceit. Artificial political competition distracts. Big money from the wealthy and corporate and other special interests controls both parties, producing mutually assured corruption. They are two faces of the same coin, two heads of the same monster, two puppets controlled by the same masters. Of course the two-party system provides stability. It has stabilized a criminally corrupt government.
Delusional political competition supports a delusional democracy based on a set of delusional checks and balances. The whole system that once worked has become a sham.
Did the Framers anticipate that their system could become such a travesty? They did.
So, in addition to the better known parts of the Constitution, they imbedded what might be called a legal loophole – a kind of escape clause, just in case things went terribly wrong. They have.
The public is largely ignorant of Article V’s option for a convention, when asked for by two-thirds of states, to propose amendments to the Constitution. Worse, nearly all people with political power have opposed using it. Even worse, despite Article V explicitly saying that Congress “shall” call such a convention when a sufficient number of states have asked for one – and that is the ONLY specified constitutional requirement – for over 200 years Congress has willfully disobeyed the constitution and NOT granted a convention. In fact, Congress never had the integrity and constitutional respect to even set up a system of any kind to collect state requests for an Article V convention. Still, we know from the hard work of many that there have been well over 500 such state requests.
People with power in the present corrupt political system fear an Article V convention. Operating independently of Congress and the White House, it might reduce their power and ignite widespread public interest in deep reforms. One trick of the power elites has been to fool people that an Article V convention would inevitably become “runaway” and threaten all that Americans hold dear – especially their freedom. Nonsense. A convention can only propose amendments that, just like proposals made by Congress, must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Most absurd are the anti-convention right-wingers who profess total allegiance to the Constitution, except for Article V. John T. Noonan, Jr., observed in 1985: “RESPECT, indeed reverence, for the Constitution is a proper attitude for conservatives to cultivate. Is it respectful to the Constitution to maintain that of the two methods of amendment specified by Article V one is too dangerous to be put to use?”
Exactly why did the Framers give us the option of an Article V convention? Listen to the wise words of one of the nation’s foremost legal scholars. Professor Paul Bator wrote this in 1980:
I think the Article V convention represents a profound political protection for us, as a people, against the tyranny of central government. And whatever we say about Article V, I think it is very, very wrong, just because we may disagree with the content of any particular constitutional amendment that is now being proposed, to interpret Article V in such a way as to clip its wings as a protection for the liberties of the people. That is why I think it is profoundly important, particularly for constitutional scholars, to be hospitable toward the concern that Article V represents, which is that there be a way out for the states and the people if a willful and intransigent central authority governs us in a way we find unacceptable.
We definitely need a way out. Two of our best presidents explicitly supported using the Article V convention option – Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower.
Have any recent presidential candidates expressed support for an Article V convention, even mavericks like Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, and Pat Buchanan? They have not. Have any third parties demanded an Article V convention? They have not. Have any mainstream media exposed Congress’ failure to obey the Constitution’s Article V? They have not. Has the Supreme Court or any elected official that swore to obey the Constitution faulted Congress for disobeying the Constitution? They have not.
If you are not a rich and powerful American, ask yourself: Has your government become so untrustworthy, dysfunctional and unacceptable that you should demand what our Constitution gives you a right to – an Article V convention?
Thomas Jefferson said “a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical.” Have many Americans concluded that rebellion has become necessary? They have not.
But some of us want to pursue political rebellion, not by using violence and not hoping against reality that necessary reforms will come from within the two-party controlled political system. No, we want to use what the Constitution grants us. We have created Friends of the Article V Convention to inform the public about this constitutional option and also to prod the states to demand a convention and the Congress to finally obey the Constitution and give us one. Check the group out at www.foavc.org to learn much more, and seriously consider becoming a member.
What do they say about insanity? Repeating what has not worked in the past? As in the past, no Democrats, no Republicans and no elections will give us what we truly need. Whatever risks an Article V convention pose, they are worth taking. Every rebellion is waged because the benefits sought outweigh the risks taken. Jefferson and the other Founders knew that. Not fixing the government they gave us dishonors them and all the Americans that have died and sacrificed for their country. And it makes our lives miserable and penalizes future generations. Has time run out for restoring American democracy? It has not.
The Common Denominator
By Emily Spence
03/26/07 "ICH " --- - Jared Diamond, E. O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins and many other reputable scientists from diverse fields cite human overpopulation as a root cause of many seemingly disparate, catastrophic problems that our planet, currently, faces. Whether the issue is extinction of an inordinate number of species over a small period of time, warfare over resources, ruin of all oceans through acidification, inevitable loss of major energy sources (i.e., oil and coal), massive migration by large segments of various social groups, ozone layer depletion, global warming, worldwide loss of potable water, large-scale increase in various kinds of poisonous pollution, an overwhelming proliferation of waste materials or any number of other severe myriad indicators, every one of these dilemmas point to one common denominator -- too many people using up too much before it can be replenished or before alternative sources are put in place (i.e., for oil, minerals, coal, etc.).
However, governmental and other world leaders are surprisingly silent when it comes to citing overpopulation as an ultimate cause of sweeping planetary destruction. In the same vein, they don't strive to find a workable solution. Indeed, many, instead of expending lavish amounts of money on developing feasible substitutes for oil and coal or encouraging universal access to birth control, choose to spend funds in enormously expensive war efforts.
Deep down and whether it is publicly announced or not, we all know the covert reason for these actions. It is simply a bid to garner the last remaining vestiges of oil or other resources for their own country's citizens at the expense of others. How shortsighted and brutal is that?
Meanwhile, is there an absolute limit to human growth -- a finite carrying capacity for earth? Yes. How long can earth's natural support systems sustain exponential expansion? This is not known and, to a certain extent, the answer is dependent on the way that we want to live and the types of surrounding environments that we want to have. Dystopian films, like "Soylent Green," point out this fact all too clearly -- presenting a warning that is terrifyingly clear.
In any case, information about and realistic solutions for the ravages of overpopulation desperately need to be examined on a global scale. Attempting to address the symptoms -- the assorted environmental dilemmas and social conflicts that are signs of this larger crisis -- is simply not enough!
Emily Spence resides in Massachusetts and deeply cares about the future of our world.
Hothouses for Hapless Masses on the Rio Grande
By GREG MOSES
Upon the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge where the chachalacas gather in small groups to screech for dawn, John Neck takes Jay Johnson-Castro for a winding-down ride. The two friends have returned here nightly during their five-day walk against immigrant prisons, because out here where the desert plants drink freely from estuary water, life is in love with itself.
Even looking at the people out here tending to their backyard citrus groves, you can't help but breathe a vision of life harmonious and full of grace. True, it's a different lay of land than what the friends saw recently on the Texas Rolling Plains, but what's the same is rural people who know the earth well enough to live off her.
As they crisscross the winding resacas of the Rio Grande Delta on their paths to and from a poisoned sampler of South Texas prisons, Laguna Atascosa always welcomes them back with a grin as if to say, wasn't that some fukked up bullshit you saw back there, and thanks for being men enough to cry.
Not that the child prison of Los Fresnos wasn't grim enough on Wednesday, or that the hidden secrets of Port Isabel didn't moan underground Thursday from back behind the thicketed gates, but Sunday at Raymondville was a special spike through the heart-a concentration camp of windowless plastic hothouses where a babel of forty or more languages gets melted into one universal cry of injustice.
On a hot day you can walk into one of those steaming plastic shells and smell nothing but puke as the earth's most fukked over stomachs do everything possible to disgorge the poisonous foods they have been conned into eating. On a cold day you can do the same thing shivering.
Once a day at Raymondville, they let the hapless masses out to remind them of sky, and then an hour later they are shoved back in. It gets to be too much. What is there for everyone to do but watch the young man who ties his bed sheet somehow to the ceiling and makes himself a noose. Everyone watches, even the guards, because there is nothing else to do. In the end, they don't let the man finish his act, but the guards never lift a finger either way.
For a dedicated attorney such as Jodi Goodwin who walks with Jay and John this Sunday, her willingness to help overflows her ability. For one thing is the sheer number of languages that greet you. Even if you want to help that woman from Ethiopia, it would cost thousands of dollars to hire an interpreter, which is money you don't have.
Goodwin remembers a time before blankets at Raymondville--a time before winter coats. Both of these things she demanded for her clients and got. From August through December she even demanded press coverage which is impossible to sue for these days.
Sunday Goodwin was the walk's guest of honor. She showed up on time, got a friend to help her park her car at Raymondville, and then returned to talk and walk with Johnson-Castro as loyal cars followed slowly behind. During the final hour, the walk was joined by Dallas supporters Dr. Asma Salam and Jose Delarocha who will host prison vigils in Dallas on Wednesday and Thursday. The Dallas vigils will call attention to a forthcoming federal ruling in the matter of habeas corpus for the Hazahza family who were split up between Texas prisons last November and who have yet to be reunited in freedom.
In a widening circle of conscience that began in Austin last December, the walks of Jay Johnson-Castro and John Neck have exorcised the secrets of five immigrant prisons in Texas: T. Don Hutto, Rolling Plains, International Educational Services, Port Isabel, and Raymondville. In Dallas they will try to pry another family free.
As for the thousands of nameless immigrants whose pictures we do not have, can it be true that some of them have been rotated from camp to camp for five years or more? Nothing we know tells us to disbelieve the report. The friends of Johnson-Castro have been too reliable for that. But like many Germans in 1945 there will be Americans today who can say we know something's going on, but never exactly what.
Read the rest here.
Girl on Fire: Confessions of a Former Journalistic Neophyte
by Meghann Farnsworth
March 25, 2007
I was the adult, a 25-year old journalism student on my first reporting trip abroad. She was the child, 16 going on 40. I had the translator, the driver waiting outside, a hotel room in the safest part of the city, a ticket out of the country in three days. She had her mother, fidgeting nervously in the waiting room, a multitude of STD tests, a house she rarely left in a violent neighborhood, and one of the most dangerous gangs in Guatemala City threatening her life if she talked.
A journalist's job is to ask questions. Journalism school emphasizes the need to get "color," "scenes," "details." Final articles are to be written in an authoritative, confident voice. And yet, what rules of engagement apply when a reporter -- OK, in my case a young reporter -- is faced with a source as vulnerable and traumatized as this girl?
Increasing violence against women in Guatemala City, that was what I had come down to investigate. Although I knew my subject, had read the literature, the government briefings and the daily local news reports, there was no way I could have prepared myself for the reality. Covering violence means being physically exposed to its final product: its victims, dead or alive.
Two weeks, visiting the morgue, the cemetery, prosecutors, police, human rights lawyers, forensic scientists, a women's shelter, families of victims. A litany of horrors running through my head. Nearly 600 Guatemalan women murdered in 2006, according to the national police. Almost two a day. Only seven men put behind bars for murdering women last year. Witnesses to crimes threatened into silence, sometimes killed. Domestic abuse, still legal. Bodies buried alone, unnamed, without family, without prayers.
Until you see a man, woman, child slipped into the ground without a headstone or an identity you have no idea how alone a body can be in this world. But here it was and here she was: all the violence, all the statistics and one kid. One kid, in perfect honesty, that I was almost afraid of -- her story so powerful that it threatened to overwhelm sheltered American me.
I began interviewing her confidently enough in that small room in a women's center in the heart of Guatemala City, but soon I noticed my voice had become unrecognizably soft, motherly. I was all too aware I had abandoned my confident journalistic-authority voice for fear that she might shatter. Each of my questions -- Who did this to you? What prison did they take you to? How long did they keep you there? What did they do to you? Did you go to the police? -- pushed deeper into her still fresh pain. And yet -- and this was the most unnerving thing of all -- each of her replies came in that steady, flat voice of hers, as if she were the reporter and her subject were as dull as the weather:
They took off my clothes. Held me down. And then they raped me. Ten of them. Then ten more. Then ten more.
Do journalists comfort their subjects? I didn't remember that from my J-school courses. Do journalists get this nervous? I didn't remember my professors mentioning that either. Had I gone too far?
I kept thinking each question was inappropriate, too personal. I told her she could walk away anytime. Say something off the record. Refuse to answer a question. I said these things early on, almost as a prayer. Maybe I was trying to get her to stop. For my own sanity, did I really want to know the answers to these questions? Maybe I also wanted to protect her from the media, from me. Did she know what she was doing? In the end, do sources ever really know what they are doing? And what was I anyway -- all these things were spinning in my head -- just a parachute journalist, jumping into the ashes of Guatemalan violence to bring out this jewel of a story -- the perfect example of one society's indifference to women?
Whether warning her was the correct thing to do journalistically, it felt like the only thing to do humanly. She was risking her life speaking with me and I could offer her no protection other than her anonymity.
In the end, she answered every question. Willingly. And she seemed to grow bolder with each statement.
I want you to print this. Tell my story. Print it in Spanish so they will know I told.
She was, of course, just one girl, one story amid hundreds, thousands. And certainly, impunity for rape and violence is not unique to Guatemala. It occurs in every country around the world. But she was the one sitting in front of me. And her story was no cliché: Kidnapped by armed men, she -- a petite 16-year old -- was taken to a notorious gang prison and raped for hours by dozens of inmates.
Read the rest here.
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