Thursday, January 31, 2008

ISRAEL SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT, A DECISION DESTINED TO STAIN ISRAEL JUDICIARY

The Israel Supreme Court has ruled that cutting off fuel and food supplies to the Palestinians in Gaza is perfectly legal. This is as notorious a ruling as that of the U.S. Supreme Court in Korematsu more than 60 years ago when the Court ruled that locking up Japanese Americans was perfectly okay and within the power of the president. We all know that Korematsu has been a stain on the U.S. justice system, and we also know that the Israeli court has now made a huge blunder, seeming to countenance and approve despicable collective punishment for the rocket attacks of a few.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

AG MUKASEY FUDGES AGAIN, SAYS HE IS NOT SURE ABOUT WATERBOARDING

Michael Mukasey, the Attorney General of the United States, says that it is a "hard call" to determine whether waterboarding is "torture." What does this say about Mukasey's legal competence? What does this say about his ethics?

We all know waterboarding is indeed torture. If Mukasey is still unsure, I suggest that he volunteer to be waterboarded, and submit to the same treatment which the CIA has applied to the high value targets in its custody. Perhaps then Mukasey could give the public an opinion -either yes or no.

It is disgraceful that the highest ranking legal officer of the United States does not know that waterboarding is torture, and that he thinks it is a "hard case."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

JOE LIEBERMAN SHOWS UP IN BOGOTA TO SUPPORT URIBE AGAINST HUGO CHAVEZ AND FARC

Now who appears today in Bogota to buoy up Colombian president Alvaro Uribe but Joe Lieberman, the "independent" senator from Connecticut. First it was Condoleeza Rice a few days ago, now Lieberman. I can only guess that the same person(s) who sent Condi also sent Joe.

Bush and Cheney are so angry that their "enemy," Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, was the one who secured the release of the two Colombian ladies who were held hostage by FARC. The American leaders seem obsessed to deny Chavez some of the world's gratitude that they are sending Joe Lieberman to say that Uribe is their man, notwithstanding that Uribe has done nothing to secure the release of the other hostages other than make bellicose and militaristic threats against FARC.

Put this Lieberman visit together with the sentencing of an extradited FARC leader to 60 years in a U.S. federal penitentiary, and we get the picture of a United States government that has no idea of what is happening in Colombia.

What will the FARC do in response to the 60-year sentence? FARC holds several hundred hostages, including at least three Americans whose plane crashed in the Colombian jungles some three years ago. Will FARC let them go as a humanitarian gesture? Or will it take revenge for the 60-year sentence of one of its leaders?

The answer is clear and against the interest of all of the hostages. The U.S. sentences a FARC leader to a harsh sentence. FARC will redouble its efforts to maintain captivity of its hostages, and the hostages will be held captive for the rest of their natural lives.

Monday, January 28, 2008

KEEP BORDER OPEN BETWEEN EGYPT AND GAZA FOR HUMANITARIAN REASONS

Let's hope the border between Egypt and Gaza remains open. Otherwise, if Israel and the United States get their way, the border will be shut again, prevent Palestinians in Gaza from obtaining the basic necessities of life, such as food and medicine.

Why the U.S. wants the border closed is incomprehensible, given George Bush's insistence on freedom and democracy. Hamas won the election held by Palestinians in January 2007. Yet Bush who likes to claim that "terrorists hate democracy" could only sputter in disbelief that the Palestinians freely chose Hamas. Israel calls Hamas "terrorist organization," so Bush was put in the hypocritical position of rejecting Hamas notwithstanding the free and fair outcome of the elections.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

ISRAEL AGREES TO RESUME FUEL TO GAZA AFTER BEING ACCUSED OF INFLICTING "COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT"

Today Israel announces that it will resume fuel shipments to Gaza after a 10-day suspension. When the decision came down, the Israel Supreme Court was hearing a case against the government brought by human rights groups who argued that the fuel suspension was "collective punishment" and therefore illegal. Apparently the Israeli government decided to give up. Here is the link to the BBC report on Israel's decision.

This is the right decision. Whoever gave the order to suspend basic necessities of life to the Palestinians in Gaza should be sacked. It has caused the world to wonder in revulsion at how Israel treats the common Palestinian people. Granted that Israel has the right to protect its citizens from rocket attacks emanating from Gaza. However, it is a huge mistake both ethically and in terms of public relations for the Israeli government to punish the people as a whole for the actions of a few. Furthermore, collective punishment never succeeds.

Instead of the iron fist and collective punishment, Israel show try diplomacy and negotiation, and this should not just be extended to Fatah but also to Hamas and its leaders. Guns and bombs and military action never works and will never work.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

BUSH AND ISRAEL WANT TO RE-SEAL BORDER BETWEEEN GAZA AND EGYPT, PREVENT PALESTINIANS FROM OBTAINING NECESSITIES OF LIFE

The eight-meter high corrugated steel fence is now down between Gaza and Egypt and thousands of Gazans have been crossing into Egypt to obtain the basic necessities of life - food, cooking fuel and medicines.

Several weeks ago, Israel had closed and sealed all borders with Gaza. This was collective punishment. Palestinian militants continued to fire missiles into Israel, and Israel took reprisals on the whole population. The result was that Palestinians in Gaza were effectively "locked down," unable to obtain even the basic necessities.

Now, the wall being torn down, Gazans are free to cross over into Egypt to obtain life's necessities. The whole world can see the pitiful state of the Gazan population and the evils of collective punishment. Egypt is doing the right thing by allowing Gazans to cross over the border and enter Egypt.

But how about the United States? The BBC is reporting that both Israel and the U.S. want the border to be re-sealed. How could the Bush government support such an anti-humanitarian proposal? If the border is re-sealed, then Gazans return to their barely survivable modus vivendi. There will be rationing of food, electric power, cooking fuel, medicines.

This is another example of the Bush foreign policy which is mean, vindictive, cruel, harsh and short-sighted. Bush thinks he can force suspects to admit guilt and implicate associates by torturing them. He thinks he can solve world problems by dropping bombs. And he thinks that he can ensure Israel's security by locking almost one million Gazans in a virtual prison with no escape and little food.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

BUSH SENDS CONDOLEEZA TO COLOMBIA - IS HER TRIP ANTI- HUGO CHAVEZ?

Why is Condoleeza Rice in Colombia conferring with Colombian president Alvaro Uribe? The story is that she is pushing for some sort of free trade agreement, but the suspicion arises that she is consorting with Uribe in some sort of public relations campaign aimed at Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Chavez recently was instrumental in getting the FARC to release two female hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, who had each been held for over five years. If it had been left to Uribe, the two ladies might still be captives in the Colombian jungle. Uribe believes in freeing the hostages with guns and soldiers, whereas Chavez thinks that diplomacy and talk can get the job done and the hostages released.

Bush and Cheney treat Chavez as the "enemy," and they cannot be happy to see him lauded for his good diplomatic work in freeing Gonzalez and Rojas.

So the suspicion, what is Condoleeza Rice doing in Colombia if not to stir up problems for Hugo Chavez.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

PALESTINIANS KNOCK DOWN BORDER GATE, FLEE TO EGYPT, ESCAPE ISRAEL'S HARSH COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT

The Palestinians in Gaza have taken enough collective punishment from Israel, and so today they knocked down the wall and gate bordering Egypt. The Egyptian authorities did the right thing in not opposing the Gazans who are desperately looking to escape their dreadful prison after Israel imposed a lock down of all the other border gates and prohibited needed shipments of food, medicine and power.

Would anyone believe that countries could get away in 2007 with collective punishment on a whole people in order to stop a few from shooting missiles into and onto Israel towns? When Palestinians fire missiles at Israeli towns, this is barbaric. But over the last month Israel has cut off power for heat and lights and cooking fuel for the whole Gazan population. Israel also reduced the amount of medicines and food for Gaza. This surely qualifies as illegitimate collective punishment. How many residents of Gaza, the old, the sick, the very young, have died because of Israel's clamp down?

So congratulations to the Palestinians for knocking down the wall. At least now they have access to basic necessities of life in nearby Egyptian towns.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

IRAQ IS STILL BROKEN, SURGE CANNOT FIX IRAQ'S PROBLEMS

Andrew Bacevich whose marine son was killed in Iraq several months ago has written a critique in The Washington Post of the mantra of "the surge is working" being repeated endlessly by the Republicans anxious to find a successful denouement to the war. Bacevich says don't believe the hype because in truth the surge is not working. What the "surge" has done is to displace the mess in Iraq from its place on the front pages of newspapers and as the lead in the nightly TV news.

Writes Bacevich:

"In short, the surge has done nothing to overturn former secretary of state Colin Powell's now-famous "Pottery Barn" rule: Iraq is irretrievably broken, and we own it. To say that any amount of "kicking ass" will make Iraq whole once again is pure fantasy. The U.S. dilemma remains unchanged: continue to pour lives and money into Iraq with no end in sight, or cut our losses and deal with the consequences of failure.

"In only one respect has the surge achieved undeniable success: It has ensured that U.S. troops won't be coming home anytime soon. This was one of the main points of the exercise in the first place. As AEI military analyst Thomas Donnelly has acknowledged with admirable candor, "part of the purpose of the surge was to redefine the Washington narrative," thereby deflecting calls for a complete withdrawal of U.S. combat forces. Hawks who had pooh-poohed the risks of invasion now portrayed the risks of withdrawal as too awful to contemplate. But a prerequisite to perpetuating the war -- and leaving it to the next president -- was to get Iraq off the front pages and out of the nightly news. At least in this context, the surge qualifies as a masterstroke.

"From his new perch as a New York Times columnist, William Kristol has worried that feckless politicians just might "snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory." Not to worry: The "victory" gained in recent months all but guarantees that the United States will remain caught in the jaws of Iraq for the foreseeable future. . . .

"Look beyond the spin, the wishful thinking, the intellectual bullying and the myth-making. The real legacy of the surge is that it will enable Bush to bequeath the Iraq war to his successor -- no doubt cause for celebration at AEI, although perhaps less so for the families of U.S. troops. Yet the stubborn insistence that the war must continue also ensures that Bush's successor will, upon taking office, discover that the post-9/11 United States is strategically adrift. Washington no longer has a coherent approach to dealing with Islamic radicalism. Certainly, the next president will not find in Iraq a useful template to be applied in Iran or Syria or Pakistan."

Monday, January 21, 2008

ISRAEL INFLICTS COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT ON PEOPLE OF GAZA - THIS IS A WAR CRIME

The news reports out of Gaza are dreadful. Israel is inflicting collective punishment against the whole population as a means to retaliate against the few who are shooting rockets from Gaza into Israel.

I thought we condemned the Nazis during the second World War for inflicting collective punishment on cities and villages where German soldiers were killed. The Nazis inflicted penalties of up to 100 for one. One German soldier's death required 100 civilians to be hanged. The Allies were no different or no less guilty of barbaric collective punishment. Consider the fire bombing of Dresden by British and American war planes. More than 40,000 German civilians killed during the span of one night as the whole city was destroyed. This too was collective punishment. And a war crime.

Now it seems to be Israel's turn to engage in this horrendous practice. Punish the whole population by stopping all shipments of food and gasoline into Gaza. Let the people suffer from lack of medicine and electricity. Cause huge bread lines and periods of power outage. Continue with such wholesale punishment until the rockets stop.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

WHEN IRAN SENDS SPEEDBOATS TO CONFRONT U.S. NAVAL WARSHIPS, WHO IS AT FAULT?

There is an opinion piece in today's The New York Times written by a former marine officer, David Crist, on the danger of those small Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz. Crist writes that he himself witnessed the Iranian boats threaten his unit several years ago when operating in "Iraqi waters."

"I witnessed a very similar event five years ago during the invasion of Iraq. It was April 4, 2003, and in support of the British assault on the city of Basra in southern Iraq, four Navy patrol boats, under a Navy command in which I served, were dispatched up the Shatt al Arab, the waterway marking the Iran-Iraq border. The senior officer present — a Navy captain — was an experienced Seal who was fluent in Persian, having lived in Tehran as a teenager. We took great pains to avoid a confrontation, staying well within Iraqi territorial waters and even erecting a makeshift Iranian flag on one of the boats, which our captain felt would display our peaceful intentions.

"The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responded by sending four small boats toward us at high speed, the largest being a fast Swedish-built Boghammer, which resembles a cigarette boat, outfitted with a twin-barrel machine gun on its bow. With rooster-tails of white water, the boats came barreling over to the Iraqi side of the Shatt al Arab, surrounded us, and took the tarp off of at least one multiple-rocket launcher and pointed it directly at our lead boat."

This sounds like the Iranians are the provocateurs, but let's put Crist's experiences into context. The Shaat al Arab is a river between Iran and Iraq. Here is a MSN Encarta map that shows the Shaat. Furthermore, here is a MSN Encarta map of the Strait of Hormuz. Note in both cases the proximity to the coastline of Iran. The Shaat is only a river with one bank being Iran. The Strait of Hormuz is apparently at its widest only about 100 kilometers. The United States sends battleships including carriers through the Strait. If they sailed in the middle of the Strait, they would approach the coastline of Iran and be some 50 kilometers or less off the coast.

Imagine having Chinese warships or any other foreign warships operating within 50 miles of the coastline of the United States! What would be the response of the U.S. Navy? The Iranians sent out a few speedboats in response. The U.S. would probably mount a wholesale operation with warplanes and war ships, probably including nuclear subs!

My question then for Crist is whether he would support a U.S. naval response to foreign warships sailing that close to the coastline of the U.S.? Would he call such American response a "systematic harassment" in the same way as he characterizes the response of the Iranians to the threatening presence of American ships?

Is the Iranian response that unexpected by Crist that he calls for a military response against Iran, even if not encompassing all-out warfare? I argue that the Iranian reaction is even more understandable in light of the constant haranguing by George W. Bush on the evils of Iran and the threat that it poses. If Crist were a naval Iranian officer, how would he understand the presence of so much American firepower such a short distance off the Iranian coastline? Especially if that foreign government had threatened the U.S. with "nothing's off the table" rhetoric over the last eight years!

That's the trouble with Crist and his military analysis. It starts from a premise that the United States is in a superior moral position and that all response from the other is provocative and irrational. There is no understanding of what the other side thinks or reasons.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

MITT ROMNEY WINS NEVADA, LOSES IN SOUTH CAROLINA

It looks like it is John McCain in South Carolina, Mitt Romney in Nevada, for the Republicans. And Hillary Clinton in Nevada for the Democrats.

What shall we say about Mitt's victory in Nevada? There are a lot of gullible people who must have come out and voted for Mitt in Utah's neighboring state. Because, who else is going to vote for Mitt? The more we see of him, the more his phoniness is apparent. Mitt will say anything, Mitt will do anything, Mitt will promise anything - just to capture someone's vote.

Mitt is the big supporter of George W. Yet now he is running on a platform of change. He says Washington politics and practices must be changed. Yet how does he square this with his sucking up to W? Not just a little sucking up, but a full 100%. As I said, Mitt will say anything.

It looks like he is coming in a distant fourth in South Carolina. I think in Nevada Mitt has won his last primary election because I doubt he will win another state primary.

Friday, January 18, 2008

STOP HARASSING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

There were at least three stories in today's The New York Times, not counting the NYT editorial, on immigration policy.

Julia Preston reports on the fearful state of many people in Waukegan who are either undocumented immigrants themselves or citizen relatives of such immigrants. It is not a happy picture. What must it be to live in a constant state of fear? Fear that you will be stopped for a traffic violation and then turned over to the immigration authorities at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Fear that the ICE police will raid your work place and discover you are "illegal." Fear if you are an eight-year-old that your father or mother will not come home after work because they have been placed "in deportation proceedings." Put all this fear in context by contrasting it with the harsh and uncaring attitude of some of those children of immigrants who came to the U.S. long ago who now want to see all Mexicans and Latinos evicted and deported.

Preston quotes the mayor of Waukegan on his mean and intolerant views toward immigrants:

"“Do I believe in closing the borders?” Mr. Hyde said. “Do I believe in putting troops down there? You bet your life. Illegal is illegal, and that’s the end of the conversation, really.”"

Then there is the report by Diane Cardwell on another mayor's more realistic approach, Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Bloomberg considers immigrants part of the success of New York City.

“Take a look behind me,” Mr. Bloomberg said, referring to the collection of largely immigrant families he had invited to sit onstage. “This is what makes America great,” he added, holding his arms aloft, his voice rising. “This is New York City. This is freedom. This is compassion and democracy and opportunity.”

"Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg practically began his address by jabbing a sly elbow toward some of the presidential candidates, criticizing those who had suddenly “embraced xenophobia.”

“Keeping New York City and America at the front of the pack begins with an openness to new energy, meaning immigration, and new ideas, meaning innovation,” he said. “That’s how I built my business, and that’s the approach we’ve brought to a city government that was insular and provincial, and married to the conventional.”

Then the NYT opined in its lead editorial that Democratic candidates need to come out with proposals on immigration reform that are realistic and humane towards the 12 million or so of immigrants lacking documents.

"Except for Mr. McCain, the Republican candidates have skirted the issue or, worse, embraced the restrictionist approach known as “attrition.” That amounts to relentlessly tightening the screws in workplaces and homes until illegal immigrants magically, voluntarily disappear.

"Making it work would require far more government intrusion into daily lives, with exponential increases in workplace raids and deportations. It would mean constant ID checks for everyone — citizens, too — with immigration police at the federal, state and local levels. It would mean enlisting bureaucrats and snoops to keep an eye on landlords, renters, laborers, loiterers and everyone who uses government services or gets sick.

"Worst of all, it’s weak on law and order. It is a free pass to the violent criminals we urgently need to hunt down and deport. Attrition means waiting until we stumble across bad people hiding in the vast illegal immigrant haystack. Comprehensive reform, by bringing the undocumented out of the shadows, shrinks the haystack.

"Fred Thompson has been perhaps the most vocal defender of attrition. But on Wednesday, the newly restrictionist Mike Huckabee one-upped him by signing the “No Amnesty” pledge of the nativist group NumbersUSA, formally committing to the principle that all 12 million illegal immigrants must be expelled. Americans, naturally, have no earthly idea how he would accomplish that."

The NYT editorial goes on to criticize Democrats too, in their case for approaching immigration reform from too timorous a position. The Democrats all show "eggshell timidity" on immigration:
"Now, attrition is threatening to become a bipartisan disaster. The SAVE Act, an enforcement-only bill, was introduced last year by a Democrat, Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina, and the notoriously restrictionist Republicans Brian Bilbray and Tom Tancredo. It is gaining sponsors.

"The Republican stance on immigration leaves an opening that opponents could drive a truck through. The Democratic candidates have the better position but approach the subject with eggshell timidity. They should stand up for a real debate, and a better country, by forcefully challenging the Republicans on this issue."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

ANOTHER DOSE OF HYPOCRISY FROM BUSH IN MIDDLE EAST

I don't understand how come Bush said nothing yesterday to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak about Mubarak's trashing of democracy in Egypt where dissidents are thrown in jail and members of the political opposition are deemed "terrorists." Yet a few days before, Bush made that pompous speech in Abu Dhabi where he said that freedom and democracy were God's gift to mankind.

At the same time Bush rants against Iranian president Ahmadinejad and threats the Iranian nation with annihilation for sending five small speedboats out to investigate warships of the U.S. fleet in the Straits of Hormuz. Yet he is strangely reticent with the president of the Egyptian dictatorship. Remember Egypt is one of those nations where Bush illegally sent American prisoners to be "interrogated." He once boasted about this, saying, in effect, that they disappeared thereafter, and he was not unhappy about that.

Bush wants democracy where the outcome of the vote agrees with his pre-formed opinions. But he rejects democracy where the outcome does not suit him. Witness his rejection of the democratically Hamas government in Gaza. Bush calls Hamas a "terrorist organization." Another example - Bush's contempt for Hugo Chavez, democratically elected as president of Venezuela with more than 70% of the vote. Where the outcome does not suit Bush, he claims that either the election was rigged or that the elected government oppresses its people.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

HUGO CHAVEZ SEEKS DIPLOMATIC RESOLUTION TO FARC HOSTAGES HELD IN COLOMBIA'S JUNGLES

Finally I see someone writing an analysis of the disastrous and senseless U.S. foreign policy towards Colombia, Venzuela and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). Mark Weisbrot writes as a guest blogger for Post Global in The Washington Post about the release of the two FARC hostages through the efforts and negotiations of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Weisbrot correctly describes Colombia's benighted policy towards the hundreds of FARC hostages still being held in captivity in the Colombian jungles. Colombia believes it can win militarily, negotiations be damned. This is the same policy favored by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney towards Iran. It is the same policy favored by Israel's government towards the Palestinians. Bombs, guns and missiles solve all problems.

"The Colombian government appears to believe that it can win the 40-year war through purely military (and paramilitary) means. The Bush Administration shares this view, and supplies Colombia with more than $600 million annually in military aid, which is sometimes labeled "anti-drug" aid. But there has been increasing pressure for negotiations: from inside Colombia, led by the courageous Senator Piedad Cordoba; from the families of the hostages; and from Europe – where Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen, is well-known and has much sympathy."

Weisbrot writes that Hugo Chavez, in the quest to get FARC to release the other 500+ hostages, wants to see Colombia and its president Alvaro Uribe quit referring to FARC as a "terrorist organization." Otherwise, neither FARC nor Uribe will agree to negotiate for the hostages' release.

"In the last few days, Chavez has called for the FARC to be recognized as insurgents rather than terrorists. This has been portrayed as "support" for the FARC. However, his position is the same as other governments in the region, which have consistently rebuffed U.S. pressure to officially label the FARC as a "terrorist" organization. Brazil’s government has said that to classify the FARC as “terrorist” organization would likely damage any prospects of negotiating a solution to the country’s civil conflict.
"The FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist, including kidnappings. However, so does the Colombian government, and over the years international human rights groups have found right-wing paramilitaries linked to the government responsible for the vast majority of atrocities. And during the last year, revelations of ties between Uribe's political allies and the death squads have severely damaged the government's reputation, and led to the arrest of more than a dozen legislators."

Hugo Chavez is the one with the break-through ideas for resolving Colombia's stand-off with FARC. If Colombia insists on pursuing a military resolution with FARC, it is fair to assume that the hostages will remain prisoners for another 20 years. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

STOP WHOLESALE DEPORTATION OF LATINOS WITHOUT DOCUMENTS

Julie Myers as head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) needs to back off on her quest to deport Mexican and Latino undocumented immigrants. Myers is the niece of Gen. Myers, former head of the Joint Chiefs. Julia Preston reports in today's The New York Times that Myers is aiming to deport some 200,000 undocumenteds for year 2008.

In contrast to mean Ms. Myers, I believe everyone has a right to go anywhere and cross any border in his/her desire to put bread on the table. Therefore, I want open borders, the end of ICE, the removal of the hated fences and walls along the U.S.-Mexican frontier and, above all, respect for our Latin American neighbors who immigrate to the United States.

Monday, January 14, 2008

BUSH'S MISSION TRIES TO BUILD CASE AGAINST IRAN

The more George W. Bush tries to exacerbate the relations between the U.S. and Iran, the more the price of oil goes up. The more Bush accuses Iran of "provocations" and harboring desires to create nuclear weapons, the more the price of gold goes up. Gold is today about $910 per ounce. Oil is about $95 per bbl. If Bush has his way and initiates an attack against Iran, oil will reach $200 per bbl. and gold $2,000 per oz. Imagine what this will do to both the economy of the U.S. and the overall world economy. There would be a recession that would be the mother of all recessions.

Thanks to the gods so far that the Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia, seem to have more sense than Bush. King Abdullah invited Iranian president Ahmadinejad to attend the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. The long-time animosity between the Arabs and the Persians seems to have lost a lot of its heat and intensity by having Ahmadinejad come to Saudi Arabia as a Muslim pilgrim.

Bush's attempt to roil the waters between Middle Eastern countries against Iran seems to have gained no support save in Israel where the neo-cons like Olmert are engaged in an overt campaign to get Bush and Cheney to attack Iran. This must not be allowed to happen.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

BUSH THREATENS IRAN YET PREACHES FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY

George Bush constantly threatens the government of Iran with military force and says it should be confronted "before it's too late." He did it again today in a speech in Abu Dhabi. The BBC reports:

"US President George W Bush has warned of the dangers he says are posed by Iran, in a speech in its Gulf neighbour, the United Arab Emirates.

"Mr Bush said Iran threatened the security of all nations and should be confronted "before it's too late".

"In a speech in Abu Dhabi on the latest leg of a Middle Eastern tour, he also urged the region to embrace democracy. "

We all know Bush is a war monger. The chances are good that Bush will attack Iran before he leaves office. Bush engages in reckless threats and charges against Iran. For example, Bush long claimed that Iran was building nuclear weapons until the National Intelligence Estimate disabused him of that baseless claim. WMD as we all remember was the faulty casus belli for the U.S. attack and invasion of Iraq.

The BBC reports on other facets of Bush's speech:

"Mr Bush said spreading freedom and democracy was the best way to defeat radicalism.
America and its democratic allies would prevail over extremists like al-Qaeda, he said, because they have "freedom and justice written into our hearts by Almighty God . . . no terrorists can take that away". "

Bush always wants to "spread freedom and democracy" except when free elections turn out in a way different from how he wants it. Take the Palestinians voting for Hamas in January 2007. That was a free and fair election, but after the results came in, Bush said he would not recognize Hamas as the governing body because it is a "terrorist" organization that fails to recognize Israel. The result is Bush accepts democracy only when it suits his purposes and aims. The same goes for Venezuela where Hugo Chavez was elected president by an overwhelming majority. Bush claims Chavez is as dictator who abuses human rights. But that is because Chavez called Bush "Satan." Furthermore, Chavez has no affinity with Bush's proclivity to solve all problems in foreign diplomacy with bombs and missiles, and has been outspoken in his criticism of Bush and Bush's foreign policy.

We still have more than a full year till Bush leaves office. With all his rhetoric about freedom and democracy, the world has still much to fear from Bush's military push to re-make the world in his small image.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

NYT ARTICLE TODAY ON U.S. WAR GAMES "SPINS" TO JUSTIFY BUSH'S RECKLESS THREATS AGAINST IRAN

In an effort to justify almost starting a war with Iran over those pesky little Iranian motor boats approaching the mighty ships of the U.S. Navy in the Straits of Hormuz, a mere shooting distance of Iran, Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper, a retired Marine Corps officer, explains in a story today by Thom Shanker in The New York Times how he personally warned the Pentagon in 2002 that small boats coming in numbers could inflict horrendous casualties on the U.S. Navy war ships.

Writes Shanker:

"There is a reason American military officers express grim concern over the tactics used by Iranian sailors last weekend: a classified, $250 million war game in which small, agile speedboats swarmed a naval convoy to inflict devastating damage on more powerful warships.

"In the days since the encounter with five Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz, American officers have acknowledged that they have been studying anew the lessons from a startling simulation conducted in August 2002. In that war game, the Blue Team navy, representing the United States, lost 16 major warships — an aircraft carrier, cruisers and amphibious vessels — when they were sunk to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in an attack that included swarming tactics by enemy speedboats."

Why do I feel that a spin is involved? The evidence coming out now about the video and audio showing Iranian speedboats "threatening" the U.S. Navy seems upon closer examination to indicate that there was no real threat and there was no Iranian provocation. The audio seems to have been patched onto the video and then released by the Pentagon to further demonize Iran at the inception of the Bush visit to Arab Sunni states in the Middle East. As if to say, "We told you so, Iran is a serious threat to the region, and this inchoate attack shows that Iran is a menace, even without nuclear weapons, and so we must take action."

And who is this Gen. Van Riper? And why is he coming out now to disclose his experience with war games back in 2002. Van Riper sounds like somebody's mouthpiece, and that someone I suspect could be Dick Cheney or Cheney's assistant, David Addington. Could Van Riper be in fact Cheney's spokesman in a case where Cheney or Addington do not want to be identified themselves in the laying of the bogus foundation that the U.S. was not the instigator of the confrontation but the injured party. All in an attempt to justify George W. Bush's recklessly calling the encounter a "serious provocation" and warning that the next one would result in serious military retaliation. Otherwise Bush could not conceal that he appears to the world to be the war monger once again, this time in his and Cheney's attempt to bomb Iran.

Friday, January 11, 2008

DAN FROOMKIN ASKS HOW COME CLINTON, OBAMA & EDWARDS SAY LITTLE CRITICAL OF GEORGE W. BUSH'S POLICIES?

I see where Dan Froomkin in Nieman Watchdog suggests that the Democratic candidates do something more than fill their speeches with "hope" and "change." Specifically, Froomkin wonders why Obama, Edwards and Clinton are not confronting the disastrous polices of George W. Bush.

Where do we see their arguments against the War in Iraq? Where is Obama on the violations of the Fourth Amendment in Bush's illegal wiretapping? How come we don't hear from Hillary on the disgrace of Guantanamo and the removal of the the protection of the Great Writ of Habeas Corpus? And how come we have heard little to nothing from Edwards on Bush's policy of torturing suspects to obtain " valuable information"?

Instead of just mouthing platitudes, the Democratic candidates must confront the pressing problems created by Bush. They must go on record as against them. They must also explain why the polices constitute an American disaster, and how Democratic policies would remedy these problems.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

CHAVEZ OBTAINS FREEDOM FOR TWO FARC HOSTAGES IN SPITE OF BUSH AND URIBE

Hooray for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for his role in obtaining the release of the two hostages from the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas) today. The two ladies released have been more than five years in captivity.

This is a huge setback for George W. Bush who has made disparaging remarks about Chavez in the past. Chavez is becoming more and more an influence in Latin and South America, while Bush's influence is little to nil.

I suspect Bush counselled Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to reject the help of Chavez several weeks ago in securing the hostages' release. Now both Bush and Uribe appear mean-spirited and enemies of humanitarianism while at the same time Chavez comes out looking like the real force for good in seeking an accommodation with the FARC to secure the hostages' freedom.

REAL PURPOSE OF BUSH'S TRIP TO PURSUE ATTACK WITH ISRAEL AGAINST IRAN

Bush's arrival in Israel seems to be all about threatening statements against Iran. Olmert and Perez appear to be inciting Bush to move one step closer toward U.S. military action against Iran.

Bush's ostensible purpose of encouraging Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace accord appears then to be mere window dressing to the real purpose of forming a coalition against Iran. I thought that Bush's march towards war with Iran was defused upon the publication of the report from the National Intelligence group that Iran was NOT developing nuclear weapons. However, once again, after reading about Bush's trip, I cannot help but think that the neocons in both the U.S. and Israel think of nothing else than mounting a military assault against Iran and Iranians.

THREE IRANIAN SPEED BOATS AGAINST US WARSHIPS?

This whole flare-up between U.S. warships and three or four Iranian speedboats in the Gulf of Hormuz seems more and more bizarre. Look closely at a photo of one of the Iranian boats in today's The New York Times. There aoppears to be three occupants. As far as can be seen, no one has on any body or head protection. There seems to be no small-arms weapons in the speed boat, not even a machine gun or a rifle. How does the Bush government expect people to believe the Iranians were threatening or attacking huge war ships with three puny unarmed speed boats?

Reports Nazila Fathi:

"Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accused the United States on Wednesday of fabricating a video showing Iranian speedboats confronting United States Navy warships in the Persian Gulf over the weekend, according to a report carried by the semiofficial Fars news agency and state-run television.
“Images released by the U.S. Department of Defense about the Navy vessels were made from file pictures, and the audio was fabricated,” an unnamed Revolutionary Guard official said, according to Fars, which has close links to the Revolutionary Guard. It was the first time Iran had commented on the video that the Pentagon released Tuesday."

The suspicion of the Iranians that this whole incident was faked and fabricated has believability. Take the audio that was released that has the Iranians predicting that the U.S. warships "will blow up." Where is the ambient noise that should be heard if these radio transmissions are being made from one of the approaching speedboats? On the audio, there is no noise of the engines or of the rushing wake.

Writes Fathi:

"The audio includes a heavily accented voice warning in English that the Navy warships would explode. However, the recording carries no ambient noise — the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind — that would be expected if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small boats that sped around the three-ship American convoy."

The U.S. Pentagon cannot explain the lack of surround noise in the audio:

"Pentagon officials said they could not rule out that the broadcast might have come from shore, or from another ship nearby, although it might have come from one of the five fast boats with a high-quality radio system."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

UGH. OLMERT: BUSH IS "VERY WISE MAN . . . LOYAL TO . . . PRINCIPLES"

The Washington Post blog On the Plane asks if Ehud Olmert is becoming Bush's new poodle.

"In an interview last week with the Jerusalem Post, Olmert said that in all his years in public life, he did not recall "that America was led by someone as friendly since the days of President Ford."

""He's also a great guy," Olmert added of Bush. "I know that people say all kinds of things about him. Gentlemen, he's a graduate of Yale and Harvard. People don't graduate from Harvard and Yale without wisdom and understanding of processes and domestic and international relationships. He's a very wise man.""

This is too much to take. Olmert says Bush is "a very wise man"? Olmert must want something very bad from Bush. This effusive sycophantic praise is beyond belief. Has Tony Blair every sunk so low in his Bush encomia? Has Olmert no sense of decency?

"Olmert may have topped himself in his joint press conference Wednesday afternoon, which opened with the prime minister thanking Bush for "the power that you used for good causes for this region and for the world."

"The two then went on to answer questions about Iran and the Middle East, but when the questions were over, Olmert could not resist thanking Bush for "the courage that you inspire in all of us to carry on with our obligations."

""Sometimes it's not easy, but when I look at you, and I know what you have to take upon your shoulders and how you do it, the manner in which you do it, the courage that you have, the determination that you have, and your loyalty to the principles that you believe in -- it makes all of us feel that we can also . . . move forward."

"Even Bush seemed a bit embarrassed."

HILLARY WINS IN SPITE OF POLLS SHOWING LARGE LEAD FOR OBAMA

I don't understand how the polls showing Barack Obama ahead by up to ten points were all so wrong. Once Hillary took the leading in early results last night in the NH primaries, she maintained the same lead until the end. It was depressing, at least for me, a fan of Obama.

What made Hillary so appealing to voters? Her argument against Obama's idealism and in favor of her "experience" could not, in my opinion, have caused her win.

I think it had to do more with sympathy elicited from older women voters who were put off and offended by those two crazy hecklers bearing signs, "IRON MY SHIRT." Who would possibly plan and stage such a ludicrous sexist event? Are there really people out there who would heckle Hillary on the basis of their own downright gender discrimination? There are probably some males who dislike Hillary because of her gender, but those guys normally harbor those base feelings within their secret thoughts. But these hecklers had no such inhibitions. One could predict ahead of time the effect: to come out publicly and disrupt a Hillary event with those ridiculous signs certainly would create sympathy and backlash on the part of undecided voters.

I would like to know who those two guys were. And what their intentions were. And who put them up to it. At this point, forgive my paranoia. Their stunt seems staged for Hillary's benefit.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

BUSH SHOWS HIS MEGALOMANIA IN DESCRIBING HIMSELF AS WORLD'S HERO

George W. Bush has made some recent statements that show what an egomaniac he is. Indeed in his remarks to Arab journalists on the eve of his trip to the Middle East, he often refers to himself in the third person as "this guy," as if some impartial observer were engaging in a Bush encomium. Talk about an inflated sense of self-importance! This Bush actually believes all the rosy and boastful claims he makes about himself and his "principles."

Dan Froomkin points these out in his column yesterday in The Washington Post. This is George W. himself talking:

""I can predict that the historians will say that George W. Bush recognized the threats of the 21st century, clearly defined them, and had great faith in the capacity of liberty to transform hopelessness to hope, and laid the foundation for peace by making some awfully difficult decisions," Bush told Yonit Levi of Israel's Channel 2 News. Bush held several interviews with Middle Eastern journalists last week in anticipation of his trip to the region, which starts tomorrow.

""When he needed to be tough, he acted strong, and when he needed to have vision he understood the power of freedom to be transformative," Bush said of himself to Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

"As for the people of the Middle East, Bush told Hisham Bourar of al-Hurra Television: "I would hope that they would say President Bush respects my religion and has great love for the human -- human being, and believes in human dignity.""

This stuff is unbelievable. Bush thinks of himself as a hero, as a great humanitarian, as the saviour of the world. Here's Froomkin:

"Here's Bush talking to Hisham Bourar of al-Hurra TV:

"Q. "Last question, Mr. President. How do you think people in the Middle East will remember you?"

"Bush: "I hope they remember me as the guy who was willing to fight extremists who murdered the innocent to achieve political objectives, and at the same time, had great faith in the people, the average citizen of the Middle East, to self-govern; that the Middle East has got a fantastic future and that I admire the great traditions of the Middle East and believe that the average man can succeed mightily; that societies are best served when they respond to the will of people, and that we must reject the extremists who have a different view of that, the people that only prey on hopelessness. That's what I would hope.

""I would hope that they would say President Bush respects my religion and has great love for the human -- human being, and believes in human dignity. I know my image can be different at times, but I had to make some tough choices on war and peace. On the other hand, I hope people are now beginning to see the emergence of a free Iraq, based upon a modern constitution, is part of my vision for achieving peace that we all want.""

Thanks to Dan Froomkin for picking up on Bush's megalomaniac statements. After reading this tripe, perhaps we should petition for Bush to be canonized a saint. Then we could all bow down and pray to him, "Dear St. George W. Bush . . . help us mere mortals to be more freedom-loving . . . "

Monday, January 7, 2008

MEAN JUSTICE SCALIA SAYS CONSTITUTION DOES NOT MANDATE LACK OF PAIN IN EXECUTIONS

One of the most important reasons to oppose any more judicial appointments by Bush and Cheney is the position the Bush cronies and supporters take on capital punishment. Consider today the comments of Justice Antonin Scalia on the death penalty in which he seemed unmoved by any discussion of pain caused by a three-drug cocktail administered to the condemned, as if the Constitution said nothing about "cruel and unusual punishment."

Mark Sherman reports for the AP appearing in today's The Washington Post:

"Supreme Court justices indicated Monday they are deeply divided over a challenge to the way most states execute prisoners by lethal injection, which critics say creates an avoidable risk of excruciating pain.

"With executions in the United States halted since late September, the court heard arguments in a case from Kentucky that calls into question the mix of three drugs used in most executions."

The difference of opinion on allowing the death penalty is the hallmark of conservative judges. Conservative jurists love the death penalty, and they don't find anything repulsive or cruel about it in any of its forms.

Consider the report on ├╝ber-conservative Scalia:

"Justice Antonin Scalia was among several conservatives on the court who suggested he would uphold Kentucky's method of execution and allow capital punishment to resume.

"States have been careful to adopt procedures that do not seek to inflict pain and should not be barred from carrying out executions even if prison officials sometimes make mistakes in administering drugs, Scalia said. "There is no painless requirement" in the Constitution, Scalia said."

Has Scalia ever heard of the Eighth Amendment that bars cruel and unusual punishment? Furthermore, the U.S. is among the few countries that still impose the barbaric death penalty. Other countries include China, Iran and Iraq. Why must the U.S. still cling to the outdated and repudiated reason that criminals will be deterred from committing murder because of the death penalty?

"Both sides in the case said they are bothered by the seemingly endless series of death penalty cases that come to the court.

"Justice David Souter urged his colleagues to take the time necessary to issue a definitive decision about the three-drug method in this case, even if it means sending the case back to Kentucky for more study by courts there.

"Scalia, however, said such a move would mean "a national cessation of executions. We're looking at years. We wouldn't want that to happen.""

BUSH/CHENEY INVENT NAVAL CONFRONTATION WITH IRAN

This is all so predictable. Bush and Cheney have been blindsided by the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Iran does not have any program for the development of nuclear weapons. This removes their reason to mount a military attack against Iran and the Iranians.

So now they have the U.S. Navy come out with a story that Iran has been threatening U.S. naval ships in waters off the coast of Iran. And the U.S. Navy claims that the Iranians said that some U.S. ships would "blow up."

Come on! This is all total spin and smoke. If Iran has no nuclear weapons program, then Bush and Cheney must make up something else to constitute a casus belli. Anything to demonize Iran and the Iranians. Cause to bomb Teheran and start a military action to topple the Iranian government.

I say to Bush and Cheney: stop this war mongering against Iran. Instead of dropping bombs and killing Iranians, sit down with the Iranians and talk about how governments in countries like the U.S. and Iran can live and work without shooting missiles and dropping bombs.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

ATTORNEY GENERAL SHOULD NAME A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR TO INVESTIGATE DESTRUCTION OF CIA TORTURE VIDEO TAPES

I want to see Attorney General Michael Mukasey name a special prosecutor outside of the Department of Justice to investigate the destruction of the torture video tapes made by the CIA. Appointing someone from the Justice Department is like having the fox guard the hen house. Even if the designated prosecutor is as pure as Caesar's wife, still there remains a suspicion over picking someone from the government to do the investigation of the government, especially in this case, when the highest officials, viz., Bush and Cheney, may be involved.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

STOP TALK ABOUT "SOCIALIZED MEDICINE" - WE NEED UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE FOR ALL AMERICANS

I could not believe what I was hearing and watching on CNBC's Fast Money this past week. One of the guest traders, John Najarian, was commenting on Barach Obama's win in Iowa, consoling himself that at least Obama's health care plan did not constitute "socialized medicine" the way the plans of the other Democrats did (i.e., plans of Clinton and Edwards).

As if requiring all persons to be covered by health insurance constituted "socialized medicine." Perhaps the trader would like to see the 40 million+ Americans without any health insurance grow to 100 million. And like Bush, the trader probably would urge such uninsured to stop whining and resort to the emergency room when they need immediate care.

The term "socialized medicine" is loaded with historical baggage going all the way back at least to the Republicans' objections to FDR's proposal for Social Security retirement income. When the government provides SS retirement income to people generally over the age of 65, some conservative critics like Najarian would call this "socialized medicine." Imagine the hardship for the older population without social security income!

Consider Medicare, the program providing health insurance for seniors over 65. Even today, George W. Bush and his Republican supporters have tried to overturn the government's involvement in Medicare by substituting and subsidizing private insurance providers, conspiring to have them take the place of government. Fortunately, Bush's efforts have gone nowhere.

Medicare of course provides health insurance to those over 65. Now when the Democrats come out with plans to extend the same coverage to those under 65, the reactionaries scream and cry "socialized medicine." But if most people value Medicare as a good way to provide health coverage to those 65 and over, why is it bad to do the same thing for younger people? Why in fact would such health insurance for the young constitute "socialized medicine"?

Why shouldn't the government be involved with health insurance? What is so bad about that? What then does the "socialized" in "socialized medicine" really mean? What is the alternative to not providing universal health coverage? Can American society afford to abandon those children and under-65 adults who struggle with health crises simply because they cannot afford proper insurance?

I don't think so. And I wish that Fast Money on CNBC would require that anyone like Najarian who spouts about "socialized medicine" explain why universal health insurance should not be enacted as a priority of the next administration.

Friday, January 4, 2008

CHEERS TO OBAMA AND EVEN TO HUCKABEE FOR VICTORIES IN IOWA

Cheers for everyone in Iowa who voted for Barach Obama. And cheers also to Mike Huckabee for defeating that phony Mitt Romney. Now it's on to New Hampshire.

Now about Romney. Mitt just oozes with political opportunism. That guy changes his colors depending on what position he thinks can get him elected. Mitt is against "sanctuary cities," yet he fails himself to turn in his undocumented gardeners. Mitt would double Guantanamo's cells - after all, those guys who have been kept incommunicado and without a lawyer for the last five years can't vote, can they? Mitt also does not know whether waterboarding is torture. I guess that means that Mitt would be in favor of it but only if it secures him votes.

So congrats to Huckabee. And above all, the country has someone in Obama who can overturn Bush's regime of trampling on civil rights. How many more days till Bush is gone?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

SOME THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHING IOWA CAUCUSES

The Democrats have so many attractive candidates, anyone of them would make a president far superior to Bush/Cheney. That includes Biden, Dodd, Edwards, Richardson and Obama.

However, my ideal candidate must oppose the dreadful Wall, stop the unjust war in Iraq, and have a health insurance plan that covers all Americans.

Oh, and one other wish. May Mike Huckabee defeat that phony Mitt Romney and knock him out of the race once and for all.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

DID BUSH AND URIBE CONSPIRE TO PREVENT HUGO CHAVEZ SECURING RELEASE OF FARC HOSTAGES?

Hugo Chavez has come up empty handed in his attempt to get the FARC to release three Colombian hostages. Chavez believes that George Bush had something to do with the failed release, and so do I. It has been reported on Univision, the Spanish TV network, that Bush apparently consulted with President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia in recent days. This leads to the suspicion that both Bush and Uribe hatched some sort of obstructionist plan to thwart the release of the FARC hostages.

Chavez called Bush the great Satan when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly last year. Consequently, Bush's foreign policy treats Hugo Chavez as an "enemy." Therefore, I believe Bush will do anything to prevent Chavez from getting credit, notwithstanding Chavez' extraordinary attempts to mediate a peaceful solution between the government of Colombia and FARC.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007 AWARD FOR UTTER RECKLESSNESS GOES TO BENAZIR BHUTTO.

How could Benazir Bhutto have been so reckless? Her caravan was hit by a deadly suicide bombing upon arriving in Pakistan and yet she recklessly offered herself as a target after a rally in Rawalpindi by sticking her head out of the sun roof of her bomb-proofed SUV.

Bhutto also believed Condoleeza Rice and the Bush gang when they whispered that she would be able to bring a softening to the military and dictatorial rule of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf did not appreciate her return. The Pakistani Army did not appreciate her return. Many anti-Western elements in Pakistan also did not want to see her come back. The U.S. blessing was merely that - encouraging words doled out to an ingenue, a modern Jean d'Arc, who believed she had a mission to save Pakistan

So there she was on the day she died. No body guards. No crowd control. No party intelligence to warn her of opposing elements that were out to take her life. She was on her own.

Did she have to be so reckless?

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR READERS FOR 2008

Another year has gone by and so we begin 2008. Wishing all of my readers a happy New Year.