Sunday, November 30, 2008

NO EXTRA TERMS FOR BLOOMBERG, URIBE, PUTIN OR CHAVEZ

I am against Michael Bloomberg's quest for a third term as Mayor of New York City just as I was against Rudy Giuliani's attempt to portray himself as indispensable to the safety of New Yorkers after September 11, 2001.

For the same reason I am totally against Vladimir Putin trying to re-install himself as president of Russia. And I am against Alvaro Uribe's similar tactics to change the Colombian constitution so that he can run for a third six-year term.

I heard today on BBC Radio News that Hugo Chavez is pursuing a similar change to Venezuela's constitution. I am disappointed. Citizens of their respective countries should not allow any of these guys to make an end run around term limitations prescribed by the various national or state constitutions.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

BUSH OPENS UTAH SCENIC LANDS TO OIL DRILLERS

The Washington Post has a story today by Juliet Eilperin reporting that the Bush government is rushing ahead with conducting oil and gas leases on some of the most scenic land in Utah.

Writes Eilperin:

"Places such as Utah offer huge potential for energy producers, but development there has triggered controversy because of its proximity to some of the nation's most scenic parks and natural monuments. After Park Service officials on Monday identified 93 proposed auction parcels where leasing could jeopardize "air quality, water resources and natural sound," BLM officials announced late the next day that they would defer action on two dozen of those parcels as well as portions of four more, while pressing ahead with more than 210 parcels encompassing 313,000 acres.

"Environmental activists said oil and gas drilling on the 210 remaining parcels could jeopardize air quality and other natural features of some of the country's most treasured national parks, such as Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, along with the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Dinosaur national monuments."


Republicans must be cheering, including Sarah Palin, whose dumb ridiculous slogan was, "Drill, baby,drill." Is this what Republicans want? Oil wells and oil exploration next to Arches National Park? Or drillers trampling over Kodachrome Basin?

Bush's latest move must be stopped. As I have said before, this guy is dangerous right up to the very last day he and Cheney occupy national office. Bush still can do a lot of damage, not only in messing up foreign policy but also, as we see here, in ruining America's environmental treasures.

Reports Eilperin:

""The Bush administration started its energy policy in back rooms with oil lobbyists, and it's fitting that's how they want to end it," said Bobby McEnaney, a public lands expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. "They're destroying the whole process that is designed to protect these lands. Once you get rid of wilderness, you can't get it back."

"David Garbett, a staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said that in the last month, the administration also finalized six "resource management plans" that will allow the bureau to auction off other parts of these areas in the future.

""These plans will govern management of these lands for likely the next 20 years, and these plans have made areas like this available for leasing," Garbett said. "It's a final attempt by the administration to set in stone guidance for these lands for the long term, in a way that will not protect resources.""

Friday, November 28, 2008

IS MUMBAI ATTACK A RESULT OF BUSH/CHENEY POLICY OF FIRING MISSILES AT VILLAGES IN WAZIRISTAN?

The tragedy is still not over in Mumbai. It appears that some of the shooters are young Muslim Pakistanis. Why they committed these atrocities is not clear, but a few observations are in order.

If the group is all from Pakistan, the suspicion arises that they are taking revenge for the injustices they perceive committed against certain Muslims in Pakistan. I suspect that the Bush/Cheney policy of shooting missiles into Muslim villages in Waziristan and other Pakistani tribal areas is implicated.

Bush/Cheney & Co. think it is permissible to drop bombs and fire missiles if they can kill a few "terrorists." But to the uneducated villagers, the Americans are slaughtering innocent women, children and farmers. Imagine what your feelings would be towards the Americans if your children were incinerated in one of the many missile attacks over the last few months.

The Bush/Cheney policy of dropping bombs and missiles does more harm than good. It may kill a few on the wanted list, but it also kills innocent bystanders and ordinary Pakistani peasants. Survivors surely will hate anything to do with America and western civilization that treats their lives of no value. They will look to revenge the killings.

Could this dreadful attack in Mumbai be the first of many acts of revenge?

MEDVEDEV ON VISIT TO LATIN AMERICA, MEETS LULA, HUGO CHAVEZ & RAUL CASTRO

Lost in the sad news of the attacks in Mumbai is the visit of Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, to Latin America. He has met with Lula da Silva of Brazil, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and today with Raul Castro of Cuba.

The BBC reports on Medvedev's Latin excursion:

"Mr Medvedev's visit was part of a Latin American tour aimed at boosting both Russia's presence and trade ties in a region traditionally of strategic importance to the US.

"Boosting bilateral trade between Russia and Latin America, which could reach $15bn (£9.9bn) this year, is another priority for the Russian president during his talks.

"The Russian leader travelled to Venezuela from Brazil, where he and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva held talks on boosting trade and technical co-operation."


Medvedev shows how Obama should treat Latin America. For one thing, Medvedev has no qualms in talking to other cultures and visiting far-off countries. He treats each leader with respect, and that includes Castro, Chavez and Lula. Medvedev takes the initiative, unlike Bush, who wants to be courted and fawned over by leaders he thinks are beneath him. Obama in his campaign said he would sit down and talk with everyone, and here is Medvedev doing just that.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

THANKSGIVING DAY 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008 to all.

I remember Thanksgiving holidays when I was a child. We used to dress up in old raggedy clothes and go around and beg, "Anything for Thanksgiving."

At that time, the Halloween custom of making the rounds asking for candies and other treats did not exist, at least in Queens and Brooklyn, where we grew up.

There is a letter to the editor in today's The New York Times by George H. La Porte 3rd on this very practice of Thanksgiving begging.

Writes La Porte:

"My brother and I were Thanksgiving "ragamuffins" in what is now called the Midwood section of Brooklyn -- we called it simply Flatbush then -- beginning in the early 1930's and continuing until our personal vanity led us to retire. We were "too big" to appear in public in the guise of urchins.

"We had it on excellent authority -- our parents' -- that Thanksgiving begging dated to well before World War I. They had, in fact, participated themselves in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.

"Halloween activity was confined to the "tricks" and Thanksgiving to the "treats" before the conflation when, instead of two autumn opportunities to taunt our neighbors, we were left with only one, Halloween, which soon was appropriated by the adult establishment for its own aims.

"Based upon our first-hand information, we believe the custom of Thanksgiving begging started not later than the beginning of the century, at least in Brooklyn, where most good things began anyway."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

FORMER GEORGIAN AMBASSADOR SAYS GEORGIA STARTED CONFLICT IN SOUTH OSSETIA

Today's The New York Times carries a story by Olesya Vartanyan and Ellen Barry reporting that a former Saakashvili associate caused a near riot with his testimony yesterday that people in the Georgian government told him last April that Saakashvili planned to start a war in Abkhazia. It turned out that Saakashvili changed his plans and actually attacked pro-Russian-leaning civilians in South Ossetia.

Write Vartanyan and Barry:

"A parliamentary hearing on the origins of the war between Georgia and Russia in August ended in a furor on Tuesday after a former Georgian diplomat testified that Georgian authorities were responsible for starting the conflict.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili, Tbilisi’s former ambassador to Moscow, testified for three hours before he was shouted down by members of Parliament.

A former confidant of President Mikheil Saakashvili, Mr. Kitsmarishvili said Georgian officials told him in April that they planned to start a war in Abkhazia, one of two breakaway regions at issue in the war, and had received a green light from the United States government to do so. He said the Georgian government later decided to start the war in South Ossetia, the other region, and continue into Abkhazia.

He would not name the officials who he said had told him about planned actions in Abkhazia, saying that identifying them would endanger their lives."


The BBC reports on the same story today on its web page.

""Russia was ready for this war, but the Georgian leadership started the military action first," Mr Kitsmarishvili told the commission on Tuesday.

He said he had this information "from high-ranking Georgian officials". However, he said he believed Georgia had been provoked into war by Russia.

Mr Kitsmarishvili has been an outspoken critic of the Georgian president since being replaced as ambassador to Moscow, the BBC's Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi says.

On Tuesday, the former envoy also claimed that Mr Saakashvili told him in March of plans to use force to retake Abkhazia - another Georgia's rebel region.

He said the president had also told him he would move the Georgian capital to Abkhazia's capital, Sukhumi, in August.

Several members of the bi-partisan commission and Georgian government officials described Mr Kitsmarishvili's comments as "shameless" and "irresponsible"."


Remember not too long ago when John McCain saw the Georgian/Russian conflict in stark black and white without any shades of grey in between? And how all the Republicans including Bush rushed to condemn Russia for being the "aggressor" and threatening its former satellites. And do you remember how Cheney and Rice each visited Saakashvili to commit American support and protection?

How much more evidence do those guys need to see that their support for Saakashvili is support for a hot head who would start a war for domestic political reasons, so that he could defuse those Georgian critics who accused him of trampling over civil liberties and human rights in Georgia.

Saakashvili is no more than a thug. It is a shame that the U.S. government is blind to that reality and continues to support him with millions in military aid.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WHAT IS OBAMA THINKING BY KEEPING GATES AND NAMING HILLARY CLINTON?

Politico reports today that Robert Gates will remain as Defense Secretary under Barack Obama.

Writes Mike Allen for Politco:

"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has agreed to stay on under President-elect Obama, according to officials in both parties. Obama plans to announce a national-security team early next week that includes Gates at the Pentagon and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as secretary of State, officials said."

Some may think Gates is acceptable but I don't. First. Gates supports increasing U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As I written here on several occasions, Afghanistan is the black hole for foreign forces. Not since Alexander the Great has a foreign army successfully invaded and occupied and conquered the Afghan people. Since then Afghanistan has chewed up and spit out foreign invaders. The same thing lies ahead for the Americans.

Second. Gates as DefSec believes military power is effective in pursuing U.S. interests. I disagree totally with the premise. Shooting and killing foreigners does nothing to advance U.S. interests anywhere in the world.

As for Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Obama seems to have forgotten what Clinton said about the Iranians, how she would "obliterate" them in the event of a war with Israel. If you were Iranian, I am sure you would judge Clinton to be another crazed militaristic American intent on conquering the world through bombs and missiles and tanks. Someone who even considers obliterating another people or another nation is not suited to be the chief diplomat of the United States.

CONVICTION OF HOLY LAND OFFICERS MEANS END TO FINANCIAL AID FOR PALESTINIANS

I wrote yesterday about the truly unfortunate conviction of the five officers of the Holy Land Foundation, a charity designed to assist Gazans who find themselves in subsistence poverty because of Israel's implacable oppression. Each of the five could be sentenced to hundreds of years in prison.

Gretal Kovack writes in today's The New York Times:

"The five defendants, all leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, based in Richardson, a Dallas suburb, were convicted on all 108 criminal counts against them, including support of terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud. The group was accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an Islamist organization the government declared to be a terrorist group in 1995."

Think about what this conviction will do to other charitable organizations that want to assist Palestinians. They will immediately be suspect. Their donations will dry up. Their assistance to Palestinians will cease. That means more children will go without food, schools in Gaza will shut down, and families will become even more desperate than they are today.

Bush and Cheney will no doubt portray the verdict as a victory in their "war against terror." However, it really is a defeat for humanitarianism and generosity towards those who no fault of their own are in dire and parlous condition.

Monday, November 24, 2008

ISRAEL LETS IN 40 TRUCKS WITH FOOD TO GAZA BUT BORDER CLOSINGS CONTINUE

Israel continues its illegal and inhumane and unjust blockade of Gaza. Today, the BBC reports that Israel did let in 40 truck-loads of food and some fuel but that just highlights the true nature of the blockade. Forty trucks of food for over a million Gazans reveals the awful nature of the collective punishment that Israel continues to inflict.

Israel says it will not open the borders for the necessities of life until insurgents stop firing missiles and rockets into Israeli towns. But how can Israel justify the punishment of an entire population on account of the very few who are firing the rockets? I thought war-crimes trials after WWII demonstrated the illegal and indefensible nature of collective punishment.

INJUSTICE IN TX FEDERAL COURT CONVICTS FIVE OF AIDING HAMAS

It is a travesty that a federal jury in Texas has convicted the largest Islamic charity of aiding a terrorist organization. Paul Weber writes for the AP on The Washington Post web site that a jury in Texas has convicted five charity leaders of each one of 108 counts. The five convicted men could be sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives.

Federal juries can be notorious for their tendency to convict, especially if the accused have Latino or even worse Islamic/Arabic names.

Reports Weber:

"Ghassan Elashi, Holy Land's former chairman, and Shukri Abu-Baker, the chief executive, were convicted of a combined 69 counts, including supporting a specially designated terrorist, money laundering and tax fraud.

"Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh were convicted of three counts of conspiracy, and Mohammed El-Mezain was convicted of one count of conspiracy to support a terrorist organization. Holy Land itself was convicted of all 32 counts.

""I feel heartbroken that a group of my fellow Americans fell for the prosecution's fear-mongering theory," Elashi's daughter, Noor, said outside the courthouse late Monday. "This is truly a low point for the United States of America, but this is not over.""


This is the second go-around for these five. Their first trial ended in a hung jury. This time, they were not convicted of engaging in any terrorist plot but in providing funds for Hamas, the civic, social and militant organization that rules Gaza in Palestine. Imagine being convicted in a federal court because you collected and transmitted monies for the aid of Gazans who live day-to-day in abject misery and poverty.

The verdict is akin to finding that Colombianos sending money home are guilty of supporting "illegal" political organizations insofar as some of the money happens to find its way to members of the FARC.

This unfortunate verdict penalizes those who in good will support charities that care for people whom Israel and the U.S. don't like.

OBAMA WRONG IN SELECTING HILLARY CLINTON AS SEC. OF STATE

How did Barack Obama pick Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State?

Obama says he wants to use diplomacy and negotiation with all countries, especially those the Bush/Cheney gang tried to portray as enemies of the United States. That obviously means Iran.

But if Obama wants to cool tensions with Iran and begin a new phase of diplomacy and peaceful existence, how will Hillary Clinton fit in? Remember she is the one who threatened to "obliterate" Iran in the event of an Iranian nuclear attack.

Clinton's "obliterate" comment was not helpful. If you were an average Iranian, what would you think of it? Certainly you would have visions of Iranian cities going up in flames much the same as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands if not millions of men, women and children annihilated. Cities destroyed and left in ruins like Hamburg and Dresden.

So my question remains, what was Obama thinking in naming someone who has been so intemperate and reckless in her words the chief U.S. diplomat?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

ASK FOR EVIDENCE WHEN "EXPERTS" CLAIM IRAN WANTS NUCLEAR BOMB

I think one of the most informative new news broadcasts is World Focus with Martin Savidge. It comes on weekdays and is a serious rival to BBC World News. But World Focus does a substandard job with news about Iran and its purported nuclear program. So here is a letter I sent to World Focus and Martin Savidge, asking them to be more sceptical of unsubstantiated claims that Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb.

Can't you guys be more suspicious of "experts" and guests on your news show who claim that Iran is close to building a nuclear bomb? You just take it as if it were the gospel truth.

Doesn't your gullibility on Iran remind you of what happened to reports about WMD in Iraq? Remember all those experts who said Iraq had chemical agents that could kill within 45 minutes? Looking back those guys cried wolf and lots of people even from the NYT believed them on faith. So how could you let this paradigm be repeated today with Iran.

A suggestion. Anyone who comes on and says Iran is a month away or that Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon or that Iran poses a danger, stop and ask them for the evidence. Don't just take it.

Second. Whenever you have a guest who is going to claim Iran is a danger, have an Iranian on to give his or her countervailing opinion. Someone like Shirn Ebadi, the Nobel prize winner. Certainly you could arrange for an interview with her or someone of her stature.

My argument is that there is NO evidence that Iran is doing what it said it has no desire to do as to nuclear weapons. So be sceptical of these guys, whether from the Council of Foreign Policy or wherever. Don't contribute to the demonizing of Iran and Iranians without so much as a peep. Demand proof and evidence.

NO LEGAL JUSTIFICATION IN U.S. FIRING MISSILES INTO PAKISTAN VILLAGES

Candace Rondeaux reports today on The Washington Post website that the U.S. has killed five more people in the eastern tribal areas of Pakistan by means of missiles fired from unmanned drones.

One of them appears to be an Al Qaeda type wanted in a conspiracy to blow up a British jetliner. But the identity of the others is uncertain. The question is, what if they were civilians, women, children, ordinary villagers? Would this U.S. incursion into Pakistan and the killings be justified under international or even American law?

My argument is that when any other civilians are killed, there is no proportionality. This means that I believe the attacks are unjustified. I don't care that the U.S. argues that its strike killed a dangerous Al Qaeda member. Such air strikes are bound to kill innocent people who just happen to be in the vicinity. I mean the wife and kids of the terrorist as well as neighbors. Whoever in the CIA pulled the trigger had to know that the missiles would annihilate standers by and innocent others. Given such knowledge, the attack cannot be justified.

I call upon president elect Obama to put an end to any strikes from the air, whether manned or unmanned. The act of firing a missile or dropping a bomb is reprehensible and inhumane because it does irreversible damage to the non-fighters.

Imagine what a fertile source of future insurgents from those who survive the attack and see the injustice perpetrated by the U.S. government in killing their friends and neighbors. This is why Pakistani authorities have strenuously complained to American authorities that these attacks should come to an end.

Writes Rondeaux:

"The recent series of cross border drone attacks have also drawn criticism from Pakistan's top military officer, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Earlier this week, Kayani, who formerly headed the ISI, urged NATO officials to halt the missile strikes during a two-day visit to the military organization's headquarters in Brussels. Kayani and other top Pakistani officials have said that collateral damage and civilian deaths from the missile strikes could stir rising anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war against Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan."

READ ANDREW SULLIVAN'S PIECE ON BUSH/CHENEY APPROVED "COERCIVE TECHNIQUES"

There are those in the Bush administration, such as Dana Perino as well as George Bush himself, who insist that the U.S. does not "torture." Harsh interrogation techniques, yes, torture no.

The most shocking thing is that it seems that the Republican faithful eat this up and willingly transmit this canard. You would think that Republicans could see through the charade and that they all would condemn these harsh interrogation techniques for what they are. But no, Republicans stand solidly behind Bush and Cheney in approving torture as an approved policy.

Andrew Sullivan has a must read post on his blog The Daily Dish for The Atlantic Monthly:

"This is the defining line of torture: not some arbitrary comic book technique, but a psychological and physical fact: pushing another human being to the point where choice becomes unavailable to him or her. You can do this in any number of ways; it can take three seconds of electrocution or it can take two months of sleep deprivation, hypothermia and darkness. But the line it eventually crosses is the same line. Throughout human history, human beings have known what that line is, and the West was constructed on a disavowal of ever crossing it again. Why? Because a society that endorses torture commits itself not to limiting, but to extinguishing human freedom. And a protection of human freedom in its most minimal form is what our entire civilization is premised on."

Sullivan goes on to describe some of the Bush/Cheney et al. approved techniques:

"Even the word "torture" can be too vague and abstract a term. So let us state in plain English how Bush, Cheney, Tenet, et al. actually got information. They did it by subjecting prisoners to repeated drowning, or freezing, or heating, or sadistically long sleeplessness, or shackling or crucifying them until the pain could be borne no longer, or beating them until they pleaded for mercy, or threatening to kill or torture their children or wife or parents. Or all of the above in combination, in isolation, and with no surety of ever seeing the light of day again, with no right to meaningful due process of any kind, sometimes sealed off from light and sound for months at a time, or bombarded with indescribable noise day and night in cells fro which there was no escape ever. This is what "under coercive conditions" actually means. It drove many of the victims into become mumbling, shaking, insane shells of human beings; it killed dozens; it drove others still to hunger strikes to try to kill themselves; and it terrified and scarred and "broke" the souls of many, many others."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

CNBC'S GASPARINO SPOUTS BASELESS CLAIMS THAT "TOO MUCH REGULATION" CAUSED MARKET CRISIS

I heard and saw Charles Gasparino today on CNBC make outrageous and baseless claims that the current Wall Street meltdown was caused by too much government regulation.

Of course, the actual cause was just the opposite - too little SEC regulation of hybrid instruments such as collateralized mortgage oblations and credit default swaps, to name just a few.

When Gasparino speaks of the securities industry being highly regulated, he has a point if he means the requirement for registration and licensing of brokers, dealers and registered reps. But he can't possibly mean over-regulation of these news mortgage-backed instruments and the gimmicky insurance contracts called arcanely "credit default swaps." Unbelievably these "securities" are not and were not required to be registered with the SEC nor did they come under the requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 which mandates registration of most new issues of securities with the SEC.

So when Gasparino claims over-regulation is the cause of the deep grief of today's markets, he is making this argument from whole cloth. But he can still do damage, if some of his viewers think he actually knows whereof he speaks.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI'S COMMENTS ON BARACK OBAMA AS "HOUSE SLAVE"

I take interest in Ayman Al Zawahiri's characterization of Barack Obama as the "house slave." Some American media report this phrase in a much different sense, "house nigger." However, Juan Cole who is fluent in Arabic confirms the "house slave."

For me, "house slave" has a much "richer" meaning against the background of the Middle East and Islam. For anyone familiar with Montesquieu's Lettres Persanes, well-off Muslims at least through the 18th Century would establish their own harems or seraglios. The important connection is that the harems were guarded by "house slaves" or eunuchs, whose job it was to keep the women in almost absolute imprisonment and bondage as well as fight off competing males.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CNBC'S HOSTS - NICE GUYS & THE MEANIES

The stock market seems to have no bottom, with stock prices going down several hundred points per day. Today was no exception. The DJIA fell over 400 points. Thus this might be an appropriate time to describe some of the people who populate CNBC's market coverage.

1. Pete Najarian, a panelist on Fast Money - a loud-mouth who believes his points are stronger when he yells them. Pete always tries to recommend options. Of course, he and his brother John Najarian own and operate a retail options firm. Nice tie-in, right?

2. Joe Kernen, one of the hosts of Squawk on The Street - not too nice a person. Always takes the side against labor unions, Democrats, and against government intervention except when that intervention will safeguard the value of his own 401(k), as in the 700 billion+ bailout of Wall Street banks.

3. Michelle Cabruso Cabrera - a tough girl from NYC. She smiles too much. Her politics are suspect - she always seems to side with the Republican shills like CNBC's reporter Charlie Gasparino, The Wall Street Journal's Steve Moore and CNBC's house idiot Larry Kudlow.

4. Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money - about the only bright spot in today's blog lineup. Cramer frequently gets his stock picks bashed after he recommends them, but this might be the result of his enemies on the street shorting precisely those stocks he selects. But Cramer has been right on the general direction of this market - DOWN. Cramer has been urging his viewers over the past year to lighten up on their stock portfolios. And Cramer has been right to stress that without assistance for besieged homeowners in danger of foreclosure, the market will tank and everyone's 401(k) will be decimated.

More in later posts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

U.N. DEMANDS ISRAEL CEASE ILLEGAL GAZA BLOCKADE OF FOOD, MEDICINE

It is clear to all with the possible exception of American neo-cons and Israeli ultra nationalists that Israel's blockade of shipkents of food and medicine into Gaza is a violation of the most basic of human rights.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights today condemns Israel for the blockade.

This from the U.N. web site:

"The top United Nations human rights official called today for an immediate end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which she said contravened international law and had deprived those living there of their most basic human rights for months."

Israel seems to believe it can violate basic tenets of international law because a few members of Hamas are shooting missiles into and onto Israeli towns. What Hamas is doing is also a human rights crime, but that does not give Israel the right to respond with collective punishment. We have seen too much collective punishment with the Nazis in WWII where for every German soldier killed, the Nazis would kill 10 or even 100 innocent civilians. It is unbelievable that Israel, homeland to the Jews from all over the world, would even consider using collective punishment against the one million plus residents of Gaza, many of whom are children.

Reports the UN website:

"Ms. Pillay called on the Israeli authorities to facilitate the urgent passage of essential humanitarian goods into Gaza, including food, medical supplies and fuel, to allow the immediate restoration of electricity, water and other essential services, and to lift restrictions on the movement of civilians for medical, educational and religious purposes.

"“Decisive steps must be taken to preserve the dignity and basic welfare of the civilian population, more than half of which are children,” she said."

NY TIMES MISTAKEN IN SUPPORT OF TRADE AGREEMENT WITH COLOMBIA

I strongly disagree with the editorial in today's The New York Times urging the passage of the free trade agreement with Colombia.

Writes the NYT:

"We don’t say it all that often, but President Bush is right: Congress should pass the Colombian free-trade agreement now.

"Mr. Bush signed the deal two years ago. The Democratic majority in Congress has refused to approve it out of a legitimate concern over the state of human rights in Colombia and less legitimate desires to pander to organized labor or deny Mr. Bush a foreign policy win.

"We believe that the trade pact would be good for America’s economy and workers. Rejecting it would send a dismal message to allies the world over that the United States is an unreliable partner and, despite all that it preaches, does not really believe in opening markets to trade. There is no more time to waste. If the lame-duck Congress does not approve the trade pact this year, prospects would dim considerably since it would lose the cover of the rule (formerly known as fast track) that provides for an up-or-down, no-amendment vote."


Colombia has long been a home to right wing death squads. These groups seem to have the backing of Colombia's ruling class and the Colombian army. Just recently a story has emerged how the Colombian military had a practice of kidnapping young men from poorer sections of Bogota to take to the jungle, kill them, and then proffer their bodies as successful head counts in the war against the FARC.

Furthermore, Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe is no friend of the rule of law or democracy. Uribe wanted Colombia's constitution changed so he could run for a third term. Furthermore, he ordered an attack of a FARC camp inside Ecuador, a clear violation of Ecuador's sovereignty and against international law.

And Uribe is a close ally of George W. Bush. That in itself should make Congress think twice before approving the trade agreement.

Instead of blindly giving Bush and Uribe what they want, Congress should wait until the new Obama administration comes on stage. Obama needs to do a thorough review of U.S. policy towards Latin America. In particular, he needs to change the current Bush policy of neglect and disinterest in Latin American events and politics.

Obama needs to cultivate Hugo Sanchez of Venezuela as well as Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. There is no reason why Obama should continue the failed Bush policy of trying to make these leaders and their states "enemies" of the United States. I am sure they all look forward to getting rid of the Bush administration and starting a new more peaceful era with Obama.

Therefore, in disagreement with the NYT, no agreement over trade with Colombia at this point. Wait till Obama comes in. Then perhaps the U.S. can establish free trade pacts not only with Colombia but also with all the other countries in the region, including Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Monday, November 17, 2008

SAUDI ARABIA SENTENCES DOCTOR TO 1500 LASHES

The medieval situation of daily living in Saudi Arabia for foreigners is graphically illuminated with a Saudi court sentencing an Egyptian medical doctor to 15 years in jail and 1500 lashes.

The "crime" apparently was driving alone with a woman passenger who was a member of the Saudi Royal Family. The coerced "confessed crime," however, was inducing the female patient to become a drug addict.

The BBC reports on its web site:

"Rauf Amin Mohammad al-Arabi, who had worked for the royal family for 20 years, was sentenced to 15 years in jail and 1,500 lashes.

He and Shawky Abd-Rabbu were convicted of prescribing morphine to a princess - who then became a drug addict."


I thought Saudi Arabia was a "friend" of the Bush/Cheney gang. Is this the conduct of "friends?"

The case of Rauf Amin Mohammad is a perfect example of no due process. It appears that Rauf Amin Mohammad had no access to any lawyers, had limited right to appeal, was forced to confess during the time he was hospitalized for surgery, was held for the last two years with limited rights to visits from his family.

And consider the penalty - 1500 lashes administered on a weekly basis of 50 lashes each. Who could survive the physical stress and pain? This really is a death sentence.

Reports the BBC:

"Seventy of the lashes were reportedly administered last week, with 70 next week.

"The doctors had denied the allegations, but were initially sentence to 750 lashes on charges of malpractice. They appealed but lost and the sentence was then doubled.

"Arabi's wife, Fathiya Shehata Hendawi, says the sentence will kill her husband. She has begged for leniency and is appealing to the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to save his life.

""It's impossible that he will be able to handle 1,500 lashes. Maybe after the ninth or 10th one he will be killed. God forbid.

"Who benefits from this? Not his kids, their father is a victim of something he did not do. He is a victim of complete injustice," she said.

"The Saudi royal family has refused to comment but a number of Egyptian newspapers blame their own government, which they say suffers an inferiority complex when it comes to dealing with the oil rich Saudis, says our correspondent."


The case of Rauf Amin Mohammad shows life in Saudi Arabia to be backward and draconian. The whole world needs to understand the primitiveness of Saudi society and its stunted legal code.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

BIAS IN NEWS REPORTING ABOUT IRAN

Here is text of an email I sent to Martin Savidge and World Focus, the new internationally centered news broadcast. I take objection to the seemingly biased attitude of World Focus towards Iran.

I watch World Focus almost every night and enjoy your international news. However, I find your treatment of stories about Iran to be biased in favor of the neo-con Bush/Cheney approach of solving all international problems by shooting missiles and dropping bombs.

Why did you need to ask your NYT guest the other night whether "all options are still on the table," implying that the US would be justified in starting a war with Iran?

How about giving Ahmadinejad some credit for establishing closer relationships with Bolivia and Venezuela?

Why not talk about Israel having nuclear weapons in violation of the NPT instead of implying that Iran wants to develop nuclear technology for purposes of developing nuclear bombs?

Friday, November 14, 2008

ISRAEL INFLICTS COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT ON PALESTINIANS IN GAZA

Israel still persists in cutting off food, medicine and fuel from the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel claims it is doing this because it must close all the border crossings for purposes of security because Palestinians have been firing rockets into Israeli towns.

Linda Gradstein writes for The Washington Post:

"The resulting Israeli blockade has disrupted a U.N. program that feeds about half of Gaza's population, said Ging. Food distributed through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency includes flour, oil, rice, sugar and canned meat, and is meant to provide 60 percent of daily caloric needs.

""Many of these families have been subsisting on this ration for years and they are living hand to mouth," Ging said angrily. "This is a disastrous situation and its getting worse and worse. Even during the cease-fire we were prohibited from building up our reserves which could have prevented the current crisis. This is shocking.""



This is outright collective punishment, a violation of international law. A few Palestinians fire rockets, therefore starve and punish the entire Palestinian people.

Israel, stop this illegal and inhumane practice of collective punishment!

BUSH TRIES TO DEFLECT FINANCIAL BLAME, REFUSES TO HELP OUT SMALL HOMEOWNER

Did you catch President Bush's self-serving speech yesterday to the conservative Manhattan Institute at the Federal Building on Broad and Wall? Dan Eggen reports the speech for today's The Washington Post:

"The president's remarks clearly sought to influence a debate that appears headed in a direction Bush and his aides do not favor, just two months before he leaves office. Many of the world's most influential world leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Brazilian President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, have advocated bold reforms including, to use a Sarkozy example, restrictions on executive pay.

"The speech came as the Bush administration still struggles to implement the faltering federal bailout package, while fending off calls from President-elect Barack Obama and other Democrats for additional stimulus measures. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. acknowledged Wednesday that the administration had abandoned its initial plan to buy distressed mortgage securities, focusing instead on offering aid to banks and other lenders to shore up credit markets."


Bush claims that the current financial melt-down stems not from the lax regulatory policy of his administration but has been building for decades, thus trying to cast the blame on Clinton and former administrations, including that of his father. Bush is so transparent. He wants so much to deflect blame and cast himself as the great leader capable of no wrong.

Bush claims that American capitalism can solve its own problems, thereby cutting off Sarkozy and Merkel's proposals for stricter financial markets regulation. What he is saying is that he refuses to help those homeowners who are now or in the immediate future risking foreclosure of their homes and mortgages. But he conveniently omits the 700 billion plus bail-out of the large Wall Street banks. So here is Bush's policy - help the banks and insurance companies who cannot meet their obligations but damn the poor sucker who cannot pay his or her mortgage.

Reports Eggen:

"Bush also argued that "the crisis was not a failure of the free market system" and that leaders should "not try to reinvent that system." Rather, he said, global leaders need to "fix the problems we face, make the reforms we need, and move forward with the free-market principles that have delivered prosperity and hope to people around the world."

""If you seek economic growth, if you seek opportunity, if you seek social justice and human dignity, the free market system is the way to go," Bush said to another burst of applause. "And it would be a terrible mistake to allow a few months of crisis to undermine 60 years of success."

"But Grant Aldonas, a former senior trade official in the Bush administration now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the tenor of the speech suggests Bush "does not understand his moment." He also said the administration has lost authority to argue against government intervention in the markets.

""The disabling of capitalism has already begun and he's the one who started it," Aldonas said. "It rings hollow for an awful lot of people, not only in the marketplace but for world leaders abroad. . . . They are the ones who are going to have the leverage at the table.""

Thursday, November 13, 2008

SUPREME COURT BACKS NAVY OVER PACIFIC OCEAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS

Yesterday, in a five-to-four split decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Navy over its use of sonar in the Pacific off California. A number of groups had tried to hold the Navy to compliance with the National Environmental Impact Act because of their fear that the Navy's anti-submarine exercises would harm marine life with its high powered sonar signals.

In a decision reminiscent of the shameful Korematsu case - the WWII case where the Supremes weakly went along with Roosevelt's plan to lock up all Japanese Americans in camps for the duration of the war on the basis that the Court had no business second guessing the arguments of military military officers, - Chief Justice Roberts based his decision on and gave extreme deference to testimony of Navy officers who claimed that sonar testing was necessary for the training and ability of Navy personnel to find, detect and destroy "enemy" submarines. Marine mammals might be harmed but the Navy's arguments, based on fear that a more serious harm would occur to national security unless it could resume its sonar exercises, won the day, at least with five of the nine justices.

The case is WINTER, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, v NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC., ET AL. Here is a link to the text of the case.

Roberts writes:

"The public interest in conducting training exercises with active sonar under realistic conditions plainly outweighs the interests advanced by the plaintiffs. Of course, military interests do not always trump other considerations,and we have not held that they do. In this case, however, the proper determination of where the public interest lies does not strike us as a close question. . . .

"President Theodore Roosevelt explained that "the only way in which a navy can ever be made efficient is by practice at sea, under all the conditions which would have to be met if war existed." President’s Annual Message, 42 Cong. Rec. 67, 81 (1907). We do not discount the importance of plaintiffs’ ecological, scientific, and recreational interests in marine mammals. Those interests, however, are plainly outweighed by the Navy’s need to conduct realistic training exercises to ensure that it is able to neutralize the threat posed by enemy submarines."


I disagree with Roberts. Why should preparation for war outweigh preserving whales and other sea life? Even though Roberts says, "military interests do not always trump other considerations, and we have not held that they do," I suspect that he and the other members of the Court who sided with him (Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy) would nearly always find the interests of the military outweigh and trump non-military interests. These justices are surely Republicans (other than Kennedy about whom I am not sure) and in my mind Republicans tend to be militaristic and try to solve problems with ships and tanks.

Roberts talks about "enemy submarines." The Navy has convinced him that there are forces of evil lurking and hiding in the deep seas ready to strike America. This is fanciful imagination at work in the halls of the Court. Bush-speak has invaded judicial chambers. America represents the good, the rest of the world forces of evil.

We don't need a Navy carrying out anti-submarine exercises off the coast of California. In the same way, we don't need an air force dropping bombs on villagers in some remote agrarian part of Pakistan.

ISRAEL CONTINUES BLOCKADE OF FOOD, MEDICINE, FUEL TO GAZA

Israel continues with its blockade of food, medicine and fuel to the Palestinians in Gaza. Can we have any better example of the shameful and despised practice of collective punishment? Some Hamas members shoot missiles into Israeli towns along the border, so Israel decides to punish the entire Gaza population by denying essentials of life. Israel is thereby saying that it is willing tokill the entire million people in Gaza for the actions of a handful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

ISRAEL, EGYPT VIOLATE HUMAN RIGHTS OF AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS

Human Rights Watch released a report highly critical of both Egypt and Israel for their treatment of immigrants coming from Africa, principally from Sudan and Somalia. Over 30 immigrants have been shot as they tried cross from Egypt into Israel, all by Egyptian border patrol guards. Israel has rounded up immigrants and forced them back into Egypt where they can look forward to being deported back to their home countries.

The BBC reports on the Human Rights Watch study:

"An international human rights lobby group has called on Egypt to stop shooting African migrants as they cross the country's border into Israel.

"Egyptian border guards have shot dead at least 32 African refugees and migrants since June 2007, Human Rights Watch says in a new 90-page report."


However, Israel is also criticized in the study. Reports the BBC:

"Police in Israel have detained about 200 Africans in Tel Aviv following the announcement of tough measures against illegal immigrants.

"A police spokesman said the detainees - mainly from Sudan, Eritrea and the Ivory Coast - who do not have refugee status would be deported.

"Human rights activists have criticised the detentions."


Ehud Olmert has ordered the tightening of border controls, reports the BBC:

"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday instructed Israeli police to deport thousands of African asylum seekers who have entered Israel though the Egyptian border. He also ordered security officials to tighten control of the border with Egypt."

We see this wave of anti-immigration in Italy, Israel and, of course, in the United States. The whole question of immigration is based on individual human rights and dignity. Everyone should be able to go wherever he or she wants to improve or better one's economic position, provided that one is peaceful and does no bodily harm. But at its roots, the anti-immigrant movement distrusts the foreigner, his language and different skin color.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ANTI-WAR DEMOCRATS WANT NEW DEFENSE SECRETARY

Jen Dimascio has an article on Politico today about anti-war Democrats urging Obama to dump Robert Gates as Defense Secretary. I agree.

Gates has been too gung-ho over beefing up the size of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. This is a dead-end position for the United States. The U.S. will never win in Afghanistan on the basis of military force. It might prevail in helping that poor country build up its infrastructure, build sewer lines, string electric power lines, but it will never defeat Afghani insurgents and the Taliban militarily. Consider that the Afghanis have defeated every foreign invading force going back to Alexander the Great.

I admit Gates is a DefSec far superior to Donald Rumsfeld and the other neo-con hawks in the Bush/Cheney administration. For example, Gates reputedly has been one of the officials who have argued against striking Iran.

But Gates is still a believer in military might and the War in Iraq. Writes Dimascio:

"Arms control advocates and anti-war activists are ratcheting up pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to dump Defense Secretary Robert Gates and replace him with a more strident anti-war voice. . . ."

"Gates exacerbated the opposition to his retention with a recent speech at the Carnegie Foundation in which he staked out a position that made it hard for arms control advocates to back the notion of keeping him around.

"Congress last year pulled funding from studies to create a Reliable Replacement Warhead program, which would reduce and replace aging nuclear warheads in the nation’s arsenal. During the speech, Gates said the cut was misguided."

TODAY IS ARMISTICE DAY IN EUROPE, VETERANS DAY IN U.S., 90 YEARS AFTER END OF WW 1

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, the Great War to end all wars. At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, November 11, 1918 at 11 AM, the armistice was signed. It was only in 1954 that the United States changed the name to Veterans Day.

But still in Europe it is Armistice Day. Today European leaders commemorated the day, reflecting on the enormous total of millions dead, not only soldiers but many civilians.

The New York Times has an editorial commemorating the event, saying:

"What we are likely to have forgotten is the horror the Great War stirred in those who witnessed it. For many, the full horror dawned slowly, as they clung to a comfortable self-insulation."

The BBC reports on the words of Australian President Kevin Rudd at a memorial service at the War Memorial at Canberra:

"Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd used a speech at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to issue a call for peace.
""We have all endured a most bloody century," he said.
"Let us resolve afresh at the dawn of this new century... that this might be a truly pacific peaceful century.""

Monday, November 10, 2008

ISRAEL CUTS OFF FUEL, FOOD TO PALESTINIANS IN GAZA

Aleem Maqbool writes for the BBC website today on the latest collective punishment meted out by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Writes Maqbool:

"Over the last six days, Israel has all but closed its crossings with the Gaza Strip.

"No fuel (paid for by foreign donors) has been allowed into Gaza for its power station, no food has been allowed in for the United Nations' aid distribution centres on which most Gazans rely.

"No journalists are being allowed into Gaza to cover the story."


What is the Israeli government thinking? Because there have been recent rocket attacks on nearby Israeli villages after the Israeli army sent tanks into Gaza, the Israeli leaders decide to punish the whole population in Gaza. That includes women, children, elderly, infirm, innocent civilians.

I thought collective punishment was disgraced in WWII. Apparently, it is alive and thriving in today's Israel.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

OBAMA'S COMMENTS ON IRAN SUPPORTING "TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS" UNFORTUNATE AND UNNECESSARY

When Barack Obama gave his first news conference last Friday, he was asked about a letter sent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulating the U.S. president-elect. Obama said he would study the letter and respond "appropriately."

But why did Obama need to add that Iran must stop "supporting terrorists?" And why did he also think it necessary to say that the U.S. would never let Iran obtain nuclear weapons?

This is the same old Bush/Cheney bellicose blustering about Iran. Instead of engaging Iran and its leaders with diplomacy and respect, Bush/Cheney and now Obama somehow think they must oppose Iran's legitimate quest for nuclear technology. Iran has said many times it has no interest in nuclear weapons. Why must Obama now contradict them when there is no credible evidence to the contrary?

And as far as Iran's support for "terrorists," I assume Obama refers to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Is Hezbollah a "terrorist organization?" Or is it really an indigenous Lebanese social/economic/military organization that represents an insurgency against Israel and its restrictive policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Just because the U.S. government has labeled it a terrorist organization, following the lead of Israel, this does not ipso facto mean that Hezbollah is engaged in "terrorism." What is terrorism to Israel may be liberation insurgency to the majority of Lebanese.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

ISRAELI OFFICIALS WARN AGAINST OBAMA CONDUCTING TALKS WITH IRAN

It is curious that in the last few days before president-elect Obama's news conference and his statements on Iran, two high-ranking officials from Israel thought it necessary to come out and warn Obama about establishing talks with Iran and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Foreign Minister Tzipy Livni offered that Obama's acceptance of talks with Iran would show "weakness."

"US President-elect Barack Obama should not talk to Iran just yet, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Thursday, warning that such dialogue could project "weakness."
"We need to fight extremism," Livni said as she stood next to visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a joint press conference in the home of the American ambassador to Israel.. "We need to continue the pressure on Iran and I believe that the idea of continuing the pressure comes with more intense and effective sanctions on the Iranians."
Although she described Obama's election as "a source of inspiration to millions around the world," and congratulated him on his "historic victory," her comments marked a first sign of disagreement with the incoming American administration. Obama has stated a willingness to talk to Iran about its nuclear program without condition, telling The Jerusalem Post in July that he would engage "in tough, direct talks" with Teheran."


And Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it would allow Iran to continue to develop nuclear weapons behind the pretense of engaging in diplomatic talks. Tovah Lazaroff reports for The Jerusalem Post:

"Israel is not ruling out any option when it comes to dealing with Iran's nuclear program, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday.

"Following a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem, Barak said he told her that Israel is "not taking any option off the table, and we don't recommend that others take any option off the table," stressing, "We mean what we say."

"Barak insisted that Iran was continuing to "trick the world" in negotiations over the monitoring of its nuclear activities. "


The question is why we are getting all of these anti-Iranian statements from Israeli officials at this time.

I though that Barack Obama's statement on Iran at his news conference was bellicose enough with the push of the Israelis. Obama said he would never allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, and that furthermore, Iran should stop giving aid to "terrorists."

By "terrorists," I assume Obama meant Hezbollah in Lebanon. If so, Obama is no better than George W. Bush in a simplistic approach to Hezbollah and the Shiite Muslims spread throughout the Middle East. Israel calls Hezbollah a terrorist group, so does the United States. But it is not clear that Hezbollah is anything more than a political entity infused with Shiite Islam that fights against Israel for land and civil rights. In other words, Hezbollah is an insurgency against the Israelis.

And as far as Iran's approach to nuclear weapons, Iranian leaders claim they have no desire to make nuclear weapons, and certainly, the IAEA has found no evidence to the contrary. All statements by Israel and Bush about Iran's desire for nuclear weapons is based on supposition and conjecture.

The question then is, would Obama allow Israel to attack Iran on the basis of conjecture? Obama's statements don't seem to reassure me on this important question.

Friday, November 7, 2008

THROW JOE LIEBERMAN UNDER BUS

Think Progress has a report today that Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh (IN) wants to let "bygones be bygones" with turncoat Joe Lieberman. Instead of kicking him out of the Democratic Senatorial Caucus, Bayh wants to let him remain, notwithstanding that Lieberman sided with John McCain against Barack Obama in the presidential contest in which he said some very bad things about Obama.

This is unbelievable and outrageous. Lieberman freely chose to endorse and assist McCain in his presidential quest. Lieberman was a constant companion of McCain on the campaign trail. It was Joe Lieberman who sided with McCain in his unyielding position of no compromise with the Palestinians. And it was Lieberman who constantly tried to demonize the Iranians, hoping, I think, for a military confrontation.

I say, kick Lieberman out. He is not a Democrat, he is a Republican. And Bayh is not much better.

EVIDENCE THAT GEORGIA STARTED SHELLING SOUTH OSSETIA WITHOUT RUSSIAN PROVOCATION

Watching World Focus last night, I was dismayed by statements made by Richard Holbrooke on what the U.S. policy under Obama should be regarding Russia. I disagree with Mr. Holbrooke that Russia poses a threat for U.S. security and policy.

First, why is Russia a threat? Holbrooke must be referring to the Georgia/Russia war. If so, does he not agree that Georgia was the aggressor? Today there is the lead story on page 1 of The New York Times indicating that Saakashvili started shelling Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia, without any provocation from the Russians. C.J. Chivers and Ellen Barry report:

"Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

"Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm."


If this is true, then how is Russia a “threat” to the United States? Somehow people like Holbrooke want to blame Russia and demonize the Russians. The threat to peace comes from statements such as made by Holbrooke. I want Obama to slice through such obfuscation and misinformation on Georgia and repair the working relations between the U.S. and Russia. People like Holbrooke want to make Russia the "enemy," but I want the United States to make friends not only with the Russians but with all other peoples on the earth.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

IRANIAN AHMADINEJAD CONGRATULATES OBAMA

The BBC reports that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent official congratulations to Barack Obama upon his presidential election victory. This is not insignificant.

According to the BBC, Ahmadinejad wrote:

""As you know the opportunities provided by the Almighty God, which can be used for elevation of nations, or God forbid, for their collapse, are transient," the message continued.

""I hope you will prefer real public interests and justice to the never-ending demands of a selfish minority and seize the opportunity to serve people so that you will be remembered with high esteem," it said, according to the English language website of Irna.

"Mr Ahmadinejad said Americans expected the government to "rectify the critical situation facing the US, restore lost reputation as well as their hope and spirit, fully respect human rights and strengthen family foundations".

"He continued: "Other nations also expect war-oriented policies, occupation, bullying, contempt of nations and imposing discriminatory policies on them to be replaced by the ones advocating justice, respect for human rights, friendship and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.

""They also want US intervention to be limited to its [own] borders, especially in the Middle East. It is highly expected to reverse the unfair attitude towards restoring the rights of the Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans.

""The great nation of Iran welcomes basic and fair changes in US policies and conducts, especially in the region," President Ahmadinejad said. "


Obama should not ignore this Iranian overture. The U.S. has discarded and disregarded too many Iranian initiatives in the past.

Obama should acknowledge the Iranian letter and respond that he looks forward to continued discussion between the U.S. and Iran in the near future.

PROPOSITION 8 OPPONENTS - ALL IS NOT LOST

Even though California voters approved Proposition 8 which amends the California constitution to prohibit gay marriage, all is not lost for those who believe the state should recognize the right to marriage for all.

For a state constitution to deprive two males or two females of the legal rights of marriage is on its face inimical to equal protection for all. California recognizes marriage and its attendant rights between a male and a female. Equal protection under the law requires that the state also recognize marriage between two consenting adults.

I predict that plaintiffs will quickly bring lawsuits challenging the damage that Proposition 8 tries to inflict on homosexuals wishing to marry in California. The California Supreme Court will not allow the ban on gay marriage to stand.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

U.S. AIRSTRIKE KILLS 40 AFGHANIS ATTENDING WEDDING

Once again there are reports of U.S. air strikes killing innocent civilians and townspeople in Afghanistan.

Abdul Waheed Wafa and Mark McDonald report on today's web page of The New York Times the latest attack in which the victims were members of a wedding party.

"An airstrike by United States-led forces killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 others at a wedding party in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Wednesday. The casualties included women and children, the officials said.

"The United States military and Afghan authorities were investigating the reports about the latest attack, the American military said in a statement, but it gave no confirmation of the strikes or any death toll.

"The reports of the strike, in a region that has become a renewed front line in the battle against the Taliban, showed the raw tensions between the United States and Afghanistan over the toll suffered by civilians in the war, and came just hours after the election of Barack Obama as the next American president."


I have longed call for an immediate halt to U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan. Dropping a bomb on a target inherently involves too much risk of killing people who are innocent civilians.

Furthermore, besides the loss of life, the U.S. demonizes itself in the eyes of all Afghanis every time it drops a bomb and kills innocents including women and children. If the U.S. has any goal of establishing Afghanistan as an ally against fundamentalist jihadism, it must stop this practice of using air power to achieve its political aims.

CRUEL EXECUTIONS OF CHILDREN IN IRAN & SOMALIA

I tend to object to the Bush/Cheney attempt to demonize Iran and make it an "enemy." However, I certainly view Iran's use of the death penalty as egregiously wrong as I find it severely objectionable when carried out in the United States.

For a state, any state, to take the life of a person, even though that person has been adjudged to have committed some heinous act, is morally wrong and an immoral overreaching of a state's powers.

I refer to reports of the latest execution of a juvenile in Iran. The BBC reports:

"The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the Afghan man, identified as Gholamreza H, was hanged in Isfahan province on 30 October. He was 19 when the execution was carried out, but had been convicted for a murder he committed in November 2006 as a 17-year-old. .. . .

"Human Rights Watch says 26 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran since January 2005, out of a worldwide total of 32 known executions."


Furthermore, I want to strenuously protest the stoning of a 13-year old girl in Somalia after being gang raped by three adult males.

Here is the BBC's account of the gruesome and cruel happening.

For this resurgence in primitive fundamentalist Islamic morality, I place the blame squarely on Bush and Cheney. It was these American leaders who overturned the government of the Islamic Courts in Mogadishu several years ago by egging the Ethiopians, centuries old enemies of Somalians, to invade and occupy much of Somalia. Just at the time when a moderate Islamic government was restoring commerce and a normal course of living to Somalia, Bush and Cheney upset the whole equilibrium by their misplaced zeal against any Islamic form of government.

The result has been two years of armed conflict, shelling of civilians, disintegration of any civilized life, destruction of the city of Mogadishu, and total lawlessness. What then happens are outrages like this one where fundamentalist militants impose their savage morality on some unfortunate 13-year old child.

CHEERS FOR BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENT-ELECT

Congratulations and hoorays for the president-elect Barack Obama!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CNBC THINKS EVERY INVESTOR IS A MEAN REPUBLICAN

I have complained on numerous occasions to CNBC about some of its hosts and guests and their false statements about Obama, especially about his tax proposal. I strongly object to statements made by Maria Bartiromo that Obama is going to raise taxes. Bartiromo fails to qualify that statement with Obama's desire to lower taxes for people earning less than 250K.

Additionally, I recognize undercurrents of pro-Republican bias, sometimes quite blatant, in Michelle Cabruso Cabrera and Charlie Gasparino.

Of course, Larry Kudlow is a Republican shill who takes every opportunity to bash Democrats. The same for Joe Kernen.

About the only ones who seem to be fair are Mark Haynes, Steve Liesman, Melissa Francis and Jim Cramer and maybe one or two others.

I am a stock and bond investor. Not every investor is a mean pro-Republican. But the majority of actors on CNBC seem to think the opposite.

NO WAR WITH IRAN OVER NUCLEAR WEAPONS

I wanted to comment on this opinion piece from yesterday's The New York Times on future U.S. policy towards Iran.

Carol Giacomo writes:

"It is a frightening notion, but it is not just the trigger-happy Bush administration discussing — if only theoretically — the possibility of military action to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

"Of course, no president or would-be president ever takes the military option off the table, and Barack Obama and John McCain are no exception.

"What is significant is that inside Washington’s policy circles these days — in studies, commentaries, meetings, Congressional hearings and conferences — reasonable people from both parties are seriously examining the so-called military option, along with new diplomatic initiatives."


I object to Carol Giacomo's notion that no president would rule out the "military option." Of course the military option means thousands and hundreds of thousands of people killed, not only soldiers, but women, children, innocent civilians. In other words, all out war.

All out war or even a limited one can never be justified. The idea of destroying any nuclear arms capability of Iran is not worth the life of one Iranian or one American.

Who are these guys that would trade Iranian lives for the sake of preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons?

Giacomo quotes Dennis Ross, former negotiator in Serbia and Bosnia:

"Mr. Ross, who was top Mideast negotiator for the first President George Bush and for President Bill Clinton, said that in the prelude to Iraq, nearly all of the talk focused on military action. He says this time experts are taking a harder, more systematic look at all options — including force — because diplomatic efforts have failed to slow Iran’s rush to master nuclear technology.

"“I want to concentrate the mind and make people understand, ‘Look, this is serious and you don’t want to be left with only those two choices’ ” — war or living with an Iranian bomb, he said."


Giacomo's article seems to be saying that even a president Obama would decide on initiating a war against Iran.

Any war against Iran would be catastrophic for the United States. The whole Islamic world would take up arms against Americans whereever they might be. The would be hatred toward the U.S. for the next 500 years. And any attack would just make Iran more radicalized in its outlook towards Israel and the West.

The very concept of war against Iran should be taken off the table. Instead of looking at Iran as the "enemy," we need a foreign policy that looks at Iran and all countries as partners and respects them for their tradition, culture, language and history. In other words, diplomacy instead of dropping bombs.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

WHY NO MEDICAL RECORDS FOR SARAH PALIN?

Both ABC News and Andrew Sullivan ask the question why Sarah Palin has not yet released her medical records. Last week she said that she would release them in a few days. So far, no records.

Andrew Sullivan writes on Saturday:

"Still AWOL. No explanation. Not even a gesture, which suggests to me that some in the McCain camp realize they'd rather release nothing than be implicated in anything that might hurt them after the election. Only ABC News' Kate Snow seems to care. Only this blog has really pursued this story for two long months. For the record, I find the idea that a vice-presidential candidate refuses to either give a press conference or release full medial records as a dreadful precedent for transparency. Obama and Biden and McCain have been pathetic as well. But no one has been as secretive as Palin and no one else has similar strangeness in her medical history. Presumably the records are there and could have been released easily two months ago. Unless there really was no vetting at all and the McCain camp is now covering up its own incompetence as well as preparing to throw her under the bus in a few days' time."

ABC reports on its website:

"ABC News' Kate Snow reports: With three days left until the election, the John McCain campaign still has not, despite frequent requests, released any information about vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's medical history, prompting some well-warranted skepticism.
Of course there are plenty of perfectly innocent explanations. The governor is perfectly healthy and the campaign feels no public pressure to release information? The doctor is on vacation and unreachable? The dog ate their records?
"There are also more sinister explanations. But we won't go there.
"Last Sunday morning, Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt told ABC News that Palin's staff planned to release information regarding her medical history "early in the week."
That was six days ago. ABC News has asked repeatedly about the status of the release of information and received no updates from the campaign. It is unclear what is holding things up."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

BOGUS PHONE CALL TO SARAH PALIN VIOLATES HER RIGHT TO PRIVACY

Political Wire alerted me to the telephone call made by those radio guys from Montreal to Sarah Palin where they pretended to be Nicolas Sarkozy.

At first I thought the bogus telephone call to Sarah Palin to be quite funny. But upon some reflection, I think it was mean and even an invasion of Palin's right to privacy in her telephone conversations.


I support Barack Obama 100% and don't think Palin is at all ready to be VP. But the phone call was wrong and I feel bad for Sarah Palin.

DEFECTIVE U.S. CONSTITUTION ALLOWS BUSH TO RECKLESSLY FIRE MISSILES INTO PAKISTAN

Sandy Levinson writes in the legal blog Balkinization about our defective Constitution. Levinson points out how George W. Bush still can make lots of trouble not only for Americans but the rest of the world in his last three months in office, notwithstanding his low approval ratings and the disapproval of many in his theory of the "unitary executive." I commented on Levinson's post and here I reproduce some of my comments after editing.

The fact that even now on the eve of the presidential election Bush can still order missile strikes into Pakistani agrarian towns and villages is another reason why the Constitution needs amending.

We have today another example of Bush's dictatorial powers in a story from the website of The Washington Post as reported by Ishtiaq Mahsud:

"Suspected U.S. missiles slammed into two villages close to the Afghan border Friday, killing 27 people, including an Arab al-Qaeda operative and other foreign fighters, intelligence officials said.

"The strikes raised the number of such attacks to at least 17 since August. The surge has angered many Pakistanis and strained a seven-year U.S. alliance with Pakistan, where rising violence is exacerbating economic problems and undermining the nuclear-armed country's stability."

So it seems in his final days bellicose Bush is determined to antagonize the entire population of Pakistan in his quest to kill a few "Al Qaeda types." It doesn't matter how many innocents are killed at the same time provided that the target person is killed. In the story from the WaPo, we see at least 27 lives taken. Imagine how many innocent children and families lost their lives.

Additionally, I wonder how the CIA guy who pushed the button firing the missile into the targeted homes in Waziristan can sleep at night and whether he ever equates those children he killed with his own.

Some say this is legally justified by AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force). But there must be a test of proportionality. To kill 27 people in order to kill one "Al Qaeda type" does not I argue meet this test. Furthermore, I submit that even killing of one innocent destroys the proportionality.

For this reason I find Bush's powers as president to order these strikes deeply troubling. Bush should have no authority to kill innocent civilians. His actions provide enough material to form the basis for charging him in the International Court with war crimes.