There is a big story brewing but I could find no mention of it in today's The New York Times. Tensions are mounting along the border between Colombia and Venezuela.
Colombia has announced that it will build a military base close to the Venezuela border housing five or six airborne battalions using American military helicopters. No wonder that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is upset not only at the Colombian president Alvaro Uribe but also and especially at Barack Obama.
If a war starts between Colombia and Venezuela, it will have been precipitated by the foolish and stupid American agreement to send 1,000+ U.S. forces to Colombian air bases. Nobel peace price winner Barack Obama will be directly responsible for causing a serious military conflict in Latin America.
How could Obama been so dumb as to authorize the U.S.- Colombia agreement? To station gringo troops on Latin soil is to offend the dignity and sovereignty of every Latin country. By this agreement, Obama has destroyed much of the good will generated in the hearts and minds of the Latin street.
Monday, December 21, 2009
There is a big story brewing but I could find no mention of it in today's The New York Times. Tensions are mounting along the border between Colombia and Venezuela.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Loud-mouthed Jim Cramer of CNBC often has moments of intelligent lucidity, such as his promotion of the virtues of natural gas: cheap, plentiful and clean-burning. So when Exxon recently made an offer to take over XTO, a natural gas driller, Cramer thought it was a smart move.
I bet Cramer would be surprised to find that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agrees with him on the desirability of natural gas as one step in curbing man-made green houses gasses and global warming.
Juan Cole in his Informed Comment quotes Ahmadinejad's speech to the U.N. assembly in Copenhagen in a translation by the USG Open Source Center.
"Every year millions of people lose their lives as a result of pollution, and skin and respiratory illnesses are on the increase. If greenhouse-gases continue to increase at the present speed, they will reach twice the level of gases before industrialization. In other words, instead of a reduction of 50 per cent, they will increase by 50 per cent and will pose a real challenge to the natural environment."
Ahmadinejad offers several concrete solutions, including ending the purposeless war in Afghanistan and spending the billions of dollars on Afghanistan's infrastructure and economic development:
"The so-called industrialized countries should fulfill their international commitments. At the same time, clear and feasible mechanisms should be drawn up which bring the disobedient governments and economic sectors under control and obligates them to pay fines to the countries which have experienced a loss. It has been said that more than 250 billion dollars has been spent on the expedition to Afghanistan and around 1,000 billion dollars has been the cost of the war in Iraq. Wouldn't 50 billion dollars spent on Afghanistan's infrastructure and economic development have turned this country into a developed country? And wouldn't 200 billion dollars on developing new technology and suitable use of fossil fuel have returned the pollution level to the period before industrialization?"
Ahmadinejad says that Iran is pursuing reduction of green-house gasses and global warming on different levels:
"And to this end the government has focused on the following plans:
- Reduction in energy consumption through improving standards in industries and productions,
- The management of consumption and elimination of energy subsidies in a planned and scheduled program,
- Extensive conversion of vehicles, industries and power plant to run on gas,
- Provision of access to natural gas for more than 90 per cent of cities and many villages,
- Extensive research on the use of clean energy including wind, solar, as well as plans for the production of nuclear fuel and 20,000 mw nuclear electricity."
Note Ahmadinejad's tress on natural gas. As I said above, Jim Cramer would love these proposals. And rightly so.
It looks like Senate Democrats have finally corralled Ben Nelson, senator from Nebraska, who has been holding out on health care reform.
Here's an article this morning from The New York Times website by Robert Pear, David M. Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse reporting on the breakthrough.
Write Pear, Herszenhorn and Hulse:
"As the Senate convened in a driving snowstorm, Democratic leaders said a breakthrough came when Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, agreed after 13 hours of negotiations on Friday to back the bill, making him the pivotal 60th vote.
"“Change is never easy, but change is what’s necessary in America,” Mr. Nelson said during a morning news conference. “And that’s why I intend to vote,” he said, “for health care reform.”"
But Republicans still feverishly oppose any health care reform and they seem intent to use Senate procedures to run out the clock before Christmas recess.
Report Pear, Herszenhorn and Hulse:
"The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, racing against the clock to complete the bill by his self-imposed holiday deadline, introduced a 338-page package of last-minute amendments, including the key provisions needed to win Mr. Nelson’s support.
"Republicans, who vowed to use every procedural weapon to stop the bill, immediately forced a reading of the Mr. Reid’s, which was expected to take 10 hours and had to be done by midnight to keep Democrats on track for a final vote on Christmas Eve."
Even Sen. Olympia Snow (R-Maine) seemed poised to vote against the bill even though she has shown that she is for health care reform overall.
The Senate is working through four consecutive weekends in an attempt to pass the bill by Christmas. Last night and today, the snow is falling heavily in the D.C. area. Report Pear, Herszenhorn and Hulse:
"The snow flying outside the Capitol added to what has already been a chaotic few weeks for the Senate, which has met every day since Nov. 30 and was convened for the third consecutive weekend.
"The sergeant-at-arms had four-wheel drive vehicles at the ready to bring senators in for votes. And while senators wore the jackets and ties required on the Senate floor, dress shoes gave way to snow boots. Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, who is 92 years old and uses a wheelchair, received an ovation from colleagues when he arrived in the chamber."
Saturday, December 12, 2009
So Tony Blair now admits that even if he had known (wink, wink) that Saddam Hussein had no WMD, he still would have gone ahead with the War in Iraq. The BBC reports on Blair's claims. I agree with Hans Blix that such statements show that Tony Blair and by association George W. Bush decided to attack, invade and occupy Iraq even before one of their aides came up with the pretense of threats of a WMD being readied by Saddam within "45 minutes."
Let's ask both Blair and Bush: was it worth it? Were the deaths of some 600,000+ Iraqi civilians worth toppling Saddam? How about the 4,000+ U.S. soldiers or the 100+ British troops killed? Or the 40,000 American soldiers needing hospital care and the 6,000 British forces?
Were all these lives subservient to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein? Apparently Tony Blair and George Bush think the answer is yes, but then again, all of the people injured or killed as a result were someone else's son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister, not those of George W. Bush or Tony Blair.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TRIES TO MINIMIZE LARGE NUMBER OF CIVILIANS KILLED IN U.S. DRONE MISSILE ATTACKS.
One of the most disturbing parts of Pres. Barack Obama's policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan is his approval of the use of U.S. unmanned drones to search out and kill insurgents and "terrorists." I have long argued for an end to this abominable practice of targeting mostly Pakistani villagers from the air and then incinerating them with American missiles. Why? Because these killings are extra-judicial, meaning that the victims have no say in whether they are "guilty" or not; that even if an American-hating member of the Taliban is killed, there is surely an innocent killed along with him; that these drone attacks make no distinction between killing children and their targeted "enemies."
Steve Clemons' The Washington Note has a guest blog by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann on a story by The New York Times several days ago quoting an anonymous administration official who claimed that so far drone attacks have killed "just over 20 civilians."
Write Bergen and Tiedemann:
"What is troubling -- and in our view, highly unlikely -- is the official's claim that only some 20 civilians have been killed by these drone strikes, a fatality rate of only around 5 percent. Given that one strike alone on the funeral of a suspected Taliban militant in South Waziristan in late June killed at least 18 people described as civilians, according to a report in the London Times, it seems implausible that only a handful more were killed in all of the 81 drone strikes that have occurred since the beginning of 2008."
I fully agree with Bergen and Tiedmann. The government, no matter whose administration, always tries to play down events that don't favor its mythical account of warfare and aggression. Some anonymous official realizes that American voters do not like to think of themselves as killers of innocent villagers, especially women and children. So the government official tries to falsely minimize the number.
Here is Bergen and Tiedemann's estimate on civilian fatalities:
"Our own data shows that if we consider just the period from 2008 until the present, the average civilian fatality rate is between 35 and 40 percent; far more than the five percent claimed by the government official."
Given that Bergen and Tiedmann estimate some 500 militants killed by drones since 2008, their estimate of 40% additional in civilian casualities would put the number at 200.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Should the U.S. under Barack Obama be sending drones flying over Pakistan and firing missiles at Taliban leaders, and, in the process, killing their families as well? I argue, no. These are extra-judicial killings of people only suspected to be enemy combatants. Whether they are or not should first be determined in a court of law. Who knows how many innocent men, women and children have been incinerated by U.S. attacks from the sky?
And, furthermore, what gives the U.S. the right to kill members of the Taliban? Yes, they are backward, illiterate and often fanatical. But does this warrant their execution and destruction by U.S. attack drones?
Scott Shane reports in today's The New York Times that Obama has ordered an increase in these drone attacks:
"The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 U.S. more troops to Afghanistan. American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time — a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas — because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide."
I argue that these drone attacks will create 10 more enemies of the U.S. for each member of the Taliban killed. And 100 more for each innocent man, woman and child killed by mistake.
Americans claim their land is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Yet the American use of lethal drones tells the whole world that the U.S. is also a military killer that causes death and destruction in poor Pakistani villages.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Instead of putting on a big show at West Point Military Academy this evening, in which he rehearsed and re-tread all of the Bush bromides on how "we have to kill them because they represent a 'serious' national security threat to America," I would have liked to see Pres. Barack Obama end a foolish purposeless war and concentrate instead on pushing health care reform in the Senate.
I find it dismaying that Obama has been relatively silent on health care. He should be out stumping for passage. He should be buttonholing reluctant and recalcitrant senators the way Lyndon Baines Johnson did. He should be arguing incessantly why health care reform is essential to future prosperity and peace.
But please, Mr. Obama, no justifying a baseless unjustified war in Afghanistan.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Reports today that former VP Dick Cheney says that Obama bowing to the emperor of Japan "harms" the United States.
Here's a cartoon by Pat Bagley of The Salt Lake Tribune published on November 17th showing what right wingers including Dick Cheney would have preferred.
Bagley shows Obama bowing on the left to a chorus of "Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!!!" but on the right Dick Cheney has just shot and killed the emperor with his shot gun.
Bagley calls this, "The Right-Wingers Guide to International Etiquette."
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I see a glaring weakness in Pres. Obama's foreign policy: Latin America.
True, Obama did attend the OAS meeting several months ago and personally met most of the Latin American leaders including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia. But since then, Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton seem to have put policy toward Latin America on hold.
Consider what is now happening: Peru and Chile are in a serious contretemps based on Peruvian claims that Chile was spying on Peru. Hugo Chavez is threatening to wage war on Colombia and its conservative president Alvaro Uribe, principally because Chavez objects to Uribe permitting !,000 North Americans to occupy Colombian bases. And the whole world wants to see Cuba free from the shackles of the U.S. embargo, something Obama has inexplicably not done.
Obama needs to get involved, and fast. It seems the whole Latin American world greeted his election with delight and a sense that U.S. policy would be more receptive to Latin needs. In these months since, there has been a growing ominous sense that Obama plans to continue Bush's policy of neglect and condescension. The military agreement with Colombia has Latin leaders wondering who in the Obama administration was so blind to Latin sensitivities that they would not see or recognize the Latin fear and resistance to having U.S. soldiers stationed in any country in Latin America. And why has Obama not immediately lifted the useless Cuban embargo? There are no answers to these questions that do not reflect poorly on Obama.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The government of Israel under prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to approve new settlements on occupied Palestinian land every month. Today the BBC reports that Israel has approved 900 new homes in East Jerusalem. Remember this is land seized by Israel during the 1967 War. International law is clear that such settlements are illegal: all land seized during armed conflicts must be returned to the losing side, otherwise every nation would have carte blanche to start a war with a weaker neighbor, seize land by military force, then keep it.
The BBC reports:
"The Israeli interior ministry has approved planning applications for 900 new housing units at a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.
"The planning and construction committee authorised the expansion of Gilo, which is built on land captured in 1967 and annexed to the Jerusalem municipality."
So in the battle between U.S. president Barack Obama and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu about Israeli settlements, it is clear who is winning: Netanyahu. Obama seems powerless to stop the ongoing settlements. And there can be no peace with the Palestinians when Israel is holding their rightful land and continues to expand its settlements on their patrimony.
Reports the BBC:
"The BBC's Tim Franks in Jerusalem says Tuesday's announcement represents by far the largest batch of planning approvals for building on occupied territory since Mr Netanyahu became prime minister.
"The 900 housing units, which will be built in the form of 4-5 bedroom apartments, will account for a significant expansion of Gilo. The interior ministry said construction work would be unlikely to start for another three or four years once the plans gained final authorisation.
"A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the planning approval was "yet another step that shows and proves Israel is not ready for peace".
""This step will ruin every single attempt - European or American - to preserve the peace process," Nabil Abu Rudeineh said."
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Imagine a sitting Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court requiring that any story in a high school newspaper about his visit be first edited by him and his staff before allowing publication! Bullying of this sort is inimical to a concept of freedom of the press and the First Amendment.
The offender is Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
Adam Liptak reports on the story for The New York Times:
"It turns out that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, widely regarded as one of the court’s most vigilant defenders of First Amendment values, had provided the newspaper, The Daltonian, with a lesson about journalistic independence. Justice Kennedy’s office had insisted on approving any article about a talk he gave to an assembly of Dalton high school students on Oct. 28."
Kennedy's actions amount to interference in the workings of a school newspaper. Kennedy is clearly out of line and his restrictions amount to censorship. How could a Justice of the Supreme Court do this? Is he so afraid of criticism that he would put limits on a high school newspaper reporting on his visit and talk?
"Ellen Stein, Dalton’s head of school, defended the practice in a telephone interview. “This allows student publications to be correct,” she said. “I think fact checking is a good thing.”
"But Frank D. LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, questioned the school’s approach. “Obviously, in the professional world, it would be a nonstarter if a source demanded prior approval of coverage of a speech,” he said. Even at a high school publication, Mr. LoMonte said, the request for prepublication review sent the wrong message and failed to appreciate the sophistication of high school seniors.
"“These are people who are old enough to vote,” he said. “If you’re old enough to drive a tank, you’re old enough to write a headline.”"
How can Justice Kennedy handle a case regarding censorship if he cannot tolerate misstatements or misquotes about his visit to some high school? It would appear that his vanity has no bounds and that he would go to absurd lengths to make sure the newspaper portrays him in what he thinks is a silhouette favorable to his ridiculous self-image.
"It is not unusual for Supreme Court justices to exclude the press entirely from public appearances. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for instance, spoke to more than 1,000 people at Yale Law School last month in an off-the-record session that was closed to the news media.
"But Mr. LoMonte said the demand from Justice Kennedy’s office crossed a line.
"“It’s a request that shouldn’t have been made,” he said. “That’s not the teaching of journalism. That’s an exercise in image control.”"
The high school editors and staff should not accept Kennedy's censorship. Better not to publish any story about Kennedy or his visit than agree to have one's freedom of speech curtailed or otherwise be constrained by Kennedy's vanity and pomposity.
Friday, November 13, 2009
When governments, even democratically elected ones, face embarrassment or potential ridicule, they all do the same thing: clam up.
We see that with the British government. The British courts have ruled that information about torture of a British citizen previously held in Guantanamo must be released and made public. In response, the Foreign Office claims, all without any basis or reason, that the torture disclosures will harm British intelligence and national security.
Richard Norton-Taylor reports in The Guardian yesterday:
"A top Foreign Office official has accused high court judges of damaging Britain's national security by insisting that CIA evidence of British involvement in torture must be revealed. . . .
"In an unprecedented assault on the judiciary, he claims that demands by two judges that the CIA material should be disclosed have already harmed Britain's intelligence and diplomatic relations with the US. In a statement, Manley says the judges have "served to undermine confidence within the US in the UK's ability to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic exchanges and will inevitably have a negative impact on the candour of their exchanges with UK officials"."
So the British government is claiming that because the United States government wants to keep all these dark doings a secret, that it too has a right to conceal what the Americans did to one of its citizens. There is of course no basis in the law for allowing a government to cloak its evil doings in secret. Just because the information, if released, has the potential to diminish the reputation of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown is of no legal consequence. Those leaders who approved, endorsed and implemented methods of torture cannot escape the glare of publicity by claiming "national security" as a reason to continue refusing to disclose.
"The judges rejected the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing evidence of unlawful treatment would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US. "The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law," they ruled. "In our view, as a court in the United Kingdom, a vital public interest requires … that a summary of the most important evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in wrongdoing be placed in the public domain … Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy.""
That's exactly what American leaders and now British leaders are trying to do: hide wrongdoings in the cloak of national intelligence and national security. Why? Because they know that the whole world would condemn them and their actions of torture once the veil is lifted.
"The judges made it clear they were exasperated by the attitude of the foreign secretary and British officials. There was no "rational basis" for claims made by Miliband and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, that disclosure of the CIA material would put British lives at risk."
We always say, no one is above the law. But government leaders are always trying to prove the statement wrong if their honesty, reputation or wrongdoings are apt to be disclosed.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I don't understand why Pres. Obama gives access to Israel's prime minister Bibi Netanyahu to come to the White House for talks, yet Obama refuses to talk with leaders of Hamas.
Both Hamas and Israel's IDF have been cited by Judge Goldstone as committing atrocities and war crimes. Hamas, by allowing Palestinians to fire rockets aimed at Israeli villages and towns. The IDF because of all of its anti-civilian actions during the three-week war this past January. Specifically, the Goldstone Report found that the IDF randomly shot at and killed civilians, including women and children. Bombed U.N. food distribution centers and schools. Used white phosphorous bombs and shells against a civilian population. Refused to allow civilians to flee the conflict. Destroyed homes and apartments that had no military purpose.
So why should Obama allow someone like Netanyahu who defends the actions of the IDF as necessary and proportionate? Come on, Obama, stand up to the bully Netanyahu and say publicly that Judge Goldstone's report should be accepted.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
BLUE DOG JIM MATHESON (2ND CONG. DIST. UTAH) VOTES FOR STUPAK AMENDMENT, YET VOTES AGAINST HEALTH CARE BILL
Some Democrats voted no to the health care reform bill last night in the House. Yet they voted for the Stupak amendment barring insurance companies from paying for abortions.
One of those Democrats was Jim Matheson, Democrat from the Second Cong. District of Utah, who prides himself as being a Blue Dog and fiscal conservative.
If Matheson knew that he would not vote for the final bill, why did he vote to deny abortion? It is as if he just wanted to be obstructionist as possible regarding health care reform.
Consider Jim Matheson's other votes in the past: voting to pass the Bankruptcy Reform bill in 2005 making it much harder for debtors to file bankruptcy; voting for Bush's military authorization to take action in Iraq; voting for all of Bush's tax cuts; voting for the federal Defense of Marriage Act; voting against setting a date certain for pull-out of American forces from Iraq; and now voting against health care reform.
Let's take away Jim's congressional health care and see how he reacts if he or one of his family suffer a catastrophic illness. Will he consider personal bankruptcy in such a case? Will he call upon United Healthcare for more political donations so that he can pay for all the attendant medical and hospital care? Perhaps he will change his mind about health care reform. Maybe then he will have some sympathy for those financially unable to pay for health insurance.
Friday, October 30, 2009
There are two TV networks that raise my ire. One is CNBC with its stable of conservative Republicans adamantly opposed to anything Obama and the Democrats do. And the second is PBS, specifically The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, about which I want to talk in this post.
PBS offers The NewsHour as if it is fulfilling its obligation to present world and national news on weekday evenings. But as far as news content, The NewsHour is a canard. Compare it with BBC World News or with France 24 or even with RT News from Russia. It is then that the shallowness of The News Hour becomes transparent. Why? Because The NewsHour presents not more than five minutes hard news, the rest being low-cost interviews with "newsmakers" or "experts" from PBS studios in D.C.
Then consider the cast of characters on The NewsHour. Judy Woodruff, no doubt a nice person, is hopeless as an interviewer. CNN certainly lost nothing when she left. She'll agree with anything a guest says. Has she any opinion on anything? Is she prepared to challenge some of the outrageous things her interviewees say or claim? I argue she is not.
Then consider Margaret Warner. She asks good questions, but seems not to listen to the answers. A guest can say anything, Margaret Warner will simply go on to the next question.
How about Jim Lehrer? Like the other two, he is hopeless. Besides he comes across as a hay seed.
I submit: PBS should get rid of The NewsHour and start all over again. Look at the offerings of news on Al Jazeera, Euronews, France 24 or RT. PBS has a lot to learn, especially when it comes to representing solid national and international news.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Hamid Karzai, Bush's embattled "man in Kabul," refuses to fire any of his appointed cronies staffing the Afghan "Independent Election Commission," even though his rival for the presidency, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has called for the sacking of the commission's president.
Jon Boone reports today for the guardian.co.uk on Abdullah's demands.
"Hamid Karzai's challenger in next month's presidential election run-off has demanded that the head of Afghanistan's election commission be sacked before the end of the month as one of a number of "conditions" for participating in the vote.
"Abdullah Abdullah refused to say what would happen if his demands were not met by 31 October, but insisted that the chairman of the so-called Independent Election Commission (IEC), Azizullah Ludin, must step down from an organisation Abdullah accused of "bias, incompetence and widespread corruption"."
Karzai however is dismissive of Abdullah's claims that the election commission is really in the pocket of Karzai and his cronies. Even though many observers agree with Abdullah that it will be difficult if not impossible to achieve a fair election with the Independent Election Commission still in place, Karzai probably will not budge.
"Karzai immediately rejected Abdullah's demands. "Ministers and officials which Abdullah wants sacked or replaced have not done anything illegal, that is why we cannot sack or replace them," the president said in a statement. "In this short period of time, we cannot make these changes – this will not be for the benefit of the country and will harm the country.""
Sunday, October 25, 2009
The unrelenting violence in Iraq and Baghdad depresses beyond words. We can only stand by helplessly and watch a descent into irrational killing.
But the two car bombs detonated today in Baghdad point out once again the unjustified and immoral war of George W. Bush in 2003. Yes, people like Bush and Tony Blair still insist that what they did was for the benefit of Iraqis, but if you had a family member killed in today's bloody bombings, I don't think that you would agree that Bush's hands (and those of Blair) are or were clean of blood.
France 24 has video and description of the two bombings today.
"At least 132 people have been killed and more than 600 wounded when two powerful car bombs targeting the justice ministry and the nearby governor's office went off in central Baghdad on Sunday."
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Nicholas Watt reports in the The Guardian that the British National Party, with its anti-immigration and anti-foreigner platform, will receive a big boost from having its leader, Nick Griffin, as a guest on BBC Question Time.
"The British National party will receive a pre-general election boost in the opinion polls, ministers fear, after more than 8 million people watched the far-right leader Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time on Thursday evening."
Nicholas Watt reports on Griffin's subsequent statements:
"In contrast with his emollient remarks to minority ethnic members of the Question Time audience, the BNP leader stridently condemned the decision to record the show in London.
""That audience was taken from a city that is no longer British," he said. "That was not my country any more.
""Why not come down and do it in Thurrock, do it in Stoke, do it in Burnley? Do it somewhere where there are still significant numbers of English and British people and they haven't been ethnically cleansed from their own country.""
Obviously, Griffin is accusing immigrants, especially those from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, of engaging in "ethnic cleansing." As if people of whatever race or ethnicity had no right to enter and live in Britain and be considered "British."
Griffin reminds me of Lou Dobbs of CNN here in the US who rants and rails against Latino immigrants. Underneath all the bluster and complaint, I get the idea that Dobbs' animus towards Latinos is really a prejudice against those of darker complexion than he or who speak a a native language other than English.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Nicolas Sarkozy's 23-year old son, Jean Sarkozy, is being nominated to head Epad, an organization which supervises France's top business district, La Defence. This is an outrageous and insulting use of crass political influence to obtain a lucrative job for the son of the president of France.
Reports the BBC:
"Amid calls of nepotism, more than 40,000 people signed an online petition calling for Mr Sarkozy Jnr to pull-out."
If Jean Sarkozy did not have the Sarkozy name, would he even be considered for an internship at Epad? As it is, the Epad job will reward beyond the expectations of most 23-year olds.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Even a high-ranking associate of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is criticizing Abbas' decision to withdraw support for letting the UN General Assembly consider the Goldstone Report on Israel's conduct during the three-week war last January against the Palestinians in Gaza.
Rory McCarthy reports in the guardian.co.uk:
"A senior Palestinian official admitted today it was a "mistake" to drop support for a UN human rights council resolution that called for investigations into Israel's conduct in the Gaza war.
"Frustration and anger has been mounting against Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, for his surprise decision not to endorse a highly critical UN inquiry into the January war. The inquiry, by the South African judge Richard Goldstone, accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity."
South African Judge Goldstone has a reputation for fairness and lack of bias. His report put most of the onus on the IDF for its indiscriminate shelling and shooting of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Since the report was published several weeks ago, Israel and the Israeli government under PM Netanyahu have been putting pressure on countries to ask the U.N. to postpone dealing with the explosive report. For some reason, Abbas went along.
Palestinian groups and human rights organizations have condemned the postponement and Abbas' involvement in it.
"There have been several demonstrations against the decision in the West Bank, as well as protests from human rights organisations. Syria cancelled an official visit by Abbas, criticising the Palestinians for backing down.
"In a joint statement, 17 Palestinian human rights groups "strongly condemned" the decision, saying the justification for delaying the vote was "inappropriate" and that accountability was needed as part of a peace process. "Justice delayed is justice denied. All victims have a legitimate right to an effective judicial remedy, and the equal protection of the law," it said.
"Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian MP, said the decision was a "grave and horrible mistake" that had damaged the Palestinian Authority's credibility. "The only beneficiary of this postponement was Israel and it happened at a time when there was an opening to hold Israel accountable." He added that it left the Palestinians in a weaker position in peace talks with the Israelis."
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Why is Pres. Obama making the same mistakes in his dealing with Iran as did hated George W. Bush?
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, announces that negotiations with Iran are proceeding in good faith, and that Iran has agreed to open its Qom nuclear processing site to U.N. inspectors on October 25th. Furthermore, Iran has agreed to send all of its processed uranium to Russia for conversion into harmless nuclear fuel.
Yet much of the reaction from Obama's Washington is how Iran must do this, must do that. Where are the important and needed Obama celebratory words congratulating Iran for being willing to sit down and negotiate? Instead we get doom and gloom, and injunctions to Iran that it better move quickly.
Here is Politico reporting on the words of Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., on Meet the Press today.
"U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday warned that Iran had to move quickly to prove its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.
"“If it doesn't, time is short,” Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"She told host David Gregory, “We're not interested in talking for talking's sake. We're not interested in interminable negotiations. They have to demonstrate conclusively that their program is for peaceful purposes.”"
Suppose you were Iranian. Suppose you were also an opponent of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. How would you feel about the threatening words of Susan Rice, Pres. Obama's friend and confidante?
However, all is not so bleak. The BBC reports on words of Obama's security adviser, retired general James Jones, praising Iran for its willingness to negotiate. Reports the BBC:
"US National Security Adviser Jim Jones said Tehran was now "willing to come to the table", following talks this week between Iran and major powers. . . .
"Speaking on CBS television on Sunday, Mr Jones said: "We now have an Iran that is willing to come to the table.""
Iran has agreed to several important steps after its sit-down negotiations with the U.S. and EU countries. Furthermore, ElBaradei believes that it is now negotiating rather than engaging in confrontation. The BBC reports:
Speaking after talks with the top Iranian nuclear official, Ali Akbar Salehi, Mr Elbaradei said the talks had been successful, and that inspectors would ensure that the Qom facility was for "peaceful purposes".
"He added: "I see that we are shifting gears from confrontation into transparency and co-operation. I continue, of course, to call on Iran to be as transparent as possible.""
Some of Pres. Barack Obama's signals will do little to foster the good faith needed on both sides to continue to engage in meaningful and productive diplomacy between Iran and the West. Stop the threats a' la Bush against Iran, and instead reward the Iranian government for taking meaningful steps, as Obama's security adviser, James Jones, has done.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Here's another area where U.S. foreign policy seems to be based on bad information: the American support for Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili in his ongoing war of words against Russia. For the last year, Saakashvili has been blaming Russia for starting the Russia-Georgia War in South Ossetia, a break-away province of Georgia that seems to want to belong to Russia.
But now the EU has published a report of its findings: Saakashvili and Georgia are the ones who started the war by firing shells into civilian areas in South Ossetia.
Ian Traynor reports for website of The Guardian:
"An investigation into last year's Russia-Georgia war delivered a damning indictment of President Mikheil Saakashvili today, accusing Tbilisi of launching an indiscriminate artillery barrage on the city of Tskhinvali that started the war."
So how come VP Joe Biden visited Georgia last month and publicly stated the backing of the U.S. for hot head Saakashvili? And why hasn't the U.S. publicly come out and condemned Saakashvili and Georgia for starting the war? Surely the U.S. State Department has had all of the information that the EU obtained in its investigation.
The EU's report however, does not let Russia escape blame for the subsequent fighting. Traynor reports:
"The EU-commissioned report, by a fact-finding mission of more than 20 political, military, human rights and international law experts led by the Swiss diplomat, Heidi Tagliavini, was unveiled in Brussels today after nine months of work.
""There is no way to assign overall responsibility for the conflict to one side alone," the report found.
"But the conclusions will discomfit the western-backed Georgian leader, Saakashvili, who was found to have started the war with the attack on Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, on the night of 7 August last year, through a "penchant for acting in the heat of the moment"."
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I am disappointed with Pres. Obama's foreign policy initiatives towards Iran. All Obama's people can talk about is sanctions, maybe even "crippling" as Hillary Clinton phrased them, to force Iran to stop its nuclear development. Sanctions do not work, have never worked, and will not work. There were sanctions on Iraq and Saddam Hussein since the first Gulf War in 1992, yet there was no forcing Iraq to comply with U.S. demands. We see the same ineffectiveness of sanctions against Cuba and Fidel Castro. Yet Obama persists in threatening sanctions against Iran and Iranians.
Today in The New York Times, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett propose a smarter foreign policy approach to Iran.
The Leveretts write:
"Indeed, the meeting on Thursday in Geneva of the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany with Iran (the “five plus one” talks) will not be an occasion for strategic discussion but for delivering an ultimatum: Iran will have to agree to pre-emptive limitations on its nuclear program or face what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls “crippling” sanctions.
"However, based on conversations we’ve had in recent days with senior Iranian officials — including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — we believe it is highly unlikely Iran will accept this ultimatum. It is also unlikely that Russia and China will support sanctions that come anywhere near crippling Iran. After this all-too-predictable scenario has played out, the Obama administration will be left, as a consequence of its own weakness and vacillation, with extremely poor choices for dealing with Iran."
How has Obama got himself into this no-win confrontation with the Iranian government and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? During the presidential campaign, Obama promised a new approach of rapprochement and mutual respect to countries like Iran. Yet here we are no, with a confrontational policy that differs very little from the small-minded policy of George W. Bush.
The Leveretts write:
"Because President Obama assembled a national security team that, for the most part, did not share his early vision for American-Iranian rapprochement, his administration never built a strong public case for engagement. The prospect of engagement is still treated largely as a channel for “rewarding” positive Iranian actions and “punishing” problematic behavior — precisely what Mr. Obama, as a presidential candidate, criticized so eloquently about President George W. Bush’s approach.
"At the United Nations General Assembly last week, President Obama used language reminiscent of Mr. Bush’s “axis of evil” to identify Iran and North Korea as the main threats to international peace and vowed to hold them “accountable.” In Geneva, we can expect the United States to demand that Iran not only accept “concrete” limitations on further nuclear development but also demonstrate the peaceful nature of its nuclear program to avoid severe sanctions."
The Leveretts go on to suggest Obama adopt a new policy of cooperation with Iran, one where each country guarantees the security of the other.
"The Obama administration’s lack of diplomatic seriousness goes beyond clumsy tactics; it reflects an inadequate understanding of the strategic necessity of constructive American-Iranian relations. If an American president believed that such a relationship was profoundly in our national interests — as President Richard Nixon judged a diplomatic opening to China — he would demonstrate acceptance of the Islamic Republic, even as problematic Iranian behavior continued in the near term."
The Leveretts call Obama's present policy worse than merely "clumsy." I have the same feelings about Obama's approach to Latin America. True, Obama did say hello to and shake hands with Bush nemesis Hugo Chavez. But then Obama let his Depart of Defense and State Department go ahead and make the foolish agreement with conservative Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, whereby the U.S. would send 800 more American soldiers to be based on Colombian airfields. No wonder the move has caused an uproar not only in Venezuela and Bolivia, but also in Brazil and Argentina. Here again we see Obama's lack of understanding of how Latin American countries view the "threat" of the United States and its military forces.
So then how should the U.S. deal with Iran. The Leveretts have a proposal:
"INSTEAD of pushing the falsehood that sanctions will give America leverage in Iranian decision-making — a strategy that will end either in frustration or war — the administration should seek a strategic realignment with Iran as thoroughgoing as that effected by Nixon with China. This would require Washington to take steps, up front, to assure Tehran that rapprochement would serve Iran’s strategic needs.
"On that basis, America and Iran would forge a comprehensive framework for security as well as economic cooperation — something that Washington has never allowed the five-plus-one group to propose. Within that framework, the international community would work with Iran to develop its civil nuclear program, including fuel cycle activities on Iranian soil, in a transparent manner rather than demanding that Tehran prove a negative — that it’s not developing weapons. A cooperative approach would not demonize Iran for political relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah, but would elicit Tehran’s commitment to work toward peaceful resolutions of regional conflicts."
I fully support the Leverett's proposals. We need a fresh start with Iran so that both countries can guarantee each other's national security. A foreign policy that emphasizes economic cooperation including development of peaceful nuclear power. Above all, the policy of Obama towards Iran cannot be left to Israel and Netanyahu to dictate.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Republican Senators have chosen to withdraw from an investigation of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence looking into CIA torture practices. Their wholesale withdrawal reveals the disdain of these Republicans for the rule of law and equal justice for all. It wasn't just George W. Bush who politicized every governmental decision. The rest of the Republicans seem adept at doing exactly the same.
Peter Finn writes for The Washington Post:
"Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said Friday that they will no longer participate in an investigation into the Bush administration's interrogation policies, arguing that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s decision to reexamine allegations of detainee abuse by the CIA would hobble any inquiry."
The rationale for the Committee's Republican Senators is weak. They object to AG Eric Holder's appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct a DOJ investigation. They claim the DOJ investigation will make their fact-finding impossible.
But I suspect the real reason is that the Republicans don't want any serious investigation. They can interpret witness testimony at their Senate hearings to say anything they want. But a DOJ investigation is a different matter, not able to be so easily bent to fit around their preconceived beliefs.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Because of congressmen like Eric Cantor, our policy in the Middle East is a slave to that of Israel. No wonder that the US has such a low reputation among Muslims throughout the world. Cantor is the epitome of congressmen who put pressure on the US government not to condemn IDF war crimes in Gaza and who work to prevent the US from demanding an end to the cruel blockade.
Glenn Thrush reports in Politico:
"The only Jewish Republican in Congress and one of Israel’s staunchest defenders on the Hill, Cantor said he was heartened by Tuesday’s meeting between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"But he continued to express his opposition to Obama’s “disproportionate focus” on halting the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank instead of adopting a policy geared toward eliminating the “existential threat” posed to Israel by Iran’s nuclear program.
"“If you look at the policy that this White House has followed, it certainly does not seem as if we are dealing with a true friend” of Israel, Cantor said."
Obviously what Cantor means when he says Obama is no true friend is that Obama does not automatically endorse every decision of the Israeli government, no matter how irrational it might be, in the same way as George W. Bush did. Obama has called upon Netanyahu and his government to immediately end settlements. Obama believes that Israel should return all the land it took during the 1967 War in accordance with the prescripts and mandates of the United Nations Charter and Treaty. Obama believes in a separate state for the Palestinians contrary to Israel's present government that wants a "greater Israel."
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The Colombian pop singer Juanes has put together a concert in Havana's Revolution Square today that organizers expect over 500,000 people to attend. Called "Peace Without Borders," the concert aims to show the world that Cuba and the Cuban people need to be recognized and accepted by the world community.
The BBC reports:
"Colombian singer Juanes, who organised the "Peace without Borders" concert, has received death threats from Miami-based critics of the Cuban regime.
"But he has won support from 20 high-profile jailed dissidents inside Cuba.
"The BBC's Michael Voss at the concert says there is a mood of excitement, as many residents of the isolated, music-loving island have never seen anything like it before."
How sick must be those who would make death threats against Juanes for planning and giving a concert? These are the same people who adamantly oppose removing the crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. government some 47 years ago and recently renewed by Pres. Obama for yet another punishing year.
Reports the BBC:
"While critics have complained that Juanes is endorsing the island's communist system, the dissidents say the concert is an opportunity for reconciliation.
"Juanes said the show was about peace and tolerance, not politics.
""It's a message of peace, not only for Cuba. It's for the entire region," he said.
"He added that preparations for the concert had not been easy, but "we have all got over our fears"."
Pres. Obama made the right decision in refusing to quash the DOJ's investigation of CIA torture practices as requested by a group of former CIA directors. What were they thinking? That someone elected president can snap his/her fingers and end a criminal investigation? That would be destructive to the rule of law and unfair to all those other defendants who might not have the resources or high connections to have their charges dropped.
The BBC reports:
"The former heads wrote to Mr Obama saying the probe would hamper CIA work.
"They said the cases had already been investigated during the Bush administration and lawyers had declined to prosecute in all but one.
""This approach will seriously damage the willingness of intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country," their letter read.
""In our judgment, such risk-taking is vital to success in the long and difficult fight against terrorists who continue to threaten us."
"The former CIA chiefs served under Republican and Democratic presidents."
Obama made it clear that he could not accept the argument of the former CIA heads. He said no one was above the law and that it would be improper for him as president to stop a criminal investigation.
Reports the BBC on Obama's statement:
""I appreciate the former CIA directors wanting to look after an institution that they helped to build," he told CBS.
""But I continue to believe that nobody's above the law. And I want to make sure that, as president of the United States, I'm not asserting in some way that my decisions overrule the decisions of prosecutors who are there to uphold the law.""
Obama made the right decision. If the CIA and its personnel thought that what they did was lawful and right, let them defend themselves in court before an impartial judge and observer. To stop this nascent investigation now would incite reasonable suspicion that wrong-doing was being concealed at the highest levels of government.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
If the choice is between siding with Pres. Obama or the Cuban foreign minister about ending the U.S. blockade of Cuba, I agree with the Cuban.
The BBC reports that foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez said that Cubans expect more from Obama than cruelly extending the Cuban embargo for yet another year.
Writes the BBC:
"Speaking at a news conference in Havana, Mr Rodriguez said the US sanctions were "part of the policy of total unilateral aggression and isolation" and should be "lifted unilaterally".
""Obama is a president who was elected on a platform of change - Americans voted for him because he promised change. Where is the change in the blockade against Cuba?" he said.
"He also warned that Cuba was not prepared to make any political or policy concessions in order to improve relations. . .
"Mr Rodriguez described Mr Obama as well-intentioned and intelligent, and also reiterated Cuba's offer to hold direct talks with the Obama administration."
What is the matter with Obama on U.S./Cuban relations? Cuba is signaling that it wants to ease ill will towards America and improve relations with the U.S. and Americans. I want Obama to respond positively and take the Cubans at their word.
Stop the embargo. Normalize relations with Cuba. Allow unrestricted travel. The U.S. policy of maintaining the embargo has failed for the last 47 years. Obama needs to be the one to end it once and for all.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I was counting on Pres. Obama to rise above the objections of rabid Cuban-Americans and abolish the harsh embargo of American goods to Cuba. Unfortunately, Obama has chosen to renew the embargo for yet another year.
Almost every Latin leader in South and Central America has asked Obama to end the Cuban embargo. What must they be thinking now of Obama's decision to renew?
Furthermore, what good does the embargo do? The embargo hurts the ordinary Cubano by restricting medicines, building materials, necessities of life. So what does it do for U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba? It just makes the ordinary Cuban angry at an uncaring giant to the north and fosters anti-American feelings all throughout Latin America.
Obama and the U.S. continue in this silly act of punishing ordinary Cubans until the Cuban leaders make democratic reforms. Why must the U.S. punish the common people in its quest to change domestic Cuban policy?
Michael Voss writes for the BBC's web page:
"Mr Obama has lifted some of the restrictions allowing Cuban-Americans to visit relatives whenever they want and send money home.
"The two sides are once again holding direct talks on immigration and later this week US officials travel to Cuba to discuss resuming direct mail services.
"The Cuban authorities have described these changes as little more than a cosmetic coat of paint, but the US administration continues to demand that Cuba must first show signs of reform before lifting the embargo."
Monday, September 14, 2009
Finally we have an Israel lobby that does not endorse everything that Netanyahu and Lieberman say or do. It is J Street, a year-old lobbying group with progressive views on Israel, and James Traub writes about it and its mission in Sunday's (September 13, 2009) New York Times Magazine.
"Many liberal Jews have long chafed at the premise that Aipac or the Anti-Defamation League represented their point of view. Bush got only a quarter of the Jewish vote in 2004 and was deeply loathed by the most liberal-leaning voters. The community began searching for new ways to represent itself. Existing progressive groups like the Israel Policy Forum issued position papers or agitated for a change in policy; but scarce few did the yeoman labor of lobbying. Tom Dine, a former Aipac executive director, says he was approached in 2006 by a group of liberal Jewish philanthropists about heading a “counter-Aipac.” That idea went nowhere, but in late 2006 a different group of philanthropists and activists, including Ben-Ami, began to talk about combining the progressive organizations into a more powerful and influential collective body. Out of these conversations came J Street, named after the street missing from Washington’s grid and thus evoking a voice missing from Washington’s policy discussions. Early financing came from Alan Sagner, a retired New Jersey real estate developer and longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and Jewish causes, and from Davidi Gilo, an Israeli-American high-tech entrepreneur; another 50 early backers each gave $10,000. Unlike the liberal advocacy or policy organizations (or Aipac, for that matter), the new group would endorse and finance candidates, through a body called J Street PAC."
Saturday, September 12, 2009
At last we get some intelligent and sane approach to foreign policy. High-level representatives of the U.S. are to meet with their Iranian counterparts face-to-face. After eight years of a dangerous rejection by George Bush of talks with the Iranians, they are finally about to happen.
David E. Sanger and Mark Landler report in today's The New York Times:
"The Obama administration said Friday that the United States would accept Iran’s offer to meet, fulfilling President Obama’s pledge to hold unconditional talks despite the Iranian government’s insistence that it would not negotiate over the future of its nuclear program.
"The decision to engage directly with Iran would put a senior representative of the Obama administration at the bargaining table, along with emissaries from five other nations, for the first time since Mr. Obama took office."
Talks with the Iranians are far superior to the direction that Bush and Dick Cheney wanted to go: all-out war with Iran, bombing Iranian installations, perhaps even invading and occupying Teheran with hopes of downing the Islamic government.
And American involvement with Iranian leaders around a discussion table do a lot towards stopping Israel and the Netanyahu government from taking unilateral military action against Iran.
Up till now, it has been Russia led by Putin/Medvedev which has cautioned against military action. Witness the rumored secret trip of Netanyahu to Moscow this past Monday, reportedly to demand action against supplying Iran with defensive missile systems. Putin came out and warned against any attack against Iran.
Juan Cole in his Informed Comment has an interesting observation:
"Meanwhile, Russian PM Vladimir Putin warned against any attack on Iran, which he called "unacceptable" and said it would produce an explosion of terrorism. (Note: Russia is very close to Iran in the Caucasus). He even went so far as to reject any tightening of sanctions on Iran. These are the strongest words I've seen from Russia on the issue of an Israeli or American attack on Iran. I take it Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu's recent secret visit to Moscow went badly."
Some of the stalwart Bushian supporters are sure to rant and weep at U.S. talks with Iran. They will say that President Ahmadinejad is a dictator and ruthless in putting down peaceful Iranian protesters. And that the Supreme Leader Khamenei has no concept of individual liberty in a modern state like Iran. This is all no doubt true.
Nevertheless, the U.S. government must deal with whoever is in charge, and that means Ahmadi and Khamenei. The alternative - war - would result in at least 500 years of animosity and hostilities between Iran and the West, resulting in tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost. This must not be allowed to happen.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Rep. Joe Wilson Republican of South Carolina yelled you, "You lie," when Pres. Barack Obama said that the new health care reform bill would not cover "illegal immigrants."
Ann Gerhart and Philip Rucker write for today's The Washington Post on Wilson:
""We need to be discussing issues specifically to help the American people, and that would not include illegal aliens," Wilson said. "People who have come to our country and violated laws, we should not be providing full health-care services."
"Despite many claims to the contrary by opponents of the universal health care proposals, fact-checkers have repeatedly established that the bills' universal coverage provisions would not extend to illegal immigrants. In Section 246 on page 143, the House's bill states that "undocumented aliens" will not be eligible for credits to help them buy health insurance -- and these credits are the provision that lies at the heart of expanding coverage to the uninsured. And Medicaid already is limited to those who can prove legal residency. For that matter, even the universal health care program in Massachusetts -- one of the most liberal states in the country -- does not cover illegal immigrants."
But why shouldn't it cover them? How can anybody deny health care to anyone else on the basis that the sick person lacks proper papers? Or that the sick person committed a misdemeanor by crossing the border without papers? Or that the sick person is a child of those who lack papers?
Yes, the health care reform bill should extend full benefits to immigrants, whether they are "legal" or not, whether they have proper documents or not.
The BBC today reports on Amnesty International's criticism of Japanese procedures for executing convicts. Amnesty specifically calls the death penalty in Japan "shameful" for the several reasons.
The condemned person is put in solitary confinement without the ability to talk to or interface with anyone else. Exercise is short and limited, and the prisoner must at all other times be seated.
No date is given the condemned for execution. That means that a condemned person spends every night thinking that it could be his/her last.
Japan seems intent on inflicting the severest and cruelest punishment it can on the condemned. Amnesty reports a large number of psychoses appearing in persons who have received the death sentence. Amnesty calls for an immediate halt in Japan's system of executions. I fully agree.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
OBAMA GIVES WONDERFUL SPEECH, CITES TED KENNEDY'S LETTER URGING PASSAGE OF UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVERAGE
A wonderful, luminous and moving speech tonight by Pres. Barack Obama. Especially towards the end, when Obama spoke, it seemed to me, directly to the Republican nay-sayers, recounting Ted Kennedy's letter shortly before his death, urging universal health care reform to cover all Americans.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
I vociferously and strenuously object to the government of Iran arresting, harassing and punishing opponents of the Supreme Leader who believe that Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei stole the presidential election.
But I oppose even more any attempt by the government of Israel and its prime minister Netanyahu to bomb or attack or otherwise commit an act of war against Iran and its people.
But there are more and more people who believe that Netanyahu and other Israeli war mongers intend just that. Micah Zenko writes today in The Los Angeles Times that he believes Israel and Netanyahu are on the verge of an attack.
Writes Zenko who is a fellow in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations:
"But if diplomacy fails, the world should be prepared for an Israeli attack on Iran's suspected nuclear weapons facilities. As Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently acknowledged: "The window between a strike on Iran and their getting nuclear weapons is a pretty narrow window.""
An Israeli attack would have devastating and catastrophic effects on world peace at least for the next 500 years. And it would cast Israel as a outlaw and a paraiah among the world's nations, and doom it to go on its own for centuries. Reasonable people must stop such an attack.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Today is the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, September 1, 1939. That war cost over 50,000,000 souls lost, counting not only soldiers but also civilians.
And was it worth it? Please don't justify WWII on the basis that it was waged to against the war crimes of the Nazis against the Jews. No one even thought of the Jews and their plight until after the war came to a close and the allies found the deplorable conditions in the German camps. Not the British, not the Soviets, not the Americans. The whole world was blind to the holocaust that was occurring behind German and Polish camp walls.
Yes, there were six million Jews and other victims of the Holocaust who lost their lives. But there were also up to 27,000,000 Russians, Estonians, Latvians and Byelorussians, 8,000,000 Ukrainians, 6,000,000 Poles and more than 6,000,000 Germans. These figures come from No Simple Victory (P 366, Viking, 2007) by the British historian Norman Davies.
Was this huge waste of life worth it? Where were those who proposed alternatives to the blood bath? How about religious figures? Where was the Pope? Where were leaders of the Islamic world? Why was this crazy war allowed to happen?
There is a lesson in this 70th anniversary. The war in Iraq was wrong, Bush was a war criminal. And the war in Afghanistan is wrong. Obama risks being classified with Bush as an enemy of humanity.
Looking back at WWII, we see Churchill in diminished form. He ordered the carpet bombing of the German cities that killed hundreds of thousands. The same goes for Roosevelt and Truman. American bombing killed 50,000 in Dresden on one night. Nagasaki and Hiroshima each had 100,000 incinerated souls. These government actors committed war crimes against humanity.
I call upon Pres. Barack Obama to stop the foolish and deadly war in Afghanistan, pull out all American war planes and troops, and solve political problems not by war but by political and diplomatic means.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
An activist received a sentence yesterday of 18 years for "insulting" Thailand's king. Thomas Fuller reports in today's The New York Times that a former journalist was adjudged guilty of damaging the reputation and honor of the king.
"The three-judge panel ruled that even though she did not mention the king or queen by name in the speech, she had insinuated that they supported the coup. One of the ways she made her point, the judges said, was to refer to yellow and blue, the traditional Thai birth colors of the king and queen.
"Among those charged with lèse-majesté recently are a number of strong-willed activists in a country that has traditionally prized deference."
This is an egregious miscarriage of the law and of justice. Everyone in the world should be free to speak his mind, no matter if it offends the king or not. The whole country of Thailand is reduced to a state of ridicule on account of this conviction.
Remember when George W. Bush's press secretary Ari Fleischer warned reporters to watch what they said or wrote. I am sure the Bush coterie would have liked nothing better than to arrest critics and commentators who opposed the War in Iraq and/or other policies of W. Fortunately, the courts in the U.S. would not allow it and Bush knew it, but he and Fleischer were trying to impose censorship and silence, nonetheless.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Sen. Ted Kennedy was one of the Democratic voices in the Senate totally opposed to the stupid War in Iraq. Thanks to his speaking out, and thanks to the others, especially Sen. Robert Byrd and VP Al Gore. But where were the others? Why did they go along with the hated Bush/Cheney war machine?
Sen. Barack Obama came out early in 2002 against the War. Yet he remained somewhat muted about it probably due to campaign pressures. But why does Obama now president push and prosecute the War in Afghanistan and even enlarge it?
Afghanistan is worse than Iraq for education, social services, hospitals, schools, roads, infrastructure. Nothing will be solved there by dropping cluster bombs and firing phosphorous or spent nuclear shells. To think that an Afghan farmer, with no primary schooling, with no television, with no radio, is going to be changed by American soldiers, renounce conservative Islam, or become a political progressive calls for a psychological examination. It will never happen.
So why does Obama persist in keeping U.S. troops there? Obama should be smarter than what his foolish military policy indicates. And all the while, U.S. troops fall as casualties in a needless and purposeless war.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Dick Cheney came out with a statement today insulting Pres. Barack Obama and saying that Obama was not able to manage the country's security concerns.
Mike Allen of Politico reports on Cheney's statement:
"Former Vice President Dick Cheney said in a statement Tuesday that the Obama administration's decision to name a prosecutor to look into Bush-era interrogations of suspected terrorists should foster "doubts about this administration’s ability to be responsible for our nation’s security.”
""The people involved deserve our gratitude," Cheney said. "They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions.""
In other words the CIA agents who actually carried out Cheney's mandate to torture should be heroes, not torturers, and certainly not prosecuted. They may too quicklty reveal that it was the Prince of Darkness himself, Dick Cheney, who gave the orders to use those techniques dating at least as far back as the Inquisition and probably from long before that.
One of the interesting but baseless assertions made by Cheney was that two CIA memos released yesterday prove that his methods of torture did work. But Amanda Terkel reports for ThinkProgress that the memos show no such proof. Writes Amanda Terkel:
"Cheney has since put out a carefully worded statement saying that “individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda.” However, the fact remains that there is still no public evidence that those techniques actually saved lives."
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Sen Jim DeMint, R-SC) does not think health care is a right, just a privilege. Thanks to Political Wire for pointing to the interview.
Robert Behre of the Charleston Post and Courier interviewed DeMint. Here's the reporter's question and DeMint's response:
"P&C: Do people have a right to health care? Describe where the government's obligation to provide a safety net ends and where a person's responsibility should begin.
"DeMint: I think health care is a privilege. I wouldn't call it a right. ... I do think in our country and in any civil society there should be a safety net for basic health and food and shelter, but that doesn't mean that the whole system should be designed around the belief that people can't make their own decisions, can't be responsible for themselves. ... What we do need to do is make sure everybody has access to policies they can afford, own and keep. We're not doing that. What we've done is set up the whole system to reward employers for offering health insurance, but we don't support people who don't get their insurance at work, and that's not fair."
Now it's hard to make sense of what DeMint is saying, but he clearly believes health care is a privilege and that no one in America has a right to it. So the people hit with catastrophic illnesses, the children paralyzed from accidents, the cancer patients, according to DeMint, none of them have a right to health care by virtue of being citizens of the United States.
So people still think like DeMint? If so, the United States is a dark place in which to dwell especially if you are sick. Is this what other Republicans think? Then the Republicans are meaner than I originally thought.
And what do these meanies make of the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution? It says that the people make the Constitution "in order to . . . secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our posterity." Surely we have here a basis to say that the "blessings of liberty" mean the freedom to not worry about securing adequate and affordable health care. If not, how does the government "promote the general welfare" and "establish justice?" I thus argue that health care is a right, not a mere privilege. Every citizen should be able to count on the government to provide medical treatment, cost of required prescription drugs, and hospital care.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I support Barack Obama as president and I will do almost anything to help him succeed in turning the country back from the brink of Bush and Cheney.
However, there are certain Obama administration actions that are troubling:
One. Why was it necessary to make an agreement with Colombia and its president Alvaro Uribe to send 800 more American troops to be stationed on Colombian soil? To say that the American soldiers are there to fight drug traffickers is ludicrous and beyond belief. Let Uribe fight his own war again drug cartels. To station American troops on Latin soil rankles the ordinary guy in the street from Rio de Janeiro to Montevideo to Mexico City. And it does nothing to improve American relations with its Latin neighbors to the south. Obama created much good will, even with Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, when he attended a summit of leaders of the OAS several weeks ago in Costa Rica. Why did Obama blow it all on this ill-thought-out, ill conceived deal with Colombia? It says to me that Obama himself has absolutely no sensitivity to the desires and needs of Latin American countries and their peoples.
Second. Why did Obama name Janet Napolitano as head of Homeland Security? In her position, she is in charge of immigration policy and practices. But Napolitano is almost as anti-Latino and anti-immigrant as Sheriff Joe Arpaio, that racist from Phoenix. Napolitano has not only continued the mean and harsh policies of Julie Myers and Michael Chertoff when it comes to Spanish-speaking undocumented immigrants, she has made them even more stringent and cruel. Surely Obama could have picked someone more sympathetic with those Latinos who come to the U.S. solely for the purpose of achieving a better life for their families. Again, Obama's choice of Napolitano shows a lack of sensitivity to the plight of immigrants from Mexico and other Latin countries.
There are other decisions of Obama with which I disagree. I will leave them for subsequent posts. Obama is my candidate but his actions since taking office show his lack of awareness of issues that are important to Latinos. Someone needs to give him better advice in the future. I still hold hope that he will come to a better sense of correct policy towards Latin America.
Monday, August 17, 2009
There is a cruel campaign going on in Baghdad and probably throughout the rest of Iraq to kill anybody thought to be homosexual. Even family members are thought to kill off their siblings because they believe that homosexuality brings disgrace upon the family's reputation.
The BBC reports on findings of Human Rights Watch:
"It says hundreds of gay men have been targeted and killed in Iraq since 2004.
"So-called honour killings also account for deaths where families punish their own kin in order to avoid public shame."
So is this what Bush's war produced? A full scale pogrom against gays who exhibit homosexual ways and tendencies.
The campaign against homosexuals in Iraq is just as medieval and barbarous and the killing of albinos in Tanzania for their magical body parts or the campaign in Afghanistan that punishes girls for going to school and which restricts women in public to the burka.
Why must religion always try to regulate morality by the sword? I am sure that the Catholic Church approved the same harsh and cruel morality prior to being shamed into cessation by the Enlightenment in the 18th Century. And Christian churches nowadays know that they could never get away with imprisoning, torturing or executing people just because of their different morality, especially when it comes to sex.
The report of Human Rights Watch documents:
"[A] wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men that began in early 2009. The killings began in the vast Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, and spread to many cities across Iraq. Mahdi Army spokesmen have promoted fears about the "third sex" and the "feminization" of Iraq men, and suggested that militia action was the remedy. Some people told Human Rights Watch that Iraqi security forces have colluded and joined in the killing."
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Peter Beaumont writes in today's The Guardian that Human Rights Watch accuses the Israeli Defense Forces of shooting 11 Palestinian civilians carrying white flags in Gaza during last January's offensive.
"The deaths – including those of five women and four children – took place in seven separate incidents across Gaza in areas controlled by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), where there was no fighting and no Palestinian fighters were nearby."
In the meantime, the IDF has issued a voluminous report that finds no violations of the rights of the Palestinians and no basis for charging Israel and its IDF with any war crimes.
Beaumont reports on some of the cases brought up by Human Rights Watch:
"In one case, the civilians were walking in a group on a street. In another, they were driving slowly on tractors and in cars, trying to leave the area with the wounded, according to the report.
""On the way we saw tanks and soldiers," said Omar Abu Halima, 18. "When we saw them [the Israeli soldiers] they told us to stop. After we stopped they fired at us. They killed my cousin Mattar. My cousin Muhammad was wounded and later died."
"In another case – also in al-Atatra – two women holding white flags stepped out of a house that the IDF was demolishing to tell the soldiers that civilians were inside. "We opened the door and a sniper fired at us from a house," said Zakiya al-Qanu, 55. "Ibtisam was hit and I turned to go back inside and another bullet grazed my back. Ibtisam died in the doorway.""
Israel's reaction has been something like, "the Palestinian terrorists were using white flags to deceive IDF soldiers and then shoot them."
But Beaumont reports:
"Human Rights Watch said it could find no evidence of misuse of white flags or the use of civilians as human shields in the cases detailed. "These casualties comprise a fraction of the Palestinian civilians wounded and killed," the report says.
""But they stand out because, in each case, the victims were standing, walking or in slowly moving vehicles with other unarmed civilians, and were trying to convey their non-combatant status by waving a white flag.""
Of course, there will be no formal charges against the IDF or any of its soldiers because the IDF said it could find no evidence of abuse or maltreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza.
The only way that the world can condemn these Israeli war crimes is to publicize them and let the public know what really happened in Israel's three-week incursion into Gaza this past January.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Ellen Barry writes for The New York Times web page today that Vladimir Putin believes that European governments commonly blame Georgia for starting the war a year ago but are afraid to speak their convictions. I agree with Putin. It is clear to all who have followed the contretemps closely that Georgia and its president Mikheil Saakashvili deliberately started the shelling of South Ossetia and its capital Tskhinvali.
Writes Ellen Barry:
"Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Wednesday that Europeans increasingly hold Georgia responsible for last year’s war in the Caucasus but are afraid to admit it publicly because of pressure from the United States."
What surprises me is that Putin thinks that Europeans are under pressure from Obama and the U.S. not to publicly blame Georgia. I know that V.P. Joe Biden said some sill things last month during his visit with Saaakashvili, how the U.S. stands behind him and Georgia, but I just attributed Biden's comments to his habit of making mindless remarks that have not been cleared. Putin must believe that Bidens remarks were cleared by Obama beforehand.
"The war’s anniversary has revived mutual recriminations between Russia and Georgia over who was responsible for its outbreak, with both countries saying they acted defensively when they sent troops into South Ossetia. Both are waiting for a European Union fact-finding mission’s report on the war’s origins. The release was delayed from July until late September after new material became available.
"Mr. Putin said world opinion has turned in Russia’s favor since last year, and that “practically all of international society” has acknowledged that Georgia was the aggressor in the conflict."
The BBC did a multi-segment report several months ago on the Georgia/Russia war and found that there was no evidence of Russia's taking the first shot, even though there has been plenty of evidence that it was Georgia that started shelling South Ossetia. "Shelling South Ossetia" must be understood as indiscriminate firing of shells into the civilian areas of the capital. Again here, we have a sterling example of what is commonly recognized as a war crime, and evidence all points to the culpability of Saakashvili and Georgia.
Ellen Barry writes:
"Mr. Putin said world opinion has turned in Russia’s favor since last year, and that “practically all of international society” has acknowledged that Georgia was the aggressor in the conflict.
"“In the West, what is called the West, we have plenty of supporters,” he said, in remarks to Abkhaz journalists. “They are all under a certain pressure from NATO’s leading country, the United States. And, to put it bluntly, many of them don’t publicly state their positions, because they would then diverge from the U.S. position.”
"Mr. Putin said that American leaders, in the aftermath of the cold war, “came under the impression that they could act without any rules — as they wanted, as it pleased them.” But he said that time had passed, and that European countries were becoming gradually more willing to express their support for Russia."
Monday, August 10, 2009
There is a conference of heads of state of countries in the Americas beginning today in Quito, Ecuador. Unfortunately, Pres. Barack Obama will not be attending. He is meeting with Mexican president Felipe Calderone and Canadian PM Stephen Harper in Guadalajara, Mexico. It is a shame Obama thus won't be hearing the criticisms from most of the other Latin leaders in Quito about the ill-thought-out plan of the U.S. to station 800+ more American troops in bases in Colombia.
Colombian president Alvaro Uribe also won't be in attendance. He doesn't want to be castigated and/or disparaged by the other heads of state for allowing more U.S. troops to be stationed in a Latin country.
Many heads of state, like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Evo Morales of Bolivia, believe that Colombia's welcoming of American soldiers will de-stabilize the area, and possibly lead to military skirmishes and even more serious events.
Who was the guy in the Obama administration who thought sending more Yanqui troops would be in the interest of the U.S.? And how and why did Obama even sign off on this bad idea? The whole agreement with Colombia and Uribe reeks of U.S. gunboat diplomacy and American desire for hegemony south of the border. The agreement never should have been considered, much less made.
I agree with those Latin heads of state who think that this agreement with Colombia will cause a lot of damage, not the least to the reputation of Barack Obama in the eyes and minds of almost all the Latin leaders.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Bolivian President Evo Morales terms the agreement by Colombian president Alvaro Uribe a sell-out of Latin countries to the United States. I totally agree.
The BBC reports:
"Mr Morales said that Bogota's plan was aimed at countering the efforts of left-wing governments like his.
"He said those governments were fighting for greater social justice."
There is no good reason why Barack Obama approved sending 800+ more U.S. troops to Colombia. The proffered reason is that the troops are going to help with anti-drug operations. This is patently pretextual and ingenuous.
The real reason, offered by Evo Morales, is that the U.S. wants to spy on and impede those countries that are putting social programs into effect to help their poor and indigenous.
Does Barack Obama know of the turmoil resulting from this silly and foolish U.S. plan to base hundreds of American soldiers in Colombia? If he does, he needs to explain why it is worth it given the anti-American sentiment naturally created in the souls of the street in every country in South and Central America.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Here are the 31 Republican Senators who voted against the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court:
John Barrasso, Bob Bennett, Sam Brownback, Jim Bunning, Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Bob Corker, John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, Jim DeMint, John Ensign, Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Kay Bailey Hutchison, James Inhofe, Johnny Isakson, Mike Johanns, Jon Kyl, John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Lisa Murkowski, James Risch, Pat Roberts, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, John Thune, David Vitter, Roger Wicker.
They all except one are white males who can't stand the thought that a wise Latina female judge might be smarter and more capable than they themselves.
Arguments of Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett or Chuck Grassley that Sotomayor does not have the correct judicial mind set or uses "empathy" to analyze cases are clearly pretextual. The real reason apparent to many and especially to Latinos is that these Republicans are anti-Hispanic and anti-Puerto Rican and anti-female.
Latinos as a group are not going to forget or forgive the racist Republicans voting no on Sotomayor. Come election time, there will be Latino pay back.
For all the talk about stopping N. Korea and Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, it is important to remember that only one country ever used nuclear weapons, and that was the United States. Today is the 64th Anniversary of the dropping of an American atomic nuclear device on Hiroshima. President Harry Truman was without doubt a bloody war criminal whose order to drop the bombs directly caused the deaths of 100,000 souls in each city - Hiroshima and then in Nagasaki. Why no charges against Truman or the others who carried out his immoral and illegal nuclear crimes such as the pilot of the Enola Gay? Simple. There are never any charges of war crimes brought against the victors.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I saw and heard Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, this evening on the news broadcast of Univision claim that there was going to be a war in Latin America, and the instigator would be the United States.
Now there are many things that Hugo Chavez says and does to which I object, like trying to close radio and TV stations that don't agree with him politically. And I have strenuously objected in previous posts.
On the other hand, I totally agreed when Hugo Chavez called George W. Bush a threat to world peace, and Satan himself. I thought Chavez was spot on.
And I agree with him that the U.S. has done a stupid thing in agreeing with Alvaro Uribe president of Colombia to send some 800+ American troops to that country, together with spy planes and other deadly weapons. The whole of Latin America has been thrown in turmoil and confusion by this move.
Who in the Department of Defense advised Obama to send the Yanquis? I would like to know because this person has no sensitivity to the feelings and opinions of the ordinary citizen who hates the prospect of Yanqui troops based in a Latin country. The whole agreement smacks of "gunboat diplomacy" and Yanqui imperialism.
And to think that Obama is so clueless about the culture of Latin America that he went along with this dumb ass idea that could spark a war between Colombia and its neighbors such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Why don't we see a change in immigration policy from the time of George W. Bush to the administration of Barack Obama? It seems like the harsh policy of Bush/Chertoff/Julie Myers is still in effect - raiding work places, finding undocumented workers, arresting them, deporting them.
Julia Preston writes in today's The New York Times about the continuation of policy with Janet Napolitano as head of the Homeland Security Department:
"The administration recently undertook audits of employee paperwork at hundreds of businesses, expanded a program to verify worker immigration status that has been widely criticized as flawed, bolstered a program of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies, and rejected proposals for legally binding rules governing conditions in immigration detention centers.
"“We are expanding enforcement, but I think in the right way,” Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said in an interview."
Why is Napolitano "expanding enforcement?" Undocumented immigrants have been locked up, separated from their children, forbidden to hold a job, deported to their original countries while their spouses and children become impoverished.
Instead of expanding enforcement Homeland Security needs to relax its iron fist and stop trying to deport hundreds and thousands. America needs to show some compassion and empathy to those undocumenteds who come to the U.S. to better the economic position of their families, to put bread on the table for their children.
Does Obama know what is happening? Does he approve of the "expanding enforcement?" Does he really want the policy of his administration to center on arrest, detention and deportation?
Which idiot in the Obama administration approved the sending of 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers to duty in Colombia? Whoever it was has no idea of the politics and feelings of the various Latin American countries which strongly oppose the presence of more Yanqui troops in a neighboring country. It would appear that Obama himself has no sense of what is happening in Central and South America, the move to the left and the quest for economic and social justice and equality. More seriously, Obama appears to be saying that he has no interest in cultivating serious ties with governments there.
It is not only Hugo Chavez of Venezuela or Rafael Correa of Ecuador or Evo Morales of Bolivia who decries the invasion of the Yanquis into nearby Colombia. It is more centrist Lula da Silva of Brazil and Michelle Bachelet of Chile who also object.
The BBC reports that Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe will visit some of the Latin countries in an effort to quell the objections.
"Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is to tour other South American countries concerned about plans to increase the US military presence in Colombia.
"Bogota said he would visit this week Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and was planning trips to three other nations.
"Venezuela has expressed alarm at plans to relocate US anti-drug forces to bases in Colombia, and Brazilian officials also say they are concerned."
Frankly there is no good reason why Obama or one of his ignorant cabinet secretaries approved more U.S. troops to be stationed in Colombia. Ostensibly it is to fight the drug trade in Colombia. But this is only a patent pretext. The real purpose must be to spy on Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and other countries nearby where there are leftist governments that oppose American hegemony.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I was a supporter of Venezuelan Hugo Chavez when he said in his speech at the Untied Nations that he could smell the stench of the devil from George W. Bush. I also approved his social programs using Venezuelan oil revenues to build schools and grant pensions to the impoverished.
But now Mr. Chavez goes too far when he sends out police and paramilitaries to beat up people at the television station Globalvision.
Hugo Chavez could be the leader of Latin America but for his recklessness and foolishness in his campaign against TV and radio stations that criticize him and his policies.
Here's a report from the BBC on August 1st:
"Venezuelan opposition groups have protested against a decision to take 34 radio stations off the air, calling it an attack on freedom of speech.
"As the stations stopped broadcasting on Saturday, staff said the move was aimed at giving more space to media that support President Hugo Chavez.
"More than 200 other radio stations are expected to close in coming weeks."
Chavez is cracking down on free speech and revoking the broadcast licenses of stations that allow commentaries critical of his policies. This is not right.
I oppose Hugo Chavez for his campaign against critical political speech. I only hope that he lays off with his police and paramilitary. Venezuela is too sophisticated a society to allow him to get away with this.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Why must the Israeli government approve the eviction of nine Palestinian families from occupied East Jerusalem? Almost immediately after the eviction, Jewish families moved in. Is there any better example of "ethnic cleansing"?
The BBC reports:
""Israeli police have evicted nine Palestinian families living in two houses in occupied East Jerusalem.
"Jewish settlers moved into the houses almost immediately. The US has urged Israel to abandon plans for a building project in the area."
This portion of Jerusalem was seized during the 1967 War. International law prevents the victor, in this case Israel, from annexing the territory and considering it its own. Land seized during an armed conflict must be returned to the defeated peoples. So far Israel refuses to return the land to the Palestinians from whom it was taken. Now Israel is evicting Palestinians who live there.
Reports the BBC:
"The evictions were quickly condemned by the United Nations.
""I deplore today's totally unacceptable actions by Israel," the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H Serry said. "These actions are contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions related to occupied territory.
""These actions heighten tensions and undermine international efforts to create conditions for fruitful negotiations to achieve peace," Mr Perry said.
"Palestinian negotiator Saed Erakat said: "Tonight, while these new settlers from abroad will be accommodating themselves and their belongings in these Palestinian houses, 19 newly homeless children will have nowhere to sleep.""